Does this prove Athenagoras (133–190) was a universalist?


Hello everyone!

When I read The Restitution of All Things by Andrew Jukes, I came across this quote of Athenagoras: “And as this follows of necessity, there must by all means be a resurrection of the bodies which are dead or even entirely dissolved, and the same men must be formed anew. … for if this takes place, the end befitting the nature of men follows also. And the end of an intelligent life and of a rational judgment, we shall make no mistake in saying, is to be occupied uninterruptedly with those objects to which the natural reason is chiefly and primarily adapted, and to delight unceasingly in the contemplation of Him who is, and of His decrees; notwithstanding that the majority of men, because they are affected too passionately and too violently by things below, pass through life without attaining this object. For the large number of those who fail of the end that belongs to them does not make void the common lot, since the examination relates to individuals, and the reward or punishment of lives ill or well spent is proportioned to what each has done.” (On the Resurrection, ch. XXV.)

Here’s the Greek original which I can’t read: “Τούτου δ᾽ ἐξ ἀνάγκης ἐπομενου, δεῖ πάντως γενέσθαι τῶν νεκρωθέντων ἢ καὶ πάντη διαλυθέντων σωμάτων ἀνάστασιν, καὶ τοὺς αὐτοὺς ἀνθρώπους συστῆναι πάλιν. … ταύτης γάρ γενομένης καὶ τὸ τῇ φύσει τῶν ἀνθρώπων πρόσφορον ἐπακολουθεῖ τέλος. Τέλος δὲ ζωῆς ἔμφρονος καὶ λογικῆς κρίσεως οὐκ ἂν ἁμάρτοι τις εἰπὼν τὸ τούτοις ἀπερισπάστως συνδιαιωνίζειν, οἷς μάλιστα καὶ πρώτως ὁ φυσικὸς συνήρμοσται λόγος, τῇ τε θεωρίᾳ τοῦ ὄντος καὶ τῶν ἐκείνῳ δεδογμένων ἀπαύστως ἐπαγάλλεσθαι· κἂν οἱ πολλοὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἐμπαθέστερον καὶ σφοδρότερον τοῖς τῇδε προσπεπονθότες ἄστοχοι τούτου διατελῶσιν. Οὐ γὰρ ἀκυροῖ τὴν κοινὴν ἀποκλήρωσιν τὸ πλῆθοσ τῶν ἀποπιπτόντων τοῦ προσήκοντος αὐτοῖς τέλους, ιδιαζούσης τῆς ἐπὶ τούτοις ἐξετάσεως, καὶ τῆς ἑκάστῳ συμμετρουμένης ὑπὲρ τῶν εὖ ἣ κακῶς βεβιωμένων τιμῆς ἣ δίκης.”

The passage seems quite clear to me. Athenagoras says that after the resurrection takes place, the end befitting our nature will follow, which is the uninterrupted contemplation of God, though there are many who don’t achieve it in this life. But their failure “does not make void the common lot”. Now, what could he have meant by this except that the present sinfulness of a portion of humanity does not change the fact that all people share one blessed ultimate destiny? Perhaps someone who knows Greek can say whether a different translation is possible, but the English phrase “does not make void the common lot” appears to me as an unequivocal declaration that all people have the same fate which cannot be made void. However, it perpelexes me that no opponent of the idea of endless torment except Andrew Jukes seems to have noticed this. Not even Dr. Ramelli. What’s more, the annihilationist Henry Constable described Athenagoras as a sort of inventor of the doctrine of endless torment ( Anyway, if I’m right, we’ve got an explicitly universalist statement from 178-179 ( prior to the writings of Clement of Alexandria who would then seem to simply have continued the universalist tradition of Pantaenus who received it from Athenagoras, if the fifth century historian Philip of Side is to be trusted.

I’ve read the two extant works of Athenagoras ( and have found several passages indirectly pointing to his universalism:
“I pass over the fact, that so long as the nature we at present possess is preserved, the mortal nature is not able to bear a punishment commensurate with the more numerous or more serious faults.” (On the Resurrection, ch. XIX.) Saying that the mortal nature can’t bear the punishment for the more serious faults implies that it can bear the punishment for the less serious faults. As the mortal nature can’t bear an endless punishment, it is clear that in Athenagoras’s view the punishment for the less serious faults is not endless. Doesn’t it then stand to reason that the punishment for the more serious sins isn’t infinite either?
“false opinions are an aftergrowth from another sowing” (On the Resurrection, ch. XI.) This looks like a reference to the Parable of the Tares where the devil sows the bad seed. Jesus’s explanation that “the tares are the children of the wicked one” is typically understood as talking about people, but not so with Origen and Gregory of Nyssa who interpret the children of the devil as evil words or errors as to the true Beauty (see Origen’s Commentary on Matthew and Gregory’s On the Soul). It’s conspicuous that Athenagoras interpreted the parable similarly to these outspoken universalists.
“a god never rages” (A Plea for the Christians, ch. XXI.) That’s his reaction to Homer’s depiction of Mars. It contrasts with what Athenagoras’s annihilationist contemporary Theophilus of Antioch wrote: “if I call Him Fire, I but mention His anger. You will say, then, to me, “Is God angry?” Yes; He is angry with those who act wickedly” (To Autolycus, Book I, ch. III.).
“we cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly” (A Plea for the Christians, ch. XXXV) It’s unimaginable that those who can’t bear to see a man deservedly executed would be content with sinners being eternally tormented.

The only part of Athenagoras’s writings that could be construed as teaching endless woe is this: “when we are removed from the present life we shall live another life, better than the present one, and heavenly, not earthly (since we shall abide near God, and with God, free from all change or suffering in the soul, not as flesh, even though we shall have flesh, but as heavenly spirit), or, falling with the rest, a worse one and in fire” (A Plea for the Christians, ch. XXXI.). But this does not preclude the possibility of eventual universal salvation.

Overall, the case for Athenagoras being a universalist is quite strong, don’t you agree?


Good catch! – does the translation you’re reading follow with Jukes on the major evidence?

My only note on Athenagoras so far, included the apparent denial of annihilation (living in fire for the fallen after death). But I’m nowhere near finished compiling notes from various sources (including Jukes). I’ll be adding in your additional notes!


Don’t think too hardly about Theophilus of Antioch, by the way. He had his moments, and would later inspire the founders of the Antiochian school (Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia).

In Book 2 chp 26 of his Treatise to Autolycus, he explains Genesis with a mystical meaning, that God gave the mortality of death as a gift to all mankind so that mankind might not sin forever but would instead be remade after death and resurrection without its sin. “As a vessel, which, after it has been made, has some flaw, is remade or remolded, that it may become new and right, so it comes to man by death. For in some way or other he is broken up, that he may come forth, in the resurrection, whole – I mean spotless, and righteous, and immortal.” This seems to be referencing the Jewish prophet language about shattering and remaking the pottery, which is presented as fatal but remedial punishment. But even aside from that, this explanation of Genesis means that Theophilus thinks the goal of God’s fatal punishment is to lead the sinner to repentance and immortality in the resurrection, after the final fatality; thus immortality is more of a quality of having no death/sin, than a statement of continuing existence, and similarly mortality is a quality of having death/sin rather than a statement of ceasing existence. Theophilus appeals to this idea to explain why there are two Genesis accounts; one placement in Paradise happened before the fall, but the other placement (apparently referring to the first version which doesn’t have a fall story) shall happen not only after the resurrection but after the judgment!

Earlier in Book 2, chp 17, Theophilus explains the quadrupeds, wild beasts, and reptiles, who receive no blessing (on Theophilus’ reading), were made to represent some men who neither know nor worship God and do not repent. However, Theophilus remembers that even these were not made evil originally but good, and they shall also be restored to their original goodness and gentleness. His word for this restoration is the verb form of {apokatastasis}.


Thomas Allin, in Christ Triumphant, has some comments re Athenagoras:

“There is much that is interesting in a writer earlier than Clement, Athenegoras, 177 A.D.”

“He nowhere alludes to endless penalty, though he speaks of future judgment. His conception of the Resurrection seems to be that it is the crown and completion of man’s rational nature. “If this takes place (the Resurrection) an end befitting the nature of main follows also.” - ch. xxv. He speaks of the future body as not liable to suffering, - ch. x., and of the Resurrection as a change for the better (apparently in every case) ch. xii. ATHENAGORAS, though little known, writes with a grace and vigor too often wanting in. more famous names.”

A more updated version with this quote on p.111-112: … 2%80%93190+was+a+universalist?&source=bl&ots=mx-4ddhHZE&sig=sapAPDruvYNp75EVCPfYRvzrlIc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjMtJHKwYPVAhVH22MKHUulCc0Q6AEIODAC#v=onepage&q=Athenagoras%20(133%E2%80%93190)%20was%20a%20universalist%3F&f=false


Hi Jason!

The translation in Jukes’s book is the same as the one on Wikisource.

As for Theophilus, I have a high opinion of him. I don’t blame him for saying God is angry just like I don’t blame St. Paul and John for repeatedly referring to God’s wrath. I simply think Athenagoras took the extra step in interpreting God’s anger as a possible human perception of God’s changeless attitude, while Theophilus (from my reading of his works) did not. But I understand why the chapter you referenced makes it very tempting to classify him as a universalist. However, even some parts of your quote cast doubt on that theory. Let’s look at it again: “As a vessel, which, after it has been made, has some flaw, is remade or remolded, that it may become new and right, so it comes to man by death. For in some way or other he is broken up, that he may come forth, in the resurrection, whole – I mean spotless, and righteous, and immortal.” He’s saying that man dies so that he may be resurrected immortal and righteous. But he could hardly have meant that all people are resurrected immortal and righteous. No ancient orthodox universalist, as far as I know, believed that all people are resurrected righteous, although perhaps you could say that by dying he means not only the death of the body but also the second death in the purifying fire out of which the damned will rise righteous – will be “resurrected” in a way. However, I think that calling the completion of a sinner’s purification a resurrection is very non-standard, and so we need to look at the other places where Theophilus discusses the hereafter and immortality to find out what exactly he meant in this chapter.

“God will raise thy flesh immortal with thy soul; and then, having become immortal, thou shalt see the Immortal, if now you believe on Him; and then you shall know that you have spoken unjustly against Him. But you do not believe that the dead are raised. When the resurrection shall take place, then you will believe, whether you will or no; and your faith shall be reckoned for unbelief, unless you believe now.” (Book 1, ch 7-8) I think you’ll concede that in this passage immortality means incapability of dying rather than sinlessness. Either way, I believe immortality should be interpreted literally unless doing so would make no sense. “God will raise thy flesh immortal with thy soul; and then, having become immortal, thou shalt see the Immortal” – He talks about flesh being raised immortal and follows that by saing the person will become immortal. These two things appear to be one and the same for him. After this, he immediately adds, “if now you believe on Him”, which makes believing in this life the condition one must meet to be raised immortal. If you interpreted immortality as sinlessness in this passage, you would be forced to the conclusion that those who do not believe now will not become holy. Thus, we would have to conclude that unbelievers would live for ever in sin. Theophilus would be teaching eternal torment. But we don’t get this out of the text if we interpret immortality literally. “When the resurrection shall take place, then you will believe, whether you will or no; and your faith shall be reckoned for unbelief” – This portion tells us even unbelievers are resurrected, but their faith will be reckoned for unbelief. And we know from what came before that unbelief precludes the gift of immortality. Thus, it is clear that unbelievers will be resurrected mortal. All this strongly points to the doctrine of conditional immortality.

Now, what precisely happens to those who are raised mortal according to Theophilus? We know from the previous part that when you “become immortal, thou shalt see the Immortal”. We may, thefore, deduce that those who are raised mortal will not see God. “[W]hen there is sin in a man, such a man cannot behold God.” (Book 1, ch 2) Sin prevents the vision of God, but even if it were completely blotted out in this life, we still couldn’t behold God in his full glory because of the weakness of our present body: “*f a man cannot look upon the sun, though it be a very small heavenly body, on account of its exceeding heat and power, how shall not a mortal man be much more unable to face the glory of God, which is unutterable?” (Book 1, ch 5) The major theme of the first book to Autolycus is the vision of God. Theophilus explains that to see God one must get rid of sin and look at the proofs of His existence in the creation. But seeing God face to face is only possible after the resurrection with a better body which will granted only to those who now believe. Those who don’t will not receive this body and will probably be separated from God and “tormented with eternal punishments” (Book 1, ch 14). While these punishments will be severe – Theophilus calls God “a chastener of the godly, and father of the righteous; but … a judge and punisher of the impious” (Book 1, ch 3) – they will not be endless since the damned were not given immortality. Nevertheless, because most annihilationists believe that eternal means endless, they don’t usually try to claim Theophilus, although on Wikipedia he is surprisingly described as an annihilationist (

Next, let’s look at the context in which the universalistically sounding statements appeared in the Book 2. “That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience,” – he speaks about death – “this” – death again – “God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him.” (Book 2, ch 27) These words explain the statement you quoted from the previous chapter “As a vessel, which, after it has been made, has some flaw, is remade or remolded, that it may become new and right, so it comes to man by death. For in some way or other he is broken up, that he may come forth, in the resurrection, whole – I mean spotless, and righteous, and immortal.” Though he says here that death leads to the resurrection to righteousness and immortality, in the chapter 27 it is made clear that death has this positive effect only on believers. Death by the grace of God is a good thing, but only when you obey him: “[T]his” – death – “God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him.” I’d say the part about obedience is pretty important. And this is how he continues: “For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption.” – Again and again he stresses obedience as a condition of being resurrected immortal. So, I think it reasonable to understand the general references to “man” in the chapter 26 as non-universalistic. “[W]hen man had been formed in this world, it is mystically written in Genesis, as if he had been twice placed in Paradise; so that the one was fulfilled when he was placed there, and the second will be fulfilled after the resurrection and judgment.” – This doesn’t necessitate universalism, since the first time “man” was placed in Paradise, there were only two people, which makes me think he was talking about “man” collectively as a species and not about every single human that has ever lived. But an annihilationistic kind of universalism positing all who’ll go on living will be good could be what he was trying to communicate. He could also have been expressing God’s intentions which some put to nought for themselves by disobedience. Anyway, I still find his sentiment beautiful and much closer to universalism than to the dogma of eternal torment.

Nevertheless, if you still think he was a true universalist, I urge you to read again his first book and the chapters 26 and 27 of his second book with the assumption that death and immortality are not metaphors and see if it doesn’t make more sense. I think the case for Theophilus’s universalism when all he wrote in the two books is considered is doubtful at best. Maybe I’ll contact Glenn Peoples. Sadly, Theophilus isn’t included in his list of annihilationists ( although the case for Theophilus’s annihilationism, as I hope you now see, is very powerful. Speaking of annihilationism, do you believe that’s what Irenaeus taught? If you don’t, I refer you to Now, according to universalist sources which I couldn’t verify, Irenaeus also said this: “God drove Adam out of Paradise, and removed him far from the tree of life, in compassion for him, that he might not remain a transgressor always, and that the sin in which he was involved might not be immortal, nor be without end and incurable. He prevented further transgression by the interposition of death, and by causing sin to cease by the dissolution of the flesh that man ceasing to live to sin, and dying to it, might begin to live to God.” – This is reminiscent of Theophilus’s teaching, so it’s a good bet that both he and Irenaeus belonged to the same school of thought which, among other things, promulgated conditional immortality. This teaching probably started with Ignatius of Antioch though modern conditionalists could argue that it began with St. John. Later, when Antiochians had all of the Scripture to peruse, their theology embraced universalism. On the other hand, Athenagoras seems to be closer in his sentiments to Origen, so we might argue that they were a part of the universalistic tradition begun by St. Mark. But these last thoughts of mine are just speculations.

Frankly, I feel kind of bad for arguing against one of the fathers being a universalist immediately after I’ve made a case for another father being a universalist :unamused: But I think we ought to try to discover their true opinions whatever they may be. And as far as I can tell, things aren’t all that bleak. The only second century theologians who can be shown to have taught endless torment are Tertullian and Tatian who turned heretics. Basically, I think we should let conditionalists have Theophilus and replace his quotes with those of Athenagoras :slight_smile:

And thank you for referring to Allin’s book, Origen. Will definitely read it.*


I agree of course that we should try to figure out from evidence and context what the various Fathers were intending to teach, and that if they weren’t universalists so be it. As it happens I would have classed Irenaeus as an annihilationist anyway, even if he thought all humans shall be saved, because he pretty clearly doesn’t think all rebel angels will be; but as it happens I can’t find some of the citations Dr. Ramelli and others have made, and other citations don’t look that clear in context. Along a different line, I’m somewhat doubtful of Dr. R’s thesis that Augustine started off as a universalist, since his later anti-universalism makes no reference to prior belief or to what sounds like it should be prior belief. I think Aug is a case where a new Christian for several years used standard trinitarian arguments CREATED AND PROPAGATED BY TRINITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS with that context in their case, but which he didn’t recognize the implications of. Certainly this happens a lot today. :wink:

Along that line again, I acknowledge that I could be reading Theophilus’ remarks about being broken up and remade, which seem to me to be directly referencing several OT texts, as though he’s thinking about the context of those texts where God talks about those metaphors as punitive language for sinning people, and then stresses that He can not even reform the lump after He destroys it on the wheel but that He can also, unlike a human potter, recreate the shattered vessel to serve Him properly. However, Theophilus might not be thinking that far on his references. (Again, plenty of people today don’t, when citing them through Romans 9. :wink: )

In regard to the Genesis context, I again acknowledge that I might be reading the general early patristic emphasis on the totality of humankind being referenced in the first creation account, into Theophilus’ ingenious explanation that the first creation account represents the ideal which God shall bring about in the final day of judgement to come when He rests from His work. But if Theophilus doesn’t specifically clarify that he runs with that idea himself, he might not in fact have been doing so (especially where, as you suggest, other evidence points to him not doing so).

In regard to that quote from Book one about Autolycus being raised: actually it doesn’t say that Autolycus shall be raised mortal, but that he shall be raised immortal, both flesh and soul, which as you point out for Theophilus simply means being incapable of dying. As you say, yes, I concede that. But then, so much for Autolycus, still speaking unjustly against God, being raised mortal. The “if now you believe on Him” would then refer to seeing God the Immortal (as Jesus presumably), which Theophilus says is certainly going to happen one way or another: “then you will believe, whether you will or no.” But his belief/faith will be reckoned for unbelief unless Autolycus has already believed. Whether or not Theophilus thinks God will remedially punish at that point, this has nothing to do with whether Autolycus is raised immortal or not: that’s going to happen, thus proving that Autolycus spoke against God unjustly, which even Autolycus shall have to agree about then. In terms of later theology, Theophilus may be thinking of what they’d call the distinction between the Beatific Vision and the Infernal Vision. (I’m not sure I’m remembering the terminology in the latter case correctly, but this fits the typical Eastern Orthodox stance, whether universalistic or not, that the sinner shall be afflicted with the presence of God. A point I agree with, btw, for impenitent sinners.)

It is also possible that Theophilus, not understanding the implications of what he’s saying, is bouncing back and forth between two positions on the immortality of the resurrection (for everyone, or only for those loyal to Christ at death), in order to assert that there shall be no ultimate salvation for some people – which again is something I find non-universalists frequently doing today.

In regard to the theory that, if universalism is false, St. Mark invented it; I would be very amused to see a non-universalist taking that stance! – but they will probably say that Athenagoras misunderstood Mark, and that the prevalence and importance of the Didaskelion then promoted Ath’s misunderstanding forward, echoed in the Antiochian schools although from another exegetical method; until such time as the two sets of schools were finally brought to disgrace by their bitter infighting over how the two natures of Christ worked (which indisputably happened, one way or another).

This of course would at least serve as evidence that even those in direct discipleship of canonical writers, or only one generation removed from apostles, could misunderstand things this badly – which then will undermine appeals to the ‘school’ of the Apostle John being necessarily correct about annihilation!

From our standpoint, or even from a standpoint of Mark misunderstanding, the evident track of ideas (from how the teachers at Alexandria presented them) would be St. Paul, whom John Mark was a disciple of. But then Mark has direct connections to St. Peter, too. (I even have strong suspicions that Mark was directly involved in helping with St. John’s ministry, leading to some confusion between the two Johns later.)


I think you made an important point about the same language being used by different people with varying meanings. Christians on all sides of the topic of future punishment too often simply look for certain expressions in the fathers to make a case instead of taking the time to follow the authors’ thoughts. Proponents of endless torment are usually quick to jump to conclusions once they read “eternal torment” or any depiction of afterlife dualism (though the author may have understood it as only temporary), annihilationists tend to think of non-existence when they read of death and destruction no matter the context, and we who see in the Scripture the doctrine of universal salvation may confuse the teaching that all can be saved with the teaching that all shall be saved. The result of this can be quite ridiculous, such as that Theophilus is claimed by all three groups.

Now, I’ll admit that the part where he talks about seeing the Immortal could refer to the contrasting ways in which God may be experienced by those who are resurrected immortal. But I still think it can be interpreted as immortality only for some. Essentially, I understand the caveat “if now you believe on Him” as applying to all of this: “When thou shalt have put off the mortal, and put on incorruption, then shall thou see God worthily. For God will raise thy flesh immortal with thy soul; and then, having become immortal, thou shalt see the Immortal”. The preceding sentence also leads me to think that Theophilus sees this as only happening to the faithful: “But before all let faith and the fear of God have rule in thy heart, and then shalt thou understand these things.” It seems to me he proceeded assuming as it were for a moment that Autolycus would heed his exhortation to let faith rule in his heart, and that’s why he spoke as if he was sure Autolycus would become immortal, but then he had to backpedal by saying “if now you believe” and eventually “but you do not believe”. Another hint that immortality for Theophilus isn’t universal I haven’t mentioned yet is his choice of scriptural quotations to describe the future reward and punishment: “To those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek immortality, He will give life everlasting, joy, peace, rest, and abundance of good things, which neither hath eye seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. But to the unbelieving and despisers, who obey not the truth, but are obedient to unrighteousness, when they shall have been filled with adulteries and fornications, and filthiness, and covetousness, and unlawful idolatries, there shall be anger and wrath, tribulation and anguish, and at the last everlasting fire shall possess such men.” (Book 1, ch 14)

As regards St. Mark, I didn’t mean he invented universalism but that he was the first great Alexandrian universalist. Anyhow, if the Bible really teaches universalism, a huge misunderstanding must have taken place no later than the beginning of the second century when the bishop Ignatius taught annihilation. This is only a step away from saying the apostles themselves were split on the issue which is a disturbing thought indeed.

Finally, I want to comment on one thing that Allin noted about Athenagoras – “He speaks of the future body as not liable to suffering”. I don’t think this has any bearing on his belief concerning future punishment. As I’ve quoted before, Athenagoras also wrote that “the mortal nature is not able to bear a punishment commensurate with the more numerous or more serious faults.” This means that God’s punishment will cause physical pain which will in some cases be so intense that mortal bodies couldn’t bear it. So when Athenagoras says the resurrected body won’t be liable to suffering, he probably means the kind of suffering that mortal bodies are prone to and not the penal fire of God.


According to Ramelli “Ignatius…never mentions eternal punishment.” … coming-in/

On pages 62-63 of her tome Ramelli says:

“In his Letter to Christians in Smyrna,§2 of the middle recension, the salvation of all humans is mentioned as an effect of the work of Christ: “The Logos, when his flesh was lifted up like the bronze serpent in the desert, attracted all human beings to himself, for their eternal salvation.” This
text clearly echoes Jesus’s words in John 12:32: “when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall attract all peopleτοὺς πάντας] to myself.” The middle recension, even of Ignatius’s authentic letters, is often considered to include fourth-century interpolations—although it might be authentic, while the short recension might be a compendium.158 The insistence on the notion of Jesus who drags all humans to himself for the sake of their eternal salvation would remain remarkable even if it were expressed in a later recension. In any case, in the short recension itself, interesting elements appear. Origen (Hom. in Luc. 6,4: De or. 20; In Cant. preface) and Eusebius (HE 3,36) were acquainted with Ignatius’s letters, which were preserved in the Caesarea library.159 Origen in particular could draw inspiration from the earlier recension. In Ep. ad Eph. 20 Ignatius describes the destruction of evilness and salvation brought about by Christ, in strongly universalistic terms:”

" “Every spell of evilness has been destroyed, every chain of evilness has disappeared; ignorance has been swept away; the old kingdom has fallen into ruin, when God appeared in human form for the novelty of the life that is absolutely eternal ἀϊδίου]. What was established by God has begun: since then, all beings have been set in motion for the providential realisation of the destructionof death διὰ τὸ μελετᾶσθαι θανάτου κατάλυσιν].” "

“This destruction of death is a work of God, and the death at stake is not only physical, but also spiritual, since its disappearance is linked to the elimination of evil and ignorance. In Ep. ad Thrall. 2 Ignatius likewise observes: “Christ died for us, that you may avoid death, by believing in his death.” Again, the death that is avoided is clearly not physical, but spiritual: it is the death in the other world, the death of those who are away from God. Christ “suffered for us, for the sake of our salvation” (Ep. ad Smyrn. 2) and has “accomplished every justice,” which means the justification of all people (ibid. 1,1); he has suffered “for the sake of our sins,” meaning for their purification (ibid. 7). Ignatius assures his hearers that “nothing will be lost for you” (ibid. 11). In Ep. ad Pol. 1 he exhorts Polycarp of Smyrna to “urge all people to be saved.” And in Ep. ad Smyrn. 6,1 he includes in these “all” even angels: those who believe in the blood of Christ will not be judged, but the others will have to be judged.”

Ilaria Ramelli, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena (Brill, 2013. 890 pp.) … &type=full


After re-reading my first post, I’m beginning to think I indulged in wishful thinking when I tried to make a strong case for Athenagoras’s universalism. The following part of his quote which I expounded universalistically can lend itself very easily to an interpretation consistent with eternal torment: "For the large number of those who fail of the end that belongs to them does not make void the common lot, since the examination relates to individuals, and the reward or punishment of lives ill or well spent is proportioned to what each has done.” It could mean that although most humans are sinful, humanity will not be punished collectively, but each individual will receive punishment or reward according to his own deserts. In other words, when Athenagoras spoke of the common lot that will not be made void, he could have meant that the unrighteous cannot by their sins deprive the righteous of their blessed lot. To those living in the modern West, this might seem like a redundant thing to say, but to an ancient mind the concept of collective guilt probably wasn’t that foreign. After all, it was around this time that the doctrine of the inherited guilt of the original sin developed. The idea was well-established among Punic Christians by the time of Cyprian (On the Baptism of Infants).


There are many “experts” who are convinced that the extant works attributed Ignatius are all forgeries—that we don’t presently have ANY of the writings of Ignatius.