For centuries Ignatius of Antioch has been underestimated by his admirers and vilified by his critics. Scholars tend to view him as either a careless epistolographer and lesser theologian, or a manipulative ecclesiastical politician seeking to gain sympathy for himself and support for his agenda. Critics feel that he departed dangerously from the pure Pauline gospel of justification by faith and veered off into "early Catholicism," if not gnosticism.
Learning Christ represents a thorough reevaluation of Ignatius as author and theologian, demonstrating that his seven authentic letters present a sophisticated and cohesive vision of the economy of redemption. Gregory Vall argues that Ignatius's thought represents a vital synthesis of Pauline, Johannine, and Matthean perspectives while anticipating important elements of later patristic theology. Topics treated in this volume include Ignatius's soteriological anthropology, his Christology and nascent Trinitarianism, his nuanced understanding of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, and his ecclesiology and eschatology.
Methodologically, Learning Christ can be situated among recent attempts to recover a genuinely theological approach to early Christian texts within the perspective opened by modern historical-critical research. It aims to interpret Ignatius's thought in a manner that is authentically rooted in the communicative intention embodied in the text of his letters, while avoiding the historicist reduction of their significance to its hypothetically reconstituted contextual meaning. Vall argues that we can learn a great deal from Ignatius both about the content of revealed truth and about how to do theology.
"Through such an analysis Vall constructs a thoroughgoing theology from the letters of Ignatius, which is both sophisticated and coherent."~The Expository Times
"This is a careful analysis of the letters of Ignatius with no lack of scholarly erudition…"~R.E. Winn, CHOICE
"... the scope of Vall's work is impressive. The book is a thorough and refreshingly expansive theological examination of all of Ignatius's letters. Vall does not limit himself to a particular aspect of the letters but ranges over an extensive number of issues viewed through the lens of Igantius's understanding of the redemptive economy... Learning Christ is a thorough theological and historical engagement. The book should be read by students and scholars of early Christianity, but it is written clearly enough to be accessible to interested readers outside of the academy. Vall's implementation of the 'hermeneutic of understanding and empathy' has provided not only an in-depth analysis of Ignatius's letters, but potentially a helpful way to engage othe rfigures in church history theologically."~Anglican Theological Review
"His study will be a valuable resource for those interested in positioning the Antiochene bishop within the broader currents of Catholic theology."~Religious Studies Review
"In ten clear and illuminating chapters, Gregory Vall brings the reader through the many legends and apocryphal assumptions surrounding Ignatius and his thinking… Vall specializes in matters where the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers converge, and his latest is a welcome contribution in just such a field."~Thomist
""Learning Christ is a very fine piece of historical theology. It is thorough if not exhaustive in its research, judicious and balanced in its handling of scholarship, scrupulous in its investigation of historical matters, and discerning in its theological claims."—Stephen Hildebrand, professor of theology, Franciscian University of Steubenville, Ohio"
"Vail demonstrates his commitment to a Catholic theological hermeneutic, one that he believes is essential for acquiring a full appreciation of Ignatius's theology. His study will be a valuable resource for those interested in positioning the Antiochene bishop within the broader currents of Catholic theology."~Religious Studies Review
"Vall constructs a thoroughgoing theology from the letters of Ignatius, which is both sophisticated and coherent...shows that there is real depth and theological development in the letters of Ignatius."~The Expository Times
" Learning Christ is well worth the time put into reading it carefully. It is a book that places Vall among those scholars who are also capable teachers, allowing fairly easy access to difficult material, providing what is also an enjoyable and rewarding reading experience."~The Downside Review
" Learning Christ is a thorough theological and historical engagement. The book should be read by students and scholars of early Christianity, but is written clearly enough to be accessible to interested readers outside of the academy. Vail’s implementation of the 'hermeneutic of understanding and empathy' has provided not only an in-depth analysis of Ignatius’s letters, but potentially a helpful way to engage other figures in church history theologically."~Anglican Theological Review