continued ... "All About Antioch" - 2
The Apostolic Era
Throughout the Apostolic Era, Antioch remained the most prominent in wealth and leadership among the five Sees. Her history is part and parcel of larger ecclesiastical history and a good part of the events and beliefs which constitute this history originated either within the See of Antioch or with Antiochian personalities. The theological turmoil which stirred Antioch during these early centuries is indicative of the dynamic nature of that Christian community.
The most famous scriptural reference concerning Antioch relates that it was in this city that the followers of Christ were first mockingly referred to as "Christ-ians" (Acts 11:26). In the Book of Acts, which offers an account of the first years of the Church, we discover that Antioch is the second most frequently mentioned city. Nicholas, one of the original seven deacons was a convert from Antioch and perhaps the first Christian from that city (Acts 6:5). During the persecution which occasioned the death of Saint Stephen the First Martyr, members of the fledgling Christian community in Jerusalem fled to Antioch for refuge.
Church tradition maintains that the See of Antioch was founded by Saint Peter the Apostle in A.D. 34 (Acts 2:26). Peter was either followed or joined by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas who preached there to both Gentiles and to Jews, who seem to have been numerous in the city. It was in Antioch that one of the first conflicts within the Church developed between Peter and Paul. This conflict regarded the necessity of circumcision for male Gentile converts to Christianity. It was the resolution of this conflict at the Council of Jerusalem under Saint James the Apostle that determined the direction of the Antiochian mission to the Gentiles, and the dynamic nature of that Christian community in its missionary outreach. It was from Antioch that Paul and Barnabas departed for their great missionary journeys to the Gentile lands (Acts 13:1).
The Apostles directed a truly universal ministry. After spending some seven years in Antioch, Peter left for Rome. To succeed him as bishop of Antioch he appointed Euodius, who is thus counted in early episcopal lists as the first successor to the Antiochian Throne of Peter. The multiple Apostolic foundation of the See of Antioch, the early missions centred there, and the active nature of the community as recorded in the New Testament, has been a unique source of pride to all who trace their spiritual and ecclesiastical roots to the Antiochian Patriarchate.
The See of Antioch continued its glorious contributions to the universal Church by the numerous outstanding personalities it nurtured. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, for example, is revered as both a victorious martyr during the reign of Emperor Trajan (early second century) and as a reliable historical source for the structure of Church life. Ignatius was the second successor to Peter and may actually have been consecrated by that Apostle or Saint Paul. Ignatius' chief gift to the Church historian is his several epistles, the earliest Christian documents after the New Testament, which were written en route to his martyrdom in Rome. These letters bear abundant testimony to the nature of the early hierarchical structure of the Church and to general Church order. The contemporary Orthodox Church takes pride in the fact that these epistles bear witness to the unbroken continuity of Orthodox belief in Apostolic Succession, the Eucharist, and other essential facets of the Christian Faith.
In addition to Ignatius, mention must be made of the works of Saint Theophilus, the sixth successor to Peter, who defended Christian doctrine in his writings against heretics and pagans.