The same Internet poster, Agomemnon, cited a second passage that is sometimes attributed Ignatius, from a "Letter to the Smyrnaeans."
Agomemnon quoted Ignatius as saying:
"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1 [A.D. 110])."
Another Internet poster brought this alternative version that is also floating out there in cyberspace:
"In about 106, Saint Ignatius of Antioch criticized those who 'abstain from the Eucharist and the public prayer, because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the self-same Body of our Savior Jesus Christ, which [flesh] suffered for our sins, and which the Father in His goodness raised up again' (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 6, 7)."
Like Agomemnon's quotation from Ignatius, this quotation is not a particularly accurate quotation for two reasons that will be discussed below. Furthermore, there is some difficulty here, because there is a difference between the longer and shorter forms of the letter. In other words, there is some textual critical questions about whether the shorter or longer version is original.
The first of the two reasons that the quotation is inaccurate is that it combines the thoughts in chapter 6 with those of chapter 7. Furthermore, the translations of the respective portions of chapter 6 and 7 are not particularly accurate.
Suffice that the shorter version of the quoted portion of chapter 6 is translated by Schaff as:
"But consider those who are of a different opinion with respect to the grace of Christ which has come unto us, how opposed they are to the will of God. They have no regard for love; no care for the widow, or the orphan, or the oppressed; of the bond, or of the free; of the hungry, or of the thirsty."
And the longer version of the quoted portion of chapter 6 is translated by Schaff as:
"Do ye, therefore, notice those who preach other doctrines, how they affirm that the Father of Christ cannot be known, and how they exhibit enmity and deceit in their dealings with one another. They have no regard for love; they despise the good things we expect hereafter; they regard present things as if they were durable; they ridicule him that is in affliction; they laugh at him that is in bonds."
Similarly, the shorter version of chapter 7 is translated by Schaff as:
"They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again. It is fitting, therefore, that ye should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion [of Christ] has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully proved. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils."
And the longer version of chapter 7 is translated by Schaff as:
"They are ashamed of the cross; they mock at the passion; they make a jest of the resurrection. They are the offspring of that spirit who is the author of all evil, who led Adam, by means of his wife, to transgress the commandment, who slew Abel by the hands of Cain, who fought against Job, who was the accuser of Joshua the son of Josedech, who sought to “sift the faith” of the apostles, who stirred up the multitude of the Jews against the Lord, who also now “worketh in the children of disobedience; from whom the Lord Jesus Christ will deliver us, who prayed that the faith of the apostles might not fail, not because He was not able of Himself to preserve it, but because He rejoiced in the pre-eminence of the Father. It is fitting, therefore, that ye should keep aloof from such persons, and neither in private nor in public to talk with them; but to give heed to the law, and the prophets, and to those who have preached to you the word of salvation. But flee from all abominable heresies, and those that cause schisms, as the beginning of evils."
Critical Portion of Quotation In Doubt:
The reason for quoting the entirety of chapter 7 (both versions) is to show that I am not simply quoting the wrong portion of the long version. Why would I worry that someone might think that? Because the long version makes no mention of the Eucharist.
Thus, while many scholars view the shorter reading of the letters (in general) as the better reading (because the longer version tends to exhibit interpolation in many places), there is a serious textual critical question about whether Ignatius' Letter to the church at Smyrna even mentions the Eucharist in chapter 7.
Accordingly, one response is simply to say that we cannot even be confident that Ignatius wrote what is here attributed to him. However, let's see whether the shorter version teaches the RCC claims of transubstantiation or the "real absence" of the bread and wine.
Context of Quotation - Debate over Christ's Incarnation:
For context and ease of reference, here are the entire combined 5th-7th chapters in the shorter reading:
"5. Some ignorantly deny Him, or rather have been denied by Him, being the advocates of death rather than of the truth. These persons neither have the prophets persuaded, nor the law of Moses, nor the Gospel even to this day, nor the sufferings we have individually endured. For they think also the same thing regarding us. For what does any one profit me, if he commends me, but blasphemes my Lord, not confessing that He was [truly] possessed of a body? But he who does not acknowledge this, has in fact altogether denied Him, being enveloped in death. I have not, however, thought good to write the names of such persons, inasmuch as they are unbelievers. Yea, far be it from me to make any mention of them, until they repent and return to [a true belief in] Christ’s passion, which is our resurrection. 6. Let no man deceive himself. Both the things which are in heaven, and the glorious angels, and rulers, both visible and invisible, if they believe not in the blood of Christ, shall, in consequence, incur condemnation. “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” Let not [high] place puff any one up: for that which is worth all is faith and love, to which nothing is to be preferred. But consider those who are of a different opinion with respect to the grace of Christ which has come unto us, how opposed they are to the will of God. They have no regard for love; no care for the widow, or the orphan, or the oppressed; of the bond, or of the free; of the hungry, or of the thirsty. 7. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it were better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again. It is fitting, therefore, that ye should keep aloof from such persons, and not to speak of them either in private or in public, but to give heed to the prophets, and above all, to the Gospel, in which the passion [of Christ] has been revealed to us, and the resurrection has been fully proved. But avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils."
The Gist of Ignatius' Complaint:
The gist of Ignatius' complaint is that these heretics denied Christ's incarnation. He establishes that this makes them heretics and provides evidence of support for his charge against them of unbelief and heresy.
The Detail of Ignatius' Argument:
Ignatius begins by saying that there are people who ignorantly deny Christ. He states that these people are not persuaded by Scripture (Moses, the prophets, and the Gospel) or by persecution of Christians to believe the truth. He states that deny that Christ has a body is to blaspheme the Lord. Indeed, Ignatius refuses to mention these people by name because they are unbelievers. He says that he will continue not to mention their names until they will repent and return to a belief in the Incarnation, which provides our hope of resurrection.
Ignatius repeats the Apostle Paul's warning to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3:18, "Let no man deceive himself." Then he restates the Apostle John's warning to in 1 John 3:18, "... he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Then he added a variation on the letter to the Angel of Smyrna in the Apocalypse, Revelation 2:17 "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches ...." And continued by mentioning the pre-eminence seeking that is apparently referenced in Revelation 2:15 ("the doctrine of the Nicolaitans") or possibly a reference to I Corinthians 13:4 "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up."
But, in any event, Ignatius teaches the primacy of faith and love, as Paul puts it: 1 Timothy 1:14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
Then Ignatius sets forth several evidences of these folks' non-Christianity:
1) They despise the grace of God.
2) They are opposed to the will of God.
3) They are not interested in love, or its expression toward the needy.
4) They do not participate in the Eucharist or prayer. And this, Ignatius claims, is because they do not confess the Eucharist to be the flesh of Christ, which suffered for our sins and was raised by the Father.
Ignatius notes ironically that these very blasphemers die while making these anti-Incarnation arguments, and it would be better for them to believe in the Incarnation and be resurrected with Christ.
With that description and warning, Ignatius calls on the people of Smyrna to stay away from such teachers but instead to cling to Scripture (prophets and especially the Gospel) which teaches us of both the Incarnation and Resurrection. Finally he mentions that they should avoid divisions, which starts into the next topic he discusses.
Examination of the Statement in question in light of the context:
Considering the statement: "They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again." in light of the context of Ignatius' argument, we can see that Ignatius is providing evidence of their departure from the truth of Scripture and its link to their practices. They do not pray or partake of the Eucharist. Why? Because they do not believe Christ was made flesh, died, and was resurrected!
There is nothing here about the bread and wine being really absent, or about the elements physically transforming into the substance of flesh and blood. Indeed, that view would make little sense in context.
Suppose that Ignatius was trying to say that the heretics denied that the Eucharist was the flesh and blood of Christ (a mistaken notion that some Catholic apologists attempt to establish). If that were the case, why would the heretics refuse to eat the Eucharist? Why would they not do as all Christians do and eat the Eucharist as a reminder of Christ's death? The answer should be obvious: they refused to eat because they did not believe Christ was body, and therefore that Christ either died or was resurrected. Thus, any memorial to the death of Christ was alien to them. That is the contextual, reasonable, explanation for their refusal to partake of the Eucharist.
Thus, we can see that Ignatius Letter to the Smyrnaeans, if it even mentions the Eucharist (which is in doubt), discusses heretics who deny the Incarnation, not with transubstantiation or the "real absence" of the bread and wine. Furthermore, we observe Ignatius relying on Scripture both as the grounds of his argument and some of the words of his argument, but also the authority for the Christians to whom he is writing. Scripture, according to Ignatius, proves the Resurrection, so don't believe the heretics who fail to observe Scripture's teachings.
Praise be to our Incarnate Christ!