Irenaeus


I have been kicking around doing a piece on Irenaeus’ Christology in light of his view of deification, and the opportunity to do something on pneumatology popped up, so I put in to do a paper on that side. Essentially, I’m arguing that if deification is a metaphor for Irenaeus, which it is since believers don’t become part of the Godhead, it is based upon his conception of true (non-metaphorical) deity. For the Spirit (and Christ) to deify believers means that these two are already truly God. This later became an argument for the Spirit’s deity in the fourth century: the Spirit deifies, he is not deified. I’m happy to see my friend Jonathan Morgan in the line-up since he does excellent work on Cyril’s Pneumatology.

Development of Early Christian Theology (S22-212)
11/22/2014
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room 30 B (Upper level) – San Diego Convention Center (CC)

Theme: The Spirit in the Early Church: Accounts of the Spirit in the Early Church

Christopher Beeley, Yale University, Presiding
Ben C. Blackwell, Houston Baptist University
Irenaeus on the Deification of Believers and the Divinity of the Spirit (25 min)
Kellen Plaxco, Marquette University
The Place of the Spirit in Origen’s Taxological Grammar of Participation (25 min)
Jonathan Morgan, Toccoa Falls College
Circumcision of the Spirit: Type and Pneumatology in Cyril of Alexandria(25 min)
David Kneip, Abilene Christian University
The Spirit and the Bible in Alexandria: Cyril and Didymus (25 min)
Paul M. Pasquesi, Marquette University
Reclaiming the Divine Feminine: Re-Reception of the Holy Spirit in the Divine Economy (25 min)

A few days ago I quoted a great summary passage from Irenaeus, and it’s sad that we are still struggling with the same problems. Of course, few in churches would explicitly affirm two Gods in the Bible, but the way they describe God’s action in the OT and in the NT only focuses on discontinuity. That is, they are functional Marcionites: the God of the OT is mean and angry, but the God of the NT is loving and forgiving. Of course, there is some discontinuity in the vision of God in the OT and the NT. How can there not be when the greatest revelation of God had not become manifest until the NT era? However, Irenaeus rightly responds to an overemphasis on the discontinuity by pointing out the greater continuity: the Creator of the World is also its Savior. He’s worth quoting again:

If He (the Creator) made all things freely, and by His own power, and arranged and finished them, and His will is the substance of all things, then He is discovered to be the one only God who created all things, who alone is Omnipotent, and who is the only Father rounding and forming all things, visible and invisible, such as may be perceived by our senses and such as cannot, heavenly and earthly, “by the word of His power;” and He has fitted and arranged all things by His wisdom, while He contains all things, but He Himself can be contained by no one: He is the Former, He the Builder, He the Discoverer, He the Creator, He the Lord of all; and there is no one besides Him, or above Him.

But there is one only God, the Creator–He who is above every Principality, and Power, and Dominion, and Virtue: He is Father, He is God, He the Founder, He the Maker, He the Creator, who made those things by Himself, that is, through His Word and His Wisdom–heaven and earth, and the seas, and all things that are in them: He is just; He is good; He it is who formed man, who planted paradise, who made the world, who gave rise to the flood, who saved Noah; He is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of the living: He it is whom the law proclaims, whom the prophets preach, whom Christ reveals, whom the apostles make known s to us, and in whom the Church believes. Against Heresies 2.30.9 (ANF)

Thus, Christ’s work of salvation is a fulfillment of the original intention of creation and in God’s covenanting work with the Jews. The same God is working it all out–not merely judgment and then love, or a mistake and then its solution. We see both love and judgment in both the OT and NT.

A few days ago I quoted a great summary passage from Irenaeus, and the last part of the paragraph was especially striking:

He [God] it is whom the law proclaims, whom the prophets preach, whom Christ reveals, whom the apostles make known s to us, and in whom the Church believes. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: through His Word, who is His Son, through Him He is revealed and manifested to all to whom He is revealed; for those [only] know Him to whom the Son has revealed Him. But the Son, eternally co-existing with the Father, from of old, yea, from the beginning, always reveals the Father to Angels, Archangels, Powers, Virtues, and all to whom He wills that God should be revealed. (Against Heresies 2.30.9 [ANF])

Irenaeus is very clear on the deity of Christ. He is not a creation; he is “eternally co-existing with the Father”. Thus, the Council of Nicea did not invent the idea of the Trinity as some like to affirm. Irenaeus is very clear about the topic some 150 years before Nicea. As God himself he is able to reveal God to others, not just to humans but other cosmic beings. Of course, scripture is revelation from God, but Irenaeus gives us a good word that we should look first to Christ as the true revelation of God. Barth would be proud.

Here’s a great passage I came across in Irenaeus today that summarizes one of his main themes:

Justly, therefore, do we convict them of having departed far and wide from the truth. For if the Saviour formed the things which have been made, by means of him (the Demiurge), he is proved in that case not to be inferior but superior to them, since he is found to have been the former even of themselves; for they, too, have a place among created things. How, then, can it be argued that these men indeed are spiritual, but that he by whom they were created is of an animal nature? Or, again, if (which is indeed the only true supposition, as I have shown by numerous arguments of the very clearest nature) He (the Creator) made all things freely, and by His own power, and arranged and finished them, and His will is the substance of all things, then He is discovered to be the one only God who created all things, who alone is Omnipotent, and who is the only Father rounding and forming all things, visible and invisible, such as may be perceived by our senses and such as cannot, heavenly and earthly, “by the word of His power;” and He has fitted and arranged all things by His wisdom, while He contains all things, but He Himself can be contained by no one: He is the Former, He the Builder, He the Discoverer, He the Creator, He the Lord of all; and there is no one besides Him, or above Him, neither has He any mother, as they falsely ascribe to Him; nor is there a second God, as Marcion has imagined; nor is there a Pleroma of thirty Aeons, which has been shown a vain supposition; nor is there any such being as Bythus or Proarche; nor are there a series of heavens; nor is there a virginal light, nor an unnameable Aeon, nor, in fact, any one of those things which are madly dreamt of by these, and by all the heretics.

But there is one only God, the Creator–He who is above every Principality, and Power, and Dominion, and Virtue: He is Father, He is God, He the Founder, He the Maker, He the Creator, who made those things by Himself, that is, through His Word and His Wisdom–heaven and earth, and the seas, and all things that are in them: He is just; He is good; He it is who formed man, who planted paradise, who made the world, who gave rise to the flood, who saved Noah; He is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of the living: He it is whom the law proclaims, whom the prophets preach, whom Christ reveals, whom the apostles make known s to us, and in whom the Church believes. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: through His Word, who is His Son, through Him He is revealed and manifested to all to whom He is revealed; for those [only] know Him to whom the Son has revealed Him. But the Son, eternally co-existing with the Father, from of old, yea, from the beginning, always reveals the Father to Angels, Archangels, Powers, Virtues, and all to whom He wills that God should be revealed.

Against Heresies 2.30.9 (ANF)

Following up on my earlier post on 2 Timothy in Rome

When Irenaeus talks about Paul, he is mostly interested in Paul’s theology from his letters rather than the accounts of his travels or biography.  However, as part of his support of apostolic succession in Rome, he does link Paul to this but never mentions his martyrdom.  [By the way, I explore this further in a soon to be published essay on ‘Paul and Irenaeus’ in Paul and the Second Century: The Legacy of Paul’s Life, Letters, and Teaching, ed. Michael F. Bird and Joseph R. Dodson (London: T&T Clark, 2011).]

Irenaeus notes that Paul’s was in Rome and a ‘departure’ from there (AH 3.1.2), which leaves the outcome ambiguous, but there is clearly no speculation about his death.  For his time in Rome, all Irenaeus says is that Matthew wrote his gospel, ‘while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and laying the foundations of the church.  After their departure’, Mark and Luke, respectively, wrote their gospels based upon Peter and Paul’s teaching (AH 3.1.2; cf. 3.14.1).  Rather than being martyred in Rome, Paul just departs.  So, it would appear that Irenaeus thinks that when Paul wrote 2 Timothy (AH 3.3.3) that this was a subsequent imprisonment to the one recorded in Acts 28, but it’s not clear either way.

Paul’s letter to the Romans is explicitly to a church that he had not been to before, but the last we hear of Paul in Acts relates to his time in Rome.  Luke ends with Paul spending two years in Rome.  He ‘welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance’ (Acts 28.30-31).  Is seems that Irenaeus, like Luke, is content for Paul’s story not to have a specific ending.  In fact, it seems that the only reason Irenaeus gives a brief mention of Paul’s life and legal troubles in Acts 20-28 is so that he can defend the fact of Luke’s presence with Paul (AH 3.14.1).

Irenaeus asserts that Paul and Peter are the founders of the church in Rome.  He returns to this a couple of chapters later when he speaks of the importance of apostolic succession and ‘tradition from the apostles’.  Rather than recounting all the churches, he focuses ‘the church that is greatest, most ancient, and known to all, founded and set up by the two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul at Rome, while showing that the tradition and the faith it proclaims to mean comes down through the succession of bishops even to us . . . . For it is necessary for every church—that is, the believers from everywhere—to agree with this church, in which the tradition from the apostles has always been preserved by those who are from everywhere, because of its more excellent origin’ (3.3.2).  Obviously this evidence fits well with his argument towards the apostolic succession of the bishops of Rome.

In the end, it is very interesting that Irenaeus also works from a position that Paul and Peter had an amicable relationship similar to that of  Acts, but he builds it upon their relationship in Rome rather than any of the events reported in Acts.

As an interesting item that I came across . . .

Irenaeus possibly gives evidence that he thought that 2 Timothy was written during (one of ?) Paul’s Roman imprisonment(s).  He notes that the first bishop of Rome after the apostles was Linus: ‘Paul mentions this Linus in the letters to Timothy’ (AH 3.3.3).

Linus, along with Prudens, Claudia, and all the brothers and sisters serve as those who greet Timothy (2 Tim 4.21).

It would appear that Irenaeus thinks this is a subsequent imprisonment to the one recorded in Acts 28.  [Update: I’ll pick up the reasoning for this in a second post.]

Does anybody out there know where there is an electronic or online copy of Irenaeus’ texts in Latin?  It doesn’t seem that he is covered in Migne’s PL since it starts with the 3rd century, and I can’t find anything with the Latin other than Sources Chretiennes.  It’s just so handy to have things electronically to search, so I’d love any help.  Thanks.

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