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.

3. Irenaeus’ Anthropology and Ethics in his Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching

In his introductory section of his Irenaeus provides us with a brief summary of his anthropology and his understanding of ethics that flows from that. From my recent reading, it seems generally accepted that Irenaeus held to a body-soul composition of all people, and that only believers have a body-soul-spirit. The spirit is comes from an experience of God’s Spirit. This is in opposition of Gnostics who saw some as by nature with spirit (pneumatics) and those who by nature only had a soul (psychics).

2. Now, since man is a living being compounded of soul and flesh, he must needs exist by both of these: and, whereas from both of them offences come, purity of the flesh is the restraining abstinence from all shameful things and all unrighteous deeds, and purity of the soul is the keeping faith towards God entire, neither adding thereto nor diminishing therefrom. For godliness is obscured and dulled by the soiling and the staining of the flesh, and is broken and polluted and no more entire, if falsehood enter into the soul: but it will keep itself in its beauty and its measure, when truth is constant in the soul and purity in the flesh. For what profit is it to know the truth in words, and to pollute the flesh and perform the works of evil? Or what profit can purity of the flesh bring, if truth be not in the soul? For these rejoice with one another, and are united and allied to bring man face to face with God. Wherefore the Holy Spirit says by David: Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly: that is, the counsel of the nations which know not God: for those are ungodly who worship not the God that truly is. And therefore the Word says to Moses: I am He that is; but they that worship not the God that is, these are the ungodly. And hath not stood in the way of sinners: but sinners are those who have the knowledge of God and keep not His commandments; that is, disdainful scorners. And hath not sat in the seat of the pestilential:< now the pestilential are those who by wicked and perverse doctrines corrupt not themselves only, but others also. For the seat is a symbol of teaching. Such then are all heretics: they sit in the seats of the pestilential, and those are corrupted who receive the venom of their doctrine.

1. Christology
2. Trinitarianism

2. Irenaeus’ Trinitarianism in his Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching.

As in my earlier post about Christology, we saw that Irenaeus held a high view of Christ along with the Father. He also notes the Spirit as equal with the Father and Son within his ‘rule of faith’. Again this is a clear statement of Trinitarian thought well before Nicea, which informs directly his salvation history that comes out in the rest of the work. (Carl has a few good comments on this on my last post.)

3. Now, that we may not suffer ought of this kind, we must needs hold the rule of the faith without deviation, and do the commandments of God, believing in God and fearing Him as Lord and loving Him as Father.

5. Thus then there is shown forth7171Or “shown to be”: cf. V, xviii. 1: “Et sic unus Deus Pater ostenditur (= δείκνυται).” One God, the Father, not made, invisible, creator of all things; above whom there is no other God, and after whom there is no other God. And, since God is rational (λογικός), therefore by the Word (λόγος) He created the things that were made; and God is Spirit, and by the Spirit He adorned all things: as also the prophet says: By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and by his spirit all their power. Since then the Word establishes, that is to say, gives body and grants the reality of being, and the Spirit gives order and form to the diversity of the powers; rightly and fittingly is the Word called the Son, and the Spirit the Wisdom of God. Well also does Paul His apostle say: One God, the Father, who is over all and through all and in its all (Eph 4.6). For over all is the Father; and through all is the Son, for through Him all things were made by the Father; and in us all is the Spirit, who cries Abba Father, and fashions man into the likeness of God. Now the Spirit shows forth the Word, and therefore the prophets announced the Son of God; and the Word utters the Spirit, and therefore is Himself the announcer of the prophets, and leads and draws man to the Father.

6. This then is the order of the rule of our faith, and the foundation of the building, and the stability of our conversation: God, the Father, not made, not material, invisible; one God, the creator of all things: this is the first point of our faith. The second point is: The Word of God, Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who was manifested to the prophets according to the form of their prophesying and according to the method of the dispensation of the Father: through whom all things were made; who also at the end of the times, to complete and gather up all things, was made man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and show forth life and produce a community of union between God and man. And the third point is: The Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied, and the fathers learned the things of God, and the righteous were led forth into the way of righteousness; and who in the end of the times was poured out in a new way a upon mankind in all the earth, renewing man unto God.

7. And for this reason the baptism of our regeneration proceeds through these three points: God the Father bestowing on us regeneration through His Son by the Holy Spirit. For as many as carry (in them) the Spirit of God are led to the Word, that is to the Son; and the Son brings them to the Father; and the Father causes them to possess incorruption. Without the Spirit it is not possible to behold the Word of God, nor without the Son can any draw near to the Father for the knowledge of the Father is the Son, and the knowledge of the Son of God is through the Holy Spirit; and, according to the good pleasure of the Father, the Son ministers and dispenses the Spirit to whomsoever the Father wills and as He wills.

1. Christology

1. Irenaeus’ Christology in his Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching.

Here’s my first installment of a little more in depth look at this short work by Irenaeus (here’s my primary post).

It seems popular these days in popular sources to say that Jesus was named a God at Nicea (325 CE). This neglects the fact that the greatest challenge to orthodoxy in the first couple of centuries were battles against his humanity (e.g., the Gnostics) rather than his divinity. At any rate, Irenaeus gives a clear indication about his view of Jesus’ divinity in paragraph 47, which is almost 150 years earlier than Nicea.

47. So then the Father is Lord and the Son is Lord, and the Father is God and the Son is God; for that which is begotten of God is God. And so in the substance and power of His being there is shown forth one God; but there is also according to the economy of our redemption both Son and Father. Because to created things the Father of all is invisible and unapproachable, therefore those who are to draw near to God must have their access to the Father through the Son. And yet more plainly and evidently does David speak concerning the Father and the Son as follows: Thy throne, O God is for ever and ever: thou hast loved righteousness and hated unrighteousness: The omission of “thy God” after “God” may be an oversight. therefore God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Ps. xlv. 6 f.) For the Son, as being God, receives from the Father, that is, from God, the throne of the everlasting kingdom, and the oil of anointing above His fellows. The oil of anointing is the Spirit, wherewith He has been anointed; and His fellows are prophets and righteous men and apostles, and all who receive the fellowship of His kingdom, that is to say, His disciples.

Series Introduction

I’m working on my chapter on Irenaeus’ soteriology, and have been reading his Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching the past few days, so I thought I’d catalog a few notes. It also turns out that Scot McKnight is also starting up a series on this writing.

Brief background: It was written some time around 190 C.E. in Greek, but the only extant version is an Armenian translation dating from around 600 C.E. in a 13th century manuscript. It’s a more positive/constructive version of his theology as opposed to Against Heresies which is more defensive and polemical in stance. That is not to say that AH is not constructive but it’s purpose is more to defeat certain ideologies. DAP also serves to refute those heresies, but it is not focused on them per se and is a little bit more user friendly for the average reader. The work consists of 100 ‘chapters’, which really more like paragraphs (as numbered by Harnack and now followed by most). As such, it is a nice, short introduction to Irenaeus’ thought.

Major Modern Translations:
John Behr, 2001
Iain MacKenzie, uses Armitage’s 1920′s translation
Joseph Smith, 1952, Ancient Christian Writers Series 16
(I’ve used the bottom two, but I would expect that the Behr version would be the most readable since these while understandable use archaic language periodically. Also, Behr is a well-known Irenaeus scholar.)

I hope to post about a few interesting ideas of his and possibly summarise some of his key points:
1. Christology


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