Irenaeus: "Against Heresies" Chap. 10


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(Written: Ca. 175-185 A.D.)



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"We have learned the plan of our salvation  from no one else other than from those through whom the gospel has come down to us.  For they did at one time proclaim the gospel in public.  And at a later period, by the will of God, they handed the gospel down to us in the Scriptures --- to be ' the ground and pillar of our faith.' "

-Irenaeus ("Against Heresies")

On there Being Four Gospels (and Only Four): 

"But it is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are.  ...since the "pillar and ground" of the church is the Gospel and the spirit of life, it is fitting that she should have four pillars...From this fact, it is evident that the Logos, the fashioner (demiourgos) of all, he that sits on the cherubim and holds all things together, when he was manifested to humanity, gave us the gospel under four forms but bound together by one spirit." (Against Heresies 3.11.8)

The above is a definitive statement against both Marcion, a heretic whose Cult taught that the "Gospel of Luke" was the only inspired Gospel (he rejected the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John), and also against the Gnostics, who had many spurious additional so-called "Gospels" (Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Judas, etc.).

In his criticism of Gnosticism, Irenaeus made reference to a Gnostic gospel which portrayed Judas in a positive light, as having acted in accordance with Jesus' instructions.  The recently discovered so-called "Gospel of Judas" dates close to the period when Irenaeus lived (late 2nd century).  Scholars typically regard the Gospel of Judas as one of many Gnostic texts which portray a variety of the many non-Christian and often conflicting Gnostic beliefs of the period.

Chapter 10. - Unity of the Faith of the  Church Throughout The Whole World

1. The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith:

(She believes) in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them;

and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His (future) manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father "to gather all things in one,"

and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, "every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess" to Him,

and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send "spiritual wickednesses," and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning (of their Christian course), and others from (the date of) their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory.

2. As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it.

She also believes these points (of doctrine) just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth.

For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same.

For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shines everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition.

For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it. ____________________________________________________________

See Also:

  Text of Irenaeus' "Against Heresies" is in the Public Domain.  Source for personal history of Irenaeus: Wilikpedia "Irenaeus"Photo of Skellig Michael Copyright Irish Tourist Board.  Photo of lone monk, and Layout, Copyright 2007 S.G.P. All rights reserved. ____________________________________________________________

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Image: Portrait of Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, France. Irenaeus

 (Ca. 115202)

Irenaeus was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyon, France

His writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology, and he is recognized as a saint by both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.  Both consider him to be a "Father" of the  Church

He was a notable early Christian apologist.

Irenaeus uses the Logos theology he inherited from Justin Martyr. Irenaeus was a student of Polycarp, who was tutored by John the ApostleJohn used Logos theology in the Gospel of John and book of 1 John.

During the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, Irenaeus was a priest of the Church of Lyon.

The clergy of that city, many of whom were suffering imprisonment for the faith, sent him (in 177 or 178 A.D.) to Rome with a letter to Bishop Eleuterus concerning Montanism, and on that occasion bore emphatic testimony to his merits.

Returning to Gaul, Irenaeus succeeded the martyr Pothinus, becoming the second Bishop of Lyon.

During the religious peace which followed the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, the new bishop divided his activities between the duties of a pastor and of a missionary.

Almost all of his writings were directed against Gnosticism, an entire group of various heretical Cult systems.  The most famous of these writings is Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies).

Nothing is known of the date of his death, which must have occurred at the end of the second or the beginning of the third century.

 He was buried under the church of Saint John's in Lyon, which was later renamed St. Irenaeus in his honour; the tomb and his remains were destroyed in 1562 by the Calvinist Huguenots (French Protestants).

His feast is celebrated on June 28 in the Latin Church, and on August 23 in the Greek. _________