Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume I/IRENAEUS/Against Heresies: Book II/Chapter XXI.

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. I, Against Heresies: Book II by Irenaeus, translated by Philip Schaff et al.
Chapter XXI.

Chapter XXI.—The twelve apostles were not a type of the Æons.

1. If, again, they maintain that the twelve apostles were a type only of that group of twelve Æons which Anthropos in conjunction with Ecclesia produced, then let them produce ten other apostles as a type of those ten remaining Æons, who, as they declare, were produced by Logos and Zoe. For it is unreasonable to suppose that the junior, and for that reason inferior Æons, were set forth by the Saviour through the election of the apostles, while their seniors, and on this account their superiors, were not thus foreshown; since the Saviour (if, that is to say, He chose the apostles with this view, that by means of them He might show forth the Æons who are in the Pleroma) might have chosen other ten apostles also, and likewise other eight before these, that thus He might set forth the original and primary Ogdoad. He could not,[1] in regard to the second [Duo] Decad, show forth [any emblem of it] through the number of the apostles being [already] constituted a type. For [He made choice of no such other number of disciples; but] after the twelve apostles, our Lord is found to have sent seventy others before Him.[2] Now seventy cannot possibly be the type either of an Ogdoad, a Decad, or a Triacontad. What is the reason, then, that the inferior Æons are, as I have said, represented by means of the apostles; but the superior, from whom, too, the former derived their being, are not prefigured at all? But if[3] the twelve apostles were chosen with this object, that the number of the twelve Æons might be indicated by means of them, then the seventy also ought to have been chosen to be the type of seventy Æons; and in that case, they must affirm that the Æons are no longer thirty, but eighty-two in number. For He who made choice of the apostles, that they might be a type of those Æons existing in the Pleroma, would never have constituted them types of some and not of others; but by means of the apostles He would have tried to preserve an image and to exhibit a type of those Æons that exist in the Pleroma.

2. Moreover we must not keep silence respecting Paul, but demand from them after the type of what Æon that apostle has been handed down to us, unless perchance [they affirm that he is a representative] of the Saviour compounded of them [all], who derived his being from the collected gifts of the whole, and whom they term All Things, as having been formed out of them all. Respecting this being the poet Hesiod has strikingly expressed himself, styling him Pandora —that is, “The gift of all”—for this reason, that the best gift in the possession of all was centred in him. In describing these gifts the following account is given: Hermes (so[4] he is called in the Greek language), Αἱμυλίους[5] τε λόγους καὶ ἐπίκλοπον ἦθος αὐτοὺς Κάτθετο (or to express this in the English[6] language), “implanted words of fraud and deceit in their minds, and thievish habits,” for the purpose of leading foolish men astray, that such should believe their falsehoods. For their Mother—that is, Leto[7]—secretly stirred them up (whence also she is called Leto,[8] according to the meaning of the Greek word, because she secretly stirred up men), without the knowledge of the Demiurge, to give forth profound and unspeakable mysteries to itching ears.[9] And not only did their Mother bring it about that this mystery should be declared by Hesiod; but very skilfully also by means of the lyric poet Pindar, when he describes to the Demiurge[10] the

case of Pelops, whose flesh was cut in pieces by the Father, and then collected and brought together, and compacted anew by all the gods,[11] did she in this way indicate Pandora and these men having their consciences seared[12] by her, declaring, as they maintain, the very same things, are [proved] of the same family and spirit as the others.


  1. This passage is hopelessly corrupt. The editors have twisted it in every direction, but with no satisfactory result. Our version is quite as far from being certainly trustworthy as any other that has been proposed, but it seems something like the meaning of the words as they stand. Both the text and punctuation of the Latin are in utter confusion.
  2. Luke x. 1.
  3. “Si” is wanting in the mss. and early editions, and Harvey pleads for its exclusion, but the sense becomes clearer through inserting it.
  4. This clause is, of course, an interpolation by the Latin translator.
  5. The words are loosely quoted memoriter, as is the custom with Irenæus. See Hesiod, Works and Days, i. 77, etc.
  6. Latin, of course, in the text.
  7. There is here a play upon the words Λητώ and ληθεῖν, the former being supposed to be derived from the latter, so as to denote secrecy.
  8. This clause is probably an interpolation by the translator.
  9. 2 Tim. iv. 3.
  10. “Cœlet Demiurgo,” such is the reading in all the mss. and editions. Harvey, however, proposes to read “celet Demiurgum;” but the change which he suggests, besides being without authority, does not clear away the obscurity which hangs upon the sentence.
  11. Comp. Pindar, Olymp., i. 38, etc.
  12. “Compuncti” supposed to correspond to κεκαυτηριασμένοι: see 1 Tim. iv. 2. The whole passage is difficult and obscure.