Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume I/IRENAEUS/Against Heresies: Book IV/Chapter XLI.
Chapter XLI.—Those persons who do not believe in God, but who are disobedient, are angels and sons of the devil, not indeed by nature, but by imitation. Close of this book, and scope of the succeeding one.
1. Inasmuch as the Lord has said that there are certain angels, [viz. those] of the devil, for whom eternal fire is prepared; and as, again, He declares with regard to the tares, “The tares are the children of the wicked one,” it must be affirmed that He has ascribed all who are of the apostasy to him who is the ringleader of this transgression. But He made neither angels nor men so by nature. For we do not find that the devil created anything whatsoever, since indeed he is himself a creature of God, like the other angels. For God made all things, as also David says with regard to all things of the kind: “For He spake the word, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created.”
2. Since, therefore, all things were made by God, and since the devil has become the cause of apostasy to himself and others, justly does the Scripture always term those who remain in a state of apostasy “sons of the devil” and “angels of the wicked one” (maligni). For [the word] “son,” as one before me has observed, has a twofold meaning: one [is a son] in the order of nature, because he was born a son; the other, in that he was made so, is reputed a son, although there be a difference between being born so and being made so. For the first is indeed born from the person referred to; but the second is made so by him, whether as respects his creation or by the teaching of his doctrine. For when any person has been taught from the mouth of another, he is termed the son of him who instructs him, and the latter [is called] his father. According to nature, then—that is, according to creation, so to speak— we are all sons of God, because we have all been created by God. But with respect to obedience
and doctrine we are not all the sons of God: those only are so who believe in Him and do His will. And those who do not believe, and do not obey His will, are sons and angels of the devil, because they do the works of the devil. And that such is the case He has declared in Isaiah: “I have begotten and brought up children, but they have rebelled against Me.” And again, where He says that these children are aliens: “Strange children have lied unto Me.” According to nature, then, they are [His] children, because they have been so created; but with regard to their works, they are not His children.
3. For as, among men, those sons who disobey their fathers, being disinherited, are still their sons in the course of nature, but by law are disinherited, for they do not become the heirs of their natural parents; so in the same way is it with God,—those who do not obey Him being disinherited by Him, have ceased to be His sons. Wherefore they cannot receive His inheritance: as David says, “Sinners are alienated from the womb; their anger is after the likeness of a serpent.” And therefore did the Lord term those whom He knew to be the offspring of men “a generation of vipers;” because after the manner of these animals they go about in subtilty, and injure others. For He said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” Speaking of Herod, too, He says, “Go ye and tell that fox,” aiming at his wicked cunning and deceit. Wherefore the prophet David says, “Man, being placed in honour, is made like unto cattle.” And again Jeremiah says, “They are become like horses, furious about females; each one neighed after his neighbour’s wife.” And Isaiah, when preaching in Judea, and reasoning with Israel, termed them “rulers of Sodom” and “people of Gomorrah;” intimating that they were like the Sodomites in wickedness, and that the same description of sins was rife among them, calling them by the same name, because of the similarity of their conduct. And inasmuch as they were not by nature so created by God, but had power also to act rightly, the same person said to them, giving them good counsel, “Wash ye, make you clean; take away iniquity from your souls before mine eyes; cease from your iniquities.” Thus, no doubt, since they had transgressed and sinned in the same manner, so did they receive the same reproof as did the Sodomites. But when they should be converted and come to repentance, and cease from evil, they should have power to become the sons of God, and to receive the inheritance of immortality which is given by Him. For this reason, therefore, He has termed those “angels of the devil,” and “children of the wicked one,” who give heed to the devil, and do his works. But these are, at the same time, all created by the one and the same God. When, however, they believe and are subject to God, and go on and keep His doctrine, they are the sons of God; but when they have apostatized and fallen into transgression, they are ascribed to their chief, the devil—to him who first became the cause of apostasy to himself, and afterwards to others.
4. Inasmuch as the words of the Lord are numerous, while they all proclaim one and the same Father, the Creator of this world, it was incumbent also upon me, for their own sake, to refute by many [arguments] those who are involved in many errors, if by any means, when they are confuted by many [proofs], they may be converted to the truth and saved. But it is necessary to subjoin to this composition, in what follows, also the doctrine of Paul after the words of the Lord, to examine the opinion of this man, and expound the apostle, and to explain whatsoever [passages] have received other interpretations from the heretics, who have altogether misunderstood what Paul has spoken, and to point out the folly of their mad opinions; and to demonstrate from that same Paul, from whose [writings] they press questions upon us, that they are indeed utterers of falsehood, but that the apostle was a preacher of the truth, and that he taught all things agreeable to the preaching of the truth; [to the effect that] it was one God the Father who spake with Abraham, who gave the law, who sent the prophets beforehand, who in the last times sent His Son, and conferred salvation upon His own handiwork —that is, the substance of flesh. Arranging, then, in another book, the rest of the words of the Lord, which He taught concerning the Father not by parables, but by expressions taken in their obvious meaning (sed simpliciter ipsis dictionibus), and the exposition of the Epistles of the blessed apostle, I shall, with God’s aid, furnish thee with the complete work of the exposure and refutation of knowledge, falsely so called; thus practising myself and thee in [these] five books for presenting opposition to all heretics.
- Matt. xiii. 38.
- Ps. cxlix. 5.
- Isa. i. 2.
- Ps. xviii. 45.
- Ps. lviii. 3, 4.
- Matt. xxiii. 33.
- Matt. xvi. 6.
- Luke xiii. 32.
- Ps. xlix. 21.
- Jer. v. 8.
- Isa. i. 10.
- Isa. i. 16.
- Matt. xxv. 41, Matt. xiii. 38.