Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Irenaeus, bishop of Tyre
Irenaeus (7), count of the empire and subsequently bp. of Tyre, while a layman took a zealous interest in theological controversies and was ardently attached to the cause of his personal friend Nestorius. In 431 Irenaeus unofficially accompanied Nestorius to the council of Ephesus (Labbe, Concil. iii. 443) employing his influence in behalf of his friend to the great irritation of Cyril and his party (ib. 749, 762; Baluze, 496, 524). When, five days after Cyril had hastily secured the condemnation of Nestorius, the approach of John of Antioch and the Eastern bishops was announced, Irenaeus, accompanied by a guard of soldiers, hurried out to apprise them of the high-handed proceedings of the council. He was followed by deputies from the council, who, as Memnon relates, were at the count's instigation maltreated by the soldiers, and prevented from having an audience with John (Labbe, ib. 764; Mercator, ii. praef. xxvii.). To counteract the influence of Dalmatius and the monastic party at Constantinople, the
Eastern bishops deputed Irenaeus to proceed thither with letters to the emperor and the leading officers of state, narrating their side (Labbe, ib. 717–720). Irenaeus obtained an audience of Theodosius, and his statement of the proceedings was so convincing that Theodosius was on the point of pronouncing the condemnation of Nestorius illegal, when the arrival of John, the Syncellus of Cyril, entirely frustrated his efforts.
The decree of Theodosius which banished Nestorius, Aug. 435, pronounced the same sentence against Irenaeus and a presbyter named Photius, as propagators of his impiety. Stripped of his honours, his property confiscated, he was deported to Petra (Baluz. p. 884, c. clxxxviii, clxxxix.), and passed 12 years in his Arabian banishment without once participating in Christian ordinances. His time was spent in the preparation of a history of the troubled scenes in which he had taken part, known as the Tragoedia Irenaei. The invectives in this work against Theodoret, Ibas, and all who had questioned Nestorius's perfect orthodoxy, render it probable that it was written early in his banishment, and that the lapse of tune brought calmer thoughts. His doctrinal views seem also to have received some modification during this period, for at its close the banished heretic suddenly reappeared as the unanimous choice of the bishops of the province of Phoenicia for the vacant metropolitical see of Tyre, their choice being ratified by the leading members of the episcopate of Pontus and Palestine and accepted with warm commendation by Proclus of Constantinople. The date of his ordination as bp. of Tyre must have been before the end of 446. Since the reconciliation of John of Antioch and Cyril, a kind of truce had existed between the two parties—the Egyptians and Orientals—which this elevation of a leading Nestorian sympathiser to the episcopate rendered no longer possible. Irenaeus had been consecrated by Domnus, the patriarch of Antioch, who, therefore, was the first object of attack. He was plied with missives from the dominant clerical party at Constantinople, asserting that the election of a convicted heretic and a digamus was ipso facto null and void and charging him under severe threats to proceed to a fresh election. The emperor's name was adroitly kept in the background; but it was implied that the malcontents were acting with his sanction. Domnus turned for counsel to Theodoret, who replied that "it was better to fall under the ill-will of man than to offend God and wound one's own conscience." But the ruin of Irenaeus had been resolved on, and Theodosius was compelled to seal with his imperial authority the act of deposition. An edict was issued (Feb. 17, 448), renewing those formerly published against the Nestorians and commanding that Irenaeus should be deposed from his see, deprived of the dress and title of priest, compelled to live as a layman in his own country and never set foot again in Tyre. Domnus, unwilling to consecrate a successor, sought to temporize, until fear of ulterior consequences prevailed over his scruples, and Photius was made bp. of Tyre, Sept. 9, 448 (Actes du Brigand. pp. 134, 143), and Irenaeus disappears entirely from the scene. The Latrocinium in 449 confirmed his deposition, after that of Ibas and Daniel of Charrae, and passed an anathema on him (Martin, Actes du Brigandage, pp. 82–86; Evagr. H. E. i. 10). As Irenaeus is not mentioned at the council of Chalcedon, he was probably no longer alive.
During the latter part of his career Irenaeus enjoyed the friendship and confidence of Theodoret, who speaks highly of his orthodoxy, magnanimity, liberality towards those in adversity, especially those who had known better times, and of his other virtues (Ep. 35, 110), and wrote him frequent letters.
Irenaeus's great historical work, the Tragoedia, has unfortunately perished and is only known to us from an ill-executed Latin translation of large portions of it, made subsequently to the time of Justinian by a partisan of "the Three Chapters." The anonymous translator, who has given very little more than the letters and other documents, invaluable for the light thrown on the transactions of the period, together with the summaries of Irenaeus and some interpolations and explanations of his own, sometimes barely intelligible, entitled his work Synodicon.
Tillem. Mém. eccl. xiv. 606–608, 613, 614 et passim; xv. 264–266, 578, 579 et passim; Cave, Hist. Lit. i. 437; Le Quien, Or. Christ. ii. 807; Labbe, Concil. tom. iii. passim; Baluze, Nov. Coll. Concil. passim; Abbè Martin, Le Brigandage d’Ephèse, pp. 82–95, 183.