Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Irenaeus, bp. of Lyons
Irenaeus (1), bp. of Lyons. Very little is known of his personal history except that he was a native of Asia Minor; in early youth had seen and heard bp. Polycarp at Smyrna; afterwards came into Gaul, and during the persecution of 177 carried, as presbyter of Lyons, a letter from the Gallican confessors to the Roman bp. Eleutherus (174 or 175–189); after the death of bp. Pothinus of Lyons (177) became his successor (Eus. H. E. v. 5), and was still bishop in the time of bp. Victor, who succeeded Eleutherus at Rome (189–198 or 199); and that he took a leading part in all ecclesiastical transactions and controversies of the time, St. Jerome speaks of him (de Vir. Ill. 35) as having flourished in the reign of Commodus (180–192). His birth is assigned to widely distant epochs. The earliest and the latest dates proposed are 50 years apart (97–147). Various considerations lead us to fix on c. 126, or possibly c. 136, as the latest admissible date.
Of his youthful literary training and culture we can only judge from his writings, which shew some acquaintance with the Greek poets and philosophers; he cites Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, and Plato. Of his Christian training he tells us that, besides instructions from Polycarp, he had other teachers, "Presbyters" (of Asia Minor), whom he designates as mediate or immediate disciples of the apostles (Haer. ii. 22, 5; iv. 27, 1; 32, 1; v. 5, 30, 1; 33, 3; 36, 1). Whether he was personally acquainted with Papias, whom he mentions so frequently, is uncertain. If he was in Rome a.d. 156 he doubtless continued his studies there. The time of his removal into Gaul is unknown, but there were close ties between the missionary church of Gaul and the mother-churches of Asia Minor. At the time of the persecution, to which the aged bp. Pothinus fell a victim in the 17th year of Marcus Aurelius, a.d. 177 (cf. my Chronologie der römischen Bischöfe, p. 185), Irenaeus was a presbyter at Lugdunum. That Irenaeus wrote the epistle of the Gallican confessors to the churches of Asia Minor and Phrygia, which so vividly describes the persecution (ap. Eus. H. E. v. 1), is an uncertain conjecture. There is indeed a fragment preserved by Oecumenius and assigned to Irenaeus (Fragm. Graec, xiii. ap. Harvey, ii. 482 seq.), which really stands in very close connexion with that epistle, mentioning in a similar way the calumny about "Thyestean banquets," which rested on depositions wrung from tortured slaves, the endeavours of the persecutors to force the martyrs Sanctus and Blandina to make alike confession, and Blandina's answer, which, though not identical with that in the epistle, is nearly related to it. Irenaeus's mission to Rome was undertaken to intercede with bp. Eleutherus for the Montanists of Asia Minor in the name and on behalf of the Gallican confessors (Eus. H. E. v. 3, 4). That another object of the journey was that Irenaeus himself might obtain episcopal consecration at Rome is an unproved assertion of some Roman Catholic authors. The common assumption that there was then no episcopal see but Lyons in all Gaul is hardly warranted by the fact that in the narrative of the persecution at Vienne a deacon only and no bishop is mentioned. A better argument is that Eusebius (H. E. v. 23) appears to speak of Irenaeus as bishop of all the churches of Gaul. But neither can be regarded as a sure proof.
As bp. of Lyons Irenaeus was distinguished for his zeal for the conversion of the heathen (cf. the Acts of St. Ferreolus and his companions, Boll. Acta SS. 16 Jun. iii.), and yet more by his conflicts with heretics and his strenuous endeavours to maintain the peace of the church, in true accord with his name Εἰρηναῖος (Peace-man). His great work Against all Heresies was probably written during his episcopate. The preface informs us that he then first wrote as an ecclesiastical writer. We subsequently find him exerting himself to protect the churches of his native country (Asia Minor) from Roman pretensions and aggression. The Roman bp. Victor was
endeavouring to compel these churches, which had hitherto kept Easter, with the Jews, on Nisan 14, to conform to the practice of Rome. On their refusal to abandon the custom of their forefathers, their reasons being given in a letter addressed to Victor by Polycrates, bp. of Ephesus, he had cut them off from his communion. This harsh treatment was highly disapproved by many even of those who, like the Roman bishop, kept Easter on the Sunday following the equinoctial full-moon. Among these was Irenaeus himself. In the name of all the Gallican churches he remonstrated with Victor, in a writing of which a considerable fragment is extant, reminding him of the example set by his predecessors, who had found no occasion in these differences of paschal observance for excommunicating their brethren of Asia Minor. Irenaeus (as Eusebius further informs us, H. E. v. 23) also appealed to other foreign bishops, but without any effect on the harsh determination of the Roman. Another writing of Irenaeus mentioned by Eusebius (H. E. v. 20), which seems to have referred to the same subject, was entitled περὶ σχίσματος and addressed to Blastus, head of the Roman Quartodecimans.
How long Irenaeus was bishop is uncertain. His death is commonly assigned to 202 or 203. This rests on the assumption that he was martyred under Septimius Severus. But such a martyrdom is by no means established. Tertullian, Hippolytus, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Ephrem, Augustine, Theodoret, are silent. In the Syriac fragments Irenaeus is frequently spoken of as "a disciple of Polycarp, bishop and martyr," but not himself honoured with the martyr's title either there or in any quotations from his writings. The first witness for his martyrdom is found in Jerome's commentary on Isaiah, written c. 410, where (c. 64) Irenaeus is spoken of as vir apostolicus episcopus et martyr; but when elsewhere treating ex professo of his life and writings (de Vir. Ill. c. 35), Jerome is silent as to his martyrdom. As Dodwell conjectures, the words et martyr may be an interpolation. If not, Jerome must have learnt the alleged fact subsequently to 392, when the de Viris Illustribus was written. There is no witness for it earlier than the 5th cent.
Writings.—The chief was the great work in five books against Gnosticism entitled Ἔλεγγος καὶ ἀνατροπὴ τῆς ψευδωνύμου γνώσευς, Detectio et eversio falso cognominatae agnitionis. (The full Greek title is found in Eus. H. E. v. 7; Phot. Bibl. Cod. 120 and elsewhere; cf. also frequent references to it by Irenaeus in the praefationes to bks. ii. iv. v. and the conclusion of bk. iv.) It is commonly cited under the briefer title πρός αἱρέσεις (contra Haereses) We possess it entire in the Latin version only, which, however, must have been made from the Greek original very soon after its composition, since the Latin was used by Tertullian some ten years after, in his tractate adv. Valentinianos. Its translator was a Celt (witness the barbarous Latinity); probably one of the clergy of Lyons. Most of the original work being now lost, the slavish literality of the translator imparts to his version a very high value. Many obscurities of expression, arising in part from a misunderstanding of the Greek idiom, admit an easy solution when translated back into Greek. Beside this Latin version, which appears to have soon superseded the Greek original in the Western church, there was a Syriac translation, of which numerous fragments are extant and were first put together by Harvey in his ed. of Irenaeus (ii. 431 seq.). They are derived from the Brit. Mus. collection of Nitrian MSS., some of which are as old as the 6th, 7th, and 8th cents. (cf. Harvey, ii. 431, note). To these are added (Nos. xxi. xxxi. and xxxii.) fragments of an Armenian interpolated version first published by Pitra in his Spicilegium Solesmense, t. i. (Paris, 1852). Of these No. xxi. only is taken from the work Against Heresies. The almost entire agreement between these Syriac fragments and the Old Latin version further witnesses its genuineness and fidelity. The Greek original, said to have been still extant in the 16th cent., was made great use of by Hippolytus (or whoever wrote the Philosophumena), Epiphanius, and Theodoret. To the numerous extracts in these writers, esp. the first two, we owe the greater part of the original Greek of bk. i.—the preface and cc. 1–21 entire, and numerous fragments besides. Of the other books, the Greek has come down to us in isolated passages, mostly through citations by Eusebius. The ed. of Wigan Harvey (2 vols. Camb. 1857) is based on a careful collation of the Codices Claromont. and Arundel. His Prolegomena contain minute investigations into the origin, characteristics and main phenomena of Gnosticism, as well as concerning the life and writings of Irenaeus.
Against Heresies was written in Gaul. (Irenaeus says so expressly, lib. i. praef. 3, cf. i. 13, 7. We follow Massuet's division of chapters.) The date of composition is determined iii. 3, 3, in which he speaks of Eleutherus as then twelfth in succession to the apostles on the episcopal chair of Rome (νῦν δωδεκάτῳ τόπῳ τὸν τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων κατέχει κλῆρον Ἐλεύθερος). According to this, the third book was written at the earliest a.d. 174 or 175, at the latest a.d. 189 (cf. Chronologie der röm. Bischöfe, pp. 184 sqq.). The commencement and completion of the work were possibly some years apart, but we cannot put the date of bks. iv. and v. so late as the episcopate of Victor (189–198 or 199). We may tentatively assume 182, the mid-period of Eleutherus's episcopate, or (since the first two books alone appear to have been written immediately after each other—cf. the prefaces to bks. ii. and iii.–v.) we may propose from a.d. 180 to 185 as the date of the whole work. To assign a more exact date is hopeless. That Irenaeus wrote as bishop, and not earlier than 178 as presbyter, is by far most probable, though it cannot be drawn with absolute certainty from the words of the preface to bk. v. to which Massuet appeals.
As the first external motive for its composition, Irenaeus himself mentions (lib. i. praef.; ii. 17, 1; iii. praef.) the request of a friend for some instruction as to the heretical opinions of the Valentinians and how to refute them. The recent spread of the Valentinian sect through the Rhone district had already led Irenaeus to acquaint himself particularly
with their writings and tenets. The dangerous character of their teaching had been fully recognized by others, whom he modestly designates as multo nobis meliores; but these had been (iv. praef.) unable through ignorance of the Valentinian "rule" or system of doctrine to adequately refute it. That it was his first object to refute Valentinianism, and only in a secondary and occasional way to attack other heresies, is evident from the whole construction and arrangement of bk. i., which is almost exclusively occupied with the Valentinians, and in a great measure bk. ii. also. Irenaeus repeatedly observes that he who refutes the Valentinians at the same time refutes all other heresies (cf. ii. 31, 1) "destructis itaque his qui a Valentino sunt, omnis haereticorum eversa est multitudo," an assertion of which he proceeds (31, 1–35, 5) to give detailed proof, in reference to various heretical parties. Thus in the preface to bk. iv. he speaks of the "doctrina eorum qui sunt a Valentino" as a "recapitulatio omnium haereticorum," and in. bk. ii. of having taken them as an example of the way in which all heretics are to be refuted ("tanquam speculum habuimus eos totius eversionis "). In bks. iii. iv. and v. the circle of vision is enlarged. Taking the Scriptures for his guide, he goes through in order the fundamental doctrines of Gnosticism, and besides Valentinian dogmas reviews the cognate ones of other heretical schools, specially of the Marcionites but nowhere gives such a connected view and refutation of other Gnostic systems as of the Valentinian in bk. ii.
His sources were primarily the writings of the heretics themselves. In the preface of bk. i. he speaks of the ὑπομνήματα of disciples of Valentinus, and observes that he has been in personal communication with some of them. More particularly it is the school of Ptolemaeus, an ἀπάνθισμα τῆς Οὐαλεντίνου σχολῆς, whose dogmatic system he sets himself to describe. The detailed account (c. Haer. i. 1–7) describes its development in the Western or Italian form, and this from several writings, one of which Clemens Alexandrinus also made use of in the excerpta ex scriptis Theodoti, cc. 44–65. From another source were derived additional details, cc. 11 and 12, of various opinions within the Valentinian system and of Valentinus himself, Secundus, Ptolemaeus, and others; c. 13, 1–5, cc. 14 and 15 are concerned with Marcus, his magic arts and theories about the symbolism of letters and numbers, concluding with a citation of some Iambic Senarii, written against him by a "Divinae aspirationis Senior et Praeco veritatis" (ὁ θεόπνευστος πρεσβύτης καὶ κήρυξ τῆς ἀληθείας). The same authority is further designated, after the quotation, as "amator Dei senior," which Epiphanius expresses by ὁ θεοφιλὴς πρεσβύτης.
Two other sources, from which Irenaeus may have derived acquaintance with Gnostic opinions, have been conjectured by Harnack (Zur Quellenkritik der Geschichte des Gnosticismus, p. 56) for the information in bks. iii.–v. concerning the details of Marcion's system, which with the Valentinian is the heresy most frequently referred to in that portion. These were Marcion's own writings and a refutation of Marcion by a presbyter of Asia Minor.
It would be of great interest to obtain more exact impressions of those other presbyters to whose words and writings Irenaeus makes frequent reference. Besides the "God-loving elder," from whom he borrows the Iambic Senarii against Marcus, Irenaeus cites on various occasions from "presbyters and disciples of the apostles"
- under which title, besides Polycarp, bp. Papias of Hierapolis must certainly be
included. From bk. iv. of Papias's Λογίων κυριακῶν ἐξηγήσεις Irenaeus cites the saying traditionally attributed to our Lord on the alleged testimony of St. John concerning the glories of His millennial kingdom (v. 33, 3 sqq.).
Of the writings of Polycarp there is no certain trace in Irenaeus, but he held in faithful remembrance his oral utterances. He knows indeed several writings of the bp. of Smyrna (Ep. ad Florin. ap. Eus. v. 20) and specially mentions Polycarp's Ep. to the Philippians (Haer. iii. 3, 4). Of the works of Justin Martyr Irenaeus knew and used—besides the Syntagma against all Heresies, and the possibly identical Syntagma against Marcion—the first Apologies, without, however, citing it (Quellen der ältesten Ketzergeschichte, p. 63). From which of Justin's works the citation, v. 26, 2, is derived cannot be decided. With far greater confidence we may assume Irenaeus to have used the Memoirs of Hegesippus (iii. 3, 3; 4, 3, cf. Quellen der alt. Ketzergesch. p. 73), and he makes one citation from the Ep. of Ignatius to the Romans (v. 28, 4), but without mentioning his name.
Irenaeus's great work is divided into five books. Bk. i. contains a detailed account of the Valentinian system, together with a general view of the opinions of the other sects. Bk. ii. undertakes to exhibit the unreasonableness and self-contradiction of the doctrines of Valentinianism. His chief object here is to combat the doctrine of the Demiurge or Creator as a subordinate existence outside the Pleroma, of limited power and insight, and separated from the "Father" by an infinite chasm. He also controverts the Valentinian doctrine concerning the Pleroma and its antithesis the Kenoma, the theory of Emanations, of the Fall of Achamoth, and the formation of the lower world through the sufferings of the Sophia; and finally, at great length, the Gnostic teaching concerning souls, and the distinction between Psychici and Pneumatici. Bks. iii. iv. and v. contain the refutation of Gnostic doctrines from Holy Scripture, preceded by a short dissertation on the sources of Christian truth. The one foundation of the faith is the gospel transmitted first by oral tradition and subsequently committed to writing. The Gnostics allow neither the refutation of their doctrines out of Scripture nor disproof from tradition. Against the one they appeal to a secret doctrine handed down among themselves, against the other to their own higher knowledge (gnosis). Irenaeus meets them by stating the characteristics of genuine apostolic tradition as ensuring the right interpretation of Holy Scripture. The chief media and transmitters of this tradition are the apostolic churches and their episcopal succession from the apostles themselves (Haer. iii. 1–4). He proceeds to give the proof from
Scripture—first, against the doctrine of the Demiurge, then against the Gnostic Christology. There is but one God, Creator of the world and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Son, the Eternal God-Logos, and has truly been made Flesh in order to redeem mankind from its fall in Adam. Under this head he combats the errors of both Docetae and Ebionites, and, returning to his main purpose, attacks the chief Gnostic doctrine in a refutation of Marcion's attempt to distinguish between the Good God and the Just or judicial God. This occupies him at the close of bk. iii. Bk. iv. is directed against the same doctrine. Irenaeus now attacks the distinction made between the lawgiver and the Father, shewing the identity of the divine revelation in O. and N. T., the close connexion between law and gospel, and the typical pre-announcement of the N.T. in the Old. He shews that eternal happiness or endless misery will befall men from the same God, as reward or as punishment for their own free choice of good or evil. Bk. v. gives a detailed proof of the resurrection of the body and of the millennial kingdom.
Of other writings of Irenaeus, fragments only, or bare names, have been preserved. Whether he ever carried out the intention, announced i. 27, 4 and iii. 12, 12, of writing a special treatise against Marcion, cannot be determined. Eusebius (H. E. v. 8) mentions this intention, and elsewhere (H. E. iv. 25) reckons Irenaeus, with Philip of Gortyna and Modestus, among authors who had written against Marcion. Of his Epistle to Florinus, Eusebius has preserved a considerable fragment. FLORINUS was an older contemporary of Irenaeus and a disciple of Polycarp. He was afterwards a presbyter at Rome, and was deposed, apparently for heresy (Eus. H. E. v. 15). The epistle of Irenaeus, addressed to him, bore also, according to Eusebius (H. E. v. 20), the title περὶ μοναρχίας ἢ περὶ τοῦ μὴ εἶναι τὸν Θεὸν ποιητὴν κακῶν, which implies that he had adopted Gnostic opinions. The "God" whom he apparently regarded as the author of evil was the Gnostic Demiurge. He afterwards, according to Eusebius, inclined to Valentinianism; whereupon Irenaeus addressed him in another treatise, περί ὀγδοάδος, from which Eusebius quotes the concluding words, conjuring the copyists to make an accurate and faithful transcript of his words. The epistle περὶ μοναρχίας is regarded by Leimbach (Zeitschrift für lutherische Theologie, 1873, pp. 626 seq.) and Lightfoot (Contemp. Rev. 1875, May, p. 834) as one of Irenaeus's earliest writings. Leimbach would date it between 168 and 177, but his arguments are trivial. Of far greater importance is Lightfoot's argument that the treatise περὶ ὀγδοάδος was probably written before the great work Against Heresies, since its detailed treatment of the Valentinian system would have made a special tractate on the Ogdoad superfluous. But Lightfoot seems to have overlooked the fragmentary portion of an epistle to Victor of Rome, preserved among the Syriac fragments of Irenaeus (Fragm. xxviii. ap. Harvey, ii. p. 457), which is introduced with the words, "And Irenaeus, bp. of Lyons, to Victor, bp. of Rome, concerning Florinus, a presbyter who was a partisan of the error of Valentinus, and published an abominable book, thus wrote:" whereupon follows the fragment itself. From these words it appears that the epistle from which the fragment was taken could not have been written till after the first three books Against Heresies, probably not till after the completion of the whole, and, at the earliest, c. 190.
If Eusebius is right in making the deposition of the Roman presbyter Blastus contemporaneous with that of Florinus, the epistle addressed to the former by Irenaeus and entitled περὶ σχίσματος (Eus. H. E. v. 20) must belong to the same period. Blastus was, according to Eusebius, the head of the Roman Montanists (H. E. v. 15)—cf. also Pacianus, Ep. ad Sympronian. c. 1—and, according to Pseudo-Tertullian (Libell. adv. Omn. Haereses, 22), a Quartodeciman. Both are probably correct. We know that the Montanists of Asia Minor (like the Christians there) kept Easter on Nisan 14 (cf. Schwegler, Montanismus, p. 251); it is therefore quite credible that Blastus, as a Montanist, may have conformed to Quartodeciman practice, and, as a member of the Roman presbytery, may have sought to introduce it into Rome. But if Blastus be the one referred to in another Syriac fragment (Fragm. xxvii. ap. Harvey, ii. 456), he was not an Asiatic but an Alexandrian; and on this supposition his Quartodecimanism must have come from his close connexion with the Montanists of Asia Minor, since the Paschal calendar of Alexandria was the same as that of Rome. One can, moreover, quite understand bp. Victor's responding to any attempt on Blastus's part to create a schism in the Roman church by introducing the Asiatic custom, with deposition from the presbyteral office. Such a breach of discipline in his own diocese (the actual spectacle of some Roman Christians keeping Easter with the Asiatics on Nisan 14, and in opposition to the ancestral custom of the bps. of Rome) would naturally excite him to uncompromising harshness towards the brethren of Asia Minor generally; so that on these refusing to conform to the Roman custom, he at once cut off the churches of the Asiatic province and the neighbouring dioceses from his church-communion (cf. my art. in Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Theologie, 1866, pp. 192 seq., and Chronologie der röm. Bischöfe, p. 174). These ecclesiastical troubles moved the man of peace, Irenaeus, to send letters of remonstrance to both Blastus and bp. Victor. To the former, which according to Eusebius bore the title περὶ σχίσματος, may possibly be assigned the Syriac fragment (xxvii. ap. Harvey, ii. 456) introduced with the following words: "Irenaeus, bp. of Lyons, who was a contemporary of Polycarp, disciple of the apostle, bp. of Smyrna and martyr, and for this reason is held in just estimation, wrote to an Alexandrian that it is right, with respect to the Feast of the Resurrection, that we should celebrate it upon the first day of the week." But inasmuch as we know from Eusebius (H. E. v. 24) that Irenaeus wrote on the same subject to several persons, it is possible that this Alexandrian may have been another than Blastus. Of the letter to Victor Eusebius (ib.) has preserved a considerable
extract showing that the current controversies regarded also the mode and duration of the antecedent Paschal fast. Some kept one day, others two days, others several days; some again reckoned their fast-day at 40 hours of day and night (οἱ δὲ τεσσαράκοντα ὥρας ἡμερινάς τε καὶ νυκτερινὰς συμμετροῦσι τὴν ἡμέραν αὐτῶν). But these differences of practice resting on ancient custom—so Irenaeus proceeds to say—have never yet disturbed the church's peace and unity of faith. For although former bishops of Rome, from Xystus to Soter, had never kept Nisan 14, they had always maintained full communion with any who came from dioceses where it was observed; e.g. Polycarp, whom Anicetus permitted to celebrate in his own church, both separating afterwards in peace. No title is given by Eusebius to this epistle, but according to the Quaestiones et Responsa ad Orthodoxos of Pseudo-Justin (c. 115) it was entitled περὶ τοῦ Πάσχα (cf. Fragm. Graec. vii. ap. Harvey, ii. 478). In the same work Pseudo-Justin tells us further that the old Christian custom of refraining from kneeling on Easter Day, as a sign of Christ's resurrection, is carried back by Irenaeus to apostolic times, and the observance of this custom continued through the season of Pentecost, as the whole period (of 50 days after Easter) was regarded as equal to Easter Day itself.
Of other writings of Irenaeus Eusebius mentions (H. E. v. 26) a short tractate, πρὲς Ἕλληνας, which bore also the title περὶ ἐπιστήμης, an ἐπίδειξις τοῦ ἀποστολικοῦ κηρύγματος, addressed to a certain Marcian; and a βιβλίον διαλέξεων διαφόρων, in which he is said to have cited Hebrews and the Wisdom of Solomon. Jerome, apparently copying Eusebius, makes, however, a distinction (de Vir. Ill. 35) between the λόγος πρὸς Ἕλληνας and the περὶ ἐπιστήμης ("scripsit . . . contra Gentes volumen breve et de Disciplina aliud"). The tractate on Apostolical Preaching addressed to Marcian appears to have been a catechetical work on the Rule of Faith. The βιβλίον διαλέξεων διαφόρων appears, in accordance with the early usage of the word διαλέξεις (cf. Harvey, i. p. clxvii. sqq.), to have been a collection of homilies on various Scripture texts. Rufinus incorrectly renders διαλέξεις by Dialogus; Jerome by Tractatus. From these homilies were probably taken the numerous Gk. fragments found in various catenae, containing expositions of various passages of the Pentateuch and the historical books of O.T. and of St. Matthew and St. Luke (Fr. Graec. xv.–xxiii., xxv.–xxix., xxxi., xxxiii., xxxiv., xxxix., xl., xlii.–xlvii.), as well as the Syriac fragment of an exposition of the Song of Solomon (Fr. Syr. xxvi. ap. Harvey, ii. 455) and the Armenian homily on the Sons of Zebedee (Fr. Syr. xxxii. ap. Harvey, ii. 464 sqq.). To the same collection would also belong a tractate on the History of Elkanah and Samuel, mentioned in a Syriac manuscript (Harvey, ii. 507 note).
His Theology and Influence on Ecclesiastical Development.—Irenaeus, with Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian, on the one side, and Clemens Alexandrinus and Origen on the other, was a main founder of the ancient Catholic church, as it rose amid conflicts with Gnosticism and Montanism, out of the church of the post-apostolic era. Baur and the Tübingen school were wrong in explaining the development of primitive Catholic Christianity as the fruit of a compromise effected by the Pauline and Petrine parties soon after the middle of the 2nd cent. to overcome the new opposition. The earliest post-apostolic form of Christianity was no mere product of conflicting antitheses of the apostolic time, or of their reconciliation. The Jewish-Christian communities of Palestine and Syria formed, even towards the end of the 1st cent., a small and vanishing minority as compared to the swelling dimensions of the Gentile church. That to some extent Jewish-Christian influences did operate upon Gentile Christianity during the former half of the 2nd cent. need not wholly be denied; yet the one feature in which we are most tempted to trace them—the conception of the gospel as a new law—is quite as much the outcome of an internal development within the Gentile church itself. The ultimate triumph of Christian universalism, and the recognized equality between Jewish and Gentile members of the church of the Messiah, was a fruit of the life-long labours of St. Paul. The new Christian community, largely Gentile, regarded itself as the true people of God, as the spiritual Israel, and as the genuine heir of the church of the O.T., while the great mass of Jewish unbelievers were, as a penalty for their rejection of the true Messiah, excluded from the blessings of the kingdom of God. To this new spiritual Israel were speedily, in part at least, transferred the forms of the O.T. theocracy, and all the Jewish Scriptures were received as divinely inspired documents by the new church. But, whereas St. Paul had emphasized the antithesis between law and gospel, the Gentile churches after his time attached themselves more closely to the doctrinal norm of the older apostles, and laid stress on the continued validity of the law for Christians; though, as it was impossible to bind Gentiles to observe the ceremonial law, its precepts were given, after the example of the Jewish religious philosophy of Alexandria, a spiritual interpretation. Already, in Hebrews, we find the relations between O. and N. T. viewed under the aspect of Type and Anti-type, Prophecy and Fulfilment. The later Gentile Christianity learned to see everywhere in O.T. types of the gospel revelation, and thus combined freedom from the Mosaic ceremonial law with the maintenance of the entire continuity of the O. and N. T. revelation. The Moral Law, as the centre and substance of the Mosaic revelation, remained the obligatory norm of conduct for Gentile Christians; Christ had not abrogated the law of Moses, but fulfilled and completed it. The theological learning of the time confines itself too exclusively to a typological interpretation of O.T. So much the greater, on the other hand, is the influence exercised upon these writers by heathen philosophic culture. In the Apologists of the middle portion of the 2nd cent.—Justin, Tatian, Theophilus, Athenagoras—this influence appears specially strong. Justin makes constant endeavours to comprehend Christianity
under the then generally accepted forms of philosophical speculation, and to commend it as a manifestation of the highest reason to the cultured minds of his time. In this way he became the first founder of a Catholic system of theology. The doctrine of the Divine Logos as the "Second God," the Mediator through Whom all divine revelation is transmitted, was already for Justin an apologetic weapon, remained thence forward a standing basis for the philosophical defence of Christianity, and proved in after-times the strongest weapon in the church's armoury in the conflict with Gnostic opinions.
The widespread appearance of the manifold forms of Gnosticism in the 2nd cent. is a most significant proof of the far-reaching influence exercised by pagan thought and speculation on the Gentile church of that age. The danger from the influx on all sides of foreign thought was all the greater because the Gentile churches had as yet but a feeble comprehension of the ideas specially belonging to Christianity. The conflict with Gnosticism gradually gave fresh vigour to that revival of fundamental Christian and Pauline thought which distinguishes the theology of Irenaeus and of other early "Catholic" doctors at the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd cent. from the simpler and poorer view of Christian truth presented in the works of the early Apologists. The perils with which the Gnostic speculation menaced the Christian system were, on the one hand, concerned with that which formed a common groundwork for Christianity and Judaism—i.e. first and specially the Monotheistic principle itself, and then the doctrines of Divine Justice, Freedom of the Will, and Future Retribution; on the other hand, they had regard to the traditions peculiar to Christianity concerning the historical person and work of Jesus Christ, the genuine human realism of His life and sufferings, the universal application of His redeeming work to all believers, and the external and historical character of that final restitution to which Christians looked forward. The Monotheistic idea, the divine μοναρχία, was assailed by the Gnostic doctrine of the Demiurge, the Pleroma, and the series of Aeons; and the universally accepted doctrine of our Lord's Incarnation and Messiahship by the various forms of Gnostic docetism. Further, the whole ethical basis of Christian religion was destroyed by the distinctions which Gnostic teachers made between two or three separate classes of mankind, and by their view of redemption as a purely theoretical process, or as the impartation of true knowledge (gnosis) to those only who by their own originally pneumatic nature had from the beginning been predestined to reception into the heavenly realm of light. Instead of the Christian doctrine of Freewill and consequent responsibility, they taught an iron heathenish metaphysical Necessity, which arbitrarily determined the fortunes of men; instead of a future divine recompense according to the measure of faith and works, a one-sided over-estimation of mere knowledge as the one condition of ultimate salvation; instead of the original Christian notion of the final consummation as a series of great outward visible occurrences, the resurrection of the flesh, a day of final judgment, and the setting up on earth of a millennial kingdom, they taught the spiritualistic conception of a saving deliverance of pneumatic souls and their translation into the upper world; whereas for the Psychici was reserved only a limited share in such knowledge and salvation, and for the material ("hylic" or "choic") man and for the earthly bodies of men, nothing but an ultimate and complete annihilation. It cannot be denied that both the Gentile Christianity of that era and the Catholic theology of following times appropriated various elements nearly related to these Gnostic speculations. A Catholic gnosis also appeared, which differed essentially from that heretical gnosis in intending to maintain unimpaired the received foundations of Christian faith. Yet, in truth, the idealistic speculations of the Alexandrine school were separated from those of the heretical gnosis by very uncertain lines of demarcation, and were afterwards, in some essential points, rejected by the church. Irenaeus, in contradistinction to the Alexandrine doctors, appears to have been less concerned with setting up a Catholic in opposition to the heretical gnosis, than with securing the foundations of the common Christian faith by strengthening the bands of existing church unity. He recognizes certain subjects which, as lying outside the rule of faith delivered to all, might be safely entrusted to the deeper and more searching meditations and inquiries of the more enlightened, but these related only to a clearer understanding of the details of the history of divine revelation, the right interpretation of parables, insight into the divine plan of human salvation (why God should bear with such long-suffering the apostasy of angels and the disobedience of man at the Fall), the differences and unity of the two Testaments, the necessity for the Incarnation of the Logos, the second coming of Christ at the end of time, the conversion of the heathen, the resurrection of the body, etc. (Haer. i. 10, 3). These questions would arise in the course of the Gnostic controversy, but the form in which Irenaeus presents them assumes everywhere a clear antithesis to Gnostic speculation and a firm retention of the Catholic rule of faith. Only in quite an isolated form is once named the question why one and the same God should have created the temporal and the eternal, the earthly and the heavenly; while Irenaeus insists strongly on the narrow bounds of human knowledge and insight, and on the impossibility for mortal man to know the reasons for everything (ii. 25, 3; 28, 1), and is never weary of chastising the arrogant presumption of the Pneumatici who exalt themselves above the Creator, while their impotence in the presence of His works is manifest to all (ii. 30, 1 sqq.).
His theoretical refutation of Gnostc opinions, e.g. in bk. ii., is full of acute remarks. His main purpose is to repel the Gnostic assault on the divine monarchia. He shews that by the separation of the Creator from the highest God, the absolute being of God Himself is denied. Neither above nor beside the Creator Himself can there be any other principle, for so God Himself would cease to be the
all-embracing Pleroma, and being limited from without would cease to be infinite. And so again, if the Pleroma be separated from all beneath it by an immeasurable discrepancy, a third principle is introduced, which limits the other two, and is greater than both, and the questions concerning the limiting and the limited become boundlessly insoluble. He urges similar arguments against the doctrine of creative angels. If their creative energies are independent of the Godhead, God ceases to be God; if dependent upon Him, He is represented as needing inferior assistants. Against the assumption of a vacuum (κένωμα, σκιὰ κενώματος) outside the Divine Pleroma, he remarks that, if the world be thought of as produced out of this void and formless substratum without the knowledge of the προτατώρ, then the attribute of omniscience is denied Him. Nor can it be explained why for such endless times He should have left that space thus empty. Again, if God did actually beforehand form this lower world for Himself in thought, then was He its real creator. In that case its mutability and transient duration must have been fore-willed by the Father Himself, and not be due to any defect or ignorance on the part of an inferior maker. The origin of the κένωμα also is incomprehensible. If it be an emanation from the Divine Pleroma, that Pleroma itself must be burdened with emptiness and imperfection. If it be self-originated, it is really as absolute as the Father of all Himself. Such a defect, again, in the Pleroma, like a spot on a garment, would have been at once removed, in the very beginning, had the Divine Father been able to remove it; if otherwise, the blame of letting it remain so long must fall upon Him, and He will have to be accounted, like the heathen Jupiter, repentant over His own ways. Nay, if He was unable to remove this defect in the beginning, He cannot remove it now. The imperfection of this lower world leads back then to the conclusion that there must have been something void or formless, dark or disorderly, an element of error or infirmity in the Father Himself or in His Pleroma. The like thought recurs in the further argument that the temporal and transient could not have been made after the image of the unchangeable and eternal without introducing into it an alien element of mutability. The image must be like its prototype, and not opposed to it, and therefore the earthly material composite cannot be the image of that which is spiritual without drawing down the spiritual into its own sphere of materialism. The same objection is made to the notion that the corporeal may be an image or shadow of the spiritual world. It is only something corporeal that can cast a shadow. Again, if it be maintained that the Creator could not make the world out of Himself, but only after a foreign archetype, the same must be true of the Divine Father. He also must have derived, from some other source, the archetype of that higher world of which He was the maker, and so on. The question about type and archetype would thus be drawn out into infinity (ii. 1–8). But inasmuch as we must stop at some original at last, it is far more reasonable to believe that the Creator and the One only God are one and the same (ii. 16, 1 sqq.).
In the interest of the same absolute divine Perfection and Unity, Irenaeus controverts the Valentinian doctrine of the Aeons. Besides noting the arbitrary way in which the Pleroma is made to consist of 30 Aeons, neither more nor less (ii. 12, 1; 15, 1; 16, 1), he finds fault with the anthropomorphic conceptions behind the whole theory of emanations. The fact that the Propator Himself is reckoned as an Aeon, the unemanate, unborn, illimitable, formless One placed in the same class with emanations and births and limitations and forms, destroys the absolute perfection of the divine Nature (ii. 12, 1). Again, the separation from the Godhead of its own indivisible elements, the conception of the divine Ἔννοια, the divine Νοῦς, the divine Λόγος, etc., as so many hypostases, which in various stages have issued from its bosom, is an unwarrantable transfer of human passions and affections to the divine, which, on the contrary, is all Ἔννοια, all Νοῦς, all Λόγος, and knows of no such division from itself (ii. 13). He subjects to acute criticism the manner in which each Aeon is supposed to have been produced: was it without substantial separation, as the ray proceeding from the sun, or was it hypostatical, as one human being is personally distinct from all others, or was it by organic growth, as the branch from the tree? He asks whether these emanations are all of the same substance with those from which they proceed and contemporaneous with them, or have come forth in different stages? Whether they are all simple and alike, as spirits and lights, or composite and corporeal and of various forms? (ii. 17, 1 sqq.). He insists on carrying to their literal consequences the mythological conceptions which regarded the Valentinian Aeons as so many distinct personalities, produced according to human analogy among themselves; and he offers the alternative, that they must either be like their original Parent the Father and therefore impassible as He is (in which case there could be no suffering Aeon like the Valentinian Sophia), or different from Him in substance and capable of suffering, upon which the question arises, how such differences of substance could come to exist in the unchangeable Pleroma.
So acute a polemic must have equally served the interests of philosophy by its maintenance of the absolute character of the divine idea and of religion by its assertion of the divine monarchia. Irenaeus, like other opponents of Gnosticism, was clearly convinced that the whole system betrayed influences of heathen thought. The theory that everything must return to the originals of its component parts, and that God Himself is bound by this Necessity, so that even He cannot impart to the mortal immortality, to the corruptible incorruption, was derived by the Gnostics from the Stoics; the Valentinian doctrine of the Soter as made up from all the Aeons, each contributing thereto the flower of his own essence, is nothing more than the Hesiodic fable about Pandora.
Yet the Gnostics wished and meant to be Christians, and indeed set up a claim to possess a deeper knowledge of Christian truth than the Psychici of the church. Like their opponents, they appealed to Scripture in proof
of their doctrines, and also boasted to be in possession of genuine apostolical traditions, deriving their doctrines, some from St. Paul, others from St. Peter, others from Judas, Thomas, Philip, and Matthew. In addition to the secret doctrine which they professed to have received by oral tradition, they appealed to alleged writings of the apostles or their disciples. In conducting his controversy on these lines with the Valentinians, Irenaeus remarks first on their arbitrary method of dealing with Scripture; and describes their mode of drawing arguments from it as a "twisting ropes of sand" (i. 8, 1; ii. 10, 1). They indulge in every kind of perverse interpretation, and violently wresting texts out of their natural connexion put them arbitrarily together again after the manner of the centos made from Homer (i. 9, 4). He compares this proceeding to that of a bungler who has broken up a beautiful mosaic portrait of a king made by skilful artists out of costly gems, and puts the stones together again to form an ill-executed image of a dog or fox, maintaining that it is the same beautiful king's portrait as before (i. 8, 1). Since the Gnostics specially exercised their arts of interpretation on our Lord's parables, Irenaeus repeatedly lays down principles on which such interpretation should be made (ii. 10, 2; 20, 1 sqq.; 27, 1 sqq.). Dark and ambiguous passages are not to be cleared up by still darker interpretations nor enigmas solved by greater enigmas; but that which is dark and ambiguous must be illustrated by that which is consistent and clear (ii, 10, 1). Irenaeus himself in interpreting Scripture, especially when he indulges in allegory, is not free from forced and arbitrary methods of exposition (cf. e.g. the interpretations of Judg. vi. 37, in Haer. iii. 17, 3; Jon. ii. 1 sqq. Haer. iii. 20, 1; Dan. ii. 34, Haer. iii. 21, 7); but in opposition to the fantastic interpretations which characterize the Valentinian school, he represents for the most part the historical sense of the written Word. His main purpose in the last three books is to refute the Gnostics out of Scripture itself. Irenaeus quotes as frequently from N.T. as from O.T. Whereas formerly men had been content with the authority of O.T. as the documentary memorial of divine revelation, or with the Lord's own words in addition to the utterances of law and prophets, they now felt more and more impelled, and that by the very example of the Gnostics themselves, to seek a fixed collection of N.T. Scriptures and to extend to them the idea of divine inspiration. The Gnostics in their opposition to O.T., which they supposed to have proceeded from the Demiurge or some subordinate angelic agency, had appealed to writings real or supposed of the apostles as being a more perfect form of divine revelation, and the first point to be established against them was the essential unity of both revelations—Old and New. Bk. iv. is almost wholly devoted by Irenaeus to the proof of this point against Marcion. It is one and the same Divine Spirit that spake both in prophets and apostles (iii. 21, 4), one and the same Divine Authority from which both the law and its fulfilment in Christ proceeds. The O.T. contains presages and fore-types of Christian Revelation (iv. 15; 15, i.; 19, i. etc.); the literal fulfilment of its prophecies proves that it came from the same God as the N.T., and is therefore of the same nature (iv. 9, 1). The prophets and the gospels together make up the totality of Scripture ("universae Scripturae," ii. 27, 2). That the Bible is one divinely inspired whole is thus clearly enunciated. Even Justin Martyr seems to regard the gospels rather as memoirs (ἀπομνημονεύματα) by apostles of the Lord's words and actions than as canonical Scriptures; but Irenaeus cites passages from the gospels as inspired words of the holy Spirit, using the same formulae of citation as for O.T. (iii. 10, 4; 16, 2; cf. ii. 35, 4 and 5), and similarly from the epistles and Apocalypse (iii. 16, 9; v. 30, 4). The two main divisions of the N.T. canon are for him the gospels and the apostolic writings (τὰ εὐαγγελικὰ καὶ τὰ ἀποστολικά, i. 3, 6). These two already constitute a complete whole, like the Scriptures of the O.T., and he therefore blames the Ebionites for using only the gospel of St. Matthew, the Docetae only that of St. Mark, Marcion St. Luke's gospel only and the Pauline epistles, and even these not unmutilated (iii. 11, 7 and 12, 12). He remarks that those "unhappy ones" who reject the gospel of St. John cast away also the divine prophetic spirit of which it contains the promise (iii. 11, 9). But he equally condemns the use of apocryphal writings. The teachers of Alexandria, with laxer notions about inspiration, made use of such without scrupulosity. Irenaeus draws a clear line of demarcation between canonical Scriptures and apocryphal writings. He blames the Valentinians for boasting to possess "more gospels than actually exist" (iii. 11, 9) and the Gnostic Marcus for having used besides our Gospels "an infinite number of apocryphal and spurious works" (i. 20, 1). He considers himself able to prove that there must be just four gospels, neither more nor less. The proof is a somewhat singular one. From the four regions of the earth, the four principal winds, the fourfold form of the cherubim, the four covenants made by God with man, he deduces the necessity of one fourfold gospel (iii. 11, 8). This gospel first orally delivered, and then fixed in writing, Irenaeus designates the fundamentum et columna fidei nostrae (iii. 1, 1). The N.T. canon of Irenaeus embraces nearly all now received; viz. the four gospels, twelve epistles of St. Paul (the omission of Philemon appears to be accidental), I. Peter, I. and II. John, the Acts, and the Revelation. The omission of III. John is most probably accidental also. From St. James there is probably a quotation at iv. 16, 2 (cf. Jas. ii. 23), and the frequently recurring expression "lex libertatis" appears to have been borrowed from Jas. i. 25. The possible references to Hebrews are uncertain. Resemblances, perhaps echoes, are found in several places (cf. Harvey's Index), and Eusebius testifies (H. E. v. 26) that both Hebrews and the Wisdom of Solomon are mentioned by Irenaeus in his διαλέξεις διάφοροι. The epistle is cited as a Pauline work in one fragment only, the second Pfaffian (Fr. Graec. xxxvi. ap Harvey.)
Irenaeus in his controversy with the Gnostics
assumes the possibility that we might have had to be without N.T. Scriptures altogether. In this case we should have to inquire of the tradition left by the apostles of the churches (iii. 4, 1: "quid autem si neque apostoli quidem Scripturas reliquissent nobis, nonne oportebat ordinem sequi traditionis quam tradiderunt iis quibus committebant, ecclesias?"). But the Gnostics also appealed to an apostolical tradition. Irenaeus complains that when one would refute them from the Bible they accused it of error, or declared the interpretation to be doubtful. The truth can only be ascertained, they said, by those who know the true tradition (iii. 2, 1). But this teaching is identical with that of Irenaeus himself, and he insists on finding this true tradition in the rule of faith (κανὼν τῆς ἀληθείας, Regula Fidei), as contained in the Baptismal Confession of the whole church (i. 9, 4; cf. 22, 1). Irenaeus thus obtains a sure note or token by which to distinguish the genuine apostolical tradition (ἡ ὑπὸ τῆς ἐλλκησίας κηρυσσουένη ἀλήθεια, i. 9, 5; praeconium ecclesiae, v. 20, 2; apostolica ecclesiae traditio, iii. 3, 3; or simply παράδοσις, traditio, i. 10, 2; iii. 2, 2 and frequently) from the so-called apostolical secret doctrine to which the Gnostics made their appeal. The Baptismal Confession (or Credo) acquired its complete form only through the conflicts of the Gnostic controversy. In the writings of Irenaeus, as in those of his contemporaries, it is cited in various, now longer now shorter, forms. This is no proof that one or other of these was the actual form then used in baptism. The probability is far greater that the shorter form of the old Roman credo still preserved to us was that already used in the time of Irenaeus. (Caspari, Ungedruckte, etc. Quellen zur Geschichte des Taufsymbols and der Glaubensregel, tom. iii. 1875, pp. 3 sqq.) The variations as we find them in the creeds of the Eastern churches appear to have been introduced in order to express, with greater distinctness, the antithesis of Christian belief to Gnostic heresy. So here a special emphasis is laid on the belief in "One God the Father Almighty, Who made heaven and earth," and in "one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who became flesh for our salvation." This rule of faith Irenaeus testifies that the church, scattered over the whole οἰκουμένη, delivers as with one mind and mouth, even as she has herself received it from the apostles and their disciples (i. 10, 1 and 2). A clear, determinate note is thus given by which to distinguish the genuine Christian tradition from that of heresy. To the pretended secret doctrine of the latter is opposed the public preaching of the faith of the apostolic churches; to the mutability and endless varieties of Gnostic doctrines the unity of the church's teaching; to their novelty her antiquity, and to their endless subdivisions into schools and parties the uniformity and universality of her traditional witness. That only which, from the times of the apostles, has been handed down in unbroken tradition by the elders of the church and publicly and uniformly taught in the churches, that doctrine which at all times and in every place may be learned by inquiry from the successors of the apostle in their teaching office, that alone is the Christian apostolic truth (i. 10, 2; iii. 2, 2; 3, 1, 3, 4; 4, 1 seq.; 24, 1; iv. 33, 7 seq.; v. 20, 1).
The learned church antiquarian Hegesippus had, c. 170, undertaken long journeys to assure himself of the general agreement of Christian communities in their doctrinal traditions; in each apostolic church he had set himself to inquire for the unbroken succession of its pastors and their teaching, and records with satisfaction the result of his investigations: "In every succession in every city it is still maintained as the law announces and as the prophets and the Lord." And again, "So long as the sacred choir of the apostles still lived, the church was like a virgin undefiled and pure, and not till afterwards in the times of Trajan did error, which so long had crept in darkness, venture forth into the light of day" (ap. Eus. H. E. iv. 22; iii. 32). Irenaeus is specially emphatic in everywhere contrasting the vacillation and variety of heretical opinions with the uniform proclamation of one and the same apostolic witness in all the churches of the world (i. 8, 1; 10, 1). Truth, he remarks, can be but one; while each heretical teacher proclaims a different doctrine of his own invention. How impossible is it that truth can have remained so long hidden from the church and been handed down as secret doctrine in possession of the few! She is free and accessible to all, both learned and ignorant, and all who earnestly seek her find. With almost a shout of triumph he opposes to the unstable, ever-changing, many-headed doctrinal systems and sects of Gnosticism, with their vain appeals to obscure names of pretended disciples of the apostles or to supposititious writings, the one universal norm of truth which all the churches recognise." The church, though dispersed through the whole world, is carefully guarding the same faith as dwelling in one and the same house; these things she believes, in like manner, as having one soul and the self-same heart; these, too, she accordantly proclaims, and teaches, and delivers, as though possessing but one mouth. The speeches of the world are many and divergent, but the force of our tradition is one and the same." And again: "The churches in Germany have no other faith, no other tradition, than that which is found in Spain, or among the Celts, in the regions of the East, in Egypt and in Libya, or in these mid parts of the earth." He compares the church's proclamation of the truth to the light of the sun, one and the same throughout the universe and visible to all who have eyes. "The mightiest in word among the presidents of the churches teaches only the same things as others (for no one here is above the Master), and the weak in word takes nothing away from what has been delivered him. The faith being always one and the same, he that can say much about it doth not exceed, he that can say but little doth not diminish" (i, 10, 2). "The tradition of the apostles made manifest, as it is, through all the world can be recognized in every church by all who wish to know the truth" (iii. 3, 1). But this light from God shines not for heretics because they have dishonoured and despised Him (iii. 24, 2). Cf. also the first of Pfaffian fragments (Fr. Graec. xxxv.).
The argument from antiquity is also employed by Irenaeus on behalf of church tradition. If controversies arise about matters of faith, let recourse be had to the most ancient churches in which the apostles themselves once resided and a decisive answer will then be found. This oral apostolic tradition exists even in the churches among barbarous nations, in whose hearts the Spirit, without ink or parchment, has written the old and saving truth (iii. 4, 1 and 2). But while thus the genuine tradition may, in the apostolic churches, be traced back through the successions of the elders to the apostles themselves, the sects and their doctrines are all of later origin. There were no Valentinians before Valentinus, no Marcionites before Marcion. Valentinus himself and Kerdon (Marcion's teacher) did not appear in Rome till the time of Hyginus the ninth bishop after the apostles, Valentinus flourished under Pius, Marcion under Anicetus (iii. 4, 3). All these founders of sects were much later than the apostles (iii. 21, 3) and the first bishops to whom they committed the care of the churches (v. 20, 1). In contradistinction to their ψευδώνυμος γνῶσις the true gnosis consists in the doctrine of the apostles and the maintenance of the pure and ancient constitution of the church (τὸ ἀρχαῖον τῆς ἐκκλησίας σύστημα) throughout the world (iv. 33, 7). The main point then, on which all turns, is the clear proof of a pure transmission of apostolic teaching through immediate disciples of the apostles themselves and their disciples after them. What is the tradition of the elders (πρεσβῦται, πρεσβύτεροι), i.e. the heads of apostolic churches who stood in direct communication with the apostles themselves or with their disciples?—is the question, therefore, which Irenaeus is everywhere asking. These elders are the guardians and transmitters of the apostles' teaching. As in the preceding generation Papias had collected the traditions of "disciples of the Lord," so now Irenaeus is collecting reminiscences of their disciples, mediate or immediate, a Polycarp, a Papias, etc., and as Hegesippus had been careful to inform himself as to the succession of pastors from apostolic times, so Irenaeus, in opposition to the doctrines of the Gnostics, appeals not only to the ancestral teaching maintained in churches of apostolic foundation, such as Rome, Smyrna, Ephesus, but also to the lists of those men who, since the apostles, had presided over them (iii. 3).
The main representatives therefore of genuine apostolical tradition are for Irenaeus the bishops of the churches as successors of the apostles and guardians of their doctrines. In the episcopate, as a continuation of the apostolic office, he finds the one sure pledge of the church's unity and the maintenance of her doctrine. Although the expression ἐκκλησία καθολική, which came into vogue towards the end of the 2nd cent., does not occur in his writings, the thing itself is constantly before him, i.e. the conception of one true church spread over the earth, and bound together by the one true Faith, in contrast to the manifold and variegated and apostate forms of "heresy." Its external bond of unity is the episcopal office. The development of monarchical episcopacy was a primary consequence of the conflict with Gnosticism, and its origination out of simpler constitutional forms betrays itself in a mode of expression derived indeed from earlier times, but still common to Irenaeus, with Tertullian, Clemens Alexandrinus, Hippolytus, and others, the use, namely, of the official titles, πρεσβύτεροι and ἐπίσκοποι, to designate alternately the same persons. Πρεσβύτεροι in this context are, in the first place, "elders," i.e. "ancients" or fathers, who represent the immediate connexion of the early church with the apostolic time. This name or title is then transferred to the heads of churches, inasmuch as they in succession to the apostles have been faithful transmitters of what was handed down to them. The true unbroken apostolical succession and praeconium ecclesiae is therefore attributed to the same persons, now as πρεσβύτεροι now as ἐπίσκοποι (iii. 3, 2, cf. iii. 2, 2; iv. 26, 2, 4, 5; Ep. ad Victorem ap. Eus. H. E. v. 24); nay, in so many words, the "successio episcopalis" was assigned to the πρεσβύτεροι (iv. 26, 2). By these "presbyters," however, we are certainly to understand heads of churches (especially those of apostolic foundation), who alone were capable of acting as the guardians and maintainers of church unity. The episcopate is for Irenaeus no mere congregational office, but one belonging to the whole church; the great importance attached by his contemporaries to the proofs of a genuine apostolical succession rests on the assumption that the episcopate was the guardian of the church's unity of teaching, a continuation, in fact, of the apostolic teaching-office, ordained for that purpose by the apostles themselves. The bishop, in reference to any particular congregation, is a representative of the whole Catholic church, the very idea of catholicity being indebted for its completion to this more sharply defined conception of the episcopal office. In the episcopate thus completely formed the Catholic church first manifested herself in organic unity as "the body of Christ." As formerly the apostles, so now the bishops, their successors, are the "ecclesia repraesentativa." Only through the episcopate as the faithful guardian and transmitter of the apostolical tradition do such congregations retain their hold on visible church unity and their possession of the truth (cf. iv. 33, 7). The significance of the episcopal office rests therefore on the fact of an apostolical succession, and on this historical connexion of the bishops with the apostolic era depends the certainty of their being possessed of the true tradition. That this assurance is not illusory is proved by the actual uniformity of church teaching throughout the world, the agreement of all the apostolic churches in the confession of the same truth (iii. 3, 3). Beyond this historical proof of the church's possession of the true teaching through her episcopate, the argument is not carried further by Irenaeus. The later dogma of a continua successio Spiritus Sancti, i.e. of an abiding special gift of the Holy Spirit attached to the episcopate of apostolical succession, has nevertheless some precursive traces in his writings. Though the Holy
Spirit is a scala ascensionis ad Deum, of which all the faithful are partakers, yet the guidance of the church by the Spirit is mediated by apostles, prophets, and teachers, and they who would have the guidance of the Spirit must come to the church. "For, where the church is, there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God is, there is the church and all grace—the Spirit, moreover, is the truth" (iii. 24, 1). Expressly therefore is the "charisma veritatis" attached to the episcopal succession (iv. 26, 2), not as a gift of inspiration enabling the bishops to discover fresh truths, but rather as such guidance as enables them to preserve the original truth. Therefore it is more particularly the churches of apostolical foundation, and in the West specially the church of Rome, which can give the surest warrant for the true and incorrupt tradition. In this sense the much-disputed passage is to be understood in which some would find a witness for the primacy of the Roman church: "For with this church must, on account of her more excellent origin ('propter potiorem principalitatem,' i.e. διὰ τὴν διαφορωτέραν ἀρχήν), every church, that is, all the faithful coming from all quarters, put themselves in agreement, as being the church in which at all times by those who come from all quarters the tradition derived from the apostles has been preserved" (iii. 3, 2). The potentior principalitas denotes here not only the superior antiquity of the Roman church as the greatest, oldest, and most widely known (i.e. in the West, where Irenaeus was writing), but also her nobler origin as founded by those "two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul." The mention of the "faithful coming from all quarters" points again to the position of the great world's metropolis as a centre of intercourse, and therefore the place in which Christians could most easily convince themselves of the oneness of apostolical tradition in the whole church. Obscurations and corruptions of that tradition, quite possible in remoter churches, would at Rome be soonest discovered and most easily removed. It is not of any Roman lordship over other churches or a primatial teaching-office committed to the Roman bishop that Irenaeus is here speaking, but only of the surer warrant offered by the position of that church for the uncorrupt maintenance of the apostolical traditions. So, after reckoning the succession of Roman bishops down to Eleutherus, his own contemporary, Irenaeus proceeds: τῇ αὐτῇ τάξει καὶ τῇ αὐτῇ διαδοχῇ, ἥ τε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ παράδοσις καὶ τὸ τῆς ἀληθείας κήρυγμα κατήντηκεν εἰς ἡμᾳς (iii. 3, 3). But just the same he says of the church of Ephesus founded by St. Paul, and till the times of Trajan under the guidance of St. John: ἀλλὰ καὶ ἡ ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἐκκλησία ὑπὸ Παύλου μὲν τεθεμελιωμένη, Ἰωάννου δὲ παραμείναντος αὐτοῖς μέχρι τῶν Τραϊανοῦ χρόνων, μάρτυς ἀληθής ἐστι τῆς ἀποστολικῆς παραδόσεως (iii. 3, 4).
The unity of the Catholic church, thus secured by the continuance of the apostolic office, is regarded by Irenaeus as mainly a doctrinal unity. Of her guardianship of sacramental grace he gives hints only. Yet he is certainly on the way to that conception when he singles out the continuance of spiritual gifts as a special note of the true church, meaning thereby not merely the charisma veritatis. but also the gifts of prophecy and miracle (ii. 32, 4; cf. iii. 11, 9). He is not less decided in opposing schismatics, who destroy the church's unity (iv. 26, 2; 33, 7), than heretics who corrupt her doctrine. In internal divisions among the faithful he never wearies in urging the interests of peace. Neither in the Montanistic movement nor in the Paschal controversy does he see grounds for the severance of church communion. At the same time he determinedly opposes that separatist temper, which, denying the presence of the Spirit in the church, would claim His gifts exclusively for its own sect or party. Even if we are not warranted in identifying with the Montanists those "false prophets" of whom he speaks (iv. 33, 6) as with lying lips pretending to prophesy, any more than those who (iii. 11, 9) deny the gospel of St. John—all the more applicable to them is the following description: "Men who bring about schisms, devoid of true love to God, seeking their own advantage rather than the unity of the church; wounding and dividing for petty reasons the great and glorious body of Christ, and so far as in them lies destroying it; speaking peace, but acting war, and in sober truth straining out the gnat and swallowing the camel. For no reformation which they could bring about would outweigh the evils produced by their schism" (iv. 33, 7). The great importance attached by Irenaeus to the maintenance of church unity rests for him on the assumption that the church being sole depositary of divine truth is the only trustworthy guarantee of human salvation. While himself sharing, with the Montanists, not only the hope of the millennial kingdom but also the expectation of its outward visible glory (v. 32–36) and delighting in reminiscences of what the "elders" (Papias) have handed down concerning it as from the lips of the apostle St. John (v. 33, 3), Irenaeus does, on the other hand, with his conception of the church as an outward visible institution of prime necessity for human salvation, pave the way for that catholic ideal, which, in contrast to the dreams and aspirations of Montanism, would substitute for a glorious vision of the future the existing church on earth as God's visible kingdom. When the visible church as an outward institution comes to be regarded as the essential medium of saving grace, all its forms and ordinances at once acquire a quasi-legal or sacramental character. The church is for Irenaeus an earthly paradise, of the trees of which every one may eat, while heresy has only the forbidden tree of knowledge, whose fruits are death-bringing (v. 20, 2). As the church's faith is the only faith which is true and saving (iii. praef.), so is he alone a Christian man who conforms to the church's institutions and laws (cf. iii. 15, 2; v. 20, 1). The church's sacrifices, the church's prayers, the church's works alone are holy (iv. 18, 1 sqq.; ii. 32, 5).
This essentially legal conception of Christianity was also that of the generation which followed the apostles. The great Catholic doctors gave to this legal conception of the
church a further development. For Tertullian, Clement, and Origen the work of Christ was primarily the promulgation of a new divine law. Irenaeus calls indeed Christianity the N.T. of freedom (iii. 12, 14; iv. 16, 5; 34, 3; cf. iii. 10, 5), but simply in reference to the exemption of Gentile Christians from obedience to the Mosaic ceremonial law. In antithesis to Marcion, who derived the Mosaic law from the Demiurge, the gospel from the good God, Irenaeus maintained the substantial identity of both covenants ("unius et ejusdem substantiae sunt," iv. 9, 1; cf. 9, 2; 13, 3, etc.). When he appropriates the Pauline antithesis of bondage and liberty (cf. also iv. 9, 1 seq.; 13, 2; 16, 5; 18, 2; 34, 1 seq., etc., etc.), the religious premises which led up in St. Paul's mind to that antithesis are perhaps wanting to Irenaeus. The N.T. consists for him in a body of divine prescripts. The bondsman and undisciplined has indeed one law, the free, the justified by faith, another (iv. 9, 1); but inasmuch as the nucleus of both Testaments is one and the same—namely, those natural precepts (naturalia praecepta) (iv. 13, 4; cf. 15, 1) which have from the beginning impressed themselves on the mind of man—it follows that the evangelical law of liberty (iv. 34, 4) differs only quantitatively, not qualitatively, from that of Moses. This difference consists on the one hand in the abolition of the precepts of the ceremonial law, which for the Israelites themselves had but a temporary purpose and validity, to restrain from idol worship, to uphold external discipline, or to serve as precursors and symbols of spiritual precepts (iv. 13, 2; 14, 1 sqq.; 15, 1; 16, 3 sqq.; 19, 1; 23, 1 seq.; 24, 1 seq.), and on the other in the reinforcement of those natural precepts which have come down to us from the beginning (iv. 9, 2; 13, 1; 16, 5). The laws of liberty (decreta libertatis) do not annul the duty of obedience; the difference between sons and servants from this point of view consists in the sons having a larger faith (iv. 32, 2) and exhibiting a more ready obedience (iv. 11, 4). Accordingly, the antithesis between the two Testaments is not an antithesis of fear and love. Love is the greatest commandment under the O.T. (iv. 12, 3). Fear continues as a precept under the New. Christ has even enlarged the precept of fear—the children must fear as well as love more than the servants (iv. 16, 5). On the one side the children indeed are free, on the other they are still servants (iv. 14, 1). The two law-givings differ only in the number and greatness (multitudine et magnitudine) of their commandments. The law of liberty, being the greater, is given not for Jews only, but for all nations (iv. 9, 2); but the precepts of a perfect life (consummatae vitae praecepta) are for both Testaments the same (iv. 12, 3).
The new precepts which characterize Christianity are, in the first place, the ordinances and institutions of the church. Among other distinguishing notes of the new law Irenaeus further emphasizes that Christians believe not in the Father only but also in the Son, that they do as well as say, and that they abstain from evil desires as well as from evil works (iv. 13, 1). Even while largely using Pauline language in speaking of Justification by Faith (iv. 5, 5; 9, 1; 16, 2; 21, 1), his legal conception is still there. Faith is opposed by Irenaeus to the ψευδώνυμος γνῶσις of the heretics, and essentially consists in the reception of the Regula Fidei, the Rule of Faith; it is therefore simply defined as obedience to the will of God (iv. 16, 5), i.e. a moral duty, and not, as for St. Paul, the subjective form in which a new religious life and relation is first constituted.
This legal conception leads Irenaeus further to insist on the freedom of the will, and on salvation as conditioned by a man's own ethical self-determination. All Catholic practical theology tends to limit the free forgiveness of sins to the moment of baptism, and after that to make salvation dependent on a godly life and the performance of good works. In the same spirit Irenaeus quite innocently puts in juxtaposition justification by obedience to the natural precepts and justification by faith "naturalia legis per quae homo justificatur quae etiam ante legislationem custodiebant qui fide justificabantur et placebant Deo" (iv. 13, 1). He is led thus strongly to insist on the moral law by his opposition to the Gnostic teaching that the spiritual man is exempted from it and obtains salvation through his higher gnosis. His energetic assertion of the freedom of the will has also a polemical object—to refute the Valentinian dualistic doctrine, which made the salvation of the spiritual man the result of his original pneumatic nature (cf. esp. iv. 37). But this perfectly justifiable opposition leads Irenaeus to put too much in the background the doctrine of divine grace as the only source of human salvation. He even puts it as a divine requirement that in order to the Spirit's resting upon them, Christians must, beside their baptismal vocation, be also adorned with works of righteousness (iv. 36, 6). This seems inconsistent with the Pauline teaching that it is only by the gift of the Spirit that Christians are enabled to do good works at all. But, on the other hand, he says that the Spirit dwells in men as God's creation, working in them the will of the Father and renovating into the newness of Christ (iii. 17, 1). As dry ground, without dew from heaven, can bear no fruit, so neither can the soul perform good works without the irrigation of the water of life (iii. 17, 2).
If in his legal conception Irenaeus may be said to anticipate the mode of thought which characterizes the Catholicism of a later time, the same cannot be said of his teaching on the sacraments. Indeed the sacramental side of Catholic theology did not take shape till through and after the Montanistic and Novatianist controversies. Whereas both these parties insisted on finding the church's sanctity in the spiritual endowments and personal holiness of individual members, "Catholics" sought for the note of holiness mainly in the church's sacramental ordinances, or in marvellous operations of the Holy Spirit in certain functions of her public life. The chief organ of these operations would be the episcopate, which thus came to be viewed as not merely the guardian of doctrinal purity, but also the bearer of supernatural grace and powers, and following the type of the O.T. priesthood as a kind of mediator between God and men. This
side of the Catholic ideal of the church is not yet developed in the writings of Irenaeus. On the contrary, he insists on the original Christian conception of the universal priesthood and outpouring of the Spirit on all believers (iv. 20, 6 sqq.; v. 6, 1; cf. iv. 13, 2 sqq.; 33, 1 sqq.), first, as against the Gnostics, and their claims to an exclusive possession of the divine πνεῦμα, and, secondly, against the false prophets, and their denial of the presence of the Spirit in the church (iii. 11, 9; iv. 33, 6). The sacramental idea of grace imparted through the church is for Irenaeus restricted to baptism as a divine institution for the salvation of man, the type of which is the ark of Noah (iv. 36, 4). Of priestly absolution and its sacramental significance he nowhere speaks; on the contrary, he adopts the saying of an elder which has a somewhat Montanistic ring about it—that after baptism there is no further forgiveness of sins (iv. 27, 2). This, as is clear from the epistle of the Gallican confessors, is not meant to exclude the possibility of indulgence being extended to the fallen under any circumstances. The familiar thought of the Ignatian epistles, that separation from the episcopal altar is a separation from the church herself, also finds no distinct utterance in the writings of Irenaeus. But in his time the ministration of the Eucharist by bishops and presbyters was undoubtedly a long-established custom. In regard to the dogma of the Holy Communion Irenaeus, like Justin Martyr, expresses the thought that through the invocation of Christ's name over the earthly elements the Divine Logos does actually enter into such mysterious connexion with the bread and wine as to constitute a union of an earthly and a heavenly πρᾶγμα similar to that which took place at the Incarnation itself. In virtue of this union of the Logos with the bread and wine those earthly substances are made the flesh and blood of Christ; and it appears to have been with Irenaeus a favourite thought, that through the partaking of Christ's flesh and blood in the Holy Communion our earthly bodies are made partakers of immortality (iv. 18, 4 seq.; 33, 2; v. 2, 2 seq.; cf. also iv. 17, 5 seq.; 18, 1 sqq., and the second Pfaffian fragment, Fr. Graec. xxxvi. ap. Harvey).
The chief significance of Irenaeus as a theologian consists in his doctrine concerning the Person and Work of Christ. The doctrine of Christ's Godhead was for the Gentile Christianity of the post-apostolic age the theological expression of the absolute significance of that divine revelation which was enshrined in His person and work. While the Gnostics regarded Christ as only one among numerous eradiations of the divine essence, thereby imperilling on the one hand the truth of the divine monarchia, and on the other the absolute and final character of the gospel revelation, the opposing doctrine of the Godhead of the Logos, and of His Incarnation in Jesus Christ, provided the exact theological truth and formula of which the Christian conscience felt the need, in order to gather into one the scattered elements which the multitude of Gnostic Aeons were dividing. Following the guidance of St. John's gospel, the more philosophically cultured teachers of the church—Justin, Theophilus, Tatian, Athenagoras, the Alexandrine Clemens, Origen, Tertullian, and Hippolytus—found in the doctrine of the Divine Logos the classical expression which they needed for the unique and absolute character of the gospel revelations. It was in antithesis both to the Gnostic doctrine of Aeons and the psilanthropism of the Ebionites that the Divine Logos or Eternal Thought of God Himself was conceived of as the personal organ of all divine revelation Which had issued from the inner life of the Divine Paternity. His manifestation in the flesh is therefore the climax of all the revelations of God in the world. This Logos-doctrine Irenaeus adopted. The invisible Father is visible in the Logos (iv. 20, 7). The divine "Pleroma" (Irenaeus borrows the Gnostic term to express the fulness of divine perfection, ii. 1, 3 seq.) is revealed therein. God Himself is all Intelligence, all Thought, all Logos; what He thinks He utters, what He utters He thinks; the all-embracing divine intelligence is the Father Himself, Who has made Himself visible in the Son (ii. 28, 5). The infinite, immeasurable Father is, in the words of some old teacher of the church, become measurable and comprehensible in the Son ("immensus Pater in Filio mensuratus"), for the Son is the "measure of the Father," the manifestation of the Infinite in finite form (iv. 4, 2). In contrast with Tertullian, Irenaeus's first great purpose and object is to emphasize the absoluteness and spirituality of God, and therefore to reject anything like a physical emanation (prolatio) of the Logos, lest God should be made into something composite, and something other than His own infinite thought (principalis mens), or His own Logos (ii. 28, 5). The older teachers of the Logos-doctrine conceived the generation of the Logos after the analogy of the temporal process from thinking to speaking, and assumed that His issuing from the Father as a distinct person, i.e. the outspeaking of the inward divine thought, first took place at the creation. Tertullian represented the same conception in a more sensuous form. The Father is for him the whole Godhead, the Son "portio totius"; and on this point he expressly recognizes the resemblance between his view and that of the Gnostics (c. Drax. 8). Irenaeus, on the other hand, is driven by his own opposition to the Gnostic doctrine of Aeons to reject anything like a προβολή or prolatio from the Godhead as a limitation of His infinity or an anthropomorphism. He is therefore the first doctor of the church who maintained with the utmost distinctness the eternal coexistence of the Son with the Father ("semper coexistens Filius Patri," ii. 30, 9; iii. 18, 1). His frequent designation of the Son and Holy Spirit as the "Hands of God" is a figurative expression to denote Their being not so much emanations of the Godhead as organs of its creative energy. To presumptuous endeavours to comprehend the way in which the Son comes from the Father he opposes our human ignorance, and mocks at the vain attempts of those who would transfer human relations to the Infinite and Unchangeable One ("quasi ipsi obstetricaverint prolationem enunciant," ii. 28, 6). These polemics, if directed primarily against the
Gnostics, are not less applicable to the emanistic theories of other teachers. On the other hand, the clearly marked division between the Logos-doctrine of an Hippolytus and Tertullian and the Patripassian conception of it can hardly be said to exist for Irenaeus, who often speaks as if the eternal Logos were but the self-revealing side of the otherwise invisible and hidden Godhead, without one's being always able to see how the personal distinction between the two can be thus maintained. His doctrine of the Logos was developed (unlike that of Tertullian and Hippolytus) without any direct reference to Patripassianism (of which no mention is made in his writings), while the true human personality of the Son is maintained against the Gnostics with as much decision as His true Godhead against the Ebionites.
His conception of the Logos as the one great and absolute organ of all divine revelations leads Irenaeus, as it did Justin Martyr and the other Apologists, to refer back to His agency all the pre-Christian manifestations of God (iv. 20, 7 seq.). But Irenaeus is the first Christian doctor who expressly applies this thought, in his conflict with the Gnostics, to the origination of the Mosaic law (iv. 9). "Both Testaments proceeded from one and the same head of the family (paterfamilias), our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, Who spake (of old) to Abraham and to Moses " (cf. iv. 12, 4). But Irenaeus nowhere maintains the precepts of the old ceremonial law as obligatory upon Christians.
The fulfilment of all previous revelations is attained in the personal manifestation of the Logos in the flesh. By the Incarnation of the Son the divine purpose in creation, the union (adunatio, communio, commixtio) of God and man, has been accomplished, and the end is brought back to the beginning (iv. 20, 2, 4; 33, 4; v. 2, 1, et passim).
Together with the Logos the Spirit of God is often spoken of as an organ of divine revelation. It is not, however, easy to determine their right relation one to the other. The designation of the Holy Spirit as Wisdom (Sapientia) reminds us of the Alexandrine phraseology, which λόγος and σοφία are also distinguished without the distinction being fully worked out or consistently adhered to. Irenaeus uses the term "Sapientia" of the Divine Spirit always. But the comprehension of his meaning is made somewhat difficult by his sometimes speaking of our communion with the Son as mediated by the Spirit (v. 26, 2), and sometimes of the historical manifestation of the Logos as the means whereby men become partakers of the Spirit of the Father (iv. 38, 2). The solution probably is that Irenaeus uses the term "Spirit of God" in now a narrower, now a wider sense. In the narrower sense the Spirit is the organ of Divine Revelation in the heart and consciousness of man, and so distinguished from the Logos as the universal organ of Divine Revelation to all creatures and all worlds (v. 1, 1; cf. iii. 21, 4; iv. 33, 1, 7, etc.). In the wider sense the Spirit is the inner Being of God Himself in contradistinction to the material universe and the σάρξ (caro) or human corporeity. The former sense is always to be assumed where the Spirit is distinguished from the Logos as another divine hypostasis, "progenies et figuratio Dei" (iv. 7, 4; 20, 1 seq.); the latter, where the Spirit is spoken of as "the bread of immortality" (iv. 38, 1) and the life-giving principle from which endless life wells forth (v. 12, 2). It is with this latter meaning that Irenaeus, speaking of the humanity of Jesus Christ, expresses a thought, often recurred to by later theologians, that the Spirit is the anointing (unctio, χρίσμα) and bond of unity between the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is in fact, for him, also the uniting principle between God and man. God through the Spirit imparts Himself to man; man through the Incarnation enters into God (v. 1, 1). This last thought leads us on to the grand conception which Irenaeus entertains of the development of the whole human race from Adam up to Christ. Man was not from the first, according to Irenaeus, made perfect and immortal, but designed, in God's purpose concerning him, to become so. But this can only be through the Spirit of God, and in order that man may be made partaker of the Spirit and thereby united to God, it was necessary that the Logos should become incarnate (iv. 38, 1 sqq.). The image of God (εἰκὼν τοῦ Θεοῦ), for which man was created, could not become visible before the Incarnation, and so man lost this image, the likeness of God, the possession of the Spirit (v. 16, 2), falling into sin by his own fault, and thereby coming not only under the power of natural death, but rendered incapable of exhibiting the image of God (v. 12, 2; 23, 1 seq.). Thus though Irenaeus regards sin, not like the Gnostics as a necessity of nature, but as man's own free act, he yet works out the thought that God has permitted the existence of evil because only by the contrast could goodness be appreciated, like health after sickness, light after darkness, life after death (iv. 37, 7; 39, 1). Without sin there would have been no consciousness of need, no desire for union with God, no thankfulness for His mercy (iii. 20, 1 seq.). The chief aim of Irenaeus in these disquisitions is again his conflict with Gnostic error, especially that of Marcion, who explained the origin of evil in the universe by the theory of two Gods—the highest and an inferior one. Irenaeus appropriates the language of the prophet (Isa. xlv. 6, 7), I am the Lord: I make peace, and create evil, and works out the thought that for the very sake of destroying evil a final recapitulatio totius iniquitatis may be necessary (v. 29, 2). Two equally significant thoughts must be distinguished in the full doctrine of Irenaeus concerning the Incarnation of the Logos and the divine purpose in the Incarnation: the idea of humanity being raised to perfection in Christ through union with the divine nature, and that of the victory gained by humanity in the God-man its Head over sin and the devil.
The Incarnation is for Irenaeus not merely an historical fact, but has for its basis the eternal divine predestination of man. It was only by God becoming man that man could attain the predestined end of his original creation. The perfecting of humanity in Christ is also a realisation of the true idea of humanity—the Logos first assimilating Himself to man, and then man to Himself ("semet
ipsum homini et hominem sibimet ipsi assimilans"). "In past times it was said indeed that man had been made after God's image, but it was not shewn. For the Logos was still invisible after Whose image man had been made. And on this very account did man also easily forfeit the likeness. But when the Logos of God became flesh He established both points: He truly exhibited the [divine] image, by Himself becoming that which was the image of Himself, and firmly restored the likeness by making man to be like the unseen Father" (v. 16, 2). Man's destination is to be like God, and by the attainment of this likeness God's great purpose is accomplished of indwelling in man, and so of uniting man to Himself (iii. 20, 2). Hence follows the necessity that He by Whom the perfecting of man was accomplished should be Himself both God and man. Irenaeus is therefore as strongly opposed to the Ebionitic as to the Docetic error. To the Ebionites he objects that they do not receive the doctrine of the commixture of the heavenly wine with the earthly water, the union of God and man, but, retaining the leaven of the old birth (after the flesh), abide in mortal flesh and in that death which disobedience has incurred (v. 1, 3; iii. 19, 1). It was necessary that the Logos should become man in order that man, receiving the Logos and obtaining the sonship, might become son of God. We could not obtain incorruption and immortality except by being united to that which is incorruptible and immortal. Only through the absorption of the one by the other can we become partakers of the divine Sonship (iii. 19, 1; cf. iii. 18, 7). On the other hand, in opposition to Gnostic Docetism, Irenaeus insists no less strongly on the reality of the Incarnation of the Logos. If this were but putative, salvation would be putative also (iv. 33, 5). The mediator between God and man must belong to both in order to unite both (iv. 18, 7). If we are truly to know God and enter into fellowship with the Divine Logos, our teacher must Himself have become man. We need a teacher Whom we can see and hear, in order to be followers of His deeds and doers of His words (v. 1, 1). This fundamental thought—that the divine nature of which we are to be partakers can be brought nigh to us only in the form of a genuine human existence—is expressed elsewhere still more emphatically, when Irenaeus insists that Christ, in order to conduct the human race to its divine destination, must Himself belong to it, and take upon Him human flesh and all the characteristics of humanity; that if man is to be raised to God, God must come down to man (iv. 33, 4, πῶς ἄνθρωπος χωρήσει εἰς Θεόν, εἰ μὴ ὁ Θεὸς ἐχωρήθη εἰς ἄνθρωπον). The second Adam, the head of our spiritual humanity, must Himself come of the race of Adam in order to unite the end with the beginning (iii. 22, 3 seq.; 23, 1; iv. 34, 4; v. 1, 3; 16, 1 seq.). The profound conception of a recapitulatio (ἀνακεφαλαίωσις) of humanity in Christ is one to which Irenaeus perpetually recurs. (See iii. 18, 1; 22, 1, 3; 23, 1; iv. 38, 1; v. 1, 2 seq.; 14, 1; 23, 2; 36, 3; cf. iv. 40, 3; v. 16, 2). It was needful that Christ should recapitulate and pass through all the stages of an ordinary human life in order to consecrate each of them in us, by a likeness to Himself in each (ii. 22, 4; iii. 18, 7), and that He should come at the end of time in order to conduct all who from the beginning had hoped in Him to eternal life in fellowship with God (iv. 22, 1 seq.; cf. 27, 1). As Christ was typically pre-formed in Adam (iii. 22, 3), so was Adam's destiny accomplished in Christ (v. 1, 3; 16, 2 seq.). The Spirit of God descended on the Son of God made man that in Him He might accustom Himself to an indwelling in the human race (iii. 17, 1). Man was to grow used to receive God, and God to indwell in man (ii. 20, 2).
With this thought of the recapitulatio of the human race in Christ is combined another of equal depth and significance—that of the victory over sin and deliverance of sin's captives from the power of Satan by the obedience of Christ. This deliverance or redemption was necessary before the divine purpose of the union of God and man could be accomplished. For if man, created by God for life, but corrupted by the serpent, had not returned to life, but been wholly subjected to death's power, God would then have been defeated, and the devil's iniquity proved itself stronger than His holy will. But God, triumphant and magnanimous, has by the second Adam (Christ) bound the strong man and spoiled his goods, and deprived death of its prey, and brought back man once slain to life. He who by false promises of life and the likeness of God had bound man in the chains of sin has now been justly made captive in his turn, and his prisoner, man, set free (iii. 23, 1 seq.; cf. 18, 7; iv. 21, 3). The power of the devil over man consisted in man's sin, and the apostasy into which the devil had seduced him (v. 21, 3), but now the disobedience of one man has been repaired by one man's obedience (iii. 18, 7; 21, 10). The first Adam was initium morientium, the second Adam initium viventium, Who needed to be both God and man, no less in order to become the saviour than to be the perfecter of mankind (iii. 22, 4; v. 1, 3). Only One Who was Himself man could overcome man's enemy, and bind in his turn him by whom man had been bound; in this way alone could the victory over the enemy be altogether just. So, on the other hand, only One Who was also God could accomplish a redemption which should be stable and sure (iii. 18, 7; v. 21, 3). Christ must be truly man to be as man truly tempted, must be born of a woman to deliver those who by a woman had been brought under the devil's power, and must truly live and suffer as a man in order as man to fight and triumph. Again, He must also be the Logos in order to be glorified, in order as the strong one to overcome the enemy in whose power the whole human race found itself (iii. 18, 6, 7; 19, 3; iv. 33, 4; v. 17, 3; 21, 1; 22, 1); and finally, that man might learn that it is not through himself but only through God's mercy that he obtains incorruption (v. 21, 3). The recapitulation of mankind in Christ consists therefore not only in man's original destiny being accomplished by the beginner of a new humanity, but also in His taking up and conducting to a triumphant issue, at the end
of time, the conflict wherein, at the beginning, man had been overcome. The victory of God made man is man's victory, since all humanity is summed up (recapitulated) in Christ. Man must himself leave the evil one bound with the same chains wherewith he himself had been bound—the chains of transgression (v. 21, 3); but the first man could not thus have triumphed, having been by him seduced and bound, but only the second man, the Son of God, after Whose image Adam was created, and Who has become man in order to take back His old creation ("antiquam plasmationem") into Himself (iv. 33, 4). The devil had obtained his dominion over the first man by deceit and violence; whereas the redemption of the new race had taken place not with violence but, as became God, by free persuasion ("secundum suadelam, quemadmodum decebat Deum suadentem, non vim inferentem, accipere quae vellet," v. 1, 1). The dominion of the devil is an unjust dominion, for he, like a robber, has seized and taken to himself what did not belong to him, estranged us from our original godlike nature, and made us into his own disciples. Divine justice demands that what the devil has obtained by conflict should in a lawful conflict be won back from him. The Son of God deals, according to His own sense of right, with the apostasy itself, redeeming from it, at a price, that which was His own ("non deficiens in sua justitia juste etiam adversus ipsam conversus est apostasiam, ea quae sunt sua redimens ab ea," v. 1, 1; cf. 24, 4). Christ came not snatching with deceit that which was another's, but justly and graciously resuming that which was His own; justly in regard to the apostasy (the evil one) from whose power He redeemed us with His own blood, and graciously in reference to us whom He so redeemed (v. 2, 1). The persuasion (suadela) of which the Son of God made use consisted, so far as the devil was concerned, in his free consent to accept the redemption price of the Lord's death for his prisoners; and so the Lord redeemed us, giving His soul for our souls and His flesh for our flesh (v. 1, 1). Two thoughts are here to be distinguished. The first is that of Christ's victorious conflict with the evil one, maintaining, spite of all his temptations, full and entire obedience to the Father, unmasking Satan as rebel and deceiver, and thereby proving Himself the strong one (v. 21, 2 seq.). The second is that of redemption through Christ's blood, which is expressly represented as a price paid to the devil and by him voluntarily received. The first thought is developed mainly with reference to the temptation in the wilderness. In the third temptation the evil one is completely exposed and called by his true name, the Son of God appears as victor, and, by His obedience to the divine command, absolves the sin of Adam (v. 21, 2). With this chain of thought, complete in itself, the other theory of a redemption-price paid in the blood of Christ, is placed in no connexion. It is not said that the devil, acting up to his rights, caused the Saviour's death, which indeed is represented from another point of view as a price legitimately offered and paid down to him (v. 1, 1). The thought, moreover, subsequently worked out by Origen, that the devil deceived himself with the hope of bringing under his power One Whom he was too weak to hold, is not found in Irenaeus. But along with this conception of the redemption-price offered to the devil appears another thought, that man has been reconciled to God by the sacrifice of the body of Christ and the shedding of His blood (v. 14, 3).
It must be allowed that Irenaeus gives no complete dogmatic theory with regard to the nature of Christ's work of redemption, for his theological speculations nowhere appear as an independent system, but are simply developed in polemical contrast to those of the heretical gnosis. By this conflict with Gnosticism the currents of Christian religious thought were once more put in rapid movement and problems which had exercised St. Paul were again before the church.
A new letter of St. Irenaeus of considerable importance was discovered in 1904 by an Armenian scholar in the Church of the Virgin at Erivan in Russian Armenia, and trans. into German with notes by Dr. Harnack (1907). It was written to his friend Marcian and possibly intended as a manual for catechising (Drews, Der lit. Charakter der neuernt deckten Schrift des Iren. 1907). For an account of it see Essay VI. in Dr. Knowling's Messianic Interpretation (S.P.C.K. 1911).
Literature.—The Vita Irenaei of Feuardent and that of Peter Halloix; the Dissertationes in Irenaeum of Dodwell and those of Massuet; the Prolegomena of Harvey (Preliminary Matter, I. Sources and Phenomena of Gnosticism; II. Life and Writings of St. Irenaeus); Tillemont, Mémoires, iii. 77 sqq. and 619 sqq.; Lipsius, Die Zeit des Irenaeus von Lyon und die Entstehung der altkatholischen Kirche in Sybel's Histor. Zeitschrift, xxviii. pp. 241 sqq.; Lightfoot, The Churches of Gaul, in Contemp. Review, Aug. 1876, pp. 405 sqq.; the posthumous work of Dean Mansel, The Gnostic Heresies of the First and Second Centuries (London, 1875). Some translations of Irenaeus are in the Ante-Nic. Fathers, and bk. iii. of adv. Haer. has been trans. by H. Deane with notes and glossary (Clar. Press). A critical ed. of adv. Haer. is pub. by the Camb. Univ. Press in 2 vols.