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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Elprilvaio), one of the most distinguished of the early Church fathers, standing, with his disciple Hippolytus, "both of Greek education, but both belonging, in their ecclesiastical relations and labors, to the West," at the head of the old Catholic controversialists, and called by Theodoret; "the Light of the Western Church," was bishop of Lyons, in France, during the latter half of the 2nd century.
1. Life. — Of the personal history of Irenseus, especially in his youth, but little is known. The dates of his birth are very variably given by different critics. Thus Dodwell places it about A.D. 97, Grabe about 108, Tillemont about 120, Du Pin about 140. Most of the latest students of the Church fathers incline to put it between the years 120 and 140. The place of his birth, also, is not definitely known. It is probable, however, from his very early acquaintance with Polycarp, the illustrious bishop of Smyrna, of which he himself tells us (3, 3, 4; comp. Eusebius, Eccles. Hist. p. 191, Bohn's edition), that he was born somewhere in Asia Minor; and some have assigned the city of Smyrna as his native place. Harvey, one of the editors of his works, however, thinks that Irenaeus was born in Syria, and that he came to Smyrna while yet very young; was there attracted by the teaching of bishop Polycarp, and became at once one of his most ardent disciples. "Through this link he still was connected with the Johanneani age. The spirit of his preceptor passed over to him."
Addressing a former friend of his own, Florinuis, who had lapsed to Valentinianism, whom he earnestly endeavored to bring back to the Church, he bears witness to this connection in the following words: "These opinions, Florinuis, that I may speak in mild terms, are not part of sound doctrine; these opinions are not consonant with the Church, and involve their votaries in the utmost impiety; these opinions even the heretics beyond the Church's pale have never ventured to broach; these opinions those presbyters who preceded us, and who were conversant with the apostles, ) did not hand down to thee. For, while I was yet a boy, I saw thee in Lower Asia with Polycarp, distinguishing thyself in the royal court, and endeavoring to gain his approbation.
For I have a more vivid recollection of what occurred at that time than of recent events (inasmuch as the experiences of childhood, keeping pace with the growth of the soul, become incorporated with it), so that I can even describe the place where the blessed Polycarp used to sit and discourse his going out and his coming in, his general mode of life and personal appearance, together with the discourses which he delivered to the people; also how he would speak of his familiar intercourse with John, and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord; and how he would call their words to remembrance… What I heard from him, that wrote I not on paper, but in my heart, and, by the grace of God, I constantly bring it fresh to my mind." It is not known at what time Ireneus removed to Gaul, but it is supposed by some that he accompanied Photinus (whom he afterwards succeeded as bishop) on his mission to Gaul to establish churches at Lyons and Vienne. So much is certain, that he was a presbyter at Lyons under Marcus Aurelius, according to Eusebius (ut sup. p. 171; compare p. 157), and was sent by his people to Eleutherus, bishop of Rome (A.D. 176-192), as a mediator in the Montanistic disputes.
While yet on this mission Photinus suffered martyrdom, and Ireneus was elected as his successor (about A.D. 177). He at once returned and zealously devoted himself, by tongue and pen, for the upbuilding of the Christian Church, so greatly suffering at this time in Further Gaul from the persecutions of the heathen government. He is supposed by some to have suffered martyrdom in the persecutions under Septimius Severus, A.D. 202; but the ‘ silence of Tertullian and Eusebius, and most of the early Church fathers, makes this point very doubtful. "Ireneus was the leading representative of the Asiatic Johannaan school in the second half of the 2nd century, the champion of catholic orthodoxy against Gnostic heresy, and the mediator between the Eastern and Western churches. He united a learned Greek education and philosophical penetration with practical wisdom and moderation, and a just sense of the simple essentials in Christianity. We plainly trace in him the influence of the spirit of John. The true way to God,' says he, in opposition to the false Gnosis, ‘ is love. It is better to be willing to know nothing but Jesus Christ the crucified, than to fall into ungodliness through our curious questions and paltry subtleties.' He was an enemy of all error and schism, and, on the whole, the most orthodox of the ante-Nicene fathers, except in eschatology. Here, with Papias and most of his contemporaries, he maintained the millenarian views which were subsequently abandoned by the Catholic Church" (Schaff, Ch. Hist. 1, 488, 489). Irenaeus's death is commemorated in the Roman Church, June 28.
II. Writings of Irenaeus. — His writings, which are very extended, covering, — in their translation into English, so far as now known, between six and seven hundred pages of the "Ante-Nicene Library" of the Messrs. Clark, of Edinburgh, are perhaps the most valuable relic of early Christian antiquity. But ‘ their preciousness bears no proportion to their bulk." "Indeed," says a writer in the Brit. and For. Evang. Rev. (Jan. 1869, p. 2), "it would be possible to compress into a very few pages all the statements of fact that can be deemed really valuable to us at the present day." Yet the same writer adds (p. 4) that the work of Irenaeus is to us "invaluable for the light it sheds on the views which prevailed in the primitive Church respecting many most important points." Especially valuable, and the most important of all the writings of Irenaeus, is his work ῎Ελεγχος καὶ ἀνατροπὴ τῆς ψευδονύμου γνώσεως, generally published under the Latin title De Refutatione et Eversione Falsce Scientice ("A Refutation and Subversion of Knowledge falsely so called"), and more commonly even under the shorter title of Adversus Icpreses ("Against Heresies"). This work, which was mainly directed against the Gnostic error of that day, was composed during the pontificate of Eleutherus, and "is at once the polemic theological masterpiece of the ante Nicene age, and the richest mine of information respecting the Gnostics, particularly the Valentinian heresy, and the Church doctrine of that age" (Schaff). The work is divided into five books. The first of these contains a minute description of the tenets of the various heretical sects, with occasional brief remarks in illustration of their absurdity, and in confirmation of the truth to which they were opposed. In his second book, Ireneus proceeds to a more complete demolition of those heresies which he has ‘ already explained, and argues at great length against them, on grounds principally of reason. The three remaining books set forth more directly the true doctrines of relation, as-being in utter antagonism with the views held by the Gnostic teachers. "In the course of this argument many passages of Scripture are quoted and commented on; many interesting statements are made, bearing on the rule of faith; and much important light is shed on the doctrines held, as well as the practices observed by the Church of the 2nd century."
As an introduction to the study which he describes, and with which he manifestly had taken great pains to make himself familiar, and as an expose and refutation of them, for which the great learning of the writer, acknowledged by nearly all his critics, fortunately coupled with a firm grasp of the doctrines of the Holy Scriptures, especially fitted him, this work is truly invaluable. And though it must be admitted that on some points Irenaeus has put forth very strange opinions, it cannot be denied that, upon the whole, his Adversus Ifaereses "contains a vast amount of sound and valuable exposition of Scripture in opposition to the fanciful systems of interpretation which prevailed in his day." The Adyerssus licereses was written in Greek, but it is unfortunately now no longer extant in the original. The English translator of it for Clark's (Edinburgh) edition says that "it has come down to us only in an ancient Latin version, with the exception of the greater part of the first book, which has been preserved in the original Greek, through means of copious quotations made by Hippolytus and Epiphanius." The text, both of the Latin and of the Greek, as far as extant, is often most uncertain, and this has made it a difficult task for translation into English. In all only three MSS. of it are known to exist at present; but there is reason to believe that Erasmus, who printed the first edition of it (1526), had others at hand in his preparation of the work for the press. The Latin version, spoken of above as the only complete version of it, was, according to Dodwell (Dissertt. Iren. 5, 9,10), prepared in the 4th century; but it is known that Tertullian in his day, used the same version, and it is highly probable, therefore, that it was made even as early as the beginning of the 3rd century. It is certainly to be deplored that the other codices which Erasmus must have used have not come down to us,' or that they are, at least, not known to us, for they might, perhaps, enable us to determine more definitely his meaning in many passages now quite obscure to us in their barbaric Latin. From 1526, when Erasmus printed his first edition, to 1571, several editions were produced. But all these had depended on the ancient barbarous Latin versions, and were moreover defective towards the end by five entire chapters. These latter w-ere first supplied in print by Prof. Fuardentinls, of Paris, in an edition of 1575, which was reprinted in six successive editions Gallasius, a minister of Geneva, also had in 1570 supplied the Latin with the first portions of the Greek text from Epiphanius.
In 1702, Grabe, a Prussian, resident in England, published an edition at Oxford, which contained considerable additions to the Greek text, besides some fragments. But the first really valuable edition was that by the Benedictine Massuet (Paris, 1712; Venice, 1724, 2 vols. fol.), since (1857) added to the Migne edition of the fathers, of which, very unfortunately, all the stereotype plates have lately been destroyed by fire. Another edition, containing the additions which have been- made to the Greek text from the recently discovered Philosophoumisena of Hippolytus, and thirty-two fragments of a Syriac version of the Greek text of Irenmus, culled from the Nitrian collection of Syriac MSS in the British Museum, all of which in several instances rectify the readings of the barbarous Latin version, was prepared by Wigan Harxey, at Cambridge, in 1837, under the title So Irencei Episcopi Lugdunensis libri quinmque adversus Haereses, and may be considered the best now extant. It is also enriched with an introduction of great length, which supplies much valuable information on the sources and phenomena of Gnosticism, and the life and writings of Irenasus. It furthermore contains notes, which display great research and erudition, and are especially deserving of notice on account of the hypothesis which the writer seeks to establish, that Irenaeus understood Syriac, and that the version of the Scriptures used by him was in the Syriac.
An attempt has also been made by H. W. J. Thiersch (in the Stucdien is. Krifiken, 1845) to translate the Latin version of the first four chapters of the third book back into the original, in order to lead to a better understanding of Irenaeus's meaning. Objections to the genuineness of this work of Irenaeus were of course made by the so-called "liberal" German theologians, as it is one of the "historic links associating the Christianity of the present day with that of our Lord's apostles and disciples," and a work on which "we depend for satisfactory evidence respecting the-canon of the New Testament" (see below, under "Doctrines of Irenaeus, Froude's attack against Irenaeus as a witness for the Gospels). They were made first by Semler, but were "so thoroughly refuted," says Dr. Schaff (Ch. Hist. 1, 489, foot-note), "by Chr. G. F. Walch (De Asuthentia librolrum Irenaei, 1774), that Mohler and Stieren might have spared themselves the trouble.?"
Besides Adversus Haereses, Irenaeus also wrote, according to Eusebius, "several letters against those who at Rome corrupted the doctrine of the Church: one to Blastus, concerning schism; another to Florinuis (already alluded to), concerning the monarchy, or to prove that God is not the author of evil; and concerning the number eight;" but these are all lost to us with the exception of a few fragments. Eusebius also mentions "a discourse of Irenaeus against the Gentiles, entitled περὶ ἐπιστήμης (Concerning Knowledge); another inscribed to a brother named Marcianus, being a demonstration of the apostolical preaching; and a little book of sundry disputations;" but these, also, are mainly lost to us. Pfaff, in 1715, discovered at Turin four mare Greek fragments, which he attributed to Irenaeus as their author. The genuineness of these has been called in question by some Roman divines, "though," says Dr Schaff, "without sufficient reason." These four fragments treat
(1) of true knowledge (Γνῶσις ἀληθινή ) "which consists, not in the true solution of subtle questions, but in divine wisdom and the imitation of Christ;"
(2) on the Eucharist;
(3) on the duty of toleration in subordinate points of difference with reference to the Easter difficulties;
(4) on the object of the incarnation, "which is stated to be the purging away of sin, and the final annihilation of all evil." An edition containing the Prolegomena to the earlier editions, and also the disputations of Maffei and Pfaff on the fragments- of Irenaeus just mentioned, was published by H. Stieren under the title S. Irencei Episcopi Lugdun. quae super sunt omnia (Lips. 1853, 2 vols.).
II. Doctrines. — We have already said that the writings of Irenaeus are invaluable to us as an index of the views which the primitive Church of Christ held on many very important points that have become matters of controversy between the different branches of the Christian Church up to our own day. In this, of course, we shall be mainly dependent upon his extensive work against Heretics, or the Gnostics; and though some of his views, especially on the millennium, may not have our approval, we must none the less commend the whole work for the fervent piety which constantly impresses us in the perusal of it.
1. God and Creation. — The doctrine of the unity of God as the eternal, almighty, omnipresent, just, and holy creator and upholder of all things, which the Christian Church inherited from Judaism, was one which the early Christian writers were especially called upon to vindicate against the absurd polytheism of the pagans, and particularly against the dualism of the Gnostics. Accordingly we find most of the creeds of the first centuries, especially the Apostles' and the Nicene, begin with the confession of faith in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of the visible and the invisible. In like manner, "with the defense of this fundamental doctrine laid down in the very first chapters of the Bible, Irenaeus opens his refutation of the Gnostic heresies, saying, in the language of Justin Martyr, that he would not have believed the Lord himself if he had announced any other God than the Creator. He repudiates everything like an a priori construction of the idea of God, and bases his knowledge wholly on revelation and Christian experience." So also on the doctrine of creation, Irenaeus, and with him Tertullian, "most firmly rejected the hylozoic and demiurgic views of paganism and Gnosticism, and taught, according to the book of Genesis (comp. Psalms 33:9; Psalms 148:5; John 1:3), that God made the world, including matter, not, of course, out of any material, but out of nothing, or, to express it positively, out of his free, almighty will by his word. This free will of God, a will of love, is the supreme, absolutely unconditioned and all-conditioning cause and final reason of all existence, precluding every idea of physical force or of emanation. Every creature, since it proceeds from the good and holy God, is in itself, as to its essence, good (comp. Genesis 1:31). Evil, therefore, is not an original and substantial entity, but a corruption of nature, and hence can be destroyed by the power of redemption. Without a correct doctrine of creation there can be no true doctrine of redemption, as all the Gnostic systems show."
2. Person of Christ. — On the relation which Christ sustained to the Father also, the views of Iremeus are important, because he is, after Polycarp, "the most faithful representative of the Johannean school." He certainly ‘ keeps more within the limits of the simple Biblical statements," and in the simpler way of the Western fathers, among whom he may-be counted, notwithstanding his early Greek training. "He ventures no such bold speculations as the Alexandrians, but is more sound, and much nearer the Nicene standard. He likewise uses the terms λόγος and Son of God interchangeably, and concedes the distinction, made also by the Valentinians, between the inward and the uttered word, in reference to man, but contests the application of it to God, who is above all antitheses, absolutely simple and unchangeable, and in whom before and after, thinking and speaking, coincide. He repudiates also every speculative or a priori attempt to explain the derivation of the Son from the Father; this he holds to be an incomprehensible mystery. He is content to define the actual distinction between Father and Son by saying that the former is God revealing himself; the latter, God revealed; the one is the ground of revelation, the other is the actual, appearing revelation itself. Hence he calls the Father the invisible of the Son, and the Son the visible of the Father. He discriminates most rigidly the conceptions of generation and of creation.
The Son, though begotten of the Father, is still, like him, distinguished from the created world, as increate, without beginning, and eternal-all plainly showing that Irenaeus is much nearer the Nicene dogma of the substantial identity of the Son with the Father than Justin and the Alexandrians. If, as he does in several passages, he still subordinates the Son to the Father, he is certainly inconsistent, and that for want of an accurate distinction between the eternal Logos and the actual Christ. The λόγος ἄσαρκος and the λόγος ἔνσαρκος , expressions like My Father is greater than I,' which apply only to the Christ of history, he refers also, like Justin and Origen, to the eternal Word. On the other hand, he has been charged with leaning in the opposite direction towards the Sabellian and Patripassian views, but unjustly, as Duncker, in his monograph Die Christologie des heilig. Irenaeus (p. 50 sq.), has unanswerably shown. Apart from his frequent want of precision, he steers in general, with sure Biblical and churchly tact, equally clear of both extremes, and asserts alike the essential unity and the eternal personal distinction of the Father and the Son. The incarnation of the Logos he ably discusses, viewing it both as a restoration and redemption from sin and death, and as the completion of the revelation of God and of the creation of man. In the latter view, as finisher, Christ is the perfect Son of man, in whom the likeness of man to God, the similitudo Dei, regarded as moral duty, in distinction from the imago Dei, as an essential property, becomes for the first time fully real. According to this, the incarnation would be grounded in the original plan of God for the education of mankind, and independent of the fall; it would have taken place even without the fall, though in some other form. Yet Irenaeus does not expressly say this; speculation on abstract possibilities was foreign to his realistic cast of mind" (Dr. Schaff, 1, § 77, 78).
We now pass to a consideration of Irenaeus's views on the doctrine of Christ's humanity. Here, again, his first task is to refute Gnostic Docetists. "Christ," he contends against them, "must be a man, like us, if he would redeem us from corruption and make us perfect. As sin and death came into the world by a man, so they could be blotted out legitimately and to our advantage only by a man; though, of course, not by one who should be a mere descendant of Adam, and thus himself stand in need of redemption, but by a second Adam, supernaturally begotten, a new progenitor of our race, as divine as he is human. A new birth unto life must take the place of the old birth unto death.
As the completer, also, Christ must enter into fellowship with us, to be our teacher and pattern. He made himself equal with man, that man, by his likeness to the Son, might become precious in the Father's sight." Irenaeus (to quote Dr. Schaff still further) "conceived the humanity of Christ not as mere corporeality, though he often contends for this alone against the Gnostics, but as true humanity, embracing body, soul, and spirit. He places Christ in the same relation to the regenerate race which Adam bears to the natural, and regards him as the absolute universal man, the prototype and summing up of the whole race. Connected with this is his beautiful thought, found also in Hippolytus in the tenth book of the Philosophoumena, that Christ made the circuit of all the stages of human life, to redeem and sanctify all. To apply this to advanced age, he singularly extended the life of Jesus to fifty years, and endeavored to prove his view from the gospels against the Valentinians. The full communion of Christ with men involved his participation in all their evils and sufferings, his death, and his descent into the abode of the dead." Also on the doctrine of the mutual relation of the divine and the human in Christ, which was neither specially discussed nor brought to a final, definite settlement until the Christological controversies of the 5th century, Irenaeus, in a number of passages, throws out hints which deserve consideration from their importance. "He teaches unequivocally a true and indissoluble union of divinity and humanity in Christ, and "repels the Gnostic idea of a mere external and transient connection of the divine Σωτήρ with the human Jesus.
The foundation for that union he perceives in the creation of the world by the Logos, and in man's original likeness to God and destination for permanent fellowship with him. In the act of union, that is, in the supernatural generation and birth, the divine is the active principle, and the seat of personality; the human, the passive or receptive; as, in general, man is absolutely dependent on God, and is the vessel to receive the revelations of his wisdom and love. The medium and bond of the union is the Holy Ghost (see below), who took the place of the masculine agent in the generation, and overshadowed the virgin womb of Mary with the power of the Highest. In this connection he calls Mary the counterpart of Eve, the ‘ mother of all living' in a higher sense, who, by her believing obedience, became the cause of salvation both to herself and to the whole human race, as Eve, by her disobedience, induced the apostasy and death of mankind-a fruitful parallel, which was afterwards frequently pushed too far, and turned, no doubt, contrary to its original sense, to favor the idolatrous worship of the blessed Virgin. Irenaeus seems, at least according to Dorner (Christology, 1, 495), to conceive the incarnation as progressive, the two factors reaching absolute communion (but neither absorbing the other) in the ascension; though before this, at every stage of life, Christ was a perfect man, presenting the model of every age" (Schaff, 1, § 79).
3. The Holy Ghost. — On the doctrine of the Holy Ghost, Irenaeus, more nearly than the Greek Church fathers, especially the Alexandrians, represents the dogma of the perfect, substantial identity of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son; "though his repeated figurative (but for this reason not so definite) designation of the Son ‘ and Spirit as the hands' of the Father, by which he made all things, implies a certain subordination (see Irenaeus's views given below under "Trinity"). He differs from most of the fathers in referring the Wisdom of the book of Proverbs not to the Logos, but to the Spirit, and hence he must have regarded him as eternal. Yet he was far from conceiving the Spirit as a mere power or attribute; he considered him an independent personality, like the Logos. ‘ With God,' says he (Adv. Hares. 4, 20, § 1), ‘ are ever the Word and the Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, through whom and in whom he freely made all things, to whom he said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness."' But he speaks more of the operations than of the nature of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit predicted in the prophets the coming of Christ; has been near to man in all divine ordinances; communicates the knowledge of the Father and the Son; gives believers the consciousness of sonship; is fellowship with Christ, the pledge of imperishable life, and the ladder on which we ascend to God" (Schaff, 80).
4. The Trinity. — On the doctrine of the Trinity, the language of Ireneus is perhaps plainer-and more incontrovertible than that of any other of the early Church fathers, and yet both Arians and Socinians have sometimes presumed to claim him as a supporter of their peculiar theories. But we have his own expressions making both Christ and the Holy Spirit parts of the supreme divinity. Nay, Christ is often expressly declared to be God. Thus, in a passage in which Irenaeus is commenting on the prophecy respecting the birth of Emmanuel he says: "Carefully, then, has the Holy Ghost pointed out. by what has been said, his birth from a virgin, and his essence, that he is God, for the name Emmanuel indicates this" (3:21, 4); and again, in allusion to the Father: "With him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, he made all things; to whom, also, he spoke, saying, ‘ Let us make man after our image and likeness.'" Indeed, Dr. Schaff (Ch. Hist. 1, 286) seems hardly justified in his statement that" of a supra- mundane trinity of essence Irenaeus betrays but faint indications." He continually quotes from Genesis, with the object of showing that both Christ and the Holy Spirit existed with the Father anterior to all creation ("ante omnem constitutionem"). With a writer in the Brit. and For. Evang. Rev. (1869, p. 12), we are inclined to believe that the word "hands" is used by Irenaeus to indicate that they are both co-workers of the Father rather than his subordinate workman (compare Ebrard, Kirchen und Dogmengesch. 1, 110 and 111, note 8). "In all things and through al things there is one God, the Father, and one Word, and one Son, and one Spirit, and one salvation to all that believe in him." Another very beautiful passage "reveals the doctrine of the Trinity as being, in fact, wrapped up in the official title by which the Savior is designated." Says he: "In the name of Christ (3, 18, 3) is implied he that anoints, he that is anointed, and the unction itself with which he is anointed. And it is the Father who anoints, but the Son who is anointed by the Spirit, who is the unction, as the word declares by Isaiah, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me,' thus pointing out the anointing Father. the anointed Son, and the Unction which is the Spirit" certainly "a rich and pregnant thought, which will bear much consideration.
It is very striking and satisfactory to find the doctrine of the three divine persons thus developed out of the very name which the Savior bears. Nor does there seem anything fanciful in the reasoning; for, as we cannot think of an anointed one without necessarily thinking also of one who anoints, and of the unction with which he is anointed, we are thus led to conceive, by a simple remembrance of our Lord's official designation, of the Father, the anointer, the Son, the anointed, and the Spirit, the living unction who came down, in infinite fullness, from the Father on the Son-the three-one God, being by means of a single word thus brought before us as the God of our salvation" (Brit. and For. Evang. Rev. 1869, p. 13). With all these direct testimonies staring us in the face, it is certainly ridiculous to see the efforts on the part of some Rationalistic theologians to assert that Irenaeus was not strictly Trinitarian in his views on this subject. But more than this: it was this self-same Irenaeus who opposed the Philonic doctrine of the Xyog, which other Church fathers, especially of the Alexandrian school, seemed so ready to accept, as Theophilus of Antiochia, and even Tertullian (comp. Ebrard, Kirchen- ut. Dognmengesch. 1, 116.
5. Redemption. — Of all the Church fathers, Irenaeus was the first who gave a careful analysis of the work of redemption, "and his view," says Dr. Schaff (Ch. Hist. 1, 297), "is by far the deepest and soundest we find in the first three centuries. Christ, he teaches, as the second Adam, repeated in himself the entire life of man, from birth to death and hades, from childhood to manhood, and, as it were, summed up that life and brought it under one head (this is the sense of his frequent expression, Ἀνακεφαλαιοῦν, ἀνακεφαλαίωσις, recapitulare, recapitulatio), with the double purpose of restoring humanity from its fall and carrying it to perfection. Redemption comprises the taking away of sin by the perfect obedience of Christ, the destruction of death by victory over the devil, and the communication of a new divine life to man. To accomplish this work, the Redeemer must unite in himself the divine and human natures; for only as God could he do what man could not, and only as man could he do, in a legitimate way, what man should. By the voluntary disobedience of Adam the devil gained a power over man, but in an unfair way, by fraud (dissuasio). By the voluntary obedience of Christ that power was wrested from him by lawful means (by suadela, persuasion, announcement of truth, not overreaching or deception). This took place first in the temptation, in which Christ renewed or recapitulated the struggle of Adam with Satan, but defeated the seducer, and thereby liberated man from his thraldom. But then the whole life of Christ was a continued victorious conflict with Satan, and a constant obedience to God. This obedience was completed in the suffering and death on the tree of the cross, and thus blotted out the disobedience which the first Adam had committed on the tree of knowledge. It is, however, only the negative side. To this is added the communication of a new divine principle of life, and the perfecting of the idea of humanity first effected by Christ." (See REDEMPTION); (See ORIGEN).
6. The Sacraments. — On this subject, perhaps more than upon on other on which Irenaeus has written, we meet with a vagueness of expression which hardly enables us definitely to determine what he actually believed. But even "Romanists tacitly admit that he says nothing of confirmation, ordination, marriage, or extreme unction favorable to the sacramental character which they assign to these rites. And this is a very strong negative testimony against the correctness of their opinions. If such an early writer as Irenaeus, in the course of a lengthened theological work, which naturally led him to the ordinances as well as doctrines of the Church, has not a word to say in regard to the above so-called sacraments, the inference is pretty clear that they were not recognized as such in his day… Massuet makes a very lame attempt to prove from the writings of Irenaeus that the sacrament of penance was practiced in the Church of his day. There can be no doubt that the passages to which he refers (1, 6, 3; 13, 5) prove that public confession of flagrant sins was common in the Church of the 2nd century. This was called exomologesis, and seems to have been indispensable for the removal of the censures of the Church. But there is nothing to indicate its sacramental character, and not a shadow of support can be derived from it for the popish practice of auricular confession" (Brit. and For. Evang. Rev. Jan. 1869, p. 18). (See CONFESSION).
Of Infant Baptism the first clear trace is found in the writings of our author, who thus writes of the sacrament of baptism (2, 22, 4): "Christ came to save all who are regenerated by him, infants and little children, and boys, and youths, and elders." He thus applies it to all ages, Christ having passed through all the stages of life for this purpose. Neander says of this passage (Hist. Christian Dogmas, 1, 230): "If by the phrase renasci in Denum (in the Latin transl.) baptism is intended, it contains a proof of infant baptism. Inifntes and parvuli are distinguished; the latter possess a developed consciousness, hence to them Christ is a pattern of piety, while to the infantes he merely gives an objective sanctification: we must therefore understand the latter to mean quite little children." But the statement of Irenaeus leads us to infer that he believed in the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which is strengthened by another passage (3, 17, 1): "And again giving to the disciples the power of regeneration unto God, he said to them, ‘ Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."' (Compare an article on this subject in the American Presbyterian Review, April, 1867, p. 239 sq.; Schaff, Church History, 1, 402.)
On the Lord's Supper, also, the indefinite statements of Irenseus have given rise to much dispute. Romanists stoutly affirm that he declares in favor of their doctrine of transubstantiation, and the real presence; but this arises from a variable reading of one passage, of which Neander says (p. 238), "According to one reading it is said, Verbuem quod offertur Deo, which must mean the Logos which is presented to God; therefore, the sacrifice would refer to the presentation of Christ himself. Yet we can hardly make up our minds to accept this as the opinion of Irenaeus, who always says that Christians must consecrate all to. God in Christ's name; for example, Ecclesia offert per Jesum Christum. We cannot doubt that the other reading is the correct one, Verbum per quod effertur Deo." Dr. Schaff also declines to give the Romanists a hearing on this point, and argues further, that Irenaeus "in another place (4:18 and passim) calls the bread and wine, after consecration, ‘ antitypes,' implying the continued distinction of their substance from the body and blood of Christ. This expression in itself, indeed, might be understood as merely contrasting here the Supper, as the substance, with the Old-Testament Passover, its type; as Peter calls baptism the antitype of the saving water of the flood (1 Peter 3:20-21). But the connection, and the usus loquendi of the earlier Greek fathers, require us to take the term antitype in the sense of type, or, more precisely, as the antithesis of archetype. The bread and wine represent and exhibit the body and blood of Christ as the archetype, and correspond to them as a copy to the original. In exactly the same sense it is said in Hebrews 9:24 (comp. 8:5), that the earthly sanctuary is the antitype, that is, the copy of the heavenly" (1, 387). We think Irenseus speaks more definitely of this ordinance in one of the Fragments (38, Massuet), from which it clearly follows that he by no means believed in the opus operatum of the Romanists. (Comp. Brit. and For. Evang. Review, Jan. 1869, p. 19, 20.)
7. The Church. — By the peculiar attitude in which Irenaeus placed himself when combating the Gnostic heresies, he became unconsciously one of the most elaborate writers on the early Church that now remains to us, and the utterances of no other of the early Church fathers have so frequently been misinterpreted to prop up the claims of Romanism as those of Irenaeus. It is beyond question that the Romanists, as well as High Church prelatists, however hesitatingly-, misconstrued the statements of Irenaeus in defense of the Church of Christ against Valentinus, Basilides, Marcion, and other schismatics, who in his time threatened the very life of the early Christian Church, as statements favoring the doctrine of apostolic succession (q.v.). Irenaeus, evidently in defense of his Church, and as an opponent of the heretics, presents a "historical chain of bishops." Says he (3, 3, 1), "We are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the churches, and the successors of these bishops to our own times." But, in naming the bishops in their historical order, he "never dreams of ascribing to them any sort of spiritual influence or authority which was propagated from one to another. To show that he could link historically Eleutherius, who was then head of the Church of Rome, with the apostles, who were supposed to have founded that Church, was the sole and simple object contemplated by our author in reference to the succession." In his arguments with the Valentinians, Marcionites, and others, he endeavors to prove, by constant appeals to the Scriptures, that their doctrines were not in harmony with the inspired writings. "Had he found ‘ the truth' among them, he would have had no occasion to treat of the succession at all, but would ac once have owned them as forming a part of the Catholic Church," which he defined, not as Romanists and High-Churchmen, to be only where the pope's supremacy is acknowledged, or the Episcopal Church doctrines are adhered to, but, he says, "Ubi ecclesia"-pitting the Church first, in the genuine catholic spirit (3, 24) — " ibi et Spiritus Dei; et ubi Spiritus Dei, illic ecclesia et omnis gratia," or, as Dr. Schaff says, Protestantism would put it conversely: "Where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church; and where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God and all grace."
8. The Millennium. — The peculiar millennial views of Irenaeus. which stamp him, by his close adherence to Papias, as a Chiliast, we hardly care to touch; they are certainly the weak spot in our author, and deserve to be passed not only without comment, but even unnoticed. They are brought out specially near the end of his great work (Matthew 5:32-36), declaring a future reign of the saints on earth; arguing that such promises of Scripture as those in Genesis 13:14; Matthew 26:27-29, etc., can have no other interpretation.
9. The Easter Controversy. — The personal character of Irenaeus, of which we have as yet said but little, in perhaps best illustrated by his conduct ‘ in the Easter controversy (q.v.). Determined to work for a union of all Christians (4, 33, 7), he displayed an irenical disposition in all disputes about unessential outward things, and more especially in his mediation between Victor, then bishop of Rome, and the Asiatic churches.
10. Testimony to the Scriptures. — The influence which Irenaeus exerted at this time, and in other controversies that preceded, adds additional interest to the writings of this Church father, and makes especially valuable any testimony that he may have left us on the authenticity of the sacred writings. A leading representative of the Asiatic Johannean school of the second half of the 2nd century, born ere the apostle John had departed this life, and consequently called by Eusebius "a disciple of the apostles," and by Jerome "the ‘ disciple of John the apostle," he bears us such direct testimony in behalf of the Gospels, or, as Eusebius terms them, the "Homologoumena," that it becomes to us of the very highest importance among the external proofs of their genuineness, more especially at the present moment, in face of the denials of this truth by Rationalists, and by those "who take up themes which lie outside of their chosen studies, or with which they are not profoundly conversant," among them figuring no less a personage than the distinguished English historian Froude (Short Essays on Great Subjects). Now what does Irenaeus say of the Gospels? "We have not received," he says, "the knowledge of the way of our salvation by any others than those by whom the Gospel has been brought to us; which Gospel they first preached, and afterwards by the will of God committed to writing, that it might be for time to come the foundation and pillar of the faith." Here follows a declaration that the first Gospel was written among the Jews by Matthew; the second by Mark, a companion of Peter; the third by Luke, a companion of Paul; and the fourth by John, of whom he says, "Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon his breast, he likewise published a gospel while he dwelt in Ephesus, in Asia." "Let us assume now that Irenaeus-between whom and the apostles there is only one intervening link-was an honest man and an intelligent man; in short, that he is a competent witness.
At the time when he knew Polycarp, were the four Gospels extant and acknowledged authorities in the Church? We will here confine the question to the Gospel of John (q.v.), which is now so much a topic of controversy. Was or was not this gospel received as the production of him whose name it bears by Polycarp and his contemporaries at the time to which Irenaeus, in his graphic reminiscence, refers? If it was thus received-received in the neighborhood of Ephesus, in the very region where John had lived to so advanced an age, and where his followers and acquaintances survived-it will be very difficult to disprove its genuineness. But if it was not thus received, when, we ask, can it be supposed to have first seen the light? Who contrived a book of which Polycarp had known nothing, and palmed it off on him and on the whole circle of Johannean disciples and churches in Asia? How is it that Irenaeus knows nothing of the late discovery or promulgation of so valuable a book? Why does he not mention the momentous fact-if, indeed, it be a fact that after. his interviews with Polycarp there was found somewhere, or put forth by somebody, this priceless treasure? It is obvious that Irenaeus would have had something to say of the extraordinary concealment and final appearance of this Gospel history had he remembered a time or known of a time since John's death when this Gospel had not been a familiar and prized possession of the Church. This testimony of Irenaeus is a tough piece of evidence. Here we have specific declarations as to what he had himself seen and heard. Yet the — attempt is made to disparage the value of this testimony on the ground of the following passage, which stands in connection with his statements about the composition of the several gospels: ‘ Nor can there be more or fewer gospels than these. For as there are four regions of the world in which we live, and four catholic spirits, and the Church is spread all over the earth, and the Gospel is the pillar and foundation of the Church, and the spirit of life, in like manner was it fit it should have four pillars, breathing on all sides incorruption and refreshing mankind.
Whence it is manifest that the Word, the former of all things, who sits upon the cherubim and upholds all things, having appeared to men, has given us a Gospel of a fourfold character, but joined in one spirit.' (Here follows a brief characterization of the several gospels in their relation to one another.) That this is a fanciful (if one will, a puerile) observation there is no reason to deny; but how it can in the least invalidate the credibility of the author's testimony on a matter of fact within his cognizance, it is impossible to see. If these analogies had exerted any influence in determining Irenaeus's acceptance of the four gospels of the canon, the case would be different. But Froude admits that such was not the fact. He accepts the Gospels on account of the historical proof of their genuineness, as he repeatedly affirms, and independently of these supposed analogies. It is the established and exclusive authority of the four gospels that sends him after these fancied analogies and accounts for the suggestion of them.
The suggestion of them, therefore, strengthens instead of weakens the evidence in behalf of the canonical evangelists, because it shows how firm and long- settled must have been the recognition of them in the Church. It is even a hasty inference from such a passage that the author was intellectually weak. If this inference is to be drawn from such an observation, the ablest of the fathers, as Augustine, must be equally condemned. Men who are not deficient in ability may say sometimes rather foolish things.... On the whole, Irenaeus is distinguished for the soundness and clearness of his understanding. (See Schaff in the first part of our article.) He is rather averse to speculation, being of a practical turn. There is hardly one of the early ecclesiastical writers who, in all the qualities that made up a trustworthy witness, is to be set before him.
There is no reason to doubt that, in his statements concerning the origin and authority of the Gospels, he represents the Christians of his time. It is not the sentiment of an individual merely, but the state of things, the general judgment of the Church, which he brings before us. No good reason can be given for this general, exclusive recognition of the Gospels now included in our canon, no even plausible solution of the fact can-be rendered, unless it be granted that they were really handed down from the days of the apostles, and were thus known to embody the testimony of eve-witnesses and ear-witnesses of the events which they record. Had Polycarp known nothing of John's Gospel or, knowing of it, had he rejected it-it is impossible that Irenaeus and his contemporaries should have been ignorant of the fact. It is proved by the most convincing array of circumstantial evidence that Polycarp, a personal acquaintance of John the Apostle, an honored bishop in the neighborhood where John had labored and died, considered the fourth gospel to be his composition" (Dr. G. P. Fisher, of Yale College, in the Independent, Feb. 4, 1869; comp. the reply to Dr. Davidson Introd. to the N.T. Lond. 1868, 2 vols. 8vo], in the Brit. and For. Ev. Rev. Jan. 1869, p. 4-8).
In a similar strain argues Mr.Westcott (History of the New Test. Canon): "In the same Church where Irenaeus was a presbyter — ‘ zealous for the covenant of Christ' — Photinus was bishop, already ninety years old. Like Polycarp, he was associated with the generation of St. John, and must have been born before the books of the N.T. were all written. And how, then, can it be supposed with reason that forgeries came into use in his time, which he must have been able to detect by his own knowledge that they were received without suspicion or reserve in the church over which he presided? It is possible to weaken the connection of facts by arbitrary hypotheses; but, interpreted according to their natural meaning, they tell of a Church united by its head with the times of St. John, to which the books of the N.T. furnished the unaffected language of hope, and resignation, and triumph. And the testimony of Irenaeus is the testimony of the Church." But not only to the authenticity of the Gospels does Irenaeus bear his testimony. He also furnishes conclusive evidence in support of other N.T. books which have been questioned (see Brit. and For. Ev. Rev. 1869, p. 7 sq.).
11. Canon of Scripture. — Not a little surprising, but agreeably so, it must be to the Christian of the present day to find that in the days of Irenaeus, even when the canon of Scripture could not be expected to have been so accurately defined as it afterwards was, we find, with the exception of the spurious additions to Daniel, found in the Septuagint, and the books of Baruch, quoted. under the name of Jeremiah, no writings of the O.T., acknowledged as forming part of the O.T. canon, which Protestants do not include in it at the present day. So likewise of the N.T., the only book not now accepted, but to which Irenaeus credited canonical authority, is the- "Shepherd of Hermas." Altogether, "with the most inconsiderable exceptions .... the canon of both the O. and N.T., then accepted by the Church, was coincident and conterminous with our own." But more then this, by the language which Irenaeus uses, we find the Church of his day harmonizing with and justifying that very highest claims that have ever been-advanced in support of the inspired authority and infallible accuracy of the canonical writings. The utterance which Irenaeus has made on this subject Romanists have-sought to turn to account in their assertions of the authority of tradition as co-ordinate with that of Scripture. But though, as was natural in such an early writer, Irenaeus often refers to the apostolic traditions preserved in the churches, he never ascribes to these an authority independent of Scripture.
12. Literature. — Heaven, Life of Irenaeus (Lond. 1841); Schaff, Irenaeus, in Der Deutsche Kirchenfreund, vol. 5 (Mercersb. 1852); Gervaise, La Vie de S. Irenee (Paris, 1723, 2 vols. 8vo); ‘ Stieren, art. "Irenaeus," in Ersch u. Gruber, Encyklop. vol. 2, sec. 22; Massuet, Dissertationes in Irenaei libros, prefixed to his edition of the Opera; Deyling, Irenceus, evangelice veritatis confessor ac testis (Lips. 1721), against Massuet; Ceillier, Hist. geesr. des Auteurs sacres et Ecclis. 1, 495 sq.; Fabricius, Bibl. Graec. 7, 75 sq.; Bohringer, Kirchengesch. in Biographien, vol. 1; Mohler, Patrologie, vol. 2; Ritter, Gesch. der Philos. 1, 345 sq.; Duncker, Des heil. Iren. Christol. 1. Zusam menhasngege 2. d. theol. und anthropol. Grundlehren dargestellt (1843, 8vo); Graul, D. christlich Kirche a. d. Schwelle d. Iren. Zeitalters (Lpz. 1860), a very valuable little work of 168 pages, in which "the position of Irenaeus is sketched with a bold and firm hand;" Schrö ckh, Kirchengeschichte, 3, 192 sq.; Schaff, Church History, vol. 1 (see Index); Neander, Church History, vol. 1 (see Index); Shedd, History of Doctrines (see Index); Harrison, Whose are the Fathers-? (see Index); Augusti, Dogmengesch. vol. 1 and 2; Baumgarten-Crusius, Dogmengesch. (see Index); Bullet. Theolog. 1869, Oct. 25, p. 319; Rev. de deux Mondes, 1865, February 15, art. 8; Christian Remembrancer, July, 1853, p. 226; Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie, 7:46 sq. (J. H. W.)
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Irenaeus'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/i/irenaeus.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Third Week after Epiphany