See also:bishop of
See also:Lyons at the end of the 2nd century, was one of the most distinguished theologians of the ante-Nicene
See also:Church . Very little is known of his early
See also:history . His childhood was spent in
See also:Asia Minor, probably at or near
See also:Smyrna; for he himself tells us (Adv. haer. iii . 3, 4, and Euseb . Hist . Eccl. v . 20) that as a
See also:child he heard the preaching of Poly-
See also:carp, the aged bishop of Smyrna (d .
See also:February 22, 156) . But we do not know when this was . He can hardly have been
See also:born very long after 130, for later on he frequently mentions having met certain Christian presbyters who had actually seen
See also:John, the
See also:disciple of our
See also:Lord . The circumstances under which he came into the West are also unknown to us; the only thing which is certain is that at the
See also:time of the persecution of the Gallic Church under
See also:Marcus Aurelius (177) he was a presbyter of the church at Lyons . In 177 or 178 he went to Rome on a
See also:mission from this church, to make representations to Bishop
See also:Eleutherius in favour of a more lenient treatment of the Montanists (see
See also:MONTANISM.; Eus. v .
4 . 2) . On his return he was called upon to undertake the direction of the church at Lyons in theplace of Bishop Pothinus, who had perished in the persecution (Eus. v . 5 . 8) . As bishop he carried on a
See also:great and fruitful
See also:work . Though the statement of
See also:Gregory of
See also:Tours (Hist .
See also:Franc. i . 29), that within a
See also:short time he succeeded in converting all Lyons to
See also:Christianity, is probably exaggerated, from him at any
See also:dates the wide spread of Christianity in Lyons and its neighbourhood . He devoted particular
See also:attention to trying to reconcile the numerous sects which menaced the existence of the church (see below) . In the dispute on the question of
See also:Easter, which for a long time disturbed the Christian Church both in West and East, he endeavoured by means of many letters to effect a compromise, and in particular to exercise a moderating influence on Victor, the bishop of Rome, and his unyielding attitude towards the dissentient churches of Africa, thus justifying his name of " peace-maker " (Eirenaios) (Eus . H.E. v .
24 . 28) . The date of his
See also:death is unknown . His martyrdom under Septimius Severus is related by Gregory of Tours, but by no earlier writer . The chief work of Irenaeus, written about 18o, is his " Refutation and Overthrow of Gnosis, falsely so called " (usually indicated by the name Against the Heresies) . Of the Greek
See also:original of this work only fragments survive; it only exists in full in an old Latin
See also:translation, the slavish fidelity of which to a certain extent makes up for the loss of the original text . The
See also:treatise is divided into five books: of these the first two contain a minute and well-informed description and
See also:criticism of the tenets of various heretical sects, especially the Valentinians; the other three set forth the true doctrines of Christianity, and it is from them that we find out the theological opinions of the author . Irenaeus admits himself that he is not a
See also:good writer . And indeed, as he worked, his materials assumed such unmanageable proportions that he could not succeed in throwingthem into a satisfactory
See also:form . But however clumsily he may have handled his material, he has produced a work which is even nowadays rightly valued as the first systematic exposition of Catholic belief . The foundation upon which Irenaeus bases his
See also:system consists in the episcopate, the
See also:canon of the Old and New Testaments, and the
See also:rule of faith . With their assistance he sets forth and upholds, in opposition to the gnostic dualism, i.e. the severing of the natural and the supernatural, the Catholic
See also:monism, i.e. the unity of the
See also:life of faith as willed by
See also:God .
See also:grace of truth " ( the charisma), which the apostles had called down upon their first disciples by prayer and laying-on of hands, and which was to be imparted anew by way of succession (&aboxii, successio) to the bishops from generation to generation without a break, makes those who receive it living witnesses of the salvation offered to the faithful by written and spoken tradition . The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, rightly expounded by the church alone, give us an insight into God's plan of salvation for mankind, and explain to us the
See also:covenant which He made on various occasions (Moses and Christ; or Noah, Abraham, Moses and Christ) . Finally, the " rule of faith " (
See also:regula fidei), received at
See also:baptism, contains in itself all the riches of Christian truth . To distribute these, i.e. to elucidate the rule of faith as set forth in the creed, and further to point out its agreement with the Scriptures, is the
See also:object of Irenaeus as a theologian . Hence he
See also:lays the greatest stress on the conception of God's disposition of salvation towards mankind (oeconomia), the object of which is that mankind, who in
See also:Adam were sunk in sin and death; should in Christ, comprised as it were in his
See also:person, be brought back to life . God, as the
See also:head of the
See also:family, so to speak, disposes of all . The Son, the Word (
See also:Logos) for ever dwelling with the
See also:Father, carries out His behests . The
See also:Holy Ghost (Pneuma), however, as the Spirit of wisdom for ever dwelling with the Father, controls what the Father has appointed and the Son fulfilled, and this Spirit lives in the church . The
See also:climax of the divine plan of salvation is found in the incarnation of the Word . God was to become man, and in Christ he became man . Christ must be God; for if not, the devil would have had a natural claim on him, and he would have been no more exempt from death than the other
See also:children of Adam; he must be man, if his
See also:blood were indeed to redeem us . On God incarnate the power of the devil is broken, and in Him is accomplished the reconciliation between God and man, who henceforth pursues his true object, namely, to become like unto God .
In the God-man God has
See also:drawn men up to Himself . Into
See also:theft human, fleshly and perishable nature imperishable life is thereby engrafted; it has become deified, and death has been changed into immortality . In the
See also:sacrament of the Lord's Supper it is the heavenly
See also:body of the God-man which is actually partaken of in the elements . This exposition by Irenaeus of the divine
See also:economy and the incarnation was taken as a criterion by later theologians, especially in the Greek Church (cf .
See also:Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Alexandria, John of
See also:Damascus) . He himself was especially influenced by St John and St Paul . Before him the
See also:Gospel did not seem to exist for the Church; Irenaeus made it a living force . His conception of the Logos is not that of the philosophers and apologists; he looks upon the Logos not as the " reason " of God, but as the "
See also:voice " with which the Father speaks in the
See also:revelation to mankind, as did the writer of the Fourth Gospel . And the Pauline epistles are adopted almost bodily by Irenaeus, according to the ideas contained in them; his expositions often
See also:present the appearance of a patchwork of St Paul's ideas . Certainly, it is only one side of Paul's thought that he displays to us . The great conceptions of
See also:justification and
See also:atonement are hardly ever touched by Irenaeus . In Irenaeus is no longer heard the
See also:Jew, striving about and against the
See also:law, who has had to break
See also:free from his early tradition of Pharisaism .
See also:recent times whatever other writings and letters of Irenaeus are mentioned by
See also:Eusebius appeared to be lost, with the exception of a fragment here or there . Recently, however, two Armenian scholars, Rarapet Ter-Mekerttschian and Erwand Ter-Minassianz, have published from an Armenian translation a German edition (
See also:Leipzig, 1907; minor edition 1908) of the work "in
See also:proof of the apostolic teaching" mentioned by Eusebius (Ii E. v . 26) . This work, which is in the form of a
See also:dialogue with one
See also:Marcianus, otherwise unknown to us, contains a statement of the fundamental truths of Christianity . It is the
See also:oldest catechism extant, and an excellent example of how Bishop Irenaeus was able not only to defend Christianity as a theologian and expound it theoretically, but also to preach it to
See also:lay-men .
WILLIAM HENRY IRELAND (1777-1835)
There are no comments yet for this article.
Do not copy, download, transfer, or otherwise replicate the site content in whole or in part.
Links to articles and home page are encouraged.