It has been a while since I posted since I wrote a response to reading a chapter from Early Christian Thinkers: The Lives and Legacies of Twelve Key Figures edited by Paul Foster. I wrote on Justin Martyr on January 5th (see here) and Tatian on January 6th (see here). I apologize for the delay!
In this book Denis Minns discusses Irenaeus of Lyons. I have like Irenaeus for a while now. I don’t know if it is because he is from Lyons which is in modern day France, the land of my ethnic heritage, his emphasis on the four-fold Gospel, his snappy wit when combating heretics, his pastoral care for a suffering church, or his wonderful, timely earth-honoring eschatology toward the end of Against Heresies. This chapter added to my respect for this great man.
Minns describes Irenaeus as a man likely from Asia Minor who spoke and wrote in Greek. He knew Polycarp and Polycarp has been connected to John the Elder (Apostle?) so there seems to be quite a heritage there (p. 37).
Most of Irenaeus’ surviving works combat forms of gnosticism, like the aforementioned Against Heresies. Minns explores how Irenaeus lumped several heretical groups together seeing them as sharing “the denial that the Creator is the God and Father of all.” This is the common mistake shared by everyone from Marcion to the Valentinians (pp. 38-39). Irenaeus fought the heretics with Scripture, but more so with the “rule of faith”. He understood his views to trace back to the apostles and he thought the heretics had no such claim (pp. 41-44). Remember, the canon wasn’t finalized in his day so the “canon of faith” were the passed along traditions of the church.
Irenaeus contributed to Christian Christology, Soteriology, Eschatology, and some may argue forms of proto-Trinitarianism. Minns notes that in recent years Irenaeus has been rediscovered. Some of his views weren’t popular for the church for many years, especially his eschatology, but this has changed as has his status (pp. 49-50).
Next chapter covers Theophilus of Antioch.
“his snappy wit”
We must be reading a different Ireneaus. I find him longwinded and boring. If I can’t sleep, its time to read some Ireneaus.
You can’t deny that the following mockery of gnosticism is quite witty:
There is a certain Proarche, royal, surpassing all though, a power existing before every other substance, and extended into space in every direction. But along with it there exists a power which I term a Gourd; and along with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-Emptiness. This Gourd and Emptiness, since they are one, produced (and yet did not simply produce, so as to be apart of themselves) a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a Melon. These Powers, the Gourd, Utter-Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth the remaining multitude of the delirious melons of Valentinus …. If any one may assign names at his pleasure, who shall prevent us from adopting these names, as being much more credible [than the others], as well as in general use, and understood by all?
Against All Heresies 1.11
A veritable salad of wit!
I myself have been wanting to read a good portion of Irenaeus’ works. But the introduction by Roberts-Donaldson gave me somewhat of a rude interuption. I read this introduction at EarlyChristianwritings.com. They basically said that Irenaeus’ texts, for the most part, is obscure, unclear and murky. I sounded like most of what we have of Irenaeus today , in his writings, had to be “redone” or “reinvented.” They said they had to alter the text to make it Irenaeus readable and comprehensible. Do any of you who are familiar with the writings of Irenaeus know if the English translation is trustworthy and worthwhile for reading? Is Iraenaeus’ writings (the translation into english) bascially a faithful and reliable (or acurate) translation of the actual texts of Irenaeus? Would someone be able to fill me in on this some? thank you.
Georgia , USA
Comments are closed.