Irenaeus on Theosis

Gary, one of the reasons I like Irenaeus is his position on the Creator and the Creature. There is no separation…

Icon of monks falling into the mouth of a drag...

Icon of monks falling into the mouth of a dragon representing hell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Irrational, therefore, in every respect, are they who await not the time of increase, but ascribe to God the infirmity of their nature. Such persons know neither God nor themselves, being insatiable and ungrateful, unwilling to be at the outset what they have also been created — men, and before that they become men, they wish to be even now like God their Creator, and they who are more destitute of reason than dumb animals [insist] that there is no distinction between the uncreated God and man, a creature of today.  For these, [the dumb animals], bring no charge against God for not having made them men; but each one, just as he has been created, gives thanks that he has been created. For we cast blame upon Him, because we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods; although God has adopted this course out of His pure benevolence, that no one may impute to Him invidiousness or grudgingness.  He declares, “I have said, Ye are gods; and ye are all sons of the Highest.” But since we could not sustain the power of divinity, He adds, “But ye shall die like men,” setting forth both truths – the kindness of His free gift, and our weakness, and also that we were possessed of power over ourselves. For after His great kindness He graciously conferred good [upon us], and made men like to Himself, [that is] in their own power; while at the same time by His prescience He knew the infirmity of human beings, and the consequences which would flow from it; but through [His] love and [His] power, He shall overcome the substance of created nature. For it was necessary, at first, that nature should be exhibited; then, after that, that what was mortal should be conquered and swallowed up by immortality, and the corruptible by incorruptibility, and that man should be made after the image and likeness of God, having received the knowledge of good and evil. (AH - 1.4.38.44)

via Theosis of the Early Church Fathers.

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Irenaeus and the Non-Violent Atonement

Since the apostasy tyrannized over us unjustly, and though we were by nature the property of the omnipotent God, alienated us contrary to nature, rendering us its own disciples, the Word of God, powerful in all things, and not defective with regard to His own justice, did righteously turn against the apostasy, and redeem from it His own property, not by violent means, (as the [apostasy] had obtained dominion over us at the beginning, when it insatiably snatched away what was not its own), but by means of persuasion, as became a God of counsel, who does not use violent means to obtain what He desires; so that neither should justice be infringed upon, nor the ancient handiwork of God go to destruction (Ag. Her. V.1.1, ANF I, p. 527, italics and parentheses added; cf. Rashdall, The Idea of Atonement, pp. 243ff.; D. Browning, Atonement and Psychotherapy).1

  1. As quoted in Thomas C. Oden, The Word of Life: Systematic Theology, Vol. II (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992), 397.

Irenaeus would have recognized Homeric tendencies in the Gospels

Irenaeus likened the ‘Gnostic’ use of Scripture to that of someone who takes Homeric verses and rearranges them to create a new poem on a totally different theme. This passage is strong evidence that Irenaeus was classically-educated — Homer was the backbone of ancient Greek education. Furthermore, in all likelihood, Irenaeus composed this little poem about Heracles himself. (Against Heresies, bk. 1 ch. 5–9)

via Irenaeus’ Homeric Poem | Read the Fathers.

So, Irenaeus was a classically trained author but could not recognize the supposed Homeric influences in Mark (and then Luke-Acts)? Come now…

Wonder if, in fact, there are no hidden Homeric hints in the Gospels…

Confirmation of Peter’s ἔξοδον, and Mark’s late date, in Irenaeus

I can’t find the Greek text, and I really don’t want to spend any more time on it, but this is what we hear Irenaeus say:

“And after their [Peter's and Paul's] departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also handed down to us in writing the things preached by Peter”

Several scholars suggest that the word here translated as departure, ἔξοδος, simple means that Peter and Paul left Rome, only to return later and die. By rights, they may be correct to some extent, unless we can supply a better lexicographical meeting. There is a canonical source which does provide us with some suggestion that Irenaeus meant death, and further, that this word is in fact a very Christian understanding of death.

I mean, sure, there is Luke 9.31,

οἳ ὀφθέντες ἐν δόξῃ ἔλεγον τὴν ἔξοδον αὐτοῦ, ἣν ἤμελλεν πληροῦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ.

But, that doesn’t really go well. Luke-Acts is connected to Exodus, and the use of the word here is only a hallmark of the author’s internal theology. We need something else… Something which connects Peter to this particular word and concept.

σπουδάσω δὲ καὶ ἑκάστοτε ἔχειν ὑμᾶς μετὰ τὴν ἐμὴν ἔξοδον τὴν τούτων μνήμην ποιεῖσθαι. (2Pe 1:15 BGT)

If you follow Bauckham, and to some extent Witherington, then 2nd Peter can be dated between 90 and 100 CE. If you follow some scholars, we can date it to 160. Origen has issues with it, but there is some hints at it in earlier (than 160) works. But, what comes first? If you are going to make a letter look authentic, you need to borrow from existing phrases. That argument is not to be balanced here.

On the other hand, regardless of the date, we can assume that one author is in the other author’s audience. 2 Peter used the word to signify death, or rather, the Christian notion of departing this world for the next.

Get my book sometime early next year. Boom. This is important.

Friday with the Fathers – Infant Baptism

I’ll give you two…

“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age” (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).

“Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).

Even Zwingli allowed infant baptism.

Grasping at Straws (Men) by using St. Irenaeus

Someone who seriously doesn’t know how to dialogue constructively notes what he believes is the absolute proof that Evolution simply is incompatible with Christian Doctrine. He quotes from the Bishop of Lyons, who by the way supported the primacy of Rome so maybe this person also supports the Primacy of Rome…

God stands in need of nothing, and that He created and made all things by His Word, while He neither required angels to assist Him in the production of those things which are made, nor of any power greatly inferior to Himself, and ignorant of the Father, nor of any defect or ignorance, in order that he who should know Him might become man. But He Himself in Himself, after a fashion which we can neither describe nor conceive, predestinating all things, formed them as He pleased, bestowing harmony on all things, and assigning them their own place, and the beginning of their creation. In this way He conferred on spiritual things a spiritual and invisible nature, on super-celestial things a celestial, on angels an angelical, on animals an animal, on beings that swim a nature suited to the water, and on those that live on the land one fitted for the land – on all, in short, a nature suitable to the character of the life assigned them – while He formed all things that were made by His Word that never wearies.

For this is a peculiarity of the pre-eminence of God, not to stand in need of other instruments for the creation of those things which are summoned into existence. His own Word is both suitable and sufficient for the formation of all things, even as John, the disciple of the Lord, declares regarding Him: “All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made.” Now, among the “all things” our world must be embraced. It too, therefore, was made by His Word, as Scripture tells us in the book of Genesis that He made all things connected with our world by His Word. David also expresses the same truth [when he says] “For He spake, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created.” Whom, therefore, shall we believe as to the creation of the world – these heretics who have been mentioned that prate so foolishly and inconsistently on the subject, or the disciples of the Lord, and Moses, who was both a faithful servant of God and a prophet? He at first narrated the formation of the world in these words: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and all other things in succession; but neither gods nor angels [had any share in the work].

Now, that this God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul the apostle also has declared, [saying,] “There is one God, the Father, who is above all, and through all things, and in us all.” I have indeed proved already that there is only one God; but I shall further demonstrate this from the apostles themselves, and from the discourses of the Lord. For what sort of conduct would it be, were we to forsake the utterances of the prophets, of the Lord, and of the apostles, that we might give heed to these persons, who speak not a word of sense? - Philip Schaff, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, electronic ed., 0 (Garland, TX: Galaxie Software, 2000).

He then writes,

Today, however, we find that people are trying to present the Genesis account of creation as simply a different form of Ancient Near Eastern myth. They tell us that there is actually no historical narrative in Genesis chapters one through three, but that it is theological, polemical, myth that shows that YHWH is the one true God. They tell us that modern evolutionary science has forced us to reexamine the Genesis creation account and , that Genesis is another ANE myth that does not contradict the theory of evolution. In so doing, they present to us God creating through evolution’s natural selection, or through powers that are greatly inferior to Himself, ignorant of Him, as well as defective and ignorant.

Yes, yes.. those poor people who believe that the authors who wrote the first words actually knew what they were talking about and what they were doing… yeah, those poor people are just wrong. I mean, sure, we have tons of scholarship to support the fact that the Hebrew authors used ANE myths to promulgate their only identity-creating polemic, which by the way, to say scholars suggest that the authors were simply using “a different form” is just stupid and wrong, but hey, why not let a bunch of white guys in the 20th and 21st century dictate what the Text must mean. Further, his notion of trying, desperately to connect theistic evolution to what Irenaeus was talking about not only follows the usual YEC motif of completely obliterating the context of the author but shows his own ineptness at Church History. And, no, I don’t have the time to list all the other assumptions he made what are essentially lies.

But, he doesn’t stop there at completely twisting Irenaeus’ words, context, Evolutionary Science, and actual scholarship… he goes on…

if it was formed such as it really is, then He made it such who had mentally conceived of it as such; or He willed it to exist in the ideality of the Father, according to the conception of His mind, such as it now is, compound, mutable, and transient. Since, then, it is just such as the Father had [ideally] formed in counsel with Himself, it must be worthy of the Father. But to affirm that what was mentally conceived and pre-created by the Father of all, just as it has been actually formed, is the fruit of defect, and the production of ignorance, is to be guilty of great blasphemy. For, according to them, the Father of all will thus be [regarded as] generating in His breast, according to His own mental conception, the emanations of defect and the fruits of ignorance, since the things which He had conceived in His mind have actually been produced. - Philip Schaff, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, electronic ed., 0 (Garland, TX: Galaxie Software, 2000).

He concludes that Irenaeus is calling everyone else by Young Earth Creationists blasphemers.. and suggests that we do the same.

Well, silly me, but I thought that context matters. And words. Words matter. Like English words. Or words of authors. Irenaeus is not speaking about theistic evolutionary theory but about Gnosticism and their aeons and other spheres of emanations. This is where a real good study gnosticism would come into play here, to know that the words Irenaeus is using are done in such a way as to refute Gnostic accounts about the creation of the World.

What a shame that someone would stoop so low as to grasp at this straw in a day and age where we have the ability to actually examine the text ourselves. Read Irenaeus in 150-190 and not in 2012. Duh.

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Christus Victor

The famous Greek word logos — “word, speech, a...

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Irenaeus was a smart man,

“As a man caused the fall, so a man must cause the restoration. He must be a man able to sum up (recapitulare) all the human species in Himself, so as to bear the punishment of all, and to render an obedience that will compensate for their  innumerable acts of disobedience.”

And the summantion,

“Irenaeus’s doctrine of recapitulation can be read as the most profound theological vindication in the second and third centuries of the universal Christian ideal of the imitation of Christ.  For Irenaeus, the imitation of Christ by the Christian was part of God’s cosmic plan for salvation which began with Christ’s imitation of Adam. The Logos assimilated himself to man and man t0 himself in his life and passion. After his incarnation he passed through every stage of human growth, hallowing each and redeeming each by “being made for them an example of piety, righteousness and submission.” The disobedience of the first Adam was undone through the complete obedience of the second Adam, so that many should be justified and attain salvation” ( p.145) – Jaroslav Pelikan in the Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) writes:

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The Paschal Feast – Are we to follow the Apostles?

The Lord’s Passover approaches. It is a time for Christians to joyously celebrated that single moment in all of history which changed humanity’s fate. It is also one to reflect on the ancient traditions of the Church. We are connected to the Apostles not merely by the name that we wear, and the doctrine that we teach, but also by the Traditions that we share.

One of the earliest disputes in the Church revolved around the date on which to celebrate the Paschal Feast. The congregations of Asia Minor celebrated on the date, Nisan 14th, while more Western Churches celebrated it on the day of the week. Both are literal, and both are valid (although the latter was set by Rome and forced upon the entire Church by the pagan Emperor Constantine), but to which did the Apostles more likely hold to?

Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna was a disciple of the Apostle John and had spoken with many who had seen Christ. He was in direct line to the Apostles, what we would call apostolic succession.

From here:

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom,departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time,—a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles,—that, namely, which is handed down by the Church. There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.” Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; as Paul also says, “A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth. Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles.

Polycarp was a direct disciple to the Apostle John. He learned his traditions of the aged Apostle and celebrated the Lord’s Passover on Nisan 14th. Below is the account of Polycrate’s discussion with the Bishop of Rome, Victor, concerning Victor’s attempted excommunication of those congregations celebrating the date of Nisan 14th. Polycrates and Irenaeus both condemned Victor’s assumption of power and the attempt to divide the Church.

Note, that Polycrates lists two Apostles, Philip and John, who had celebrated the Paschal Feast on Nisan 14th. From here:

But the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down to him:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate.

He fell asleep at Ephesus.

And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna.

Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead?

All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven.

I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ‘We ought to obey God rather than man.’

Polycrates is adamant that the tradition of the churches in Asia, Paul’s churches, observed by the ordinance of God, Nisan 14th. It was not merely him, but at least two Apostles, their disciples and the family of Bishops that Polycrates belonged to.

He then writes of all the bishops who were present with him and thought as he did. His words are as follows:

I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus.

Thereupon Victor, who presided over the church at Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia, with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox; and he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommunicate.

But this did not please all the bishops. And they besought him to consider the things of peace, and of neighborly unity and love. Words of theirs are extant, sharply rebuking Victor.

So enters Irenaeus who seemed to agree with Victor on the day of the celebration, but saw no need to separate and divide the Church over it.

Among them was Irenæus, who, sending letters in the name of the brethren in Gaul over whom he presided, maintained that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be observed only on the Lord’s day. He fittingly admonishes Victor that he should not cut off whole churches of God which observed the tradition of an ancient custom and after many other words he proceeds as follows:

For the controversy is not only concerning the day, but also concerning the very manner of the fast. For some think that they should fast one day, others two, yet others more; some, moreover, count their day as consisting of forty hours day and night.

And this variety in its observance has not originated in our time; but long before in that of our ancestors. It is likely that they did not hold to strict accuracy, and thus formed a custom for their posterity according to their own simplicity and peculiar mode. Yet all of these lived none the less in peace, and we also live in peace with one another; and the disagreement in regard to thefast confirms the agreement in the faith.

Irenaeus allows for plurality because the tradition was not strict.

He adds to this the following account, which I may properly insert:

Among these were the presbyters before Soter, who presided over the church which you now rule. We mean Anicetus, and Pius, and Hyginus, and Telesphorus, and Xystus. They neither observed it themselves, nor did they permit those after them to do so. And yet though not observing it, they were none the less at peace with those who came to them from the parishes in which it was observed; although this observance was more opposed to those who did not observe it.

But none were ever cast out on account of this form; but the presbyters before you who did not observe it, sent the eucharist to those of other parishes who observed it.

And when the blessed Polycarp was at Rome in the time of Anicetus, and they disagreed a little about certain other things, they immediately made peace with one another, not caring to quarrel over this matter. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles with whom he had associated; neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it as he said that he ought to follow the customs of the presbyters that had preceded him.

But though matters were in this shape, they communed together, and Anicetus conceded the administration of the eucharist in the church to Polycarp, manifestly as a mark of respect. And they parted from each other in peace, both those who observed, and those who did not, maintaining the peace of the whole church.

Thus Irenæus, who truly was well named, became a peacemaker in this matter, exhorting and negotiating in this way in behalf of the peace of the churches. And he conferred by letter about this mooted question, not only with Victor, but also with most of the other rulers of the churches

Irenaeus on the Pedagogue of the Law

But as many as feared God, and were anxious about His law, these ran to Christ, and were all saved. For He said to His disciples: “Go ye to the sheep of the house of Israel, which have perished.” And many more Samaritans, it is said, when the Lord had tarried among them, two days, “believed because of His words, and said to the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we ourselves have heard [Him], and know that this man is truly the Saviour of the world.” And Paul likewise declares, “And so all Israel shall be saved;” but he has also said, that the law was our pedagogue [to bring us] to Christ Jesus. Let them not therefore ascribe to the law the unbelief of certain [among them]. For the law never hindered them from believing in the Son of God; nay, but it even exhorted them so to do, saying that men can be saved in no other way from the old wound of the serpent than by believing in Him who, in the likeness of sinful flesh, is lifted up from the earth upon the tree of martyrdom, and draws all things to Himself, and brings to life the dead. – Against Heresies 4.8