Category Archives: Irenaeus

Good Stuff from St. Irenaeus on St. Paul (inspiration, rhetoric)

Irenaeus compiled a list of apostolic successi...
Irenaeus compiled a list of apostolic succession, including the immediate successors of Peter and Paul” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Holy cow. I love this sort of stuff.

St. Irenaeus is fighting off Marcion and attempting to explain some things about St. Paul’s writing. Here, he cites Galatians 3.19. The Iion from Lyons writes,

From many other instances also, we may discover that the apostle frequently uses a transposed order in his sentences, due to the rapidity of his discourses, and the impetus of the Spirit which is in him. An example occurs in the [Epistle] to the Galatians, where he expresses himself as follows: “Wherefore then the law of works? It was added, until the seed should come to whom the promise was made; [and it was] ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator.” For the order of the words runs thus: “Wherefore then the law of works? Ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator, it was added until the seed should come to whom the promise was made,”—man thus asking the question, and the Spirit making answer. (Adv. Haer. 3.7.2)

I see a few things:

  • St. Paul writes haphazardly “due to the rapidity of his discourses, and the impetus of the Spirit.”

Notice the collision of human and divine. After St. Irenaeus notes why St. Paul is writing in such a way — and why it is often confusing, the word order is messed up, etc… — he offers a correction. 

Second,

    • St. Irenaeus sees a dialogue in Galatians.

Some of us have noted that this seems to be St. Paul’s style in various other books, notably Romans. This would be a very small snippet of this, but St. Irenaeus noticed it and that is a big [Joe Biden] deal.

 

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.