Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter VIII
Chapter VIII.—The Statements of Irenæus in regard to the Divine Scriptures.
1. Since, in the beginning of this work, 1466 we promised to give, when needful, the words of the ancient presbyters and writers of the Church, in which they have declared those traditions which came down to them concerning the canonical books, and since Irenæus was one of them, we will now give his words and, first, what he says of the sacred Gospels: 1467
2. “Matthew published his Gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, 1468 while Peter and Paul were preaching and founding the church in Rome. 1469
3. After their departure Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing those things which Peter had preached; 1470 and Luke, the attendant of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel which Paul had declared. 1471
4. Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, who also reclined on his bosom, published his Gospel, while staying at Ephesus in Asia.” 1472
5. He states these things in the third book of his above-mentioned work. In the fifth book he speaks as follows concerning the Apocalypse of John, and the number of the name of Antichrist: 1473
“As these things are so, and this number is found in all the approved and ancient copies, 1474 and those who saw John face to face confirm it, and reason teaches us that the number of the name of the beast, according to the mode of calculation among the Greeks, appears in its letters.…” 1475
6. And farther on he says concerning the same: 1476
“We are not bold enough to speak confidently of the name of Antichrist. For if it were necessary that his name should be declared clearly at the present time, it would have been announced by him who saw the revelation. For it was seen, not long ago, but almost in our generation, toward the end of the reign of Domitian.” 1477
7. He states these things concerning the Apocalypse 1478 in the work referred to. He also mentions the first Epistle of John, 1479 taking p. 223 many proofs from it, and likewise the first Epistle of Peter. 1480 And he not only knows, but also receives, The Shepherd, 1481 writing as follows: 1482
“Well did the Scripture 1483 speak, saying, 1484 First of all believe that God is one, who has created and completed all things,” &c.
8. And he uses almost the precise words of the Wisdom of Solomon, saying: 1485 “The vision of God produces immortality, but immortality renders us near to God.” He mentions also the memoirs 1486 of a certain apostolic presbyter, 1487 whose name he passes by in silence, and gives his expositions of the sacred Scriptures.
9. And he refers to Justin the Martyr, 1488 and to Ignatius, 1489 using testimonies also from their writings. Moreover, he promises to refute Marcion from his own writings, in a special work. 1490
10. Concerning the translation of the inspired 1491 Scriptures by the Seventy, hear the very words which he writes: 1492
“God in truth became man, and the Lord himself saved us, giving the sign of the virgin; but not as some say, who now venture to translate the Scripture, Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bring forth a son, 1493 as Theodotion of Ephesus and Aquila of Pontus, 1494 both of them Jewish proselytes, interpreted; following whom, the Ebionites say 1495 that he was begotten by Joseph.”
11. Shortly after he adds:
“For before the Romans had established their empire, while the Macedonians were still holding Asia, Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, 1496 being desirous of adorning the library which he had founded in Alexandria with the meritorious writings of all men, requested the people of Jerusalem to have their Scriptures translated into the Greek language.
12. But, as they were then subject to the Macedonians, they sent to Ptolemy seventy elders, who were the most skilled among them in the Scriptures and in both languages. Thus God accomplished his purpose. 1497
13. But wishing to try them individp. 224 ually, as he feared lest, by taking counsel together, they might conceal the truth of the Scriptures by their interpretation, he separated them from one another, and commanded all of them to write the same translation. 1498 He did this for all the books.
14. But when they came together in the presence of Ptolemy, and compared their several translations, God was glorified, and the Scriptures were recognized as truly divine. For all of them had rendered the same things in the same words and with the same names from beginning to end, so that the heathen perceived that the Scriptures had been translated by the inspiration 1499 of God.
15. And this was nothing wonderful for God to do, who, in the captivity of the people under Nebuchadnezzar, when the Scriptures had been destroyed, and the Jews had returned to their own country after seventy years, afterwards, in the time of Artaxerxes, king of the Persians, inspired Ezra the priest, of the tribe of Levi, to relate all the words of the former prophets, and to restore to the people the legislation of Moses.” 1500
Such are the words of Irenæus.
Eusebius is apparently thinking of the preface to his work contained in Bk. I. chap. 1, but there he makes no such promise as he refers to here. He speaks only of his general purpose to mention those men who preached the divine word either orally or in writing. In Bk. III. chap. 3, however, he distinctly promises to do what he here speaks of doing, and perhaps remembered only that he had made such a promise without recalling where he had made it.222:1467
Adv. Hær. III. 1. 1.222:1468
See above, Bk. III. chap. 24, note 5. Irenæus, in this chapter traces the four Gospels back to the apostles themselves, but he is unable to say that Matthew translated his Gospel into Greek, which is of course bad for his theory, as the Matthew Gospel which the Church of his time had was in Greek, not in Hebrew. He puts the Hebrew Gospel, however, upon a par with the three Greek ones, and thus, although he does not say it directly, endeavors to convey the impression that the apostolicity of the Hebrew Matthew is a guarantee for the Greek Matthew also. Of Papias statement, “Each one translated the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew as he was able,” he could of course make no use even if he was acquainted with it. Whether his account was dependent upon Papias or not we cannot tell.222:1469
See above, Bk. II. chap. 25, note 17.222:1470
See above, Bk. II. chap. 15, note 4.222:1471
See above, Bk. III. chap. 4, note 15.222:1472
See above, Bk. III. chap. 24, note 1.222:1473
Irenæus, Adv. Hær. V. 30. 1.222:1474
Rev. xiii. 18. Already in Irenæus time there was a variation in the copies of the Apocalypse. This is interesting as showing the existence of old copies of the Apocalypse even in his time, and also as showing how early works became corrupted in the course of transmission. We learn from his words, too, that textual criticism had already begun.222:1475
The sentence as Eusebius quotes it here is incomplete; he repeats only so much of it as suits his purpose. Irenæus completes his sentence, after a few more dependent clauses, by saying, “I do not know how it is that some have erred, following the ordinary mode of speech, and have vitiated the middle number in the name,” &c. This shows that even in Irenæus time there was as much controversy about the interpretation of the Apocalypse as there has always been, and that at that day exegetes were as a rule in no better position than we are. Irenæus refers in this sentence to the fact that the Greek numerals were indicated by the letters of the alphabet: Alpha, “one,” Beta, “two,” &c.222:1476
i.e. concerning the Beast or Antichrist. Irenæus, Adv. Hær. V. 30. 3; quoted also in Bk. III. chap. 18, above.222:1477
See above, Bk. III. chap. 18, note 1.222:1478
Upon the Apocalypse, see Bk. III. chap. 24, note 20.222:1479
In Adv. Hær. III. 16. 5, 8. Irenæus also quotes from the second Epistle of John, without distinguishing it from the first, in III. 16. 8, and I. 16. 3. Upon Johns epistles, see Bk. III. chap. 24, notes 18 and 19.223:1480
In Adv. Hær. IV. 9. 2. In IV. 16. 5 and V. 7. 2 he quotes from the first Epistle of Peter, with the formula “Peter says.” He is the first one to connect the epistle with Peter. See above, Bk. III. chap. 3, note 1.223:1481
i.e. the Shepherd of Hermas; see above, Bk. III. chap. 3, note 23.223:1482
Adv. Hær. IV. 20. 2.223:1483
ἡ γραφή, the regular word used in quoting Scripture. Many of the Fathers of the second and third centuries used this word in referring to Clement, Hermas, Barnabas, and other works of the kind (compare especially Clement of Alexandrias use of the word).223:1484
The Shepherd of Hermas, II. 1.223:1485
Adv. Hær. IV. 38. 3. Irenæus in this passage quotes freely from the apocryphal Book of Wisdom, VI. 19, without mentioning the source of his quotation, and indeed without in any way indicating the fact that he is quoting.223:1486
ἀπομνημονευμ€των. Written memoirs are hardly referred to here, but rather oral comments, expositions, or accounts of the interpretations of the apostles and others of the first generation of Christians.223:1487
Adv. Hær. IV. 27. 1, where Irenæus mentions a “certain presbyter who had heard it from those who had seen the apostles,” &c. Who this presbyter was cannot be determined. Polycarp, Papias, and others have been suggested, but we have no grounds upon which to base a decision, though we may perhaps safely conclude that so prominent a man as Polycarp would hardly have been referred to in such an indefinite way; and Papias seems ruled out by the fact that the presbyter is here not made a hearer of the apostles themselves, while in V. 33. 4 Papias is expressly stated to have been a hearer of John,—undoubtedly in Irenæus mind the evangelist John (see above, Bk. III. chap. 39, note 4). Other anonymous authorities under the titles, “One superior to us,” “One before us,” &c., are quoted by Irenæus in Præf. §2, I. 13. 3, III. 17. 4, etc. See Routh, Rel. Sacræ, I. 45–68.223:1488
In Adv. Hær. IV. 6. 2, where he mentions Justin Martyr and quotes from his work Against Marcion (see Eusebius, Bk. IV. chap. 18), and also in Adv. Hær. V. 26. 2, where he mentions him again by name and quotes from some unknown work (but see above, ibid. note 15).223:1489
Irenæus nowhere mentions Ignatius by name, but in V. 28. 4 he quotes from his epistle to the Romans, chap. 4, under the formula, “A certain one of our people said, when he was condemned to the wild beasts.” It is interesting to note how diligently Eusebius had read the works of Irenæus, and extracted from them all that could contribute to his History.
Upon Ignatius, see above, III. 36.223:1490
Adv. Hær. I. 27. 4, III. 12. 12. This promise was apparently never fulfilled, as we hear nothing of the work from any of Irenæus successors. But in Bk. IV. chap. 25 Eusebius speaks of Irenæus as one of those who had written against Marcion, whether in this referring to his special work promised here, or only to his general work Adv. Hær., we cannot tell.223:1491
Adv. Hær. III. 21. 1.223:1493
Isa. vii. 14. The original Hebrew has עַלְמָה, which means simply a “young woman,” not distinctively a “virgin.” The LXX, followed by Matt. i. 23, wrongly translated by παρθένος, “virgin” (cf. Toys Quotations in the New Testament, p. 1 sqq., and the various commentaries on Matthew). Theodotion and Aquila translated the Hebrew word by νεᾶνις, which is the correct rendering, in spite of what Irenæus says. The complete dependence of the Fathers upon the LXX, and their consequent errors as to the meaning of the original, are well illustrated in this case (cf. also Justins Dial. chap. 71).223:1494
This is the earliest direct reference to the translations of Aquila and Theodotion, though Hermas used the version of the latter, as pointed out by Hort (see above, Bk. III. chap. 3, note 23). Upon the two versions, see Bk. VI. chap. 16, notes 3 and 5.223:1495
Upon the Ebionites and their doctrines, see Bk. III. chap. 27.223:1496
Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, or Ptolemy Soter (the Preserver), was king of Egypt from 323–285 (283) b.c.
The following story in regard to the origin of the LXX is first told in a spurious letter (probably dating from the first century b.c.), which professes to have been written by Aristeas, a high officer at the court of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285 -247 b.c.). This epistle puts the origin of the LXX in the reign of the latter monarch instead of in that of his father, Ptolemy Soter, and is followed in this by Philo, Josephus, Tertullian, and most of the other ancient writers (Justin Martyr calls the king simply Ptolemy, while Clement of Alex. says that some connect the event with the one monarch, others with the other). The account given in the letter (which is printed by Gallandius, Bibl. Patr. II. 771, as well as in many other editions) is repeated over and over again, with greater or less variations, by early Jewish and Christian writers (e.g. by Philo, Vit. Mos. 2; by Josephus, Ant. XII. 2; by Justin Martyr, Apol. I. 31; by Clement of Alexandria, Strom. I. 22; by Tertullian, Apol. 18, and others; see the article Aristeas in Smiths Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog.). It gives the number of the elders as seventy-two,—six from each tribe. That this marvelous tale is a fiction is clear enough, but whether it is based upon a groundwork of fact is disputed (see Schürer, Gesch. der Juden im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, II. p. 697 sqq.). It is at any rate certain that the Pentateuch (the original account applies only to the Pentateuch, but later it was extended to the entire Old Testament) was translated into Greek in Alexandria as early as the third century b.c.; whether under Ptolemy Philadelphus, and at his desire, we cannot tell. The translation of the remainder of the Old Testament followed during the second century b.c., the books being translated at various times by unknown authors, but all or most of them probably in Egypt (see Schürer, ibid.). It was, of course, to the interest of the Christians to maintain the miraculous origin of the LXX, for otherwise they would have to yield to the attacks of the Jews, who often taunted them with having only a translation of the Scriptures. Accepting the miraculous origin of the LXX, the Christians, on the other hand, could accuse the Jews of falsifying their Hebrew copies wherever they differed from the LXX, making the latter the only authoritative standard (cf. Justin Martyrs Dial. chap. 71, and many other passages in the work). Upon the attitude of the Christians, and the earlier and later attitude of the Jews toward the LXX, see below, Bk. VI. chap. 16, note 8.223:1497
ποιήσαντος τοῦ θεοῦ ὅπερ ἡβούλετο. This is quite different from the text of Irenæus, which reads facturos hoc quod ipse voluisset (implying that the original Greek was ποιήσοντας τοῦτο ὅπερ ἠβούλετο), “to carry out what he [viz. Ptolemy] had desired.” Heinichen modifies the text of Eusebius somewhat, substituting ποιήσοντας τὰ for ποιήσαντος τοῦ, but there can be little doubt that Eusebius originally wrote the sentence in the form given at the beginning of this note. That Irenæus wrote it in that form, however, is uncertain, though, in view of the fact that Clement of Alex. (Strom. I. 22) confirms the reading of Eusebius (reading θεοῦ γὰρ ἦν βούλημα), I am inclined to think that the text of Eusebius represents the original more closely than the text of the Latin translation of Irenæus does. Most of the editors, however, both of Eusebius and of Irenæus, take the other view (cf. Harveys note in his edition of Irenæus, Vol. II. p. 113).224:1498
τὴν αὐτὴν ἑρμήνειαν γρ€φειν, as the majority of the mss., followed by Burton and most other editors, read. Stroth Zimmermann, and Heinichen, on the authority of Rufinus and of the Latin version of Irenæus, read, τὴν αὐτὴν ἑρμηνεύειν γραφήν.224:1499
This tradition, which was commonly accepted until the time of the Reformation, dates from the first Christian century, for it is found in the fourth book of Ezra (xiv. 44): It is there said that Ezra was inspired to dictate to five men, during forty days, ninety-four books, of which twenty-four (the canonical books) were to be published. The tradition is repeated quite frequently by the Fathers, but that Ezra formed the Old Testament canon is impossible, for some of the books were not written until after his day. The truth is, it was a gradual growth and was not completed until the second century b.c. See above, Bk. III. chap. 10, note 1.
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