Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
IRENÆUS: Chapter XXV.—Both covenants were...
Chapter XXV.—Both covenants were prefigured in Abraham, and in the labour of Tamar; there was, however, but one and the same God to each covenant.
1. For thus it had behoved the sons of Abraham [to be], whom God has raised up to him from the stones, 4141 and caused to take a place beside him who was made the chief and the forerunner of our faith (who did also receive the covenant of circumcision, after that justification by faith which had pertained to him, when he was yet in uncircumcision, so that in him both covenants might be prefigured, that he might be p. 496 the father of all who follow the Word of God, and who sustain a life of pilgrimage in this world, that is, of those who from among the circumcision and of those from among the uncircumcision are faithful, even as also “Christ 4142 is the chief corner-stone” sustaining all things); and He gathered into the one faith of Abraham those who, from either covenant, are eligible for Gods building. But this faith which is in uncircumcision, as connecting the end with the beginning, has been made [both] the first and the last. For, as I have shown, it existed in Abraham antecedently to circumcision, as it also did in the rest of the righteous who pleased God: and in these last times, it again sprang up among mankind through the coming of the Lord. But circumcision and the law of works occupied the intervening period. 4143
2. This fact is indeed set forth by many other [occurrences], but typically by [the history of] Thamar, Judahs daughter-in-law. 4144 For when she had conceived twins, one of them put forth his hand first; and as the midwife supposed that he was the first-born, she bound a scarlet token on his hand. But after this had been done, and he had drawn back his hand, his brother Phares came forth the first; then, after him, Zara, upon whom was the scarlet line, [was born] the second: the Scripture clearly pointing out that people which possessed the scarlet sign, that is, faith in a state of circumcision, which was shown beforehand, indeed, in the patriarchs first; but after that withdrawn, that his brother might be born; and also, in like manner, him who was the elder, as being born in the second place, [him] who was distinguished by the scarlet token which was [fastened] on him, that is, the passion of the Just One, which was prefigured from the beginning in Abel, and described by the prophets, but perfected in the last times in the Son of God.
3. For it was requisite that certain facts should be announced beforehand by the fathers in a paternal manner, and others prefigured by the prophets in a legal one, but others, described after the form of Christ, by those who have received the adoption; while in one God are all things shown forth. For although Abraham was one, he did in himself prefigure the two covenants, in which some indeed have sown, while others have reaped; for it is said, “In this is the saying true, that it is one people who sows, but another who shall reap;” 4145 but it is one God who bestows things suitable upon both—seed to the sower, but bread for the reaper to eat. Just as it is one that planteth, and another who watereth, but one God who giveth the increase. 4146 For the patriarchs and prophets sowed the word [concerning] Christ, but the Church reaped, that is, received the fruit. For this reason, too, do these very men (the prophets) also pray to have a dwelling-place in it, as Jeremiah says, “Who will give me in the desert the last dwelling-place?” 4147 in order that both the sower and the reaper may rejoice together in the kingdom of Christ, who is present with all those who were from the beginning approved by God, who granted them His Word to be present with them. 4148
Matt. iii. 9.496:4142
Eph. ii. 20.496:4143
[Note, the Gentile Church was the old religion and was Catholic; in Christ it became Catholic again: the Mosaic system was a parenthetical thing of fifteen hundred years only. Such is the luminous and clarifying scheme of Irenæus, expounding St. Paul (Gal. iii. 14-20). Inferences: (1) They who speak as if the Mosaic system covered the whole Old Testament darken the divine counsels. (2) The God of Scripture was never the God of the Jews only.]496:4144
Gen. xxxviii. 28, etc.496:4145
John iv. 37.496:4146
1 Cor. iii. 7.496:4147
Jer. ix. 2. [A “remote dwelling-place” rather (σταθμὸν ἔσχατον according to LXX.) to square with the argument.]496:4148
[The touching words which conclude the former paragraph are illustrated by the noble sentence which begins this paragraph. The childlike spirit of these Fathers recognises Christ everywhere, in the Old Testament, prefigured by countless images and tokens in paternal and legal (ceremonial) forms.]
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