Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
IRENÆUS: Chapter XXXIII.—Whosoever confesses...
Chapter XXXIII.—Whosoever confesses that one God is the author of both Testaments, and diligently reads the Scriptures in company with the presbyters of the Church, is a true spiritual disciple; and he will rightly understand and interpret all that the prophets have declared respecting Christ and the liberty of the New Testament.
1. A spiritual disciple of this sort truly receiving the Spirit of God, who was from the beginning, in all the dispensations of God, present with mankind, and announced things future, revealed things present, and narrated things past—[such a man] does indeed “judge all men, but is himself judged by no man.” 4253 For he judges the Gentiles, “who serve the creature more than the Creator,” 4254 and with a reprobate mind spend all their labour on vanity. And he also judges the Jews, who do not accept of the word of liberty, nor are willing to go forth free, although they have a Deliverer present [with them]; but they pretend, at a time unsuitable [for such conduct], to serve, [with observances] beyond [those required by] the law, God who stands in need of nothing, and do not recognise the advent of Christ, which He accomplished for the salvation of men, nor are willing to understand that all the prophets announced His two advents: the one, indeed, in which He became a man subject to stripes, and knowing what it is to bear infirmity, 4255 and sat upon the foal of an ass, 4256 and was a stone rejected by the builders, 4257 and was led as a sheep to the slaughter, 4258 and by the stretching forth of His hands destroyed Amalek; 4259 while He gathered from the ends of the earth into His Fathers fold the children who were scattered abroad, 4260 and remembered His own dead ones who had formerly fallen asleep, 4261 and came down to them that He might deliver them: but the second in which He will come on the clouds, 4262 bringing on the day which burns as a furnace, 4263 and smiting the earth with the word of His mouth, 4264 and slaying the impious with the breath of His lips, and having a fan in His hands, and cleansing His floor, and gathering the wheat indeed into His barn, but burning the chaff with unquenchable fire. 4265
2. Moreover, he shall also examine the doctrine p. 507 of Marcion, [inquiring] how he holds that there are two gods, separated from each other by an infinite distance. 4266 Or how can he be good who draws away men that do not belong to him from him who made them, and calls them into his own kingdom? And why is his goodness, which does not save all [thus], defective? Also, why does he, indeed, seem to be good as respects men, but most unjust with regard to him who made men, inasmuch as he deprives him of his possessions? Moreover, how could the Lord, with any justice, if He belonged to another father, have acknowledged the bread to be His body, while He took it from that creation to which we belong, and affirmed the mixed cup to be His blood? 4267 And why did He acknowledge Himself to be the Son of man, if He had not gone through that birth which belongs to a human being? How, too, could He forgive us those sins for which we are answerable to our Maker and God? And how, again, supposing that He was not flesh, but was a man merely in appearance, could He have been crucified, and could blood and water have issued from His pierced side? 4268 What body, moreover, was it that those who buried Him consigned to the tomb? And what was that which rose again from the dead?
3. [This spiritual man] shall also judge all the followers of Valentinus, because they do indeed confess with the tongue one God the Father, and that all things derive their existence from Him, but do at the same time maintain that He who formed all things is the fruit of an apostasy or defect. [He shall judge them, too, because] they do in like manner confess with the tongue one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, but assign in their [system of] doctrine a production of his own to the Only-begotten, one of his own also to the Word, another to Christ, and yet another to the Saviour; so that, according to them, all these beings are indeed said [in Scripture to be], as it were, one; [while they maintain], notwithstanding, that each one of them should be understood [to exist] separately [from the rest], and to have [had] his own special origin, according to his peculiar conjunction. [It appears], then 4269 that their tongues alone, forsooth, have conceded the unity [of God], while their [real] opinion and their understanding (by their habit of investigating profundities) have fallen away from [this doctrine of] unity, and taken up the notion of manifold deities,—[this, I say, must appear] when they shall be examined by Christ as to the points [of doctrine] which they have invented. Him, too, they affirm to have been born at a later period than the Pleroma of the Æons, and that His production took place after [the occurrence of] a degeneracy or apostasy; and they maintain that, on account of the passion which was experienced by Sophia, they themselves were brought to the birth. But their own special prophet Homer, listening to whom they have invented such doctrines, shall himself reprove them, when he expresses himself as follows:—“Hateful to me that man as Hades gates,
Who one thing thinks, while he another states.” 4270
[This spiritual man] shall also judge the vain speeches of the perverse Gnostics, by showing that they are the disciples of Simon Magus.
4. He will judge also the Ebionites; [for] how can they be saved unless it was God who wrought out their salvation upon earth? Or how shall man pass into God, unless God has [first] passed into man? And how shall he (man) escape from the generation subject to death, if not by means 4271 of a new generation, given in a wonderful and unexpected manner (but as a sign of salvation) by God—[I mean] that regeneration which flows from the virgin through faith? 4272 Or how shall they receive adoption from God if they remain in this [kind of] generation, which is naturally possessed by man in this world? And how could He (Christ) have been greater than Solomon, 4273 or greater than Jonah, or have been the Lord of David, 4274 who was of the same substance as they were? How, too, could He have subdued 4275 him who was stronger than men, 4276 who had not only overcome man, but also retained him under his power, and conquered him who had conquered, while he set free mankind who had been conquered, unless He had been greater than man who had thus been vanquished? But who else is superior to, and more eminent than, that man who was formed after the likeness of God, except the Son of God, after whose image man was created? And for this reason He did in these last days 4277 exhibit the similitude; [for] the Son of God was made man, assuming the ancient production [of His hands] into His own nature, 4278 as I have shown in the immediately preceding book.
p. 508 5. He shall also judge those who describe Christ as [having become man] only in [human] opinion. For how can they imagine that they do themselves carry on a real discussion, when their Master was a mere imaginary being? Or how can they receive anything stedfast from Him, if He was a merely imagined being, and not a verity? And how can these men really be partaken of salvation, if He in whom they profess to believe, manifested Himself as a merely imaginary being? Everything, therefore, connected with these men is unreal, and nothing [possessed of the character of] truth; and, in these circumstances, it may be made a question whether (since, perchance, they themselves in like manner are not men, but mere dumb animals) they do not present, 4279 in most cases, simply a shadow of humanity.
6. He shall also judge false prophets, who, without having received the gift of prophecy from God, and not possessed of the fear of God, but either for the sake of vainglory, or with a view to some personal advantage, or acting in some other way under the influence of a wicked spirit, pretend to utter prophecies, while all the time they lie against God.
7. He shall also judge those who give rise to schisms, who are destitute of the love of God, and who look to their own special advantage rather than to the unity of the Church; and who for trifling reasons, or any kind of reason which occurs to them, cut in pieces and divide the great and glorious body of Christ, and so far as in them lies, [positively] destroy it,—men who prate of peace while they give rise to war, and do in truth strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel. 4280 For no reformation of so great importance can be effected by them, as will compensate for the mischief arising from their schism. He shall also judge all those who are beyond the pale of the truth, that is, who are outside the Church; but he himself shall be judged by no one. For to him all things are consistent: he has a full faith in one God Almighty, of whom are all things; and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom are all things, and in the dispensations connected with Him, by means of which the Son of God became man; and a firm belief in the Spirit of God, who furnishes us with a knowledge of the truth, and has set forth the dispensations of the Father and the Son, in virtue of which He dwells with every generation of men, 4281 according to the will of the Father.
8. True knowledge 4282 is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution 4283 of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body 4284 of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved 4285 without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system 4286 of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, 4287 which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God].
9. Wherefore the Church does in every place, because of that love which she cherishes towards God, send forward, throughout all time, a multitude of martyrs to the Father; while all others 4288 not only have nothing of this kind to point to among themselves, but even maintain that such witness-bearing is not at all necessary, for that their system of doctrines is the true witness [for Christ], with the exception, perhaps, that one or two among them, during the whole time which has elapsed since the Lord appeared on earth, have occasionally, along with our martyrs, borne the reproach of the name (as if he too [the heretic] had obtained mercy), and have been led forth with them [to death], being, as it were, a sort of retinue granted unto them. For the Church alone sustains with purity the reproach of those who suffer persecution for righteousness sake, and endure all sorts of punishments, and are put to death because of the love which they bear to God, and their confession of His Son; often weakened indeed, yet immediately increasing her members, and becoming whole again, after the same manner as her type, 4289 Lots wife, who became a pillar of salt. Thus, too, [she passes through an experience] similar to that of the ancient prophets, as the Lord declares, “For so persecuted they p. 509 the prophets who were before you;” 4290 inasmuch as she does indeed, in a new fashion, suffer persecution from those who do not receive the word of God, while the self-same spirit rests upon her 4291 [as upon these ancient prophets].
10. And indeed the prophets, along with other things which they predicted, also foretold this, that all those on whom the Spirit of God should rest, and who would obey the word of the Father, and serve Him according to their ability, should suffer persecution, and be stoned and slain. For the prophets prefigured in themselves all these things, because of their love to God, and on account of His word. For since they themselves were members of Christ, each one of them in his place as a member did, in accordance with this, set forth the prophecy [assigned him]; all of them, although many, prefiguring only one, and proclaiming the things which pertain to one. For just as the working of the whole body is exhibited through means of our members, while the figure of a complete man is not displayed by one member, but through means of all taken together, so also did all the prophets prefigure the one [Christ]; while every one of them, in his special place as a member, did, in accordance with this, fill up the [established] dispensation, and shadowed forth beforehand that particular working of Christ which was connected with that member.
11. For some of them, beholding Him in glory, saw His glorious life (conversationem) at the Fathers right hand; 4292 others beheld Him coming on the clouds as the Son of man; 4293 and those who declared regarding Him, “They shall look on Him whom they have pierced,” 4294 indicated His [second] advent, concerning which He Himself says, “Thinkest thou that when the Son of man cometh, He shall find faith on the earth?” 4295 Paul also refers to this event when he says, “If, however, it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you that are troubled rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven, with His mighty angels, and in a flame of fire.” 4296 Others again, speaking of Him as a judge, and [referring], as if it were a burning furnace, [to] the day of the Lord, who “gathers the wheat into His barn, but will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire,” 4297 were accustomed to threaten those who were unbelieving, concerning whom also the Lord Himself declares, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, which my Father has prepared for the devil and his angels.” 4298 And the apostle in like manner says [of them], “Who shall be punished with everlasting death from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of His power, when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in those who believe in Him.” 4299 There are also some [of them] who declare, “Thou art fairer than the children of men;” 4300 and, “God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows;” 4301 and, “Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Most Mighty, with Thy beauty and Thy fairness, and go forward and proceed prosperously; and rule Thou because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness.” 4302 And whatever other things of a like nature are spoken regarding Him, these indicated that beauty and splendour which exist in His kingdom, along with the transcendent and pre-eminent exaltation [belonging] to all who are under His sway, that those who hear might desire to be found there, doing such things as are pleasing to God. Again, there are those who say, “He is a man, and who shall know him?” 4303 and, “I came unto the prophetess, and she bare a son, and His name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God;” 4304 and those [of them] who proclaimed Him as Immanuel, [born] of the Virgin, exhibited the union of the Word of God with His own workmanship, [declaring] that the Word should become flesh, and the Son of God the Son of man (the pure One opening purely that pure womb which regenerates men unto God, and which He Himself made pure); and having become this which we also are, He [nevertheless] is the Mighty God, and possesses a generation which cannot be declared. And there are also some of them who say, “The Lord hath spoken in Zion, and uttered His voice from Jerusalem;” 4305 and, “In Judah is God known;” 4306 — these indicated His advent which took place in Judea. Those, again, who declare that “God comes from the south, and from a mountain thick with foliage,” 4307 announced His advent at Bethlehem, as I have pointed out in the preceding book. 4308 From that place, also, He who rules, and who feeds the people of His Father, has come. Those, again, who declare that at His coming “the lame man shall leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall p. 510 [speak] plainly, and the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear,” 4309 and that “the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, shall be strengthened,” 4310 and that “the dead which are in the grave shall arise,” 4311 and that He Himself “shall take [upon Him] our weaknesses, and bear our sorrows,” 4312 — [all these] proclaimed those works of healing which were accomplished by Him.
12. Some of them, moreover—[when they predicted that] as a weak and inglorious man, and as one who knew what it was to bear infirmity, 4313 and sitting upon the foal of an ass, 4314 He should come to Jerusalem; and that He should give His back to stripes, 4315 and His cheeks to palms [which struck Him]; and that He should be led as a sheep to the slaughter; 4316 and that He should have vinegar and gall given Him to drink; 4317 and that He should be forsaken by His friends and those nearest to Him; 4318 and that He should stretch forth His hands the whole day long; 4319 and that He should be mocked and maligned by those who looked upon Him; 4320 and that His garments should be parted, and lots cast upon His raiment; 4321 and that He should be brought down to the dust of death 4322 with all [the other] things of a like nature—prophesied His coming in the character of a man as He entered Jerusalem, in which by His passion and crucifixion He endured all the things which have been mentioned. Others, again, when they said, “The holy Lord remembered His own dead ones who slept in the dust, and came down to them to raise them up, that He might save them,” 4323 furnished us with the reason on account of which He suffered all these things. Those, moreover, who said, “In that day, saith the Lord, the sun shall go down at noon, and there shall be darkness over the earth in the clear day; and I will turn your feast days into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation,” 4324 plainly announced that obscuration of the sun which at the time of His crucifixion took place from the sixth hour onwards, and that after this event, those days which were their festivals according to the law, and their songs, should be changed into grief and lamentation when they were handed over to the Gentiles. Jeremiah, too, makes this point still clearer, when he thus speaks concerning Jerusalem: “She that hath born [seven] languisheth; her soul hath become weary; her sun hath gone down while it was yet noon; she hath been confounded, and suffered reproach: the remainder of them will I give to the sword in the sight of their enemies.” 4325
13. Those of them, again, who spoke of His having slumbered and taken sleep, and of His having risen again because the Lord sustained Him, 4326 and who enjoined the principalities of heaven to set open the everlasting doors, that the King of glory might go in, 4327 proclaimed beforehand His resurrection from the dead through the Fathers power, and His reception into heaven. And when they expressed themselves thus, “His going forth is from the height of heaven, and His returning even to the highest heaven; and there is no one who can hide himself from His heat,” 4328 they announced that very truth of His being taken up again to the place from which He came down, and that there is no one who can escape His righteous judgment. And those who said, “The Lord hath reigned; let the people be enraged: [even] He who sitteth upon the cherubim; let the earth be moved,” 4329 were thus predicting partly that wrath from all nations which after His ascension came upon those who believed in Him, with the movement of the whole earth against the Church; and partly the fact that, when He comes from heaven with His mighty angels, the whole earth shall be shaken, as He Himself declares, “There shall be a great earthquake, such as has not been from the beginning.” 4330 And again, when one says, “Whosoever is judged, let him stand opposite; and whosoever is justified, let him draw near to the servant 4331 of God;” 4332 and, “Woe unto you, for ye shall wax old as doth a garment, and the moth shall eat you up;” and, “All flesh shall be humbled, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in the highest,” 4333 —it is thus indicated that, after His passion and ascension, God shall cast down under His feet all who were opposed to Him, and He shall be exalted above all, and there shall be no one who can be justified or compared to Him.
14. And those of them who declare that God would make a new covenant 4334 with men, not such as that which He made with the fathers at Mount Horeb, and would give to men a new heart and a new spirit; 4335 and again, “And remember ye not the things of old: behold, I p. 511 make new things which shall now arise, and ye shall know it; and I will make a way in the desert, and rivers in a dry land, to give drink to my chosen people, my people whom I have acquired, that they may show forth my praise,” 4336 —plainly announced that liberty which distinguishes the new covenant, and the new wine which is put into new bottles, 4337 [that is], the faith which is in Christ, by which He has proclaimed the way of righteousness sprung up in the desert, and the streams of the Holy Spirit in a dry land, to give water to the elect people of God, whom He has acquired, that they might show forth His praise, but not that they might blaspheme Him who made these things, that is, God.
15. And all those other points which I have shown the prophets to have uttered by means of so long a series of Scriptures, he who is truly spiritual will interpret by pointing out, in regard to every one of the things which have been spoken, to what special point in the dispensation of the Lord is referred, and [by thus exhibiting] the entire system of the work of the Son of God, knowing always the same God, and always acknowledging the same Word of God, although He has [but] now been manifested to us; acknowledging also at all times the same Spirit of God, although He has been poured out upon us after a new fashion in these last times, [knowing that He descends] even from the creation of the world to its end upon the human race simply as such, from whom those who believe God and follow His word receive that salvation which flows from Him. Those, on the other hand, who depart from Him, and despise His precepts, and by their deeds bring dishonour on Him who made them, and by their opinions blaspheme Him who nourishes them, heap up against themselves most righteous judgment. 4338 He therefore (i.e., the spiritual man) sifts and tries them all, but he himself is tried by no man: 4339 he neither blasphemes his Father, nor sets aside His dispensations, nor inveighs against the fathers, nor dishonours the prophets, by maintaining that they were [sent] from another God [than he worships], or again, that their prophecies were derived from different sources. 4340
1 Cor. ii. 15. [The argument of this chapter hinges on Ps. xxv. 14, and expounds a difficult text of St. Paul. A man who has the mind of Gods Spirit is the only judge of spiritual things. Worldly men are incompetent critics of Scripture and of Christian exposition.506:4254
Rom. i. 21.506:4255
Isa. liii. 3.506:4256
Zech. ix. 9.506:4257
Ps. cxviii. 22.506:4258
Isa. liii. 7.506:4259
Ex. xvii. 11.506:4260
Isa. xi. 12.506:4261
Comp. book iii. 20, 4.506:4262
Dan. vii. 13.506:4263
Mal. iv. 1.506:4264
Isa. xi. 4.506:4265
Matt. iii. 12; Luke iii. 17.507:4266
Harvey points this sentence interrogatively.507:4267
“Temperamentum calicis:” on which Harvey remarks that “the mixture of water with the wine in the holy Eucharist was the universal practice of antiquity … the wine signifying the mystical Head of the Church, the water the body.” [Whatever the significance, it harmonizes with the Paschal chalice, and with 1 John v. 6, and St. Johns gospel John 19:34, 35.]507:4268
John xix. 34.507:4269
This sentence is very obscure in the Latin text.507:4270
Iliad, ix. 312, 313.507:4271
The text is obscure, and the construction doubtful.507:4272
The Latin here is, “quæ est ex virgine per fidem regenerationem.” According to Massuet, “virgine” here refers not to Mary, but to the Church. Grabe suspects that some words have been lost.507:4273
Matt. 12:41, 42.507:4274
Matt. xxii. 43.507:4275
Matt. xxii. 29; Luke 11:21, 22.507:4276
Literally, “who was strong against men.”507:4277
In fine; lit. “in the end.”507:4278
In semetipsum: lit. “unto Himself.”508:4279
We here follow the reading “proferant:” the passage is difficult and obscure, but the meaning is as above.508:4280
Matt. xxiii. 24.508:4281
The Greek text here is σκηνοβατοῦν (lit. “to tabernacle:” comp. ἐσκήνωσεν, John i. 14) καθ ἐκάστην γενεὰν ἐν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις: the Latin is, “Secundum quas (dispositiones) aderat generi humano.” We have endeavoured to express the meaning of both.508:4282
The following section is an important one, but very difficult to translate with undoubted accuracy. The editors differ considerably both as to the construction and the interpretation. We have done our best to represent the meaning in English, but may not have been altogether successful.508:4283
The Greek is σύστημα: the Latin text has “status.”508:4284
The Latin is, “character corporis.”508:4285
The text here is, “custodita sine fictione scripturarum;” some prefer joining “scripturarum” to the following words.508:4286
We follow Harveys text, “tractatione;” others read “tractatio.” According to Harvey, the creed of the Church is denoted by “tractatione;” but Massuet renders the clause thus: [“True knowledge consists in] a very complete tractatio of the Scriptures, which has come down to us by being preserved (custoditione being read instead of custodita) without falsification.”508:4287
Comp. 2 Cor. viii. 1; 1 Cor. xiii.508:4288
i.e., the heretics.508:4289
Comp. above, xxxi. 2.509:4290
Matt. v. 12.509:4291
Comp. 1 Pet. iv. 14.509:4292
Isa. vi. 1; Ps. cx. 1.509:4293
Dan. vii. 13.509:4294
Zech. xii. 10.509:4295
Luke xviii. 8. There is nothing to correspond with “putas” in the received text.509:4296
2 Thess. i. 6-8.509:4297
Matt. iii. 12.509:4298
Matt. xxv. 41.509:4299
2 Thess. 1:9, 10.509:4300
Ps. xlv. 2.509:4301
Ps. xlv. 7.509:4302
Ps. 45:3, 4.509:4303
Jer. xvii. 9 (LXX.). Harvey here remarks: “The LXX. read אֱנֹושׁ instead of אָנֹושׁ. Thus, from a text that teaches us that the heart is deceitful above all things, the Fathers extract a proof of the manhood of Christ.”509:4304
Isa. viii. 3, Isa. ix. 6, Isa. vii. 14. [A confusion of texts.]509:4305
Joel iii. 16.509:4306
Ps. lxxvi. 1.509:4307
Hab. iii. 3.509:4308
See III. xx. 4.510:4309
Isa. 35:5, 6.510:4310
Isa. xxxv. 3.510:4311
Isa. xxvi. 19.510:4312
Isa. liii. 4.510:4313
Isa. liii. 3.510:4314
Zech. ix. 9.510:4315
Isa. l. 6.510:4316
Isa. liii. 7.510:4317
Ps. lxix. 21.510:4318
Ps. xxxviii. 11.510:4319
Isa. lxv. 2.510:4320
Ps. xxii. 7.510:4321
Ps. xxii. 18.510:4322
Ps. xxii. 15.510:4323
Comp. book iii. cap. xx. 4 and book iv. cap xxii. 1.510:4324
Amos 8:9, 10.510:4325
Jer. xv. 9.510:4326
Ps. iii. 5.510:4327
Ps. xxiv. 7.510:4328
Ps. xix. 6.510:4329
Ps. xcix. 1.510:4330
Matt. xxiv. 21.510:4331
Isa. 50:8, 9 (loosely quoted).510:4333
Isa. ii. 17.510:4334
Jer. 31:31, 32.510:4335
Ezek. xxxvi. 26.511:4336
Isa. xliii. 19-21.511:4337
Matt. ix. 17.511:4338
Rom. ii. 5.511:4339
1 Cor. ii. 15.511:4340
“Ex alia et alia substantia fuisse prophetias.”
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