Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A quote on human nature

From the preface to Book 4

"Now man is a mixed organization of soul and flesh, who was formed after the likeness of God, and moulded by His hands, that is, by the Son and Holy Spirit, to whom also He said, “Let
Us make man"

Friday, July 06, 2007

Mercy for Adam

In chapter 22 I was surprised by the passion with which Irenaeus attacks Tatian's teaching that Adam was not saved. Amongst Irenaeus' arguments are:

1) To do so is to deny the power of God to save.
2) To do so is to limit the mercy of God. This is a major theme in this chapter. God was merciful towards Adam and Eve and hence they were not cursed for their sin, in fact this curse was transferred to the land and to the serpent. God was merciful and provided them with animal skin to cover their genitals rather than itchy fig leaves [there is unintentional humour in this section]. Even the punishment of being expelled from Paradise and subject to death is a sign of God's mercy. As Irenaeus affirms:

"Wherefore also He drove him out of Paradise, and removed him far from the tree of life, not
because He envied him the tree of life, as some venture to assert, but because He pitied him, [and did not desire] that he should continue a sinner for ever, nor that the sin which surrounded him should be immortal, and evil interminable and irremediable. But He set a bound to his [state of] sin, by interposing death, and thus causing sin to cease, putting an end to it by the dissolution
of the flesh, which should take place in the earth, so that man, ceasing at length to live to sin, and dying to it, might begin to live to God."

It may be due to such reflections on God's mercy that after ending the book summarizing the teachings of the heretics and their imminent punishment, Irenaeus ends with a prayer for their salvation.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The virgin birth

After referring in chapter 20 to our dependence on God for salvation, in chapter 21 Irenaeus seeks to defend the doctrine of the virgin birth:

Amongst the arguments he uses are:

1) The priority of the Septuagint version of the OT, the weakness of which I have already commented on when discussing Justin.
2) If Jesus was truly the son of Joseph, then he could not be king, as Joseph descended from the discontinued line of Jehoiachim.
3) For Jesus to truly recapitulate what Adam did, he had to be born without a human father as was the case with Adam

The importance of christology

In chapter 19 we see that christology is so important for Irenaeus because it is intrinsically linked to salvation.

"For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God."

If Jesus did not genuinely share in the divine life, or was not truly human, then salvation as Irenaeus understands it would be impossible.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Incarnation and Salvation

Irenaeus stresses strongly in chapter 18 the reality of the incarnation, and is particularly critical of adoptionist and docetic christologies. Some reasons for this concern are:

(1) For Irenaeus salvation requires a genuine incarnation. "For unless man had overcome the enemy of man, the enemy would not have been legitimately vanquished. And again: unless it had been God who had freely given salvation, we could never have possessed it securely."

(2) The suffering of Christians makes sense if Christ genuinely suffered. If not, it becomes a mockery and Christ can be seen to mislead them.

Irenaeus sees salvation as communion with God involving a process in which "God recapitulated in Himself the ancient formation of man, that He might kill sin, deprive death of its power, and vivify man; and thereforeHis works are true."

There are also links between Irenaeus Christology and Trinitarian theology in this chapter, as when he says:

"For in the name of Christ is implied, He that anoints, He that is anointed, and the unction
itself with which He is anointed. And it is the Father who anoints, but the Son who is anointed by
the Spirit, who is the unction, as the Word declares by Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because He hath anointed me,”pointing out both the anointing Father, the anointed Son, and the unction, which is the Spirit."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Spirit and Christ

In chapter 17 to deny the heretic claim that "the Christ" descended upon Jesus at baptism, Irenaeus insists that it was the Holy Spirit whom descended upon Christ. In describing Pentecost, Irenaeus comments:

"This Spirit did David ask for the human race, saying, “And stablish me with Thine
all-governing Spirit;” who also, as Luke says, descended at the day of Pentecost upon the disciples after the Lord’s ascension, having power to admit all nations to the entrance of life, and to the opening of the new covenant; from whence also, with one accord in all languages, they uttered praise to God, the Spirit bringing distant tribes to unity, and offering to the Father the first-fruits of all nations."

Jesus and Christ

In a lengthy argument, due to the seriousness of the heresy with which he is dealing, Irenaeus seeks to provide an exhaustive rebuttal of those who would draw a cleavage between the human Jesus and the divine Christ, descending from the Pleroma.

Irenaeus demonstrates that the united NT witness is of the unity of the person of Jesus Christ. One of the most interesting quotes of chapter 16 is the following:

"His only-begotten Word, who is always present with the human race, united to and mingled with His own creation, according to the Father’s pleasure, and who became flesh, is Himself Jesus Christ our Lord, who did also suffer for us, and rose again on our behalf, and who will come again in the glory of His Father, to raise up all flesh, and for the manifestation of salvation, and to apply the rule of just judgment to all who were made by Him. There is therefore, as I have pointed out, one God the Father, and one Christ Jesus, who came by means of the whole dispensational arrangements [connected with Him], and gathered together all things in Himself. But in every respect, too, He is man, the formation of God; and thus He took up man into Himself, the invisible becoming visible, the incomprehensible being made comprehensible, the impassible becoming capable of suffering, and the Word being made man, thus summing up all things in Himself: so that as in super-celestial, spiritual, and invisible things, the Word of God is supreme, so also in things visible and corporeal He might possess the supremacy, and, taking to Himself the pre-eminence, as well as constituting Himself Head of the Church, He might draw all things to Himself at the proper time."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Paul and the other apostles

The Marcionites claimed that Paul alone knew the truth about Jesus whilst more contemporary heretics believe that Paul distorted the pure and simple truth of the Gospel. Against this kind of claim Irenaeus affirms:

(1) Paul himself affirms a continuity between himself and the other apostles.
(2) Luke was Paul's close companion and Luke presents a continuity between Paul and the other apostles. Luke also shows that Paul preached the "counsel of God" in public to the church, there was no secret material.

[chapters 13-14]

In chapter 15 Irenaeus tackles the Ebionites, who would deny Paul's status as an apostle. He points to their incoherence of using the Gospel of Luke when Luke himself is the one who in Acts presents Paul as an apostle.

Monday, June 25, 2007

One God continued

In the lengthy chapter 12, Irenaeus continues to deny that there is a higher god above the creator, and points to considerable evidence in the Bible to support his statement.

Against the argument that the apostles were accomodating to the desires of their Jewish audience Irenaeus effectively argues that (i) a similar message was preached to Greek audiences (ii) the fact that they preached the crucified Jesus as Messiah and Son of God indicates that the disciples were not adverse to offending Jewish sensibilities.