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Irenæus. A.D. 180.

Irenæus was a native of Asia Minor, a pupil of Polycarp of Smyrna (Adv. Hær. Lib. III. cap. 3, § 4; Euseb. H. E. v. 20), and through him a grand-pupil of St. John the Apostle. He was bishop of the church at Lyons (Lugdunum), in the South of France, in 177, wrote his great work against the Gnostic heresies about 180, while Eleutherus (d. 185) was bishop of Rome (Adv. Hær. Lib. III. cap. 3, § 3), and died about 202.

He was therefore a connecting link between the East and the West, as well as between post-apostolic and ante-Nicene Christianity, and altogether the most important witness of the doctrinal status of the Catholic Church at the close of the second century. The ancient Massilia (Marseilles) was a Greek colony, and the churches of Lyons and Vienne in Gaul were probably planted by Eastern missionaries, and retained a close connection with the Eastern churches, as appears from the letter of those churches to their brethren in Asia Minor after the fierce persecution under Marcus Aurelius, A.D. 177 (see Euseb. H. E. v. 1).

Irenaeus refutes the heretics of his age by the Scriptures and the apostolic tradition. This tradition, though different in form from the New Testament, and perhaps older than the writings of the Apostles, agrees with them, being a summary of their teaching, and is handed down in all the churches through the hands of the presbyters.55    The essential identity of the Scriptures and the apostolic tradition is asserted by Irenæus (Adv. Hær. Lib. III. cap. 1, § 1): 'Non per alios dispositionem salutis nostræ cognovimus, quam per eos [apostolos], per quos evangelium pervenit ad nos; quod quidem tunc præconaverunt, postea vero per Dei voluntatem in Scripturis nobis tradiderunt, fundamentum et columnam fidei nostræ futuram.' Comp. the fragment of his letter to Florinus, preserved by Eusebius (H. E. v. 20), where he says that the presbyters and Polycarp handed down the teaching of the Lord as they received it from the eye-witnesses of the Word of Life—in entire accordance with, the Scriptures ( πάντα σύμφωνα ταῖς γραφαῖς ). The sum and substance of 13this tradition is the baptismal creed, called by him the κανὼν τῆς ἀληθείας, ἀποστόλων διδαχή, τὸ ἀρχαῖον τῆς ἐκκλησίας σύστημα, γνῶσις ἀληθή, traditio veritatis, vera fides, prædicatio ecclesiæ. He does not give the creed in full, but incorporates passages of it in several parts of his work. He gives most of the articles of the Apostles' Creed as it prevailed in the West, but has also several characteristic passages in common with the Nicene Creed ( ἕνα … σαρκωθέντα ὑπὲρ τῆς ημετέρας σωτηρίας … τὸ διὰ προφητῶν κεκηρυχός ). The ancient liturgies of Gaul likewise have a semi-Oriental character.


First Form

Contra Hæreses, Lib. I. cap. 10, § 1 (Opera, ed. Stieren, Tom. I. p. 119).

Ἡ μὲν γὰρ ἐκκλησία, καίπερ καθ᾽ ὅλης τῆς οἰκουμένης ἕως περάτων τῆς γῆς διεσπαρμένη, παρὰ δὲ τῶν Ἀποστόλων καὶ τῶν ἐκείνων μαθητῶν παραλαβοῦσα τὴν [πίστιν]

The Church, though scattered through the whole world to the ends of the earth, has received66    Lit. 'yet having received.' In the Greek the creed is part of one sentence, which is resumed in τοῦτο τὸ κήρυγμα παρειληφυῖα καὶ ταύτην τὴν πίστιν … ἡ ἐκκλησία … ἐπιμελῶς φυλάσσει. from the Apostles and their disciples the faith

εἰς ἕνα Θεὸν, Πατέρα παντοκράτορα,

in one God, the Father Almighty,

τὸν πεποιηκότα τὸν οὐρανὸν, καὶ τὴν γῆν,

who made the heaven and the earth,

καὶ τὰς θαλάσσας, καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐν αὐτοῖς, πίστιν·

and the seas, and all that in them is;

καὶ εἰς ἕνα Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν, τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ,

and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God,

τὸν σαρκωθέντα ὑπὲρ τῆς ἡμετέρας σωτηρίας·

who became flesh for our salvation;

καὶ εἰς Πνεῦμα ἅγιον,

and in the Holy Ghost,

τὸ διὰ τῶν προφητῶν κεκηρυχὸς τὰς οἰκονομίας καὶ τὰς ἐλεύσεις [τὴν ἔλευσιν, adventum ],

who through the prophets preached the dispensations and the advents [advent],

καὶ τὴν ἐκ Παρθένου γέννησιν,

and the birth from the Virgin,

καὶ τὸ πάθος,

and the passion,

καὶ τὴν ἔγερσιν ἐκ νεκρῶν,

and the resurrection from the dead,

καὶ τὴν ἔνσαρκον εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς ἀνάληψιν τοῦ ἠγαπημένου Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν,

and the bodily assumption into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord,

καὶ τὴν ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν ἐν τῇ δόξῃ τοῦ Πατρὸς παρουσίαν αὐτοῦ,

and his appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father,

ἐπὶ τὸ ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι τὰ πάντα, to comprehend all things under one head,

καὶ ἀναστῆσαι πᾶσαν σάρκα πάσης ἀνθρωπότητος,

and to raise up all flesh of all mankind,

ἵνα Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, τῷ Κυρίῳ ἡμῶν, καὶ Θεῷ, καὶ Σωτῆρι, καὶ βασιλεῖ, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν τοῦ Πατρὸς τοῦ ἀοράτου, πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων, καὶ πᾶσα γλώσσα ἐξομολογήσηται αὐτῷ, καὶ κρίσιν δικαίαν ἐν τοῖς πᾶσι ποιήσηται, τὰ μὲν πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας, καὶ ἀγγέλους παραβεβηκότας, καὶ ἐν ἀποστασίᾳ γεγονότας, καὶ τοὺς ἀσεβεῖς, καὶ ἀδίκους καὶ ἀνόμους καὶ βλασφήμους τῶν ἀνθρώπων εἰς τὸ αἰώνιον πῦρ πέμψῃ· τοῖς δὲ δικαίοις, καὶ ὁσίοις, καὶ τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τετηρηκόσι καὶ ἐν τῇ ἀγάπῃ αὐτοῦ διαμεμενηκόσι, τοῖς ἀπ᾽ άρχῆς, τοῖς δὲ ἐκ μετανοίας, ζωὴν χαρισάμενος, ἀφθαρσίαν δωρήσηται, καὶ δόξαν αἰωνίαν περιποιήσῃ.

that, according to the good pleasure of the Father invisible, every knee of those that are in heaven and on the earth and under the earth should bow before Christ Jesus, our Lord and God and Saviour and King, and that every tongue should confess to him, and that he may execute righteous judgment over all: sending into eternal fire the spiritual powers of wickedness, and the angels who transgressed and apostatized, and the godless and unrighteous and lawless and blasphemous among men, and granting life and immortality and eternal glory to the righteous and holy, who have both kept the commandments and continued in his love, some from the beginning, some after their conversion.


Note.—Irenæus adds to this Creed: 'The Church, having received this preaching and this faith, as before said, though scattered throughout the whole world, zealously preserves it ( ἐπιμελῶς φυλάσσει ) as one household, … and unanimously preaches and teaches the same, and hands it down as by one mouth ( συμφόνως ταῦτα κηρύσσει καὶ διδάσκει καί παραδίδωσιν, ὡς ἓν στόμα κικτημένη ); for although there are different dialects in the world, the power of the tradition is one and the same ( ἡ δύναμις τῆς παραδόσεως μία καὶ ἡ αὐτή ). And in no other manner have either the churches established in Germany believed and handed down, nor those in Spain, nor among the Celts, nor in the East, nor in Egypt, nor in Libya, nor those established in the middle of the world. But as the sun, God's creature, is one and the same in all the world, so, too, the preaching of the truth shines every where and enlightens all men who wish to come to the knowledge of the truth. And neither will he who is very mighty in language among those who preside over the churches say other than this (for the disciple is not above his Master), nor will he who is weak in the word impair the tradition. For as the faith is one and the same, neither he who is very able to speak on it adds thereto, nor does he who is less mighty diminish therefrom.'



Second Form

Adv. Hær., Lib. III. cap. 4, § 1, 2 (Opera, Tom. I. p. 437).

Quid autem si neque Apostoli quidem Scripturas reliquissent nobis, nonne oportebat ordinem sequi traditionis, quam tradiderunt iis quibus committebant ecclesias? Cui ordinationi assentiunt multæ gentes barbarorum, eorum qui in Christum credunt, sine charta et atramento scriptam habentes per Spiritum in cordibus suis salutem, et veterem traditionem diligenter custodientes,

If the Apostles had not left to us the Scriptures, would it not be necessary to follow the order of tradition, which those to whom they committed the churches handed down? To this order many nations of barbarians give assent, those who believe in Christ having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit without paper and ink, and guarding diligently the ancient tradition,

In unum Deum credentes, believing in one God,
Fabricatorem cæli et terræ, Maker of heaven and earth,
et omnium quæ in eis sunt, and all that in them is,

Per Christum Jesum Dei Filium;

Through Christ Jesus the Son of God;

Qui, propter eminentissimam erga, figmentum suum dilectionem,

Who, for his astounding love towards his creatures,

eam quæ esset ex Virgine generationem sustinuit,

sustained the birth of the Virgin,

ipse per se hominem adunans Deo,

himself uniting his manhood to God,

et passus sub Pontio Pilato, and suffered under Pontius Pilate,
et resurgens, and rose again,
et in claritate receptus, and was received in glory,
in gloria venturas, shall come in glory,

Salvator eorum qui salvantur, et Judex eorum qui judicantur; et mittens in ignem æternum transfiguratores veritatis et

the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged; and sending into eternal fire the perverters of the truth


contemptores Patris sui et adventus ejus.

and the despisers of his Father and his advent.


Third Form

Adv. Hær., Lib. IV. cap. 33, § 7 (Opera, Tom. I. p. 670).

After remarking that the spiritual man shall judge all those who are beyond the pale of the truth—that is, outside of the Church—and shall be judged by no one, Irenæus goes on to say: 'For to him all things are consistent; he has a full faith ( πίστις ὁλόκηρος )—'


Εἰς ἕνα Θεὸν παντοκράτορα,

In one God Almighty,
ἐξ οὗ τὰ πὰντα, from whom are all things;

καὶ εἰς τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν,

and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ,

τὸν Κύριον ἡμῶν, our Lord,

δἰ οὗ τὰ πάντα,

by whom are all things,

καὶ τὰς οἰκονομίας αὐτοῦ,

and in his dispensations,

δἰ ὧν ἄνθρωπος ἐγένετο ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ·

through which the Son of God became man;

Πεισμονὴ βεβαία καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ, 77    The Greek original is here defective. The Latin translation reads as follows: ' Sententia firma quæ est in Spiritu Dei, qui pæstat agnitionem veritatis, qui dispositiones Patris et Filii exposuit, secundum quas aderat generi humano quemadmodum vult Pater. '

the firm persuasion also in the Spirit of God,

… τὸ τὰς οἰκονομίας Πατρός τε καὶ Υἱοῦ σκηνοβατοῦν καθ᾽ ἑκάστην γενεὰν ἐν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, καθὼς βούλεται ὁ Πατήρ.

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 in every generation of men, according to the will of the Father.


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