« Prev The Writings of Irenæus against the Schismatics… Next »

Chapter XX.—The Writings of Irenæus against the Schismatics at Rome.

1. Irenæus16611661    On Irenæus, see Bk. IV. chap. 21, note 9. wrote several letters against those who were disturbing the sound ordinance of the Church at Rome. One of them was to Blastus On Schism;16621662    Eusebius, in chap. 15, informs us that both Blastus and Florinus drew many away from the church of Rome by their heretical innovations. He does not tell us either there or here the nature of the opinions which Blastus held, but from Pseudo-Tertullian’s Adv. omnes Hær. chap. 8, we learn that Blastus was a Quartodeciman. (“In addition to all these, there is likewise Blastus, who would latently introduce Judaism. For he says the passover is not to be kept otherwise than according to the law of Moses, on the fourteenth of the month.”) From Pacianus’ Epistola ad Sympronian. de catholico nomine, chap. 2, we learn that he was a Montanist; and since the Montanists of Asia Minor were, like the other Christians of that region, Quartodecimans, it is not surprising that Blastus should be at the same time a Montanist and a Quartodeciman. Florinus, as will be shown in the next note, taught his heresies while Victor was bishop of Rome (189–198 or 199); and since Eusebius connects Blastus so closely with him, we may conclude that Blastus flourished at about the same time. Irenæus’ epistle to Blastus, On Schism, is no longer extant. A Syriac fragment of an epistle of Irenæus, addressed to “an Alexandrian,” on the paschal question (Fragment 27 in Harvey’s edition) is possibly a part of this lost epistle. If the one referred to in this fragment be Blastus, he was an Alexandrian, and in that case must have adopted the Quartodeciman position under the influence of the Asiatic Montanists, for the paschal calendar of the Alexandrian church was the same as that of Rome (see the Dict. of Christ. Biog. III. p. 264). If Blastus was a Montanist, as stated by Pacianus, his heresy was quite different from that of Florinus (who was a Gnostic); and the fact that they were leaders of different heresies is confirmed by the words of Eusebius in chap. 15, above: “Each one striving to introduce his own innovations in respect to the truth.” Whether Blastus, like Florinus, was a presbyter, and like him was deposed from his office, we do not know, but the words of Eusebius in chap. 15 seem to favor this supposition. another to Florinus 238On Monarchy,16631663    Florinus, as we learn from chap. 15, was for a time a presbyter of the Roman Church, but lost his office on account of heresy. From the fragment of this epistle of Irenæus to Florinus quoted by Eusebius just below, we learn that Florinus was somewhat older than Irenæus, but like him a disciple of Polycarp. The title of this epistle shows that Florinus was already a Gnostic, or at least inclined toward Gnostic views. Eusebius evidently had no direct knowledge of the opinions of Florinus on the origin of evil, for he says that he appeared to maintain (ἐδόκει προασπίζειν) the opinion that God was the author of evil. Eusebius’ conclusion is accepted by most ancient and modern writers, but it is suggested by Salmon (Dict. of Christ. Biog. II. 544) that Eusebius was perhaps mistaken, “for, since the characteristic of dualism is not to make God the author of evil, but to clear him from the charge by ascribing evil to an independent origin, the title would lead us to think that the letter was directed, not against one who had himself held God to be the author of evil, but against one who had charged the doctrine of a single first principle with necessarily leading to this conclusion. And we should have supposed that the object of Irenæus was to show that it was possible to assert God to be the sole origin and ruler of the universe, without holding evil to be his work.” Since Eusebius had seen the epistle of Irenæus to Florinus, it is difficult to understand how he can have misconceived Florinus’ position. At the same time, he does not state it with positiveness; and the fact that Florinus, if not already, certainly was soon afterward a Valentinian, and hence a dualist, makes Salmon’s supposition very plausible. Florinus is not mentioned in Irenæus’ great work against heresies, nor by Tertullian, Pseudo-Tertullian, Hippolytus, or Epiphanius. It is probable, therefore, that he was not named in Hippolytus’ earlier work, nor in the lectures of Irenæus which formed the groundwork (see Salmon, l.c.). The silence of Irenæus is easily explained by supposing Florinus’ fall into heresy to have taken place after the composition of his lectures against heresies and of his great work; and the silence of the later writers is probably due to the fact that Irenæus’ work makes no mention of him and that, whatever his influence may have been during his lifetime, it did not last, and hence his name attracted no particular attention after his death.
   It has been maintained by some (e.g. Lightfoot in the Contemporary Review, 1875, p. 834) that this epistle to Florinus was one of the earliest of Irenæus’ writings but Lipsius (Dict. of Christ. Biog. III. 263) has given other and satisfactory reasons for thinking that Florinus’ heresy, and therefore Irenæus’ epistle and his work On the Ogdoad, belonged to the time of Victor, and hence were later than the work Against Heresies. A Syriac fragment of an epistle concerning Florinus, addressed by Irenæus to Victor (Harvey’s edition, Fragm. 28), is extant, and supports Lipsius’ conclusion. It would seem that Irenæus, subsequent to the writing of his great work, learning that Florinus was holding heretical opinions on the origin of evil, addressed him the epistle mentioned in this chapter. That afterward, Florinus having embraced Valentinianism, and having written “an abominable book” (as the fragment just referred to says), Irenæus wrote his work On the Ogdoad, and subsequently addressed his epistle to Victor, calling upon him to take decisive measures against Florinus, now seen to be a regular heretic. What was the result of Irenæus’ epistles and book we do not know; we hear nothing more about the matter, nor do we know anything more about Florinus (for Augustine’s mention of Florinus as the founder of a sect of Floriniani is a mistake; see Salmon, l.c.).
or That God is not the Author of Evil. For Florinus seemed to be defending this opinion. And because he was being drawn away by the error of Valentinus, Irenæus wrote his work On the Ogdoad,16641664    This treatise, On the Ogdoad, is no longer extant, though it is probable that we have a few fragments of it (see Harvey, I. clxvi.). The importance which Irenæus attached to this work is seen from the solemn adjuration with which he closed it. It must have been largely identical in substance with the portions of his Adv. Hær. which deal with the æons of the Valentinians. It may have been little more than an enlargement of those portions of the earlier work. The Ogdoad (Greek, ὀγδόας, a word signifying primarily a thing in eight parts) occupied a prominent place in the speculations of the Gnostics. Valentinus taught eight primary æons, in four pairs, as the root and origin of the other æons and of all beings. These eight he called the first or primary Ogdoad; and hence a work upon the Ogdoad, written against a Valentinian, must, of course, be a general discussion of the Valentinian doctrine of the æons. The word Ogdoad was not used by all the Gnostics in the same sense. It was quite commonly employed to denote the supercelestial region which lay above the seven planetary spheres (or Hebdomad), and hence above the control of the seven angels who severally presided over these spheres. In the Valentinian system a higher sphere, the Pleroma, the abode of the æons, was added, and the supercelestial sphere, the Ogdoad of the other systems, was commonly called the Mesotes. or middle region. For further particulars in regard to the Ogdoad, see Salmon’s articles Hebdomad and Ogdoad in the Dict. of Christ. Biog. in which he shows that he himself had been acquainted with the first successors of the apostles.16651665    Literally, “in which he shows that he himself had seized upon (κατειληφέναι) the first succession (διαδοχήν) of the apostles.” In order to emphasize the fact that he was teaching true doctrine, he pointed out, as he did so often elsewhere, the circumstance that he was personally acquainted with disciples of the apostles.

2. At the close of the treatise we have found a most beautiful note which we are constrained to insert in this work.16661666    It was not at all uncommon for copyists, both by accident and by design, to make changes, often serious, in copying books. We have an instance of intentional alterations mentioned in Bk. IV. chap. 23. It is not at all strange, therefore, that such an adjuration should be attached to a work which its author considered especially liable to corruption, or whose accurate transcription be regarded as peculiarly important. Compare the warning given in Rev. xxii. 18, 19. The fragments from Irenæus’ works preserved in this chapter are translated in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, I. p. 568 sq. It runs as follows:

“I adjure thee who mayest copy this book, by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by his glorious advent when he comes to judge the living and the dead, to compare what thou shalt write, and correct it carefully by this manuscript, and also to write this adjuration, and place it in the copy.”

3. These things may be profitably read in his work, and related by us, that we may have those ancient and truly holy men as the best example of painstaking carefulness.

4. In the letter to Florinus, of which we have spoken,16671667    The epistle On Monarchy mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. Irenæus mentions again his intimacy with Polycarp, saying:

“These doctrines, O Florinus, to speak mildly, are not of sound judgment. These doctrines disagree with the Church, and drive into the greatest impiety those who accept them. These doctrines, not even the heretics outside of the Church, have ever dared to publish. These doctrines, the presbyters who were before us, and who were companions of the apostles, did not deliver to thee.

5. “For when I was a boy, I saw thee in lower Asia with Polycarp, moving in splendor in the royal court,16681668    ἐν τῇ βασιλικῇ αὐλῇ. This expression is a little puzzling, as the word βασιλική implies the imperial court, and could not properly be used of the provincial court of the proconsul. No sojourn of an emperor in Asia Minor is known which will meet the chronology of the case; and hence Lightfoot (Contemporary Review May, 1875, p. 834) has offered the plausible suggestion that the words may have been loosely employed to denote the court of Titus Aurelius Fulvus, who was proconsul of Asia about 136 a.d., and afterward became the emperor Antoninus Pius. and endeavoring to gain his approbation.

6. I remember the events of that time more clearly than those of recent years. For what boys learn, growing with their mind, becomes joined with it; so that I am able to describe the very place in which the blessed Polycarp sat as he discoursed, and his goings out and his comings in, and the man239ner of his life, and his physical appearance, and his discourses to the people, and the accounts which he gave of his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord. And as he remembered their words, and what he heard from them concerning the Lord, and concerning his miracles and his teaching, having received them from eyewitnesses of the ‘Word of life,’16691669    1 John i. 1. Polycarp related all things in harmony with the Scriptures.

7. These things being told me by the mercy of God, I listened to them attentively, noting them down, not on paper, but in my heart. And continually, through God’s grace, I recall them faithfully. And I am able to bear witness before God that if that blessed and apostolic presbyter had heard any such thing, he would have cried out, and stopped his ears, and as was his custom, would have exclaimed, O good God, unto what times hast thou spared me that I should endure these things? And he would have fled from the place where, sitting or standing, he had heard such words.16701670    This would have been quite like Polycarp, who appears to have had a special horror of heretics. Compare his words to Marcion, quoted above, in Bk. IV. chap. 14. He seems to have inherited this horror from John the apostle, if Irenæus’ account is to be believed; see Adv. Hær. III. 3, 4, quoted by Eusebius in Bk. III. chap. 28, and in Bk. IV. chap. 14.

8. And this can be shown plainly from the letters16711671    We know of only one epistle by Polycarp, that to the Philippians, which is still extant. Upon his life and epistle, see Bk. IV. chap. 14, notes 5 and 16. which he sent, either to the neighboring churches for their confirmation, or to some of the brethren, admonishing and exhorting them.” Thus far Irenæus.

« Prev The Writings of Irenæus against the Schismatics… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection