Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Irenaeus (?-202AD), Against Heresies

Only 3 hours of listening to go!  The first third of this work is about Gnostic beliefs.  These are a bit mystical with every word re-defined in order to suit some conflicting agenda.  This all sounds so much like modernism.

The remainder of the book has a few barbs directed towards the Gnostics, but is really a theological treatise outlining much of Irenaeus' understanding of Christian theology.  An example is a chapter heading from this translation:

"CHAP. XXXVII.--MEN ARE POSSESSED OF FREE WILL, AND ENDOWED WITH THE FACULTY OF MAKING A CHOICE. IT IS NOT TRUE, THEREFORE, THAT SOME ARE BY NATURE GOOD, AND OTHERS BAD." - Against Heresies, Book IV

He has a very strong sense of free will. The above might be the translators summary of the chapter.  Need to check the original ...

Regarding the church, he is quite strong on emphasizing the succession based on a laying on of hands as well as honoring Rome and Clement.  The papists should certainly like this last bit.

Some of the interpretations of figures in the Old Testament provide some intellectual stimulation.  I generally like to avoid committing to an interpretation unless the New Testament lists it.  The first set of interpretations that jumps out is with regard to Lot and his daughters.  Irenaeus says that these signify the "two churches", of which I presume he means the Jews and the Christian church.  He says that Lot's wife who turned into a pillar of salt represents the church that is here on Earth until the end time and the command for us to be the "salt" to the world.  That probably belongs in either the "dubious" or "suspicious" column.

A second interpretation is with regard to clean and unclean animals.  The Old Testament lists animals that chew the cud and have split hooves as being clean.  The reason given by Irenaeus is that the split hooves represent stability, at least as compared to un-split hooves, and the chewing of the cud represents the process of patiently meditating on the Word of God.  I am going to have to chew on this for a bit.

3 comments:

Delirious said...

Sorry to tell Iraneus, but I think he is way off in his interpretations of the two scriptures you mentioned. Yes, salt is mentioned more than once in the Bible, but that doesn't mean it always has the same interpretation. lol

On another note, what do you think of this article? http://www.epochtimes.com/gb/12/5/1/n3578702.htm They have translation available.

Dr. Russell Norman Murray said...

I had to study Irenaeus for my MTS, and a little for my PhD. He is difficult to read and understand because of writing style and translation and his works are rare. There is debate on what he actually thought on some points, sort of like Augustine.

Looney said...

@Russ, do you find the style of Irenaeus to be harder than that of Aquinas?

I am a bit surprised that Irenaeus hasn't said much that sticks out in my mind so far that talks of predestination or foreknowledge.