30 episodes

This course is an intensive study of the church father, Irenaeus of Lyons with specific attention given to his context and literary and theological contributions. Although often maligned by contemporary scholars as a belligerent, sarcastic, and unfair theological mercenary, a closer look at his writings in their historical and theological context will produce a remarkably different picture of a man who humbly, thoughtfully, and effectively steered early Christian theology by clarifying the church’s textual authority and establishing the boundaries of orthodoxy and heresy.

Irenaeus: Truth, Tradition and Orthodoxy Knox Theological Seminary

    • Religion & Spirituality
    • 5.0, 3 Ratings

This course is an intensive study of the church father, Irenaeus of Lyons with specific attention given to his context and literary and theological contributions. Although often maligned by contemporary scholars as a belligerent, sarcastic, and unfair theological mercenary, a closer look at his writings in their historical and theological context will produce a remarkably different picture of a man who humbly, thoughtfully, and effectively steered early Christian theology by clarifying the church’s textual authority and establishing the boundaries of orthodoxy and heresy.

    CH613 Lesson 01

    CH613 Lesson 01

    Explore Irenaeus and The Rule of Faith as found In “Against Heresies” 1.10. Note that Irenaeus celebrates the diversity within Christianity but yet clings to the undeniable truths of our faith. Why study Irenaeus? There are three perspectives. Historically, Irenaeus is the most important 2nd century theologian. What he writes is to the people in the church and is also a theological work. He helped demarcate orthodoxy and heresy. Irenaeus is central to our understanding of “orthodoxy” and “heresy”. Is Irenaeus a bigoted bishop or a concerned pastor? What was his reputation at the time of his writings? Irenaeus is crucial to understanding how we got our Scriptures and the formation of our canon. He understood that theological identity and practice are inextricably bound to textual authority. Who we are and what we do is defined by what we read as authoritative. There is not much known about Irenaeus’ life. Explore what Irenaeus states in the preface to Against Heresies. Irenaeus never refers to himself as a bishop. He is from the sub-apostolic era, which was after the Apostolic Fathers. What was Irenaeus’ relation to Polycarp? Consider his Letter to Florinus. Christ gives the truth of His gospel to His disciples to safeguard. “Handing down” signifies a direct link with those within the church speaking the truth and those who knew Christ. Polycarp links Irenaeus to the Apostolic Age and Polycarp taught Irenaeus the Gospel. Polycarp reinforced Irenaeus’ upbringing in his early years. Explore the timeline for Irenaeus. He was born in Smyrna in the mid 140’s and about 160 he moved to Lyons.

    • 33 min
    CH613 Lesson 02

    CH613 Lesson 02

    Continue to explore the timeline of Irenaeus. Politically, Marcus Aurelius was emperor and was co-ruler of Rome (161-180). He was last of the “5 good emperors”. This was not a good time for Rome and it was also not a good time for Christians. They were accused of “secret crimes” and of atheism since they did not believe in the gods. They were also accused of Thyestes feasts. Consider what Marcus Minucius Felix writes about the subject. There were also scattered yet severe persecutions. Mob violence occurred outside of Lyons. Irenaeus was tasked with carrying a letter to Rome so they would know what was happening in the western provinces. Lyons was the largest “colony” north of the Alps. It was a culturally significant city. Irenaeus’ flock was mostly migrants. This was the location in which Irenaeus wrote his works. His two extent works are The Detection and Overthrow of the Falsely-Named Knowledge (Against Heresies) and Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching. There are also six lost works. The purpose of Irenaeus’ writing is to bring clarity where there is confusion. What do we do with the Old Testament and Jesus? At this time there were Judaizers, Marcion, Valentinus and the Gnostics. How is Christ moving at this time in history?

    • 27 min
    CH613 Lesson 03

    CH613 Lesson 03

    Explore what Irenaeus states in Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching and his traditional view. In an Introductory Note To Irenaeus Against Heresies we read, “The task of Irenaeus was twofold: (1) to render it impossible for any one to confound Gnosticism with Christianity, and (2) to make it impossible for such a monstrous system to survive, or ever to rise again. His task was a nauseous one; but never was the spirit enjoined by Scripture more patiently exhibited, nor with more entire success. If Julian had found Gnosticism just made to his hand, and powerful enough to suit his purposes, the whole history of his attempt to revive Paganism would have been widely different. Irenaeus demonstrated its essential unity with the old mythology, and with heathen systems of philosophy.” Consider orthodoxy and heresy. Explore the traditional hallmarks of “orthodoxy” (cf. Eusebius). Walter Bauer notes four marks of Orthodoxy: Jesus revealed pure doctrine to his Apostles; Apostolic teaching throughout the world; and Post-apostolic integrity and “handing down” of the truth. Consider what Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:2, 23 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. Irenaeus stated, “Tradition ought to guarantee access to the teaching of Jesus himself, for as Jesus said to his disciples: ‘he who hears you hears me and whoever spurns you spurns me and him who sent me.’” Bauer’s fourth point is that right belief is invincible. What is the traditional view of heresy? It is deviation from the truth - the “other”. Origen notes, “All heretics are at first believers; then later they deviate from the rule of truth.” How does this happen? Simon Magus, in Acts, wanted to buy from Peter the power of the Holy Spirit. Consider that Walter Bauer redefined “orthodoxy” and “heresy”. Orthodoxy was a minority and heresy was the majority of groups making claims to Christ. Orthodoxy was eventually victorious. Why? Because of religious affiliation; political prowess- they were in Rome first; superior communication and organizational skills. There was competition over the “right” historical narrative.

    • 36 min
    CH613 Lesson 04

    CH613 Lesson 04

    Irenaeus charged the Gnostics with misrepresenting the truth and historians were charging Irenaeus with misrepresenting the truth. Explore Charles Hill’s four examples: Irenaeus and the orthodox were unfairly nasty in attack. Consider that April DeConick states that the Gospel of Judas was “completely opposed to apostolic Christianity and did not consider the apostolic Christians to be real Christians.” As noted by Charles Hill, “According to the book Catholic Christians are ignorant and cannot be saved, they are fornicators, and murderers of their children and they are ‘those who sleep with men’.” Why was Irenaeus occasionally aggressive? Consider there are trumped up charges that Irenaeus quashed diversity. Irenaeus defines orthodoxy more as a perimeter where there is room for discussion but while still being fellow believers. But he does view certain views as wrong. Irenaeus did not order books to be destroyed. A criticism of Irenaeus is that his polemics were ad hominem and overly sexual. Simon Magus was viewed as the root of all heresies. In “Lost Christianities” we read, “According to Irenaeus and his successors, Simon was the original Gnostic, who taught that he was personally the divine redeemer sent from the heavenly realm to reveal the truths necessary for salvation. Moreover, he had brought his “Primal Thought” with him, the first aeon that emanated from God. This Primal Thought came embodied as a woman named Helen, whom, the heresiologists tell us, Simon had acquired at a local brothel. For these heresiologists, who delight in stressing the point, Gnostics have prostituted themselves in more ways than one.” Consider what Irenaeus stated about Simon of Samaria. Consider the heretic Marcus and what Irenaeus had to say about him. Explore that behind Irenaeus’ attack on Simon Magus is his anger over Simon’s treatment of the Eucharist.

    • 28 min
    CH613 Lesson 05

    CH613 Lesson 05

    Explore that other accusations included Irenaeus’ view of the bishop. Should the bishop be seen as pastoral or powerful? Ignatius of Antioch taught complete obedience to the bishop. Consider what Walter Bauer states in Orthodoxy and Heresy. Irenaeus viewed the bishop as a teacher and accredited witness of the apostles. They were those who teach what the apostles taught. For Irenaeus orthodoxy was three things. Scripture and the Rule of Faith, work together to express the teaching of the apostles, and bishops were successors of the apostles. Consider Irenaeus and martyrdom. Are martyrdom accounts more rhetorical than historical? How did Irenaeus escape martyrdom? Eusebius comments concerning Irenaeus, “We pray, father Eleutherus, that you may rejoice in God in all things and always. We have requested our brother and comrade Irenæus to carry this letter to you, and we ask you to hold him in esteem, as zealous for the covenant of Christ. For if we thought that office could confer righteousness upon any one, we should commend him among the first as a presbyter of the church, which is his position.” Paul Parvis states of Irenaeus, “There is instead optimism – a calm assurance and a quiet confidence in the working out of God’s purposes in history.” Explore Irenaeus and the topic of the quartodeciman controversy – when did Easter happen? Was it the 14th day of Nissan? In Leviticus 23:5 we read, “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the Lord's Passover.” Explore what Eusebius stated concerning the topic. Consider Historiography- what is our criteria? What is wrong with what this word presumes? Our historiographical methodology must include history and theology but we must also judiciously handle the evidence.

    • 28 min
    CH613 Lesson 06

    CH613 Lesson 06

    This lecture features Dr. Robbie Crouse, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, on Irenaeus and the apostolic preaching. What does it mean to teach the faith? Context. What does Irenaeus mean when he uses the term “demonstration” or “proof” of? Irenaeus is interested in truth. He offers a summary and defense of the faith. His audience is Marcianus, who is already a Christian. Irenaeus states his purpose for writing, “But, since at this present time we are parted from one another in the body, yet according to our power we will not fail to speak with you a little by writing, and to show forth in brief the preaching of the truth for the confirmation of your faith. We send you as it were a manual of essentials, that by little you may attain to much, learning in short space all the members of the body of the truth . . .” Irenaeus saw truth as an organic thing. Truth is a living thing – it is God himself revealed in Jesus Christ. Irenaeus states, “. . . through a summary receive the exposition of the things of God so that, in this way, it will bear your own salvation like fruit, and that you may confound all those who hold false opinions and to everyone who desires to know, you may deliver our sound and irreproachable word in all boldness.” The subjective goal of theology is to know Christ ourselves. The objective goal of theology is not only for our own sakes but through us we might be a demonstration ourselves of what is true and right and good. Irenaeus continues, “This way leads to the kingdom of heaven, uniting man to God: but those ways bring down to death, separating man from God. Wherefore it is needful for you and for all who care for their own salvation to make your course unswerving, firm and sure by means of faith, that you falter not, nor be retarded and detained in material desires, nor turn aside and wander from the right.” Consider the genre that Irenaeus used for writing.

    • 23 min

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