BLTC Press Titles


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Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley


Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A. Conan Doyle


Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner


Irenaeus of Lugdunum

by Francis Ryan Montgomery Hitchcock

Excerpt:

Accordingly, to understand the work and personality of Irenaeus we have to take into account his spiritual ancestors and the spiritual environment in which his mind grew and developed. In several directions one may trace an influence—more or less marked—of his predecessors and teachers upon his theological ideas. One might follow the traces of this influence in more detail, beginning with Hermas. In the fourth book against the Heresies1 we have this quotation from the Pastor of Hermas, brother (?) of the Roman bishop Pius, A.D. 140, which is cited as Scripture: "First of all believe that there is one God, who hath made and established all things and has caused that all things

1 20.2.

should come into existence from nothing, and who contains everything, but is contained by none."

The influence of the letter imputed to the " apostolic" Barnabas is as discernible in the treatise of Irenaeus as it is in the Stromateis of Clement of Alexandria1, and throws light on the early connection between Rome, where Irenaeus studied, and Alexandria, where Barnabas probably lived. Compare the fifteenth chapter of the letter with the twenty-eighth chapter of Book V. The author of the epistle describes a millennium, a sabbath of a thousand years, and says: "Attend, my children, to the meaning of the words,' He finished it in six days.' This signifies that in six thousand years the Lord will bring all things to an end. For the day with Him is a thousand years. He himself bears out my words by saying,' To-day will be as a thousand years.' Therefore in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be accomplished."

Picturing the same event, Irenaeus writes: "In as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be finished, and, therefore, the Scripture saith,' Thus the heaven and the earth were finished and their order. And God brought to a consummation on the sixth day all His works which He made, and rested on the seventh day from all the works which He made.' These words contain both a record of the past and a prophecy of the future. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years, and in six days the creation was finished. It is clear, therefore, that the sixth thousand year will mark its end."

We also find in this letter the mystical interpretation in which Irenaeus delighted. Moses, according to it,

1 Clement of Alexandria, p. »3». S.P.C.K.

spoke in spirit, that is, in a spiritual sense, but the Jews were led into error by a bad angel, and adopted the carnal and literal meaning of the Mosaic numbers and injunctions, which concealed spiritual truths, and thus the entire ceremonial system was the result of a misconception. In the same way Irenaeus traces the perversions of the Gnostics to the influence of malignant spirits. In the ninth chapter of this letter the author argued that Abraham's circumcision of three hundred and eighteen men prefigured the crucifixion of Jesus, I and H, the initial Greek letters of His name, representing i8, and T, the sign of the Cross, standing for 300. Similarly, Irenaeus found in the four-formed cherubim prototypes of the fourfold Gospel1.

To pass on to Ignatius. Irenaeus seems to have been acquainted with at least the three epistles of this Father which are found in the Syriac versions. His silence regarding the passages of the Medicean revision, especially that in the letter to the Magnesians2, which seems to answer or anticipate the Valentinian gnosis, has been urged by Cureton as an argument that he was only acquainted with the Syriac recension. In V. 28. 4 he writes with one slight variation from that recension*: "I am the wheat of Christ, and am ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found the pure bread of God." The following passage on the Incarnation4, "But in every respect He is man, the creation of God, and the recapitulation of humanity in Himself, the invisible become visible, the incomprehensible being made comprehensible, the impassible become passible, and the Word made man, thus summing up (recapitulans)"d\\


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