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    CHAPTER IX. IRENAEUS

    The birth of Irenaeus is placed by some authors as early as 67 A. D., and by others as late as 140 A. D. As evidence that there is no exact knowledge in regard to the matter, it is necessary only to state that the years 108 and 120 A. D., and several other dates, are also given. But the exact date is a matter of little moment; it is enough to know that he lived sometime in the second century.FACC 125.1

    The writings of Irenaeus are quite extensive, and are very greatly lauded; yet it has been well said that “their preciousness bears no proportion to their bulk.” A writer in the British and Foreign Evangelical Review (January, 1869), says: “It would be possible to compress into a very few pages all the statements of fact that can be deemed really valuable to us at the present day.” In spite of all the praise that is lavished upon the Fathers, the same thing may be said of all of them. Indeed, we may go further, and say that although their writings contain, as a matter of necessity, some statements of fact, and some principles of truth, if not one of the so-called Christian Fathers had ever written a line, the amount of useful knowledge in the world would not be one iota less than it now is, and the Christian church would be far better off.FACC 125.2

    Killen speaks of Irenaeus thus:—
    “Irenaeus is commonly called the disciple of Polycarp; but it is reported that he was also under the tuition of a less intelligent preceptor, Papias of Hierapolis. This teacher .... is noted as the earliest ecclesiastical writer who held the doctrine of the personal reign of Christ at Jerusalem during the millennium. ‘These views,’ says Eusebius, ‘he appears to have adopted in consequence of having misunderstood the apostolic narratives.... For he was a man of very slender intellect, as is evident from his discourses.’ His pupil Irenaeus possessed a much superior capacity; but even his writings are not destitute of puerilities; and it is not improbable that he derived some of the errors to be found in them from his weak-minded teacher.”—Ancient Church, period 2, sec. 2, chap. 1, paragraph 10.
    FACC 125.3

    It may be interesting to the reader to know a little more of the weak-minded man whose instruction Irenaeus enjoyed. Dr. Schaff (History of the Christian Church, vol. 1, sec. 121), says of him:—
    “Papias, a disciple of John (?) and friend of Polycarp, bishop of Hierapolis, in Phrygia, till towards the middle of the second century, was a pious man, and well read in the Scriptures, but credulous and weak-minded. He entertained a grossly materialistic view of the millennium. He collected with great zeal the oral traditions of the apostles respecting the discourses and works of Jesus, and published them under the title: ‘Explanations of the Lord’s Discourses,’ in five books. Although this work (according to Gallandi and Pitra) maintained itself down to the thirteenth century, yet we possess only some fragments of it in Irenaeus and Eusebius, which, together with a few valuable notices, in regard, for example, to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, contain perfectly monstrous and fabulous inventions.”
    FACC 126.1

    The truthfulness of this last remark is amply proved by the following prophecy which Papias puts into the mouth of the Lord:—
    “As the elders who saw John the disciple of the Lord remembered that they had heard from him how the Lord taught in regard to those times, and said: ‘The days will come in which vines shall grow, having each ten thousand branches, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in each true twig ten thousand shoots, and in every one of the shoots ten thousand clusters, and on every one of the clusters ten thousand grapes, and every grape when pressed will give five-and-twenty metretes of wine. And when any one of the saints shall lay hold of a cluster, another shall cry out, “I am a better cluster, take me; bless the Lord through me.” In like manner, (he said) that a grain of wheat would produce ten thousand ears, and that every ear would have ten thousand grains, and every grain would yield ten pounds of clear, pure, fine flour.’”—Fragment 4.
    FACC 126.2

    It would perhaps be unjust to call Papias a phenomenal liar, but we can safely say that he gave unbounded license to his imagination, and took great liberties with the truth. Such was the character of the man who assisted to prepare Irenaeus for his position as a Father of the church. That Irenaeus was a worthy pupil of such a master, is indicated by the following:—
    “In theology Irenaeus is the first who, if he be rightly interpreted, suggests the disastrous view that Christ’s ransom of our race was paid to Satan—a notion which occurs in the writings of theologians almost unquestioned till the days of Anselm. Even as regards events which were then recent Irenaeus is a most unsafe authority.”—History of Interpretation (Farrar), p. 176.
    FACC 127.1

    Mosheim makes the following statement concerning the number and condition of the writings of Irenaeus, which have reached us:—
    “Of his writings in support of the Christian faith, which were not a few, none besides his five books against heresies have come down to our time; and indeed these (with the exception of the first) have reached us merely through the medium of a wretchedly barbarous and obscure Latin translation.”—Ecclesiastical Commentaries, cent. 2, sec. 37.
    FACC 127.2

    On this last point the translators of Irenaeus have made a very telling statement in their introductory notice. It is one which those who so highly extol the value of his writings, seem to have entirely overlooked. Here is what they say:—
    “The great work of Irenaeus, now for the first time translated into English, is unfortunately no longer extant in the original. It has come down to us only in an ancient Latin version, with the exception of the greater part of the first book, which has been preserved in the original Greek, through means of copious quotations made by Hippolytus and Epiphanius. The text, both Latin and Greek, is often most uncertain. Only three MMS. of the work ‘Against Heresies’ are at present known to exist. Others, however, were used in the earliest printed editions put forth by Erasmus. And as these codices were more ancient than any now available, it is greatly to be regretted that they have disappeared or perished. One of our difficulties throughout, has been to fix the readings we should adopt, especially in the first book. Varieties of reading, actual or conjectural, have been noted only when some point of special importance seemed to be involved.
    FACC 128.1

    “After the text has been settled, according to the best judgment which can be formed, the work of translation remains; and that is, in this case, a matter of no small difficulty. Irenaeus, even in the original Greek, is often a very obscure writer. At times he expresses himself with remarkable clearness and terseness; but, upon the whole, his style is very involved and prolix. And the Latin version adds to these difficulties of the original, by being itself of the most barbarous character. In fact, it is often necessary to make a conjectural re-translation of it into Greek, in order to obtain some inkling of what the author wrote. Dodwell supposes this Latin version to have been made about the end of the fourth century; but as Tertullian seems to have used it, we must rather place it in the beginning of the third. Its author is unknown, but he was certainly little qualified for his task. We have endeavored to give as close and accurate a translation of the work as possible, but there are not a few passages in which a guess can only be made as to the probable meaning.”FACC 128.2

    One way of arriving at a knowledge of an unknown quantity is to guess what the half of it is, and then multiply that by two. This process will invariably give the correct result, provided you make no mistake in guessing at the half. We have also heard that when farmers who live in the woods, far from civilization, wish to ascertain the exact weight of a hog, and have no scales, they lay a plank across a log, place the animal on one end of the plank, pile stones on the other end until they exactly balance the hog, and then they guess how much the stones weigh. This has never been known to fail to give the exact weight of a hog, unless a mistake was made in guessing the weight of the stones.FACC 129.1

    Very similar to these methods was the means adopted by the translators of Irenaeus. The original of his writings (with a single exception) nowhere exists. The small portion that has come to us in the original Greek, shows that Irenaeus could with difficulty express himself so as to be understood. This obscurity is greatly increased by the wretched Latin translation in which his writings are extant. So whenever the translators came to a passage out of which they could not for their lives make any sense, they wrote out a Greek sentence which they guessed might be what Irenaeus said, and then translated that into English, and lo! we have the writings of Irenaeus. When writings may be reproduced in that way, there is certainly no reason for any man’s writings to be lost.FACC 129.2

    Of course the above method was not pursued with all of the works of Irenaeus, and there is no doubt but that we have some things just as he wrote them; but the question is, Which are the genuine and which are not? The guess-work of the translators throws doubt upon everything. But it really makes very little difference. If it were all conjecture, or if all were lost, the world would be better off. No doubt the part which the translators evolved from their own imagination, is better than what Irenaeus actually wrote.FACC 130.1

    With the facts recorded in the last quotation before us, it is scarcely worth while to make any extracts from Irenaeus. Each reader might do a little guessing on his own account, and produce the writings of that Father in a style to suit his own individual taste. But that we may know something of the character of that which is generally credited to him, a few specimens are appended. The following is from “Irenaeus against Heresies:”—FACC 130.2

    “Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the church,—those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good-pleasure of the Father. But (it is also incumbent) to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, (looking upon them) either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vain-glory.”—Book 4, chap. 26, par. 2.FACC 130.3

    This, it will be seen, tends solely to the up-building of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. While Origen and Tertullian were very versatile, introducing many heresies, Irenaeus did his chief service to the Roman Catholic Church in the line of establishing the Episcopal succession, and preparing the minds of the people for the acceptance of one “universal bishop.”FACC 131.1

    The following, which teaches obedience to the Church of Rome, shows how early the Romish leaven began to work:—
    “Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vain-glory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; (we do this, I say) by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also (by pointing out) the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every church should agree with this church, on account of its pre-eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those (faithful men) who exist everywhere.
    FACC 131.2

    “The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing (in his ears), and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone (in this), for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spake with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that he, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the churches, and may also understand the apostolical tradition of the church, since this epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another God beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.”—Id., book 3, chap. 3, paragraphs 2, 3.FACC 131.3

    Still further we read to the same intent:—
    “Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the church; since the apostles, like a rich man (depositing his money) in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary (in that case) to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the churches?”—Id., chap. 4, paragraph 1.
    FACC 132.1

    It may be claimed that Irenaeus did not write this, but that it is the work of someone who lived at a later date, and who wished to have the weight of Irenaeus’s influence in behalf of Roman supremacy. Of course the one who makes that claim will never be found quoting from Irenaeus in behalf of anything else, for if this is a forgery, any other portion may be a forgery also. But the fact remains that the writings of Irenaeus, whoever produced them, favor the Roman Catholic usurpation. Tradition is by them exalted, and the people are exhorted to have recourse to “the most ancient churches,” instead of to the Bible.FACC 133.1

    In proof of the statement made by Killen, that the writings of Irenaeus “are not destitute of puerilities,” we quote the following “reasons” which he gives to show why there are only four Gospels:—
    “It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the church is scattered throughout all the world, and the ‘pillar and ground’ of the church is the gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, he that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains all things, he who was manifested to men, has given us the gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit. As also David says, when entreating his manifestation, ‘Thou that sittest between the cherubim, shine forth.’ For the cherubim, too, were four-faced, and their faces were images of the dispensation of the Son of God. For (as the Scripture) says, ‘The first living creature was like a lion,’ symbolizing his effectual working, his leadership, and royal power; the second (living creature) was like a calf, signifying (his) sacrificial and sacerdotal order; but ‘the third had, as it were, the face as of a man,’—an evident description of his advent as a human being; ‘the fourth was like a flying eagle,’ pointing out the gift of the Spirit hovering with his wings over the church. And therefore the Gospels are in accord with these things, among which Christ Jesus is seated.”—Id., book 3, chap. 11, paragraph 8.
    FACC 133.2

    That is fanciful enough, but it is not so bad as the following, which shows Irenaeus to have been a fit companion of the one who stole the name of Barnabas to foist his idle imaginings upon the church:—
    “Now the law has figuratively predicted all these, delineating man by the (various) animals: whatsoever of these, says (the Scripture), have a double hoof and ruminate, it proclaims as clean; but whatsoever of them do not possess one or other of these (properties), it sets aside by themselves as unclean. Who then are the clean? Those who make their way by faith steadily towards the Father and the Son; for this is denoted by the steadiness of those which divide the hoof; and they meditate day and night upon the words of God, that they may be adorned with good works; for this is the meaning of the ruminants. The unclean, however, are those who do neither divide the hoof nor ruminate; that is, those persons who have neither faith in God, nor do meditate on his words; and such is the abomination of the Gentiles. But as to those animals which do indeed chew the cud, but have not the double hoof, are themselves unclean, we have in them a figurative description of the Jews, who certainly have the words of God in their mouth, but who do not fix their rooted steadfastness in the Father and in the Son; wherefore they are an unstable generation. For those animals which have the hoof all in one piece easily slip; but those which have it divided are more sure-footed, their cleft hoofs succeeding each other as they advance, and the one hoof supporting the other. In like manner, too, those are unclean which have the double hoof but do not ruminate: this is plainly an indication of all heretics, and of those who do not meditate on the words of God, neither are adorned with works of righteousness; to whom also the Lord says, ‘Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say to you?’ For men of this stamp do indeed say that they believe in the Father and the Son, but they never meditate as they should upon the things of God, neither are they adorned with works of righteousness; but, as I have already observed, they have adopted the lives of swine and of dogs, giving themselves over to filthiness, to gluttony, and recklessness of all sorts. Justly, therefore, did the apostle call all such ‘carnal’ and ‘animal,’—(all those, namely) who through their own unbelief and luxury do not receive the divine Spirit, and in their various phases cast out from themselves the life-giving word, and walk stupidly after their own lusts: the prophets, too, spake of them as beasts of burden and wild beasts; custom likewise has viewed them in the light of cattle and irrational creatures; and the law has pronounced them unclean.”—Id., book 5, chap. 8, par 4.
    FACC 134.1

    We are now prepared to listen to what Irenaeus has to say about the Sabbath and Sunday, although what we have already read does not tend to make us listen with a great deal of reverence either for his opinion or his practice. In number 7 of the “Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus,” we read:—
    “This (custom), of not bending the knee upon Sunday, is a symbol of the resurrection, through which we have been set free, by the grace of Christ, from sins, and from death, which has been put to death under him. Now this custom took its rise from apostolic times, as the blessed Irenaeus, the martyr and bishop of Lyons, declares in his treatise ‘On Easter,’ in which he makes mention of Pentecost also; upon which (feast) we do not bend the knee, because it is of equal significance with the Lord’s day, for the reason already alleged concerning it.”
    FACC 136.1

    No explanation of this passage is needed. Whoever wishes to accept it along with all that Irenaeas has written, is welcome to do so. If it is not a forgery, and if it was written at the time that Irenaeus is supposed to have lived, then it simply shows that some slight reverence for Sunday existed quite early in the church, together with the other beginning of apostasy from the Bible religion.FACC 136.2

    In a foot-note to fragment number 50, we find the following:—
    “This extract is introduced as follows: ‘For Irenaeus bishop of Lyons, who was a contemporary of the disciple of the apostle, Polycarp bishop of Smyrna, and martyr, and for this reason is held in just estimation, wrote to an Alexandrian to the effect that it is right, with respect to the feast of the resurrection, that we should celebrate it upon the first day of the week.’”
    FACC 136.3

    That is to say, that somebody says that Irenaeus, who acquired great renown from the fact that he lived at the same time that Polycarp did, wrote to somebody else to the effect that the feast of the resurrection ought to be celebrated on the first day of the week. How he found out that any “feast of the resurrection” should ever be celebrated, this unknown deponent saith not.FACC 136.4

    Whether the following is favorable to the Sabbath of the fourth commandment or opposed to it, the writer is unable to determine. Whoever thinks that it is worth anything, is welcome to it:—
    “And therefore the Lord reproved those who unjustly blamed him for having healed upon the Sabbath-days. For he did not make void, but fulfilled the law, by performing the offices of the high priest, propitiating God for men, and cleansing the lepers, healing the sick, and himself suffering death, that exiled man might go forth from condemnation, and might return without fear to his own inheritance.—Irenaeus against Heresies, book 4, chap. 8, paragraph 2.
    FACC 137.1

    The following, however, most clearly teaches the necessity of obedience to all the commandments:—
    “They (the Jews) had therefore a law, a course of discipline, and a prophecy of future things. For God at the first, indeed, warning them by means of natural precepts, which from the beginning he had implanted in mankind, that is, by means of the decalogue (which, if anyone does not observe, he has no salvation), did then demand nothing more of them. As Moses says in Deuteronomy, ‘These are all the words which the Lord spake to the whole assembly of the sons of Israel on the mount, and he added no more; and he wrote them on two tables of stone, and gave them to me.’ For this reason (he did so), that they who are willing to follow him might keep these commandments.”—Id., book 4, chap 15, paragraph 1.
    FACC 137.2

    And the following does most emphatically assert the perpetuity of the law of God:— “Preparing man for this life, the Lord himself did speak in his own person to all alike the words of the decalogue; and therefore, in like manner, do they remain permanently with us, receiving by means of his advent in the flesh, extension and increase, but not abrogation.”—Id., book 4, chap. 16, paragraph 4.FACC 137.3

    It is to be hoped that no commandment-keeper will ever refer to these passages in Irenaeus as evidence that Christ did not abrogate the law of God, the ten commandments. It is true that he did not abate one jot of the law, but the testimony of Irenaeus does not make that fact any more certain. We know it because Christ himself has said so. We may not quote the Fathers as authority even when they tell the truth, for that would oblige us to accept their heresies. The above extracts are useful, however, to quote for the benefit of those who would fain derive comfort from Irenaeus for the custom of observing Sunday, in opposition to the fourth precept of the decalogue.FACC 138.1

    Those who wish to take Irenaeus as authority on any point, must accept his teaching on all points, and so, in addition to the exaltation of Rome, they must accept the doctrine of purgatory, for Irenaeus says:—
    “It was for this reason, too, that the Lord descended into the regions beneath the earth, preaching his advent there also, and (declaring) the remission of sins received by those who believe in him.”—Id., chap. 27, paragraph 2.
    FACC 138.2

    The above doctrine of purgatory and probation after death is of course based upon the doctrine of the immortality of the soul; yet the following is a virtual contradiction of that theory. It is at any rate a plain statement of the fact that people do not go to Heaven at death:— “If, then, the Lord observed the law of the dead, that he might become the first-begotten from the dead, and tarried until the third day ‘in the lower parts of the earth;’ then afterwards rising in the flesh, so that he even showed the print of the nails to his disciples, he thus ascended to the Father;—(if all these things occurred, I say), how must these men not be put to confusion, who allege that ‘the lower parts’ refer to this world of ours, but that their inner man, leaving the body here, ascends into the super-celestial place? For as the Lord ‘went away in the midst of the shadow of death,’ where the souls of the dead were, yet afterwards arose in the body, and after the resurrection was taken up (into Heaven), it is manifest that the souls of his disciples also, upon whose account the Lord underwent these things, shall go away into the invisible place allotted to them by God, and there remain until the resurrection, awaiting that event; then receiving their bodies, and rising in their entirety, that is bodily, just as the Lord arose, they shall come thus into the presence of God. ‘For no disciple is above the Master, but everyone that is perfect shall be as his Master.’ As our Master, therefore, did not at once depart, taking flight (to Heaven), but awaited the time of his resurrection prescribed by the Father, which had been also shown forth through Jonas, and rising again after three days was taken up (to Heaven), so ought we also to await the time of our resurrection prescribed by God and foretold by the prophets, and so, rising, be taken up, as many as the Lord shall account worthy of this (privilege).”—Id., book 5, chap. 31, paragraph 2.FACC 138.3

    The following extract is rather long, but it is a good example of the style of Irenaeus, and, although it may be called a point of minor importance, it shows how readily false theories obtain credence, and are propagated among the people:—
    “They, however, that they may establish their false opinion regarding that which is written, ‘to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,’ maintain that he preached for one year only, and then suffered in the twelfth month. (In speaking thus), they are forgetful to their own disadvantage, destroying his whole work, and robbing him of that age which is both more necessary and more honorable than any other; that more advanced age, I mean, during which also as a teacher he excelled all others. For how could he have had disciples, if he did not teach? And how could he have taught, unless he had reached the age of a master? For when he came to be baptized, he had not yet completed his thirtieth year, but was beginning to be about thirty years of age (for thus Luke, who has mentioned his years, has expressed it: ‘Now Jesus was, as it were, beginning to be thirty years old,’ when he came to receive baptism); and (according to these men) he preached only one year reckoning from his baptism. On completing his thirtieth year he suffered, being in fact still a young man, and who had by no means attained to advanced age. Now, that the first stage of early life embraces thirty years, and that this extends onwards to the fortieth year, everyone will admit; but from the fortieth and fiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while he still fulfilled the office of a teacher, even as the gospel and all the elders testify; those who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord, (affirming) that John conveyed to them that information. And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan. Some of them, moreover, saw not only John, but the other apostles also, and heard the very same account from them, and bear testimony as to the (validity of) the statement. Whom then should we rather believe? Whether such men as these, or Ptolemaeus, who never saw the apostles, and who never even in his dreams attained to the slightest trace of an apostle?
    FACC 139.1

    “But, besides this, those very Jews who then disputed with the Lord Jesus Christ have most clearly indicated the same thing. For when the Lord said to them ’Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad,’ they answered him, ‘Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?’ Now, such language is fittingly applied to one who has already passed the age of forty, without having as yet reached his fiftieth year, yet is not far from this latter period. But to one who is only thirty years old it would unquestionably be said, ‘Thou art not yet forty years old.’ For those who wished to convict him of falsehood would certainly not extend the number of his years far beyond the age which they saw he had attained; but they mentioned a period near his real age, whether they had truly ascertained this out of the entry in the public register, or simply made a conjecture from what they observed that he was above forty years old, and that he certainly was not one of only thirty years of age. For it is altogether unreasonable to suppose that they were mistaken by twenty years, when they wished to prove him younger than the times of Abraham. For what they saw, that they also expressed; and he whom they beheld was not a mere phantasm, but an actual being of flesh and blood. He did not then want much of being fifty years old; and, in accordance with that fact, they said to him, ‘Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?’”—Id., book 2, chap. 22, paragraphs 5, 6.FACC 140.1

    With respect to the assertion of Irenaeus that the apostle John told the elders in Asia, that when Jesus taught he was upwards of forty years old, Harvey, who got out an edition of Irenaeus, says:—
    “The reader may here receive the unsatisfactory character of tradition, where a mere fact is concerned. From reasonings founded upon the evangelical history, as well as from a preponderance of external testimony, it is most certain that our Lord’s ministry extended but little over three years; yet here Irenaeus states that it included more than ten years, and appeals to a tradition derived, as he says, from those who had conversed with an apostle.”—Quoted in a foot-note, by Bishop Coxe.
    FACC 141.1

    And Bishop Coxe also adds a note to the statement that Jesus did not lack much of being fifty years old when the conversation occurred which is recorded in the eighth chapter of John. He says:—
    “This statement is simply astounding, and might seem a providential illustration of the worthlessness of mere tradition unsustained by the written word. No mere tradition could be more creditably authorized than this.”
    FACC 142.1

    It is a pity that the bishop and other admirers of the Fathers have not always kept this fact in mind. If they had, they would not have lauded the Fathers as they have, for their writings are mostly tradition or speculation. Since it is admitted that everything must be sustained by the Bible, in order to be of any value, how much better it would be to go to the Bible direct for our information, without floundering through the bogs of patristic literature.FACC 142.2

    In his preface to the writings of Irenaeus, Bishop Coxe says: “Not a little of what is contained in the following pages will seem almost unintelligible to the English reader. And it is scarcely more comprehensible to those who have pondered long on the original.” Whoever wades through the entire mass will be convinced of the truth of that statement, and the following is one of the passages which will serve to convince him:—
    “Moreover, Jesus, which is a word belonging to the proper tongue of the Hebrews, contains, as the learned among them declare, two letters and a half, and signifies that Lord who contains heaven and earth; for Jesus in the ancient Hebrew language means ‘heaven,’ while again ‘earth’ is expressed by the words sura usser. The word, therefore, which contains heaven and earth is just Jesus.”—Irenaeus against Heresies, book 2, chap 24, paragraph 2.
    FACC 142.3

    The bishop truly says that nothing can be made of these words. And the words “sura usser” betray not much more ignorance on the part of the writer than does his attempt to handle the Hebrew. Such ignorance and pedantry on the part of a modern writer would make him the laughing stock of all who should take the trouble to read his writings. But Irenaeus is a “Father of the church,” and so, forsooth, his senseless jargon must be looked upon with reverence and awe.FACC 143.1

    It appears, moreover, that Irenaeus was almost as ignorant of Greek as he was of Hebrew, although he wrote in Greek. That is, he was an ignorant scribbler who made great pretensions to knowledge. In book 2, chapter 35, paragraph 3 of his work “Against Heresies,” he says:—
    “In like manner also, Sabaoth, when it is spelled by a Greek Omega in the last syllable (Sabaoth), denotes ‘a voluntary agent;’ but when it is spelled with a Greek Omicron—as, for instance, Sabaoth—it expresses ‘the first heaven.’ In the same way, too, the word Jaoth, when the last syllable is made long and aspirated, denotes ‘a predetermined measure;’ but when it is written shortly by the Greek letter Omicron, namely, Jaoth, it signifies ‘one who puts evils to flight.’”
    FACC 143.2

    As Coxe says: “The author is here utterly mistaken.... The term Sabaoth is never written with an Omicron, either in the LXX., or by the Greek Fathers, but always with an Omega (Sabaoth).” But just think of the absurdity of writing such stuff “against heresies.”FACC 143.3

    With one more example of the expository skill of Irenaeus, we will take leave of him. It is from his wonderful refutation of all heresies:—
    “Moreover, by the words they used this fact was pointed out—that there is no other one who can confer upon the elder and younger church the (power of) giving birth to children, besides our Father. Now the father of the human race is the Word of God, as Moses points out when he says, ‘Is not he thy father who hath obtained thee (by generation), and formed thee, and created thee?’ At what time, then, did he pour out upon the human race the life-giving seed—that is, the Spirit of the remission of sins, through means of whom we are quickened? Was it not then, when he was eating with men, and drinking wine upon the earth? For it is said, ‘The Son of man came eating and drinking;’ and when he had lain down, he fell asleep, and took repose. As he does himself say in David, ‘I slept, and took repose.’ And because he used thus to act while he dwelt and lived among us, he says again, ‘And my sleep became sweet unto me.’ Now this whole matter was indicated through Lot, that the seed of the Father of all—that is, of the Spirit of God, by whom all things were made—was commingled and united with flesh—that is, with his own workmanship; by which commixture and unity the two synagogues—that is, the two churches—produced from their own father living sons to the living God.
    FACC 143.4

    “And while these things were taking place, his wife remained in (the territory of) Sodom, no longer corruptible flesh, but a pillar of salt which endures forever; and by those natural processes which appertain to the human race, indicating that the church also, which is the salt of the earth, has been left behind within the confines of the earth, and subject to human sufferings; and while entire members are often taken away from it, the pillar of salt still endures, thus typifying the foundation of the faith which maketh strong, and sends forward, children to their Father.”—Book 4, chap. 31, paragraphs 2, 3.FACC 144.1

    In this Irenaeus shows himself worthy to rank with the worst of the Fathers as a perverter of the simple statements of the Bible. How true it is that “the world by wisdom knew not God.” Those men were so imbued with the spirit of heathen philosophy, which consisted simply in a show of learning, to mystify and awe the simple-minded, that they could not come down to the plain, common-sense teaching of the Bible. Lot’s drinking wine must needs be made a type of Christ; the children begotten by incestuous intercourse with his daughters is taken as a type of the church proceeding from God; and with the usual disregard of consistency, the pillar of salt, into which Lot’s wife was turned, is made to represent the church which preserves the world, although that did not preserve anything. And that is a sample of the stuff that was written against heresies. Such childish trifling with the sacred text is well adapted to produce heresy and infidelity, and nothing else. And therefore the same verdict will have to be pronounced upon Irenaeus as upon the other so-called Fathers. His intentions may have been good, but whatever influence his work has had, has been blighting to pure Christianity and to reverence for “the sincere milk of the word.” No wonder he is an honored Father in the Catholic Church.FACC 144.2

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