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Unread for over 1000 years

    Irenaeus (born between 115 to 142 to AD 202) was a bishop of Lyons, France.  He also has the distinction of having met or even being taught by Polycarp, who was taught by the Apostle John.  Irenaeus wrote a number of works, from books to letters.  Unfortunately, we only have two of them:  “Against Heresies” and “Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching.”  The first one is long, the second short.  Another distinction exists between the two; the first one has never been lost, whereas the second one has only been recently discovered. 

    A brief note about finding the “Demonstration.”  The first church history book was written by Eusebius (263-339).  In it he mentioned Irenaeus plus listed several works by Irenaeus.  One of these was “Demonstration.”  So scholars have known that it existed, but knew nothing about it since it had been lost.  Then in 1904, this book was discovered in Armenia (east of Turkey) and was even written in Armenian.  Of course, Armenia is a long way from Europe, and so the book was unknown to everyone except those in the Armenian region for over 1000 years.

    In this book, Irenaeus gave a description of Christian beliefs.  Being taught by someone who was taught by an apostle, he believed he was conveying the Apostles’ teaching.  The rest of this article is quoted from the “Demonstration.”

    (1) 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 that truth, and receiving in brief the demonstration of the things of God. . . . (2) Now, since man is a living being compounded of soul and flesh, he must needs exist by both of these:  and, whereas from both of them offences come, purity of the flesh is the restraining abstinence from all shameful things and all unrighteous deeds, and purity of the soul is the keeping faith towards God entire, neither adding thereto nor diminishing therefrom.  For godliness is obscured and dulled by the soiling and the staining of the flesh, and is broken and polluted and no more entire, if falsehood enter into the soul:  but it will keep itself in its beauty and its measure, when truth is constant in the soul and purity in the flesh. . . . (5) Thus then there is shown forth One God, the Father, not made, invisible, creator of all things; above whom there is no other God, and after whom there is no other God.  And, since God is rational, therefore by [the] Word He created the things that were made; and God is Spirit, and by [the] Spirit He adorned all things:  as also the prophet says:  “By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and by his spirit all their power.” (Psalm 33:6)  Since then the Word establishes, that is to say, gives body and grants the reality of being, and the Spirit gives order and form to the diversity of the powers; rightly and fittingly is the Word called the Son, and the Spirit the Wisdom of God.  Well also does Paul His apostle say:  “One God, the Father, who is over all and through all and in us all.” (Ephesians 4:6)  For over all is the Father; and through all is the Son, for through Him all things were made by the Father; and in us all is the Spirit, who cries Abba Father, and fashions man into the likeness of God.  Now the Spirit shows forth the Word, and therefore the prophets announced the Son of God; and the Word utters the Spirit, and therefore is Himself the announcer of the prophets, and leads and draws man to the Father. . . . (98)  This, beloved, is the preaching of the truth, and this is the manner of our redemption, and this is the way of life, which the prophets proclaimed, and the Christ established, and the apostles delivered, and the Church in all the world hands on to her children.  This must we keep with all certainty, with a sound will and pleasing to God, with good works and right-willed disposition.”

©2008 Mark Nickens

Questions/comments contact Mark at drnickens@triad.rr.com.

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