Irenaeus of Lyons
(c. 115 - c. 202)


Irenaeus was born in Smyrna in Asia Minor, where he studied under bishop Polycarp, who in turn had been a disciple of Apostle John.[1] Leaving Asia Minor for Rome he joined the school of Justin Martyr before being made bishop of Lyons in Southern Gaul in about AD 178.[2] In contrast to Justin - whose writings he used and respected[3] - Irenaeus rejected the philosophical approach to Christianity, which for him as a child of the Church "rested on revelation, tradition, and on the power of the Holy Spirit."[4] Despite this he did not abandon philosophy completely and many of his works are indebted to it.[5] Other sources of his teaching include Theophilus and Ignatius of Antioch.[6]

His saw his main ministry in the refutation of Gnosticism and to this end he wrote his major work Against Heresies, in which also sought to expound and defend the catholic faith.[7] Faced with difficult passages from the Old Testament he applied a Christological hermeneutic[8] and answered the objections of the heretics from the Scriptures themselves. Central to his refutation of the Gnostics was the Genesis account of the Creation and the fall. He held that Adam and Eve were created as children,[9] with the intention that they grow in grace through willing submission until they reach the point when they would be ready to receive the Spirit of adoption.[10] An archangel was assigned to look after Adam and Eve in the Garden,[11] but Adam

...disobeyed God, being misled by the angel, who becoming jealous of God’s many favours which he had bestowed on man, both ruined himself and made man a sinner, persuading him to disobey God’s command.[12]

Being mere children they were not truly responsible for the fall, the blame for which is laid at the Devil’s door.[13] By claiming that it was Adam who was deceived by the serpent Irenaeus has subtly altered the biblical account.[14] He adds to the account by informing us that the angel fell when he tempted man. Adam’s "disobedience is the source of the general sinfulness and mortality of mankind, as also of their enslavement to the Devil".[15] Irenaeus, taking up Paul’s Adam-Christ parallel centred his theology around the Recapitulation[16] of all things in Christ. What Adam lost for mankind, Christ becoming a man, won back.[17]

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[ 1] Mary T. Clark, "Irenaeus," Everett Ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. New York: Garland Press, 1990. pp. 471-472; Norris, 57.

[ 2] Richard A. Norris, God And World In Early Christian Theology: A Study in Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Origen. (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1966), 57.

[ 3] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1984. p. 244.

[ 4] Frend, Rise, 244: "He was interested in philosophy only insofar as it could help one to penetrate more deeply into what one believed."

[ 5] Clark, "Irenaeus," p.473.

[ 6] ANF, Vol. 1, 311.

[ 7] David S. Dockery, Biblical Interpretation Then And Now. Contemporary Hermeneutics In The Light Of The Early Church. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992. p.69; John Lawson, The Biblical Theology of St. Irenaeus. (London: Epworth Press, 1948. p.85.

[ 8] "The man was a babe. He had not yet the perfect use of his faculties. Hence he was easily deceived by the seducer." Irenaeus, Demonstration, 12; cf. Heresies 3.22.4, 4.38.1-4; 4.39.1 (ANF, Vol. 1, 455, 521-522, 522); Theophilus of Antioch, Autolycus 2.2 (ANF, Vol. 2, 94).; Clement of Alexandria, Protrepsis. 11.111.1.

[ 9] Irenaeus, Heresies, 4.37.1; 4.38.3 (ANF, Vol. 1, 518-519, 521-522).

[ 10] Irenaeus, Demonstration, 12.

[ 11] Irenaeus, Demonstration, 16.

[ 12] Irenaeus, Heresies 5.16.2; 4.40.3 (ANF, Vol. 1, 544, 524).

[ 13] The apostle Paul writes that it was Eve who was deceived, not Adam in 1 Tim. 2:14.

[ 14] J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, rev., 1960. (San Francisco: Harper, 1978), 171.

[ 15] Cf. Eph. 1:10; Irenaeus, Heresies, 3.18.1; 5.29.2 (ANF, Vol. 1, 501, 558).

[ 16] Irenaeus, Heresies, 5.21.1; 5.21.3 (ANF, Vol. 1, 548-549, 550).

[ 17] Irenaeus, Heresies 2.9.2 (ANF, Vol. 1, 369).

Primary Sources

Book or monograph Irenaeus: On the Apostolic PreachingJohn Behr (Translator), On the Apostolic Preaching. St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1998. Pbk. ISBN: 0881411744. pp.122. {Amazon.com}
On-line Resource Irenaeus (Christian Classic Ethereal Library)
Book or monograph Irenaeus, Writings, A. Robert & W.H. Rambaur, trans. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1884.
Book or monograph Joseph P. Smith, trans. Proof of the Apostolic Preaching. Ancient Christian Writers. Paulist Press, 1952. ISBN: 0809102544. pp.246. {Amazon.com}
Book or monograph Irenaeus: Against HeresiesDominic Unger, trans. St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Book. 1: Against the Heresies. Ancient Christian Writers. Paulist Press. Hbk. ISBN: 0809104547. pp.300. {CBD} {Amazon.com}

Secondary Sources

On-line Resource Benjamin Wisner Bacon, “The Elder John, Papias, Irenaeus, Eusebius and the Syriac translator,” Journal of Biblical Literature 27.1 (1908): 1-23.View in PDF format pdf [This material is in the Public Domain]
Article in Journal or Book David L. Balás, "The Use and Interpretation of Paul in Irenaeus's Five Books's, Adversus Haereses," Second Century 9 (1992): 27-39.
Article in Journal or Book Andrew J. Bandstra, "Paul and an Ancient Interpreter: A Comparison of the Teaching of Redemption in Paul and Irenaeus," Calvin Theological Journal 5.1 (1970): 43-63.
Article in Journal or Book John Behr, "Irenaeus AH 3.23.5 and the Ascetic Ideal," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly37.4 (1993): 305-313.
Article in Journal or Book J. Bentivegna, "Pauline Elements in the Anthroplogy of St. Irenaeus," Studia Evangelica 5 (1968): 229-33.
Book or monograph D. Jeffrey Bingham, Irenaeus' Use of Matthews Gospel. Traditio Exegetica Graeca 7. Leuven: Peeters, 1998. Pbk. ISBN: 9068319647. pp.357. {Amazon.com}
Article in Journal or Book D.J. Bingham, "Hope in Irenaeus of Lyons," Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 76.4 (2000): 265-282.
Article in Journal or Book Robert F. Brown, "On the Necessary Imperfection of Creation: Irenaeus' Adversus Haereses IV, 38," Scottish Journal of Theology 28 (1975): 17-
On-line Resource John Chapman [1885-1934], "St Irenaeus on the Dates of the Gospels," Journal of Theological Studies 6 No 24 (July 1905): 563-599.View in PDF format pdf [This material is in the Public Domain]
On-line Resource Irah Chase, "The Meaning of Irenaeus in the Phrase 'Regenerated Unto God'," Bibliotheca Sacra 6 No. 24 (1849): 646-656.View in PDF format pdf [This material is in the Public Domain]
Article in Journal or Book Bruce D. Chilton, "Irenaeus on Isaac," Studia Patristica 17.2, E.A. Livingstone, ed. Oxford: Perganum Press, 1982. pp.643-47.
Book or monograph R.J. Coggins & J.L. Houlden, eds. A Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation. London / Philadelphia: SCM Press / Trinity, 1990. Hbk. ISBN: 033400294X. pp. xvi + 751. {Amazon.com}
Book or monograph F.L. Cross, The Early Christian Fathers. Studies in Theology 1. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd., 1960. Hbk. pp.109-115.
Article in Journal or Book Agnes Cunningham, "Irenaeus of Lyons: Discerning the Spirit," Studies in Formative Spirituality 11.2 (1990): 203-217.
Article in Journal or Book Mary Ann Donovan, "Irenaeus in Recent Scholarship," Second Century 4.4 (1984): 219-241.
Article in Journal or Book Mary Ann Donovan, "Alive to the Glory of God: A Key Insight in St. Irenaeus," Theological Studies 49.2 (1988): 283-297.
Article in Journal or Book F.T. Fallon, "The Prophets of the OT and the Gnostics. A Note on Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 1.30.10 - 11," Vigiliae Christianae 32.3 (1978): 191-194.
Article in Journal or Book D. Farkasfalvy, "Theology of Scripture in St. Irenaeus," Revue bénèdictione de critique, d'histoire et de littérature.religieuses 68 (1968): 319-33.
Article in Journal or Book D. Farkasfalvy, "The Christological Content and its Biblical Basis in the Letter of the Martyrs of Gaul," Second Century 9 (1992): 5-25.
Article in Journal or Book Nicholas Gendle, "St. Irenaeus as Mystical Theologian," Thomist 39.2 (1975): 185-197.
Article in Journal or Book Robert M. Grant, "Irenaeus and Hellenistic Culture," Harvard Theological Review 42 (1949): 41-51.
Article in Journal or Book Robert M. Grant, "Carpocratians and Curriculum: Irenaeus' Reply," Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 79 (1986): 127-136.
Article in Journal or Book R. Heard, "The APOMNHMONEYMATA in Papias, Justin and Irenaeus," Bulletin of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas 1/2 (1954): 122-29.
Article in Journal or Book Philip Heffner, "Saint Irenaeus and the Hypothesis of Faith," Dialog 2 (1963): 300-306.
Article in Journal or Book Philip Heffner, "Theological Methodology of St. Irenaeus," Journal of Religion 44 (1964): 294-309.
Book or monograph F.R.M. Hitchcock, Irenaeus of Lugdunum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1914.
Article in Journal or Book Maurice Jourjon, "The Image of God in Irenaeus," Theology Digest 32.3 (1985): 253-255.
Article in Journal or Book C. Kannengiesser, "The 'Speaking God' and Irenaeus's Interperative Pattern: the Reception of Genesis," Abhandlungen zur Socialethik 15.2 (1998): 337-352.
On-line Resource Irenaeus of Lyons (Peter Kirby)
Article in Journal or Book Roch Kereszty, "The Unity of the Church in the Theology of Irenaeus," The Second Century, 4.4 (1984): 202-218.
Book or monograph John Lawson, The Biblical Theology of St. Irenaeus. London: Epworth Press, 1948. (Out of print).
Article in Journal or Book G.M. Lee, "Note on Irenaeus," Vigiliae Christianae 25.1 (1971): 29-30.
Book or monograph Frank G. Lewis, The Irenaeus Testimony to the Fourth Gospel: Its Extent, Meaning and Value. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1908.
Article in Journal or Book L.J. van der Lof, "The 'Prophet' Abraham in the Writings of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Ambrose and Augustine," Augustiniana 44 (1994): 17-29.
Book or monograph Irenaeus's 'Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching': A Theological Commentary and TranslationIain M. MacKenzie, Irenaeus's "Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching": A Theological Commentary and Translation. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002. Pbk. ISBN: 0754608425. pp.256. {Amazon.com}
Article in Journal or Book Kilian McDonnell & Daniel A. Smith," Irenaeus on the Baptism of Jesus," Theological Studies 59.2 (1998): 317-321.
Article in Journal or Book John McRay, "Scripture and Tradition in Irenaeus," Restoration Quarterly 10.1 (1967): 1-11.
Article in Journal or Book V. Markham, "The Idea of Reparation in St. Irenaeus and His Contemporaries," Studia Patristica 6 (1962): 141-46.
Book or monograph Denis Minns, Irenaeus. Outstanding Christian Thinkers Series. London: Geoffrey Chapman / Georgetown University Press, 1994. Hbk. ISBN: 0878405534. pp.160. {Amazon.com}
Article in Journal or Book Einar Molland, "Irenaeus of Lugdunim and the Apostolic Succession," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 1.1 (1950): 12-28.
Article in Journal or Book F.R. Montgomery Hitchcock, "Loof's Theory of Theophilus as a Source of Irenaeus," Journal of Theological Studies 38 (1937): 130-139, 255-266.
Book or monograph J.T. Nielsen, Adam and Christ in the Theology of Irenaeus of Lyons. Assen: Van Gorcum, 1968.
Book or monograph J.T. Nielsen, ed., Irenaeus of Lyons versus Contemprorary Gnosticism: A Selection from Books I and II of Adversus haereses. Leiden: Brill, 1977.
Article in Journal or Book Barclay Newman, The Fallacy of the Domitian Hypothesis: Critique of the Irenaeus Source as a Witncess for the Contemporary-Historical Approach to the Interpretation of the Apocalypse," New Testament Studies 10 (1963): 133-139.
Article in Journal or Book Richard A. Norris, "The transcendence and freedom of God: Irenaeus, the Greek tradition and Gnosticism," W.R. Schoedel & R.L. Wilken, eds., Early Christian Literature and the Classical Intellectual Tradition, Théologie Historique 54. Paris: Beauchesne, 1979. pp.87-100.
Article in Journal or Book Richard A. Norris, "Irenaeus and Plotinus Answer the Gnostics: A Note on the Relation Between Christian Thought and Platonism," Union Seminary Quarterly Review 36.1 (1980): 13-24.
Article in Journal or Book Richard A. Norris, "Theology and Language in Irenaeus of Lyons," Anglican Theological Review 76.3 (1994): 285-295.
Article in Journal or Book Heiko A. Oberman, "Quo Vadis? Tradition from Irenaeus to Humano Generis," Scottish Journal of Theology 16 (1963): 225-255.
Book or monograph Mark Jeffrey Olson, Irenaeus, the Valentinian Gnostics and the Kingdom of God (A.H.Book V): The Debate About 1 Corinthians 15:50. Mellen Biblical Press Series. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1993. Hbk. ISBN: 0773423524. pp.164. {Amazon.com}
Article in Journal or Book A.C.Perumalil, "Are Not Papias and Irenaeus Competent to Report on the Gospels?" Expository Times 91.11 (1980): 332-337.
Article in Journal or Book Alvyn Pettersen, "Sending Heretics to Coventry? Ignatius of Antioch on Reverencing Silent Bishops," Vigiliae Christianae 44.4 (1990): 335-350.
Article in Journal or Book Alvyn Pettersen, "They Speak to Us across the Centuries. 5. Irenaeus," Expository Times 109.6 (1998): 165-168.
Article in Journal or Book W. Norman Pittenger, "St Irenaeus," Anglican Theological Review 34.1 (1952): 30-34.
On-line Resource James M.G. Purves, "The Spirit and the Imago Dei: Reviewing the Anthropology of Irenaeus of Lyons," The Evangelical Quarterly 68.2 (Apr.-June 1996), 99-120.View in PDF format pdf [Reproduced by kind permission of the copyright holder]
Book or monograph Johannes Quasten, Patrology. Vol. 1. Utrecht / Westminster: Spectrum / Christian Classics, 1950. Pbk. ISBN: 0870610848. pp. 287-313. {CBD} {Amazon.com}
Article in Journal or Book Jerome D. Quinn, "'Charisma Veritatis Certum': Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 4, 26, 2," Theological Studies 39.3 (1978): 520-525.
Article in Journal or Book Annette Yoshiko Reed, "Evangelion: Orality, Textuality, and the Christian Truth in Irenaeus' Adversus Haereses," Vigiliae Christianae 56.1 (2002): 11-46.
Article in Journal or Book Otto Reimherr, "Irenaeus and the Valentinians," Lutheran Quarterly 12 (1980): 55-59.
On-line Resource Irwin W. Reist, "The Christology of Irenaeus," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 13.4 (Fall 1970): 241-251.View in PDF format pdf
Article in Journal or Book W.R. Schoedel, "Philosophy and rhetoric in the Adversus Haereses of Irenaeus," Vigiliae Christianae 12 (1959): 22-32.
Article in Journal or Book W.R. Schoedel, "Theoplogical methjod in Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 2.25-28)," Journal of Theological Studies 35 (1984): 31-49.
Article in Journal or Book D.R. Schultz, "The Origin of Sin in Irenaeus and Jewish Pseudoepigraphical Literature," Vigiliae Christianae 32.3 (1978): 161-190.
Book or monograph Oskar Skarsaune, The Proof from Prophecy: A Study in Justin Martyr's Proof Text Tradition Text-Type, Provenance, Theological Profile. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 56. Leiden: Brill, 1987. Hbk. ISBN: 9004074686. pp.505. {Amazon.com}
Article in Journal or Book T.C. Skeat, "Irenaeus and the Four-Gospel Canon," Novum Testamentum 34.2 (1992): 194-199.
Article in Journal or Book A. Skevington-Wood, "The Eschatology of Irenaeus," Evangelical Quarterly 41.1 (1969): 30-41.
Article in Journal or Book Christopher R. Smith, "Chiliasm and Recapitulation in the Theology of Irenaeus," Verbum caro 48.4 (1994): 313-331.
Article in Journal or Book Daniel A. Smith, "Irenaeus and the Baptism of Jesus," Theological Studies 58.4 (1997): 618-642.
Article in Journal or Book J.P. Smith, "Hebrew Christian Midrash in Irenaeus Epid. 43," Biblica 38 (1957): 24-34.
Article in Journal or Book P. Smulders, "A Quotation of Philo in Irenaeus," Vigiliae Christianae 12 (1958): 154-156.
Article in Journal or Book Jeffrey G. Sobosan, "The Role of the Presbyter: An Investigation into the Adversus Haereses of Saint Irenaeus," Scottish Journal of Theology 27.2 (1974): 129-146.
Article in Journal or Book C.K. Ferguson Thomas, "The Rule of Truth and Irenaean Rhetoric in Book 1 of Against Heresies," Vigiliae Christianae 55.4 (2001): 356-375.
On-line Resource St. Irenaeus of Lyons, the First Systematic Theologian of the Second Century (Johnson Thomaskutty, Faculty of New Testament, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India)
Article in Journal or Book Terrance Tiessen, "Irenaeus on Salvation and the Millennium," Didaskalia 3.1 (1991): 2-5.
Book or monograph Hamilton Baird Timothy, The Early Christian Apologists and Greek Philosophy. Exemplified by Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria. Assen: Van Gorcum, 1973. Pbk. ISBN: 9023209796. pp.111. {Amazon.com}
Article in Journal or Book Kevin M. Tortorelli, "Balthasar and the Theodramatic Interpretation of St. Irenaeus," Downside Review 111.383 (1993): 117-126.
Article in Journal or Book David H. Tripp, "The Original Sequence of Irenaeus "Adversus Haereses" I: A Suggestion," Second Century 8.3 (1991): 157-162.
Article in Journal or Book C.N. Tsirpanlis, "The Antichrist and the End of the World in Irenaeus, Justin, Hippolytus and Tertullian," Patristic and Byzantine Review 9 (1990): 5-17.
Article in Journal or Book D. Unger, "St. Irenaeus on the Roman Primacy," Laurentianum 16 (1975): 431-45.
Article in Journal or Book D. Unger, "The Holy Eucharist according to St. Irenaeus," Laurentianum 20 (1979): 103-64.
Article in Journal or Book W.C. Van Unnik, "Two Notes on Irenaeus," Vigiliae Christianae 30.3 (1976): 201-213.
Article in Journal or Book W.C. van Unnik, "An interesting document of second century theological discussion (Irenaeus Adv. haer. 1.10.3)," Vigiliae Christianae 31 (1977): 196-228.
Article in Journal or Book W.C. van Unnik, "The Authority of the presbyters in Irenaeus' works," Jacob Jervell, ed., God's Christ and His People: Studies in Honour of N.A. Dahl. Olso: Universitets-forlaget, 1978. Pbk. ISBN: 8200049795. pp. 248-60. {Amazon.com}
Book or monograph Gerard Vallée, A Study in Anti-Gnostic Polemics: Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius. Studies in Christianity and Judaism, 1. Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1981. Pbk. ISBN: 0919812147. pp.114. {Amazon.com}
Article in Journal or Book William C. Weinrich, "The Image of the Wheat Stalk and the Vine Twig in the Adversus Haereses of Irenaeus of Lyons," Concordia Theological Quarterly 62.3 (1998): 219-227.
Article in Journal or Book David P. Whitelaw, "A Forward Trajectory: Irenaeus as Guardian and Pathfinder," Wesleyan Theological Journal 34.1 (1999): 220-242.
Book or monograph G. Wingren, Man and Incarnation: A Study in the Biblical Theology of Irenaeus. Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1959.
On-line Resource A. Skevington-Wood, "The Eschatology of Irenaeus," The Evangelical Quarterly 41.1 (Jan.-Mar. 1969): 30-41. View in PDF format pdf [All reasonable efforts have been made to contact the copyright holder of this article without success. If you hold the rights, please contact me]
On-line Resource Jeff Vogel, "The Haste of Sin, the Slowness of Salvation: An Interpretation of Irenaeus on the Fall and Redemption," Anglican Theological Review 89.3 (2007): 443-459.View in PDF format pdf [Reproduced by permission of the current copyright holder]


On-line Resource Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, Theologian (James E. Kiefer)

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