Ante-nicene fathers



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That our learned translators have unaccountably admitted a very inaccurate translation of the crucial paragraph in book iii. cap. iii. sect. 2, I have shown in the footnote at that place. It is evident, (1) because they themselves are not satisfied with it, and (2) because I have set it side by side with the more literal rendering of a writer who would have preferred their reading if it could have borne the test of criticism.

Now, the authors of the Latin translation486 may have designed the ambiguity which gives the Ultramontane party an apparent advantage; but it is an advantage which disappears as soon as it is examined, and hence I am content to take it as it stands. Various conjectures have been made as to the original Greek of Irenaeus; but the Latin answers every purpose of the author’s argument, and is fatal to the claims of the Papacy. Let me recur to the translation given, in loco, from a Roman Catholic, and this will be seen at once.

For he thus renders it:—

1. In this Church, “ever, by those who are on every side, has been preserved that tradition which is from apostles.” How would such a proposition have sounded to Pius IX. in the Vatican Council? The faith is preserved by those who come to Rome, not by the Bishop who presides there.

2. “For to this Church, on account of more potent principality, it is necessary that every Church (that is, those who are, on every side, faithful) resort.” The greatness of Rome, that is, as the capital of the Empire, imparts to the local Church a superior dignity, even as compared with Lyons, or any other metropolitical Church. Everybody visits Rome: hence you find there faithful witnesses from every side (from all the Churches); and Their united testimony it is which preserves in Rome the pure apostolic traditions.

The Latin, thus translated by a candid Roman Catholic, reverses the whole system of the Papacy. Pius IX. informed his Bishops, at the late Council, that they were not called to bear their testimony, but to hear his infallible decree; “reducing us,” said the Archbishop of Paris, “to a council of sacristans.”

Sustaining these views by a few footnotes, I add (1) a literal rendering of my own, and then (2) a metaphrase of the same, bringing out the argument from the crabbed obstructions of the Latin text. This, then, is what Irenaeus says: (a) “For it is necessary for every Church (that is to say, the faithful from all parts) to meet in this Church, on account of the superior magistracy; in which Church, by those who are from all places, the tradition of the apostles has been preserved.” Or, more freely rendered: (b) “On account of the chief magistracy [of the empire], the faithful from all parts, representing every Church, are obliged to resort to Rome, and there to come together; so that [it is the distinction of this Church that], in it, the tradition of the apostles has been preserved by Christians gathered together out of all the Churches.” Taking the entire argument of our author with the context, then, it amounts to this: “We must ask, not for local, but universal, testimony. Now, in every Church founded by the apostles has been handed down their traditions; but, as it would be a tedious thing to collect them all, let this suffice. Take that Church (nearest at hand, and which is the only Apostolic Church of the West), the great and glorious Church at Rome, which was there founded by the two apostles Peter and Paul. In her have been preserved the traditions of all the Churches, because everybody is forced to go to the seat of empire: and therefore, by these representatives of the whole Catholic Church, the apostolic traditions have been all collected in Rome: and you have a synoptical view of all Churches in what is there preserved.” Had the views of the modern Papacy ever entered the head of Irenaeus, what an absurdity would be this whole argument. He would have said, “It is no matter what may be gathered elsewhere; for the Bishop of Rome is the infallible oracle of all Catholic truth, and you will always find it by his mouth.” It should be noted that Orthodoxy was indeed preserved there, just so long as Rome permitted other Churches to contribute their testimony on the principle of Irenaeus, and thus to make her the depository of all Catholic tradition, as witnessed “by all, everywhere, and from the beginning.” But all this is turned upside down by modern Romanism. No other Church is to be heard or considered; but Rome takes all into her own power, and may dictate to all Churches what they are to believe, however novel, or contrary to the torrent of antiquity in the teachings of their own founders and great doctors in all past time.

Book IV.

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Preface.

1. By transmitting to thee, my very dear friend, this fourth book of the work which is [entitled] The Detection and Refuation of False Knowledge, I shall, as I have promised, add weight, by means of the words of the Lord, to what I have already advanced; so that thou also, as thou hast requested, mayest obtain from me the means of confuting all the heretics everywhere, and not permit them, beaten back at all points, to launch out further into the deep of error, nor to be drowned in the sea of ignorance; but that thou, turning them into the haven of the truth, mayest cause them to attain their salvation.

2. The man, however, who would undertake their conversion, must possess an accurate knowledge of their systems or schemes of doctrine. For it is impossible for any one to heal the sick, if he has no knowledge of the disease of the patients. This was the reason that my predecessors—much superior men to myself, too—were unable, notwithstanding, to refute the Valentinians satisfactorily, because they were ignorant of these men’s system;1 which I have with all care delivered to thee in the first book in which I have also shown that their doctrine is a recapitulation of all the heretics. For which reason also, in the second, we have had, as in a mirror, a sight of their entire discomfiture. For they who oppose these men (the Valentinians) by the right method, do [thereby] oppose all who are of an evil mind; and they who overthrow them, do in fact overthrow every kind of heresy.

3. For their system is blasphemous above all [others], since they represent that the Maker and Framer, who is one God, as I have shown, was produced from a defect or apostasy. They utter blasphemy, also, against our Lord, by cutting off and dividing Jesus from Christ, and Christ from the Saviour, and again the Saviour from the Word, and the Word from the Only-begotten. And since they allege that the Creator originated from a defect or apostasy, so have they also taught that Christ and the Holy Spirit were emitted on account of this defect, and that the Saviour was a product of those Aeons who were produced from a defect; so that there is nothing but blasphemy to be found among them. In the preceding book, then, the ideas of the apostles as to all these points have been set forth, [to the effect] that not only did they, “who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word”2 of truth, hold no such opinions, but that they did also preach to us to shun these doctrines,3 foreseeing by the Spirit those weak-minded persons who should be led astray.4

4. For as the serpent beguiled Eve, by promising her what he had not himself,5 so also do these men, by pretending [to possess] superior knowledge, and [to be acquainted with] ineffable mysteries; and, by promising that admittance which they speak of as taking place within the Pleroma, plunge those that believe them into death, rendering them apostates from Him who made them. And at that time, indeed, the apostate angel, having effected the disobedience of mankind by means of the serpent, imagined that he escaped the notice of the Lord; wherefore God assigned him the form6 and name [of a serpent]. But now, since the last times are [come upon us], evil is spread abroad among men, which not only renders them apostates, but by many machinations does [the devil] raise up blasphemers against the Creator, namely, by means of all the heretics already mentioned. For all these, although they issue forth from diverse regions, and promulgate different [opinions], do nevertheless concur in the same blasphemous design, wounding [men] unto death, by teaching blasphemy against God our Maker and Supporter, and derogating from the salvation of man. Now man is a mixed organization of soul and flesh, who was formed after the likeness of God, and moulded by His hands, that is, by the Son and Holy Spirit, to whom also He said, “Let Us make man.”7 This, then, is the aim of him who envies our life, to render men disbelievers in their own salvation, and blasphemous against God the Creator. For whatsoever all the heretics may have advanced with the utmost solemnity, they come to this at last, that they blaspheme the Creator, and disallow the salvation of God’s workmanship, which the flesh truly is; on behalf of which I have proved, in a variety of ways, that the Son of God accomplished the whole dispensation [of mercy], and have shown that there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption.

Chapter I.—The Lord Acknowledged But One God and Father.

1. Since, therefore, this is sure and stedfast, that no other God or Lord was announced by the Spirit, except Him who, as God, rules over all, together with His Word, and those who receive the Spirit of adoption,8 that is, those who believe in the one and true God, and in Jesus Christ the Son of God; and likewise that the apostles did Of themselves term no one else as God, or name [no other] as Lord; and, what is much more important, [since it is true] that our Lord [acted likewise], who did also command us to confess no one as Father, except Him who is in the heavens, who is the one God and the one Father;—those things are clearly shown to be false which these deceivers and most perverse sophists advance, maintaining that the being whom they have themselves invented is by nature both God and Father; but that the I Demiurge is naturally neither God nor Father, but is so termed merely by courtesy (verbo tenus), because of his ruling the creation, these perverse mythologists state, setting their thoughts against God; and, putting aside the doctrine of Christ, and of themselves divining falsehoods, they dispute against the entire dispensation of God. For they maintain that their Aeons, and gods, and fathers, and lords, are also still further termed heavens, together with their Mother, whom they do also call “the Earth,” and “Jerusalem,” while they also style her many other names.

2. Now to whom is it not clear, that if the Lord had known many fathers and gods, He would not have taught His disciples to know [only] one God,9 and to call Him alone Father? But He did the rather distinguish those who by word merely (verbo tenus) are termed gods, from Him who is truly God, that they should not err as to His doctrine, nor understand one [in mistake] for another. And if He did indeed teach us to call one Being Father and God, while He does from time to time Himself confess other fathers and gods in the same sense, then He will appear to enjoin a different course upon His disciples from what He follows Himself. Such conduct, however, does not bespeak the good teacher, but a misleading and invidious one. The apostles, too, according to these men’s showing, are proved to be transgressors of the commandment, since they confess the Creator as God, and Lord, and Father, as I have shown—if He is not alone God and Father. Jesus, therefore, will be to them the author and teacher of such transgression, inasmuch as He commanded that one Being should be called Father,10 thus imposing upon them the necessity of confessing the Creator as their Father, as has been pointed out.

Chapter II.—Proofs from the Plain Testimony of Moses, and of the Other Prophets, Whose Words are the Words of Christ, that There is But One God, the Founder of the World, Whom Our Lord Preached, and Whom He Called His Father.

1. Moses, therefore, making a recapitulation of the whole law, which he had received from the Creator (Demiurge), thus speaks in Deuteronomy: “Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.”11 Again, David saying that his help came from the Lord, asserts: “My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”12 And Esaias confesses that words were uttered by God, who made heaven and earth, and governs them. He says: “Hear, O heavens; and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken.”13 And again: “Thus saith the Lord God, who made the heaven, and stretched it out; who established the earth, and the things in it; and who giveth breath to the people upon it, and spirit to them who walk therein.”14

2. Again, our Lord Jesus Christ confesses this same Being as His Father, where He says: “I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.”15 What Father will those men have us to understand [by these words], those who are most perverse sophists of Pandora? Whether shall it be Bythus, whom they have fabled of themselves; or their Mother; or the Only-begotten? Or shall it be he whom the Marcionites or the others have invented as god (whom I indeed have amply demonstrated to be no god at all); or shall it be (what is really the case) the Maker of heaven and earth, whom also the prophets proclaimed,—whom Christ, too, confesses as His Father,—whom also the law announces, saying: “Hear, O Israel; The Lord thy God is one God? ”16

3. But since the writings (literae) of Moses are the words of Christ, He does Himself declare to the Jews, as John has recorded in the Gospel: “If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, neither will ye believe My words.”17 He thus indicates in the clearest manner that the writings of Moses are His words. If, then, [this be the case with regard] to Moses, so also, beyond a doubt, the words of the other prophets are His [words], as I have pointed out. And again, the Lord Himself exhibits Abraham as having said to the rich man, with reference to all those who were still alive: “If they do not obey Moses and the prophets, neither, if any one were to rise from the dead and go to them, will they believe him.”18

4. Now, He has not merely related to us a story respecting a poor man and a rich one; but He has taught us, in the first place, that no one should lead a luxurious life, nor, living in worldly pleasures and perpetual feastings, should be the slave of his lusts, and forget God. “For there was,” He says, “a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and delighted himself with splendid feasts.”19

Of such persons, too, the Spirit has spoken by Esaias: “They drink wine with [the accompaniment of] harps, and tablets, and psalteries, and flutes; but they regard not the works of God, neither do they consider the work of His hands.”20 Lest, therefore, we should incur the same punishment as these men, the Lord reveals [to us] their end; showing at the same time, that if they obeyed Moses and the prophets, they would believe in Him whom these had preached, the Son of God, who rose from the dead, and bestows life upon us; and He shows that all are from one essence, that is, Abraham, and Moses, and the prophets, and also the Lord Himself, who rose from the dead, in whom many believe who are of the circumcision, who do also hear Moses and the prophets announcing the coming of the Son of God. But those who scoff [at the truth] assert that these men were from another essence, and they do not know the first-begotten from the dead; understanding Christ as a distinct being, who continued as if He were impassible, and Jesus, who suffered, as being altogether separate [from Him].

5. For they do not receive from the Father the knowledge of the Son; neither do they learn who the Father is from the Son, who teaches clearly and without parables Him who truly is God. He says: “Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.”21 For these words are evidently spoken with reference to the Creator, as also Esaias says: “Heaven is my throne, the earth is my footstool.”22 And besides this Being there is no other God; otherwise He would not be termed by the Lord either” God” or” the great King; ”for a Being who can be so described admits neither of any other being compared with nor set above Him. For he who has any superior over him, and is under the power of another, this being never can be called either “God” or “the great King.”

6. But neither will these men be able to maintain that such words were uttered in an ironical manner, since it is proved to them by the words themselves that they were in earnest. For He who uttered them was Truth, and did truly vindicate His own house, by driving out of it the changers of money, who were buying and selling, saying unto them: “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”23 And what reason had He for thus doing and saying, and vindicating His house, if He did preach another God? But [He did so], that He might point out the transgressors of His Father’s law; for neither did He bring any accusation against the house, nor did He blame the law, which He had come to fulfil; but He reproved those who were putting His house to an improper use, and those who were transgressing the law. And therefore the scribes and Pharisees, too, who from the times of the law had begun to despise God, did not receive His Word, that is, they did not believe on Christ. Of these Esaias says: “Thy princes are rebellious, companions of thieves, loving gifts, following after rewards, not judging the fatherless, and negligent of the cause of the widows.”24 And Jeremiah, in like manner: “They,” he says, “who rule my people did not know me; they are senseless and imprudent children; they are wise to do evil, but to do well they have no knowledge.”25

7. But as many as feared God, and were anxious about His law, these ran to Christ, and were all saved. For He said to His disciples: “Go ye to the sheep of the house of Israel,26 which have perished.” And many more Samaritans, it is said, when the Lord had tarried among. them, two days, “believed because of His words, and said to the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we ourselves have heard [Him], and know that this man is truly the Saviour of the world.”27 And Paul likewise declares, “And so all Israel shall be saved; ”28 but he has also said, that the law was our pedagogue [to bring us] to Christ Jesus.29 Let them not therefore ascribe to the law the unbelief of certain [among them]. For the law never hindered them from believing in the Son of God; nay, but it even exhorted them30 so to do, saying31 that men can be saved in no other way from the old wound of the serpent than by believing in Him who, in the likeness of sinful flesh, is lifted up from the earth upon the tree of martyrdom, and draws all things to Himself,32 and vivifies the dead.

Chapter III.—Answer to the Cavils of the Gnostics. We are Not to Suppose that the True God Can Be Changed, or Come to an End Because the Heavens, Which are His Throne and the Earth, His Footstool, Shall Pass Away.

1. Again, as to their malignantly asserting that if heaven is indeed the throne of God, and earth His footstool, and if it is declared that the heaven and earth shall pass away, then when these pass away the God who sitteth above must also pass away, and therefore He cannot be the God who is over all; in the first place, they are ignorant what the expression means, that heaven is [His] throne and earth [His] footstool. For they do not know what God is, but they imagine that He sits after the fashion of a man, and is contained within bounds, but does not contain. And they are also unacquainted with [the meaning of] the passing away of the heaven and earth; but Paul was not ignorant of it when he declared, “For the figure of this world passeth away.”33 In the next place, David explains their question, for he says that when the fashion of this world passes away, not only shall God remain, but His servants also, expressing himself thus in the 101st Psalm: “In the beginning, Thou; O Lord, hast founded the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure, and all shall wax old as a garment; and as a vesture Thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail. The children of Thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established for ever; ”34 )pointing out plainly what things they are that pass away, and who it is that doth endure for ever God, together with His servants. And in like manner Esaias says: “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heaven has been set together as smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they who dwell therein shall die in like manner. But my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not pass away.”35

Chapter IV.—Answer to Another Objection, Showing that the Destruction of Jerusalem, Which Was the City of the Great King, Diminished Nothing from the Supreme Majesty’ And Power of God, for that This Destruction Was Put in Execution by the Most Wise Counsel of the Same God.

1. Further, also, concerning Jerusalem and the Lord, they venture to assert that, if it had been “the city of the great King,”36 it would not have been deserted.37 This is just as if any one should say, that if straw were a creation of God, it would never part company with the wheat; and that the vine twigs, if made by God, never would be lopped away and deprived of the clusters. But as these [vine twigs] have not been originally made for their own sake, but for that of the fruit growing upon them, which being come to maturity and taken away, they are left behind, and those which do not conduce to fructification are lopped off altogether; so also [was it with] Jerusalem, which had in herself borne the yoke of bondage (under which man was reduced, who in former times was not subject to God when death was reigning, and being subdued, became a fit subject for liberty), when the fruit of liberty had come, and reached maturity, and been reaped and stored in the barn, and when those which had the power to produce fruit had been carried away from her [i.e., from Jerusalem], and scattered throughout all the world. Even as Esaias saith, “The children of Jacob shall strike root, and Israel shall flourish, and the whole world shall be filled with his fruit.”38 The fruit, therefore, having been sown throughout all the world, she (Jerusalem) was deservedly forsaken, and those things which had formerly brought forth fruit abundantly were taken away; for from these, according to the flesh, were Christ and the apostles enabled to bring forth fruit. But now these are no longer useful for bringing forth fruit. For all things which have a beginning in time must of course have an end in time also.

2. Since, then, the law originated with Moses, it terminated with John as a necessary consequence. Christ had come to fulfil it: wherefore “the law and the prophets were” with them “until John.”39 And therefore Jerusalem, taking its commencement from David,40 and fulfilling its own times, must have an end of legislation41 when the new covenant was revealed. For God does all things by measure and in order; nothing is unmeasured with Him, because nothing is out of order. Well spake he, who said that the unmeasurable Father was Himself subjected to measure in the Son; for the Son is the measure of the Father, since He also comprehends Him. But that the administration of them (the Jews) was temporary, Esaias says: “And the daughter of Zion shall be left as a cottage in a vineyard, and as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers.”42 And when shall these things be left behind? Is it not when the fruit shall be taken away, and the leaves alone shall be left, which now have no power of producing fruit?




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