Irenaeus: Against Heresies

Irenaeus1 [For the next week, I am going to post a series on Irenaeus’ and his view of Scripture, his use of biblical theology, and his employment of typology in his polemic work: Against Heresies.  The content is not ground-breaking, but a simple attempt to understand how this Apostolic Father read Scripture and put the two testaments together.  Hopefully, it will help us better appreciate the shoulders that we stand on and how we might better interpret the Scriptures.]

[The bulk of these posts are from a paper I wrote earlier this semester on the subject.  Reading Against Heresies proved to be very enriching, and I hope that if you follow the analysis presented here over the next few days as it relates to Biblical Theology and biblical interpretation that you would be spurred on to read his book, Against Heresies.  The first two books are very hard to read as they deal with the intricacies of Gnosticism; the final three books are incredibly insightful and full of biblical exposition.  I highly recommend them.]

In Against Heresies,[1] Irenaeus of Lyons presents a biblically rigorous defense of historic Christianity in the face of second-century Gnosticism. Over the course of this week we will examine Irenaeus’ interpretive method in Against Heresies, and assert that contemporary Bible scholars, theologians, and pastors would do well to consider Irenaeus’ theological hermeneutics and to imitate those interpretive methods that prove faithful to Scripture (cf. Heb. 13:7). Of his interpretive methods, three deserve unreserved affirmation: 1) against Gnosticism, Irenaeus rejects theological accommodation that superimposes philosophical systems onto the biblical text; 2) against Valentinus, the Bishop of Lyons affirms Sola Scriptura with its doctrinal entailments—inspiration, inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority; and 3) against Marcion, Irenaeus defends the Bible’s unity by proposing a robust biblical theology. Expanding this last point, we will analyze Irenaeus’ typology asserting that his typological method should be adopted with some significant modifications and caveats.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss


[1] Irenaeus Adversus haereses, trans. A. Roberts and J. Donaldson under the title Irenaus Against Heresies, in The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Ante-Nicene Fathers [ANF], American ed., vol. 1 (United States: Christian Literature, 1885; reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 309-567.

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