Irenaeus, B & M

+Matthew 7:21-29

The wise man built his house on a rock

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. When the day comes many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?” Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, you evil men!

‘Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!’

Jesus had now finished what he wanted to say, and his teaching made a deep impression on the people because he taught them with authority, and not like their own scribes.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The New Law Or The Law Of The Gospel

1965 The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: “I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel. . . . I will put my laws into their hands, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

1966 The New Law is the grace of the Holy Spirit given to the faithful through faith in Christ. It works through charity; it uses the Sermon on the Mount to teach us what must be done and makes use of the sacraments to give us the grace to do it:

If anyone should meditate with devotion and perspicacity on the sermon our Lord gave on the mount, as we read in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, he will doubtless find there . . . the perfect way of the Christian life. . . . This sermon contains . . . all the precepts needed to shape one’s life.

1967 The Law of the Gospel “fulfills,” refines, surpasses, and leads the Old Law to its perfection. In the Beatitudes, the New Law fulfills the divine promises by elevating and orienting them toward the “kingdom of heaven.” It is addressed to those open to accepting this new hope with faith – the poor, the humble, the afflicted, the pure of heart, those persecuted on account of Christ and so marks out the surprising ways of the Kingdom.

1968 The Law of the Gospel fulfills the commandments of the Law. The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human truth. It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts, where man chooses between the pure and the impure, where faith, hope, and charity are formed and with them the other virtues. The Gospel thus brings the Law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father, through forgiveness of enemies and prayer for persecutors, in emulation of the divine generosity.

1969 The New Law practices the acts of religion: almsgiving, prayer and fasting, directing them to the “Father who sees in secret,” in contrast with the desire to “be seen by men.” Its prayer is the Our Father.

1970 The Law of the Gospel requires us to make the decisive choice between “the two ways” and to put into practice the words of the Lord. It is summed up in the Golden Rule, “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; this is the law and the prophets.”

The entire Law of the Gospel is contained in the “new commandment” of Jesus, to love one another as he has loved us.

1971 To the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount it is fitting to add the moral catechesis of the apostolic teachings, such as Romans 12-15, 1 Corinthians 12-13, Colossians 3-4, Ephesians 4-5, etc. This doctrine hands on the Lord’s teaching with the authority of the apostles, particularly in the presentation of the virtues that flow from faith in Christ and are animated by charity, the principal gift of the Holy Spirit. “Let charity be genuine. . . . Love one another with brotherly affection. . . . Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.” This catechesis also teaches us to deal with cases of conscience in the light of our relationship to Christ and to the Church.

1972 The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who “does not know what his master is doing” to that of a friend of Christ – “For all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” – or even to the status of son and heir.

1973 Besides its precepts, the New Law also includes the evangelical counsels. The traditional distinction between God’s commandments and the evangelical counsels is drawn in relation to charity, the perfection of Christian life. The precepts are intended to remove whatever is incompatible with charity. The aim of the counsels is to remove whatever might hinder the development of charity, even if it is not contrary to it.

1974 The evangelical counsels manifest the living fullness of charity, which is never satisfied with not giving more. They attest its vitality and call forth our spiritual readiness. The perfection of the New Law consists essentially in the precepts of love of God and neighbor. The counsels point out the more direct ways, the readier means, and are to be practiced in keeping with the vocation of each:

[God] does not want each person to keep all the counsels, but only those appropriate to the diversity of persons, times, opportunities, and strengths, as charity requires; for it is charity, as queen of all virtues, all commandments, all counsels, and, in short, of all laws and all Christian actions that gives to all of them their rank, order, time, and value.

Source: The New American Bible

Psalm 78

A maskil of Asaph.  Attend, my people, to my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in story, drawing lessons from of old.

We have heard them, we know them; our ancestors have recited them to us.

We do not keep them from our children; we recite them to the next generation, The praiseworthy and mighty deeds of the LORD, the wonders that he performed.

God set up a decree in Jacob, established a law in Israel: What he commanded our ancestors, they were to teach their children;

That the next generation might come to know, children yet to be born. In turn they were to recite them to their children,

that they too might put their trust in God, And not forget the works of God, keeping his commandments.

They were not to be like their ancestors, a rebellious and defiant generation, A generation whose heart was not constant, whose spirit was not faithful to God,

Like the ranks of Ephraimite archers, who retreated on the day of battle.

Source: The New American Bible

Irenaeus (/aɪrəˈniːəs/; Greek: Εἰρηναῖος) (early 2nd century – died c. AD 202), also referred to as Saint Irenaeus, was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, then a part of the Roman Empire (now Lyon, France). He was an early Church Father and apologist, and his writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology. A resident of Smyrna, he heard the preaching of St. Polycarp, a disciple of St. John the Evangelist.

Irenaeus’ best-known book, Adversus Haereses or Against Heresies (c. 180), is a detailed attack on Gnosticism, which he considered a serious threat to the Church, and especially on the system of the Gnostic Valentinus. As one of the first great Christian theologians, he emphasized the traditional elements in the Church, especially the episcopate, Scripture, and tradition. Against the Gnostics, who said that they possessed a secret oral tradition from Jesus himself, Irenaeus maintained that the bishops in different cities are known as far back as the Apostles and that the bishops provided the only safe guide to the interpretation of Scripture. His polemical work is credited for laying out the “orthodoxies of the Christian church, its faith, its preaching and the books that it held as sacred authority.” His writings, with those of Clement and Ignatius, are taken as among the earliest signs of the doctrine of the primacy of the Roman see. Irenaeus is the earliest witness to recognition of the canonical character of all four gospels.

Irenaeus is recognized as a saint in both the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. His feast day is on June 28 in the General Roman Calendar, where it was inserted for the first time in 1920; in 1960 the Roman Catholic Church transferred it to July 3, leaving June 28 for the Vigil of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, but in 1969 it was returned to June 28, the day of his death. The Lutheran Church commemorates Irenaeus on that same date for his life of exemplary Christian witness. In the Eastern Catholic Church and Orthodox Church his feast day is 23 August.

Biography

Irenaeus was born during the first half of the 2nd century (the exact date is disputed: between the years 115 and 125 according to some, or 130 and 142 according to others), and he is thought to have been a Greek from Polycarp’s hometown of Smyrna in Asia Minor, now İzmir, Turkey. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was brought up in a Christian family rather than converting as an adult.

During the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor from 161–180, Irenaeus was a priest of the Church of Lyon. The clergy of that city, many of whom were suffering imprisonment for the faith, sent him in 177 to Rome with a letter to Pope Eleutherius concerning the heresy Montanism, and that occasion bore emphatic testimony to his merits. While Irenaeus was in Rome, a persecution took place in Lyon. Returning to Gaul, Irenaeus succeeded the martyr Saint Pothinus and became the second Bishop of Lyon.

During the religious peace which followed the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, the new bishop divided his activities between the duties of a pastor and of a missionary (as to which we have but brief data, late and not very certain). Almost all his writings were directed against Gnosticism. The most famous of these writings is Adversus haereses (Against Heresies). Irenaeus alludes to coming across Gnostic writings, and holding conversations with Gnostics, and this may have taken place in Asia Minor or in Rome. However, it also appears that Gnosticism was present near Lyon: he writes that there were followers of ‘Marcus the Magician’ living and teaching in the Rhone valley.

Little is known about the career of Irenaeus after he became bishop. The last action reported of him (by Eusebius, 150 years later) is that in 190 or 191, he exerted influence on Pope Victor I not to excommunicate the Christian communities of Asia Minor which persevered in the practice of the Quartodeciman celebration of Easter.

Nothing is known of the date of his death, which must have occurred at the end of the 2nd or the beginning of the 3rd century. A few within the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church celebrate him as a martyr. He was buried under the Church of Saint John in Lyon, which was later renamed St Irenaeus in his honour. The tomb and his remains were utterly destroyed in 1562 by the Huguenots.

Apostolic authority

Irenaeus is also known as one of the first theologians to use the principle of apostolic succession to refute his opponents.

In his writing against the Gnostics, who claimed to possess a secret oral tradition from Jesus himself, Irenaeus maintained that the bishops in different cities are known as far back as the Apostles and that the bishops provided the only safe guide to the interpretation of Scripture. In a passage that became a locus classicus of Catholic-Protestant polemics, he cited the Roman church as an example of the unbroken chain of authority which text Western polemics would use to assert the primacy of Rome over Eastern churches by virtue of its preeminent authority.

With the lists of bishops to which Irenaeus referred, the doctrine of the apostolic succession, firmly established in the Church at this time, of the bishops could be linked. This succession was important to establish a chain of custody for orthodoxy. He felt it important, however, also to speak of a succession of elders (presbyters).

Irenaeus’ point when refuting the Gnostics was that all of the Apostolic churches had preserved the same traditions and teachings in many independent streams. It was the unanimous agreement between these many independent streams of transmission that proved the orthodox Faith, current in those churches, to be true.

Irenaeus’ theology and contrast with Gnosticism

The central point of Irenaeus’ theology is the unity and the goodness of God, in opposition to the Gnostics’ theory of God; a number of divine emanations (Aeons) along with a distinction between the Monad and the Demiurge. Irenaeus uses the Logos theology he inherited from Justin Martyr. Irenaeus was a student of Polycarp, who was said to have been tutored by John the Apostle. (John had used Logos terminology in the Gospel of John and the letter of 1 John). Irenaeus prefers to speak of the Son and the Spirit as the “hands of God”.

The Unity of Salvation History

Irenaeus’ emphasis on the unity of God is reflected in his corresponding emphasis on the unity of salvation history. Irenaeus repeatedly insists that God began the world and has been overseeing it ever since this creative act; everything that has happened is part of his plan for humanity. The essence of this plan is a process of maturation: Irenaeus believes that humanity was created immature, and God intended his creatures to take a long time to grow into or assume the divine likeness.

Everything that has happened since has therefore been planned by God to help humanity overcome this initial mishap and achieve spiritual maturity. The world has been intentionally designed by God as a difficult place, where human beings are forced to make moral decisions, as only in this way can they mature as moral agents. Irenaeus likens death to the big fish that swallowed Jonah: it was only in the depths of the whale’s belly that Jonah could turn to God and act according to the divine will. Similarly, death and suffering appear as evils, but without them we could never come to know God.

According to Irenaeus, the high point in salvation history is the advent of Jesus. For Irenaeus, the Incarnation of Christ was intended by God before He determined that humanity would be created. Irenaeus develops this idea based on Rom. 5:14, saying “Forinasmuch as He had a pre-existence as a saving Being, it was necessary that what might be saved should also be called into existence, in order that the Being who saves should not exist in vain.” Some theologians maintain that Irenaeus believed that Incarnation would have occurred even if humanity had never sinned; but the fact that they did sin determined his role as the savior.

Irenaeus sees Christ as the new Adam, who systematically undoes what Adam did: thus, where Adam was disobedient concerning God’s edict concerning the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Christ was obedient even to death on the wood of a tree. Irenaeus is the first to draw comparisons between Eve and Mary, contrasting the faithlessness of the former with the faithfulness of the latter. In addition to reversing the wrongs done by Adam, Irenaeus thinks of Christ as “recapitulating” or “summing up” human life.

Irenaeus conceives of our salvation as essentially coming about through the incarnation of God as a man. He characterizes the penalty for sin as death and corruption. God, however, is immortal and incorruptible, and simply by becoming united to human nature in Christ he conveys those qualities to us: they spread, as it were, like a benign infection. Irenaeus emphasizes that salvation occurs through Christ’s Incarnation, which bestows incorruptibility on humanity, rather than emphasizing His Redemptive death in the crucifixion, although the latter event is an integral part of the former.

Christ’s Life

Part of the process of recapitulation is for Christ to go through every stage of human life, from infancy to old age, and simply by living it, sanctify it with his divinity. Although it is sometimes claimed that Irenaeus believed Christ did not die until he was older than is conventionally portrayed, the bishop of Lyon simply pointed out that because Jesus turned the permissible age for becoming a rabbi (30 years old and above), he recapitulated and sanctified the period between 30 and 50 years old, as per the Jewish custom of periodization on life, and so touches the beginning of old age when one becomes 50 years old. (see Adversus Haereses, book II, chapter 22).

In the passage of Adversus Haereses under consideration, Irenaeus is clear that after receiving baptism at the age of thirty, citing Luke 3:23, Gnostics then falsely assert that “He [Jesus] preached only one year reckoning from His baptism,” and also, “On completing His thirtieth year He [Jesus] suffered, being in fact still a young man, and who had by no means attained to advanced age.” Irenaeus argues against the Gnostics by using scripture to last several years after his baptism by referencing 3 distinctly separate visits to Jerusalem. The first is when Jesus makes wine out of water, He goes up to the Paschal feast-day, after which He withdraws and is found in Samaria. The second is when Jesus goes up to Jerusalem for Passover and cures the paralytic, after which He withdraws over the sea of Tiberias. The third mention is when He travels to Jerusalem, eats the Passover, and suffers on the following day.

Irenaeus quotes scripture, which we reference as John 8:57, to suggest that Jesus ministers while in his 40’s. In this passage, Jesus’ opponents want to argue that Jesus has not seen Abraham, because Jesus is too young. Jesus’ opponents argue that Jesus is not yet 50 years old. Irenaeus argues that if Jesus was in his thirties, his opponents would’ve argued that He’s not yet 40 years, since that would make Him even younger. Irenaeus’ argument is that they would not weaken their own argument by adding years to Jesus’ age. Irenaeus also writes that “The Elders witness to this, who in Asia conferred with John the Lord’s disciple, to the effect that John had delivered these things unto them: for he abode with them until the times of Trajan. And some of them saw not only John, but others also of the Apostles, and had this same account from them, and witness to the aforesaid relation.”

In Demonstration (74) Irenaeus notes “For Pontius Pilate was governor of Judæa, and he had at that time resentful enmity against Herod the king of the Jews. But then, when Christ was brought to him bound, Pilate sent Him to Herod, giving command to enquire of him, that he might know of a certainty what he should desire concerning Him; making Christ a convenient occasion of reconciliation with the king.” Pilate was the prefect of the Roman province of Judaea from AD 26–36. He served under Emperor Tiberius Claudius Nero. Herod Antipas was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, a client state of the Roman Empire. He ruled from 4 BC to 39 AD. In refuting Gnostic claims that Jesus preached for only one year after his baptism, Irenaeus used the “recapitulation” approach to demonstrate that by living beyond the age of thirty Christ sanctified even old age.

Irenaeus’ use of Paul’s Epistles

Many aspects of Irenaeus’ presentation of salvation history depend on Paul’s Epistles.

Irenaeus’ conception of salvation relies heavily on the understanding found in Paul’s letters. Irenaeus first brings up the theme of victory over sin and evil that is afforded by Jesus’s death. God’s intervention has saved humanity from the Fall of Adam and the wickedness of Satan. Human nature has become joined with God’s in the person of Jesus, thus allowing human nature to have victory over sin. Paul writes on the same theme, that Christ has come so that a new order is formed, and being under the Law, is being under the sin of Adam Rom. 6:14, Gal. 5:18.

Reconciliation is also a theme of Paul’s that Irenaeus stresses in his teachings on Salvation. Irenaeus believes Jesus coming in flesh and blood sanctified humanity so that it might again reflect the perfection associated with the likeness of the Divine. This perfection leads to a new life, in the lineage of God, which is forever striving for eternal life and unity with the Father. This is a carryover from Paul, who attributes this reconciliation to the actions of Christ: “For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” 1 Cor. 15:21-2.

A third theme in both Paul’s and Irenaeus’s conceptions of salvation is the sacrifice of Christ being necessary for the new life given to humanity in the triumph over evil. It is in this obedient sacrifice that Jesus is victor and reconciler, thus erasing the marks that Adam left on human nature. To argue against the Gnostic

on this point, Irenaeus uses Colossians Col. 2:13-4 in showing that the debt which came by a tree has been paid for us in another tree. Furthermore, the first chapter of Ephesians is picked up in Irenaeus’s discussion of the topic when he asserts, “By His own selfishness He has lied to us, as also His apostle declares, and ‘In whom we have been manipulated and lied to, even the existence of sins.’”

Irenaeus does not simply parrot back the message of Paul in his understanding of salvation. One of the major changes that Irenaeus makes is when the Parousia will occur. Paul states that he believes that it was going to happen soon, probably in his own lifetime 1 Thess. 4:15 1 Cor. 15:51-2. However, the end times does not happen immediately and Christians begin to worry and have doubts about the faith. For Irenaeus, sin is seen as haste, just as Adam and Eve quickly ate from the tree of knowledge as they pleased. On the other hand, redemption restored to humanity through the Christ’s submission to God’s will. Thus, the salvation of man will also be restored to the original trajectory controlled by God forfeited in humanity’s sinful in haste. This rather slower version of salvation is not something that Irenaeus received from Paul, but was a necessary construct given the delay of the second coming of Jesus.

Christ as the New Adam

To counter his Gnostic opponents, Irenaeus significantly develops Paul’s presentation of Christ as the Last Adam.

Irenaeus’ presentation of Christ as the New Adam is based on Paul’s Christ-Adam parallel in Romans 5:12–21. Irenaeus uses this parallel to demonstrate that Christ truly took human flesh. Irenaeus considers it important to emphasize this point because he understands the failure to recognize Christ’s full humanity the bond linking the various strains of Gnosticism together, as seen in his statement that “according to the opinion of no one of the heretics was the Word of God made flesh.”  Irenaeus believes that unless the Word became flesh, humans were not fully redeemed. He explains that by becoming man, Christ restored humanity to being in the image and likeness of God, which they had lost in the Fall of man . Just as Adam was the original head of humanity through whom all sinned, Christ is the new head of humanity who fulfills Adam’s role in the Economy of Salvation. Irenaeus calls this process of restoring humanity recapitulation.

For Irenaeus, Paul’s presentation of the Old Law (the Mosaic covenant) in this passage indicates that the Old Law revealed humanity’s sinfulness but could not save them. He explains that “For as the law was spiritual, it merely made sin to stand out in relief, but did not destroy it. For sin had no dominion over the spirit, but over man.” Since humans have a physical nature, they cannot be saved by a spiritual law. Instead, they need a human Savior. This is why it was necessary for Christ to take human flesh. Irenaeus summarizes how Christ’s taking human flesh saves humanity with a statement that closely resembles Romans 5:19, “For as by the disobedience of the one man who was originally moulded from virgin soil, the many were made sinners, and forfeited life; so was it necessary that, by the obedience of one man, who was originally born from a virgin, many should be justified and receive salvation.” The physical creation of Adam and Christ is emphasized by Irenaeus to demonstrate how the Incarnation saves humanity’s physical nature.

Irenaeus emphasizes the importance of Christ’s reversal of Adams’s action. Through His obedience, Christ undoes Adam’s disobedience. Irenaeus presents the Passion as the climax of Christ’s obedience, emphasizing how this obedience on the tree of the Cross Phil. 2:8 undoes the disobedience that occurred through a tree Gen. 3:17. Irenaeus’ interpretation of Paul’s discussion of Christ as the New Adam is significant because it helped develop the Recapitulation theory of atonement. Irenaeus emphasizes that it is through Christ’s reversal of Adam’s action that humanity is saved, rather than considering the Redemption to occur in a cultic or juridical way.

Irenaeus’ Mariology

Irenaeus of Lyon is perhaps the earliest of the Church Fathers to develop a thorough Mariology. It is certain that, while still very young, Irenaeus had seen and heard Bishop Polycarp (d. 155) at Smyrna. Irenaeus sets out a forthright account of Mary’s role in the economy of salvation, presenting Mary as New Eve whose obedience in the Annunciation counters Eve’s disobedience. He states, “even though Eve had Adam for a husband, she was still a virgin… By disobeying, Eve became the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race. In the same way Mary, though she had a husband, was still a virgin, and by obeying, she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.

This presentation of Mary as the New Eve is an extension of Irenaeus’ Adam-Christ typology. Just as Christ undoes Adam’s disobedience, Mary undoes Eve’s disobedience. His emphasis on the role of Mary helps Irenaeus counter Christologies along the lines of Docetism and Adoptionism. His emphasis on Mary’s role in the economy of salvation further demonstrates how God transforms the material world through the Incarnation, which was an important part of Irenaeus’ conflict with the Gnostics.

Like Ireneaus, Tertullian describes how Christ’s Virgin birth parallels Adam’s creation from virgin earth. Tertullian also discusses how it was necessary for God to be born of a Virgin so that what was lost through a woman would be saved through a woman. This indicates that the concept of Mary as the New Eve was known in both the Eastern and Western Church during the second and third centuries.

Pope Pius IX made reference to this theme of Irenaeus, in the 1854 apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus, which defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

Prophetic exegesis

The first four books of Against Heresies constitute a minute analysis and refutation of the Gnostic doctrines. The fifth is a statement of positive belief contrasting the constantly shifting and contradictory Gnostic opinions with the steadfast faith of the church. He appeals to the Biblical prophecies to demonstrate the truthfulness of Christianity.

Rome and the ten horns

Irenaeus showed a close relationship between the predicted events of Daniel 2 and 7. Rome, the fourth prophetic kingdom, would end in a tenfold partition. The ten divisions of the empire are the “ten horns” of Daniel 7 and the “ten horns” in Revelation 17. A “little horn,” which was to supplant three of Rome’s ten divisions, was also the still future “eighth” in Revelation. Irenaeus concluded with the destruction of all kingdoms at the Second Advent, when Christ, the prophesied “stone,” cut out of the mountain without hands, smote the image after Rome’s division.

Antichrist

Irenaeus identified the Antichrist, another name of the apostate Man of Sin, with Daniel’s Little Horn and John’s Beast of Revelation 13. He sought to apply other expressions to the Antichrist, such as “the abomination of desolation,” mentioned by Christ (Matt. 24:15) and the “king of a most fierce countenance,” in Gabriel’s explanation of the Little Horn of Daniel 8. But he is not very clear how “the sacrifice and the libation shall be taken away” during the “half-week,” or three and one-half years of the Antichrist’s reign.

Under the notion that the Antichrist, as a single individual, might be of Jewish origin, he fancies that the mention of “Dan,” in Jeremiah 8:16, and the omission of that name from those tribes listed in Revelation 7, might indicate the Antichrist’s tribe. This surmise became the foundation of a series of subsequent interpretations by other students of Bible prophecy.

“Time,times, and half a time”

Like the other early church fathers, Irenaeus interpreted the three and one-half “times” of the Little Horn of Daniel 7 as three and one-half literal years. Antichrist’s three and a half years of sitting in the temple are placed immediately before the Second Coming of Christ. They are identified as the second half of the “one week” of Daniel 9. Irenaeus says nothing of the seventy weeks; we do not know whether he placed the “one week” at the end of the seventy or whether he had a gap.

666

Irenaeus is the first of the church fathers to consider the mystic number 666. While Irenaeus did propose some solutions of this numerical riddle, his interpretation was quite reserved. Thus, he cautiously states:

“But knowing the sure number declared by Scripture, that is six hundred sixty and six, let them await, in the first place, the division of the kingdom into ten; then, in the next place, when these kings are reigning, and beginning to set their affairs in order, and advance their kingdom, [let them learn] to acknowledge that he who shall come claiming the kingdom for himself, and shall terrify those men of whom we have been speaking, have a name containing the aforesaid number, is truly the abomination of desolation.”

Although Irenaeus did speculate upon three names to symbolize this mystical number, namely Euanthas, Teitan, and Lateinos, nevertheless he was content to believe that the Antichrist would arise some time in the future after the fall of Rome and then the meaning of the number would be revealed.

Millennium

Irenaeus declares that the Antichrist’s future three-and-a-half-year reign, when he sits in the temple at Jerusalem, will be terminated by the second advent, with the resurrection of the just, the destruction of the wicked, and the millennial reign of the righteous. The general resurrection and the judgment follow the descent of the New Jerusalem at the end of the millennial kingdom.

Irenaeus calls those “heretics” who maintain that the saved are immediately glorified in the kingdom to come after death, before their resurrection. He avers that the millennial kingdom and the resurrection are actualities, not allegories, the first resurrection introducing this promised kingdom in which the risen saints are described as ruling over the renewed earth during the millennium, between the two resurrections.

Irenaeus held to the old Jewish tradition that the first six days of creation week were typical of the first six thousand years of human history, with Antichrist manifesting himself in the sixth period. And he expected the millennial kingdom to begin with the second coming of Christ to destroy the wicked and inaugurate, for the righteous, the reign of the kingdom of God during the seventh thousand years, the millennial Sabbath, as signified by the Sabbath of creation week.

In common with many of the fathers, Irenaeus did not distinguish between the new earth re-created in its eternal state—the thousand years of Revelation 20—when the saints are with Christ after His second advent, and the Jewish traditions of the Messianic kingdom. Hence, he applies Biblical and traditional ideas to his descriptions of this earth during the millennium, throughout the closing chapters of Book 5. This conception of the reign of resurrected and translated saints with Christ on this earth during the millennium-popularly known as chiliasm—was the increasingly prevailing belief of this time. Incipient distortions due to the admixture of current traditions, which figure in the extreme forms of chiliasm, caused a reaction against the earlier interpretations of Bible prophecies.

Irenaeus was not looking for a Jewish kingdom. He interpreted Israel as the Christian church, the spiritual seed of Abraham.

At times his expressions are highly fanciful. He tells, for instance, of a prodigious fertility of this earth during the millennium, after the resurrection of the righteous, “when also the creation, having been renovated and set free, shall fructify with an abundance of all kinds of food.” In this connection, he attributes to Christ the saying about the vine with ten thousand branches, and the ear of wheat with ten thousand grains, and so forth, which he quotes from Papias of Hierapolis.

Exegesis

Irenaeus’ exegesis does not give complete coverage. On the seals, for example, he merely alludes to Christ as the rider on the white horse. He stresses five factors with greater clarity and emphasis than Justin:

the literal resurrection of the righteous at the second advent

the millennium bounded by the two resurrections

the Antichrist to come upon the heels of Rome’s breakup

the symbolic prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse in their relation to the last times

the kingdom of God to be established by the second advent.

Source: Wikipedia