One of Irenaeus’ lesser known works is his Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching. The work, found only in an Armenian manuscript, preserves for us many second century interpretations of the Scripture and oral Apostolic traditions.
In Part II we cover the following:
- Irenaeus’ view of the atonement
- Original sin
- Baptismal regeneration
- Speculation on the contents of what the sermon on the road to Emmaus might have been
Recapitulation Theory of the atonement. Irenaeus pretty much summarizes in paragraphs 30-33 what he already taught on the same subject in Against Heresies.
Simple affirmation of original sin (or innate concupisence). “The Word of God was made flesh by the dispensation of the Virgin, to abolish death and make man live. For we were imprisoned by sin, being born in sinfulness and living under death” (Par 37).
Baptismal regeneration again…In Part I, we showed that what Irenaeus meant by baptism conferring the Spirit was a conflation of the sacrament with the catechizing of the person who was baptized. In Paragraph 41, the issue of baptism is referred to again (citing John 3:5). From the context, it is clear that Irenaeus sees the cleansing of baptism inasmuch as it is a rite that is given to those who have repented and become disciples of Christ. The reference to “distributing and imparting” the Spirit is likely a reference to Acts where this was done by chrism:
…showing to mankind the way of life, to turn them from idols and fornication and covetousness, cleansing their souls and bodies by the baptism of water and of the Holy Spirit; which Holy Spirit they had received of the Lord, and they distributed and imparted It to them that believed; and thus they ordered and established the Churches.
Paragraph 42 more plainly states that baptism confers the Spirit: “For such is the state of those who have believed, since in them continually abides the Holy Spirit, who was given by Him in baptism, and is retained by the receiver, if he walks in truth and holiness and righteousness and patient endurance.”
However, it is likely Irenaeus had in mind the catechizing of the person baptized in making that statement, because in the next paragraph (43) he walks the reader through credal affirmations: “So then we must believe God in all things, for in all things God is true. Now that there was a Son of God, and that He existed not only before He appeared in the world, but also before the world was made…”
It is obvious that Irenaeus taught that the Spirit can be lost (in the sense we stop abiding in Him), a teaching common in the early Church (though Augustine was emphatic that those who are predestined cannot be lost, but perseverance was a gift in addition to the regular saving act of the Spirit.)
Paragraph 47 contains an early, Christological credal statement: “[T]he Father is Lord and the Son is Lord, and the Father is God and the Son is God; for that which is begotten of God is God. And so in the substance and power of His being there is shown forth one God; but there is also according to the economy of our redemption both Son and Father. Because to created things the Father of all is invisible and unapproachable.”
The Sermon on the Road of Emmaus. How many preachers have yarned, “I wish I was there when Jesus revealed Himself in the whole Old Testament on the road to Emmaus.”
Well, we might just have that in Irenaeus’ book. He in some detail, for the rest of the book, exegetes the entirety of Scripture (particularly the Psalms and Isaiah) to show exactly where Jesus was spoken of. Almost everything until the end of the book pertains to how the Old Testament Scriptures speak of Christ.
Paragraph 48 has a Christological passage attributed to Isaiah (“Thus saith the Lord God to my Anointed the Lord”) and paragraph 78 has one attributed to Jeremiah, but neither passage is found in any known manuscript. The former saying is found in Chapter 11 of the Epistle of Barnabas, where it is attributed to Moses. The latter passage is quoted by both Justin Martyr and Irenaeus in Against Heresies (where he attributes it to Isaiahpepu in one part.) Scholars have speculated that Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and “Barnabas” depended upon an extra-biblical source which condensed all the prophetic sayings of the old prophets. In this source were interpolated falsely-attributed prophecies, such as the above. While this seems to be disingenuous these days, to Irenaeus (who likely did not have all the Scriptures at his disposal in any given place), such a scroll would have been useful. Sadly, it was inaccurate. There are several other similar passages within the Preaching which likely have a similar origin. As for the passage in paragraph 48, it may be a corruption of “the Lord said to My Lord” from Ps 110:1.
Paragraph 61 teaches that lions will literally lie down with lambs, because “the Elders say that so it will be.” However, he also acknowledges that there is a spiritual application to this as well (that God reforms brutish creatures/men into passive, peaceful ones.)
Paragraph 62 has an interesting Christological interpretation of Amos 9:11–“In that day I will raise up the fallen booth [body] of David [i.e. Jesus].”
Paragraphs 68-69 discusses Is 53, and it is clear that Irenaeus takes an expiation-view of the atonement.
Closing Comments on the Work. Paragraph 71 can easily be misread in which to endorse monophysitism, but I do not think it is specific enough to assert that he held this viewpoint.
Paragraph 87 shows that Irenaeus believed that faith makes us righteous, but such a faith produces love and works: “So then by our faith in Him He has made our love to God and our neighbour to grow, making us godly and righteous and good.”
Paragraph 91 states “we trust not in altars, nor in the works of our hands.” This is in reference to numerous sacrifices men do to appease God, not Christ’s sacrifice that was done once and for all and is re-presented every liturgy. We know Irenaeus believes this because of him explicitly endorsing the idea of the Eucharistic sacrifice in AH 4.18.5-6.
Paragraph 96 shows that Irenaeus ascribed to the idea that merely naming Jesus Christ had power over the demons. Tertullian would later make the same claim about the sign of the cross–“And there is none other name of the Lord given under heaven whereby men are saved, save that of God, which is Jesus Christ the Son of God, to which also the demons are subject and evil spirits and all apostate energies, by the invocation of the name of Jesus Christ, crucified under Pontius Pilate.”
Paragraph 97 quotes “Jeremiah,” but in fact is deriving material from Baruch. It is possible that the material was found on the same scroll.
Paragraph 98 indicates that salvation is more than merely a one time event, it is a way of life: “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…This must we keep with all certainty, with a sound will and pleasing to God, with good works and right-willed disposition.”