Against the Heresies - Vol. 1

Against the Heresies - Vol. 1

Against the Heresies - Vol. 1

Against the Heresies - Vol. 1

Synopsis

This work, which establishes Irenaeus as the most important of the theologians of the second century, is a detailed and effective refutation of Gnosticism, and a major source of information on the various Gnostic sects and doctrines. This volume contains Book One.

Excerpt

Certain people are discarding the Truth and introducing deceitful myths and endless genealogies, which, as the Apostle says, promote speculations rather than the divine training that is in faith By specious argumentation, craftily patched together, they mislead the minds of the more ignorant and ensnare them by falsifying the Lord’s words. Thus they become wicked interpreters of genuine words. They bring many to ruin by leading them, under the pretense of knowledge, away from Him who established and adorned this universe, as if they had something more sublime and excellent to manifest than the God who made heaven and … all things in them? By cleverness with words they persuasively allure the simple folk to this style of searching, but then, absurdly, bring them to perdition by trumping up their blasphemous and impious opinion against the Creator. In this matter10 they just cannot distinguish what is false from what is true.

Error, in fact, does not show its true self, lest on being stripped naked it should be detected. Instead, it craftily decks itself out in an attractive dress, and thus, by an outward false appearance, presents itself to the more ignorant, truer than Truth itself, ridiculous as it is even to say this. With regard to such people, one greater than we has said: “An artful imitation in glass is a mockery to a precious stone, though it is an emerald and highly prized by some people, so long as no one is at hand to evaluate it and skillfully expose the crafty counterfeit. And when copper is alloyed to silver, what man, if he is unskilled, will readily be able to evaluate it.” Therefore, we will see to it that it will not be our fault if some are snatched away, like sheep by wolves, whom they would fail to recognize because of the treachery of the sheepskin, since they speak the same language we do, but intend different meanings. Of such the Lord admonished us to beware. And so, after chancing upon the commentaries of the disciples of Valentinus—as they style themselves—and after conversing with some of them and becoming acquainted with their doctrine, we thought it necessary to inform you, our dear friend, about these portentous and profound “mysteries” which not all grasp, because not all have purged their brains. Thus, having learned of these mysteries yourself, you can make them clear to all your people and warn them to be on guard against this profundity of nonsense and of blasphemy against God. To the best of our ability we will give you a concise and clear report on the doctrine of these people who are at present spreading false teaching. We are speaking of the disciples of Ptolemaeus, an offshoot of the Valentinian school. We will also offer suggestions, to the best of our limited capacity, for refuting this doctrine, by showing how utterly absurd, inconsistent, and incongruous with the Truth their statements are. Not that we are accustomed to writing books, or practiced in the art of rhetoric; but it is love that prompts us to acquaint you and all your people with the teachings which up till now have been kept secret, which, however, by the grace of God have at last come to light. For nothing is covered that will not be revealed, and nothing hidden that will not be known.

From us who live among the Celts and are accustomed to transact practically everything in a barbarous tongue, you cannot expect rhetorical art, which we have never learned, or the craft of writing, in which we have not had practice, or elegant style and persuasiveness, with which we are not familiar. Rather, you must welcome in charity what in charity we write to you—simply and truthfully and unaffectedly. You yourself, as one more competent than we, will develop these points, receiving from us, as it were, only the seeds and beginnings. In the broad range of your mind you will reap abundant fruit from our brief statements, and will forcefully present to your people what we have reported but feebly. Finally, we have made every effort not only to make clear to you their doctrines—which you have long sought to learn—but also to supply you with aids for proving it false. You, in like manner, will generously serve the rest, in keeping with the grace given you by the Lord, so that men and women no longer may be led astray by the specious argumentation of those people, which is as follows . . .

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