The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview

13 Irenaeus of Lyon

Diversity was a mark of mid-second century Christianity with different groups adopting different gospels as their supreme authority. Questions were asked such as whether the divinity of Christ was taught in the gospel according to Matthew, and whether it was not simpler and no less religious to hold Jesus to be merely the son of his father Joseph; what measure of authority attached to the letters of Paul, how one could answer Marcion's exclusive acceptance of a text of Luke's gospel from which references to fulfilled Old Testament prophecy had been removed as Judaistic interpolations, or his belief that Paul was the only apostle emancipated from Judaism and deserving recognition.

Born probably about 140, Irenaeus constitutes a major link between the Church of his own time, spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, and the heroic age of the past with Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna who could recall St John, who had shown the heretic Marcion the door, and who had visited Bishop Anicetus of Rome to defend the tradition of Asia Minor concerning the celebration of Easter, achieving peace with the recognition of diversity. Like other Greeks from Asia Minor, Irenaeus moved to the Rhône valley. He was probably author of the moving account of the inhuman persecution inflicted by order of Marcus Aurelius on the Christians of Lyon and Vienne in 177, preserved in the Church History of Eusebius of Caesarea. Continuing controversy between Rome and Asia Minor about the calculation of Easter Day and the form of the preceding fast drew him in to write a conciliatory letter to Pope Victor inviting him to be tolerant of diversity. That was hard for Victor to do for the reason that at Rome there were migrant Christians from Asia Minor, and it seemed hard to tolerate differences within one city. It seemed an advertisement of disunity. Victor's bid for uniformity was supported by several bishops in the Greek East. The disagreement was the earliest instance of tensions between Greek east and the west, the latter being still Greek-speaking.


Gnosticism

Irenaeus' greatest work was a five-part argument against gnosticism, especially against the followers of Valentinus. In its original form his was the least

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The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Church in Ancient Society iii
  • Prefatory Note vi
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The First Followers of Jesus 5
  • 2: The Jewish Matrix 13
  • 3: Jews and Christians Survive Rome's Crushing of Revolts 21
  • 4: The Hebrew Scriptures in the Church 27
  • 5: Interpreting Scripture 32
  • 6: Apostles and Evangelists 43
  • 7: Women Among Jesus' Followers 53
  • 8: 'Barnabas', Jewish Christianity, Trouble at Corinth 56
  • 9: Ignatius of Antioch 65
  • 10: Didache 84
  • 11: Marcion 89
  • 12: Justin 93
  • 13: Irenaeus of Lyon 100
  • 14: The New Testament Text 108
  • 15: Celsus: A Platonist Attack 110
  • 16: Montanism: Perpetua 114
  • 17: Tertullian, Minucius Felix 118
  • 18: Clement of Alexandria 124
  • 19: Julius Africanus 130
  • 20: Hippolytus and Liturgy 132
  • 21: Origen 135
  • 22: Cyprian of Carthage 145
  • 23: Dionysius of Alexandria 161
  • 24: Paul of Samosata 166
  • 25: Mani 170
  • 26: Plotinus, Porphyry 173
  • 27: Diocletian and the Great Persecution; Rise of Constantine 176
  • 28: Constantine 190
  • 29: The Seeds of Reaction 201
  • 30: The Church at Prayer 212
  • 31: Athanasius, Marcellus, and the Gathering Storm 226
  • 32: A Fiasco at Serdica 240
  • 33: Religious Division 254
  • 34: Athanasius' Return 260
  • 35: Constantius' Double Council of Unity 279
  • 36: Julian and the Church 295
  • 37: Damasus, Siricius, Papal Authority, Synesius of Cyrene 314
  • 38: Basil of Caesarea (Cappadocia) 331
  • 39: Ambrose 348
  • 40: Ambrosiaster 379
  • 41: Donatism 382
  • 42: Monks: The Ascetic Life 394
  • 43: Messalians 411
  • 44: Schism at Antioch 415
  • 45: Jerome and Rufinus 433
  • 46: Pelagius, Caelestius, and the Roman See in Gaul and North Africa 446
  • 47: Julian of Eclanum 464
  • 48: Augustine 473
  • 49: John Chrysostom 479
  • 50: Innocent I and John Chrysostom's Honour 499
  • 51: The Christological Debate, I 515
  • 52: The Christological Debate, Ii 538
  • 53: The Christological Debate, Iii 557
  • 54: The Aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon 592
  • 55: Justinian, Origen, and the 'Three Chapters' 612
  • 56: The Ancient Oriental Churches 628
  • 57: The Church and the Barbarian Invasions in the West 633
  • 58: Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) 658
  • 59: Worship After Constantine 675
  • 60: Pilgrims 684
  • 61: Penance 688
  • Further Reading 694
  • Dates of Roman Emperors 714
  • Index 721
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