Irenaeus of Lyons.
One of the Christian heresiolists.
Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching (to Marcianus).
Against the Nations.
On Schism (to Blastus).
Epistle to Florinus.
Commentary on the Ogdoad.
Proof of the Apostolic
Preaching (English only).
Skeptik (Greek fragments of
Against Heresies only).
On site: Epistle to Florinus (present page in Greek, English).
On site: Against
Heresies (English translation with links to
images of Latin and Greek by Harvey).
Image of papyrus Oxyrhynchus
405 (fragment of Against Heresies
3.9.3, quoting Matthew 3.16-17;
refer to the notes and quotes page
for more information).
Irenaeus at EarlyChurch.
Irenaeus in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Irenaeus at Early Christian Writings.
Irenaeus was a Christian heresiologist and presbyter of Lyons who
flourished late in century II.
Tertullian, Against the
Valentinians 5.1 (English translation slightly
modified from that of Mark
Mihi autem cum archetypis erat
limes principalium magistrorum, non cum affectatis ducibus
passivorum discipulorum. nec undique dicemur ipsi nobis finxisse
materias quas tot iam viri sanctitate et praestantia insignes,
nec solum nostra antecessores sed ipsorum haeresiarcharum
contemporales, instructissimis voluminibus et prodiderunt et
retuderuntut Iustinus, philosophus et martyr; ut Miltiades,
ecclesiarum sophista; ut Irenaeus, omnium doctrinarum curiosissimus
explorator; ut Proculus noster, virginis senectae et
Christianae eloquentiae dignitas, quos in omasi opere fidei
quemadmodum in isto optaverim adsequi.
My exposition will be limited to the
original teachings of their chief teachers; it will not include
the high-flying leaders of the mass of followers. I hope no one
will say because of this limitation that I have invented this
material for the occasion. No indeed, many men who were renowned
for their holiness and their leadership, who were not only
our predecessors but also contemporaries of those very heresiarchs,
have exposed and refuted them in learned volumes.
I refer to Justin, philosopher and martyr, Miltiades, that
churchly sage, Irenaeus, an eager discoverer of all doctrines,
and our own Proculus, the living exemplar of a chaste
old age and of Christian eloquence. In their footsteps I
might hope to follow in all works of faith, just as I do in
Hippolytus mentions Irenaeus twice
in his Refutation. The first
mention is in 6.37:
For also the blessed presbyter Irenaeus approached
the topic more frankly and explained such washings and redemptions,
telling in a broad sense what they practice....
The second is in 6.30 (English translation slightly modified
from the ANF series translation):
...as now the blessed presbyter Irenaeus has powerfully and
elaborately refuted the opinions of these men
And to him we are indebted for a knowledge of their inventions,
proving that these heretics, appropriating these opinions from the
Pythagorean philosophy, and from overspun theories of the astrologers,
cast an imputation upon Christ, as though he had delivered these things
History of the Church
5.20.4-8 (English translation slightly modified from that in the
Nicene and Post-Nicene
In the epistle to Florinus, of which we have
spoken, Irenaeus mentions again his intimacy with Polycarp, saying:
These doctrines, Florinus, to speak mildly,
are not of sound judgment. These doctrines disagree with the church
and drive into the greatest impiety those who accept them. These
doctrines not even the heretics outside of the church have ever dared
to publish. These doctrines the presbyters who were before us and who
were companions of the apostles did not deliver to you.
For when I was a boy I saw you in lower
Asia with Polycarp, doing brilliantly in the royal court,
and endeavoring to gain his approbation. I remember the events of
that time more clearly than those of recent years. For what boys
learn, growing with their mind, becomes joined with it, so that I am
able to describe the very place in which the blessed Polycarp sat as
he discoursed, and his goings out and his comings in, and the manner
of his life, and his physical appearance, and his discourses to the
people, and the accounts which he gave of his intercourse with John
and with the others who had seen the Lord. And as he remembered their
words and what he heard from them concerning the Lord, and concerning
his miracles and his teaching, having received them from eyewitnesses
of the word of life, Polycarp related all things in harmony with
These things being told me by the mercy of
God, I listened to them attentively, noting them down, not on paper,
but in my heart. And continually, through the grace of God, I recall
them faithfully. And I am able to bear witness before God that,
if that blessed and apostolic presbyter had heard any such thing,
he would have cried out and stopped his ears and, as was his custom,
would have exclaimed: O good God, unto what times have you spared me
that I should endure these things? And he would have fled from the
place where, sitting or standing, he had heard such words.
And this can be shown plainly from the epistles
which he sent, either to the neighboring churches for their
confirmation or to some of the brethren, admonishing and exhorting
These are the things that Irenaeus wrote.
Jerome, On Famous Men 35:
Irenaeus, Pothini episcopi, qui
Lugdunensem in Gallia regebat ecclesiam, presbyter, a martyribus
eiusdem loci, ob quasdam ecclesiae quaestiones legatus Romam missus,
honorificas super nomine suo ad Eleutherum episcopum perfert
litteras. postea iam Pothino prope nonagenario, ob Christum martyrio
coronato, in locum eius substituitur. constat autem Polycarpi, cuius
supra fecimus mentionem, sacerdotis et martyris, hunc fuisse
discipulum. scripsit quinque adversus haereses libros, et contra
gentes volumen breve, et de disciplina aliud, et ad Martianum
fratrem de apostolica praedicatione, et librum variorum tractatuum,
et ad Blastum de schismate, et ad Florinum de monarchia, sive quod
Deus non sit conditor malorum, et de ogdoade egregium commentarium,
in cuius fine significans se apostolicorum temporum vicinum fuisse,
sic subscripsit: Adiuro te, qui transcribis librum istum, per
dominum Iesum Christum, et per gloriosum eius adventum, quo
iudicaturus est vivos et mortuos, ut conferas, postquam
transcripseris, et emendes illum ad exemplar, unde scripsisti,
diligentissime; hanc quoque obtestationem similiter transferas,
ut invenisti in exemplari. feruntur eius et aliae ad Victorem
episcopum Romanum de quaestione Paschae epistolae, in quibus
commonet eum, non facile debere unitatem collegii scindere.
siquidem Victor multos Asiae et Orientis episcopos, qui decima
quarta luna cum Iudaeis Pascha celebrabant, damnandos crediderat.
in qua sententia hi, qui discrepabant ab illis, Victori non dederunt
manus. Floruit maxime sub Commodo principe, qui M. Antonino Vero
in imperium successerat.
Irenaeus, a presbyter under Pothinus the
bishop who ruled the church of Lyons in Gaul, being sent to Rome as
legate by the martyrs of Ibis place, on account of certain
ecclesiastical questions, presented to bishop Eleutherius certain
letters under his own name which are worthy of honor. Afterward,
when Pothinus at nearly ninety years of age received the crown of
martyrdom for Christ, he was put in his place. It is certain too
that he was a disciple of Polycarp, the priest and martyr, whom
we mentioned above. He wrote five books against heresies and a
short volume, against the nations; and another on discipline;
a letter to Marcianus his brother on apostolical preaching;
a book of Various treatises; also to Blastus on schism; to Florinus
on monarchy or that God is not the author of evil; also an excellent
commentary on the ogdoad at the end of which, indicating that he
was near the apostolic period, he wrote: I adjure you, whoever
shall transcribe this book, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by his
glorious advent at which he shall judge the quick and the dead,
that you diligently compare, after you have transcribed, and amend
it according to the copy from which you have transcribed it and
also that you shall similarly transcribe this adjuration as you
find it in your pattern. Other works of his are in circulation,
to wit, to Victor the Roman bishop On the paschal controversy,
in which he warns him not lightly to break the unity of the
fraternity, if indeed Victor believed that the many bishops
of Asia and the east, who with the Jews celebrated the
Passover, on the fourteenth
day of the new moon, were to be condemned. But even those who
differed from them did not support Victor in his opinion. He
flourished chiefly in the reign of the emperor Commodus,
who succeeded Marcus Antoninus Verus in power.
Irenaeus wrote his antiheretical work in five volumes during the
episcopate of Eleutherus of Rome, as indicated by what he
writes in Against
Heresies 3.3.3 (Greek courtesy of Eusebius,
History of the Church
* Perhaps a mistake for διαδοχη.
Huic autem Clementi succedit Evaristus, et Evaristo
Alexander, ac deinceps sextus ab apostolis constitutus est Sixtus, et ab
hoc Telesphorus, qui etiam gloriosissime martyrium fecit; ac deinceps Hyginus,
post Pius, post quem Anicetus. cum autem successisset Aniceto Soter, nunc
duodecimo loco episcopatum ab apostolis habet Eleutherius. hac ordinatione et
successione ea quae est ab apostolis in ecclesia traditio et veritatis
praeconatio pervenit usque ad nos. et est plenissima haec ostensio, unam et
eandem vivificatricem fidem esse, quae en ecclesia ab apostolis usque nunc
sit conservata, et tradita in veritate.
Evarestus succeeded Clement, and Alexander succeeded
Evarestus. Then Xystus, the sixth from the apostles, was appointed. After him
Telesphorus, who suffered martyrdom gloriously, then Hyginus, then Pius, and
after him Anicetus; Soter succeeded Anicetus, and now, in the twelfth place
from the apostles, Eleutherus holds the office of bishop. In the same order
and succession the tradition in the church and the preaching of the truth has
descended from the apostles unto us.
However, it would also appear that he sent each volume to its
intended recipient as it was completed, since he writes
in the preface to the third book:
Propter quod, cum sit unius operis
traductio eorum et destructio in multis, misimus tibi libros, ex
quibus primus quidem omnium illorum sententias continet, et
consuetudines et characteres ostendit conversationis eorum;
in secundo vero destructa et eversa sunt quae ab ipsis male
docentur, et nudata et ostensa sunt talia qualia et sunt. in
hoc autem tertio ex scripturis inferemus ostensiones, ut nihil
tibi ex his quae praeceperas desit a nobis.
On which account, since their disgracing
and destruction is in many ways of one work, we have sent you books,
of which the first contains the opinions of all these men, and
shows their customs and the character of their conversation;
in the second, moreover, the bad things that are taught by them
are destroyed and overthrown, and bared and shown forth for what
they are. In this, however, the third, we will infer demonstrations
from the scriptures, so that nothing from among those things that
you have enjoined might fall short.
And in the preface to the fourth book he writes:
Nec enim possibile est alicui curare
quosdam male habentes qui ignorat passionem eorum qui male valent.
quapropter hi qui ante nos fuerunt, et quidem multo nobis meliores,
non tamen satis potuerunt contradicere his qui sunt a Valentino,
quia ignorabant regulam ipsorum, quam nos cum omni diligentia in
primo libro tibi tradidimus, in quo et ostendimus doctrinam eorum
recapitulationem esse omnium haeriticorum. quapropter et in
secundo tamquam speculum habuimus eos totius eversionis.
For it is not possible for any one to cure
anybody who is sick if he is ignorant of their suffering who are
in ill health. It was on this account that those who were before
us, and who were much better than us, were unable, notwithstanding,
to sufficiently counter those who were from Valentinus, because
they were ignorant of the rule of these men, which we have with
all diligence delivered to you in the first book, in which we have
also shown their doctrine to be a recapitulation of all the heretics.
On this account also in the second, as if in a mirror, we have
had [a glimpse of] them at their total overthrow.
The original language of composition was Greek, which, however, is
no longer extant except in fragments both from Oxyrhynchus and in the
church fathers. Fortunately, an ancient Latin translation is