I have been reading Irenaeus’ great work, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching. This is an amazing and important book. In it, Irenaeus explains how the Christian faith has an organic, natural, or evolving relationship to the message of what we call the Old and New Testaments. he does not do this by giving his own assessment. Irenaeus instead, bears witness to the preaching of the Apostles on this subject (link). Who was this author? How did he know what the Apostle’s preached? What did he include in his book?
Irenaeus, the Man
“No early Christian writer has deserved better of the whole Church than Irenaeus” (H.B. Swete, Online) Irenaeus of Lyon (AD 140-202) was, “the most profound and influential theologian of the second century” (Behr, 1). His work Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching is a great gift to the church (part one). Due to the time and distance, we know only a little about the man. However, we do have a wonderful prayer, which he composed for readers of his work:
I call upon You, Lord, God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give everyone who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godliness and impious teaching. (St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies3:6:4).
This prayer reveals the heart of Irenaeus’ work. And I pray that it will be reflected in my heart and in the heart of my readers as we study Apostolic Preaching.
Irenaeus, The Author
Irenaeus wrote his Demonstration between AD 175 and 189. In his youth, he was a disciple of Polycarp (AD 69-155) a Presbyter or Bishop in Smyrna and disciple of the Apostle John (Christianity Today). The best English translation of Demonstration is titled, On the Apostolic Preaching and published by St Vladimir’s Seminary Press (Crestwood: NY, 1997). Behr’s translation of the book is inexpensive and can be found easily (Amazon;.co.uk;.ca). However, there are free versions online, as we find in the excellent archives of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL). I will regularly reference Behr and follow his outline of the work, but I will link to, and copy longer quotations, from the text of the CCEL version as we proceed.
Irenaeus, The Demonstration
Below I have adapted an outline from Behr’s introductory essay. I will hyperlink within the outline below as I develop a post on each section.
My Intro (part 1)
My intro (part 2)
On the Apostolic Preaching
Intro (Chaps 1-3a) Call to Hold Firm to the Faith Preached by the Apostles
Make Your Way by Faith (1.1b-2)
Keep to the Rule of Faith (3)
Part One (chaps 3b–42a) – An Exposition of Apostolic Preaching
Section One (chaps 3b–16) – “Of God and Man”
Section Two (Chaps 17–30) – On Salvation History, God Preparing man for Salvation
Section Three (Chaps 31–40a) On Salvation Accomplished
Section Four (Chaps 40b-42a) Jesus as the Promised Savour of the OT
Part Two (chaps 42b-97) – Proofs from Scripture of the Exposition of Apostolic Preaching
Section One (chaps 43–52) The Eternal Existence of Christ Demonstrated.
Section Two (chaps 53-66) The Human Birth of Jesus as the Begotten of God Demonstrated
Section Three (chaps 67–85) The Miraculous Works of Jesus Demonstrated
Section Four (chaps 86–97) The Calling of the Gentiles Demonstrated
Conclusion (chaps 98–100) Encouragement to Hold Firm to the Faith Demonstrated