In this document, Irenaeus is combatting Gnosticism. Throughout this work, his main argument is the identity of the one true God. He also insists that the beliefs he sets forth are the teachings as handed down to the universal church by the apostles. Over and over, he identifies the Father as the one true God. He even goes further and insists that the Father is exclusively the one true God.
The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.... the catholic church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said.
John, proclaiming One God, the Almighty, and one Jesus Christ, the only-begotten, by whom all things were made.... But if the Word of the Father who descended is the same also that ascended, he, namely, the only-begotten Son of the Only God, who, according to the good pleasure of the Father, became flesh for the sake of men. (9.2).
The rule of truth which we hold, is, that there is one God Almighty, who made all things by His Word, and fashioned and formed, out of that which had no existence, all things which exist. Thus says the Scripture, to that effect, "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens established, and all the might of them, by the Spirit of His mouth." And again, "All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made." There is no exception or deduction stated, but the Father made all things by him, whether visible or invisible... is He who, by His Word and Spirit, makes, and disposes, and governs all things, and commands all things into existence, He who formed the world (for the world is of all), He who fashioned man, He is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, above whom there is no other God, nor initial principle, nor power, nor pleroma, He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we shall prove. (22.1).
It is proper, then, that I should begin with the first and most important head, that is, God the Creator, who made the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein (whom these men blasphemously style the fruit of a defect), and to demonstrate that there is nothing either above Him or after Him; nor that, influenced by any one, but of His own free will, He created all things, since He is the only God, the only Lord, the only Creator, the only Father, alone containing all things, and Himself commanding all things into existence (1.1).
Those, moreover, who say that the world was formed by angels, or by any other maker of it, contrary to the will of Him who is the Supreme Father, err first of all in this very point, that they maintain that angels formed such and so mighty a creation, contrary to the will of the Most High God. (2.1).
[Moses] at first narrated the formation of the world in these words: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and all other things in succession; but neither gods nor angels. Now, that this God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul the apostle also has declared, 'There is one God, the Father, who is above all, and through all things, and in us all. I have indeed proved already that there is only one God; but I shall further demonstrate this from the apostles themselves, and from the discourses of the Lord. For what sort of conduct would it be, were we to forsake the utterances of the prophets, of the Lord, and of the apostles, that we might give heed to these persons, who speak not a word of sense? (2.5).
That God is the Creator of the world is accepted even by those very persons who in many ways speak against Him, and yet acknowledge Him, styling Him the Creator, and an angel, not to mention that all the Scriptures call out [to the same effect], and the Lord teaches us of this Father who is in heaven, and no other, as I shall show in the sequel [i.e. Book III] of this work.... The universal church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the apostles.
This God, then, being acknowledged, as I have said, and receiving testimony from all to the fact of His existence, that Father whom they conjure into existence is beyond doubt untenable, and has no witnesses.... But the latter maintain that He, [i.e., the Creator of this world,] is the fruit of a defect, and describe Him as being of an animal nature, and as not knowing that Power which is above Him, while He also exclaims, I am God, and besides Me there is no other God. (9.2).
They do not believe that He, who is God above all, formed by His Word, in His own territory, as He Himself pleased, the various and diversified [works of creation which exist], inasmuch as He is the former of all things, like a wise architect, and a most powerful monarch.... It is easy to prove from the very words of the Lord, that he [Jesus] acknowledges one Father and Creator of the world, and Fashioner of man, who was proclaimed by the Law and the Prophets, while He [Jesus] knows no other, and that this One is really God over all; and that He teaches that that adoption of sons pertaining to the Father, which is eternal life, takes place through Himself, conferring it on all the righteous. (11.1).
Having therefore the truth itself as our rule and the testimony concerning God set clearly before us, we ought not, by running after numerous and diverse answers to questions, to cast away the firm and true knowledge of God. But it is much more suitable that we, directing our inquiries after this fashion, should exercise ourselves in the investigation of the mystery and administration of the living God, and should increase in the love of Him who has done, and still does, so great things for us; but never should fall from the belief by which it is most clearly proclaimed that this Being alone is truly God and Father. (28.1).
For faith, which has respect to our Master, endures unchangeably, assuring us that there is but one true God, and that we should truly love Him for ever, seeing that He alone is our Father; while we hope ever to be receiving more and more from God, and to learn from Him, because He is good, and possesses boundless riches, a kingdom without end, and instruction that can never be exhausted. (28.3).
For consider, all you who invent such opinions, since the Father Himself is ALONE called God, who has a real existence, but whom you [Gnostics] style the Demiurge, since, moreover, the Scriptures acknowledge Him ALONE as God, and yet again, since the Lord [Jesus] confesses Him ALONE as his own Father, and knows no other, as I shall show from his very words.... But God being all Mind, and all Logos, both speaks exactly what He thinks, and thinks exactly what He speaks. For His thought is Logos, and Logos is Mind, and Mind comprehending all things is the Father Himself. He, therefore, who speaks of the mind of God, and ascribes to it a special origin of its own, declares Him a compound Being, as if God were one thing, and the original Mind another... consider the terrible blasphemy against Him who truly is God. (28.4).
But, beyond reason inflated, you presumptuously maintain that you are acquainted with the unspeakable mysteries of God; while even the Lord, the very Son of God, allowed that the Father ALONE knows the very day and hour of judgment, when He plainly declares, "But of that day and that hour knows no man, neither the Son, but the Father only." If, then, the Son was not ashamed to ascribe the knowledge of that day to the Father only, but declared what was true regarding the matter, neither let us be ashamed to reserve for God those greater questions which may occur to us. (28.6).
For if any one should inquire the reason why the Father, who has fellowship with the Son in all things, has been declared by the Lord [Jesus] ALONE to know the hour and the day, he will find at present no more suitable, or becoming, or safe reason than this (since, indeed, the Lord is the only true Master), that we may learn through him that the Father is above all things for "the Father," says he, "is greater than I". The Father, therefore, has been declared by our Lord to excel with respect to knowledge; for this reason, that we, too, as long as we are connected with the scheme of things in this world, should leave perfect knowledge, and such questions, to God, and should not by any chance, while we seek to investigate the sublime nature of the Father, fall into the danger of starting the question whether there is another God above God. (28.8).
There is one God ALONE, the Creator, He who is above every principality, and power, and dominion, and virtue: He is Father, He is God, He the Founder, He the Maker, He the Creator, who made those things by Himself, that is, through His Word and His Wisdom— heaven and earth, and the seas, and all things that are in them: He is just; He is good; He it is who formed man, who planted paradise, who made the world, who gave rise to the flood, who saved Noah; He is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of the living: He it is whom the law proclaims, whom the prophets preach, whom Christ reveals, whom the apostles make known to us, and in whom the church believes. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: through His Word, who is His Son, through Him He is revealed and manifested to all to whom He is revealed; for those know Him to whom the Son has revealed Him. But the Son, eternally co-existing with the Father, from of old, yea, from the beginning, always reveals the Father to Angels, Archangels, Powers, Virtues, and all to whom He wills that God should be revealed. (30.0).
All the other expressions likewise bring out the title of One and the Same Being as, for example, The Lord of Powers, The Father of all, God Almighty, The Most High, The Creator, The Maker, and such like. These are not the names and titles of a succession of different beings, but of One and the Same, by means of which the One God and Father is revealed, He who contains all things, and grants to all the boon of existence. (35.3).
We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those [apostles] through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.... These [apostles] have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the law and the prophets; and one Christ the Son of God. If any one do not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord, nay more, he despises Christ Himself the Lord yea, he despises the Father also, and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as is the case with all heretics.(1.1-1.2).
The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing, and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone, for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spoke with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the churches, and may also understand the tradition of the church, since this epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. (3.3).
To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition, believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God. (4.2).
Our Lord, therefore, being the truth, did not speak lies; and whom He knew to have taken origin from a defect, He never would have acknowledged as God, even the God of all, the Supreme King, too, and His own Father, an imperfect being as a perfect one, an animal one as a spiritual, Him who was without the Pleroma as Him who was within it. Neither did His disciples make mention of any other God, or term any other Lord, except Him, who was truly the God and Lord of all. (5.1).
Therefore neither would the Lord, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the apostles, have ever named as God, definitely and absolutely, him who was not God, unless he were truly God; nor would they have named any one in his own person Lord, except God the Father ruling over all, and His Son who has received dominion from His Father over all creation, as this passage has it: The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool. (6.1).
Wherefore, as I have already stated, no other is named as God, or is called Lord, except Him who is God and Lord of all, who also said to Moses, I am that I am. And thus shall you say to the children of Israel: He who is, has sent me unto you; Exodus 3:14 and His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who makes those that believe in His name the sons of God. (6.2).
Wherefore I do also call upon you, Lord God of Abraham, and God of Isaac, and God of Jacob and Israel, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of Your mercy, has had a favour towards us, that we should know You, who has made heaven and earth, who rule over all, who is the only and the true God, above whom there is none other God; grant, by our Lord Jesus Christ, the governing power of the Holy Spirit; give to every reader of this book to know You, that You are God alone, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical, and godless, and impious doctrine. (6.4).
For the Father of all is called God, and is so; and Antichrist shall be lifted up, not above Him, but above those which are indeed called gods, but are not. And Paul himself says that this is true: We know that an idol is nothing, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth; yet to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we through Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him. 1 Corinthians 8:4, etc. For he has made a distinction, and separated those which are indeed called gods, but which are none, from the one God the Father, from whom are all things, and, he has confessed in the most decided manner in his own person, one Lord Jesus Christ.(6.5).
He indeed who made all things can alone, together with His Word, properly be termed God and Lord: but the things which have been made cannot have this term applied to them, neither should they justly assume that appellation which belongs to the Creator. (8.3).
This, therefore, having been clearly demonstrated here (and it shall yet be so still more clearly), that neither the prophets, nor the apostles, nor the Lord Christ in His own person, did acknowledge any other Lord or God, but the God and Lord supreme: the prophets and the apostles confessing the Father and the Son; but naming no other as God, and confessing no other as Lord: and the Lord Himself handing down to His disciples, that He, the Father, is the only God and Lord, who ALONE is God and ruler of all — it is incumbent on us to follow, if we are their disciples indeed, their testimonies to this effect.... There is therefore one and the same God, the Father of our Lord, who also promised, through the prophets, that He would send His forerunner; and His salvation— that is, His Word — He caused to be made visible to all flesh, [the Word] Himself being made incarnate, that in all things their King might become manifest (9.1)
Wherefore also Mark, the interpreter and follower of Peter, does thus commence his Gospel narrative: The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; as it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, which shall prepare Your way. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make the paths straight before our God. Plainly does the commencement of the Gospel quote the words of the holy prophets, and point out Him at once, whom they confessed as God and Lord; Him, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (10.5).
[John] the disciple of the Lord therefore desiring to put an end to all such doctrines, and to establish the rule of truth in the Church, that there is one Almighty God, who made all things by His Word, both visible and invisible; showing at the same time, that by the Word, through whom God made the creation, He also bestowed salvation on the men included in the creation; thus commenced His teaching in the Gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made. What was made was life in Him, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. John 1:1,(11.1).
Such, then, are the first principles of the Gospel: that there is one God, the Maker of this universe; He who was also announced by the prophets, and who by Moses set forth the dispensation of the law,— [principles] which proclaim the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ignore any other God or Father except Him. (11.7).
Created: April 4, 2011
Last Updated: April 4, 2011
But God being all Mind, and all Logos, both speaks exactly what He thinks, and thinks exactly what He speaks. For His thought is Logos, and Logos is Mind, and Mind comprehending all things is the Father Himself. He, therefore, who speaks of the mind of God, and ascribes to it a special origin of its own, declares Him a compound Being, as if God were one thing, and the original Mind another. (II,28.5).