(ca. 180 A.D.)
Irenaeus was bishop at Lyons, Gaul (France). He was born in Asia and had met Polycarp, a disciple of John. He was a presbyter at Lyons during the persecution of Marcus Aurelius and became a bishop there about 178 AD. There are two major works known to us by Irenaeus, Against Heresies and Proof of the Apostolic Preaching. The latter was mentioned by Eusebius and has only been recently discovered in 1904 in an Armenian translation. The first English translation appeared in 1920.
For the Trinitarian, the following quotations from Irenaeus will prove to be quite confusing. On one hand Irenaeus repeatedly insists the Father alone is the one and only true God. In Trinitarian theology, this simply does not work since the Father alone is not the only true God. Rather, the Father is true God along with the Son and the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, Irenaeus does not mind telling us that his Son Jesus can be referred to as deity. However, he says that the Scriptures also call Christians "God." Irenaeus does not believe that the Son is "God" by identity but is deity/divine by virtue of his divine origins in the Father as the Logos. Being "of" the Deity, the Word is deity. While the Trinitarian envisions "God" to be a three person being, Irenaeus envisions his God to be a one person being, out of whom came his Son, and therefore, Jesus is deity of the Supreme Deity. In other words, there is only one true God and this God is the Father alone and the divinity of the Son is simply a derivative of the Father who is the Deity and for this reason only the Father is the one true God. For Irenaeus, Jesus can be called "god/God" but only in the sense that he derives his power and immortal deity from the One and Only True God, the Father, and as such he is the Word of God, a manifestation of God, but is not himself 'the One and Only True God." In this, Irenaeus speaks a common voice with all his early Christians brethren, Jesus is deity of The Deity, and the only true Deity was the Supreme God, the Father. Irenaeus, along with all the early Christian witnesses, reveal that the early church of the first 250 years was most definitely not a church who worshiped a Trinitarian "three in one" God.
1. Against Heresies
The following is from Irenaeus' voluminous work, Against Heresies. It is very important to recognize that he was writing against Gnostic-like groups of various kinds, who departed from the accepted teaching of the entire orthodox Christian church. In other words, Irenaeus claims they were not following the teachings handed down by the Apostles and the Scriptures. Many beliefs of these sects would sound quite bizarre to modern ears. They do use the Scriptures used by Christians, however, Irenaeus is not writing against men who have heretical ideas that sound somewhat Christian. These are extreme heretical movements that purport to have the true knowledge of Christianity by assimilating numerous extraneous concepts with Christian belief. He is not debating his points against other Christians who have went astray, but men who are completely distorting Christian beliefs and merging them with various forms of Gnostic-Platonic philosophy and/or non Judeo-Christian religious concepts, as a means of forming their own unique, and very strange religions. This work of Irenaeus is very important to a solid understanding of the identity of God for two reasons. First, Irenaeus is defending the apostolic traditions of the church. And second, the Gnostics preached other gods and Irenaeus must argue for the true identity of the One and Only Christian God.
His main defense and offense is twofold: (1) The Church follows the teachings handed down by the Apostles, which includes their Scriptures, and follows them without contradictions and does not delve into wild speculations, and (2) The Church has this universally accepted belief concerning God and Christ handed down from the Apostles, which he himself holds, and is defending, and by which he is also refuting the deceptions of these men who are competing as a power against the Christian church. And if, anyone was not given over to a growing Platonism in the church, it was Irenaeus. He is no philosopher and simply takes the Scriptures as they are without delving into deeper questions. And in fact, one of Irenaeus' main themes in this work, is to establish the identity of the one and only true God which he repeatedly insists is the Father alone, through reasoning from the Scriptures. The mass of overwhelming evidence Irenaeus leaves us for the early church's true belief concerning God is certainly decisive.
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. (I,9,2).
In the following statement, Irenaeus insists that what he is teaching is the pure apostolic tradition, that the Father alone is the only true God. This theme pervades this entire document.
The Church, though scattered throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth , and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation, and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the administrations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father "to gather all things in one," and to raise up anew all flesh of the entire human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, "every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess" to him, and that he should execute righteous judgment toward all, that he may send "spiritual wickednesses," and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire, but may, in the exercise of his grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept his commands, and have persevered in his love, some from the beginning, and others from their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory. As I have already indicated, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if inhabiting but one house, carefully guards it. She also believes these points just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world....It does not follow because men are gifted with greater and less degrees of intellect, that they should therefore change this theme itself, and should conceive of some other God besides Him who is the Framer, Maker, and Preserver of this universe, as if He were not enough for them, or of another Christ or another only begotten.... the catholic church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world. (I,10,1).
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 [who] 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. (I, 22)
It is proper, then, that I should begin with the first and most important rule, that is, God the Creator, who made the heaven and the earth, and all things that are in it, 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. (Book II, 1).
Those, furthemore, 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, do err first of all in this very matter, that they maintain that angels formed such and so mighty a creation, contrary to the will of the Most High God....the Supreme God...the Supremacy of God, not to stand in need of other means for the creation of those things which are called into existence. His own Word is both suitable and sufficient for the formation of all things, even as John, the disciple of the Lord, declares regarding him: "All things were made by him, and without him was nothing made." Now, among the "all things" our world must be embraced. It too, therefore, was made by His Word, as Scripture tells us in the book of Genesis that He made all things pertaining to our world by His Word. David also conveys the same truth, "For He spoke, and they were made, He commanded, and they were created." Whom, therefore, shall we believe as to the creation of the world? These heretics who have been mentioned that babble so foolishly and inconsistently on the subject, or the disciples of the Lord, and Moses, who was both a faithful servant of God and a prophet? He at first writes about the formation of the world in these words, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," and all other things in order, 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, and in all" [Eph 4:6]. (Book II, 2).
How, again, could either the angels, or the creator of the world, have been ignorant of the Supreme God, seeing they were His property, and His creatures, and were contained by Him? He might indeed have been invisible to them on account of His Superiority, but He could by no means have been unknown to them on account of His providence. For though it is true, as they declare, that they were very far separated from Him through their inferiority, yet, as His dominion reached over all of them, it is necessary for them to know their Ruler, and to be aware of this in particular, that He who created them is Lord of all. For since His invisible essence is mighty, it confers on all a profound mental intuition and perception of His most powerful, even, omnipotent greatness. Wherefore, although "no one knows the Father, except the Son, nor the Son except the Father, and those to whom the Son will reveal Him," yet all do know this one fact at least, because reason, implanted in their minds, moves them, and shows to them that there is One God, the Lord of all. And because of this, all things have been put under the His influence who is called the Most High, and the Almighty. By calling upon Him, even before the coming of our Lord, men were saved both from most wicked spirits, and from all kinds of demons, and from every sort of apostate power. (Book II, 6).
Beyond the primary Father, therefore, that is, the God who is over all... (Book II, 8).
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, referring to Him as the Creator, and an angel, not to mention that all the Scriptures call out, and the Lord teaches us of this Father who is in heaven, and no other, as I shall show in the sequel of this work. (Book II, 9).
They do not believe that He, who is God above all, formed by His Word....It is easy to prove from the very words of the Lord [Jesus], that he acknowledges One Father and Creator of the world, and Fashioner of man, who was proclaimed by the Law and the prophets, while he knows no other, and that this One is truly 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 upon all the righteous. (Book II, 11).
In the following statement, Irenaeus objects to making God a compound being. Although, he objects to it on grounds different than Trinitarianism, he objects to the concept nonetheless
For consider, all you who invent such opinions, since the Father Himself is Alone called "God", who has a real existence, but whom you style the Demiurge, since, moreover, the Scriptures acknowledge Him Alone as "God," and yet again, since the Lord 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.... 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..... 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 alone to know the hour and the day, he will find at present no more suitable, or becoming, or safe reason than this, 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. (II, 28).
There is One God Alone, the Creator, He who is above every principality, and power, and dominion, and virtue: He IS the 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. (II, 30).
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 privilege of existence. (II, 35).
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 acknowledge these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord, and more, he despises Christ himself the Lord, and he even despises also the Father, and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as is the case with all heretics. (Book III, 1).
The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate.2 Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the letters to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus, and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted to be bishop. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have had 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 teachings from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome sent out 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 Flood, 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 apostolical tradition of the Church, since this letter is of older date than these men who are now speading falsehood, and who imagine into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. (Book III, 3).
To which way, many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do acknowledge, 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, through Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who, because of his surpassing love towards his creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, he himself uniting man through himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise his Father and his advent. (Book III, 4).
Since, then, the tradition from the apostles is in the Church, and continues among us, let us go back to the Scriprural proof furnished by those apostles who did also write the Gospel, in which they recorded the teaching regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus Christ is the truth, and that no lie is in Him. As also David says, prophesying his birth from a virgin, and the resurrection from the dead, "Truth has sprang up out of the earth." The apostles, likewise, being disciples of the truth, are above all deception, for a lie has no communion with the truth, just as darkness has none with light, but the presence of the one shuts out that of the other. Our Lord, therefore, being the truth, did not speak lies, and whom He knew to have taken origin from a defeat, would never 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, as these most vain sophists attest that the apostles did with hypocrisy frame their teaching according to the capacity of their hearers, and gave answers after the opinions of their questioners, storytelling blind things for the blind, according to their blindness, for the dull according to their dullness, for those in error according to their error. And to those who imagined that the Demiurge alone was God, they preached him; but to those who are capable of comprehending the unnameable Father, they did declare the unspeakable mystery through parables and enigmas so that the Lord and the apostles exercised the office of teacher not to further the cause of truth, but even in hypocrisy, and as each individual was able to receive it.... the apostles taught the Gentiles that they should leave vain wood and stones, which they imagined to be gods, and worship the True God, who had created and made all the humanity, and, by means of His creation, did nourish, increase, strengthen, and preserve them in being, and that they might look for His Son Jesus Christ, who redeemed us from apostasy with His own blood, so that we should also be a sanctified people, who shall also descend from heaven in his Father's power, and pass judgment upon all, and who shall freely give the good things of God to those who shall have kept His commandments. he, appearing in these last times, the chief cornerstone, has gathered into one, and united those that were far off and those that were near, that is, the circumcision and the uncircumcision, enlarging Japheth, and placing him in the dwelling of Shem (Book III, 5).
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.... '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, have favored us, that we should know You, who has made heaven and earth, who rules over all, who is the and the , above whom there is no other God, do grant, by our Lord Jesus Christ, the governing power of the Holy Spirit, to every reader of this book to know You, that You Alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical, and godless, and impious teaching.' And the Apostle Paul also, saying, "For though you have served them which are no gods, you now know God, or rather, are known of God," has made a separation between those that were not and Him who is God. And again, speaking of Antichrist, he says, "who opposes and exalt himself above all that is called , or that is worshipped." He points out here those who are called gods, by such as know not God, that is, idols. 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 no 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." 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. But in this, "whether in heaven or in earth," he does not speak of the formers of the world, as these [others] expound it, but his meaning is similar to that of Moses, when it is said, "You shall not make from yourself any image of God, of whatsoever things are in heaven above, whatsoever in the earth beneath, and whatsoever in the waters under the earth." And he does then explain what is meant by the things in heaven, "Else when," he says, "looking towards heaven, and observing the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and all the ornament of heaven, falling into error, thou might worship and serve them." And Moses himself, being a man of God, was indeed given as a god before Pharaoh; but he is not properly termed Lord, nor is called "God" by the prophets, but is spoken of by the Spirit as "Moses, the faithful minister and servant of God," which also he was. (Book III, 6; see Exodus 7:1).
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. (Book III, 8).
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 witness to this effect. For Matthew the apostle, knowing, as One and the same God, Him who had given promise to Abraham, that He would make his seed as the stars of heaven, and Him who, by His Son Christ Jesus, has called us to the knowledge of Himself, from the worship of stones, so that those who were not a people were made a people, and beloved who was not beloved, declares that John, when preparing the way for Christ, said to those who were boasting of their relationship according to the flesh, but who had their mind seared and packed with all sorts of evil, preaching that repentance which should call them back from their evildoings, said, "O generation of vipers, who hath shown you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit then that is meet for repentance. And do not think to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as father, for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." He preached to them, therefore, the repentance from wickedness, but he did not declare to them another God, besides Him who made the promise to Abraham, he, the forerunner of Christ, of whom Matthew again says, and Luke likewise, "For this is the one that was spoken of from the Lord by the prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the way of our God. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill brought down, and the crooked shall be straightened, and the rough into smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." There is therefore One and the same God, the Father of our Lord. (Book III, 9).
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 began his teaching in the Gospel: "[Irenaeus quotes John 1:1-3]."... He who in these last times gifted upon humanity, by His Son, the blessing of food and the favour of drink, the incomprehensible [the Father] by means of the comprehensible [the Son], and the invisible [the Father] by the visible [the Son], since there is no one beyond Him, but he exists in the bosom of the Father. For "no man," he says, "has seen God at any time," except that, "the only-begotten Son of God, which is in the bosom of the Father, expresses him." For he, the Son who is in His bosom, declares to all the Father who is invisible. Wherefore they know Him to whom the Son reveals Him, and again, the Father, by means of the Son, gives knowledge of His Son to those who love Him.... This, 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 which proclaim the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ignore any other God or Father except Him. (Book III, 11).
The apostles did not preach another God, or another fullness [Gnostic Pleroma], nor, that the Christ who suffered and rose again was one, while he who flew off on high was another, and remained impassible,5 but that there was One and the same God the Father, and Christ Jesus who rose from the dead, and they preached faith in him, to those who did not believe on the Son of God, and exhorted them out of the prophets, that the Christ whom God promised to send, He sent in Jesus, whom they crucified and God raised up. Again, when Peter, along with by John, had looked upon the man lame from his birth, before that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, sitting and seeking alms, he said to him, "....The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers [YAHWEH], has glorified His Son, whom you delivered up for condemnation, and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he wished to let him go. But you were bitterly set against the Holy and Righteous One, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you, and you killed the Prince of life, whom God has raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses....But those things which God before had shown by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer He has now fulfilled.... For Moses truly said to our forefathers, your Lord God [YAHWEH] shall raise up to you a prophet from your brethren, like me, to him you shall listen in all things whatever he shall say to you. And it will come to pass, that every soul, that will not listen to that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. And all from Samuel, and henceforth, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. You are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in your seed shall all the peoples of the earth be blessed. To you first, God having raised up His Son, sent Him blessing you, that each may turn himself from his sins. Peter, along with John, preached to them this plain message of good news, that the promise which God made to the fathers had been fulfilled by Jesus, not certainly proclaiming another god, but the Son of God, who also was made man, and suffered, then leading Israel into knowledge, and through Jesus preaching the resurrection of the dead, and showing, that whatever the prophets had proclaimed as to the suffering of Christ, these had God fulfilled. For this reason, too, when the chief priests were gathered, Peter, full of boldness, said to them, "You rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we this day are examined by you of the good work done to the lame man, by what means he has been made whole, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him, does this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which is become the head-stone of the corner, there is none other name under heaven, which is given to men, whereby we must be saved." Thus the apostles did not change God, but preached to the people that Christ was Jesus the crucified One, whom, the same God that had sent the prophets, being God Himself, raised up, and gave in him salvation to men..... "And with great power," it is added, "the Apostles testified of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus," saying to them, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, who you seized and killed, hanging upon a tree, he God has raised up by His right hand to be a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these words, as also is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to them that obey Him." "And daily," it is said, "in the temple, and from house to house, they ceased not to teach and preach Christ Jesus," the Son of God. For this was the knowledge of salvation, which renders those who acknowledge His Son's advent perfect towards God.... [Peter] thus clearly indicates, that He whom Cornelius had previously feared as God, of whom he had heard through the Law and the prophets, for whose sake also he used to give alms, is, in truth, God. The knowledge of the Son was, however, wanting to him, therefore [Peter] added, "The word, you know, which was heralded throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached, Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirt, and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all those things which he did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed, hanging him on a beam of wood. God raised him up the third day, and showed him openly, not to all the people, but to us, witnesses chosen before of God, who did eat and drink with him after the resurrection from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was appointed of God to be the judge of the living and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that, through his name, every one that believes in him receives remission of sins." The apostles, then, preached the Son of God, of whom men were ignorant, and his advent, to those who had been already instructed as to God, but they did not bring in another God. For if Peter had known any such thing, he would have preached freely to the Gentiles, that the God of the Jews was indeed one, but the God of the Christians another,6 and all of them, doubtless, being amazed because of the vision of the angel, would have believed whatever he told them. But it is evident from Peter's words that he did indeed still retain the God who was already known to them, but he also testified to them that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the judge of the living and dead, into whom he did also command them to be baptized for the remission of sins, and not this alone, but he witnessed that Jesus was himself the Son of God, who also, having been anointed with the Holy Spirit, is called Jesus Christ. And He is the same being that was born of Mary, as the testimony of Peter implies. Can it really be, that Peter was not at that time as yet in possession of the perfect knowledge which these men discovered afterwards?7 According to them, therefore, Peter was imperfect, and the rest of the apostles were imperfect, and so it would be fitting that they, coming to life again, should become disciples of these men, in order that they too might be made perfect. But this is truly ridiculous. These men, in fact, are proved to be not disciples of the apostles, but of their own wicked notions. To this cause also are due the various opinions which exist among them, inasmuch as each one accepted error just as he was capable. But the Church throughout all the world, having its origin from the apostles, perseveres in one and the same opinion with regard to God and His Son....
Paul himself also, after that the Lord spoke to him out of heaven, and showed him that, in persecuting His disciples, he persecuted his own Lord, and sent Ananias to him that he might recover his sight, and be baptized, "preached," it is said, "Jesus in the synagogues at Damascus, with all freedom of speech, that this is the Son of God, the Christ." This is the mystery which he says was made known to him by revelation, that he who suffered under Pontius Pilate, the same is Lord of all, and King, and God, and Judge, receiving power from Him who is the God of all, because he became "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." And since this is true, when [Paul also said], "God, who made the world, and everything in it, He, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, neither is He touched by men's hands, as though He needed anything, seeing He gives to all life, and breath, and all things, who has made from one blood, the whole race of men to dwell upon the face of the whole earth, predetermining the times according to the boundary of their habitation, to seek the Deity, if by any means they might be able to seek Him out, or find Him, although He is not far from any of us. For in Him we live, and move, and have our being, as certain men of your own have said, 'For we are also His offspring.' Inasmuch, then, as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Deity is like unto gold or silver, or stone graven by art or man's device. Therefore God, overlooking these times of ignorance, now commands all men everywhere to turn to Him with repentance because He has appointed a day, on which the world shall be judged in righteousness by the man Jesus whereas He has given us assurance by raising, him from the dead." Now in this passage he does not only declare to them "God" as the Creator of the world, no Jews being present, but that He did also make one race of men to dwell upon all the earth; as also Moses declared, "When the Most High divided the nations, as He scattered the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the nations after the number of the angels of God," but that people which believe in God is not now under the power of angels, but under the Lord's [Jesus]. "For His people Jacob was made the portion of the Lord, Israel the cord of His inheritance...."
And that the whole spectrum of the teaching of the Apostles proclaimed the One and the same God, who moved Abraham, who made to him the promise of inheritance, who in due season gave to him the covenant of circumcision, who called his descendants out of Egypt, preserved outwardly by circumcision, for he gave it as a sign, that they might not be like the Egyptians, that He was the Maker of all things, that He was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He was the God of glory. Those who desire so may learn from the very words and Acts of the Apostles, and may contemplate the fact that this God is One, above whom is no other. But even if there were another god above Him, we should say, upon a comparison of the quantity, that the latter is superior to the former. For by deeds the better man appears, as I have already remarked; and, inasmuch as these men have no works of their father to adduce, the latter is shown to be God Alone. But if any one, "toying about questions," do imagine that what the Apostles have declared about God should be allegorized, let him consider my previous statements, in which I set forth, One God as the Establisher and Maker of all things, and destroyed and laid bare their allegations; and he shall find them in agreement with the teaching of the Apostles, and so to maintain what they used to teach, and were persuaded of, that there is One God, the Maker of all things. And when he shall have removed from his mind of such error, and of that blasphemy against God which it implies, he will of himself find reason to acknowledge that both the Mosaic law and the grace of the new covenant, as both fitted for the times, were given by One and the same God for the benefit of humanity.
That both the apostles and their disciples thus taught as the Church preaches, and thus teaching were perfected, wherefore also they were called away to that which is perfect, Stephen teaching these truths, when he was yet on earth, saw the glory of God, and Jesus on His right hand, and exclaimed, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." These words he said, and was stoned, and thus did he fulfil the perfect doctrine, imitating in every respect the leader of martyrdom, and praying for those who were slaying him, in these words, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Thus were they perfected who knew the One and the same God, who from beginning to end was present with mankind in the various administrations... It is evident, therefore, that they did not relinquish the truth, but with all boldness preached to the Jews and Greeks. To the Jews, indeed, that the Jesus who was crucified by them was the Son of God, the judge of the living and dead, and that he has received from his Father an eternal kingdom in Israel, as I have pointed out, but to the Greeks they preached One God, who made all things, and His Son Jesus Christ. (Book III, 12).
For when it has been manifestly declared, that they who were the preachers of the truth and the apostles of freedom called no one else "God," or named him "Lord," except the Only true God, the Father, and His Word, who has the pre-eminence in all things, it shall then be clearly proved, that they [the apostles] confessed as the Lord. (III, 15).
And again, the angel said, when the good news to Mary, "He shall he great, and shall be called the Son of The Highest, and the Lord shall give unto him the throne of his father David," acknowledging that he who is the Son of The Highest, the same is himself also the Son of David. And David, knowing by the Spirit the administration of the advent of this person, by which He is supreme over all the living and dead, confessed him as Lord, sitting on the right hand of The Most High Father. (Book III, 16).
To whom the Word says, mentioning His own gift of grace: “I said, You are all the sons of the Highest, and gods; but you shall die like men.” He speaks undoubtedly these words to those who have not received the gift of adoption, but who despise the incarnation of the pure generation of the Word of God, defraud human nature of promotion into God, and prove themselves ungrateful to the Word of God, who became flesh for them. For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God.(III, 19,1).
For I have shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons of Adam is to everything, and absolutely, called "God", or named Lord. But that he [Jesus] is himself in his own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. But that He had, beyond all others, in Himself that pre-eminent birth which is from the Most High Father. (III, 19,2).
God, then, was made man, and the Lord did Himself save us, giving us the token of the Virgin. (III, 21).
We do then pray that these men may not remain in the pit which they themselves have dug, but separate themselves from a mother of this nature, and depart from Bythus, and stand away from the abyss, and relinquish the shadow; and that they, being converted to the Church of God, may be lawfully begotten, and that Christ may be formed in them, and that they may know the Framer and Maker of this universe, the Only true God and Lord of all. We pray for these things on their behalf, loving them better than they seem to love themselves. For our love, inasmuch as it is true, is salutary to them, if they will but receive it. It may be compared to a severe remedy, removing the proud and festering flesh of a wound, for it puts an end to their pride and haughtiness. Wherefore it shall not weary us, to endeavour with all our might to stretch out the hand unto them. Over and above what has been already stated, I have referred to the following book, to adduce the words of the Lord, if, by persuading some among them, through means of the very instruction of Christ, I may succeed in persuading them to abandon such error, and to cease from blaspheming their Creator, who is both God Alone, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Book III, 25).
But he to whom the Father which is in heaven has revealed Him,363 knows Him, so that he understands that He who "was not born either by the will of the flesh, or by the will of man,"364 is the Son of man, this is Christ, the Son of the living God. For I have shown from the Scriptures,365 that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. But that He had, beyond all others, in Himself that pre-eminent birth which is from the Most High Father, and also experienced that pre-eminent generation which is from the Virgin,366 the divine Scriptures do in both respects testify of Him: also, that He was a man without comeliness, and liable to suffering;367 that He sat upon the foal of an ass;368 that He received for drink, vinegar and gall;369 that He was despised among the people, and humbled Himself even to death and that He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God,370 coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men;371 -all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him. (III, 29).
[I] have shown that there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption. (IV, Preface).
Since, therefore, this is sure and established, that no other God or Lord was announced by the Spirit, except Him who, as God, rules over all, together with His Word, and those who receive the Spirit of adoption, that is, those who believe in the One and true God, and in Jesus Christ the Son of God, and likewise that the apostles did themselves term no one else as "God", or name as Lord, and what is much more significant, that our Lord, who did also command us to confess no one as Father, except Him who is in the heavens, who is the One God and the One Father....Now to whom is it not clear, that if the Lord had known many fathers and gods, he would not have taught His disciples to know One God, and to call Him Alone Father. But he did the rather distinguish those who by word merely are termed gods, from Him who is truly God, that they should not err as to his doctrine, nor understand one for another. And if he did indeed teach us to call One Being Father and God, while he does from time to time himself confess other fathers and gods in the same sense, then he will appear to enjoin a different course upon His disciples from what He follows Himself. Such conduct, however, does not befit the good teacher, but a misleading and devious one. The apostles, too, according to these men's showing, are proved to be transgressors of the commandment, since they confess the Creator as God, and Lord, and Father, as I have shown, if He is not Alone God and Father, Jesus, therefore, will be to them the author and teacher of such transgression, inasmuch as He commanded that One Being should be called Father, thus imposing upon them the necessity of confessing the Creator as their Father, as has been pointed out. (Book IV, 1).
For they do not receive from the Father the knowledge of the Son nor do they learn who the Father is from the Son, who teaches clearly and without parables Him who truly is God. He says, "Swear not at all, neither by heaven, for it is God's throne, nor by the earth, for it is His footstool, neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King." For these words are evidently spoken with reference to the Creator, as also Isaiah says: "Heaven is my throne, the earth is my footstool." And besides this Being there is no other God, otherwise He would not be termed by the Lord either "God" or "the great King," for a Being who can be so described does not allow neither of any other being compared with nor set above Him. For he who has any superior over him, and is under the power of another, this being never can be called either "God" or "the great King." (Book IV, 2).
God, then, is one and the same, who rolls up the heaven as a scroll, and renews the face of the earth, who made the things of time. For man, so that coming to maturity in them, he may produce the fruit of immortality, and who, through His kindness, also gifts them eternal things, "that in the ages to come He may show the surpassing riches of His grace," who was announced by the law and the prophets, whom Christ confessed as His Father. Now He is the Creator, and He it is who is God over all, as Isaiah says, "I am witness, says the LORD God [YAHWEH], and my servant whom I have chosen, that ye may know, and believe, and understand that I am. Before me there was no other God, neither shall be after me. I am God, and besides me there is no Saviour. I have proclaimed, and I have saved." And again, "I myself am the first God, and I am above things to come." For neither in an ambiguous, nor arrogant, nor boastful manner, does He say these things, but since it was impossible, without God, to come to a knowledge of God, He instructs men, through his Word, to know God. To those, therefore, who are ignorant of these matters, and on this account imagine that they have discovered another Father, justly does one say, "You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.".... He is the God of the living; and His Word is He who also spoke to Moses.... Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spake to Moses, and who was also manifested to the fathers. (IV,5,1-2).
I would not have believed the Lord himself, if he had declared any other than He who is our framer, maker, and nourisher. But because the only-begotten Son came to us from the One God, who both made this world and formed us, and upholds and administers all things, summing up His own handiwork in Himself, my faith towards Him is steadfast, and my love to the Father immoveable, God gifting both upon us.... For the Son, being present with His own handiwork from the beginning, reveals the Father to all, to whom he wills, and when he wills, and as the Father wills. Wherefore, then, in all things, and through all things, there is One God, the Father, and one Word, and one Son, and one Spirit, and one salvation to all who believe in Him.
(Book IV, 6).
And through the Word Himself who had been made visible and palpable, was the Father shown forth, although all did not equally believe in Him; but all saw the Father in the Son: for the Father is the invisible of the Son, but the Son the visible of the Father. And for this reason all spoke with Christ when He was present [upon earth], and they named Him God. (IV,6,6).
Therefore Abraham also, knowing the Father through the Word, who made heaven and earth, confessed Him to be God... He is therefore One and the same God, who called Abraham and gave him the promise. But He is the Creator, who does also through Christ prepare lights in the world.... the Son reveals the Father.... He is known by the Son, that is, by the Word. (IV, 7).
For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness." (IV,20,1)
Indeed, then, the Scripture declared, which says, "First of all believe that there is One God, who has established all things, and finished them, and having caused that from what had no being, all things should come into existence." He who contains all things, and is Himself contained by no one. Rightly also has Malachi said among the prophets, "Is it not One God who established us? Have we not all One Father?" Corresponding to this, too, does the apostle say, "There is One God, the Father, who is above all, and in us all.".... the Word, namely the Son, was always with the Father; and that Wisdom also, which is the Spirit, was present with Him, anterior to all creation.... There is therefore One God, who by the Word and Wisdom created and arranged all things.... But as He who works out all things in all is God, of what nature and how great He is, is invisible and indescribable to all things which have been made by Him, but He is by no means unknown, for all things learn through His Word that there is One God the Father, who contains all things, and who grants existence to all, as is written in the Gospel: "No man hath seen God at any time, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; He has declared [Him.]" (Book IV, 20,2).
Now this is His Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the last times was made a man among men, that He might join the end to the beginning, that is, man to God. Wherefore the prophets, receiving the prophetic gift from the same Word, announced His advent according to the flesh, by which the blending and communion of God and man took place according to the good pleasure of the Father, the Word of God foretelling from the beginning that God should be seen by men, and hold converse with them upon earth, should confer with them, and should be present with His own creation, saving it, and becoming capable of being perceived by it, and freeing us from the hands of all that hate us, that is, from every spirit of wickedness; and causing us to serve Him in holiness and righteousness all our days, Luke 1:71, 75 in order that man, having embraced the Spirit of God, might pass into the glory of the Father.(IV, 20, 4).
After this fashion also did a presbyter, a disciple of the apostles, reason with respect to the two covenants, proving that both were truly from the One and the same God. For that there was no other God besides Him who made and fashioned us, and that the discourse of those men has no foundation who affirm that this world of ours was made either by angels, or by any other power whatsoever, or by another God. For if a man be once moved away from the Creator of all things, and if he grant that this creation to which we belong was formed by any other or through any other, he must of necessity fall into much inconsistency, and many contradictions of this sort to which he will furnish no explanations which can be regarded as either probable or true. And, for this reason, those who introduce other doctrines hide from us the opinion which they themselves hold respecting God, because they are aware of the untenable, and absurd nature of their doctrine, and are afraid lest, should they be vanquished, they should have some difficulty in making good their escape. But if any one believes in One God, who also made all things by the Word, as Moses likewise said, "God said, Let there be light: and there was light;" and as we read in the Gospel, "All things were made by him, and without him was nothing made," and the Apostle Paul in like manner, "There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father, who is above all, and through all, and in us all." (Book IV, 32).
For to him [the true believer] all things are consistent: he has a full faith in One God Almighty, of whom are all things, and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom are all things, and in the dispensations connected with him, by means of which the Son of God became man, and a firm belief in the Spirit of God, who supplies us with a knowledge of the truth, and has set forth the dispensations of the Father and the Son, in virtue of which he dwells with every generation of men, according to the will of the Father. (IV, 33).
It is therefore the Father who has prepared good things with Himself for those who desire His fellowship, and who remain in subjection to Him. (Book IV, 40).
And therefore One God, the Father is declared, who is above all, and through all, and in all. The Father is indeed above all, and He is the Head of Christ. But the Word is through all things, and is himself the head of the church, and the Spirit is in us all, and he is the living water, that the Lord grants to those who rightly believe in him, and love him, and who know that "there is one Father, who is above all, and through all, and in us all." (Book V, 18).
Therefore then does the Lord plainly show that it was the true Lord and the One God who had been set forth by the Law for Him whom the law proclaimed as "God", the same did Christ point out as the Father, whom also it compels the disciples of Christ, alone to serve. (Book V, 22).
2. Proof of the Apostolic Preaching
The following excerpts are from the translation by J. Armitage Robinson.
For it is necessary that things that are made should have the beginning of their making from some great cause; and the beginning of all things is God. For He Himself was not made by any, and by Him all things were made. And therefore it is right first of all to believe that there is One God, the Father, who made and fashioned all things, and made what was not that it should be, and who, containing all things, alone is uncontained. (4).
Thus then there is shown forth One God, the Father, not made, invisible, creator of all things; above whom there is no other God, and after whom there is no other God. And, since God is rational, therefore by [the] Word He created the things that were made, and God is Spirit, and by [the] Spirit He adorned all things: as also the prophet says: By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and by his spirit all their power. Since then the Word establishes, that is to say, gives body and grants the reality of being, and the Spirit gives order and form to the diversity of the powers; rightly and fittingly is the Word called the Son, and the Spirit the Wisdom of God. Well also does Paul His apostle say: One God, the Father, who is over all and through all and in us all. For over all is the Father; and through all is the Son, for through Him all things were made by the Father and in us all is the Spirit, who cries Abba Father, and fashions man into the likeness of God. Now the Spirit shows forth the Word, and therefore the prophets announced the Son of God; and the Word utters the Spirit, and therefore is Himself the announcer of the prophets, and leads and draws man to the Father. (5)
This then is the order of the rule of our faith, and the foundation of the building, and the stability of our conversation: God, the Father, not made, not material, invisible; one God, the creator of all things: this is the first point of our faith. The second point is: The Word of God, Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who was manifested to the prophets according to the form of their prophesying and according to the method of the dispensation of the Father: through whom all things were made; who also at the end of the times, to complete and gather up all things, was made man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and show forth life and produce a community of union between God and man. And the third point is: The Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied, and the fathers learned the things of God, and the righteous were led forth into the way of righteousness; and who in the end of the times was poured out in a new way upon mankind in all the earth, renewing man unto God. (6).
And by the Spirit, the Father is called Most High and Almighty and Lord of hosts; that we may learn concerning God that He it is who is creator of heaven and earth and all the world, and maker of angels and men, and Lord of all, through whom all things exist and by whom all things are sustained; merciful, compassionate and very tender, good, just, the God of all, both of Jews and of Gentiles, and of them that believe. To them that believe He is as Father.... This is He who is called in the Law the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of the living. (8).
[The prophets] instructed the people and turned them to the God of their fathers, the Almighty; and they became heralds of the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, declaring that from the posterity of David His flesh should blossom forth; that after the flesh He might be the son of David, who was the son of Abraham by a long succession; but according to the spirit Son of God, pre-existing with the Father, begotten before all the creation of the world, and at the end of the times appearing to all the world as man, the Word of God gathering up in Himself all things that are in heaven and that are on earth. (30).
So then those who take away redemption from man, and believe not in God that He will raise them from the dead, these also despise the birth of our Lord, which He underwent on our behalf, that the Word of God should be made flesh in order that He might manifest the resurrection of the flesh, and might have pre-eminence over all things in the heavens, as the first-born and eldest offspring of the thought of the Father, the Word, fulfilling all things, and Himself guiding and ruling upon earth. (39).
Thus then the Word of God in all things hath the pre-eminence, for that He is true man and Wonderful Counsellor and Mighty God, calling men anew to fellowship with God....Son of the Father of all; He from whom all things are, He who spake with Moses. (40).
So then the Father is Lord and the Son is Lord, and the Father is God and the Son is God; for that which is begotten of God is God.* And so in the substance and power of His being there is shown forth one God; but there is also according to the economy of our redemption both Son and Father. Because to created things the Father of all is invisible and unapproachable, therefore those who are to draw near to God must have their access to the Father through the Son. (47).
* For Irenaeus, as is evidenced throughout his writings, this is also true of Christians who are also begotten of God.
Last Update: January 23, 2011