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Home > Fathers of the Church > Against Heresies (St. Irenaeus) > Book III, Chapter 6

Against Heresies (Book III, Chapter 6)

The Holy Ghost, throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, made mention of no other God or Lord, save him who is the true God.

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. Here the [Scripture] represents to us the Father addressing the Son; He who gave Him the inheritance of the heathen, and subjected to Him all His enemies. Since, therefore, the Father is truly Lord, and the Son truly Lord, the Holy Spirit has fitly designated them by the title of Lord. And again, referring to the destruction of the Sodomites, the Scripture says, Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrha fire and brimstone from the Lord out of heaven. Genesis 19:24 For it here points out that the Son, who had also been talking with Abraham, had received power to judge the Sodomites for their wickedness. And this [text following] does declare the same truth: Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever; the sceptre of Your kingdom is a right sceptre. You have loved righteousness, and hated iniquity: therefore God, Your God, has anointed You. For the Spirit designates both [of them] by the name, of God— both Him who is anointed as Son, and Him who does anoint, that is, the Father. And again: God stood in the congregation of the gods, He judges among the gods. He [here] refers to the Father and the Son, and those who have received the adoption; but these are the Church. For she is the synagogue of God, which God— that is, the Son Himself— has gathered by Himself. Of whom He again speaks: The God of gods, the Lord has spoken, and has called the earth. Who is meant by God? He of whom He has said, God shall come openly, our God, and shall not keep silence; that is, the Son, who came manifested to men who said, I have openly appeared to those who seek Me not. Isaiah 65:1 But of what gods [does he speak]? [Of those] to whom He says, I have said, You are gods, and all sons of the Most High. To those, no doubt, who have received the grace of the adoption, by which we cry, Abba Father. Romans 8:15

2. 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. And again, when the Son speaks to Moses, He says, I have come down to deliver this people. Exodus 3:8 For it is He who descended and ascended for the salvation of men. Therefore God has been declared through the Son, who is in the Father, and has the Father in Himself — He who is, the Father bearing witness to the Son, and the Son announcing the Father.— As also Esaias says, I too am witness, he declares, says the Lord God, and the Son whom I have chosen, that you may know, and believe, and understand that I am. Isaiah 43:10

3. When, however, the Scripture terms them [gods] which are no gods, it does not, as I have already remarked, declare them as gods in every sense, but with a certain addition and signification, by which they are shown to be no gods at all. As with David: The gods of the heathen are idols of demons; and, You shall not follow other gods. For in that he says the gods of the heathen— but the heathen are ignorant of the true God— and calls them other gods, he bars their claim [to be looked upon] as gods at all. But as to what they are in their own person, he speaks concerning them; for they are, he says, the idols of demons. And Esaias: Let them be confounded, all who blaspheme God, and carve useless things; even I am witness, says God. Isaiah 44:9 He removes them from [the category of] gods, but he makes use of the word alone, for this [purpose], that we may know of whom he speaks. Jeremiah also says the same: The gods that have not made the heavens and earth, let them perish from the earth which is under the heaven. Jeremiah 10:11 For, from the fact of his having subjoined their destruction, he shows them to be no gods at all. Elias, too, when all Israel was assembled at Mount Carmel, wishing to turn them from idolatry, says to them, How long do you halt between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him. 1 Kings 18:21, etc. And again, at the burnt-offering, he thus addresses the idolatrous priests: You shall call upon the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord my God; and the Lord that will hearken by fire, He is God. Now, from the fact of the prophet having said these words, he proves that these gods which were reputed so among those men, are no gods at all. He directed them to that God upon whom he believed, and who was truly God; whom invoking, he exclaimed, Lord God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, hear me today, and let all this people know that You are the God of Israel. 1 Kings 18:36

4. 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.

5. 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, Galatians 4:8-9 has made a separation between those that were not [gods] and Him who is God. And again, speaking of Antichrist, he says, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 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 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. But in this [clause], whether in heaven or in earth, he does not speak of the formers of the world, as these [teachers] expound it; but his meaning is similar to that of Moses, when it is said, You shall not make to yourself any image for God, of whatsoever things are in heaven above, whatsoever in the earth beneath, and whatsoever in the waters under the earth. Deuteronomy 5:8 And he does thus explain what are meant by the things in heaven: Lest 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, you should adore and serve them. Deuteronomy 4:19 And Moses himself, being a man of God, was indeed given as a god before Pharaoh; Exodus 7:1 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, Hebrews 3:5; Numbers 12:7 which also he was.

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Source. Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103306.htm>.

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