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Home > Fathers of the Church > Against Heresies (St. Irenaeus) > Book III, Chapter 8

Against Heresies (Book III, Chapter 8)

Answer to an objection, arising from the words of Christ (Matt. vi. 24). God alone is to be really called God and Lord, for He is without beginning and end.

1. This calumny, then, of these men, having been quashed, it is clearly proved that neither the prophets nor the apostles did ever name another God, or call [him] Lord, except the true and only God. Much more [would this be the case with regard to] the Lord Himself, who did also direct us to render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and to God the things that are God's; Matthew 22:21 naming indeed Cæsar as Cæsar, but confessing God as God. In like manner also, that [text] which says, You cannot serve two masters, Matthew 6:24 He does Himself interpret, saying, You cannot serve God and mammon; acknowledging God indeed as God, but mentioning mammon, a thing having also an existence. He does not call mammon Lord when He says, You cannot serve two masters; but He teaches His disciples who serve God, not to be subject to mammon, nor to be ruled by it. For He says, He that commits sin is the slave of sin. John 8:34 Inasmuch, then, as He terms those the slaves of sin who serve sin, but does not certainly call sin itself God, thus also He terms those who serve mammon the slaves of mammon, not calling mammon God. For mammon is, according to the Jewish language, which the Samaritans do also use, a covetous man, and one who wishes to have more than he ought to have. But according to the Hebrew, it is by the addition of a syllable (adjunctive) called Mamuel, and signifies gulosum, that is, one whose gullet is insatiable. Therefore, according to both these things which are indicated, we cannot serve God and mammon.

2. But also, when He spoke of the devil as strong, not absolutely so, but as in comparison with us, the Lord showed Himself under every aspect and truly to be the strong man, saying that one can in no other way spoil the goods of a strong man, if he do not first bind the strong man himself, and then he will spoil his house. Matthew 12:29 Now we were the vessels and the house of this [strong man] when we were in a state of apostasy; for he put us to whatever use he pleased, and the unclean spirit dwelt within us. For he was not strong, as opposed to Him who bound him, and spoiled his house; but as against those persons who were his tools, inasmuch as he caused their thought to wander away from God: these did the Lord snatch from his grasp. As also Jeremiah declares, The Lord has redeemed Jacob, and has snatched him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. Jeremiah 31:11 If, then, he had not pointed out Him who binds and spoils his goods, but had merely spoken of him as being strong, the strong man should have been unconquered. But he also subjoined Him who obtains and retains possession; for he holds who binds, but he is held who is bound. And this he did without any comparison, so that, apostate slave as he was, he might not be compared to the Lord: for not he alone, but not one of created and subject things, shall ever be compared to the Word of God, by whom all things were made, who is our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. For that all things, whether Angels, or Archangels, or Thrones, or Dominions, were both established and created by Him who is God over all, through His Word, John has thus pointed out. For when he had spoken of the Word of God as having been in the Father, he added, All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made. John 1:3 David also, when he had enumerated [His] praises, subjoins by name all things whatsoever I have mentioned, both the heavens and all the powers therein: For He commanded, and they were created; He spoke, and they were made. Whom, therefore, did He command? The Word, no doubt, by whom, he says, the heavens were established, and all their power by the breath of His mouth. But that He did Himself make all things freely, and as He pleased, again David says, But our God is in the heavens above, and in the earth; He has made all things whatsoever He pleased. But the things established are distinct from Him who has established them, and what have been made from Him who has made them. For He is Himself uncreated, both without beginning and end, and lacking nothing. He is Himself sufficient for Himself; and still further, He grants to all others this very thing, existence; but the things which have been made by Him have received a beginning. But whatever things had a beginning, and are liable to dissolution, and are subject to and stand in need of Him who made them, must necessarily in all respects have a different term [applied to them], even by those who have but a moderate capacity for discerning such things; so that 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.

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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/0103308.htm>.

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