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Home > Fathers of the Church > Against Heresies (St. Irenaeus) > Book III, Chapter 10

Against Heresies (Book III, Chapter 10)

Proofs of the foregoing, drawn from the Gospels of Mark and Luke.

1. Luke also, the follower and disciple of the apostles, referring to Zacharias and Elisabeth, from whom, according to promise, John was born, says: And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. Luke 1:6 And again, speaking of Zacharias: And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense; and he came to sacrifice, entering into the temple of the Lord. Luke 1:8, etc. Whose angel Gabriel, also, who stands prominently in the presence of the Lord, simply, absolutely, and decidedly confessed in his own person as God and Lord, Him who had chosen Jerusalem, and had instituted the sacerdotal office. For he knew of none other above Him; since, if he had been in possession of the knowledge of any other more perfect God and Lord besides Him, he surely would never— as I have already shown — have confessed Him, whom he knew to be the fruit of a defect, as absolutely and altogether God and Lord. And then, speaking of John, he thus says: For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Luke 1:15, etc. For whom, then, did he prepare the people, and in the sight of what Lord was he made great? Truly of Him who said that John had something even more than a prophet, Matthew 11:9, 11 and that among those born of women none is greater than John the Baptist; who did also make the people ready for the Lord's advent, warning his fellow-servants, and preaching to them repentance, that they might receive remission from the Lord when He should be present, having been converted to Him, from whom they had been alienated because of sins and transgressions. As also David says, The alienated are sinners from the womb: they go astray as soon as they are born. And it was on account of this that he, turning them to their Lord, prepared, in the spirit and power of Elias, a perfect people for the Lord.

2. And again, speaking in reference to the angel, he says: But at that time the angel Gabriel was sent from God, who did also say to the virgin, Fear not, Mary; for you have found favour with God. Luke 1:26, etc. And he says concerning the Lord: He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end. Luke 1:32-33 For who else is there who can reign uninterruptedly over the house of Jacob for ever, except Jesus Christ our Lord, the Son of the Most High God, who promised by the law and the prophets that He would make His salvation visible to all flesh; so that He would become the Son of man for this purpose, that man also might become the son of God? And Mary, exulting because of this, cried out, prophesying on behalf of the Church, My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He has taken up His child Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, Abraham, and his seed for ever. Luke 1:46-47 By these and such like [passages] the Gospel points out that it was God who spoke to the fathers; that it was He who, by Moses, instituted the legal dispensation, by which giving of the law we know that He spoke to the fathers. This same God, after His great goodness, poured His compassion upon us, through which compassion the Day-spring from on high has looked upon us, and appeared to those who sat in darkness and the shadow of death, and has guided our feet into the way of peace; Luke 1:78 as Zacharias also, recovering from the state of dumbness which he had suffered on account of unbelief, having been filled with a new spirit, did bless God in a new manner. For all things had entered upon a new phase, the Word arranging after a new manner the advent in the flesh, that He might win back to God that human nature (hominem) which had departed from God; and therefore men were taught to worship God after a new fashion, but not another god, because in truth there is but one God, who justifies the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith. Romans 3:30 But Zacharias prophesying, exclaimed, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David; as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world begun; salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy [promised] to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham, that He would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all our days. Luke 1:68, etc. Then he says to John: And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest: for you shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways; to give knowledge of salvation to His people, for the remission of their sins. Luke 1:76 For this is the knowledge of salvation which was wanting to them, that of the Son of God, which John made known, saying, Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is He of whom I said, After me comes a man who was made before me; because He was prior to me: and of His fullness have all we received. John 1:29John 1:15-16 This, therefore, was the knowledge of salvation; but [it did not consist in] another God, nor another Father, nor Bythus, nor the Pleroma of thirty Æons, nor the Mother of the (lower) Ogdoad: but the knowledge of salvation was the knowledge of the Son of God, who is both called and actually is, salvation, and Saviour, and salutary. Salvation, indeed, as follows: I have waited for Your salvation, O Lord. Genesis 49:18 And then again, Saviour: Behold my God, my Saviour, I will put my trust in Him. Isaiah 12:2 But as bringing salvation, thus: God has made known His salvation (salutare) in the sight of the heathen. For He is indeed Saviour, as being the Son and Word of God; but salutary, since [He is] Spirit; for he says: The Spirit of our countenance, Christ the Lord. But salvation, as being flesh: for the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. John 1:14 This knowledge of salvation, therefore, John did impart to those repenting, and believing in the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

3. And the angel of the Lord, he says, appeared to the shepherds, proclaiming joy to them: For Luke 2:11, etc. there is born in the house of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Then [appeared] a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory in the highest to God, and on earth peace, to men of good will. The falsely-called Gnostics say that these angels came from the Ogdoad, and made manifest the descent of the superior Christ. But they are again in error, when saying that the Christ and Saviour from above was not born, but that also, after the baptism of the dispensational Jesus, he, [the Christ of the Pleroma,] descended upon him as a dove. Therefore, according to these men, the angels of the Ogdoad lied, when they said, For unto you is born this day a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. For neither was Christ nor the Saviour born at that time, by their account; but it was he, the dispensational Jesus, who is of the framer of the world, the [Demiurge], and upon whom, after his baptism, that is, after [the lapse of] thirty years, they maintain the Saviour from above descended. But why did [the angels] add, in the city of David, if they did not proclaim the glad tidings of the fulfilment of God's promise made to David, that from the fruit of his body there should be an eternal King? For the Framer [Demiurge] of the entire universe made promise to David, as David himself declares: My help is from God, who made heaven and earth; and again: In His hand are the ends of the earth, and the heights of the mountains are His. For the sea is His, and He did Himself make it; and His hands founded the dry land. Come, let us worship and fall down before Him, and weep in the presence of the Lord who made us; for He is the Lord our God. The Holy Spirit evidently thus declares by David to those hearing him, that there shall be those who despise Him who formed us, and who is God alone. Wherefore he also uttered the foregoing words, meaning to say: See that you do not err; besides or above Him there is no other God, to whom you should rather stretch out [your hands], thus rendering us pious and grateful towards Him who made, established, and [still] nourishes us. What, then, shall happen to those who have been the authors of so much blasphemy against their Creator? This identical truth was also what the angels [proclaimed]. For when they exclaim, Glory to God in the highest, and in earth peace, they have glorified with these words Him who is the Creator of the highest, that is, of super-celestial things, and the Founder of everything on earth: who has sent to His own handiwork, that is, to men, the blessing of His salvation from heaven. Wherefore he adds: The shepherds returned, glorifying God for all which they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. Luke 2:20 For the Israelitish shepherds did not glorify another god, but Him who had been announced by the law and the prophets, the Maker of all things, whom also the angels glorified. But if the angels who were from the Ogdoad were accustomed to glorify any other, different from Him whom the shepherds [adored], these angels from the Ogdoad brought to them error and not truth.

4. And still further does Luke say in reference to the Lord: When the days of purification were accomplished, they brought Him up to Jerusalem, to present Him before the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord, That every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord; and that they should offer a sacrifice, as it is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons: Luke 2:22 in his own person most clearly calling Him Lord, who appointed the legal dispensation. But Simeon, he also says, blessed God, and said, Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared before the face of all people; a light for the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel. Luke 2:29, etc. And Anna Luke 2:38 also, the prophetess, he says, in like manner glorified God when she saw Christ, and spoke of Him to all them who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. Now by all these one God is shown forth, revealing to men the new dispensation of liberty, the covenant, through the new advent of His Son.

5. 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, who had also made promise to Him, that He would send His messenger before His face, who was John, crying in the wilderness, in the spirit and power of Elias, Luke 1:17 Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths before our God. For the prophets did not announce one and another God, but one and the same; under various aspects, however, and many titles. For varied and rich in attribute is the Father, as I have already shown in the book preceding this; and I shall show [the same truth] from the prophets themselves in the further course of this work. Also, towards the conclusion of his Gospel, Mark says: So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God; Mark 16:19 confirming what had been spoken by the prophet: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on My right hand, until I make Your foes Your footstool. Thus God and the Father are truly one and the same; He who was announced by the prophets, and handed down by the true Gospel; whom we Christians worship and love with the whole heart, as the Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things therein.

About this page

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/0103310.htm>.

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