Friday, August 23, 2013

“One God almighty” in Irenaeus

Over at Old Life, Darryl Hart continues to hammer away at “the Callers” (Jason Stellman and the “Called to Communion” gang); meanwhile, an atheistic chap who goes by the name of “CD-Host” is taking great interest in the discussion for some reason, wasting what little is left of his pitiable naturalistic life trying to persuade the Reformed brethren that they too should become little atheists.

I responded to one of his comments:

CD-Host, you seem to play fast-and-loose with the sources.

You said:

4.20.2. of Adversus Haerese he quotes Hermas as scripture.

This is by no means clear. He cites Hermas, to be sure, but the phrase he uses is: “the writing well says…” – that’s Grant’s translation, which I’ll like to think is more capable with the Latin text [which itself is a translation of a lost Greek edition] than the earlier translations. Kruger as well cites Koester, saying that the NT Canon was “essentially created by Irenaeus”. So here you’ve got two critical scholars disagreeing with you that Irenaeus “quotes Hermas as scripture”.

Aside from that, what is Irenaeus talking about? “The writing well says” could easily be pointing to a generically known written document. “The writing” is distinguished from “the prophets” in the very next sentence. And what this writing “says” is this:

From Grant’s translation of Irenaeus:

“First of all, believe that there is one God, who created and completed all things and made everything exist out of the non-existent, he who contains all and alone is contained by none.”

Now from Holmes’s translation of Hermas:

“First of all, believe that God is one [sounds like Deut 6:4], who created all things and set them in order [sounds like Gen 1], and made out of what did not exist [sounds like Hebrews 11:3] everything that is [sounds like Acts 17:24], and who contains all things [citing himself from 2.1.1] but himself is alone uncontained”.

Certainly you don’t want to say that Irenaeus is citing himself as Scripture!

Either way you look at this, Irenaeus is not “defining the canon” here. What you have is the precursor of the “rule of faith”, citations which eventually found their way into the Apostles’ creed and the Nicene creed.

You said immediately following:

AH 3.3.3 he specifically considers 1Clement among the scriptures using the same language.

Your interpretation here is farther off than the one above. What Irenaeus actually says is:

“in the third place from the apostles, Clement received the lot of the episcopate; he had seen the apostles and met with them and still had the apostolic preaching in his ears and the tradition before his eyes. He was not alone, for many were then still alive who had been taught by the apostles. Under this Clement … the church at Rome wrote a most powerful letter to the Corinthians to reconcile them in peace and renew their faith and the tradition which their church had recently received from the apostles: one God almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who fashioned the human race, brought about the deluge, called Abraham, brought the people out of the land of Egypt, spoke with Moses, who gave the law, sent the prophets, and prepared fire for the devil and his angels.”

Grant clearly notes that the portion of this selection that begins “one God almighty” is NOT based on 1 Clement. That selection is the “tradition” “received from the apostles” – that “tradition” being the history provided in the Hebrew Scriptures, which again, draws a distinction between 1 Clement and “the scriptures”.

By the way, Irenaeus uses that same “One God” language in three other places in Against Heresies (1.2, 3.4.1, and 4.53.1). There is no question that he holds these “summaries of Scripture” in high regard.

I’m sure I could go through some of the other off-the-cuff things you’ve thrown out, (as if to prove that you are some kind of authority in this), but tracing these things down takes time, and these two examples illustrate well for the Brethren the faulty methods you employ.


  1. Good stuff, John. Keep up the good work, brother.

    1. Thanks Danny -- he responded to me over there, and I've put up this response:

      I do see a difference — the Hermas quote (itself full of Scripture) is set apart (as I said above) from the rest of the section. It introduces it. It is a “writing”, not “Scripture”. This is not a hard distinction to make, You are fond of saying what a person was “aware of” and “not aware of”. Irenaeus is certainly aware of the distinction between what is Gospel and what is not; that’s the whole point of what he’s arguing. “Writing” here a summary, after which he then begins “Among the prophets…” and another distinction “the Apostle also says…” and thus begins his citations of the New Testament writings.

      You are not foolish enough to think that Irenaeus did not know that Hermas was his near contemporary, whereas, as Kruger notes, the apostolic writings are much older and clearly attested to be the Apostles.

      The “powerful letter” 1 Clement certainly does not have the authority of either the Hebrew Scriptures nor the Apostolic writings. There is no claim of authority other than that Clement was in a line of succession. (A line which I’ve argued is not a line of “bishops” as the CTC gang would say).

      There is another distinction, which you are missing, when you say “the entire argument in AH 3.3 hinges on 1Clement being authoritative in a way that other writings about the demiurge are not”.

      It is true that “other writings about the demiurge are not” authoritative. He clearly thinks they are ridiculous. The fact that the writings of Clement and Hermas are on the same side of the “ridiculous/not-ridiculous” divide as is Scripture does not give them the authority of Scripture.