Introduction to The Proof of the Apostolic Preaching by Irenaeus

The Proof of the Apostolic Preaching by Irenaeus is perhaps the earliest and simplest comprehensive description of the apostolic faith in existence. This is the translator's introduction, borrowed with permission from and with permission. The text is in the public domain.

Irenaeus: Proof of the Apostolic Preaching (1920) pp. 1-23. Introduction.














EUSEBIUS in his Ecclesiastical History tells us that in addition to his great work Against Heresies St Irenaeus wrote A Discourse in Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching. This work was entirely lost sight of: no one seems ever to have quoted a word of it. But it has quite recently reappeared in an Armenian manuscript together with Books IV and V of the greater work. The Armenian translation proves to be a fairly close rendering of the original Greek.

What Irenaeus meant by the Apostolic Preaching can be seen from his larger work. Although the exact expression does not seem to occur there, we have its equivalent, "the Preaching of the Apostles" (III, iii. 2), and also the parallel phrases, "the Tradition of the Apostles" (III, iii. 4) and "the Preaching of the Truth" (I, iii. I; III, iii. 4). Moreover, in I, i. 20 we read that "he who holds the canon (or rule) of the truth without deviation, which he received through his baptism," will be able to escape all the snares of heresy: and in the Demonstration (c. 3.) we have closely'parallel words which also refer to the baptismal faith. Although it was not until much later that the baptismal confession came to be called the Apostles' Creed, |vi it was already regarded as a summary of the essential elements of the Apostolic message. Its form varied in some details in different Churches, but its structure was everywhere the same, for it had grown up on the basis of the baptismal formula.

What Irenaeus undertakes in the present work is to set out the main points of this Apostolic message, which, as he has explained in his greater work (III, iii. 1 ff), has been handed down in the Church by the successions of the bishops and is the same in substance in all parts of the world, and to demonstrate its truth more especially from the sacred scriptures of the Old Testament. This argument from prophecy was the earliest form of Christian evidence; and though it does not appeal to us with equal force to-day, and we find it hard to be patient with some of the proofs which seemed to be convincing in the earliest times, we must yet recognize that it was a true instinct which claimed the Jewish scriptures as the heritage of the Christian Church, and surmounted by means of allegorical interpretations those serious difficulties which led many Christians to wish to cast them aside altogether.

The words of Bishop Westcott in reference to the methods of the schoolmen of the Middle Ages, are applicable also to these earlier teachers: "Many of the arguments which they use appear to us frivolous and pointless. It requires a serious effort to enter into them with a sympathetic intelligence. But the effort is worth making. Conclusions which rest upon arbitrary assumptions |vii as to the symmetries of things witness in an imperfect fashion to a deep sense of a divine order in creation; and we do injustice to those who draw them if we allow even the greatest errors of expression and form to blind us to the nobility of the conception which they embody most inadequately" (Epp. of St John, "The Gospel of Creation," pp. 276 f.).

The wonder of Irenaeus is the largeness of his outlook. No theologian had arisen since St Paul and St John who had grasped so much of the purpose of God for His world. "The Making of Man," to borrow Tennyson's great phrase, is his constant theme. Even though he was forced to be controversial, he was never merely negative; and the last of his books Against Heresies ends on the keynote of the whole----that man shall at length be made "after the image and likeness of God." This is to him the meaning of all history; and for that reason the centre point of history is the Incarnation. So Christ came "to link up the end with the beginning," or in St Paul's words, which Irenaeus never tires of repeating, " to gather up into one all things " in Himself.

I have retained the chapter divisions of the first editors and translators of the Armenian text. The references to the work Against Heresies are to Harvey's edition (Cambridge, 1857). Though I have not everywhere reproduced the double renderings which are so frequent in the Armenian, I have made the translation sufficiently literal to serve the general needs of the patristic student, |viii even at the cost of some clumsiness of expression. In the Introduction and Notes I have been at some pains to bring out the indebtedness of Irenaeus to Justin Martyr; and in pursuance of the same end I have devoted a section of the Introduction to the teaching of both these writers in regard to the Holy Spirit.


The Deanery, 
Wells, Somerset, Oct.



PREFACE                                                                                                                                                   v


I. THE DOCUMENT AND ITS VALUE                                                                                             1

II. THE DEBT OF IRENAEUS TO JUSTIN MARTYR                                                                  6 


THE DEMONSTRATION OF THE APOSTOLIC PREACHING                                               69

INDEX OF SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS                                                                                     152

GENERAL INDEX                                                                                                                             154






IT is a remarkable fact, and much to be regretted, that none of the works of St Irenaeus, the greatest theologian of the second century, have come down to us in the language in which they were written. Of his chief work, the five books Against Heresies, we have a very early Latin translation, and a few fragments of the original Greek preserved through quotation. by other writers.1 The work now before us, The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, has recently been found in an Armenian translation, and no portion of it seems to have survived in any other language.

This new treatise does not come upon us entirely as a surprise; for Eusebius 2 had mentioned its title, Ei0j e0pi/deicin tou~ a)postolikou~ khru&gmatoj, and had said that it was addressed to "a brother named |2 Marcianus." This is all he tells us; but we can now add from the book itself that it was written after the completion of the greater work, and therefore somewhere about A.D. 190; and that Marcianus was on intimate terms with the writer, but absent from him at the time of writing.3 The work Against Heresies is, of course, controversial from first to last: but the present treatise is a sort of Vade mecum for an intelligent Christian, explaining his faith, placing it in its historical setting in relation to Judaism, and confirming it by the citation and exposition of a great number of Old Testament passages. It is in no sense a manual for catechumens: it is a handbook of Christian Evidence, though its form is not controversial.

A tract of this kind from the pen of a great teacher in any age must needs be of interest. How was Christianity presented as a whole to an educated believer? What were the main points of doctrine and of life on which stress was laid? What were the grounds of belief which appeared to be most convincing then? These are the things which the historian of religious development wants to know in each of the Christian centuries, and which he finds it exceptionally difficult to get at. The great events and the leading personalities have left their mark on the records of the time: the development of doctrine and the growth of ecclesiastical institutions can be traced with increasing clearness as the documents are tested and studied and compared: but the religious sense |3 of an age, the beliefs which affected life, and the grounds of those beliefs, the ruling motives of conduct, the things that to the best minds seemed to matter most----these escape us unless we are insistent in our search for them; and often, search as we will, we find little to reward our pains. We have special reason to be grateful for a plain statement of the Christian religion as it presented itself to a master mind at the end of the second century. A long and varied experience had qualified Irenaeus for such a task. As a boy he had listened to St Polycarp at Smyrna, and he may have conversed with others----the Elders, as he calls them----who had seen the Apostles. He had visited Rome on business of ecclesiastical moment, and as Bishop of Lyons he had long presided over the churches of Southern Gaul. Moreover he had explored every maze of heresy, and had confronted what we now call "Gnosticism," in all its divergent forms, with the Christian truth as he had come to conceive it in a long life of patient study and practical ministry. He had given to the Church his five books of The Exposure and Overthrow of Knowledge (Gnosis) falsely so called. When such a man lays controversy aside and takes up his pen to talk, as he says, to his absent friend, and furnish him with a summary statement of the Apostolic message and the reasons for believing it in terms of his own day, he deserves our close attention. We shall make little of him if we insist on judging him by modern standards: we shall miss the definite-ness of post-Nicene doctrine; we shall be disappointed at finding nothing about ecclesiastical |4 organization; we shall be distressed at the quaint conceits of his exposition of Old Testament prophecies. But if we come to him fresh from the study of Justin Martyr's First Apology, written some thirty-five years before, we shall appreciate the atmosphere in which he had grown up and shall recognize the advance which he had made in the thoughtful interpretation of the Faith.

The manuscript which contains our treatise was found in December 1904, in the Church of the Blessed Virgin at Eriwan in Armenia, by Dr Karapet Ter-Mekerttshian, one of the most learned of the Armenian clergy. It was edited by him with a translation into German, in conjunction with Dr Erwand Ter-Minassiantz, in 1907, in the Texte und Untersuchungen (xxxi. 1); and Dr Harnack added a brief dissertation and some notes. Then in 1912 Dr Simon Weber, of the Faculty of Catholic Theology in the University of Freiburg in Breisgau, being dissatisfied with this presentation of the work, published a fresh translation with the help of some Armenian scholars. Neither of these translations satisfies the needs of English patristic students. The second, though it corrects some errors of the first, is far less close to the original text. And both are vitiated by a want of acquaintance with the textual criticism of the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament, and also with the larger work of St Irenaeus himself. The present translation is an attempt to remedy these defects, and at the same time to bring the treatise to the knowledge of those who have hitherto been debarred by linguistic difficulties from reading it. My own |5 acquaintance with the Armenian language and literature is so limited that I cannot hope to have altogether avoided mistakes, and I shall be grateful to those who will point them out. I owe very much to the first of the translations into German, and something also to the second: if I am sometimes right where they were wrong, it is mainly because I have sought to read the text in the light of what Irenaeus has said elsewhere.

The same manuscript contains an Armenian version of Books IV and V of the great work Against Heresies.4 These come immediately before our treatise, and are embraced with them under the single title, The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching. We cannot say whether this error of title goes back beyond the date of the manuscript, which was probably written between 1270-1289, that is in the time of the learned Archbishop John, the brother of King Hetum of Cilicia. A note at the end states that it was written for this archbishop. The Armenian editors believe that the same translator is responsible for the two books of the larger work and for our treatise, and that the translation was made at some date between 650 and 750. The version of Books IV and V is of high value, as enabling us to check the Latin version, the MSS. of which differ considerably among themselves. It is useful also as illustrating the fondness of the Armenian translator for a double rendering of a single word of the original. When we read the Armenian and the Latin side |6by side, we gain the impression that the Greek text has been very closely followed; and thus we are assured that for our present treatise also the Armenian version is a faithful representative of the lost original.



IF we are to proceed with safety in forming a judgment as to the relation between Justin and Irenaeus in respect of the matter which they have in common, it will be necessary not merely to consider a number of selected parallels, but also to examine the treatment of a particular theme in the two writers. Let us set side by side, for example, c. 32 of Justin's First Apology with c. 57 of the Demonstration. Justin has been explaining to his Roman readers who the Jewish prophets were, and then giving a list of the chief things which they expressly foretold concerning the coming of Christ. Then he proceeds thus:

Moses then, who was the first of the prophets, speaks expressly as follows: There shall not fail a prince from Judah, nor a leader from his loins, until he shall come for whom it is reserved: and he shall be the expectation of the Gentiles; binding his colt to the vine; washing his robe in the blood of the grape. It is your part then to make careful enquiry and to learn up to what point the Jews had a prince and king of their own. It was up to the appearing of Jesus Christ, our teacher and the expounder of the prophecies which were not understood, namely how it was foretold by the divine holy prophetic Spirit through Moses that there should not fail a prince from the Jews, until he should come for whom is reserved the kingdom. For Judah is the ancestor of the Jews, from whom also they obtained that they should be called Jews. And you, after His appearance |7 took place, both ruled over the Jews and mastered their land.

Now the words He shall be the expectation of the Gentiles were meant to indicate that from among all the Gentiles men shall expect Him to come again----which you yourselves can see with your eyes and believe as a fact: for men of all races are expecting Him who was crucified in Judaea, immediately after whose time the land of the Jews was conquered and given over to you.

And the words Binding his colt to the vine and Washing his robe in the blood of the grape were a sign to show what was to happen to Christ, and what was to be done by Him.

For the colt of an ass was standing at the entrance to a village, tied to a vine; and this He commanded His disciples at that time to bring to Him; and when it was brought He mounted and sat on it, and entered into Jerusalem, where was that very great temple of the Jews, which afterwards was destroyed by you. And after these things He was crucified, that the remainder of the prophecy might be accomplished. For Washing his robe in the blood of the grape was the announcement beforehand of the passion which He was to suffer, cleansing by blood those who believe on Him. For what is called by the divine Spirit through the prophet (His) robe means the men who believe in Him, those in whom dwells the seed from God, (that is) the Word.

And that which is spoken of as blood of the grape signifies that He who is to appear has blood indeed, yet not from human seed, but from a divine power. Now the first power after God, the Father and Lord of all, is the Son, the Word: of whom we shall presently tell after what manner He was made flesh and became man. For even as the blood of the vine not man hath made, but God; so also is it signified that this blood shall not be of human seed, but of the power of God, as we have said before.

Moreover Isaiah, another prophet, prophesying the same things in other words said thus: There shall rise a star out of Jacob, and a flower shall spring up from the root of Jesse, and on his arm shall the Gentiles hope.

The points that strike us at once in this passage are these:

(1) The well-known Blessing of Jacob is cited as the prophecy of Moses, who is called the "first of the prophets." |8 

(2) The quotation is abbreviated, and Justin comments on it in its abbreviated form.

(3) The statement that Judah was the ancestor of the Jews, and that from him they got their name, is on a par with many such explanations which Justin makes for the sake of his Roman readers.

(4) That the Jews had no prince or king of their own after the time of Christ, and that their land was conquered and ruled by the Romans, was a good point of apologetic and one which his readers would fully appreciate.

(5) We are somewhat surprised that "the expectation of the Gentiles" should be referred to the second coming of Christ.

(6) The statement that the ass's colt was tied to a vine is not found in our Gospels.

(7) Washing his robe in the blood of the grape easily suggested our Lord's passion; but that His robe should be those who believe on Him seems to us far-fetched.

(8) Equally far-fetched is the explanation of the blood of the grape as pointing to blood made not by man, but by God.

(9) The combination of Balaam's prophecy with words of Isaiah, and the attribution of the whole to Isaiah, strikes us as a strange piece of carelessness.

Now let us read c. 57 of the Demonstration. After a few prefatory sentences in which he notes certain points regarding Christ which are the subject of prophecy, Irenaeus goes on: |9 

Moses in Genesis says thus: There shall not fail a prince from Judah, nor a leader from his loins, until he shall come for whom it remaineth: and he shall be the expectation of the Gentiles: washing his robe in wine, and his garment in the blood of the grape. Now Judah was the ancestor of the Jews, the son of Jacob; from whom also they obtained the name. And there failed not a prince among them and a leader, until the coming of Christ. But from the time of His coming the might of the quiver was captured, the land of the Jews was given over into subjection to the Romans, and they had no longer a prince or king of their own. For He was come, for whom remaineth in heaven the kingdom; who also washed his robe in wine, and his garment in the blood of the grape: His robe as also His garment are those who believe on Him, whom also He cleansed, redeeming us by His blood. And His blood is said to be blood of the grape: for even as the blood of the grape no man maketh, but God produceth, and maketh glad them that drink thereof, so also His flesh and blood no man wrought, but God made. The Lord Himself gave the sign of the virgin, even that Emmanuel which was from the virgin; who also maketh glad them that drink of Him, that is to say, who receive His Spirit, (even) everlasting gladness. Wherefore also He is the expectation of the Gentiles, of those who hope in him; for we expect of Him that He will establish again the kingdom.

We may now take our nine points one by one:

(1) Here again the Blessing of Jacob is cited as the prophecy of Moses; and a little earlier (§ 43) we find the words: "Moses, who was the first that prophesied."

(2) The text of the quotation is the same as in Justin: but the words about binding the colt to the vine are omitted, and the remainder of the passage is given without abbreviation, as in the LXX.

(3) That Judah is the ancestor of the Jews, who got their name from him, is found in Irenaeus; and the actual words would seem to have been taken over from Justin. The statement is somewhat superfluous in a book written for a fairly well |10 instructed Christian, whereas it comes quite naturally in Justin's Apology. Though several parallels between Justin and Irenaeus might be explained by the hypothesis of their both having used a book of "Testimonies against the Jews," such a solution could hardly be advanced in this case; for the statement in question would not be likely to occur in such a book.

(4) Justin's words are: meq'o$n eu)qu_j doria&lwtoj u(mi=n h( gh~ 'Ioudai/wn paredo&qh. The translation of the first part of the parallel in Irenaeus is obscure: but it is possible that the phrase "the might of the quiver was captured" is no more than the translator's attempt to make something of doria&lwtoj. If so, it would appear certain that here also Irenaeus was practically writing out a sentence of Justin, only changing u(mi=n into toi=j (Rwmai/oij.

(5) The expectation of the Gentiles is here also explained of the Second Advent; and the word "kingdom" is offered, as in Justin, as the unexpressed subject of w{| a)po&keitai.

(6) The passage about the ass's colt is omitted both from the quotation and from the interpretation. Irenaeus has it in IV, xx. 2, where he quotes, again as from Moses, the whole section (Gen. xlix. 10-12), ending with: laetifici oculi ejus a vino, et candidi dentes ejus quam lac. He then goes on: "Let these persons who are said to investigate all things search out the time at which there failed prince and leader from Judah, and who is the expectation of the Gentiles, and what the vine, and what his colt, and what the robe, and what are eyes and teeth and wine; and search out every point; |11 and they shall find that none other is foretold, than our Lord Jesus Christ." Here again Irenaeus is very close to the passage in Justin, so far as the general method of putting the argument goes.

(7) and (8) reappear in Irenaeus, and it is most natural to suppose that he took them over from Justin. He has a point of his own when he goes on to add to the interpretation of the blood of the grape the gladness produced by the wine. It seems to be introduced without any obvious reason, until we observe that the words which follow in the passage in Genesis tell of the gladness of the eyes produced by wine (laetifici oculi, etc. quoted above).

(9) In c. 58 Irenaeus proceeds at once to the quotation of Balaam's prophecy, as follows: "And again Moses says: There shall rise a star out of Jacob, and a leader shall be raised up out of Israel." He does not make the combination with Isaiah which we find in Justin; nor does he attribute Balaam's words to Isaiah. It is however to be noted that in III, ix. 2, where he quotes the passage as here, he does attribute it to Isaiah: "Cujus et stellam Ysaias quidem sic prophetavit: Orietur Stella ex Jacob, et surget dux in Israel." On this coincidence in error Dr Rendel Harris remarks (Testimonies, I. p. 11): "Justin shews us the passage of Isaiah following the one from Numbers, and the error lies in the covering of two passages with a single reference. It is clear, then, that Justin's mistake was made in a collection of Testimonies from the prophets, and that the same collection, or one that closely agreed with it, was |12 in the hands of Irenaeus." In view, however, of the intimate connexion which appears to exist between Irenaeus and Justin we must not exclude the alternative possibility that the mistake began with Justin, and was at first reproduced by Irenaeus, but was afterwards corrected by him in his later work.

Another example of a whole section drawn from Justin Martyr will be found in cc. 44 f. Here it is the Dialogue with Trypho the Jew to which Irenaeus is indebted. The whole of these two chapters should be read consecutively: but the chief parts must be given here. Irenaeus cites Gen. xviii. 1 ff., to show that it was the Son of God who spake with Abraham. This is Justin's view also, but the nearest parallels come after the quotation of Gen. xix. 24. At this point Irenaeus says:

And then the Scripture says: And the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven: that is to say, the Son, who spake with Abraham, being Lord, received power to punish the men of Sodom from the Lord out of heaven, even from the Father who rules (or is Lord) over all. So Abraham was a prophet and saw things to come, which were to take place in human form: even the Son of God, that He should speak with men and eat with them, and then should bring in the judgment from the Father, having received from Him who rules over all the power to punish the men of Sodom.

Justin had said (Dial. 56 ad fin.): "And He is the Lord, who from the Lord who is in heaven, that is, from the Maker of all things, received (power) to bring these things on Sodom and Gomorrah, which the narrative recounts, saying: The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah |13 brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven (kai\ ku&rio&j e0sti para_ kuri/ou tou~ e0n tw~| ou)ranw~|, toute/sti tou~ poihtou~ tw~n o#lwn, labw_n to_ tau~ta a)penegkei=n Sodo&moij k.t.l.)." And he then goes on to discuss the question of the eating and drinking with Abraham, but does not treat it as Irenaeus does here.

The interpretation of the passage may already have been common Christian apologetic: it is the expression "received power (or authority)" to punish the Sodomites that suggests a direct literary connexion; and this expression is found again in Irenaeus III, vi. 1, quoted below in the note on this passage.

After this Irenaeus goes on at once as follows (Dem. c. 45):

And Jacob, when he went into Mesopotamia, saw Him in a dream, standing upon the ladder, that is, the tree, which was set up from earth to heaven; for thereby they that believe on Him go up to the heavens. For His sufferings are our ascension on high. And all such visions point to the Son of God, speaking with men and being in their midst. For it was not the Father of all, etc. (See below.)

This idea that Jacob's Ladder was "the tree" (cu&lon), that is to say, the cross, is found in Justin (Dial. 86), among a number of other types equally strange to us: "It says that a ladder was seen by him; and the Scripture has declared that God was supported upon it; and that this was not the Father we have proved from the Scriptures." Irenaeus again expands the comment in his own way, but he recurs to the theme "It was not the Father."

For it was not the Father of all, who is not seen by the |14 world, the Maker of all who said: Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me, or what is the place of my rest? and who comprehendeth the earth with his hand, and with his span the heaven----it was not He that came and stood in a very small space and spake with Abraham; but the Word of God, etc.

Now the words "in a very small space" are clearly reminiscent of Justin. For in Dial. 127 he says: "Think not that the unbegotten God Himself came down or went up from anywhere. For the unutterable Father and Lord of all has never come any whither," etc. "How then should He either speak to any one, or be seen by any, or appear in some very small portion of earth (e0n e0laxi/stw|)?" Cf. Dial. 60: e0n o)li/gw| gh~j mori/w| pefa&nqai.

These repeated coincidences, in large matters and in small, make us feel that Irenaeus was very familiar with Justin's writings. Everywhere he goes beyond him: but again and again he starts from him.

The advantage to be gained by the recognition of the dependence of Irenaeus upon Justin may be illustrated from c. 53 of our Treatise. The Armenian text here presents several difficulties, probably from corrupt transcription. The original cannot have been very easy to understand; but when we read with it c. 6 of Justin's Second Apology some points at any rate are cleared up. Irenaeus has just quoted Isa. vii. 14 ff., following the LXX with slight variations:

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: behold, the virgin shall conceive and shall bring forth a son, and ye shall call him Emmanuel: butter and honey shall he eat; before he knoweth or selecteth the evil, he chooseth the good: |15 for, before the child knoweth good or evil, he rejecteth wickedness to choose the good. So he proclaimed His birth from a virgin; and that He was truly man he declared beforehand by His eating; and also because he called Him the child: and further by giving Him a name; for this is the custom also for one that is born.

We must pause here for a moment to quote some parallel words from Irenaeus himself (III, xxv. 2). He has quoted the same Scripture, and in commenting upon it he says: "Et manifestat quoniam homo, in eo quod dicit: Butyrum et mel manducabit; et in eo quod infantem nominat eum; et priusquam cognoscat bonum et malum: haec enim omnia signa sunt hominis infantis."

In my translation I have written: "this is the custom also for one that is born." But the Armenian text has: "this is the error also of one that is born." I have accepted Mr F. C. Conybeare's simple and attractive emendation sovoruthiun, "custom," for moloruthiun, " error." 5

We now return to our passage:

And His name is two-fold: in the Hebrew tongue Messiah Jesus, and in ours Christ Saviour. And the two names are names of works actually wrought. For He was named Christ, because through Him the Father anointed and adorned all things; and because on His coming as man He was anointed with the Spirit of God and His Father. As also by Isaiah He says of Himself: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: wherefore he hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor. And (He was named) Saviour for this, that He became the cause of salvation to those who at |16 that time were delivered by Him from all sicknesses and from death, and to those who afterwards believed on Him the author of salvation in the future and for evermore.

The Armenian text reads: "in the Hebrew tongue Messiah Christ, and in the Armenian Jesus Saviour." I have adopted the emendation proposed by the Armenian scholars who made the first translation into German. No doubt Xristo_j Swth&r was what Irenaeus wrote as the rendering of "Messiah Jesus": compare Just. M. Ap. I, 33, "Now the name Jesus in the Hebrew speech signifies Saviour in the Greek language."

Having disposed of these preliminary difficulties, we note some curious matters that remain for consideration. What is the point of saying, "names of works actually wrought"? Is there any parallel to the explanation of "Christ" as "He through whom the Father anointed"? And why does our author lay stress on the cure of the sick as the explanation of the name "Jesus"?

Let us now look at the passage of Justin to which we referred at the outset (Ap. II, 6):

Now a name imposed on the Father of all, unbegotten as He is, is an impossibility. For he to whom a name is applied must have one older than himself who has imposed on him the name. Father and God and Creator and Lord and Master are not names: they are appellations derived from benefits and works (e0k tw~n eu)poii+w~n kai\ tw~n e1rgwn).

Here we see the force of what Irenaeus had said about the naming spoken of by Isaiah, as indicating the manhood of the promised Child of the Virgin. The Unbegotten has no name, in the strict sense: there was none before Him to impose a name on Him. The Begotten, when begotten as man, has |17 a name, though before that He has what is at once an appellation and a name. Justin goes on:

But His Son, who alone is called Son in the full sense, the Word who before all created things both was with Him and was generated, when at the beginning He created and ordered (or adorned) all things through Him, is called on the one hand Christ, in respect of His being anointed and of God's ordering (or adorning) all things through Him----a name which also in itself contains a signification beyond our knowledge, just as the title God is not a name, but a conception, innate in human nature, of a thing (or work) too hard to be declared (pra&gmatoj dusechgh&tou).

Here Justin is explaining that "Christ" is a name indeed, but more than a name. It is a designation derived from a work, just as the designation God is derived from a work (cf. e1rgwn above, and pra&gmatoj). What then is this work? The anointing which made Him the Christ is something which to Justin's mind occurred before His coming as man. He was anointed that through Him God might order (or adorn) the universe. The sense of the words is fairly plain, if it be somewhat surprising.

But the construction of the Greek at the crucial point is at least awkward. The words are: Xristo_j me\n kata_ to_ kexri=sqai kai\ kosmh~sai ta_ pa&nta di' au)tou~ to_n qeo_n le/getai. Long ago Scaliger proposed to read kai\ xri=sai, instead of kexri=sqai. This would mean: "in respect of God's both anointing and ordering all things through Him." The emendation found little favour with the editors of Justin, until the discovery of the Demonstration. Now it seems likely to find a wider acceptance in view of these words of Irenaeus: "For He was named Christ because through Him the Father |18 anointed and adorned all things." At any rate it will not be doubted that Irenaeus so understood the passage, whatever he may have actually read in his copy of Justin. I have not myself ventured to correct Justin's text: for it is intelligible as it stands; whereas to say "He was called Christ," not because He was anointed, but "because the Father anointed all things through Him," is not very intelligible, even though Irenaeus has said it. Justin continues:

Jesus, on the other hand, offers both the name of a man and the significance of Saviour. For, as we have already said, He has become man, born in accordance with the counsel of God the Father on behalf of the men that believe on Him and for the overthrow of the demons: and this you can learn at the present time from what takes place under your eyes. For many possessed of demons, in the world generally and in your own city, have been healed and are still being healed by many of our men, the Christians, who exorcise them by the name of Jesus Christ, crucified under Pontius Pilate, though they could not be healed by all the rest of the exorcists.

Jesus is a man's name, familiar enough to Greek readers of the Bible from having been given by Moses to his successor whom we call Joshua. It also has a significance: for it means Saviour.

As Swth&r to the Greeks suggested specially the giving of health (swthri/a), Justin finds a connexion between 'Ihsou~j and i1asij, "healing." You can see this to-day, he says: for the Christians who use the name of Jesus Christ, crucified under Pontius Pilate, can heal when no one else can (mh_ i0aqe/ntaj i0a&santo kai\ e1ti nu~n i0w~ntai).

Turning back to the last words of the passage quoted above from Irenaeus, we note that the same interpretation of "Jesus" is in his mind, even |19 if he does not play on the word i1asij. For swthri/a itself includes "healing" among its meanings: and Irenaeus refers to our Lord's own acts of healing, though he does not at this point follow Justin in instancing the healing of the possessed by Christians in the name of Jesus.6

We have now to consider a passage in which the help to be gained from Justin is not so clear. In c.43 we read: "This Jeremiah the prophet also testified, saying thus: Before the morning-star I begat thee; and before the sun (is) thy name; and that is, before the creation of the world; for together with the world the stars were made."

Here we have a composite quotation, made up from two different Psalms and attributed to the prophet Jeremiah. The words of Ps. cx. 3, which are familiar to us in the form " The dew of thy youth is of the womb of the morning," were understood by the LXX to mean " From the womb before the morning-star I begat thee" (e0k gastro_j pro_ e9wsfo&rou e0ge/nnhsa& se). In our passage the phrase "from the womb" is dropped; and thus the text can be the more easily applied to the pre-existent Son of God. We feel the difficulty of combining the two phrases when we find Tertullian (Adv. Marcion. V. 9), who applies the passage to our Lord's human birth, constrained to interpret "before the morning-star" as meaning while it was yet dark, and offering various proofs from the Gospels that Christ was born in the night.

The second half of our quotation is a |20 modification of Ps. lxxii. 17: "Before the sun his name remaineth " (pro_ tou~ h(li/ou diame/nei to_ o!noma au)tou~), or "shall remain" (diamenei=).

It is obvious that the two texts have been drawn together by a recollection of the parallel phrases "before the morning-star" and "before the sun." But again, in the neighbourhood of the latter, we find "before the moon," in the difficult verse (Ps. lxxii. 5): kai\ sunparamenei= tw~| h(li/w|, kai\ pro_ th~j selh&nhj genea_j genew~n. We shall see that in other writers this phrase also is drawn in.

We may now consider the use made of these texts by Justin Martyr. In his Dialogue with the Jew Trypho (c. 45) he speaks of Christ, as "the Son of God, who was before the morning-star and the moon" and was incarnate and born of the Virgin. This is not exactly a mixed quotation, but we see how readily phrases from the two Psalms are combined. Then in c. 63 he quotes "that which was spoken by David: In the brightness of thy holy ones, from the womb before the morning-star I begat thee:" and he comments thus: "Does this not show you that from of old (a!nwqen) and through a human womb the God and Father of all was to beget Him? "Here there is no combination of texts: but in c. 76 we have the three texts brought together, though "the morning-star" is not mentioned: "And David proclaimed that before sun (Ps. lxxii. 17) and moon (Ps. lxxii. 5) He should be begotten from the womb (Ps. cx. 3), according to the counsel of the Father."

If, as we may well believe, these passages of Justin were familiar to Irenaeus, it is not difficult |21 to understand that by a trick of memory he should produce the quotation: "Before the morning-star I begat thee and before the sun is thy name." It was a more serious lapse to assign the quotation to Jeremiah.

In a book of Testimonies against the Jews, attributed to Gregory of Nyssa,7 we have the following quotation which combines all three texts: "From the womb before the morning-star I begat thee: and before the sun is his name, and before the moon." This is not assigned to any particular author; and as we have "his name," not "thy name," it may be intended for two separate quotations.8 It is possible that by this date the words "and before the moon" had got into some MSS. of the LXX. The Old Latin Psalter has: "Ante solem permanebit nomen ejus in saecula, et ante lunam sedes ejus;" and some cursive MSS. of the LXX have a Greek text which corresponds with this.

Dr Rendel Harris also quotes from the Syriac writer Bar Salibi:9 "David said: Before the day-star I begat thee. And before the sun is his name, and before the moon." From these and other parallels he concludes that Irenaeus made use of a common body of proof texts contained in a very ancient book of "Testimonies against the Jews." |22 The existence of such a work has been suggested more than once. Dr Rendel Harris has propounded it in a fresh and attractive form in a book entitled "Testimonies," of which as yet only the introductory portion has appeared (Cambridge, 1916). The body of evidence on which it rests is promised us in a second volume; and judgment must necessarily be suspended until this is available. So far as the Demonstration of Irenaeus is concerned, this is the only passage in which there might conceivably be a gain in calling in such a hypothesis. Direct dependence on Justin, on the other hand, can be demonstrated in various portions of our treatise; and this may be the true explanation here.

Irenaeus goes on to attribute to Jeremiah a yet more strange quotation: "Blessed is he who was, before he became man." The German translations render the last words differently: one of them has: "before the coming into being of man (vor dem Werden des Menschen):" the other has: "before through him man was made (bevor durch ihn der Mensch warde)." We have however an exact parallel to the construction in the Armenian rendering of the words "before he knoweth" in c. 53. The Greek there is pri\n h2 gnw~nai au)to&n (Isa. vii. 15); and we may suppose that here it was pri\n h2 genhqh~nai au)to_n a!nqrwpon.

No such text is to be found in any book now known to us which is attributed to Jeremiah. Dr Rendel Harris has been the first to point to its occurrence in a slightly different form, and again as quoted from Jeremiah, in Lactantius (Divin. Inst. |23 iv. 8). The whole passage must be given: "First of all we affirm that He was twice born, first in spirit, afterwards in flesh. Wherefore in Jeremiah it is thus spoken: Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee. Also: Blessed is he who was, before he was born: which happened unto none save Christ; who, being from the beginning Son of God, was re-born anew according to the flesh." The Latin, "Beatus qui erat antequam nasceretur," may represent a Greek reading, pri\n h2 gennhqh~nai.

The words which follow in Lactantius: "qui, cum esset a principio filius dei, regeneratus est denuo secundum carnem," appear to be taken from Cyprian's Testimonia (II, 8), where a section is headed: " Quod, cum a principio filius dei fuisset, generari denuo haberet secundum carnem;" but the only O.T. quotation that there follows is Ps. ii. 7 f.

So far, then, we have no clue to the source from which either Irenaeus or Lactantius derived this strange quotation. It is not likely that Lactantius got it, directly at any rate, from the Demonstration of Irenaeus, which does not appear to have had a wide circulation. It is possible that this and certain other passages which are attributed to Jeremiah may be derived from some apocryphal work bearing that prophet's name.

[Note to the online text: pp. 24ff which deal with Justin and Irenaeus on the Holy Spirit have been omitted]

Paul Pavao's note for I am not sure why the pages on Justin and Irenaeus' comments on the Holy Spirit would have been left out. I have a paper copy in my library of The Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, and I will check to see if it's the same translation. If so, I will add those pages to this page.

[Footnotes moved to the end and renumbered]

1. 1 The Armenian translation of Bks. IV and V, found in the same MS. with our treatise, is a valuable aid for the criticism of these books.

2. 2 Eccl. Hist., v. 26.

3. 1 See chapters 1 and 99.

4.  1 Published with a translation by the same editors in Texte u. Untersuchungen, xxxv. 2.

5. 1 I had at first thought that a comparison of the passage quoted from III, xxv. 2 pointed to the loss of some words from our text, and that we might emend thus: "[and in that he said: Before he knoweth good or evil;] for this is the uncertainty also of one that is born." But I doubt whether moloruthiun could be toned down to mean "uncertainty." Moreover in what follows it is the name on which stress is laid.

6. 1 He does so in the notable passage II, xlix. 3, of which Eusebius has preserved the original Greek.

7. 1 Printed by Zacagni, Monumenta, p. 292 (Rome, 1698).

8. 2 We have, "thy name "in Clem. Alex. Exc. ex Theodoto 20: To_ ga_r pro_ e9wsfo&rou e0ge/nnhsa& se ou#twj ecakou&omen e0pi\ tou~ prwtokti/-stou qeou~ lo&gou, kai\ pro_ h(li/ou kai\ selh&nhj kai\ pro_ pa&shj kti/sewj to_ o!noma& sou.

9. 3 Harris, Testimonies, p. 15. See also on p. 45 a quotation from an anti-Mohammedan tract: "His name endures before the sun and moon throughout all ages."

This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2003. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.


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