Skip to comments.A Refutation of The Heretics, From The Fact That a Perpetual Succession of Bishops Was Kept Up.
Posted on 12/09/2010 6:34:49 AM PST by marshmallow
1. It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about.
For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to "the perfect" apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity.
2. Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
3. The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spoke with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels.
From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.
4. But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true.
To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time, a man who was of much greater weight, and a more steadfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostlesthat, namely, which is handed down by the Church. There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within." And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, "Do you know me?" "I do know you, the first-born of Satan." Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; as Paul also says, "A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sins, being condemned of himself." Titus 3:10 There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth. Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles.
Once again, we see Irenaeus emphasizing the importance of apostolic succession and tradition; no........not the "traditions of men", but that which is handed down by the Church. It is the Church which safeguards the truth due to its unbroken continuity with the apostles, whose successors in Rome, Irenaeus goes to the trouble of listing.
We see here the model of the present day Catholic Church as Irenaeus writes;
".......that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority.....
Thanks for the posting. Could you ping me for your “Fathers” postings?
Now when Polycarp entered into the arena there came a voice from heaven: “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.” And no one saw the speaker, but our friends who were there heard the voice. And next he was brought forward, and there was a great uproar of those who heard that Polycarp had been arrested. 2 Therefore when he was brought forward the Pro-Consul asked him if he were Polycarp, and when he admitted it he tried to persuade him to deny, saying: “Respect your age,” and so forth, as they are accustomed to say: “Swear by the genius of Caesar, repent, say: `Away with the Atheists’”; but Polycarp, with a stern countenance looked on all the crowd of lawless heathen in the arena, and waving his hand at them, he groaned and looked up to heaven and said: “Away with the Atheists.” 3 But when the Pro-Consul pressed him and said: “Take the oath and I let you go, revile Christ,” Polycarp said: “For eighty and six years have I been his servant, and he has done me no wrong, and how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
I understand what you are saying but here is the problem ... you implicitly assume that because the Church handed down the traditions, they cannot be traditions of men ... BY DEFINITION.
No doubt the Sadducees thought what they handed down through the Synagogue was NOT the traditions of men, yet Christ rebuked their traditions as just that ... why? Because those traditions nullified the written Word of God.
So far, the only argument brought forward by Catholics that their traditions dont nullify the Word of God is that these traditions are not the traditions of men ... because they were handed down by the RCC. We had 1200+ postings over the past day on the topic of Mary being sinless. The only evidence that has been presented supporting this tradition has been typological fantasies, faulty exegetical interpretations (like "all" doesnt mean all in Rom. 3:23 because Christ is not excluded), and appeals to some church father.
The Biblical evidence so far is on the side of the traditions of the RCC being man-made ... at least some of them. Some of your traditions seem to me to be merely a matter of conscience; like not eating meat on Friday; and are no big deal. But others go well beyond simple matter of conscience and move into doctrinal issues that distort the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Reading Irenaeus, however, it's clear that he does not subscribe to "Scripture only" (or sola scriptura). In the present excerpt, for instance, he references "tradition" a number of times. His whole argument for refuting the heretics to whom this piece is directed centers around tradition, not Scripture. He's saying...."we got this from the apostles".........and he gives the line of succession (Linus, Anacletus etc).
IOW, he's saying that we have authority for our teaching. It's found in the Church. That's important as all debates about Scripture, in the end, come down to authority. Absent authority, it's simply a class of personal opinions.
What tradition specifically is he referring to? What was the specific heresy that he was addressing that he appealed to tradition instead of scripture?
I look back at what has happened to the church as a whole since I was a child 50 years ago. Iraneus was 150 years after the first disciples.
After the close of the NT, history has blessed us with Biblical commentaries, nothing more. Some are good, some are not ...
Actually, thanks for that website ... a nice translation of some early works.
If you skip to Chapter 8 you will see Iraneus argue that the heretics are NOT using sola scriptura and that is where their error lies.
“Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked are in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions. “
Some things never change.
Dismissing the writings of the early Church Fathers as mere "biblical commentary" is unwise in the extreme. Their writings open a window into early Church history and provide a link to apostolic times. Their connection with the Apostles themselves was tangible.
Irenaeus, for example, heard the preaching of Polycarp (Bishop of Smyrna) who was a disciple and student of the Apostle John who consecrated him bishop.
I skimmed alot of those chapters ... He appeals to scripture so much in his discussion that the issue of sola scriptura is moot.
Where in all those writings did he appeal to something that is NOT in the scriptures and he claims he received it from church tradition?
Whys that? I merely meant that Biblical commentary is useful ... not required for doctrinal formation.
Their connection with the Apostles themselves was tangible.
No one disputes that ... but getting insight from people who were 3 generations removed from the events is not as good as reading what the apostles themselves WROTE. When I study church fathers I study them the same way I would study a Biblical commentator alive today. Read them, understand their insights, COMPARE THEM TO SCRIPTURE, discard the junk, keep the treasure. The fathers are commenting on the text, I will read the text and determine if their commentary is in-line with the scripture; I'm being a Berean as I should.
What you appear to be saying is that since they lived within a few hundred years of the events their interpretation of them must be more accurate. That is simply an a priori assumption on your part.
Some of the worse heresy came from that time in history.
You've got it backwards.
Irenaeus, in this passage, is not claiming he received something apart from Scripture through Church tradition.
The point is that tradition and apostolic succession are what provide the authority for interpretation of Scripture.
What does Irenaeus' discourse, posted above, say to you?
For me, it is a laying out of his bona fides as a result of apostolic succession. The title itself says it all and would be sufficient on its own; "A Refutation of The Heretics, From The Fact That a Perpetual Succession of Bishops Was Kept Up."
Irenaeus places great store by apostolic succession. By this he means episcopal consecration. This in turn, tells us something important about the Church and its fundamental nature.
Ahhhhhhhh............the personal magisterium.
No, I'm not saying that simply because they lived "within a few hundred years" (actually, 100 in this case) we should listen to them.
It's all about tradition!! For the umpteenth time!! Irenaeus' whole point is that the teaching of the Apostles has been carefully guarded and handed down.
Allow me to quote:
"In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth."
It's not just a question of time! It's a question of preservation of the faith.
The alternative notion, which you seem to be pushing is that every man must reinvent the wheel and discover it for himself. Ergo, the writings and thoughts of Irenaeus are of no more value than mine.
If that is the term you wish to us to refer to the ability to think and understand the simple message of the New Testament for yourself ... then I can live with that.
the teaching of the Apostles has been carefully guarded and handed down.
And that is what we call the New Testament. You want to understand what Jesus and the apostles taught ... read the Bible.
It's not just a question of time! It's a question of preservation of the faith.
And that preservation is in the New Testament.
The alternative notion, which you seem to be pushing is that every man must reinvent the wheel
Not reinvent the wheel ... use the wheel that has been designed and documented for the past 2000 years, not in the writings of the fathers, or the writings of the magesterium as you call it, not the writings of any other person ... but rather the plain writings of the NT, which contains everything that is needed for the church.
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