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     Irenaus of Lyon

Irenaus of Lyon

1. The earliest theological leader of distinction in the debate with Marcion and the Gnostics was a bishop of a relatively new and obscure church in Gaul, Irenaeus of Lyon, an immigrant to the West from Asia Minor. Born around 135 AD, he is first known as a presbyter of the church at Lyon. During the great persecution which occurred there in 177 AD, he was absent in Rome on an official mission. On his return, he was chosen bishop in succession to the martyred Pothinus. It was at Lyon that he wrote the two works which we now possess: Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, which was first published in the early twentieth century, and the much lengthier work in five books which he called An Ancient Indictment and Overthrow of the Falsely Named "Knowledge". Tradition has more conveniently named this later work Against Heresies. This work was probably completed around 185. Irenaeus died in about 200 AD, according to tradition, a martyr.

2. It was Irenaeus who first developed the appeal to tradition (the "rule of faith") and to the succession of bishops and presbyters who had transmitted it. The great weight of his argument was based on an appeal to the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, which, he was convinced, would themselves confute heretical teaching directly if attention were paid to their plain sense and if their obscure passages were understood in the light of those whose meaning was obvious.

Sources utilized in these pages may include:
  • Everett Ferguson's: Backgrounds of Early Christianity
  • Walker's: History of Christianity (out of print)

    (These links will take you to book detail pages at

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