Against Heresies

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Against Heresies: Book I

Introductory Note to Irenæus Against Heresies


Chapter I.--Absurd ideas of the disciples of Valentinus as to the origin, name, order, and conjugal productions of their fancied Æons, with the passages of Scripture which they adapt to their opinions.

Chapter II.--The Propator was known to Monogenes alone. Ambition, disturbance, and danger into which Sophia fell; her shapeless offspring: she is restored by Horos. The production of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, in order to the completion of the Æons. Manner of the production of Jesus.

Chapter III.--Texts of Holy Scripture used by these heretics to support their opinions.

Chapter IV.--Account given by the heretics of the formation of Achamoth; origin of the visible world from her disturbances.

Chapter V.--Formation of the Demiurge; description of him. He is the creator of everything outside of the Pleroma.

Chapter VI.--The threefold kind of man feigned by these heretics: good works needless for them, though necessary to others: their abandoned morals.

Chapter VII.--The mother Achamoth, when all her seed are perfected, shall pass into the Pleroma, accompanied by those men who are spiritual; the Demiurge, with animal men, shall pass into the intermediate habitation; but all material men shall go into corruption. Their blasphemous opinions against the true incarnation of Christ by the Virgin Mary. Their views as to the prophecies. Stupid ignorance of the Demiurge.

Chapter VIII.--How the Valentinians pervert the Scriptures to support their own pious opinions.

Chapter IX.--Refutation of the impious interpretations of these heretics.

Chapter X.--Unity of the faith of the Church throughout the whole world.

Chapter XI.--The opinions of Valentinus, with those of his disciples and others.

Chapter XII.--The doctrines of the followers of Ptolemy and Colorbasus.

Chapter XIII.--The deceitful arts and nefarious practices of Marcus.

Chapter XIV.--The various hypotheses of Marcus and others. Theories respecting letters and syllables.

Chapter XV.--Sige relates to Marcus the generation of the twenty-four elements and of Jesus Exposure of these absurdities.

Chapter XVI.--Absurd interpretations of the Marcosians.

Chapter XVII.--The theory of the Marcosians, that created things were made after the image of things invisible.

Chapter XVIII.--Passages from Moses, which the heretics pervert to the support of their hypothesis.

Chapter XIX.--Passages of Scripture by which they attempt to prove that the Supreme Father was unknown before the coming of Christ.

Chapter XX.--The apocryphal and spurious Scriptures of the Marcosians, with passages of the Gospels which they pervert.

Chapter XXI.--The views of redemption entertained by these heretics.

Chapter XXII.--Deviations of heretics from the truth.

Chapter XXIII.--Doctrines and practices of Simon Magus and Menander.

Chapter XXIV.--Doctrines of Saturninus and Basilides.

Chapter XXV.--Doctrines of Carpocrates.

Chapter XXVI.--Doctrines of Cerinthus, the Ebionites, and Nicolaitanes.

Chapter XXVII.--Doctrines of Cerdo and Marcion.

Chapter XXVIII.--Doctrines of Tatian, the Encratites, and others.

Chapter XXIX.--Doctrines of various other Gnostic sects, and especially of the Barbeliotes or Borborians.

Chapter XXX.--Doctrines of the Ophites and Sethians.

Chapter XXXI.--Doctrines of the Cainites.

Against Heresies: Book II


Chapter I.--There is but one God: the impossibility of its being otherwise.

Chapter II.--The world was not formed by angels, or by any other being, contrary to the will of the most high God, but was made by the Father through the Word.

Chapter III.--The Bythus and Pleroma of the Valentinians, as well as the God of Marcion, shown to be absurd; the world was actually created by the same Being who had conceived the idea of it, and was not the fruit of defect or ignorance.

Chapter IV.--The absurdity of the supposed vacuum and defect of the heretics is demonstrated.

Chapter V.--This world was not formed by any other beings within the territory which is contained by the Father.

Chapter VI.--The angels and the Creator of the world could not have been ignorant of the Supreme God.

Chapter VII.--Created things are not the images of those Æons who are within the Pleroma.

Chapter VIII.--Created things are not a shadow of the Pleroma.

Chapter IX.--There is but one Creator of the world, God the Father: this the constant belief of the Church.

Chapter X.--Perverse interpretations of Scripture by the heretics: God created all things out of nothing, and not from pre-existent matter.

Chapter XI.--The heretics, from their disbelief of the truth, have fallen into an abyss of error: reasons for investigating their systems.

Chapter XII.--The Triacontad of the heretics errs both by defect and excess: Sophia could never have produced anything apart from her consort; Logos and Sige could not have been contemporaries.

Chapter XIII.--The first order of production maintained by the heretics is altogether indefensible.

Chapter XIV.--Valentinus and his followers derived the principles of their system from the heathen; the names only are changed.

Chapter XV.--No account can be given of these productions.

Chapter XVI.--The Creator of the world either produced of Himself the images of things to be made, or the Pleroma was formed after the image of some previous system; and so on ad infinitum.

Chapter XVII.--Inquiry into the production of the Æons: whatever its supposed nature, it is in every respect inconsistent; and on the hypothesis of the heretics, even Nous and the Father Himself would be stained with ignorance.

Chapter XVIII.--Sophia was never really in ignorance or passion; her Enthymesis could not have been separated from herself, or exhibited special tendencies of its own.

Chapter XIX.--Absurdities of the heretics as to their own origin: their opinions respecting the Demiurge shown to be equally untenable and ridiculous.

Chapter XX.--Futility of the arguments adduced to demonstrate the sufferings of the twelfth Æon, from the parables, the treachery of Judas, and the passion of our Saviour.

Chapter XXI.--The twelve apostles were not a type of the Æons.

Chapter XXII.--The thirty Æons are not typified by the fact that Christ was baptized in His thirtieth year: He did not suffer in the twelfth month after His baptism, but was more than fifty years old when He died.

Chapter XXIII.--The woman who suffered from an issue of blood was no type of the suffering Æon.

Chapter XXIV.--Folly of the arguments derived by the heretics from numbers, letters, and syllables.

Chapter XXV.--God is not to be sought after by means of letters, syllables, and numbers; necessity of humility in such investigations.

Chapter XXVI.--"Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth."

Chapter XXVII.--Proper mode of interpreting parables and obscure passages of Scripture.

Chapter XXVIII.--Perfect knowledge cannot be attained in the present life: many questions must be submissively left in the hands of God.

Chapter XXIX.--Refutation of the views of the heretics as to the future destiny of the soul and body.

Chapter XXX.--Absurdity of their styling themselves spiritual, while the Demiurge is declared to be animal.

Chapter XXXI.--Recapitulation and application of the foregoing arguments.

Chapter XXXII.--Further exposure of the wicked and blasphemous doctrines of the heretics.

Chapter XXXIII.--Absurdity of the doctrine of the transmigration of souls.

Chapter XXXIV.--Souls can be recognised in the separate state, and are immortal although they once had a beginning.

Chapter XXXV.--Refutation of Basilides, and of the opinion that the prophets uttered their predictions under the inspiration of different gods.

Against Heresies: Book III


Chapter I.--The apostles did not commence to preach the Gospel, or to place anything on record until they were endowed with the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit. They preached one God alone, Maker of heaven and earth.

Chapter II.--The heretics follow neither Scripture nor tradition.

Chapter III.--A refutation of the heretics, from the fact that, in the various Churches, a perpetual succession of bishops was kept up.

Chapter IV.--The truth is to be found nowhere else but in the Catholic Church, the sole depository of apostolical doctrine. Heresies are of recent formation, and cannot trace their origin up to the apostles.

Chapter V.--Christ and His apostles, without any fraud, deception, or hypocrisy, preached that one God, the Father, was the founder of all things. They did not accommodate their doctrine to the prepossessions of their hearers.

Chapter VI--The Holy Ghost, throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, made mention of no other God or Lord, save him who is the true God.

Chapter VII.--Reply to an objection founded on the words of St. Paul (2 Cor. iv. 4) St. Paul occasionally uses words not in their grammatical sequence.

Chapter VIII.--Answer to an objection, arising from the words of Christ (Matt. vi. 24) God alone is to be really called God and Lord, for He is without beginning and end.

Chapter IX.--One and the same God, the Creator of heaven and earth, is He whom the prophets foretold, and who was declared by the Gospel. Proof of this, at the outset, from St. Matthew's Gospel.

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

Chapter XI--Proofs in continuation, extracted from St. John's Gospel The Gospels are four in number, neither more nor less. Mystic reasons for this.

Chapter XII.--Doctrine of the rest of the apostles.

Chapter XIII--Refutation of the opinion, that Paul was the only apostle who had knowledge of the truth.

Chapter XIV.--If Paul had known any mysteries unrevealed to the other apostles, Luke, his constant companion and fellow-traveller, could not have been ignorant of them; neither could the truth have possibly lain hid from him, through whom alone we learn many and most important particulars of the Gospel history.

Chapter XV.--Refutation of the Ebionites, who disparaged the authority of St. Paul, from the writings of St. Luke, which must be received as a whole. Exposure of the hypocrisy, deceit, and pride of the Gnostics. The apostles and their disciples knew and preached one God, the Creator of the world.

Chapter XVI.--Proofs from the apostolic writings, that Jesus Christ was one and the same, the only begotten Son of God, perfect God and perfect man.

Chapter XVII.--The apostles teach that it was neither Christ nor the Saviour, but the Holy Spirit, who did descend upon Jesus. The reason for this descent.

Chapter XVIII.--Continuation of the foregoing argument Proofs from the writings of St. Paul, and from the words of Our Lord, that Christ and Jesus cannot be considered as distinct beings; neither can it be alleged that the Son of God became man merely in appearance, but that He did so truly and actually.

Chapter XIX.--Jesus Christ was not a mere man, begotten from Joseph in the ordinary course of nature, but was very God, begotten of the Father most high, and very man, born of the Virgin.

Chapter XX.--God showed himself, by the fall of man, as patient, benign, merciful, mighty to save Man is therefore most ungrateful, if, unmindful of his own lot, and of the benefits held out to him, he do not acknowledge divine grace.

Chapter XXI.--A vindication of the prophecy in Isa. vii. 14 against the misinterpretations of Theodotion, Aquila, the Ebionites, and the Jews. Authority of the Septuagint version. Arguments in proof that Christ was born of a virgin.

Chapter XXII.--Christ assumed actual flesh, conceived and born of the Virgin.

Chapter XXIII.--Arguments in opposition to Tatian, showing that it was consonant to divine justice and mercy that the first Adam should first partake in that salvation offered to all by Christ.

Chapter XXIV.--Recapitulation of the various arguments adduced against Gnostic impiety under all its aspects The heretics, tossed about by every blast of doctrine, are opposed by the uniform teaching of the Church, which remains so always, and is consistent with itself.

Chapter XXV.--This world is ruled by the providence of one God, who is both endowed with infinite justice to punish the wicked, and with infinite goodness to bless the pious, and impart to them salvation.


Against Heresies: Book IV


Chapter I.--The Lord acknowledged but one God and Father.

Chapter II.--Proofs from the plain testimony of Moses, and of the other prophets, whose words are the words of Christ, that there is but one God, the founder of the world, whom Our Lord preached, and whom He called His Father.

Chapter III.--Answer to the cavils of the Gnostics We are not to suppose that the true God can be changed, or come to an end because the heavens, which are His throne and the earth, His footstool, shall pass away.

Chapter IV.--Answer to another objection, showing that the destruction of Jerusalem, which was the city of the great King, diminished nothing from the supreme majesty and power of God, for that this destruction was put in execution by the most wise counsel of the same God.

Chapter V.--The author returns to his former argument, and shows that there was but one God announced by the law and prophets, whom Christ confesses as His Father, and who, through His word, one living God with Him, made Himself known to men in both covenants.

Chapter VI.--Explanation of the words of Christ, "No man knoweth the Father, but the Son," etc.; which words the heretics misinterpret. Proof that, by the Father revealing the Son, and by the Son being revealed, the Father was never unknown.

Chapter VII.--Recapitulation of the foregoing argument, showing that Abraham, through the revelation of the Word, knew the Father, and the coming of the Son of God. For this cause, he rejoiced to see the day of Christ, when the promises made to him should be fulfilled. The fruit of this rejoicing has flowed to posterity, viz., to those who are partakers in the faith of Abraham, but not to the Jews who reject the Word of God.

Chapter VIII.--Vain attempts of Marcion and his followers, who exclude Abraham from the salvation bestowed by Christ, who liberated not only Abraham, but the seed of Abraham, by fulfilling and not destroying the law when He healed on the Sabbath-day.

Chapter IX.--There is but one author, and one end to both covenants.

Chapter X.--The Old Testament Scriptures, and those written by Moses in particular, do everywhere make mention of the Son of God, and foretell His advent and passion. From this fact it follows that they were inspired by one and the same God.

Chapter XI.--The old prophets and righteous men knew beforehand of the advent of Christ, and earnestly desired to see and hear Him, He revealing himself in the Scriptures by the Holy Ghost, and without any change in Himself, enriching men day by day with benefits, but conferring them in greater abundance on later than on former generations.

Chapter XII.--It clearly appears that there was but one author of both the old and the new law, from the fact that Christ condemned traditions and customs repugnant to the former, while He confirmed its most important precepts, and taught that He was Himself the end of the Mosaic law.

Chapter XIII.--Christ did not abrogate the natural precepts of the law, but rather fulfilled and extended them. He removed the yoke and bondage of the old law, so that mankind, being now set free, might serve God with that trustful piety which becometh sons.

Chapter XIV.--If God demands obedience from man, if He formed man, called him and placed him under laws, it was merely for man's welfare; not that God stood in need of man, but that He graciously conferred upon man His favours in every possible manner.

Chapter XV.--At first God deemed it sufficient to inscribe the natural law, or the Decalogue, upon the hearts of men; but afterwards He found it necessary to bridle, with the yoke of the Mosaic law, the desires of the Jews, who were abusing their liberty; and even to add some special commands, because of the hardness of their hearts.

Chapter XVI.--Perfect righteousness was conferred neither by circumcision nor by any other legal ceremonies. The Decalogue, however, was not cancelled by Christ, but is always in force: men were never released from its commandments.

Chapter XVII.--Proof that God did not appoint the Levitical dispensation for His own sake, or as requiring such service; for He does, in fact, need nothing from men.

Chapter XVIII.--Concerning sacrifices and oblations, and those who truly offer them.

Chapter XIX.--Earthly things may be the type of heavenly, but the latter cannot be the types of others still superior and unknown; nor can we, without absolute madness, maintain that God is known to us only as the type of a still unknown and superior being.

Chapter XX.--That one God formed all things in the world, by means of the Word and the Holy Spirit: and that although He is to us in this life invisible and incomprehensible, nevertheless He is not unknown; inasmuch as His works do declare Him, and His Word has shown that in many modes He may be seen and known.

Chapter XXI.--Abraham's faith was identical with ours; this faith was prefigured by the words and actions of the old patriarchs.

Chapter XXII.--Christ did not come for the sake of the men of one age only, but for all who, living righteously and piously, had believed upon Him; and for those, too, who shall believe.

Chapter XXIII.--The patriarchs and prophets by pointing out the advent of Christ, fortified thereby, as it were, the way of posterity to the faith of Christ; and so the labours of the apostles were lessened inasmuch as they gathered in the fruits of the labours of others.

Chapter XXIV.--The conversion of the Gentiles was more difficult than that of the Jews; the labours of those apostles, therefore who engaged in the former task, were greater than those who undertook the latter.

Chapter XXV.--Both covenants were prefigured in Abraham, and in the labour of Tamar; there was, however, but one and the same God to each covenant.

Chapter XXVI.--The treasure hid in the Scriptures is Christ; the true exposition of the Scriptures is to be found in the Church alone.

Chapter XXVII--The sins of the men of old time, which incurred the displeasure of God, were, by His providence, committed to writing, that we might derive instruction thereby, and not be filled with pride. We must not, therefore, infer that there was another God than He whom Christ preached; we should rather fear, lest the one and the same God who inflicted punishment on the ancients, should bring down heavier upon us.

Chapter XXVIII.--Those persons prove themselves senseless who exaggerate the mercy of Christ, but are silent as to the judgment, and look only at the more abundant grace of the New Testament; but, forgetful of the greater degree of perfection which it demands from us, they endeavour to show that there is another God beyond Him who created the world.

Chapter XXIX.--Refutation of the arguments of the Marcionites, who attempted to show that God was the author of sin, because He blinded Pharaoh and his servants.

Chapter XXX.--Refutation of another argument adduced by the Marcionites, that God directed the Hebrews to spoil the Egyptians.

Chapter XXXI.--We should not hastily impute as crimes to the men of old time those actions which the Scripture has not condemned, but should rather seek in them types of things to come: an example of this in the incest committed by Lot.

Chapter XXXII.--That one God was the author of both Testaments, is confirmed by the authority of a presbyter who had been taught by the apostles.

Chapter XXXIII.--Whosoever confesses that one God is the author of both Testaments, and diligently reads the Scriptures in company with the presbyters of the Church, is a true spiritual disciple; and he will rightly understand and interpret all that the prophets have declared respecting Christ and the liberty of the New Testament.

Chapter XXXIV.--Proof against the Marcionites, that the prophets referred in all their predictions to our Christ.

Chapter XXXV.--A refutation of those who allege that the prophets uttered some predictions under the inspiration of the highest, others from the Demiurge. Disagreements of the Valentinians among themselves with regard to these same predictions.

Chapter XXXVI.--The prophets were sent from one and the same Father from whom the Son was sent.

Chapter XXXVII.--Men are possessed of free will, and endowed with the faculty of making a choice. It is not true, therefore, that some are by nature good, and others bad.

Chapter XXXVIII.--Why man was not made perfect from the beginning.

Chapter XXXIX.--Man is endowed with the faculty of distinguishing good and evil; so that, without compulsion, he has the power, by his own will and choice, to perform God's commandments, by doing which he avoids the evils prepared for the rebellious.

Chapter XL.--One and the same God the Father inflicts punishment on the reprobate, and bestows rewards on the elect.

Chapter XLI.--Those persons who do not believe in God, but who are disobedient, are angels and sons of the devil, not indeed by nature, but by imitation. Close of this book, and scope of the succeeding one.

Against Heresies: Book V


Chapter I.--Christ alone is able to teach divine things, and to redeem us: He, the same, took flesh of the Virgin Mar

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