Dec 11, 2012

Ignatius and Irenaeus

Ignatius of Antioch: the significance of his fourth letter and his theological contributions...
Ignatius was a Christian leader who died as a martyr under Emperor Trajan. He wrote seven letters to various churches and Christians (i.e., Polycarp) we still possess. The significance of his letter to the Romans is that he was telling them not to “get in the way” of his upcoming martyrdom. He appealed to them not to prevent it because he desired to die for Christ. This whole request is interesting because it raises the possibility of some of the Roman Christians having some level of political pull or clout.

He affirmed both Christ’s humanity and divinity and he affirmed the unity of all Christians – these were two key contributions he gave.  This was a key point in his battle with the Docetists. He also urged unity in the church. Perhaps he overreached in this area when he advocated monepiscopacy (where one bishop rules all Christians in one city).
The significance of Irenaeus of Lyons – his theory of recapitulation and his exegetical method:
Irenaeus generally attempted to base his spiritual opinions on matters on the Bible; he did less philosophical speculation than many of his peers. This was generally a good thing and often set him apart in his theological views in certain nuanced ways. For the most part, he tried to approach the Scripture with a more common sense or literal hermeneutic than many of his contemporaries. In one area it was a factor into a rather odd interpretation he had about the life of Jesus; he died as an older man – at least over 50 (cf. John 8)! This idea flows at least in part of Irenaeus’ theory of recapitulation; which is the center of his Christology.
The idea of recapitulation focuses heavily on Christ being the second Adam who was obedient and experienced what humans experience in a very full way; Irenaeus would point to verses such as Ephesians 1:10 and Romans 5 as biblical proof. The idea that Jesus reversed the curse on the whole cosmos  (which had been disjointed due to Adam’s sin) and Jesus’ victory “spilled” onto every part of creation would become a key theme in many later Christian writings.

Irenaeus and Patristic thought regarding the saving work of Christ...
  1. The physical or mystical theory
Irenaeus laid this theory out in his work. The thought here is that human nature itself was elevated due to the Incarnation, wherein God joined himself with human nature.Augustine hints at this when he says things such as “the Only-Begotten participated in our mortality so that we might participate in his immortality” (Ep. 187, 20).
  1. The ransom or Devil’s rights theory
We read of this in Origen and others.The redemption was seen in terms of freedom from Satanic bondage, wherein the blood of Christ was used to buy us back (or even to trick) from Satan, who up until that time had full legal rights over humanity. Augustine spoke in this vein when he saw the cross as freeing us from Satan’s bonds, wherein Christ’s blood was the price Satan was paid (De Trin.13, 19.) 

read a selection from Irenaeus, Against the Heresies III, Preface- 4, where Irenaeus begins by saying that the apostles received the gospel from Jesus and modern day Christians received the gospel from the apostles ...

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