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Friday, April 1, 2011

Apostolic Succession & Irenaeus

A friend asked about St. Irenaeus & his position of apostolic success. Below is my reply to his last 3 questions (with some very short changes).

With regard to #3: I don't think Irenaeus had any idea things would last as long as they have. Therefore his notion of apostolic succession (AS) was really more immediate. The Gnostics held a position of AS, that the apostles passed on esoteric teachings by tradition (word of mouth). So he seems to posit the idea of an orthodox AS for polemical purposes, thus a more immediate, short-term approach. So I think your 3rd question is porbably accurate.

On the 4th question, I do believe that 2 Timothy 2.2 speaks to it (apostolic succesion). Apostle Paul to Timothy to qualified men to 4th generation of qualified men. What he wants passed on is the "pattern of sound words" (hypotuposin hygianonton logon) that was taught before many witnesses (1.13). Based on Irenaeus's book "Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching" the pattern of sound words appears to be how to interpret the Scriptures (Old Testament) through the Apostolic lens of Christ. Watch how he does this through-out "Against Heresies"!

I think the 5th question would send him into a tail spin, because based on what he describes as "the rule of faith" (1.1.10) he would struggle to find "the rule of faith" being kept in its purity (by the supposed apostolic churches).

One last point. Look at what Irenaeus says in book 4.XXVI.3-4a, & notice that the doctrine must go with the life (orthodoxy must be encased in orthopraxy) to be genuine AS! Something the reformers asserted.

"3. Those, however, who are believed to be presbyters by many, but serve their own lusts, and, do not place the fear of God supreme in their hearts, but conduct themselves with contempt towards others, and are puffed up with the pride of holding the chief seat, and work evil deeds in secret, saying, "No man sees us," shall be convicted by the Word, who does not judge after outward appearance (secundum gloriam), nor looks upon the countenance, but the heart; and they shall hear those words, to be found in Daniel the prophet: "O thou seed of Canaan, and not of Judah, beauty hath deceived thee, and lust perverted thy heart. Thou that art waxen old in wicked days, now thy sins which thou hast committed aforetime are come to light; for thou hast pronounced false judgments, and hast been accustomed to condemn the innocent, and to let the guilty go free, albeit the Lord saith, The innocent and the righteous shalt thou not slay." Of whom also did the Lord say: "But if the evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to smite the man-servants and maidens, and to eat and drink and be drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day that he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers."

4. From all such persons, therefore, it behooves us to keep aloof, but to adhere to those who, as I have already observed, do hold the doctrine of the apostles, and who, together with the order of priesthood (presbyterii ordine), display sound speech and blameless conduct for the confirmation and correction of others."
Mike the Meagre

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