An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


(c. 130-c. 202). Bishop and patristic theologian. He was probably from Smyrna in Asia Minor. When Pothinus, the Bishop of Lyons in Gaul died in 177, Irenaeus was chosen to succeed him. His two greatest theological works are The Refutation and Overthrow of the Knowledge Falsely So-Called, or Five Books Against Heresies written around 189, and The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, written after the Refutation. In the Five Books Against Heresy, Irenaeus described and attacked the various Gnostic systems of his time. Against the Gnostics, who despised the flesh and exalted the spirit, he stressed two doctrines: the goodness of creation and the material world, and the resurrection of the body. His major contribution to the understanding of the Incarnation and the Atonement is his doctrine of “recapitulation.” Irenaeus contrasted the First Adam and the Second Adam, Christ. He argued that God in Christ makes good all that was done wrong by Adam. He stresses a parallelism between Adam and Christ: Adam was disobedient, Christ was obedient. Christ was victorious over sin, death, and the devil by his obedience, making him Christus Victor. Irenaeus also stressed the importance of the tradition and role of the episcopate. Irenaeus died in Lyons. He may have been martyred. He is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on June 28.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.