We’re constantly hearing about reconstructions of the life of Christ or of early Christianity — where we are told “the real truth” about Jesus and the early Church. Fr. John Behr, dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary delivers an incisive critique of these views in a lecture given at Augustine College last month:
St. Irenaeus of Lyons lived from about 130 to 200 AD. He was a disciple of St. Polycarp, who was himself a disciple of St. John the Apostle. St. Irenaeus’ main work Against Heresies gives insight into the world of the early Church.
Now you can listen to St. Ireneaus’ Against Heresies in a newly released audio version of this work from LibriVox or Internet Archive. This is an actual reading of the text, not some computer audio voice. The entire text can be listened to or downloaded for listening later at no charge and the recordings have been released into the public domain.
Some quotes from St. Irenaeus:
“Wherefore we must obey the priests of the Church who have succession from the Apostles, as we have shown, who, together with succession in the episcopate, have received the certain mark of truth according to the will of the Father; all others, however, are to be suspected, who separated themselves from the principal succession.” Against Heresies, (Book IV, Chapter 26)
“But it is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the church has been scattered throughout the world, and since the ‘pillar and ground’ of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life, it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing incorruption on every side, and vivifying human afresh. From this fact, it is evident that the Logos, the fashioner demiourgos of all, he that sits on the cherubim and holds all things together, when he was manifested to humanity, gave us the gospel under four forms but bound together by one spirit.” Against Heresies, 3.11.8
“Even though Eve had Adam for a husband, she was still a virgin […] By disobeying, Eve became the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race. In the same way Mary, though she had a husband, was still a virgin, and by obeying, she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.” Against Heresies, 3:22
On St. Irenaeus’ (and other early Christian fathers’) use of the Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament, Protestant patristic scholar J. N. D. Kelly writes:
It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than the [Protestant Old Testament] . . . It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called Apocrypha or deuterocanonical books. The reason for this is that the Old Testament which passed in the first instance into the hands of Christians was . . . the Greek translation known as the Septuagint. . . . most of the Scriptural quotations found in the New Testament are based upon it rather than the Hebrew.. . . In the first two centuries . . . the Church seems to have accept all, or most of, these additional books as inspired and to have treated them without question as Scripture.
Quotations from Wisdom, for example, occur in 1 Clement and Barnabas. . . Polycarp cites Tobit, and the Didache [cites] Ecclesiasticus. Irenaeus refers to Wisdom, the History of Susannah, Bel and the Dragon [i.e., the deuterocanonical portions of Daniel], and Baruch. The use made of the Apocrypha by Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian and Clement of Alexandria is too frequent for detailed references to be necessary (Early Christian Doctrines, 53-54).
Listen to or download the recordings here.
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Other Audio Recordings of Church Fathers: