Ner 96 Analysis

THL 410 – ASSESSMENT 2 Critical analysis of Source Document: NER 96 The Argument from Tradition “Stop your ears, flee off as far as possible” This directive is from Book III of the five books that make up the collection known as Against Heresies or The Refutation and Overthrow of the Knowledge Falsely so called of 1 Tim. 6:20.1 The writer is indisputably Irenaeus the then Bishop of Lyons. It is estimated that it was written sometime near to 1852 Who was the reader? This was written in response
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  THL 410  –  ASSESSMENT 2 Critical analysis of Source Document: NER 96 The Argument from Tradition “Stop your ears, flee off as far as possible”    This directive is from Book III of the five books that make up the collection known as Against Heresies or The Refutation and Overthrow of the Knowledge Falsely so called of 1 Tim. 6:20. 1  The writer is indisputably Irenaeus the then Bishop of Lyons. It is estimated that it was written sometime near to 185 2  Who was the reader? This was written in response to a request from a friend to be provided with information about the false teachings that were infiltrating the Christian church in the second century. As Irenaeus had personal experience of members of his own church at Lyons in Gaul (France) where he was the Bishop, being led astray he had investigated the problem and was able to provide the outline and response that was requested. The form of heresy that was addressed in these writings was known as Gnosticism, an amalgamation of beliefs and philosophies from various regions and teachings in the world. It is with the humblest apology that Irenaeus states that he is neither “practised in composition or eloquence, but my feeling of affection prompts me to make known to thee and all thy companions those doctrines which have been kept in concealment until now” 3  This apology is in no way founded as evidence of any inferiority of argument or ability to provide the means for overthrow of the Gnostics is not substantiated in his writings. Irenaeus’ understanding of the beliefs and teachings of Gnosticism give an insight into the perverseness of their doctrines which he does not hesitate to label for what they are based on, evil self-pleasing, vainglory, and blindness 4 .   To aid his reader through the process it is necessary for him to present two aspects that occur as a direct consequence of each other. Firstly, the account and refutation of Gnosticism so as to render it impossible for anyone to confound Gnosticism with Christianity, and to make it impossible for such a monstrous system to survive, or ever to rise again, and secondly, to give an exposition and defence of the Catholic faith 5 , thus securing the foundations of the common Christian faith and strengthening the bands of existing church unity 6 . 1. Hall p. 59 5. ANF01 p. 835 2. Frend p. 66 6. DOCB p. 1106 3. ANF01 p. 843 4. NER 96 p. 114  What did they read? In reading the Argument from Tradition as part of the larger document, the friends of Irenaeus, the Christian leaders, would have been led through a thorough discourse of the perils of heresy from the false gnosis being allowed to infiltrate their churches. To equip them to resist this movement they are given the firm ground of the Rule of Faith and encouraged to accept that all churches even though scattered throughout the whole world unanimously believe and preserve it. In accepting this is the foundation of the argument against the Gnostics, especially Valentinus and his followers. This is the subject of the second book which resoundingly brings to light the inconsistencies and illogical nature of Valentinus’ school of thought.  Aware that Valentinus was not the only threat that would attack the church it is in the third book, the book that contains the Argument from Tradition, that Irenaeus provides the foundation to combat any attack, namely the apostolic succession. This is the unbroken inheritance from Jesus Christ through the apostles and their appointed successors, the bishops, of the gospel as known within all the churches. It is in listing this line as known in the church in Rome to the current time, that Irenaeus is alluding to the ability of all churches to reckon up their line of succession, thus ensuring that the teaching they receive from the presbyter, the bishop is steeped in the same faith that those that had direct contact with Christ. As the authority of the tradition is emphasised so is the misguided or misleading opinions of the heretics. The writer encourages the reader to acknowledge that the truth will be found within the church and not from these others who are motivated by their desire to maintain a secret knowledge. What did the reader find out? That Christianity was spreading rapidly to the reaches of the Roman Empire at that time, and beyond, opened the way for the reciprocal effect of other systems bringing their ideas into the church. The church had grown out of the Jewish traditions that prevailed at the time of Jesus with those accepting Him as the messiah converting their faith to encompass the renewing grace of God through His son. However the closed nature of the Jewish faith and the fears within the Roman empire of persecution and death, resulted in the dispersion of the Christians from the Palestinian region and the subsequent growth of the faith within the Greek and Asia provinces.  In these areas there existed a strong philosophic tradition, within which even the Christian received education. Coupled with the mystic religions and the desire to have knowledge of the things of the universe and overcome the difficulties of life, the religious atmosphere was one of confusion. There was an openness to explore new ways, with schools of thought emerging to accommodate the desires of those seeking to take control of their own destinies. It was in direct conflict with these problems of interpretation of God and the world that the canon and creeds of the Catholic Church became fixed in their form and the orthodoxy that helped combat these heresies took shape as the way of governance from within the Roman church. Irenaeus is credited with the lead in bringing forth the answer to the need of the church to preserve its tradition through the writings of the New testament and the creed of Baptism, which expresses the tenets of the faith of the belief in one God which Christianity inherited from Judaism, and the faith in the redemption of the human race through Jesus Christ his only Son. That this degree of cohesion within the church was derived from his works was surely the hope when embarking on his treatise to deal with the threat of the Gnosticism and other heresies, but in light of Irenaeus’ humble approach to his ability to prov ide a suitable refute, You will not expect from me, a resident among the Celts, and mostly accustomed to a barbarous language, rhetorical skill, which I have never learned, nor power in writing, which I have not acquired, nor beauties of language and style, which I am not acquainted with. But what I write to you out of love, plainly and truly and simply, you will surely receive in love, and you can then amplify for yourself, having greater ability than mine, what I have given you, as it were, in basic principles. there is enormous testimony in this heartfelt response to the faith that was under threat. The continuance and growth of the Christian church and the development of the Catholic Church centred at Rome owes much to the writings of this Bishop of what at that time may have appeared to be a far-away place.  BIBLIOGRAPHY Hall, Stuart G. Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church, 2 nd  ed. SPCK. 2005 Stevenson, J. A New Eusebius, 2 nd  ed. SPCK. 1987 Frend, W. H. C. The Early Church. SCM Press. 2003 Chadwick, Henry. The Early Church, Rev. ed. Penguin Books. 1993 Schaff, Philip, Ed. Ante- Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. CCEL Wernle, Paul. The Beginnings of Christianity, Vol. 2. CCEL Wace, Henry. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century. CCEL Richardson, Cyril C., Ed. Early Christian Fathers. CCEL Schaff, Philip, Ed. History of the Christian Church, Vol. II. CCEL
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