Irenaeus of Lyons was born in 120AD and died in 202AD. Irenaeus was a pupil of Polycarp and began as an elder at the See of Lyons with a fellow pupil Pothinus who was sent as an evangelist into this area of Gaul. In 177Ad persecution broke out in Lyons and Irenaeus was sent to Rome with letters of protest regarding this situation. When he arrived Irenaeus found the leaders of the church of Rome and colleagues from the school of Polycarp had fallen into heretical doctrines namely Montanism and Valentinianism.
During his time in Rome Pothinus was martyred and Irenaeus took over as the Bishop of Lyons. By this time the persecution had ended. However, gnosticism was taking hold in this region. He described them as locusts coming in to devour the gospel. With people ascending on his See with corruptions of the gospel, Irenaeus set about the momentous task of classifying in detail the core heretical belief systems of his day that were contrary to the gospel handed down by the apostles. He could see the warnings of Paul and Peter coming to pass before his eyes wreaking havoc on the Christians in his area.
Three were two main concerns for Irenaeus. Firstly, he wanted to show the distinct differences between Gnosticism and Christianity to the degree that the two could not be confused. Secondly, in doing so, he wanted to make sure that erroneous teachings could not survive nor take hold within the Christian tradition.
Even to this day, the work Against the Heresies, is a valuable resource for understanding how the mind of the early Christian church were able to recognise the errors and tackle them effectively so as to maintain the integrity of the gospel. The heresies we face today, with many of us at one time unknowingly entertaining them, have changed very little since those early years. It is fascinating how the heresies are explained and met by sound biblical exegesis. It is a valuable learning tool and foundation that was to preserve the gospel for centuries to come, even to this day.
I have it on good authority this is one of Baxter Kruger‘s favourite Apostolic writings.
Each of the lectures can be viewed internally or can be downloaded as a PDF.
Translated by Philip Schaff
Against the Heresies