SELECTIONS FROM EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITERS: ILLUSTRATIVE OF CHURCH HISTORY TO THE TIME OF CONSTANTINE by Henry Melvill Gwatkin, M.A. First Edition, Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1893. Reprinted with additions and corrections, 1897, 1902, 1905. Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram, 2013.
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XXVIII. IRENAEUS, Adv. Haer. iii. 3.




 The Argument of Irenaeus from Tradition


Traditionem itaque apostolorum in toto mundo manifestatam, in omni ecclesia adest respicere omnibus qui vera velint videre; et habemus annumerare eos, qui ab apostolis instituti sunt episcopi in ecclesiis, et successores eorum usque ad nos, qui nihil tale docuerunt neque cognoverunt, quale ab his deliratur. Etenim si recondita mysteria scissent apostoli, quae seorsim et latenter ab reliquis perfectos docebant, his vel maxime traderent ea quibus etiam ipsas ecclesias committebant. Valde enim perfectos et irreprehensibiles in omnibus eos volebant esse, quos et successores relinquebant, suum ipsorum locum magisterii tradentes; quibus emendate agentibus fieret magna utilitas, lapsis autem summa calamitas.

Sed quoniam valde longum est in hoc tali volumine omnium ecclesiarum enumerare successiones; maximae et antiquissimae et omnibus cognitae, a gloriosissimis duobus apostolis Petro et Paulo Romae fundatae et constitutae ecclesiae, eam, quam habet ab apostolis traditionem, et annuntiatam hominibus fidem, per successiones episcoporum pervenientem usque ad nos indicantes, confundimus omnes eos, qui quoquo modo, vel per sibiplacentiam, vel vanam gloriam, vel per caecitatem et malam sententiam, praeterquam oportet colligunt. Ad hanc enim ecclesiam propter potentiorem principalitatem necesse est omnem convenire ecclesiam, hoc est, eos qui sunt undique fideles, in qua semper ab his, qui sunt undique, conservata est ea quae est ab apostolis traditio.

Θεμελιώσαντες οὖν καὶ οἰκοδομήσαντες οἱ μακάριοι ἀπόστολοι τὴν ἐκκλησίαν , Λίνῳ τὴν τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς λειτουργίαν ἐνεχείρισαν· τούτου τοῦ Λίνου Παῦλος ἐν ταῖς πρὸς Τιμόθεον ἐπιστολαῖς μέμνηται . ∆ιαδέχεται δὲ αὐτὸν Ἀνέγκλητος . Μετὰ τοῦτον δὲ τρίτῳ τόπῳ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων τὴν ἐπισκοπὴν κληροῦται Κλήμης , ὁ καὶ ἑωρακὼς τοὺς μακαρίους ἀποστόλους καὶ συμβεβληκὼς αὐτοῖς , καὶ ἔτι ἔναυλον τὸ κήρυγμα τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τὴν παράδοσιν πρὸ ὀφθαλμῶν ἔχων , οὐ μόνος· ἔτι γὰρ πολλοὶ ὑπελείποντο τότε ὑπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων δεδιδαγμένοι . Ἐπὶ τούτου οὖν τοῦ Κλήμεντος στάσεως οὐκ ὀλίγης τοῖς ἐν Κορίνθῳ γενομένης ἀδελφοῖς , ἐπέστειλεν ἡ ἐν Ῥώμῃ ἐκκλησία ἱκανωτάτην γραφὴν τοῖς Κορινθίοις , εἰς εἰρήνην συμβιβάζουσα αὐτοὺς καὶ ἀνανεοῦσα τὴν πίστιν αὐτῶν καὶ ἣν νεωστὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων παράδοσιν εἰλήφει .

Τὸν δὲ Κλήμεντα τοῦτον διαδέχεται Εὐάρεστος , καὶ τὸν Εὐάρεστον Ἀλέξανδρος , εἶθ ' οὕτως ἕκτος ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων καθίσταται Ξύστος , μετὰ δὲ τοῦτον Τελεσφόρος , ὃς καὶ ἐνδόξως ἐμαρτύρησεν· ἔπειτα Ὑγῖνος , εἶτα Πίος , μεθ ' ὃν Ἀνίκητος· διαδεξαμένου τὸν Ἀνίκητον Σωτῆρος , νῦν δωδεκάτῳ τόπῳ τὸν τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων κατέχει κλῆρον Ἐλεύθερος . Τῇ αὐτῇ τάξει καὶ τῇ αὐτῇ διδαχῇ ἥ τε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ παράδοσις καὶ τὸ τῆς ἀληθείας κήρυγμα κατήντηκεν εἰς ἡμᾶς .

Καὶ Πολύκαρπος δὲ οὐ μόνον ὑπὸ ἀποστόλων μαθητευθεὶς καὶ συναναστραφεὶς πολλοῖς τοῖς τὸν Κύριον ἑωρακόσιν , ἀλλὰ καὶ ὑπὸ ἀποστόλων κατασταθεὶς εἰς τὴν Ἀσίαν ἐν τῇ ἐν Σμύρνῃ ἐκκλησίᾳ ἐπίσκοπος , ὃν καὶ ἡμεῖς ἑωράκαμεν ἐν τῇ πρώτῃ ἡμῶν ἡλικίᾳ – ἐπὶ πολὺ γὰρ παρέμεινεν καὶ πάνυ γηραλέος ἐνδόξως καὶ ἐπιφανέστατα μαρτυρήσας ἐξῆλθεν τοῦ βίου –, ταῦτα διδάξας ἀεὶ ἃ καὶ παρὰ τῶν ἀποστόλων ἔμαθεν , ἃ καὶ ἡ ἐκκλησία παραδίδωσιν , ἃ καὶ μόνα ἐστὶν ἀληθῆ . Μαρτυροῦσι τούτοις αἱ κατὰ τὴν Ἀσίαν ἐκκλησίαι πᾶσαι καὶ οἱ μέχρι νῦν διαδεδεγμένοι τὸν Πολύκαρπον , πολλῷ ἀξιοπιστότερον καὶ βεβαιότερον ἀληθείας μάρτυρα ὄντα Οὐαλεντίνου καὶ Μαρκίωνος καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν κακογνωμόνων . Ὃς καὶ ἐπὶ Ἀνικήτου ἐπιδημήσας τῇ Ῥώμῃ , πολλοὺςἀπὸ τῶν προειρημένων αἱρετικῶν ἐπέστρεψεν εἰς τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ , μίαν καὶ μόνην ταύτην ἀλήθειαν κηρύξας ὑπὸ τῶν ἀποστόλων παρειληφέναι τὴν ὑπὸ τῆς ἐκκλησίας παραδιδομένην . Καὶ εἰσὶν οἱ ἀκηκοότες αὐτοῦ ὅτι Ἰωάννης ὁ τοῦ Κυρίου μαθητὴς ἐν τῇ Ἐφέσῳ πορευθεὶς λούσασθαι καὶ ἰδὼν ἔσω Κήρινθον ἐξήλατο τοῦ βαλανείου μὴ λουσάμενος , ἀλλ ' ἐπειπών· « Φύγωμεν , μὴ καὶ τὸ βαλανεῖον συμπέσῃ , ἔνδον ὄντος Κηρίνθου τοῦ τῆς ἀληθείας ἐχθροῦ .» Καὶ αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ Πολύκαρπος Μαρκίωνί ποτε εἰς ὄψιν αὐτῷ ἐλθόντι καὶ φήσαντι· « Ἐπιγίνωσκε ἡμᾶς », ἀπεκρίθη· « Ἐπιγινώσκω , ἐπιγινώσκω τὸν πρωτότοκον τοῦ Σατανᾶ .» Τοσαύτην οἱ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτῶν ἔσχον εὐλάβειαν πρὸς τὸ μηδὲ μέχρι λόγου κοινωνεῖν τινι τῶν παραχαρασσόντων τὴν ἀλήθειαν , ὡς καὶ Παῦλος ἔφησεν· « Αἱρετικὸν ἄνθρωπον μετὰ μίαν καὶ δευτέραν νουθεσίαν παραιτοῦ , εἰδὼς ὅτι ἐξέστραπται ὁ τοιοῦτος καὶ ἁμαρτάνει ὢν αὐτοκατάκριτος .» Ἔστιν δὲ καὶ ἐπιστολὴ Πολυκάρπου πρὸς Φιλιππησίους γεγραμμένη ἱκανωτάτη , ἐξ ἧς καὶ τὸν χαρακτῆρα τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ καὶ τὸ κήρυγμα τῆς ἀληθείας οἱ βουλόμενοι καὶ φροντίζοντες τῆς ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίας δύνανται μαθεῖν.

The tradition therefore of the Apostles, manifested in the entire world, is a thing which all who wish to see facts can clearly perceive in every Church; and we are able to count up those who were by the Apostles appointed bishops in the Churches, and the series of their successors to our own time, who neither taught nor knew anything resembling these men's dotage. For if the Apostles had known hidden mysteries which they used to teach the perfect apart from and without the knowledge of the rest, they would deliver them to those especially to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they desired them to be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom they were also leaving as their successors, delivering over to them their own proper seat of government; for if these should act rightly, great advantage would result, but if they fell away, the most disastrous calamity.

But since it would be very long in such a volume as this to count up the series of bishops in all the Churches, we confound all those who in any way, whether through self-pleasing or vain glory, or through blindness and evil opinion meet for worship otherwise than they ought – by pointing out the tradition (which it has from the Apostles) of the most great and ancient and universally-known Church, founded and established at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles Peter and Paul; and also the faith declared to men, which comes down to our own time through the successions of bishops. For to this Church, on account of its more powerful lead, every Church, meaning the faithful who are from everywhere, must needs resort; since in it that tradition which is from the Apostles has been preserved by those who are from everywhere.

The blessed Apostles having founded and established the Church, entrusted the office of the episcopate to Linus. Paul speaks of this Linus in his Epistles to Timothy. Anencletus succeeded him, and after Anencletus, in the third place from the Apostles, Clement received the episcopate. He had seen and conversed with the blessed Apostles, and their preaching was still sounding in his ears, and their tradition was still before his eyes. Nor was he alone in this, for many who had been taught by the Apostles yet survived. In the times of Clement, a serious dissension having arisen among the brethren in Corinth, the Church of Rome sent a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, reconciling them in peace, renewing their faith, and proclaiming the doctrine lately received from the Apostles.

Evarestus succeeded Clement, and Alexander Evarestus. Then Xystus, the sixth from the Apostles, was appointed. After him Telesphorus, who suffered martyrdom gloriously; then Hyginus; then Pius; and after him Anicetus; Soter succeeded Anicetus; and now, in the twelfth place from the Apostles, Eleutherus holds the office of bishop. In the same order and succession the tradition in the Church and the preaching of the truth has descended from the Apostles unto us.

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by Apostles, and familiar with many that had seen Christ, but was also appointed by Apostles in Asia bishop of the Church of Smyrna. We too saw him in our early youth; for he lived a long time, and died, when a very old man, a glorious and most illustrious martyr's death, having always taught the things which he had learned from the Apostles, which the Church also hands down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those who, down to the present time, have succeeded Polycarp, who was a much more trustworthy and certain witness of the truth than Valentinus and Marcion and the rest of the evil-minded. He was also in Rome in the time of Anicetus and caused many to turn away from the above-mentioned heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received from the Apostles this one and only system of truth which has been transmitted by the Church. And there are those that heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe in Ephesus and seeing Cerinthus within, ran out of the bath-house without bathing, crying, 'Let us flee, lest even the bath-house fall, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.' And Polycarp himself, when Marcion once met him and said, 'Do you know us?' replied, 'I know the first-born of Satan.' Such caution did the Apostles and their disciples exercise that they might not even converse with any of those who perverted the truth; as Paul also said, 'A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sins, being condemned of himself.' There is also a very powerful epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those that wish to do so, and that are concerned for their own salvation, may learn the character of his faith and the preaching of the truth.

A.N. L.


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