Irenaeus on the Three Articles

Today is the one-month anniversary of The Recapitulator.  It would have been nice if I could have finished up my “What is Biblical Theology?” series today; but I’m still working away at it.  I couldn’t, however, let this one-month anniversary come and go without having its own post.  So, without comment from me, I thought I would invite Irenaeus, my second dedicatee, to talk to us about what he refers to as the three articles of our faith.  This comes from his Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching.  The translation is that of  John Behr in the Popular Patristics Series.

And this is the order of our faith, the foundation of the edifice and the support of our conduct: God, the Father, uncreated, uncontainable, invisible, one God, the Creator of all: this is the first article of our faith.

And the second article: the Word of God, the Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who was revealed by the prophets according to the character of their prophecy and according to the nature of the economies of the Father, by whom all things were made, and who, in the last times, to recapitulate all things, became a man amongst men, visible and palpable, in order to abolish death, to demonstrate life, and to effect communion between God and man.

And the third article: the Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied and the patriarchs learnt the things of God and the righteous were led in the path of righteousness, and who, in the last times, was poured out in a new fashion upon the human race renewing man, throughout the world, to God.

Jerry Shepherd
September 23, 2013

11 thoughts on “Irenaeus on the Three Articles

    • Behr has just recently come out with an important new book on Irenaeus. Unfortunately, it’s published by Oxford University Press, which means that the book, which should sell at the most for, lets say, $24.99, is priced at about $120. Oh well. In a couple of years maybe I’ll buy a used copy!

  1. These are critical and essential.

    As I read them and considered our opportunities into the community I hope to touch those unchurched around me with an awareness of these terse essential statements…What do you think?
    Enthused, Ken Walker

    • I think it’s a great and lofty goal. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you already know, our world is not too receptive to God-centered statements; they’re used to hearing, and expecting to hear, things that are all about them. Also unfortunately, even the church, to a considerable extent, partakes in this anthropological narcissism. So, prayer is essential. Blessings on the endeavor.

  2. Before I read this, I had never heard Christ described as “palpable.” I so like that. May Christ be palpable to all of us today!

    • Hi Brent,

      I fully agree with your desires that Christ would be palpable. However, it’s also important to note that Irenaeus, when he used the term, was referring to the historical Jesus “in the days of his flesh” (Heb 5:7; cf. 1 John 1:1); i.e., literally palpable. So if Christ is “palpable” to us today, it would only be in a spiritual, non-material sense.

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