Irenaeus of Lyons (c130-202) was the greatest theologian of the early post-apostolic church. In his writings we have access to the Christian teaching of a spiritual grandson of the apostle John, for Irenaeus’ instructor in the faith was himself taught by the apostle. Irenaeus stresses the importance of apostolic teaching and faithfully handing on the apostolic tradition. His presentation of the Christian faith deserves careful attention, since he knew exactly what he was talking about. There is no better avenue to the apostolic tradition in the early church than his writings.
Irenaeus’ massive Against Heresies offers a winsome and compelling presentation of the Christian faith, but few have read this magnum opus since the first two of its five books focus on exposing and answering Gnostic heresies, and the only complete English version is difficult to read.
This volume eliminates both these obstacles. James Payton has condensed Against Heresies by cutting out most of the interaction with the Gnostics, allowing Irenaeus’ rich presentation on the Christian faith to shine through. Furthermore, the author has refurbished the English prose to make it accessible to contemporary readers. With this distillation readers now have access to Irenaeus’ rich presentation of the Christian faith, saturated in a thorough knowledge of Scripture and steadfastly rooted in the apostolic tradition of the early church.
Anyone who wants to know what the early Christian church had received and passed on from the apostles can do no better than to begin with this book.
Book 1: Exposing Heresy: The Views of the Gnostics
Book 2: Exposing Heresy: Disunity among the Gnostics
Book 3: The Christian Faith, as Drawn from the Apostles’ Teachings
Book 4: The Christian Faith, as Drawn from the Words Spoken by Christ
Book 5: The Christian Faith, as Drawn from Further Teaching of Christ and the Apostles
Endorsements and Reviews
James Payton begins his book with a cymbal clash: ‘Irenaeus was the greatest theologian to arise in the Church since the times of the Apostles.’ He is absolutely right. In recent decades he has been caricatured, by some, in the cause of rehabilitating the Gnostics, but his status as a Christian theologian is monumental and his insight is mystically profound. He remains one of the greatest Fathers of the Church catholic; and it is wonderful to see this artistic and skilful abridgement of his signature work made widely available for a new era.
John A. McGuckin, Columbia University
In the course of the past several decades, Dr. Payton has emphasized the huge importance of St. Irenaeus of Lyons for the history of theology. For years Payton has studied the most important of Irenaeus’ books, Against Heresies, helping to shape an understanding of the ancient theologian as a contemporary. … Besides being very approachable for a common reader the book is academically inviting. Irenaeus is portrayed as an author who can be recommended to students and laymen, as well as a broad academic audience. Payton’s work on the exploration of patristic theology cannot be overrated and represents a great contribution to the academic theological community.
Boris Gunjevic, Matthias Flacius Illyricus Faculty of Theology, Zagreb, Croatia
His [Irenaeus] most important writings Against Heresies was a powerful refutation of Gnostic thought. This book presents an anthology (condensation) of this work.
Anthony Dupont, in Tijdschrift voor Theologie, Vol 52:2
… a phenomenal example of theology written in the trenches.
Charles Meeks, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol 20, No 3