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Home > Fathers of the Church > Against Heresies (St. Irenaeus) > Book II, Chapter 35

Against Heresies (Book II, Chapter 35)

Refutation of Basilides, and of the opinion that the prophets uttered their predictions under the inspiration of different gods.

1. Moreover, in addition to what has been said, Basilides himself will, according to his own principles, find it necessary to maintain not only that there are three hundred and sixty-five heavens made in succession by one another, but that an immense and innumerable multitude of heavens have always been in the process of being made, and are being made, and will continue to be made, so that the formation of heavens of this kind can never cease. For if from the efflux of the first heaven the second was made after its likeness, and the third after the likeness of the second, and so on with all the remaining subsequent ones, then it follows, as a matter of necessity, that from the efflux of our heaven, which he indeed terms the last, another be formed like to it, and from that again a third; and thus there can never cease, either the process of efflux from those heavens which have been already made, or the manufacture of [new] heavens, but the operation must go on ad infinitum, and give rise to a number of heavens which will be altogether indefinite.

2. The remainder of those who are falsely termed Gnostics, and who maintain that the prophets uttered their prophecies under the inspiration of different gods, will be easily overthrown by this fact, that all the prophets proclaimed one God and Lord, and that the very Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things which are therein; while they moreover announced the advent of His Son, as I shall demonstrate from the Scriptures themselves, in the books which follow.

3. If, however, any object that, in the Hebrew language, diverse expressions [to represent God] occur in the Scriptures, such as Sabaoth, Eloë, Adonai, and all other such terms, striving to prove from these that there are different powers and gods, let them learn that all expressions of this kind are but announcements and appellations of one and the same Being. For the term Eloë in the Jewish language denotes God, while Elōeim and Eleōuth in the Hebrew language signify that which contains all. As to the appellation Adonai, sometimes it denotes what is nameable and admirable; but at other times, when the letter Daleth in it is doubled, and the word receives an initial guttural sound— thus Addonai— [it signifies], One who bounds and separates the land from the water, so that the water should not subsequently submerge the land. In like manner also, Sabaoth, when it is spelled by a Greek Omega in the last syllable [Sabaōth], denotes a voluntary agent; but when it is spelled with a Greek Omicron — as, for instance, Sabaŏth— it expresses the first heaven. In the same way, too, the word Jaōth, when the last syllable is made long and aspirated, denotes a predetermined measure; but when it is written shortly by the Greek letter Omicron, namely Jaŏth, it signifies one who puts evils to flight. All the other expressions likewise bring out the title of one and the same Being; as, for example, The Lord of Powers, The Father of all, God Almighty, The Most High, The Creator, The Maker, and such like. These are not the names and titles of a succession of different beings, but of one and the same, by means of which the one God and Father is revealed, He who contains all things, and grants to all the boon of existence.

4. Now, that the preaching of the apostles, the authoritative teaching of the Lord, the announcements of the prophets, the dictated utterances of the apostles, and the ministration of the law— all of which praise one and the same Being, the God and Father of all, and not many diverse beings, nor one deriving his substance from different gods or powers, but [declare] that all things [were formed] by one and the same Father (who nevertheless adapts [His works] to the natures and tendencies of the materials dealt with), things visible and invisible, and, in short, all things that have been made [were created] neither by angels, nor by any other power, but by God alone, the Father— are all in harmony with our statements, has, I think, been sufficiently proved, while by these weighty arguments it has been shown that there is but one God, the Maker of all things. But that I may not be thought to avoid that series of proofs which may be derived from the Scriptures of the Lord (since, indeed, these Scriptures do much more evidently and clearly proclaim this very point), I shall, for the benefit of those at least who do not bring a depraved mind to bear upon them, devote a special book to the Scriptures referred to, which shall fairly follow them out [and explain them], and I shall plainly set forth from these divine Scriptures proofs to [satisfy] all the lovers of truth.

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Source. Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103235.htm>.

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