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Home > Fathers of the Church > Against Heresies (St. Irenaeus) > Book V, Chapter 18

Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 18)

God the Father and His Word have formed all created things (which They use) by Their own power and wisdom, not out of defect or ignorance. The Son of God, who received all power from the Father, would otherwise never have taken flesh upon Him.

1. And such or so important a dispensation He did not bring about by means of the creations of others, but by His own; neither by those things which were created out of ignorance and defect, but by those which had their substance from the wisdom and power of His Father. For He was neither unrighteous, so that He should covet the property of another; nor needy, that He could not by His own means impart life to His own, and make use of His own creation for the salvation of man. For indeed the creation could not have sustained Him [on the cross], if He had sent forth [simply by commission] what was the fruit of ignorance and defect. Now we have repeatedly shown that the incarnate Word of God was suspended upon a tree, and even the very heretics do acknowledge that He was crucified. How, then, could the fruit of ignorance and defect sustain Him who contains the knowledge of all things, and is true and perfect? Or how could that creation which was concealed from the Father, and far removed from Him, have sustained His Word? And if this world were made by the angels (it matters not whether we suppose their ignorance or their cognizance of the Supreme God), when the Lord declared, For I am in the Father, and the Father in Me, John 14:11 how could this workmanship of the angels have borne to be burdened at once with the Father and the Son? How, again, could that creation which is beyond the Pleroma have contained Him who contains the entire Pleroma? Inasmuch, then, as all these things are impossible and incapable of proof, that preaching of the Church is alone true [which proclaims] that His own creation bare Him, which subsists by the power, the skill, and the wisdom of God; which is sustained, indeed, after an invisible manner by the Father, but, on the contrary, after a visible manner it bore His Word: and this is the true [Word].

2. For the Father bears the creation and His own Word simultaneously, and the Word borne by the Father grants the Spirit to all as the Father wills. To some He gives after the manner of creation what is made; but to others [He gives] after the manner of adoption, that is, what is from God, namely generation. And thus one God the Father is declared, who is above all, and through all, and in all. The Father is indeed above all, and He is the Head of Christ; but the Word is through all things, and is Himself the Head of the Church; while the Spirit is in us all, and He is the living water, John 7:39 which the Lord grants to those who rightly believe in Him, and love Him, and who know that there is one Father, who is above all, and through all, and in us all. Ephesians 4:6 And to these things does John also, the disciple of the Lord, bear witness, when he speaks thus in the Gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made. John 1:1, etc. And then he said of the Word Himself: He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. To His own things He came, and His own people received Him not. However, as many as did receive Him, to these gave He power to become the sons of God, to those that believe in His name. John 1:10, etc. And again, showing the dispensation with regard to His human nature, John said: And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. John 1:14 And in continuation he says, And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten by the Father, full of grace and truth. He thus plainly points out to those willing to hear, that is, to those having ears, that there is one God, the Father over all, and one Word of God, who is through all, by whom all things have been made; and that this world belongs to Him, and was made by Him, according to the Father's will, and not by angels; nor by apostasy, defect, and ignorance; nor by any power of Prunicus, whom certain of them also call the Mother; nor by any other maker of the world ignorant of the Father.

3. For the Creator of the world is truly the Word of God: and this is our Lord, who in the last times was made man, existing in this world, and who in an invisible manner contains all things created, and is inherent in the entire creation, since the Word of God governs and arranges all things; and therefore He came to His own in a visible manner, and was made flesh, and hung upon the tree, that He might sum up all things in Himself. And His own peculiar people did not receive Him, as Moses declared this very thing among the people: And your life shall be hanging before your eyes, and you will not believe your life. Deuteronomy 28:66 Those therefore who did not receive Him did not receive life. But to as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God. John 1:12 For it is He who has power from the Father over all things, since He is the Word of God, and very man, communicating with invisible beings after the manner of the intellect, and appointing a law observable to the outward senses, that all things should continue each in its own order; and He reigns manifestly over things visible and pertaining to men; and brings in just judgment and worthy upon all; as David also, clearly pointing to this, says, Our God shall openly come, and will not keep silence. Then he shows also the judgment which is brought in by Him, saying, A fire shall burn in His sight, and a strong tempest shall rage round about Him. He shall call upon the heaven from above, and the earth, to judge His people.

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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/0103518.htm>.

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