Irenaeus on Development of Doctrine

The Lord of all gave his apostles the power of the Gospel, and by them we have known the truth, that is, the teaching of the Son of God. To THEM the Lord said, “He who hears you hears me, and he who despises me and Him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).

For we have known the “economy” for our salvation only through those through whom the Gospel came to us; and WHAT THEY FIRST PREACHED THEY LATER, by God’s will, TRANSMITTED TO US IN THE SCRIPTURES SO THAT WOULD BE THE FOUNDATION AND PILLAR OF OUR FAITH (1 Tim. 3:15).

It is not right to say that they preached before they had perfect knowledge, as some venture to say, boasting that they are correctors of the apostles. For after our Lord arose from the dead and they were clad with power from on high by the coming of the Holy Spirit, THEY WERE FILLED CONCERNING EVERYTHING AND HAD PERFECT KNOWLEDGE. They went forth to the ends of the earth, proclaiming the news of the good gifts to us from God and announcing heavenly peace to men. Collectively and individually they had the Gospel of God.

Thus Matthew published among the Hebrews a gospel written in their language, at the time when Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and founding the church there. After their death Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself delivered to us in writing what had been announced by Peter. Luke, the follower of Paul, put down in a book the Gospel preached by him. Later John the Lord’s disciple, who reclined on his bosom, himself published the Gospel while staying at Ephesus in Asia.

Thus the TRADITION OF THE APOSTLES, manifest in the whole world, is present in EVERY CHURCH [in the form of the Scriptures] to be perceived by all who wish to see the truth.

(“Irenaeus of Lyons,” “Against Heresies,” from the “Prospectus for Book III “and 3.1, Robert M. Grant, pg.. 123-124. Emphasis supplied.)

Now, this is precisely the opposite of what the “Doctrine of Development” tells us. It tells us that the church needed to reflect on “the deposit of faith,” because somehow, the Apostles failed to relate everything that needed to be known. In effect, it makes the later, “infallible” Church, to be “the correctors of the apostles.

Further to this, to Irenaeus, the four gospels alone were “the Tradition of the Apostles” itself.

2 replies on “Irenaeus on Development of Doctrine”

  1. Very good. I appreciate the insight, but would encourage all Christians to strive for unity in the faith, forgiving one another all things as Christ forgave each of us. This means accepting those who do not see things as we do so long as they confess Jesus as the risen Saviour and manifest Son of God.
    again thanks


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