Thursday, August 30, 2007

An Allusion to 1 Co 13.8-10 in the Introduction of Irenaeus's Against Heresies

Sort of interesting, Irenaeus seems to understand the "perfect" in 1 Co 13.10 to be the Gospel preached by the Apostles and recorded in the Scriptures.

Recall that, for Paul, the coming of "the perfect" heralds an end to the gift of tongues, prophecy, and partial knowledge. Paul writes: "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are ongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away" (1 Co 13.8-10).

In the introduction to Book III of Against Heresies, Irenaeus writes:

We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed "perfect knowledge," as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.

I "think" the italicized passages are an allusion to 1 Co 13. Although, if true, Irenaeus's chronology would seem to fit uncomfortably with what I take to be the sequence implicit in Paul's argument. It's interesting nonetheless.


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