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Patristic Symposium 2018 - Abstracts

St Irenaeus of Lyons: History, Theology and Significance of the Apologists

Friday 24 August - Saturday 25 August, 2018

Within the premises of the College

View Symposium Program

Organised by:
Prof. Jim Harrison
Dr Philip Kariatlis

 

Keynote

Keynote Speaker

Very Revd Prof. John Behr

The Father Georges Florovsky Distinguished Professor of Patristics, St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, New York

Metropolitan Kallistos Chair of Orthodox Theology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam

Title

St Irenaeus and the School of St John

Abstract

When St Irenaeus expounded, for the first time in history, the contours of the Orthodox faith, appealing to the canon of truth, the tradition of the apostles, apostolic succession, and using, for the first time, all the books of the New Testament as Scripture, in giving, again for the first time, an account of the whole economy of God, with his Hands, the Son and the Spirit, bringing the creature formed from mud to share in his life and glory, he did so by self-consciously appealing to the tradition, and indeed, living memory of John, the disciple of the Lord. This lecture will look at the legacy of John in his ‘school’, that is figures such as St Polycarp, Melito, and Polycrates, all culminating in the person of St Irenaeus of Lyons, an Easterner in the West.

 



Presenters

 

Revd Girgis al-Antony

St Athanasius College, University of Divinity, Melbourne

Title

The Influence of the Theology of St Irenaeus on the Contemporary Coptic Theology Embodied in the Writings and Teachings of Fr Matthew the Poor

Abstract

Fr Matthew the poor is one of the most prominent figures of the Coptic Church in the modern era. Hailed as a contemporary desert father, and recognized internationally for his spiritual and scholastic writings, since his death in 2004, there have been nine doctoral dissertations written, and symposia held that focus on his thoughts and teachings. He published more than 15 volumes of Biblical commentaries on the New Testament, and authored books on topics that range from theological and spiritual issues to social issues such as marriage, birth control, women’s rights, and politics in the Church. The teachings of St Irenaeus deeply impacted these of Fr Matthew. In fact, when interpreting the Christian faith in his writings, he frequently referred to the teachings of St Irenaeus and accordingly, presented in a mystically yet contemporary style the mystery of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ through whom God reconciled humanity and “recapitulating” them in Himself. In this paper I will highlight the influence St Irenaeus had on the thoughts and teachings of Fr Matthew, who is now recognized as “a contemporary mystical theologian.”


Dr Mario Baghos

Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Philosophy and Theology, University of Notre Dame

Adjunct Lecturer, School of Theology, Charles Sturt University

Title

Apologetics of Ecclesial Art within the Byzantine Empire

Abstract

The paper argues that the production of early ecclesial art between the fourth and sixth centuries, while often sponsored by imperial authorities who were often themselves Christian, was part of an apologetic program employed by the Church to curtail the imperial court’s tendencies to cross the boundaries between Church and state. In other words, the Church often resisted attempts at total imperialisation which were especially a problem during the reigns of Arian kings such as Constantius II and Valens, and later emperors who promoted heresies such as monothelitism and iconoclasm at the Church’s expense. Instead, from very early on we can discern the Church’s attempts to constantly remind the imperial court that Christ was head of the Church and the world by shifting the emphasis onto Christ and the saints through visual display. This paper is therefore nuanced, asserting that although from the fourth century onwards the affairs of the Church and state were bound up, nevertheless the former subtly reacted to the latter’s imperialistic propensities, especially in the realm of art where the emperor was depicted as subordinate to Christ and his saints. Indeed, since the saints were traditionally envisaged as participants in Christ, their images also contributed to the Christocentricity of ecclesial art in this period insofar as the holy figures always pointed to their Master. This will also be an aspect assessed by this paper, which will cover the development of some of these images from the fourth to sixth centuries, contextualising, at the end, their positioning within an emergent architectural symbolism that further pointed to the Church’s hagio/Christocentricity.


Sr Dr Margart Beirne RSC

Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies

St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College (Sydney NSW)

Title

St Irenaeus, the Scriptures and the Contribution of Fr Antonio Orbe

Abstract

Irenaeus’ frequent references to the scriptures are best understood in their historical and ecclesial context, that is, he regarded them as a ‘rule of faith’ against which to defend the truths of Christianity ‘against the heresies’. The first part of this presentation will explore the ways in which he thus used the Old Testament, the letters of Paul and especially the Four Gospels whose canonical status he was the first to articulate. In the second part, I shall provide an overview of the extraordinary contribution to Irenaean studies by the Spanish Jesuit Fr Antonio Orbe (1917-2003).


Revd Damaskinos of Xenophon

University of Eastern Finland/ Holy Monastery of Xenophon, Mount Athos

Title

Liturgical Apologetics after Irenaeus: St John Damascene and His Anti-Heretical Preaching

Abstract

St John Damascene, one of the most prominent theologians of the Middle Byzantine era, has been characterized by Fr Andrew Louth as keeping a balance between ’tradition and innovation’. His apologetic activities are most often seen through his dogmatic texts, including De Haeresibus, where he offers a comprehensive list of Christian heresies, including the first Christian condemnation of a new heresy called Islam. His most famous apologetic text is, however, his tripartite treatise against the iconoclasts. The present paper sheds light on an aspect of St Damascene’s apologetic activities that is often neglected: his homiletic repertoire. St John was considered one of the best preachers of his era (thus acquiring the epithet Chrysorrhoas). I shall discuss the anti-heretic passages in his homiletic oeuvre, its rhetorical and dialogic functions, comparing this 8th century situation with St Irenaeus’ own apologetic context.


Dr Bernard Doherty & Ms Shelley Thompson

St Mark’s National Theological Centre, Charles Sturt University, Canberra

Title

A Defence on Multiple Fronts: Irenaeus of Lyons and Justin Martyr’s Responses to the Persecution of Christians in the Second-Century

Abstract

In recent years research on the martyrdom and persecution of the early Christians has undergone something of a renaissance in patristic scholarship. As part of this revival of scholarly interest greater attention has been paid to the different attitudes toward martyrdom and persecution exhibited in various patristic writers and their opponents – real or implied. In this paper we address how two second century patristic writers, Irenaeus of Lyons and Justin Martyr, sought to defend Christians and their martyrs against calumnies on various fronts. Firstly this paper will examine the social context of the Antonine period, which for Christians was marked by internal turmoil, persecution, and numerical growth, as a lens for understanding how these two writers approached the theological significance of martyrdom as a vital component of Christian identity. Secondly this paper will demonstrate the ways in which Justin Martyr, ostensibly addressing himself to the imperial authorities, sought to provide a rational defence of Christian martyrdom in the face of pagan and Jewish criticism, and how Irenaeus of Lyons, by contrast, sought as part of his wider heresiological program to defend Christian martyrdom against various heterodox elements within the wider Christian milieu.


Dr Lydia Gore-Jones

Lecturer in Biblical Studies

St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College (Sydney NSW)

Title

Irenaeus and Jewish Apocalyptic Traditions

Abstract

In his Against the Heresies, while refuting his opponents, St Irenaeus also articulates his own vision of the one oikonomia of the one God the Father through His Christ in making the human person in His own image and likeness. In Book 5 of AH, Irenaeus envisions an eschaton that coheres with the beginning of creation and serves God’s purpose of perfecting the human person in His divine dispensation. For this argument, Irenaeus makes use of a wide range of Jewish apocalyptic traditions. Apart from the Apocalypse of John and Daniel, Irenaeus also offers eschatological interpretations of Jeremiah, Isaiah, as well as accounts of the patriarchs in Genesis. Most significantly, Irenaeus cites extra-biblical traditions about end times. His depiction of the earthly messianic kingdom, for example, demonstrates striking similarities to the eschatological visions in the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch (2 Baruch), a Jewish apocalypse written around the end of the first century, thus indicating shared traditions. This paper argues that, in so doing, Irenaeus is not simply describing a scheme and timetable of end times; rather, he uses these traditions to emphasise the indispensable role of flesh and blood in the divine oikonomia, the salvation of flesh and blood as part of God’s anthropos-making plan, and the function of renewed and perfected creation for the growth and education of humanity to perfection. In this regard, Irenaeus is rather unique among early Church Fathers. While others show, in their theological and anthropological visions, influences of the strand of Jewish apocalyptic tradition that features heavenly journeys, spiritual ascents and angelic theoria, Irenaeus, on the other hand, shows to be heir to the strand of Jewish apocalyptic tradition that envisions an end with the blessing of union with God that is materially abundant, concretely earthy, upon this world created by God from the beginning.


Sr Dr Virginia Hutchinson

Independent Scholar

Title

Little by Little or Quick Fix

Abstract

Irenaeus AH V.8.1 ‘But we do now receive a certain portion of His Spirit, tending towards perfection, and preparing us for incorruption, being little by little accustomed to receive and bear God; which also the apostle terms “an earnest,” that is part of the honour which has been promised to us by God. (Ref Eph.1:13ff) […] This earnest, therefore, thus dwelling in us, renders us spiritual even now, and the mortal is swallowed up by immortality […] what shall the complete grace of the Spirit effect, which shall be given to men by God? It will render us like unto Him and accomplish the will of the Father; for it shall make man after the image and likeness of God.’ The scope of our salvation is spelt out here, namely, a transformation which is achieved gradually, little by little. Whilst the research scientists will comprehend the ‘little by little,’ pathway, readily, the modern popular ethos, into ‘instant coffee’, finds delight in a ‘quick fix’ remedy to a problem, and wants to see results ‘immediately if not sooner.’  Irenaeus is writing of our being in relation to God, the Lord is central and leads his disciples. The ‘quick fix lobby’ is focussed on doing the task to be addressed and the person conducting the project is central to its success. Heavenly alongside earthly, communication is possible but careful packaging is required.


Dr Boo Teong Khoo

Sydney College of Divinity

Title

St Irenaeus of Lyons – Prophecies and the Work of the Holy Spirit for Today

Abstract

St Irenaeus of Lyons, in his writing The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, pointed out that the “Holy Sprit, through whom the prophets prophesied, and the fathers learned the things of God, and the righteous were led forth into the way of righteousness; and who in the end of the times was poured out in a new way” was both prophetic and insightful. Irenaeus appealed to prophecies to demonstrate the truthfulness of Christianity and this has come to pass in the history of the church universal with a contemporary application today in a new way with the advent of pentecostalism and the charismatic movements. It is prophetic in that the twentieth century is widely regarded as the century of the Holy Spirit and Eastern Christianity has always placed great emphasis on pneumatology and the interior life of the Holy Sprit in the lives of believers. It is insightful in that the Holy Spirit has never been more relevant than today where the work of the Holy Spirit continues to be demonstrated powerfully in the last days in all areas of life. This is especially true at the frontiers of Christianity in areas where it is hardest to do evangelism, that is, in the Muslim world.


Dr Andrew Mellas

Lecturer in Church History

St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College (Sydney NSW)

Title

Irenaeus of Lyons’ “Symphony of Salvation” in Romanos the Melodist’s Hymn On the Holy Nativity

Abstract

In Against the Heresies, Irenaeus of Lyons strikingly proclaims that it is God who “harmonises the human race to the symphony of salvation” (4.14.2). According to Irenaeus, God redeems humanity from the nightmare of history in the economy of salvation. The significance of this theme in Irenaeus’ theology resonates in a little-known composition by the sixth-century hymnographer, Romanos the Melodist, which meditates on the events surrounding the nativity of Christ. In this alternative hymn On the Holy Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the history that divides and orders the narrative of salvation and its scriptural characters in the Bible is suspended as time and place are blurred. In Romanos’ hymn, Mary warbles a sweet song of praise to her child that is heard by Eve and the slumbering Adam. The first-created humans shed tears at the feet of Theotokos who is portrayed as the spiritual paradise from which Christ—the new Adam—blossoms. Mary feels compassion and entreats the child who is God before the ages to give Adam and Eve life. It is only then that Christ reveals to the Virgin his desire from eternity for the Passion. This paper will explore how aspects of Irenaeus’ theology emerge in the hymn by Romanos, which dissolves the limits of history and the bounds of Scripture through the liturgical performance of salvation.


Dr Joe Mock

Australian College of Theology

Title

The Swiss Reformer Heinrick Bullinger’s Appropriation of the Thought of Irenaeus of Lyons

Abstract

Statistical analysis of the citations of the Church Fathers is not the only way to determine how the reformers in the 16th century made use of and were influenced by the Early Church Fathers. This paper builds on the observation made by Joachim Staedtke in his die Theologie des jungen Bullinger (1962) that many of the themes in Irenaeus’ works are reflected in the writings of Bullinger. This is particularly evident in Bullinger’s constant emphasis on the message of the biblical canon as a whole using the classic rhetorical approaches of hypothesis, economy and recapitulation. Bullinger’s The Old Faith (1537) may be regarded as modeled on Irenaeus’ The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching in terms of structure as well as its apologetic, catechetical and polemical purpose. Bullinger’s tome against the Anabaptists, Der Widertoeufferen (1561) is clearly based on Against Haereses as in this work Bullinger directly cites the strategy of Irenaeus by which he sought to combat the Gnostics. Irenaeus is cited from time to time in Bullinger’s exegetical works. Although there are many parallels between Bullinger and Irenaeus vis-à-vis the place of tradition, Christ as the “treasure” of biblical revelation, the place of torah in salvation history, the significance of the covenant in salvation history, the incarnation of Christ, the two natures in Christ, the protoevangelium, the relationship between Adam and Christ and many other themes, nonetheless, Bullinger’s understanding of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper is markedly different from that of Irenaeus.


Dr Vicki Petrakis

Macquarie University

Title

The Trinitarian Basis of the Human Person in St Irenaeus of Lyons

Abstract

In the second century AD, Christianity was challenged by gnostic cosmology and cosmogony that presented a clash between the corporeal and the spiritual realms; the body and the divine. According to St Irenaeus of Lyons, the gnostic world was riddled with demonic angels that played havoc on the human soul trying to make its way back to the uncreated Father. Their account of creation was confined to mythical stories that stood in contrast to the divine Maker who is vested in what he creates.This paper will examine the theological anthropology of St. Irenaeus of Lyons. It will look at his tripartite understanding of the human person, as fleshy admixture, handiwork and flesh with a soul and spirit, in various configurations of this formula. This biblical account has its basis in how Irenaeus talks about the Trinitarian God, as Creator ex nihilo, vested in what he creates; not on account of God needing creation but because Irenaeus sees in this creative act (which is connected with God’s will and command) God’s economia and salvation entrenched in it. Therefore, the complete human nature as rational and free in body, soul and spirit can participate in the glory of God because the enfleshed Christ affects salvation, redirecting the image in the likeness of God.
St Irenaeus leaves us with a naturally unified identity of the human person who is wholly saved. Through his theological anthropology, we will also encounter his doctrine of God as trinitarian, who is not divided from creation and human nature, but is part of one’s bodily and spiritual make up and the source of one’s salvation.



Mr Jonatan Simons

Australian Catholic University

Title

Ptolemy’s Letter to Flora in Book 2 of Irenaeus’ Against Heresies

Abstract

This paper suggests that Irenaeus’s argument in Book 2 of Against Heresies responds to challenges presented in Ptolemy's Letter to Flora. The Letter to Flora, (1) contrasts its own analysis of creation with that of Marcion, (2) shows discontinuity between the Pentateuch and the Gospel of Matthew, and (3) divides the Law and deity into three levels by differentiating the essence (οὐσία) and nature (φῦσις) of the simple Father from the Creator. Scholarship has examined (what appear to be) specific references to the school of Ptolemy in Book 1 of Against Heresies (especially haer. 1.8.5) and has concluded that while the two texts are not mutually exclusive, one cannot draw the teaching of Ptolemy from haer. 1.8.5 because of the lack of parallels with the Letter to Flora. This paper suggests that Irenaeus’s argument for creation in Book 2 of Against Heresies parallels the Letter to Flora because (1) the cosmological structure of Marcion is contrasted with another unnamed Valentinian system, (2) continuity between Law and Gospels is prioritized, and (3) Irenaeus's specific description of a “Simple” God depends on the unseparated creative activity of Father and Logos.


Revd Joseph Vnuk

Catholic Theological Institute

Title

Gratitude, Grace and Divinisation in Irenaeus

Abstract

In his article “Envy and Ingratitude in the Adversus Haereses,” Michael Heintz comments that “it is quite possible that he encountered these ideas in the Hellenistic moralists,” but does not consider this a line worth pursuing. This paper will pursue the Hellenistic background, particularly the literature on the Greco-Roman practice of gift exchange, typified by Seneca's De Beneficiis, and sometimes drawing upon the related ethnographic literature, such as Marcel Mauss' The Gift.  Heintz rightly observes that gratitude and ingratitude are essential for understanding Irenaeus' maxim “Deus quidem facit, homo autem fit” [God makes, but the human being is made]; indeed, a fuller understanding of gratitude will allow deeper exploration of Irenaeus’ characterisation of the divine-human relationship.  In particular, we can see here a pre-Augustinian teaching on grace, which as charis is both God's undeserved kindness to us, and our gratitude to God.  And as this maxim can authentically be expanded to “Deus quidem facit hominem, homo autem fit deus” [God makes the human being, the human being is made divine], we can see that Irenaeus, in characterising God's stance to us as unchanging charis, is implicitly saying that our charis is not merely thanks for his gift, but is in itself our divinisation at work. This opens up new insights on the Eucharist, which Christ gave us to teach us how to be grateful.  Heintz has explored the connections between gratitude (eucharistia) and sacrifice, but we are now in a position to consider more closely the link between the ritual of the Eucharist, gratitude, divinisation and immortality.