Irenaeus of Lyons: Identifying Christianity

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book provides a full, contextual study of St Irenaeus of Lyons, the first great theologian of the Christian tradition. It sets Irenaeus both within his own context of the second century — a fundamental period for the formation of Christian identity, during which he elaborated the distinction between orthodoxy and heresy and expounded a comprehensive theological vision — and also within our own contemporary context, in which these issues are very much alive again. Against the usual modern assumption that ‘orthodoxy’ is a rhetorical construction, aimed at curtailing the diversity of primitive Christianity and excluding the ‘heretics’ on the basis of patriarchal power and intolerance, this book argues that the ‘heretics’ were the ones who were intolerant, leaving the broader community to found churches consisting of those who agree with themselves. In turn, the early Church was ‘catholic’ not because it was monolithically uniform, but because it embraced a variety of voices all willing to work together within shared parameters — a New Testament, rule of truth, apostolic tradition, and succession — that became clearer through debate. The theological vision elaborated by Irenaeus is important both as a historical phenomenon and also for our own contemporary situation: it answers questions we have today about Scripture, interpretation of Scripture, Adam and Christ, and what it means to be human in a tremendously positive fashion. Never again does someone say, with such clarity and force, that ‘the glory of God is a living human being’; yet that he is speaking of a martyr simultaneously challenges us in a unique manner today.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)
Number of pages231
ISBN (Print)9780199214624
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Publication series

NameChristian Theology in Context


  • orthodoxy
  • heresy
  • Scripture
  • human being
  • Christ
  • Adam
  • exegesis
  • martyr
  • canon
  • rule of truth


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