Irenaeus, Saint

Irenaeus, Saint

(īrĭnē`əs), c.125–c.202, Greek theologian, bishop of Lyons, and one of the Fathers of the ChurchFathers of the Church,
collective name for the Christian writers of early times whose work is considered generally orthodox. A convenient definition includes all such writers up to and including St. Gregory I (St. Gregory the Great) in the West and St.
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. Born in Asia Minor, he was a disciple of St. PolycarpPolycarp, Saint
, c.A.D. 70–A.D. 156?, Greek bishop of Smyrna, Father of the Church. He was a disciple of St. John, who appointed him bishop. Thus he linked the apostles and such 2d-century Christian expositors as St. Irenaeus. St. Polycarp was a close friend of St.
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. Irenaeus went to Rome to plead for leniency toward the Montanists (see MontanismMontanism
, apocalyptic movement of the 2d cent. It arose in Phrygia (c.172) under the leadership of a certain Montanus and two female prophets, Prisca and Maximillia, whose entranced utterances were deemed oracles of the Holy Spirit.
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) and for those Eastern Christians who were threatened with excommunication because they did not observe the Roman date for Easter. He remained in the West and died in Gaul. Irenaeus was the earliest Father of the Church to systematize those Christian beliefs that would later be accepted as orthodox doctrine and is cited frequently by later theologians. Only two of his works survive—neither in the original Greek. The five-volume Against Heresies establishes Christian doctrine against the Gnostics and incidentally supplies much information on Gnosticism. The Epideixix is a concise exposition of Christian doctrine (tr. by J. P. Smith, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, 1952). Feast: June 28.
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