Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Reading Ireneaus' Typology

The level of theology that can be found in Irenaeus of Lyons is quite shocking. While reading through his work On the Apostolic Preaching, I noticed that typology is used as a way of proving Christ’s identity.

The typological approach that Irenaeus uses is quite clear and systematic throughout his work On the Apostolic Preaching. He sets up this typology in two parts; from chapter 4-30 he tells the story of all of creation, starting from Genesis and continuing through the flood, Moses, the Prophets, and finally up to the incarnation. The second part starts at chapter 31 and extends to the end of the work. In the second section, Irenaeus takes the opportunity to point out how in every instance in the Old Testament, Christ was foretold. For Irenaeus, this foretelling is more than a mere foreshadowing. It is Christ truly present in all aspects of the Old Testament. When Abraham speaks to the three angels Irenaeus says, “Now two of three were angels, but one was the Son of God, with whom Abraham spoke…” and further down he says, “So, Abraham was a prophet and saw things of the future, which were come to pass, the Son of God in human form-that He was to speak with men and eat food with them…” (Ch. 44). And so, for Abraham, the incarnation was already a reality that he had beheld. It is also interesting that Irenaeus also emphasizes the rectifying of past wrongs in the person on Christ. He likes to contrast the mistakes made in the Old Testament with the successes Christ made in the new. This is shown in chapter 33 when he says, “For it was necessary for Adam to be recapitulated in Christ, that ‘mortality might be swallowed up in immortality’; and Eve in Mary, that a virgin, become the advocate for a virgin, might undo and destroy the virginal disobedience by virginal obedience.” In the same chapter this contrast is continued in reference to the crucifixion; “And the transgression which occurred through the tree was undone by the obedience of the tree-which [was shown when] the Son of Man, obeying God, was nailed to the tree, destroying the knowledge of evil, and introducing and providing the knowledge of the good: and evil is to disobey God, just as to obey God is good.”

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