The Asia Minor Conception Of Chr

The Asia Minor school regarded Christianity primarily as redemption,

salvation, the imparting of new power, life, and incorruptibility by union

with divinity in the Incarnation. Its leading representative was Irenaeus,

a native of Asia Minor, but many of his leading ideas had been anticipated

by Ignatius of Antioch, and they were shared by many others.

The theology of Irenaeus influenced Tertullian to some extent, but

essential points were reproduced by Athanasius, who was directly indebted

to Irenaeus, and through him it superseded in the Neo-Alexandrian school

the tradition derived through Origen and Clement from the apologists.

Characteristic features of the Asia Minor theology are the place assigned

to the Incarnation as itself effecting redemption or salvation, the idea

of recapitulation whereby Christ becomes the head of a new race of

redeemed men, a second Adam, and of the eucharist as imparting the

incorruptibility of Christ's immortal flesh which is received by the


(a) Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., V, 1. (MSG, 7:1119.)

The position of the Incarnation in the system and its relation to


In no other way could we have learned the things of God, if our Master,

existing previously as the Word, had not been made man. For no one else

could have declared to us the truths of the Father than the Father's own

Word. For who else knew the mind of the Lord or who else has been his

counsellor? [Rom. 11:34]. Nor again in any other way could we have learned

except by seeing our Master with our eyes and hearing His voice with our

ears; that so as imitators of His acts and doers of His words we might

have fellowship with Him and receive of the fulness of Him who is perfect

and who was before all creation. All this we have been made in these

latter days by Him who only is supremely good and who has the gift of

incorruptibility; inasmuch as we are conformed to His likeness and

predestinated to become what we never were before, according to the

foreknowledge of the Father, made a first-fruit of His workmanship, we

have, therefore, received all this at the foreordained season, according

to the dispensation of the Word, who is perfect in all things. For He, who

is the mighty Word and very man, redeeming us by His blood in a reasonable

manner, gave Himself as a ransom for those who had been led into

captivity. And since apostasy tyrannized over us unjustly, for though by

nature we were God's possession, it yet alienated us contrary to nature,

making us its own disciples, the Word of God, powerful in all things and

constant in His justice, dealt justly even with apostasy itself, redeeming

from it what was His own property. Not by force, the way in which the

apostasy had originally gained its mastery over us, greedily grasping at

that which was not its own; but by moral force [secundum suadelam] as

became God, by persuasion and not by force, regaining what He wished; so

that justice might not be violated and God's ancient handiwork might not

perish. Therefore, since by His own blood the Lord redeemed us and gave

His soul for our soul, and His flesh for our flesh, and shed on us His

Father's spirit to unite and join us in communion God and man, bringing

God down to men by the descent of the Spirit, and raising up man to God by

His incarnation, and by a firm and true promise giving us at His advent

incorruptibility by communion with Him, and thus all the errors of the

heretics are destroyed.

(b) Irenaeus. Adv. Haer., III. 18:1, 7. (MSG, 6:932, 937.)

The following is a statement by Irenaeus of his doctrine of

recapitulation, which combines the idea of the second Adam of Paul

and the Johannine theology.

Ch. 1. Since it has been clearly demonstrated that the Word, who existed

in the beginning with God, and by whom all things were made, who also was

present with the human race, was in these last days, according to the time

appointed by the Father, united to His own workmanship, having been made a

man liable to suffering, every objection is set aside of those who say:

"If Christ was born at that time, He did not exist before that time." For

I have shown that the Son of God did not then begin to be, since He

existed with His Father always; but when He was incarnate, and was made

man, He commenced afresh [in seipso recapitulavit] the long line of

human beings, and furnished us in a brief and comprehensive manner with

salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam--namely, to be according to the

image and likeness of God--that we might recover in Christ Jesus.

Ch. 7. He caused human nature to cleave to and to become one with God, as

we have said. For if man had not overcome the adversary of man, the enemy

would not have been legitimately overcome. And again, if God had not given

salvation, we could not have had it securely. And if man had not been

united to God, he could never have become a partaker of incorruptibility.

For it was incumbent upon the Mediator between God and man, by His

relationship to both, to bring about a friendship and concord, and to

present man to God and to reveal God to man. For in what way could we be

partakers of the adoption of sons, if we had not received from Him,

through the Son, that fellowship which refers to Himself, if the Word,

having been made flesh, had not entered into communion with us? Wherefore

He passed also through every stage of life restoring to all communion with


(c) Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., IV, 18:5. (MSG, 6:1027 f.)

The conception of redemption as the imparting of incorruptibility

connected itself easily with the doctrine of the eucharist, which

had been called by Ignatius of Antioch "the medicine of

immortality" (v. supra, ยง 12). With this passage compare

Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., IV, 17:5.

How can they say that the flesh which is nourished with the body of the

Lord and with His blood goes to corruption and does not partake of life?

Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion or cease from offering the

things mentioned. But our opinion is in accordance with the eucharist, and

the eucharist, in turn, establishes our opinion. For we offer to Him His

own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and the

Spirit. For as the bread which is produced from the earth when it receives

the invocation of God is no longer common bread, but the eucharist,

consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly, so, also, our bodies,

when they receive the eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the

hope of the resurrection unto eternity.