The christocentric salvation history of Irenaeus and its relationship to the ecclesiastical tradition and Valentinian gnosticism
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Irenaeus has a relationship with two different traditions: the tradition of Valentinian Gnosticism and others such as Marcion, a tradition which he opposed vehemently, and the ecclesiastical tradition which he was intent on defending. In his attack on the one and defence of the other Irenaeus expresses his own theological view-point, a dominant characteristic of which is the concept of Christocentrio salvation history. The present work is a study of the relationship between these three, the two traditions and the Christocentric salvation history. Part one is concerned mainly with methodology. Chapter one is a survey of recent studies of Irenaeus with particular reference to the problems of source materials in Irenaeus, the effect of his polemical task on his thought and writings, and the significance for him of salvation history. In chapter two the two traditions are examined and a sharp division of them into orthodoxy and heresy is rejected. The concept of salvation history is also examined in some detail. Part two is devoted to a study of the ecclesiastical tradition before Irenaeus, in order to see how his predecessors thought of history and of the role of Christ in it. Chapter three is concerned with the Apostolic Fathers, chapter four with some apocryphal writings, and chapter five with the Greek Apologists. While numerous elements of the tradition that are taken up by Irenaeus are to be found in the ecclesiastical tradition, and indeed some outlines of salvation history can also be discerned, the fully integrated concept of a Christocentric salvation history is not present there. Part three is a study of the salvation drama in Valentinian Gnosticism. Chapter six is concerned with the sources, chapter seven with an analysis of the drama, and chapter eight exposes the threat the drama posed to the ecclesiastical tradition, which may be described as the threat of a complete and coherent drama that gives to the believer the security of knowing whence he has come, whither he is going, and where he now is. The task of any opponent is to replace this false knowledge with the true knowledge. In part four we turn to Irenaeus. In chapter nine the Christocentric salvation history of Irenaeus is examined in detail. As a result of this examination we reach the conclusion in chapter ten that in the materials gathered from his own tradition, developed from a number of different sources, and woven together into a coherent and comprehensive historical drama of which Christ is the centre, Irenaeus finds an adequate reply to the coherent and comprehensive drama of Valentinian Gnosticism, and therefore, by his Christocentric salvation history, makes a significant contribution to the polarisation of the ecclesiastieal and Gnostic traditions.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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