Who is Christ? (c.170 AD)

It is refreshing to read the writings of the Christians centuries before Nicea. This sermon was written about 170 AD by Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in what is now France. Irenaeus was a native of Syria, and his childhood teacher was the Evangelist John’s disciple Polycarp.

The sacred books acknowledge with regard to Christ, that as he is the Son of man, so is the same being not only a man; and as he is flesh, so is he also spirit, and the Word of God, and God.

And as he was born of Mary in the last times, so did he also proceed from God as the firstborn of all creation. And as he hungered, so he satisfied others. And as he thirsted, so of old he caused the Jews to drink, for the “rock was Christ” himself.

Thus Jesus now gives to his believing people power to drink spiritual waters which spring up to life eternal.

And as he was the son of David, so he was also the Lord of David. And as he was from Abraham, so he also existed before Abraham.

And as he was the servant of God, so he is the Son of God, and Lord of the universe. And as he was spit upon ignominiously, so also did he breathe the Holy Spirit into his disciples.

And as he was saddened, so also he gave joy to his people. And as he was capable of being handled and touched, so again in an intangible form he passed through the midst of those who sought to injure him and entered without impediment through closed doors.

And as he slept so he also ruled the sea, the winds, and the storms. And as he suffered, so also is he alive, and life-giving, and healing all our infirmity. And as he died, so is he also the resurrection of the dead. He suffered shame on earth, while in heaven he is higher than all glory and praise. Though he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by the power of God. He who “descended into the lower parts of the earth,” also “ascended up above the heavens;” for whom a manger sufficed, yet who filled all things; who was dead, yet who lives for ever and ever. Amen.

The law and the prophets and the evangelists have proclaimed that he was born of a virgin, that he suffered upon a beam of wood, and that he appeared from the dead; that he also ascended to the heavens, and was glorified by the Father, and is the eternal King; that he is the perfect Intelligence, the Word of God, who was begotten before the light; that he was the Founder of the universe, along with that light, and the Maker of man; that he is all in all: Patriarch among the patriarchs; Law in the laws; Chief Priest among priests; Ruler among kings; the Prophet among prophets; the Angel among angels; the Man among men; Son in the Father; God in God; King to all eternity. For it is He who sailed together with Noah, and who guided Abraham; who was bound together with Isaac, and was a wanderer with Jacob; the Shepherd of those who are saved, and the Bridegroom of the Church; the Chief also of the cherubim, the Prince of the angelic powers; God of God; Son of the Father; Jesus Christ; King for ever and ever. Amen.

— From fragments 52-53 in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1.

The law and the prophets and evangelists have declared that Christ was born of a virgin, and suffered on the cross; was raised also from the dead, and taken up to heaven; that He was glorified, and reigns forever.

He is Himself termed the Perfect Intellect, the Word of God. He is the First-begotten, after a transcendent manner, the Creator of man; All in all; Patriarch among the patriarchs; Law in the law; the Priest among priests; among kings Prime Leader; the Prophet among the prophets; the Angel among angels; the Man among men; Son in the Father; God in God; King to all eternity.

He was sold with Joseph, and He guided Abraham; was bound along with Isaac, and wandered with Jacob; with Moses He was Leader, and, respecting the people, Legislator. He preached in the prophets; was incarnate of a virgin; born in Bethlehem; received by John, and baptized in Jordan; was tempted in the desert, and proved to be the Lord.

He gathered the apostles together, and preached the kingdom of heaven; gave light to the blind, and raised the dead; was seen in the temple, but was not held by the people as worthy of credit; was arrested by the priests, conducted before Herod, and condemned in the presence of Pilate; He manifested Himself in the body, was suspended upon a beam of wood, and raised from the dead; shown to the apostles, and, having been carried up to heaven, sits on the right hand of the Father, and has been glorified by Him as the Resurrection of the dead.

Moreover, He is the Salvation of the lost, the Light to those dwelling in darkness, and Redemption to those who have been born; the Shepherd of the saved, and the Bridegroom of the Church; the Charioteer of the cherubim, the Leader of the angelic host; God of God; Jesus Christ our Saviour.

— St Irenaeus, quoted in