The Beliefs of Iraenaeus– Reliable Theologian and Historian, or Eccentric?

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Very often, we read or hear of those who rely on Iranaeus for the dating of Revelation, as if he were the definitive, reliable, authoritative ancient spokesman. It seems to me that few people are even fully aware of how “eccentric” Iranaeus truly was, both theologically and in his views of history. For a study of the dating of Revelation, be sure to see my Who Is This Babylon?

I thought it would be helpful, perhaps even a bit fun to share with our visitors some of what Iranaeus believed. The references below are taken from Eusebius’ Demonstration of the Gospel, from Iranaeus’ Against Heresies, as well as The Early Church Fathers, by Cyril Richardson, and some citations from Kenneth Gentry.

1.] World would last only six thousand years–Bk. V. 28
2.] Future coming of personal Anti-Christ–ibid
3.] Earthly kingdom– V. 30 also 33
4.] Proved all this with use of literal interpretation of OT prophecies–Gen 27:27f; Is. 40:6f.
5.] The Lord will never again take of Lord’s Supper until he returns and eats a literal Supper in the kingdom- Matt 26:27; 19:29.
6.] Insists he learned these things from Papias who learned them directly from John– V 33:1ff.
7.] Believed in the fruitful vine concept of Papias–V:33. Papias was a strong Chiliast who believed that in the millennium, there will be a literal vine, with grape clusters as tall as a man, etc.. Very, very literalistic, materialistic interpretation of the OT prophecies.
8.] Righteous will do no work in the kingdom but will eat at a literal banquet table for a thousand years-V, 33:2
9.] Those in the kingdom will build houses and live in them and plant vineyards-Is. 65. [Bk. V, 34:4]
10.] Jerusalem will be the capital of the kingdom–V, 34:3–Is 31:9; 32:1ff; 54:11; 65:18.
11.] Double resurrection seperated by one thousand years–V 30:4.
12.] Insists prophecy may not be spiritualized–V, 35.
13.] That a person`s reward must be given in the same realm in which they suffered-V, 32:1f.
14.] Believed in the continuance of miracles in his day-V, 6:1 see Eusebius Bk V 7:6.
15.] Believed Jesus lived to be over 50 years old-Against Heresies, 2:22:5- )Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 64).
16.] Restoration of physical creation. He based this on Rom. 8- Heresies, 5:32:, [p. 391-Early Christian Fathers]
17.] “Further, also, concerning Jerusalem and the Lord, they venture to assert that, if it had been `the city of the great king’ it would not have been deserted. This is just as if anyone would say, that if straw were a creation of God, it would never part company with the wheat; and that the vine twigs, if made by God, never would be lopped away and deprived of the clusters. But as these [vine twigs] have not been originally made for their own sake, but for that of the fruit growing upon them, which being come to maturity and taken away, they are left behind, and those which do not conduce to fructification are lopped off altogether; so also [was it with] Jerusalem, which had in herself borne the yoke of bondage (under which man was reduced, who in former times was not subject to God when death was reigning, and being subdued, became a fit subject for liberty), when the fruit of liberty had come, and reached maturity, and been reaped and stored in the barn, and when those which had the power to produce fruit had been carried away from her [i.e. from Jerusalem] and scattered throughout the world. Even as Esaias saith `The children of Jacob shall strike root and Israel shall flourish, and the whole world shall be filled with his fruit. The fruit thereof, having been sown throughout all the world, she (Jerusalem) was deservedly forsaken, and those things which had formerly brought forth fruit abundantly were taken away’ for from these, according to the flesh, were Christ and the apostles enable to bring forth fruit. But now those things are no longer useful for bringing forth fruit.”— Heresies, Vol. I, BK. IV, chapter IV., 383-384— also–
18.) Jews place in God’s plan only temporary– Old Law Passed at John the Baptist!
Since, then, the law originated with Moses, it terminated with John as a necessary consequence. Christ had come to fulfil it: wherefore the law and the prophets were with them until John. Luke 16:16 And therefore Jerusalem, taking its commencement from David, and fulfilling its own times, must have an end of legislation when the new covenant was revealed. For God does all things by measure and in order; nothing is unmeasured with Him, because nothing is out of order. Well spoke he, who said that the unmeasurable Father was Himself subjected to measure in the Son; for the Son is the measure of the Father, since He also comprehends Him. But that the administration of them (the Jews) was temporary, Esaias says: And the daughter of Zion shall be left as a cottage in a vineyard, and as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers. Isaiah 1:8 And when shall these things be left behind? Is it not when the fruit shall be taken away, and the leaves alone shall be left, which now have no power of producing fruit?  (
19.) Gentry, Before, 61, citing Farrar, Early Days (398) says Iranaeus believed that the Shepherd of Hermas was canonical, that the head of the Nicolaitans was Deacon Nicolas, and that the LXX was written by inspiration.

To say the very least, few today would believe everything that Iranaeus believed, in fact, they would find him eccentric in many ways! And yet, this is the main source that is offered as proof that Revelation was written at a late date. I would suggest that caution should be the operative word when it comes to the testimony of Iranaeus.