On the Necessity of the Incarnation — Irenaeus

31.So then He united man with God, and established a community of union 88 between God and man; since we could not in any other way participate in incorruption, save by His coming among us. For so long as incorruption was invisible and unrevealed, it helped us not at all: therefore it became visible,89 that in all respects we might participate in the reception of incorruption. And, because in the original formation of Adam all of us were tied and bound up with death through his disobedience, it was right that through the obedience of Him who was made man for us we should be released from death: and because death reigned over the flesh, it was right that through the flesh it should lose its force and let man go free from its oppression. So the Word was made flesh,90 that, through that very flesh which sin had ruled and dominated, it should lose its force and be no longer in us. And therefore our Lord took that same original formation as (His) entry into flesh, so that He might draw near and contend on behalf of the fathers, and conquer by Adam that which by Adam had stricken us down.

32.Whence then is the substance of the first-formed (man)? From the Will and the Wisdom |99of God, and from the virgin earth.91 For God had not sent rain, the Scripture says, upon the earth, before man was made; and there was no man to till the earth.92 From this, then, whilst it was still virgin, God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind. So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God; that He also should show forth the likeness of Adam’s entry into flesh,and there should be that which was written in the beginning, man after the image and likeness of God.93

33.And just as through a disobedient virgin man was stricken down and fell into death, so through the Virgin who was obedient to the Word of God man was reanimated and received life.94 For the Lord came to seek again the sheep that was lost;95 and man it was that was lost: and for this cause there was not made some other formation, but in that same which had its descent from Adam He preserved the likeness of the (first) formation.96 For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin.97

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  1. For this double rendering see above c. 6.
  2. Cf. 2 Tim. i. 10: …
  3. John i. 14.
  4. Almost the same words are here used as in III, xxx. I.: … Cf. III, xix. 6: also Ephraim’s Commentary on the Diatessaron (Moesinger, p. 21): “In Virginis conceptione disce quod qui sine conjugio Adamum ex virginea terra protulit, is etiam Adamum secundum in utero virginis formaverit.” Cf. also Tertullian, De carne Christi, 17; Firmicus Maternus, De errore prof. relig., 25.
  5. Gen. ii. 5.
  6. Gen. i. 26.
  7. The same parallel is worked out in III, xxxii. 1, and V, xix. 1. It is found earlier in Justin Martyr (Dial. 100), and later in Tertullian (De carne Chr. 17).
  8. Irenaeus is fond of referring to the sheep that was lost: see III, xx. 3, xxxii. 2, xxxvii. I; V, xii. 3, xv. 2.
  9. See above, c. 32.
  10. Cf. I Cor. xv. 53.

“Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching,” 31-33, by Irenaeus

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