atonement salvation

Irenaeus Explains the Atonement.

This post carries on the introduction to the recapitulation theories that were framed by Irenaeus (130-202). Irenaeus was taught by Polycarp, who in turn heard sermons preached by a certain John the Evangelist. Imagine what that must have been like – to meet first generation apostle – someone who knew Jesus the man? So, we are right back almost at the source.

When I was at school I read Shakespeare and Chaucer; perhaps I should say I was ‘forced to read’ Shakespeare and Chaucer. To be honest, I did not understand much of school, and English Literature classes were some of the most boring of all! (ha ha, the irony!) I could read the words of these old books no problem, but put the words together and they didn’t mean much to me.

atonement new testament Patristics salvation

Irenaeus and two Early Atonement Theories

At long last it is time to launch into one of the theories of the atonement, or more correctly one of the early church Father’s writings about atonement. In study group one of these went down very easily, and the other required a bit more wrestling. I could see that their horizons were being opened up – which is exactly what happened to me when I first heard these ideas too. On reflection though, as I look back, it seems to me that I was being in introduced to ‘a half remembered tune’ playing ‘softly in my mind.’ [1] … See what you think!

The very early church certainly proclaimed the cross, yet seemed to not spill much ink explaining how it provided salvation[2]. Sure, the New Testament (which they didn’t have then of course) mentions various metaphors as we have seen. From the second century Irenaeus (130-202) and others began to think of cross in terms of conflict with the powers of the day. This goes beyond the ‘Jesus is Lord’ vs ‘Caesar is Lord’ that we might think we understand, off into the spiritual, cosmic realm.