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Irenaeus and Spirit Christology

Irenaeus and Spirit Christology

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Published by Michael Gibson
Anthony Briggman
Anthony Briggman

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Published by: Michael Gibson on Nov 24, 2012
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Vigiliae Christianae 66 (2012) 1-19 
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2012 DOI: 10.1163/157007211X571472
Spirit-Christology in Irenaeus: A Closer Look 
 Anthony Briggman
 Marquette University, Department of Teology  Milwaukee, WI 53201 USAanthony.briggman@marquette.edu
Our understanding of Irenaeus’ Spirit-Christology has benefited from several note-worthy studies published over the course of the past century. Tese investigations,however, failed to reach a consensus on whether Irenaeus’ Spirit-Christology jeopar-dizes his rinitarian logic. Te purpose of this article is to provide a long-overduereexamination of Irenaeus’ utilization of Spirit-Christology. I argue Spirit-Christology does have a place in Irenaeus’ theology, but that it poses no threat to his rinitarianlogic. I contend that two passages, previously thought to identify the Holy Spirit withthe person of Christ, refer to the reception of the Holy Spirit by the believer for his orher redemption. Moreover, I maintain two other passages do not use Spirit languageto refer to the person of Christ, but his divinity.
Irenaeus of Lyons, Spirit-Christology, Holy Spirit, Christ, binitarian, trinitarian
Our understanding of Spirit-Christology 
in Irenaeus has benefited from a series of noteworthy and even groundbreaking studies published over thecourse of the last hundred years.
Yet, other than notes by Adelin Rousseau
Spirit-Christology ‘refers to the use of “spirit” language to designate Christ—whether inreference to his divinity as opposed to his humanity, or as a personal title’ (B. Bucur, ‘TeSon of God and the Angelomorphic Holy Spirit: A Rereading of the
’s Christol-ogy,’
98 [2007] 120-42, here 121 n.7). I am not, here, using ‘Spirit-Christology’ torefer to the action of the Holy Spirit upon and with Jesus in the incarnation prevalent incontemporary discussions of rinitarian doctrine.
F.R.M. Hitchcock, ‘Te Apostolic Preaching of Irenaeus and its Light on his Doctrineof the rinity,’
14 (1907) 307-37, here 318-20; F.R.M. Hitchcock, ‘Te
 Apostolic Preaching 
of Irenaeus,’
9 (1908) 284-89, here 287; J.A. Robinson, trans. & ed.,St. Irenaeus,
Te Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching 
(CL; London: SPCK, 1920)
 A. Briggman / Vigiliae Christianae 66 (2012) 1-19 
in the editions of Irenaeus offered by Sources Chrétiennes and brief com-ments by Antonio Orbe in his monumental
eología de San Ireneo
nei-ther of which were meant to be comprehensive statements, it has beenmore than thirty years since the presence of Spirit-Christology in Irenaeushas been considered. Even more importantly, past investigations havefailed to reach a consensus on whether Irenaeus’ Spirit-Christology jeopar-dizes his rinitarian logic.Tis state of affairs is due in large part to several significant shortcom-ings of the previous studies: they utilize erroneous methodological presup-positions, neglect to consider central texts in Irenaeus, provide superficialaccounts of complex texts, and ignore significant points made by otherstudies. While no one study is guilty of all of these faults, neither does any study escape from all unscathed. Te presence of any one of these faultsrenders an argument less than persuasive; the presence of more than one inan ongoing line of study renders its conclusions suspect at best. As a result,the need to reevaluate Irenaeus’ utilization of Spirit-Christology has existedfor quite some time.Tis need, however, has become more urgent in recent days sinceseveral studies have shown that a common feature of second-century theological accounts containing binitarian logic
is the existence of an
64-65, 67; F. Loofs,
Teophilus von Antiochien Adversus Marcionem und die Anderen theolo- gischen Quellen bei Irenaeus 
(U 46.2; ed. A. von Harnack & C. Schmidt; Leipzig: J.C. Hinrich’s Buchhandlung, 1930) esp. 101-13 & 211-57; F.R.M. Hitchcock, ‘Loofs’ Asiatic Source (1QA) and the Ps-Justin De Resurrectione,’
36 (1937) 35-60, here35-38; H.J. Carpenter, ‘Te Birth from Holy Spirit and the Virgin in the Old RomanCreed,’
40 (1939) 31-36, here 33 n.3; J.N.D. Kelly,
Early Christian Creeds 
(London:Longmans, 1960) 148; A. Rousseau, ed., Irénée de Lyon,
Contre les Hérésies 
(SC 152;Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1969) 202; M. Simonetti, ‘Note di cristologia pneumatica,’
12(1972) 201-32, esp. 214, 220-21; H.-J. Jaschke,
Der Heilige Geist im Bekenntnis der Kirche:Eine Studie zur Pneumatologie des Irenäus von Lyon im Ausgang vom altchristlichen Glaubens-bekenntnis 
(MB 40; Münster: Verlag Aschendorff, 1976) 226-30; A. Orbe,
eología de San Ireneo
Commentario al Libro V del ‘Adversus Haereses’ 
(BZC, sma 25; Madrid: Biblio-teca de Autores Cristianos, 1985) 1: 107.
See the previous note for these bibliographic references.
Bucur also offers a good definition for ‘binitarian’: ‘the term . . . points to a bifurcationof the divinity (as opposed to “unitarian”), while preserving a monotheistic worldview (“binitarian monotheism”, as opposed to “dualism”)’ (‘Rereading 
’s Christology,’121 n.6). A binitarian orientation is not an uncommon feature of this period’s theology;C. Stead notes, ‘the origin and function [of the Holy Spirit] are much less clearly workedout [than that of the Logos], and sometimes He almost disappears behind the Logos, sothat historians of doctrine can speak of a “binitarian” tendency in the second century’
Spirit-Christology in Irenaeus: A Closer Look 
pneumatology or Christology in tandem with Spirit-Christology.
Te presence of an angelomorphic pneumatology and Chris-tology in Irenaeus has been proclaimed by several scholars over the years,
 while others have found a Spirit-Christology that identifies the Holy Spiritas the pre-existent Christ.
As a result, it would appear that aspects of Ire-naeus’ thought are also disposed toward a binitarian orientation.I do not agree with those who have found angelomorphism in Irenaeus,but this article will not detail that argument.
Te purpose of this presentarticle is to provide a long-overdue reexamination of Irenaeus’ utilizationof Spirit-Christology. I will argue that Spirit-Christology does have a placein Irenaeus’ theology, but that it poses no threat to his rinitarian logic.In order for Spirit-Christology to jeopardize the rinitarian logic of histheology Irenaeus must identify the Holy Spirit as the pre-existent Christ.
Philosophy in Christian Antiquity 
[Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994] 156).Examples of binitarianism may be found in A. Segal’s
wo Powers in Heaven: Early Rab-binic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism
(Leiden: Brill, 1977).
For the meaning of ‘angelomorphic’, C. Fletcher-Louis provides a convenient definition:the term should be used ‘wherever there are signs that an individual or community pos-sesses specifically angelic characteristics or status, though for whom identity cannot bereduced to that of an angel’ (
Luke-Acts: Angels, Christology and Soteriology 
[WUN 2.94;übingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997] 14-15).
Tis connection has been identified in the
Shepherd of Hermas 
, Justin Martyr, and Clem-ent of Alexandria. See the following articles by B. Bucur, ‘Rereading Shepherd’s Christol-ogy,’ 120-42; ‘Te Angelic Spirit in Early Christianity: Justin, the Martyr and Philosopher,’
88 (2008) 190-208; ‘Revisiting Christian Oeyen: ‘Te Other Clement’ on Father,Son, and the Angelomorphic Spirit,’
61 (2007) 381-413; as well as my essay,‘Measuring Justin’s Approach to the Spirit: rinitarian Conviction and Binitarian Orienta-tion,’
63 (2009) 107-37.
Te argument for the existence of angelomorphism in Irenaeus was formulated by D.E. Lanne who contended that Irenaeus identified the Word and Spirit as Cherubim andSeraphim in
10 (‘Cherubim et Seraphim: Essai d’Interprétation du Chapitre X dela Démonstration de Saint Irénée,’
43 [1955] 524-35). Lanne’s reading has beenfollowed by J. Daniélou,
Te Teology of Jewish Christianity 
(trans. & ed. J. Baker, London:Darton, Longman & odd, 1964) 138-40; G.G. Stroumsa, ‘Le Couple de l’Ange etde l’Esprit: raditions Juives et Chrétiennes,’
88 (1981) 42-61, here 47; andI.M. MacKenzie,
Irenaeus’s Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching; A theological commen-tary and translation
(Aldershot [Eng.]: Ashgate, 2002) 98-99.
For instance, Robinson, Loofs, and Simonetti contend that Irenaeus identifies the Holy Spirit as the pre-existent Christ in certain passages. Te reader will find references to theirarguments throughout this study.
For this argument see my, ‘Re-Evaluating Angelomorphism in Irenaeus: Te Case of 
61 (2010) 583-95.

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