Against the Heresies (Book 3).
AGAINST THE HERESIES (BOOK 3). By St. Irenaeus of Lyons. Translated from the Latin and annotated by Dominic J. Unger, O.F.M. Cap. Introduction and revisions by Irenaeus M. C. Steenberg. Ancient Christian Writers 64. New York: Paulist, 2012. Pp. 245. $37.95.
The volume is a critical translation of and commentary on Book 3 of Irenaeus of Lyons's Refutation and Overthrow of Knowledge Falsely So-called, usually referred to as Against the Heresies. It follows Book 1, published in 1992, and the Proof of the Apostolic Preaching (1952; repr. 1978). Together these form part of a projected critical translation of the complete Irenaean corpus. Book 2, we are told (1), is nearly complete, and Books 4 and 5 are expected to follow. These translations are based on the critical Latin text edited by Adelin Rousseau and Louis Doutreleau, S.L, and include a complete reference to the Greek, Armenian, and Syriac fragments, a French translation, and a Greek retroversion that appeared in two volumes as Sources Chretiennes 210, 211 (1974). The notes to the preface make clear the care with which previous editions and translations were analyzed in determining the present English text. Throughout the language is both clear and graceful.
Particularly valuable in the introduction is the careful analysis of Irenaeus's thought on the apostolic origins of the faith, and of his insights on apostolic succession. We are reminded that the interest of this bishop lay not in historical dating, but rather "in demonstrating that the apostolic experience of Christ that grounds the right proclamation of the one gospel is to be found today through the inheritance of the successive communion of presbyter-bishops. The succession list is fundamentally exegetical" (10).
As can be a virtue in a work of this kind, the notes are longer than the text, and well worth reading. Chapter 1 contains a classical passage on the origin of the four Gospels (30). The notes make clear that Irenaeus sets out to show: "first, that all the apostles possessed the same Gospel of Christ; second, that this one Gospel was first preached orally and only later written down; third, that this same Gospel was preached everywhere" (119 n. 4; the full note runs 118-21). This and the ensuing three notes (4-7, 118-23) provide an exemplary model of clear presentation of complex material.
Other outstanding contributions are the discussion of the symbol "four" in the number of the Gospels (see chap. 11, 149 n. 45), and the thorough notes on chapters 18-23, where Irenaeus treats the nature and meaning of the Incarnation. Scholars of Irenaeus at every level will find this text an invaluable resource.
MARY ANN DONOVAN, S.C.
Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University at Berkeley