Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Medical Science)




E. P. Sanders




The thesis contends that Irenaeus depended directly and indirectly on an earlier Jewish tradition both for his interpretation of New Testament texts and for the final formulation of his own ideas on sin and its origin.

This earlier Jewish tradition is substantially available to us in the "Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament".Irenae1"s drew on these writings as a hermeneutical key to the sense of Biblical texts. For him the Old Testament Apocrypha belonged La the Biblical canon, but the thesis mainly focuses on pseudepigraphal material when even from Irenaeus' standpoint was non-Biblical.The motifs from this literature which shaped his thinking about sin and its origin were apoca1yptic.

The lines of argument establishing the thesis are various.The two principal lines turn, respectively,on (a) Irenaeus' explicit use of motifs peculiar to pseudipgraphal texts, and (b) the implicit use of such motifs in interpreting canonical Biblical passages. Thus the thesis is essentially a study in the history of ideas. There is, however, a third, supportive line of argument which belongs to literary criticism as such: There are a few instances in which it appears likely that there is a direct literary relationship between Irenaeus and one of the pseudepigrapha. The proof must remain tentative, since in even the best cases only Latin translations of Irenaeus and the pseudepigraphal writing are available, although Irenaeus wrote in Greek and probably read the pseudepigrapha in a Greek version. In these instances, however, it is possible at least to compare Latin translation with Latin translation in noting the verbal and other similarities. In other instances, in which the pseudepigraphal text being compared is extant only Syriac, Ethiopic, or Slavonic, or in which Irenaeus' writing is extant only in Armenian, the English translations are used. In general, standard English translations of both Irenaeus and his pseudepigraphal sources are used in the thesis, in accord with the nature of its principal purposes and arguments.)

The thesis does not aim at providing a new view of the meaning of sin in the theology of Irenaeus, although the role of sin in Irenaeus Y thought is necessarily analyzed in the course of the thesis. The most recent scholarly treatments of Irenaeus' doctrine of recapitulation and of the place and significance of Satan, Adam, and sin in that doctrine are seen to be accurate and satisfactory, although correction may be possible on one or two individual points. The intention of the thesis. however, is only to identify the sources of Irenaeus' various statements about the origin of sin rather than to offer a new interpretation of Irenaeus' theology.

Though the thesis explicitly concludes only to Irenaeus' dependence on the pseudepigrapha for his thinking about sin and its origin, it raises the question of how dependent on such sources was the entire body of patristic thought which culminated in Augustine's formulation of "original sin".

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