St. Irenaeus on the Age of Jesus

31 ST. IRENAEUS ON THE AGE OF JESUS (Tahir Ijaz, Canada) One of the most intriguing pieces of literature produced by the early Church is the treatise entitled Adversus Haereses. Scholars estimate it dates-around 180 A.D. St. Irenaeus is considered to be one of the leading theologians of the 2nd century A.D. and is a Father of the Orthodox Church. He was born in 140 A.D. in Asia Minor. In his youth he heard the preaching of St. Polycarp, a disciple of St. John. In 177 A.D. Irenaeus was appointed Bishop of Lyon. The book Adversus Haereses which he subsequently wrote was aimed against early gnostic Christians sects. The details of the beliefs of these Christians were revealed by the Nag Hammadi findings in Egypt in 1945. St. Irenaeus’ statements in Adversus Haereses about the age of Jesus have puzzled students and scholars of patristic literature. He contradicted the prevalent notion that Jesus was crucified at the age of about thirty. He claimed Jesus was over fifty years old when he died. The authority of the tradition of an elderly Jesus is believed to be Papias, who lived in the early 2nd century A.D. He was the Bishop of Hierapolis in Phyrygia (which is present day Turkey). As Duchesne points out, there were traditions among the Christians of the early 2nd century A.D. of an elderly Jesus: “According to tales current in the days of Papias, the Lord lived to a great age.” (pg. 105 Early History of the Christian Church). Papias is an important figure in Church history since he wrote Explanation of the Sayings of the Lord, today surviving only in fragments. According to Biblical scholars it provides important apostolic oral accounts of early Christianity. Extracts from the Adversus Haereses are given below which, according to scholars, are considered extraordinary: Therefore, he passed through every age, and became an infant for infants, sanctifying the infants; a child among children, sancitfying all of that age, at the same time being made an example for them of piety, righteousness and obedience. Among the young men he was a young man, becoming an example for young men, sanctifying them for the 32 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Lord. So also he became an elder for the elders, so that he might become a perfect master in every particular, not only in the exposition of truth, but also in matter of age, thereby sanctifying the elders and becoming and example to them. Then he passed to his death, so that he might be the first begotten from the dead.’ (2.22.4). But they, in order that they may keep up their fiction about the acceptable year of the Lord, say he preached for one year, and suffered in the twelfth month. They take away from him his more necessary and honorable age, his more advanced age… Thirty is the first stage of a young man’s age, and extends to forty, as • all will admit. But from the fortieth and fiftieth year one’s life declines into the older age, which our Lord had when he taught, as the Gospel and all the elders testify, who met.John, the disciple of the Lord, in Asia. (2.22.5) Conclusion: The concept of an elderly Jesus which frenaeus described is believed to have its genesis from certain oral traditions in the time of Papias (early 2nd century CA.D.). There appears to be a recognition very early in Church history that a middle-aged Jesus was still on earth at a time when he was supposed to be in heaven. This means Jesus survived the crucifixion. As he migrated toward the east and continued preaching, rumours of his advanced age would have spread. Bishop Irenaeus offered a solution. He accepted the fact there was an old Jesus and admitted people even witnessed him. So he presented a story, a story that others may have used before him, making Jesus die as an old man on the cross. continued from page 30 Mir Ghulam .Ahmad Naseem, Maulvi Fazl Hahi Bashir, Maulvi Mohammed Siddiaue,| Maulvi Aslam Qureshi, who was martyred in Trinidad, Maulvi Hanif Yaqoob and now the present missionary Maulvi Abdur Rahman Khan. Maulvi Abdur Rahman Khan is a son of the soil and his family entered the fold of Ahmadiyyat during Maulvi Orchard’s stay in Guyana. Thus far there are three Ahmadi mosques and two mission houses in Guyana.