Irenaeus of Lyons Study Archive

Several church fathers indicate that Domition was emperor when John wrote Revelation. All of them, however, seem to base their information on the testimony of Irenaeus

St. Irenaeus of Lyons

Irenaeus’ Quote (Used as Grounds for the Later Revelation Date Theory)

From Steve Gregg’s Revelation: Four Views

“We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the Revelation. For ‘he’ [John?] or ‘it’ [Revelation?] was seen . . . towards the end of Domitian’s reign.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:30:3)

“Several church fathers indicate that Domition was emperor when John wrote Revelation. All of them, however, seem to base their information on the testimony of Irenaeus” (Revelation, p.17)

“The meaning of Irenaeus’ statement has been debated. What was seen toward the end of Domition’s reign? Was it the vision which John “beheld”? or was it the apostle himself, who was “seen… face to face” by those who testify? The phrase “that was seen…” may be a corruption of an original that read, “He was seen…” If this is true, then it only proves that John lived into the reign of Domition, though he may have written the Apocalypse much earlier.” (Revelation, p.17)

“Those who originally translated Irenaeus’ work into English complained of the poor condition of the manuscript evidence for his work. They wrote:  ‘The great work of Irenaeus, now for the first time translated into English, is unfortunately no longer extant in the original. It has come down to us only in an ancient Latin version, with the exception of a greater portion of the first book, which has been preserved in the original Greek, through means of the copious quotations made by Hippolytus and Epiphanius. The text, in both Latin and Greek, is often most uncertain.” (Revelation, p.17-18)

“Since the text is admittedly “uncertain” in many places, and the quotation in question is  known only from a Latin translation of the original, we must not place too high a degree of certainty upon our preferred reading of the statement of Irenaeus.” (Revelation, p.18)

“Earlier in the passage, Irenaeus refers to “all the.. ancient copies” of Revelation. This presupposes that that the book had been around a good long while before this statement was written. If there were “ancient copies,” was not the original more ancient still? Yet, in Irenaeus estimation, the time of Domition’s reign was not considered to have been very ancient history, for he speaks of it as “almost in our day.” How could Irenaeus speak of ancient copies” of a work the original of which has been written “almost” in his own time?” (Revelation, p.18)

“With reference to his mention of Domition’s reign, there are grounds for believing that Irenaeus was speaking of the time of John’s last being seen by the brethren, rather than the time of John’s having seen the apocalyptic vision.” (Revelation, p.18)

(On “the end of the times”)
“This then is the order of the rule of our faith, and the foundation of the building, and the stability of our conversation: God, the Father, not made, not material, invisible; one God, the creator of all things: this is the first point of our faith. The second point is: The Word of God, Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, who was manifested to the prophets according to the form of their prophesying and according to the method of the dispensation of the Father: through whom all things were made; who also at the end of the times, to complete and gather up all things, was made man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and show forth life and produce a community of union between God and man. And the third point is: The Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied, and the fathers learned the things of God, and the righteous were led forth into the way of righteousness; and who in the end of the times was poured out in a new way upon mankind in all the earth, renewing man unto God..”

“To them that believe He is as Father, for in the end of the times He opened up the covenant of adoption; but to the Jews as Lord and Lawgiver, for in the intermediate times, when man forgat God and departed and revolted from Him, He brought them into subjection by the Law, that they might learn that they had for Lord the maker and creator, who also gives the breath of life, and whom we ought to worship day and night: and to the Gentiles as maker and creator and almighty: and to all alike sustainer and nourisher and king and judge; for none shall escape and be delivered from His judgment, neither Jew nor Gentile, nor believer that has sinned, nor angel: but they who now reject His goodness shall know His power in judgment, according to that which the blessed apostle says: Not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance; but according to thy hardness and impenitent heart thou treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who shall render to every man according to his works.” (The Proof of Apostolic Preaching, p. 76-77)

“If any one, however, advocating the cause of the Jews, does maintain that this new covenant consisted in the rearing of that temple which was built under Zerubbabel after the emigration to Babylon, and in the departure of the people from thence after the lapse of seventy years, let him know that the temple constructed of stones was indeed then rebuilt (for as yet that law was observed which had been made upon tables of stone), yet no new covenant was given, but they used the Mosaic law until the coming of the Lord; but from the Lord’s advent, the new covenant which brings back peace, and the law which gives life, has gone forth over the whole earth, as the prophets said: “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem ; and He shall rebuke many people; and they shall break down their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks, and they shall no longer learn to fight.” (Proof Against the Marcionites, that the Prophets Referred in All Their Predictions to Our Christ, “Against Heresies,” Book IV,  Chapter 34)

(On historicity of Revelation 2:6)
“the Nicolaitans are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles [Acts 6:5]. They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence . . . teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.” (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, i.xxvi.3;)

(On Significance of A.D. 70; 135)

1. Further, also, concerning Jerusalem and the Lord, they venture to assert that, if it had been “the city of the great King,”(12) it would not have been deserted.(13) This is just as if any one should say, that if straw were a creation of God, it would never part company with the wheat; and that the vine twigs, if made by God, never would be lopped away and deprived of the clusters. But as these [vine twigs] have not been originally made for their own sake, but for that of the fruit growing upon them, which being come to maturity and taken away, they are left behind, and those which do not conduce to fructification are lopped off altogether; so also [was it with] Jerusalem, which had in herself borne the yoke of bondage (under which man was reduced, who in former times was not subject to God when death was reigning, and being subdued, became a fit subject for liberty), when the fruit of liberty had come, and reached maturity, and been reaped and stored in the barn, and when those which had the power to produce fruit had been carried away from her [i.e., from Jerusalem], and scattered throughout all the world. Even as Esaias saith, “The children of Jacob shall strike root, and Israel shall flourish, and the whole world shall be filled with his fruit.”(1) The fruit, therefore, having been sown throughout all the world, she (Jerusalem) was deservedly forsaken, and those things which had formerly brought forth fruit abundantly were taken away; for from these, according to the flesh, were Christ and the apostles enabled to bring forth fruit. But now these are no longer useful for bringing forth fruit. For all things which have a beginning in time must of course have an end in time also.

2. Since, then, the law originated with Moses, it terminated with John as a necessary consequence. Christ had come to fulfil it: wherefore “the law and the prophets were” with them “until John.”(2) And therefore Jerusalem, taking its commencement from David,(3) and fulfilling its own times, must have an end of legislation(4) when the new covenant was revealed. ” (Against Heresies, Book 4, ch. 4)

(On the Fulfillment of the Abrahamic Cov. in Christ)

1. Therefore Abraham also, knowing the. Father through the Word, who made heaven and earth, confessed Him to be God; and having learned, by an announcement [made to him], that the Son of God would be a man among men, by whose advent his seed should be as the stars of heaven, he desired to see that day, so that he might himself also embrace Christ; and, seeing it through the spirit of prophecy, he rejoiced.(6) Wherefore Simeon also, one of his descendants, carried fully out the rejoicing of the patriarch, and said: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: a light for the revelation of the Gentiles,(1) and the glory of the people Israel.”(2) And the angels, in like manner, announced tidings of great joy to the shepherds who were keeping watch by night.(3) Moreover, Mary said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my salvation;”(4)–the rejoicing of Abraham descending upon those who sprang from him,–those, namely, who were watching, and who beheld Christ, and believed in Him; while, on the other hand, there was a reciprocal rejoicing which passed backwards from the children to Abraham, who did also desire to see the day of Christ’s coming. Rightly, then, did our Lord bear witness to him, saying, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.”

2. For not alone upon Abraham’s account did He say these things, but also that He might point out how all who have known God from the beginning, and have foretold the advent of Christ, have received the revelation from the Son Himself; who also in the last times was made visible and passable, and spake with the human race, that He might from the stones raise up children unto Abraham, and fulfil the promise which God had given him, and that He might make his seed as the stars of heaven,(5) as John the Baptist says: “For God is able from these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”(6) Now, this Jesus did by drawing us off from the religion of stones, and bringing us over from hard and fruitless cogitations, and establishing in us a faith like to Abraham. As Paul does also testify, saying that we are children of Abraham because of the similarity of our faith, and the promise of inheritance.” (Against Heresies, Book 4, ch. 4)

(On Simon Magus)
“[He claimed to be] the Son of God and the creator of angels.” (Quoted in Kik, 92)

(On The Age of Jesus)
“For how had He disciples, if He did not teach? And how did He teach, if He had not a Master’s age? For He came to Baptism as one Who had not yet fulfilled thirty years, but was beginning to be about thirty years old; (for so Luke, who hath signified His years, bath set it down; Now Jesus, when He came to Baptism, began to be about thirty years old:) and He preached for one year only after His Baptism: completing His thirtieth year He suffered, while He was still young, and not yet come to riper age. But the age of 30 years is the first of a young man’s mind, and that it reaches even to the fortieth year, everyone will allow: but after the fortieth and fiftieth year, it begins to verge towards elder age: which our Lord was of when He taught, as the Gospel and all the Elders witness, who in Asia conferred with John the Lord’s disciple, to the effect that John had delivered these things unto them: for he abode with them until the times of Trajan. And some of them saw not only John, but others also of the Apostles, and had this same account from them, and witness to the aforesaid relation. Whom ought we rather to believe? These, being such as they are, or Ptolemy, who never beheld the Apostles, nor ever in his dreams attained to any vestige of an Apostle? (Against Heresies, 2:22:5)

(That Flesh and Blood DOES inherit the kingdom of God)
BOOK 5, CHAP. IX.–SHOWING HOW THAT PASSAGE OF THE APOSTLE WHICH THE HERETICS PERVERT, SHOULD BE UNDERSTOOD; VIZ., “FLESH AND BLOOD SHALL NOT POSSESS THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” 1. Among the other [truths] proclaimed by the apostle, there is also this one, “That flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”(7) This is [the passage] which is adduced by all the heretics in support of their folly, with an attempt to annoy us, and to point out that the handiwork of God is not saved. They do not take this fact into consideration, that there are three things out of which, as I have shown, the complete man is composed–flesh, soul, and spirit. One of these does indeed preserve and fashion [the man]–this is the spirit; while as to another it is united and formed–that is the flesh; then [comes] that which is between these two–that is the soul, which sometimes indeed, when it follows the spirit, is raised up by it, but sometimes it sympathizes with the flesh, and falls into carnal lusts. Those then, as many as they be, who have not that which saves and forms [us] into life [eternal], shall be, and shall be called, [mere] flesh and blood; for these are they who have not the Spirit of God in themselves. Wherefore men of this stamp are spoken of by the Lord as “dead;” for, says He, “Let the dead bury their dead,”(1) because they have not the Spirit which quickens man.

4. If, however, we must speak strictly, [we would say that] the flesh does not inherit, but is inherited; as also the Lord declares, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth by inheritance;”(5) as if in the [future] kingdom, the earth, from whence exists the substance Of our flesh, is to be possessed by inheritance. This is the reason for His wishing the temple (i.e., the flesh) to be clean, that the Spirit of God may take delight therein, as a bridegroom with a bride. As, therefore, the bride cannot [be said] to wed, but to be wedded, when the bridegroom comes and takes her, so also the flesh cannot by itself possess the kingdom of God by inheritance; but it can be taken for an inheritance into the kingdom of God. For a living person inherits the goods of the deceased; and it is one thing to inherit, another to be inherited. The former rules, and exercises power over, and orders the things inherited at his will; but the latter things are in a state of subjection, are under order, and are ruled over by him who has obtained the inheritance. What, therefore, is it that lives? The Spirit of God, doubtless. What, again, are the possessions of the deceased? The various parts of the man, surely, which rot in the earth. But these are inherited by the Spirit when they are translated into the kingdom of heaven. For this cause, too, did Christ die. that the Gospel covenant being manifested and known to the whole world, might in the first place set free His slaves; and then afterwards, as I have already shown, might constitute them heirs of His property, when the Spirit possesses them by inheritance. For he who lives inherits, but the flesh is inherited. In order that we may not lose life by losing that Spirit which possesses us, the apostle, exhorting us to the communion of the Spirit, has said, according to reason, in those words already quoted, “That flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Just as if he were to say, “Do not err; for unless the Word of God dwell with, and the Spirit of the Father be in you, and if ye shall live frivolously and carelessly as if ye were this only, viz., mere flesh and blood, ye cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”(Against Heresies, 5:9)

(That the world would end in the sixth thousandth year)
3. For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: “Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works.”(6) This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years;(7) and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year.” (Against Heresies, 5:28:3) [Note- This position failed three years ago, as the year 1994 was the 2000th year since Christ’s birth)

(On Clement)
“The blessed apostles [Peter and Paul], having founded and built up the church [of Rome], they handed over the office of the episcopate to Linus. Paul makes mention of this Linus in the letter to Timothy [2 Tim. 4:21]. To him succeeded Anacletus, and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was chosen for the episcopate. He had seen the blessed apostles and was acquainted with them. It might be said that he still heard the echoes of the preaching of the apostles and had their traditions before his eyes. And not only he, for there were many still remaining who had been instructed by the apostles. In the time of Clement, no small dissension having arisen among the brethren in Corinth, the Church in Rome sent a very strong letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace and renewing their faith . . . To this Clement, Evaristus succeeded . . . and now, in the twelfth place after the apostles, the lot of the episcopate [of Rome] has fallen to Eleutherus. In this order, and by the teaching of the apostles handed down in the Church, the preaching of the truth has come down to us” (Against Heresies, 3:3:3 [A.D. 189]).

“This same historian (Papias) also gives other accounts, which he says he adds as received by him from unwritten tradition, likewise certain strange parables of our Lord, and of His doctrine and some other matters rather too fabulous. In these he says there would be a certain millennium after the resurrection, and that there would be a corporeal reign of Christ on this very earth; which things he appears to have imagined, as if they were authorized by the apostolic narrations, not understanding correctly those matters which they propounded mystically in their representations. For he was very limited in his comprehension, as is evident from his discourses; yet he was the cause why most of the ecclesiastical writers, urging the antiquity of man, were carried away by a similar opinion; as, for instance, Irenaeus, or any other that adopted such sentiments. (Book III, Ch. 39)

F.W. Farrar
“all the earliest Christian writers on the Apocalypse, from Irenaeus down to Victorious of Pettau and Commodian in the fourth, and Andreas in the fifth, and St. Beatus in the eighth century, connect Nero, or some Roman emperor, with the Apocalyptic Beast .” (The Early Days of Christianityp.541)

“We cannot accept a dubious expression by the Bishop of Lyons as adequate to set aside an overwhelming weight of evidence, alike external and internal, in proof of the fact that the Apocalypse was written, at the latest, soon after the death of Nero.” (The Early Days of Christianity, vol. ii., p.186)

Date: 24 Oct 2007
Time: 09:44:05

Dear Sir,

When I read the below passage I did not get that Irenaeus was stating that Jesus was 50 years old, but that he was of a mental maturity of 50 years old even at age 30 years. He just stated that it was typical for a young man (young man’s mind)to start and have full development from thirty to fifty and then “after the fortieth and fiftieth year, it begins to verge towards elder age”. In other words the young man is in the prime of his mental life between approximately 30-50.

And the phrase “which our Lord was of when He taught” refers not to fortieth and fiftieth year, but to the fact that Jesus had full maturity of mind even at thirty years when he suffered – “completing His thirtieth year He suffered”.

Since I cannot read the text in the Greek (because it does not exist) and as mentioned it may be from a Latin Translation, the phrasing may be cumbersome and samewhat syntaxical confused.

I seriously doubt that Irenaeus actually taught or believed that Jesus was fifty years old when he suffered and ministered. He was an immediate disciple of Polycarp, Bishop of Syrma, who was an immediate disciple of the Last Disciple/Apostle John. It is highly doubtful that he was confused on this issue.

Should you wish to respond to my comments, you may email me at TLC2451@EXCITE.COM

May God bless you in your service for HIM.

Rev. Thomas Clark – Phil. 3:14

Date: 20 Mar 2009
Time: 14:45:26


Your statement that the six thousand years has already expired is contradicted by the authors of the 1560 Geneva Bible who give a summary of years of earth history up until the year 1560. Extrapolating from there, the 6,000th year since creation would fall into the year 2025 AD. So I would not say yet that Irenaeus was incorrect about the day/1000 year correlation. Dr. C. Vanderwaal also made the connection between the thousand years of Rev. 20 and the Day of the Lord.


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