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Home > Fathers of the Church > Against Heresies (St. Irenaeus) > Book II, Chapter 31

Against Heresies (Book II, Chapter 31)

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Recapitulation and application of the foregoing arguments.

1. Those, then, who are of the school of Valentinus being overthrown, the whole multitude of heretics are, in fact, also subverted. For all the arguments I have advanced against their Pleroma, and with respect to those things which are beyond it, showing how the Father of all is shut up and circumscribed by that which is beyond Him (if, indeed, there be anything beyond Him), and how there is an absolute necessity [on their theory] to conceive of many Fathers, and many Pleromas, and many creations of worlds, beginning with one set and ending with another, as existing on every side; and that all [the beings referred to] continue in their own domains, and do not curiously intermeddle with others, since, indeed, no common interest nor any fellowship exists between them; and that there is no other God of all, but that that name belongs only to the Almighty;— [all these arguments, I say,] will in like manner apply against those who are of the school of Marcion, and Simon, and Meander, or whatever others there may be who, like them, cut off that creation with which we are connected from the Father. The arguments, again, which I have employed against those who maintain that the Father of all no doubt contains all things, but that the creation to which we belong was not formed by Him, but by a certain other power, or by angels having no knowledge of the Propator, who is surrounded as a centre by the immense extent of the universe, just as a stain is by the [surrounding] cloak; when I showed that it is not a probable supposition that any other being than the Father of all formed that creation to which we belong — these same arguments will apply against the followers of Saturninus, Basilides, Carpocrates, and the rest of the Gnostics, who express similar opinions. Those statements, again, which have been made with respect to the emanations, and the Æons, and the [supposed state of] degeneracy, and the inconstant character of their Mother, equally overthrow Basilides, and all who are falsely styled Gnostics, who do, in fact, just repeat the same views under different names, but do, to a greater extent than the former, transfer those things which lie outside of the truth to the system of their own doctrine. And the remarks I have made respecting numbers will also apply against all those who misappropriate things belonging to the truth for the support of a system of this kind. And all that has been said respecting the Creator (Demiurge) to show that he alone is God and Father of all, and whatever remarks may yet be made in the following books, I apply against the heretics at large. The more moderate and reasonable among them you will convert and convince, so as to lead them no longer to blaspheme their Creator, and Maker, and Sustainer, and Lord, nor to ascribe His origin to defect and ignorance; but the fierce, and terrible, and irrational [among them] you will drive far from you, that you may no longer have to endure their idle loquaciousness.

2. Moreover, those also will be thus confuted who belong to Simon and Carpocrates, and if there be any others who are said to perform miracles— who do not perform what they do either through the power of God, or in connection with the truth, nor for the well-being of men, but for the sake of destroying and misleading mankind, by means of magical deceptions, and with universal deceit, thus entailing greater harm than good on those who believe them, with respect to the point on which they lead them astray. For they can neither confer sight on the blind, nor hearing on the deaf, nor chase away all sorts of demons— [none, indeed,] except those that are sent into others by themselves, if they can even do so much as this. Nor can they cure the weak, or the lame, or the paralytic, or those who are distressed in any other part of the body, as has often been done in regard to bodily infirmity. Nor can they furnish effective remedies for those external accidents which may occur. And so far are they from being able to raise the dead, as the Lord raised them, and the apostles did by means of prayer, and as has been frequently done in the brotherhood on account of some necessity — the entire Church in that particular locality entreating [the boon] with much fasting and prayer, the spirit of the dead man has returned, and he has been bestowed in answer to the prayers of the saints— that they do not even believe this can be possibly be done, [and hold] that the resurrection from the dead is simply an acquaintance with that truth which they proclaim.

3. Since, therefore, there exist among them error and misleading influences, and magical illusions are impiously wrought in the sight of men; but in the Church, sympathy, and compassion, and steadfastness, and truth, for the aid and encouragement of mankind, are not only displayed without fee or reward, but we ourselves lay out for the benefit of others our own means; and inasmuch as those who are cured very frequently do not possess the things which they require, they receive them from us — [since such is the case,] these men are in this way undoubtedly proved to be utter aliens from the divine nature, the beneficence of God, and all spiritual excellence. But they are altogether full of deceit of every kind, apostate inspiration, demoniacal working, and the phantasms of idolatry, and are in reality the predecessors of that dragon Revelation 12:14 who, by means of a deception of the same kind, will with his tail cause a third part of the stars to fall from their place, and will cast them down to the earth. It behooves us to flee from them as we would from him; and the greater the display with which they are said to perform [their marvels], the more carefully should we watch them, as having been endowed with a greater spirit of wickedness. If any one will consider the prophecy referred to, and the daily practices of these men, he will find that their manner of acting is one and the same with the demons.

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Source. Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

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