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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 491

Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself.

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In his preface to Book I, Irenaeus asserts that the gnostics deceive people by making their heresies look attractive and true. He makes the point that to be successful, lies must masquerade as truths. He goes on to say that his goal is especially to refute the "absurd" and "inconsistent" teachings of "the disciples of Ptolemaeus, whose school may be described as a bud from that of Valentinus." Irenaeus also asserts his humility as a one of "moderate ability," which, of course, is not true: the book shows the sophisticated level of his theology.

Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent.

More than one hundred years before the Emperor Constantine brought leading theologians across the Empire together to hash out the Nicene Creed, a foundational statement of Christian faith, Irenaeus articulated some of its main tenets in the quote above. These are important in the argument against gnosticism that Ireneaus is building. The gnostics claimed for example, that Jesus was a wholly spiritual being who did suffer on the cross (his physical body being essentially an illusion). In...

(The entire section contains 491 words.)

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