Irenaeus (/aɪrəˈniːəs/; Greek: Εἰρηναῖος) (early 2nd century – c. AD 202), also referred to as Saint Irenaeus, was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, then a part of the Roman Empire (now Lyon, France). He was an earlyChurch Father and apologist, and his writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology. A resident of Smyrna, he heard the preaching of St. Polycarp, a disciple of St. John the Evangelist.
Irenaeus’ best-known book, Adversus Haereses or Against Heresies (c. 180), is a detailed attack on Gnosticism, which was then a serious threat to the Church, and especially on the system of the Gnostic Valentinus. As one of the first great Christian theologians, he emphasized the traditional elements in the Church, especially the episcopate, Scripture, and tradition. Against the Gnostics, who said that they possessed a secret oral tradition from Jesus himself, Irenaeus maintained that the bishops in different cities are known as far back as the Apostles and that the bishops provided the only safe guide to the interpretation of Scripture. His polemical work is credited for laying out the “orthodoxies of the Christian church, its faith, its preaching and the books that it held as sacred authority.” His writings, with those of Clement and Ignatius, are taken as among the earliest signs of the doctrine of the primacy of the Roman see. Irenaeus is the earliest witness to recognition of the canonical character of all four gospels
Irenaeus is recognized as a saint in both the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. His feast day is on June 28 in the General Roman Calendar, where it was inserted for the first time in 1920; in 1960 the Catholic Church transferred it to July 3, leaving June 28 for the Vigil of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, but in 1969 it was returned to June 28, the day of his death. The Lutheran Church commemorates Irenaeus on that same date for his life of exemplary Christian witness. In the Orthodox Church his feast day is 23 August.
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