It's refreshing to hear a scholar admit he needs the poet. To understand the complex thought of Irenaeus, its important to have some grasp on the way poetic association works - the necessary and creative relationship between image and argument. Irenaeus' was the first generation to have a Christian Bible before them, to which he applied ''the classical criteria of logic (what is true) and aesthetics (what is fitting) to draw out his four concepts of divine Intellect, economy, recapitulation and participation.'' What may first appear a tangled jungle of biblical imagery and theological interpretation eventually fleshes out to form the first great synthesis of Christian thought. By it, Irenaeus battled Gnostic theosophy with argument and image - a combination effective against the Gnostic's penchant for picture and myth alone. No doubt the understanding of his thought takes work, but a careful student will be delighted to discover his love of the created world, his excellent use of aphorism and his rich theology of beauty. Eric Osborn's finely written study is the only we know of devoted entirely to this bishop whose influence on the formation of Greek Christian theology rivals that of St. Paul before him and Origen and the Cappadocians after. 307 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
Eric Osborn's book presents a major study of Irenaeus (125-200), bishop of Lyons, who attacked Gnostic theosophy with positive ideas as well as negative critiques. Irenaeus's combination of argument and imagery, logic and aesthetic, was directed to a new document, the Christian bible. Dominated by a Socratic love of truth and a classical love of beauty, he was a founder of Western humanism. Irenaeus is renowned for his aphorisms, optimism, love of the created world, evolutionary view of history, and theology of beauty and humor.