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Chapter VI.—Explanation of the words of Christ, “No man knoweth the Father, but the Son,” etc.; which words the heretics misinterpret. Proof that, by the Father revealing the Son, and by the Son being revealed, the Father was never unknown.
1. For the Lord, revealing Himself to His disciples, that He Himself is the Word, who imparts knowledge of the Father, and reproving the Jews, who imagined that they, had [the knowledge of] God, while they nevertheless rejected His Word, through whom God is made known, declared, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son has willed to reveal [Him].”38573857 Matt. xi. 27; Luke x. 22. Thus hath Matthew set it down, and Luke in like manner, and Mark38583858 Not now to be found in Mark’s Gospel. the very same; for John omits this passage. They, however, who would be wiser than the apostles, write [the verse] in the following manner: “No man knew the Father, but the Son; nor the Son, but the Father, and he to whom the Son has willed to reveal [Him];” and they explain it as if the true God were known to none prior to our Lord’s advent; and that God who was announced by the prophets, they allege not to be the Father of Christ.
2. But if Christ did then [only] begin to have existence when He came [into the world] as man, and [if] the Father did remember [only] in the times of Tiberius Cæsar to provide for [the wants of] men, and His Word was shown to have not always coexisted with His creatures; [it may be remarked that] neither then was it necessary that another God should be proclaimed, but [rather] that the reasons for so great carelessness and neglect on His part should be made the subject of investigation. For it is fitting that no such question should arise, and gather such strength, that it would indeed both change God, and destroy our faith in that Creator who supports us by means of His creation. For as we do direct our faith towards the Son, so also should we possess a firm and immoveable love towards the Father. In his book against Marcion, Justin38593859 Photius, 125, makes mention of Justin Martyr’s work, λόγοι κατὰ Μαρκίωνος. See also Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History, book iv. c. 18, where this passage of Irenæus is quoted. [The vast importance of Justin’s startling remark is that it hinges on the words of Christ Himself, concerning His antecedents and notes as set forth in the Scriptures, St. John v. 30–39.] does well say: “I would not have believed the Lord Himself, if He had announced any other than He who is our framer, maker, and nourisher. But because the only-begotten Son came to us from the one God, who both made this world and formed us, and contains and administers all things, summing up His own handiwork in Himself, my faith towards Him is stedfast, and my love to the Father immoveable, God bestowing both upon us.”
3. For no one can know the Father, unless through the Word of God, that is, unless by the Son revealing [Him]; neither can he have knowledge of the Son, unless through the good pleasure of the Father. But the Son performs the good pleasure of the Father; for the Father sends, and the Son is sent, and comes. And His Word knows that His Father is, as far as regards us, invisible and infinite; and since He cannot be declared [by any one else], He does Himself declare Him to us; and, on the other hand, it is the Father alone who knows His own Word. And both these truths has our Lord declared. Wherefore the Son reveals the knowledge of the Father through His own manifestation. For the manifestation of the Son is the knowledge of the Father; for all things are manifested through the Word. In order, therefore, that we might know that the Son who came is He who imparts to those believing on Him a knowledge of the Father, He said to His disciples:38603860 [A most emphatic and pregnant text which Irenæus here expounds with great beauty. The reference (St. Matt. xi. 27) seems to have been inadvertently omitted in this place where the repetition is desirable.] “No man knoweth the Son but the Father, nor the Father but the Son, and those to whomsoever the Son shall reveal Him;” thus setting Himself forth and the Father as He [really] is, that we may not receive any other Father, except Him who is revealed by the Son.
4. But this [Father] is the Maker of heaven and earth, as is shown from His words; and not he, the false father, who has been invented by Marcion, or by Valentinus, or by Basilides, or by Carpocrates, or by Simon, or by the rest of the “Gnostics,” falsely so called. For none of these was the Son of God; but Christ Jesus our Lord [was], against whom they set their teaching in opposition, and have the daring to preach an unknown God. But they ought to hear [this] against themselves: How is it that He is unknown, who is known by them? for, whatever is known even by a few, is not unknown. But the Lord did not say that both the Father and the Son could not be known at all (in totum), for in that case His advent would have been superfluous. For why did He come hither? Was it that He should say to us, “Never mind seeking after God; for He is unknown, and ye shall not find Him;” as also the disciples of Valentinus falsely declare that Christ said to their Æons? But this is indeed vain. For the Lord taught us that no man is capable of knowing God, unless he be taught of God; that is, that God cannot be known without God: but that this is the express will of the Father, that God should be known. For they shall know38613861 The ordinary text reads cognoscunt, i.e., do know; but Harvey thinks it should be the future—cognoscent. Him to whomsoever the Son has revealed Him.
5. And for this purpose did the Father reveal the Son, that through His instrumentality He might be manifested to all, and might receive those righteous ones who believe in Him into incorruption and everlasting enjoyment (now, to believe in Him is to do His will); but He shall righteously shut out into the darkness which they have chosen for themselves, those who do not believe, and who do consequently avoid His light. The Father therefore has revealed Himself to all, by making His Word visible to all; and, conversely, the Word has declared to all the Father and the Son, since He has become visible to all. And therefore the righteous judgment of God [shall fall] upon all who, like others, have seen, but have not, like others, believed.
6. For by means of the creation itself, the Word reveals God the Creator; and by means of the world [does He declare] the Lord the Maker of the world; and by means of the formation [of man] the Artificer who formed him; and by the Son that Father who begat the Son: and these things do indeed address all men in the same manner, but all do not in the same way believe them. But by the law and the prophets did the Word preach both Himself and the Father alike [to all]; and all the people heard Him alike, but all did not alike believe. And through the Word Himself who had been made visible and palpable, was the Father shown forth, although all did not equally believe in Him; but all saw the Father in the Son: for the Father is the invisible of the Son, but the Son the visible of the Father. And for this reason all spake with Christ when He was present [upon earth], and they named Him God. Yea, even the demons exclaimed, on beholding the Son: “We know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God.”38623862 Mark i. 24. And the devil looking at Him, and tempting Him, said: “If Thou art the Son of God;”38633863 Matt. iv. 3; Luke iv. 3. —all thus indeed seeing and speaking of the Son and the Father, but all not believing [in them].
7. For it was fitting that the truth should receive testimony from all, and should become [a means of] judgment for the salvation indeed of those who believe, but for the condemnation of those who believe not; that all should be fairly judged, and that the faith in the Father and Son should be approved by all, that is, that it should be established by all [as the one means of salvation], receiving testimony from all, both from those belonging to it, since they are its friends, and by those having no connection with it, though they are its enemies. For that evidence is true, and cannot be gainsaid, which elicits even from its adversaries striking38643864 Singula, which with Massuet we here understand in the sense of singularia. testimonies in its behalf; they being convinced with respect to the matter in hand by their own plain contemplation of it, and bearing testimony to it, as well as declaring it.38653865 Some, instead of significantibus, read signantibus, “stamping it as true.” But after a while they break forth into enmity, and become accusers [of what they had approved], and are desirous that their own testimony should not be [regarded as] true. He, therefore, who was known, was not a different being from Him who declared “No man knoweth the Father,” but one and the same, the Father making all things subject to Him; while He received testimony from all that He was very man, and that He was very God, from the Father, from the Spirit, from angels, from the creation itself, from men, from apostate spirits and demons, from the enemy, and last of all, from death itself. But the Son, administering all things for the Father, works from the beginning even to the end, and without Him no man can attain the knowledge of God. For the Son is the knowledge of the Father; but the knowledge of the Son is in the Father, and has been revealed through the Son; and this was the reason why the Lord declared: “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; nor the Father, save the Son, and those to whomsoever the Son shall reveal [Him].”38663866 Matt. xi. 27; Luke x. 22. Harvey observes here, that “it is remarkable that this text, having been correctly quoted a short time previously in accordance with the received Greek text, ᾧ ἐὰν βούλητας ὁ υἱὸς ἀποκαλύψαι, the translator now not only uses the single verb revelaverit, but says pointedly that it was so written by the venerable author.” It is probable, therefore, that the previous passage has been made to harmonize with the received text by a later hand; with which, however, the Syriac form agrees. For “shall reveal” was said not with reference to the future alone, as if then [only] the Word had begun to manifest the Father when He was born of Mary, but it applies indifferently throughout all time. For the Son, being present with His own handiwork from the beginning, reveals the Father to all; to whom He wills, and when He wills, and as the Father wills. Wherefore, then, in all things, and through all things, there is one God, the Father, and one Word, and one Son, and one Spirit, and one salvation to all who believe in Him.
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