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‘Passing Beyond the Angels’: the interconnection between Irenaeus’ account of the Devil and his doctrine of creation

Hiestand, G. (2018) ‘Passing Beyond the Angels’: the interconnection between Irenaeus’ account of the Devil and his doctrine of creation. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Irenaeus’ pro-material theology, arguing specifically against Gnostic anti-materialism, has received much attention in Ireanean scholarship. Likewise, Irenaeus’ account of the Devil has been similarly noted. What is missing, however, is a study that shows the interconnection between Irenaeus’ account of the Devil and his larger doctrine of creation. This thesis will build upon, and then go beyond the work of previous Irenaeus scholars, by showing how Irenaeus’ cosmology and anthropology are deepened by his account of the Devil. By connecting these various strands of Irenaus’ thought, something scholarship hitherto has not yet undertaken, this thesis, first, demonstrates the occasionally questioned unity of Irenaeus’ theology as a whole, and, second, brings to the fore a so far underaccentuated early Christian tradition that allows for a full appreciaton of the created world as the stage within which God intends to perform his drama of human salvation. In Irenaeus’ view, the Devil was appointed by God to be a steward of the material world until such time as humanity could come of age and assume its proper lordship. Given this backdrop, Irenaeus offers us an account of the Devil’s fall in which the Devil was motivated by envy of humanity, rather than pride against God, as other later Christian writers would have it. The world was the prize that humanity originally possessed and that the Devil, through subterfuge and deceit, stole. Humanity’s loss of the world’s throne sets the stage for the soteriological narrative that Irenaeus tells. From this starting point Irenaeus constructs an anthropocentric, terrestrial eschatology that necessarily climaxes with the overthrow of the Devil and the re-enthronement of a resurrected humanity upon a renewed earth. Irenaeus’ narrative can be set in contrast with the Gnostic narrative, which culminates in the denouement of humanity’s materiality. Likewise, Irenaeus’ account can be set in contrast with later Platonized Christian soteriological accounts (e.g. Origen and Augustine) which move away from Irenaeus’ account of the Devil and thus arrive also at different anthropological and soteriologcal conclusions. This thesis will highlight how Irenaeus, resourced by his account of the Devil, is able to capture the terrestrial and anthropocentric nature of the canonical storyline in a way that is unique among the early Christian writers.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Pollmann, K.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Humanites
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Classics
ID Code:78890
Date on Title Page:2017


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