prefigured in him, and he might become the father of all those who follow the Word of God, and are pilgrims in this world, that is of those believers who are from the circumcised and those believers who are from the uncircumcised, just as Christ has become the cornerstone (cf. Eph 2:20), and gathers into the one faith of Abraham those from both covenants who are fit to make up the building of God. (Haer. 4.25.1)
In Christianity the faith of Abraham has returned to its original condition. It is faith without circumcision and without the works of the Law. This does not mean that the history and practices of Israel in the period between Abraham and Christ are to be dismissed as of no account, but they represent a temporary disposition in God's dealing with his people, adapted to the decline that accompanied their slavery in Egypt. The Decalogue encodes in writing the law which the patriarchs had written in their hearts (Haer. 4.16.3). Observance of the Decalogue remains essential to salvation, but the rest of the Mosaic Law was a yoke of slavery, needed to drag a rebellious people to obedience to God. The only difference between the obedience of slaves in the old covenant and the obedience of sons in the new is that the former had to be compelled, while the latter is freely given (Haer. 4.13.2).
Irenaeus did not need to define himself or his church over against Judaism, but he did need to take account of the embarrassing fact that most Jews stood apart from the movement of the gradually evolving, and divinely directed, plan of salvation. These Jews have refused to accept the interpretative key to their own scriptures which would lead them to beliefin Christ, and, therefore, have been disinherited by God (Haer. 4.12.1; 3.21.1). Like the fleece of Gideon (Judg 6:38-40) which once was moist while all around it was dry, contemporary Judaism is now dry, while all around it is moist: that is to say, it no longer has the Holy Spirit of God, which came down upon Jesus, and was given by him to the church (Haer. 3.17.3).
Irenaeus' church is not defined by complete hostility or opposition to the non-Christian world. In view of the fierce persecution suffered by the Christians of Vienne and Lyons, and described by them in a letter to the churches of Asia and Phrygia,10 he has a surprisingly relaxed attitude to the Roman empire. He acknowledges that 'it is due to them that the world is at peace, and we are able to walk on the roads without fear, and travel by sea wherever we wish' (Haer. 4.30.3). Like the Israelites despoiling Egypt (Exod 12:36), though with far less justification, Christians do not feel at all embarrassed at retaining the property, money, clothing and other things which they acquired before their
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