conversion from the 'mammon of iniquity'. Nor after their conversion are Christians embarrassed to profit from trade with non-Christians or even to work in the imperial household (Haer. 4.30.i).
Irenaeus' own debt to pagan culture was heavier on the rhetorical than on the philosophical side. His prose style shows him to have had a considerable education in rhetoric, and some ofhis key notions, like 'hypothesis', 'economy' and 'recapitulation', have a rhetorical origin.n Irenaeus refers a few times to pagan poets and philosophers, but he does not show obvious signs of a deep or prolonged engagement with pagan literary or philosophical culture. Aristophanes was better at explaining the creation of things than the Valentinians, and Plato was more religious than them (Haer. 2.i4.i; 3.25.5). But both comparisons are meant to shame Christian heretics, not to praise pagan authors. Irenaeus did, however, absorb - probably from Christian sources - the Platon-ist distinction between being and becoming, and deployed it to considerable effect.
Though he may thus have been reasonably comfortable in a pagan cultural environment, Irenaeus' identity was robustly Christian, and his literature was the Bible. Initially, at least, that meant the Old Testament. It was the heretics' contempt for the God revealed in the Old Testament that, more than anything else, provoked Irenaeus to counter-attack (Haer. 2.3i.i). But since, with the exception of the Marcionites, the heretics disputed not the legitimacy but the interpretation of the Old Testament, Irenaeus had to show that his interpretation, and not that of the heretics, was the right one. At a pragmatic level, Irenaeus will argue that the scriptures should be interpreted as meaning what they say, and not as a coded way of saying something else (though he is himself no stranger to allegorical and, it might be thought, whimsical interpretation) (Haer. i.9.4; 2.27.i-2). But more systematically, Irenaeus believes that the scriptures have to be interpreted against the background of what they teach, taken as a whole. Thus, it is ridiculous to suppose that the God who reveals himself in the Old Testament is a different, or a lesser, God than the one who reveals himself in Jesus. This general sense of revelation, this 'hypothesis', becomes the means of measuring the rightness or wrongness of a particular interpretation of scripture, and is therefore called, in the Epideixis, a canon, or rule of belief, and more frequently in Adversus haereses, a rule of truth/2
Although the Old Testament by itself, interpreted as bearing upon and looking towards the incarnation, might have satisfied Irenaeus, the argument
11 Grant, Irenaeus, 47-5i.
12 Epid. 3; Haer. i.9.4; i.22.i; 2.27.i; 3.2.i; 3.ii.i; 3.i2.6; 3.i5.i; 4.35.4.
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