Irenaeus Of Lyon by Simonetta Carr: A Book Review

Irenaeus Of Lyon by Simonetta Carr

Simonetta has written several books in her Christian Biographies For Young Readers series that include giants of Church history such as John Knox, John Calvin and Athanasius. She has also authored books on women of the faith like Lady Jane Grey and Marie Durand. You will find my review of Marie Durand here and of Martin Luther here. Her latest volume in the series is of Irenaeus of Lyon.

Irenaeus of Lyon, though his life is difficult to trace, is believed to have been born around the year 130 A.D. in Smyrna, which is now known as Izmir, Turkey.  It is here that Irenaeus would learn under the tutelage of Polycarp.  Polycarp was a student of the apostle John.

“His teacher was Polycarp, who had been bishop {overseer} of the church of Smyrna for a long time.  Polycarp had studied under the apostle John and had met other people who had been with Jesus.”

Due to the lack of resources like we have today, students used waxed tablets meant for erasing and reusing, so Irenaeus worked diligently to memorize Polycarp’s lessons.  Irenaeus proved to be fit for the task.  He would soon learn that future tasks would require his steadfast faith and veracious knowledge to navigate falsehood and opposition.

By 154 A.D. Irenaeus and Polycarp were in Rome.  It is here where Simonetta walks us through the journey Irenaeus would travel.  He would have contact with Justin Martyr and other apologists of the time.

He would listen to the dissenting voices like that of the Valentinians to grasp what they believed in order to refute their claims because their views were complicated and errant.  Today, this group would fall under the umbrella of Gnostics.

Irenaeus would go on to encounter Marcion and his followers.   Today known as Marcionism, that also holds to many errant views.  A primary view was that the Old Testament was not authoritative for the Christian.  Marcion denied the God of the Old Testament was the same God as the New Testament.  He believed there were two different Gods.

“Understanding these teachings allowed Irenaeus to talk more effectively to people who followed the teachings of the Gnostics and Marcion and to help Christians stay faithful to what the Bible actually says.”

Keeping in mind, the Valentinians, Marcionites, and the other false teachers Irenaeus came up against; all professed themselves Christians.

Around  176 A.D. Irenaeus moved to Lyon, the capital of Gaul, known today at France. By 177 A.D., persecution arose and there was a mass slaughtering of the Christians in Lyon.  Irenaeus was carrying a letter to Rome thereby escaping martyrdom.  Irenaeus returned to console and encourage the remnant of Christians as their pastor, nevertheless prepared for persecution to arise once again.  And it did.

Irenaeus is believed to have been killed around 200 A.D. during the vast persecution from Roman Emperor, Septimius Severus.

It is no wonder that Irenaeus authored five books that can be found in a single volume today called, Against Heresies, which is still profitable for our times.  As we can see from history up to this very moment, Christians have always had to contend for the faith.  A reminder that many have journeyed before us and through studying them we benefit from their example of faithfulness.

Simonetta’s books are truly delightful to simply handle and explore – and the stories enclosed are a gift for young and old alike.

In addition, there is an educational section called, ‘Did You Know?’  As well as a section called, ‘From Irenaeus’s Pen’.  This section includes the Rule of Faith that Irenaeus considered a set of standards that was proof of the unity of the Church.

“Irenaeus is remembered for his work in helping the church to preserve the faith handed on by the apostles and to defend it when it was attacked.”

One caveat:  Being that this volume is considered Protestant and Reformed and distributed by a Reformed publisher, it’s worth mentioning the illustration included on page 32.

The illustration made its rounds on social media a couple of years ago and it garnered its share of controversy among Protestant Christians because it depicts Mary crushing the serpent’s head.

It was designed by a Nun in my home state; “Virgin Mary Consoles Eve” ~ Crayon and pencil by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO Copyright 2005, Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey.

From their website: “Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey is a monastery of Cistercian (Trappist) nuns. A community of 22 Roman Catholic women, we try to follow Jesus Christ through a life of prayer, silence, simplicity, and ordinary work. Our rule of life, after the Gospel, is the Rule of St Benedict. Our order is wholly ordered to contemplation.”

The crux of the concern is that Roman Catholicism teaches that Mary is the new Eve and that she crushes the serpent’s head.  That’s not Biblical.  Roman Catholics, to varying degrees, venerate Mary which this illustration depicts.

Some argue, though they are aware it’s Romish, it’s reasonable to give artistic license as far as interpretation is concerned regardless of what the artist intended.

If interested, you can listen to Sr. Grace Remington in her own words about the illustration starting around the 22:00 minute mark:

“I wasn’t raised in the Catholic Church, I wasn’t raised to have a strong relationship with Mary, I didn’t have the same relationship with Mary as some of my sisters had…The picture itself means a lot to me just on a personal level of my own wanting to come to a relationship with Mary.”

Appreciation is warranted of Mary for the godly example that she was as a humble and obedient servant to the Lord – however, she was just as fallen and in need of the Savior, Jesus Christ, as are all of us.  Christ {conquered} crushed the serpent {Satan}, not Mary.

We mustn’t hazard to blur or rob the Lord of His glory by giving it to another.

“I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” ~ Isaiah 42:8

Disclosure: This book was provided by Reformation Heritage Books and Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my review.

Purchase Irenaeus Of Lyon by Simonetta Carr

You can also visit Simonetta at her blog: Christian Biographies For Young Readers


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