Posted by Pastoral Musings on July 10th, 2012
We are told these days that we should read Genesis through “Ancient Eyes”. I agree.
With that in mind, I present to you this reading of Genesis from Irenaeus, who followed closely on the heels of the Apostles and was well informed of their teaching and preaching. Remembering that the Apostles taught the teachings of Jesus, who taught the truth of Scripture, fulfilling the promises of God made in the Scriptures; we find that we have good reason to believe that these ancient eyes take us back to the original intent of the writer of the Genesis Creation Account. Not only so but, Jesus being the very Word of God, we have every reason to believe that He spoke truly concerning Genesis and the Creation.
We find Irenaeus walking in Jesus’ footsteps and believing in a literal creation, a literal Adam, a literal paradise, and a literal fall.
For in Adam the hands of God had become accustomed to set in order, to rule, and to sustain His own workmanship, and to bring it and place it where they pleased. Where, then, was the first man placed? In paradise certainly, as the Scripture declares “And God planted a garden [paradisum] eastward in Eden, and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” And then afterwards when [man] proved disobedient, he was cast out thence into this world. Wherefore also the elders who were disciples of the apostles tell us that those who were translated were transferred to that place (for paradise has been prepared for righteous men, such as have the Spirit; in which place also Paul the apostle, when he was caught up, heard words which are unspeakable as regards us in our present condition), and that there shall they who have been translated remain until the consummation [of all things], as a prelude to immortality.
Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, chapter 5.1, Schaff, Philip. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. electronic ed. Garland, TX: Galaxie Software, 2000.
When we follow the train of truth from Irenaeus to the Apostles, and back to the Word of God- Jesus Himself- we find ourselves reading Genesis with the most ancient of eyes.