The Holy Spirit and the Incarnation of the Word. ...
The Holy Spirit and the Incarnation of the Word. We have seen how Justin declared that it was not permissible to regard "the Spirit" and "the Power" that came upon the Virgin as any other than the Word of God Himself. And we also noted in passing that Theophilus of Antioch spoke of the Word as being "Spirit of God" and "Power of the Highest," the second of which designations comes from Luke i.35.

We have now to ask
whether the language of Irenæus corresponds with this interpretation and makes the Word Himself to be the agent of His own Incarnation.

We begin with a strange passage of the Demonstration (c.71) in which he expounds Lam. iv.20: The Spirit of our face, the Lord Christ, was taken in their snares; of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the Gentiles. He has used part of this text in III, xi.2, a passage which must be cited here. Christ, he says, is Salus, Salvator, and Salutare in various Scriptures. "He is Salvator (Saviour), because He is Son and Word of God: Salutare (perhaps as saving-principle), because He is Spirit; for the Spirit of our face, it says, Christ the Lord: and He is Salus (Salvation), because He is flesh." He has in his mind some "Gnostic" error which he is refuting; but we are only concerned with his use of the text to prove that Christ is Spirit. In the passage in the Demonstration he makes the same use of it. This Scripture, he says, declares "that Christ being (the) Spirit of God was to become a suffering man." Then he adds: "And by shadow he means His body. For just as a shadow is made by a body, so also Christ's body was made by His Spirit." Here again we are not concerned with the general argument, but only with these two statements: Christ was Spirit of God, and Christ's body was made. by His Spirit. This is as much as to say that the Word of God was the agent of His own Incarnation.

In c.59 we read: "By flower [of the root of Jesse] he means His flesh (or "body"): for from spirit it budded forth, as we have said before." The reference would appear to be to c.51: "that the same God forms Him from the womb, that is, that of the Spirit of God He should be born."

In V, i.2, controverting Docetic views, he says "If He were not man and yet appeared to be man, then neither did He remain what He was in truth, (viz.) Spirit of God, since the Spirit is invisible; nor was any truth in Him, since He was not what He appeared to be."

In c.97, after quoting from Baruch iii.38, Afterward did he appear upon earth, and was conversant with men, he says: "mingling and mixing the Spirit of God the Father with the plasma (formation') of God, that man might be after the image and likeness of God." There is a close parallel in IV, xxxiv 4, a continuation of the great passage cited at length above: "His advent according to flesh, whereby a mingling and communion of God and man was made, according to the good-pleasure of the Father: the Word of God having foretold from the beginning that God should be seen of men and should be conversant with them on the earth . . . that man being intermingled [54] with the Spirit of God should be brought to the glory of the Father."

The general thought here is that the restoration of man takes place after the pattern of the Incarnation -- the intermingling of human flesh with the Spirit of God. If the Spirit of God in the Incarnation is thought of primarily as Christ Himself, yet there is no sharp distinction drawn between Christ as Spirit and the Spirit that works in believers. The indistinctness is not greater than in St Paul: "if the Spirit of God be in you . . . but if any man have not the Spirit of Christ . . . but if Christ be in you . . . if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you" -- all in consecutive verses in Rom. viii.9 ff.

We have left to the last a phrase, which taken alone might have suggested a later view. If we are not to misinterpret Irenæus, we must bear in mind that the clause "Conceived of the Holy Ghost" does not appear in any credal confession before the Council of Ariminum in 359, and it was not until some years later that it found final acceptance. It belongs to a period of definition long subsequent to the age of Irenæus.

The words in question are these (c.40): "He from whom all things are, He who spake with Moses, came into Judea; generated from God by (the) Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary." I have been compelled to use the word "generated," at the risk of misunderstanding: but the Armenian word means simply "sown." And we shall do well at once to compare III, xvii.6: "The Word, ... united and sown together with that which He Himself had formed (or, as the Latin has it, unitus et consparsus suo plasmati) according to the good pleasure of the Father, and made flesh." It is the Word that the Father "sows" by His Spirit. And to show the wide scope of the metaphor, we may compare IV, xx.1: "The Son of God is sown everywhere in the Scriptures; at one time speaking with Abraham and eating with him," and so forth. And, again, in IV, xlviii.2 we have: "the seed of the Father of all, that is, the Spirit of God, through whom all things were made, mingled and united with flesh, that is, His plasma (formation')." This is said of the Holy Spirit in His work amongst men.

The whole topic is further illustrated by V, i.3:

"The Ebionites . . . not willing to understand that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and the power of the Highest overshadowed her; wherefore also that which was born was holy, and Son of the Most High God, the Father of all, who wrought His incarnation, and manifested a new birth; that, as by the former birth we inherited death, so by this birth we should inherit life." Presently he adds: "and not considering that, just as at the beginning of our formation (plasmatio) in Adam that breath of life which was from God, being united toy the thing formed (plasmata), animated man and manifested a rational animal, so at the end the Word of the Father and the Spirit of God, being united (adunitus, singular) to the original substance of the formation (plasmatio) of Adam, made man living and perfect, capable of receiving the perfect Father; that, as in the animal we all died, so in the spiritual we should all be made alive." [55]

It results from this examination that the teaching of Irenæus as to the relation of the Holy Spirit to the Incarnation is vague, perhaps even transitional. He does not, like Justin, plainly assert that the Spirit of God who came down upon the Virgin was the Word of God Himself; nor, on the other hand, does he definitely preclude that view. He seems to prefer to think of a cooperation of the Word of God and the Wisdom of God -- the Two Hands of God to whom the creation of the first formed man was due.

We may conclude by quoting a striking passage from the Demonstration, [56] the earlier part of which will recall the noble lines of Newman's hymn:

O wisest love! that flesh and blood,

Which did in Adam fail,

Should strive afresh against the foe,

Should strive and should prevail.

And that a higher gift than grace

Should flesh and blood refine,

God's presence and his very Self,

And Essence all-divine.

"So the Word was made flesh, that, through that very flesh which sin had ruled and dominated, it should lose its force and be no longer in us. And therefore our Lord took that same original formation as (His) entry into flesh, so that He might draw near and contend on behalf of the fathers, and conquer by Adam that which by Adam had stricken us down. Whence then is the substance of the first-formed (man)? From the Will and the Wisdom of God, and from the virgin earth. For God had not sent rain, the Scripture says, upon the earth, before man was made; and there was no man to till the earth. From this, then, whilst it was still virgin, God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind. So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God; that He also should show forth the likeness of Adam's entry into flesh, and there should be that which was written in the beginning, man after the image and likeness of God."


[10] Suppl. 10.

[11] All' ekeinon te, kai ton par' autou huion elthonta kai didaxanta hemas tauta, kai ton ton allon hepomenon kai exomoioumenon agathon angelon straton, pneuma te to prophetikon sebometha kai proskunoumen, logo kai aletheia timontes, k.t.l. (Just. M. Ap. I, 6).

[12] E. g. Ap. 1, 63: Ho logos de tou theou estin ho huios autou, hos proephemen; kai angelos de kaleitai kai apostolos; autos gar apangellei k.t.l.; Dial. 93: (He who fulfils the First and Great Commandment) oudena allon timesei theon; kai angelon ekeinon an timesei, theou boulomenou, ton agapomenon hup' autou tou kuriou kai theou.

[13] Kai oud' epi toutois to theologikon hemon histatai meros, alla kai plethos angelon kai leitourgon phamen, ohus ho poietes kai demiourgos kosmou theos dia tou par autou logou dieneime kai dietaxen peri te ta atoicheia einai kai tous ouranous kai ton kosmon kai ta en auto kai ten touton eutaxian (Athenag. Supplic. 10).

[14] Ap. 1, 13: (huion theou) en deuthera chora echontes pneuma te prophetikon en trite taxei.

[15] Ap. 1, 60.

Athenagoras (Suppl. 23) treats the matter more elaborately as usual. We shall find that Irenæus has been influenced by Justin's words about the chiasma: see below, c. 34.

[16] On the other hand he shows no unwillingness to give the Words of Institution in describing the Last Supper. But there is no ground for supposing that he attached to them a consecrating effect, nor indeed is it known whether in his day they formed a part of the Eucharistic Prayer.

[17] Ep' onomatos gar tou patros ton holon kai despotou theou, kai tou soteros emon Iesou Christou, kai pneumatos hagiou, to en to hudati tote loutron poiountai (Ap. 1, 61).

[18] kai ep' onomatos hagiou, ho dia ton propheton proekeruxe ta kata ton Iesoun panta (ibid.).

[19] Ap. 1, 65.

[20] Ap. 1, 67.

[21] Ap. 1, 32.

[22] To pneuma oun kai ten dunamin ten para tou theou ouden allo noesai themis e ton logon, hos kai prototokos to theo esti . . . kai touto elthon epi ten parthenon kai episkiasan ou dia sunousias alla dia dunameos enkumona katestese (Ap. 1, 33): cf. Dial. 100 ad fin.

[23] It is interesting to compare with this the passage quoted from the Gospel according to the Hebrews by St Jerome in his Commentary on Isaiah (lib. iv. cap. 12): "Now it came to pass, when the Lord had come up from the water, the whole fount of the Holy Spirit came down and rested upon him, and said to him: My Son, in all the prophets was I waiting for thee, that thou mightest come and I might rest in thee. For thou art my rest; thou art my Son, (my) first-born, which reignest for ever."

[24] See note on p. 53.

[25] Cf. also III, xi. 11.

[26] Wobbermin's edition, Texte u. Untersuch. xvii, 3b, p. 5: Lalesato en hemin ho kurios Iesous kai hagion pueuma, kai humnesato se di hemon. . . .

[27] It is curious to notice that each of these pairs (Living Creatures, Cherubim, Seraphim) is in turn interpreted by the Alexandrian Origen as signifying the Son and the Holy Spirit: see the note to c. 10 below.

[28] In the Slavonic Secrets of Enoch (cc. xix f.), in both recensions, Cherubim and Seraphim are mentioned, by themselves and in this order. Where did the combination first arise?

[29] Journal of Theological Studies, Oct. 1914, p. 59: Se proskunei pan asomaton kai hagion tagma, [se proskunei ho parakletos,] pro de panton ho hagios sou pais Iesous ho Christos, ho kurios kai theos hemon, sou de angelos kai tes dunameos archistrategos kai archiereus aionios kai ateleutetos, se proskunousi euruthmoi stratiai angelon, k.t.l. Mr Turner says: "The bracketed words are by the second hand over an erasure according to Funk: but I do not doubt that it was some close connection in the original of the Holy Spirit with angelic spirits which was the motive of the erasure."

[30] I may be allowed to refer to my article (Isaiah, Ascension of) in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible for an account of this document. I have borrowed from it the outline here given. The book has since been edited with much care by Dr Charles.

[31] In V, xviii. 1 he gives a like interpretation, though in a different connection: "Over all is the Father, and He is the head of Christ; and through all the Word, and He is the head of the Church; and in us all the Spirit, and He is the living water which the Lord bestows," etc.

[32] As quoted above, p. 36.

[33] Cf. c. 4: "Now among all things is this world of ours," etc., and the note there.

[34] Cf. c. 55: "The Father speaking to the Son" (the same quotation, Genesis 1:26).

[35] Cf. c. 4: "And therefore it is right first of all to believe that there is One God, the Father, who created what was not that it should be, and who, containing all things, alone is uncontained." See note there, where the Greek is given from the Shepherd of Hermas.

[36] The Latin has "Malachias," both here and in IV, xxix. 5, where again the Armenian has "the Angel": these are the only places where Irenæus quotes the prophet by name. The name Malachi only occurs as the heading of the prophecy, and in the first verse of it, where the LXX however gives angelou autou instead. There was uncertainty about the authorship, which was sometimes attributed to Ezra. In 4 Esdras i. 40 a list of the twelve prophets ends with "Malachias, qui et angelus Domini vocatus est." Hippolytus (de Antichr. 46) writes: kathos dia Malachiou tou angelou phesin. Cf. Clem. Al. Strom. I, 122, 127, 129, 135 (ho en tois dodeka angelos). In the Latin fragment of the Didascalia (Hauler, p. 68) we find: "per Malachiam loquens, qui nuncupatur et angelus;" so again in the Syriac (ed. Achelis-Flemming, p. 129): "Malachi the Angel." Jerome says that Origen regarded the writer actually as an angel. Twice Justin assigns quotations from him to Zachariah (Dial. 29 and 49). I have adopted "the Angel" in the translation here to call attention to the reading. I think it not unlikely to be what Irenæus wrote: but it is right to add that the Armenian Bible follows the LXX in reading "his angel" in Malachi 1:1.

[37] Cf c. 3: "For God is not ruler and Lord over the things of another, but over His own."

[38] Cf. c. 40: "Thus then the Word of God in all things hath the preeminence," and note there

[39] Cf. c. 39: "A just and holy man . . . the first begotten of the dead."

[40] Cf c. 52: "Christ, being Son of God before all the world, is always with the Father," etc.

[41] In Justin (Ap. II, 6) we have (ektise kai ekosmese, and in Athenagoras (Suppl. epoiese kai ekosmese.

[42] The Arm. also has here a different word--one which is used to translate katartisas in the quotation from Hermas. Other parallels are II, xlvii. 2: "condens et faciens omnia . . . Verbo virtutis suæ; et omnia aptavit et disposuit Sapientia sua . . . qui fecit ea per semetipsum, hoc est per Verbum et per Sapientiam suam:" III, xxxviii. 2: "Verbo suo confirmans et Sapientia compingens omnia."

[43] Origen found the Spirit in Genesis 1:2 and in Psalm 33:6: but he is quite clear that Wisdom is the Son.

[44] Cf. c. 2: "Man is a living being compounded of soul and flesh," and note there.

[45] For "His own Hands" (Arm.) the Latin has "figuratio sua," which has troubled the commentators: the Armenian version restores the meaning of the passage.

[46] In the Clementine Homilies, however, the doctrine of which has much in common with the Helchesaite teachings of the second century, there are some curious parallels to the language of Irenæus on this subject. In Hom. xvi. 12 we read: "There is one God who said to His Wisdom, Let us make man. Now Wisdom, with which, as with His own Spirit, He himself ever rejoiced (cf. Proverbs 8:30), is united as Soul with God, and stretched out from him as Hand, creating the universe (ekteineta: de hos cheir demiourgousa to pan)." So in Hom. xi. 22, "of the Spirit of God moving on the water," we are told: "The Spirit has the beginning of extension (ten archen tes ektaseos) from God who made all things;" and, "when God spake, the Spirit as His Hand created all things." With this ektasis cf. Dem. c. 26: "Now the finger of God is that which is stretched forth from the Father in the Holy Spirit."

[47] Even when explaining the word "Christian" he does not mention Christ, but plays with the word euchrestos, and then says, "We are called Christians because we are anointed (chriometha) with the oil of God" (i. 1 and 12).

[48] i. 3.

[49] See above, pp. 44, 48 f.

[50] Echon oun ho theos ton heautou logon endiatheton en tois idiais splanchnois, egennesen auton meta tes heautou sophias exereuxamenos pro ton holon. The language is molded on Psalm 45:1: Exereuxato he kardia mou logon agathon.

[51] ii. 14: tas sunagogas, legomen de ekklesias hagias.

[52] ii. 15: tupoi eisi tes triados, tou theou kai tou logou autou kai tes sophias autou.

[53] The earlier part of this chapter has been quoted above (p. 37). In insisting that no other save the Father and the Son is called God or Lord in the full sense, Irenæus is following Justin (Dial. 56). Justin has quoted Psalm 45:7, and asks: Ei oun kai allon tina theologein kai kuriologein to pneuma to hagion phate humeis para ton patera ton holon kai ton christon autou. Equally strong are the statements in Dial. 65 and 68.

[54] Latin: complexus homo Spiritum Dei. Arm.: "intertwined and mingled with." Perhaps the Greek was sumplekomenos.

[55] The words which follow have been quoted above: "For never at any time hath Adam escaped the Hands of God," etc.

[56] Dem. cc. 31 f.

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