Irenaeus, Mosaics, and Old Wives’ Tales

Being kept up by a baby who would not sleep, and who would wake his mother with his cries if he were not constantly being bounced about in a chair, with my supply of Agatha Christie and Dick Frances novels depleted, I found myself the other night reading a copy of Irenaeus’ *Against Heresies*, and I ran across this quote:

They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and to use a common proverb, they “strive to weave ropes of sand,” while they try to adapt with an air of probability, the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, to their own particular assertions, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions.

Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skilful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should re-arrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that *this* was the beautiful image of the king which the skillful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king.

In like manner do these persons patch together old wives’ fables, and then endeavor, by violently drawing away from their proper connection, words, expressions and parables whenever found, to adapt the oracles of God to their baseless fictions. (Book I, Chapter 1.)

It’s a pretty good image for misquoting the Bible, isn’t it? Continue reading “Irenaeus, Mosaics, and Old Wives’ Tales”