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Irenaeus: Offering Salvation To The Sinners

John Collins09/30/2013

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In the second book of Irenaeus’s Against Heresies, Irenaeus dives deeper into the roots of the “serpent’s seed” doctrine, as well as the entire system that produced the extra-biblical teaching.  In the preface, he describes the second book as an exposure to the connections between the doctrine and the pagan worship that formed the basis.  After exposing the heresy, Irenaeus writes that there will be no more “hidden” alliances – all things hidden will be exposed:

In the present book, I shall establish those points which fit in with my design, so far as time permits, and overthrow, by means of lengthened treatment under distinct heads, their whole system; for which reason, since it is an exposure and subversion of their opinions, I have so entitled the composition of this work. For it is fitting, by a plain revelation and overthrow of their conjunctions, to put an end to these hidden alliances, and to Bythus himself, and thus to obtain a demonstration that he never existed at any previous time, nor now has any existence.

Against Heresies

At the core of the doctrine, created beings were being elevated in status from the lowly creatures in God’s creation into far more powerful beings that represented the pagan gods in each of their respective forms of worship.  To add words into the scriptures describing a physical act of sex, one must first alter and increase the power of the angels, both fallen and good.

But Ireaneus reminds us that there is only One God, and He is the creator of the heavens and the earth, along with everything that dwells within.  He is the perfect architect of His perfect will, and God’s design does not lend itself to error.  Even the hairs on our heads are numbered according to God’s perfect plan.  The “fruit” from the Garden of Eden was not a defect, and was placed there by God from the beginning:

IT is proper, then, that I should begin with the first and most important head, that is, God the Creator, who made the heaven and the earth, and all things that are therein (whom these men blasphemously style the fruit of a defect), and to demonstrate that there is nothing either above Him or after Him; nor that, influenced by any one, but of His own free will, He created all things, since He is the only God, the only Lord, the only Creator, the only Father, alone containing all things, and Himself commanding all things into existence.

Against Heresies

Like William Branham’s teaching that the “Logos went out of God” to form Christ Jesus, a man by the name of Marcion and his followers believed the same.  Sophia poured herself into Christ, the “willing vessel” under their teaching, and became a god as John baptized Him and the Spirit descended like a dove.  As scriptures describe Christ starting his ministry at age thirty, the followers of Marcion placed great emphasis on the number thirty, which incorporated other aspects of pagan religion into their doctrines.

Serpent’s Seed gave power to the angels, and the Gnostics were spreading false teaching describing Satan as being the creator of this evil world.  This world, according to Gnostics, was “Satan’s Eden” that had replaced “God’s Eden” – the Garden of Eden, because Satan had the power to pervert.  Full control of this world was taken away from God and placed into the hands of a lowly angel – one that had fallen.

Those, moreover, who say that the world was formed by angels, or by any other maker of it, contrary to the will of Him who is the Supreme Father, err first of all in this very point, that they maintain that angels formed such and so mighty a creation, contrary to the will of the Most High God. This would imply that angels were more powerful than God; or if not so, that He was either careless, or inferior, or paid no regard to those things which took place among His own possessions, whether they turned out ill or well, so that He might drive away and prevent the one, while He praised and rejoiced over the other. But if one would not ascribe such conduct even to a man of any ability, how much less to God.

Against Heresies

Under this teaching, Marcion describes a system of two gods, one the Eternal Father, the God of all gods, and his creation, the “son.”  Because the Father and the Son were not one and the same under this belief system, Irenaeus tells us that Marcion was serving a different god – one that was dual in nature.  But because of this separation, it is necessary to elevate many other beings in God’s creation into “gods.” 

These remarks are, in like manner, applicable against the followers of Marcion. For his two gods will also be contained and circumscribed by an immense interval which separates them from one another. But then there is a necessity to suppose a multitude of gods separated by an immense distance from each other on every side, beginning with one another, and ending in one another.

Against Heresies

When you take a step back to consider the emphasis William Branham places on numbers tied to spiritual events, it becomes quite shocking.  Most followers are familiar with the emphasis on basic, elementary numbers, such as threes, fives, and sevens, such as this example:

Now, I'm typing something. Notice God, how He's done this three times.  And three is the perfect number of God. God is perfected in three, like, "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," and "justification, sanctification, baptism of the Holy Ghost." He's perfected, 'cause three is His "perfection." Five is the number of "grace." Seven is... The number of "worship," twelve. Forty is the number of--of "persecution." And fifty is "jubilee," worship. "Pentecost" means fifty. And, forty days Moses was tempted, forty days Christ was tempted, you see. And all those type. Now, God is perfect in three.


Some of the other numbers used in Branham’s teaching goes unnoticed.  Similar to the followers of Marcion, who gave spiritual meaning to the number thirty, William Branham twisted scripture to squeeze examples of “thirty” that were not written.  Joseph, for instance, was allegedly sold for thirty pieces of silver under Branham’s doctrine – creating a new “type” simply based on numbers:

Then they sold Joseph, thirty pieces of silver, throwed him into a ditch for him to be dead. He was taken up, sent in then. And while he was in his prisonment in there, he... There was two men, a butler and a--and a--and a baker. And one of them was lost and the other one was saved, by Joseph who gave the dream and interpreted it.

And the same thing when Jesus was hanging on the cross; there was a thief on one side and a thief on the other, and one was lost and the other one saved. Just exactly.

Then he was taken in before Pharaoh and interpret the dream, and was made the right hand man of Pharaoh; no man could see Pharaoh without coming to Joseph. And a perfect type of Jesus setting at the right hand of God, and no man comes to God except by Christ. Just exactly the perfect type there.


All right. Joseph, one of the patriarchs, sold down into Egypt, perfect type of Christ, betrayed by his brethren, sold for a few pieces of silver--about thirty pieces, about like Christ was. He wore a coat of many colors, as Christ was seen in Revelations 1 setting on a throne and a rainbow over Him... There's seven perfect colors representing the seven church ages. Rainbow representing a covenant, He was to look upon as jasper and sardis stone, which was Reuben and Benjamin, the First, the Last, He that was, which is, and shall come, the Root and Offspring of David, the Morning Star... How marvelous. And with the covenant to His Churches, seven golden candlesticks behind Him, each candlestick representing a church age.


This connection, however, is not only extra-biblical – but entirely false.  Christ was the result of a “type” of a slave.  Christ was the Sacrifice – not a slave.  It was His will that all be saved, and he died on the cross for us like a lamb to the slaughter, not a slave to his hanging.  And under the Law of Moses, slaves were sold for a price of twenty pieces of silver – not thirty.

If it is a person between the ages of five and twenty, set the value of a male at twenty shekels and of a female at ten shekels.

Leviticus 27:5


But Irenaeus exposes the hidden meaning behind the Gnostic spiritualization of the number thirty.  The number thirty represented the Triacontad:

We may remark, in the first place, regarding their Triacontad, that the whole of it marvellously falls to ruin on both sides, that is, both as respects defect and excess. They say that to indicate it the Lord came to be baptized at the age of thirty years. But this assertion really amounts to a manifest subversion of their entire argument.

Against Heresies



Under pagan worship, series of gods were grouped into Triacontad (thirty gods), Decad (ten gods), Ogdoad (eight gods, one fallen to make seven), and Triad (three gods). 


I have shown that the number thirty fails them in every respect; too few AEons, as they represent them, being at one time found within the Pleroma, and then again too many [to correspond with that number]. There are not, therefore, thirty AEons, nor did the Saviour come to be baptized when He was thirty years old, for this reason, that He might show forth the thirty silent(3) AEons of their system, otherwise they must first of all separate and eject [the Saviour] Himself from the Pleroma of all. Moreover, they affirm that He suffered in the twelfth month, so that He continued to preach for one year after His baptism; and they endeavour to establish this point out of the prophet (for it is written, "To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of retribution"(4)), being truly blind, inasmuch as they affirm they have found out the mysteries of Bythus, yet not understanding that which is called by Isaiah the acceptable year of the Lord, nor the day of retribution. For the prophet neither speaks concerning a day which includes the space of twelve hours, nor of a year the length of which is twelve months. For even they themselves acknowledge that the prophets have very often expressed themselves in parables and allegories, and [are] not [to be understood] according to the mere sound of the words.

Against Heresies

But after going into great detail of the formation of Serpent’s Seed doctrine through systems of pagan gods, Irenaeus attacks the doctrine itself.  He describes the doctrine crumbling at the core – because the internal structure of the teaching is conflicting.

Under Gnostic teaching, Adam and Eve were formed as “spirit people” before given flesh and blood.  To describe a “bad seed line” in the human race must mean that you must also define a “good seed line,” which would describe God implanting his seed into a human.  And if God’s bloodline were in mortals, then the mortal would be perfect; not subject to fall:

But what sort of talk also is this concerning their seed--that it was conceived by the mother according to the configuration of those angels who wait upon the Saviour,--shapeless, without form, and imperfect; and that it was deposited in the Demiurge without his knowledge, in order that through his instrumentality it might attain to perfection and form in that soul which he had, [so to speak,] filled with seed? This is to affirm, in the first place, that those angels who wait upon their Saviour are imperfect, and with out figure or form; if indeed that which was conceived according to their appearance was generated any such kind of being [as has been described].

Against Heresies

Even worse, God must be limited under this teaching.  The One True God, which has knowledge of even the breath we breathe, must be changed in nature.  He must become a “god” who has no knowledge that this seed was implanted:

Then, in the next place, as to their saying that the Creator was ignorant of that deposit of seed which took place into him, and again, of that impartation of seed which was made by him to man, their words are futile and vain, and are in no way susceptible of proof. For how could he have been ignorant of it, if that seed had possessed any substance and peculiar properties? If, on the other hand, it was without substance and without quality, and so was really nothing, then, as a matter of course, he was ignorant of it.

Against Heresies

Irenaeus makes a third point, regarding the “good seed” that the Gnostics believed to be implanted by God.  A spirit cannot mate with a physical being.  The animal nature of mankind cannot form a bond with a being that does not exist in physical form.  When the serpent mated with Eve under this teaching, his “seed” was implanted in her, and contained knowledge.  After reading Irenaeus describing this heresy, one might ask:  “How, then, did the seed transfer into Adam, if Eve was the receptacle?”

And that they are the truly "spiritual," inasmuch as a certain particle of the Father of the universe has been deposited in their souls, since, according to their assertions, they have souls formed of the same substance as the Demiurge himself, yet that he, although he received from the Mother, once for all, the whole [of the divine] seed, and possessed it in himself, still remained of an animal nature, and had not the slightest understanding of those things which are above, which things they boast that they themselves understand, while they are still on earth;--does not this crown all possible absurdity? For to imagine that the very same seed conveyed knowledge and perfection to the souls of these men, while it only gave rise to ignorance in the God who made them, is an opinion that can be held only by those utterly frantic, and totally destitute of common sense.

Against Heresies

His fourth point deals with the Gnostic teaching of “Satan’s Eden.”  If this seed were truly impregnating knowledge with God’s “seed of ignorance” as they describe, then the blended combination of the two would produce a defective seed that could not increase.  Not only is this doctrine describing “God’s seed of ignorance” and “Satan’s seed of knowledge” insulting to God, it is not plausible:

Further, it is also a most absurd and groundless thing for them to say that the seed was, by being thus deposited, reduced to form and increased, and so was prepared for all the reception of perfect rationality. For there will be in it an admixture of matter--that substance which they hold to have been derived from ignorance and defect; [and this will prove itself] more apt and useful than was the light of their Father, if indeed, when born, according to the contemplation of that [light], it was without form or figure, but derived from this [matter], form, and appearance, and increase, and perfection.

Against Heresies

While the first few points describe how insulting this teaching is to Father God, Ireaneus points out how the fifth and sixth point are insulting to Christ, the Son of the Living God.  In the fifth point, Irenaeus reminds us that it is absurd to think that an angel produced itself as an infant, instead of their own angelic forms:

But further, and in addition to what has been said, the question occurs, Did their mother, when she beheld the angels, bring forth the seed all at once, or only one by one [in succession]? If she brought forth the whole simultaneously and at once, that which was thus produced cannot now be of an infantile character: its descent, therefore, into those men who now exist must be superfluous. But if one by one, then she did not form her conception according to the figure of those angels whom she beheld; for, contemplating them all together, and once for all, so as to conceive by them, she ought to have brought forth once for all the offspring of those from whose forms she had once for all conceived.

Against Heresies

But expand upon that thought a bit, considering the Christ child.  In Irenaeus’s sixth point, he asks a very valid question:  what about the Savior?  Their teaching of Lucipher being the most beautiful of the angelic beings also included a different form of Christ, which was nothing more than an angel.  Was the Son of God less beautiful than Lucipher?

Why was it, too, that, beholding the angels along with the Saviour, she did indeed conceive their images, but not that of the Saviour, who is far more beautiful than they? Did He not please her; and did she not, on that account, conceive after His likeness?(3) How was it, too, that the Demiurge, whom they can call an animal being, having, as they maintain, his own special magnitude and figure, was produced perfect as respects his substance; while that which is spiritual, which also ought to be more effective than that which is animal, was sent forth imperfect, and he required to descend into a soul, that in it he might obtain form, and thus becoming perfect, might be rendered fit for the reception of perfect reason?

Against Heresies

Interestingly, Branham lessoned Christ from the Son of God to a lowly angelic being – and then called Him ugly.  Under Branham’s different version of “jesus,” he was less beautiful than Lucipher:

"And at that time Michael shall stand, the great prince." Michael was Christ, of course, Who fought the angelic wars in heaven with the devil. Satan and Michael fought together, or fought against each other, rather.



Notice, Satan dwells in beauty. What did he try to do in the beginning? Make a more beautiful kingdom than Michael's was; moved over in the North, and took two-thirds of the Angels with him.



Satan is the one who features that kind of beauty. If we'll notice, he was the most beautiful of all the Angels in Heaven. Is that right? And he desired to make Heaven a more beautiful place than the kingdom of Michael. Is that right? Also, to show that Cain was his son, he offered a more beautiful worship, decorated his altars with fruits and flowers, and so forth. Is that right? Beautiful! Sin is beautiful, what we call beauty today. And sin is deceiving, by beauty. You'd never look at a woman going down the street and tell what's in her heart. See? But I wanted to say these things so that you could see why that Satan is her designer. That's exactly right, his own son proved it, Cain. Now, she is beautiful so she can deceive.



That’s speaking of the “beauty” of Satan.  Now listen to how he describes Christ:


He was a man, not no beauty we should desire Him. He was--He wasn't much to look upon, probably a little frail-looking Fellow. And the Bible said that He was not beautiful, in the way, a big six-footer like, or seven-footer like Saul.


As Irenaeus continues, his arguments against Serpent’s Seed become stronger.  The Gnostic belief system was a system of separation and seclusion – they believed that they held the “secret mystery knowledge” that made them the “little bride for their day.”  They believed that their seed was better than the “serpent’s seed” of all who did not ascribe to their teaching.  Irenaeus points out that under this philosophy, the Scribes and the Pharisees would have also been the “elect seed.”

Still more manifestly is that talk of theirs concerning their seed proved to be false, and that in a way which must be evident to every one, by the fact that they declare those souls which have received seed from the Mother to be superior to all others; wherefore also they have been honoured by the Demiurge, and constituted princes, and kings, and priests. For if this were true, the high priest Caiaphas, and Annas, and the rest of the chief priests, arid doctors of the law, and rulers of the people, would have been the first to believe in the Lord, agreeing as they did with respect to that relationship; and even before them should have been Herod the king.

Against Heresies


In 1 Timothy 1, Paul references this false doctrine that was being established from Jewish Mysticism, and Paul tells us that it has no value in furthering our salvation.  Hidden mysteries and their associated teaching can never replace the one thing that should be taught in the Church of the Living God:  The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

1 Timothy 1:3-7


Christ did not come to earth to save the “elect seed” and condemn the “serpent’s seed.”  Christ came to save the sinners.  Christ offered salvation to all who would believe in his name, offering salvation by grace through faith.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 1:12-17