Literary and Rhetorical Theory in Irenaeus, Part 2

In: Vigiliae Christianae
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In his well-known Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church Manlio Simonetti asserted that Irenaeus of Lyons was unable to offer principled opposition to Gnostic allegorical interpretations of the Scriptures and, therefore, resorted to the authority of tradition. Such a reading not only overlooks the hermeneutical principles upon which Irenaeus founds his polemic against Gnostic interpretations, but fails to recognize the theory undergirding those principles. This article, the second of a two-part study, offers a new reading. I argue that Irenaeus opposes Gnostic interpretations of Scripture, including their allegorical readings (broadly conceived), by articulating and applying hermeneutical principles that draw upon ancient literary and rhetorical theory.

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