"For we wrestle not against flesh
and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers
of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
Very Short Introduction
Irenaeus States that Jesus Lived to at least 100 years of age
here are a good number of biographies on Irenaeus, who lived between 125 AD and 202 AD. Just go to a search engine or the various encyclopedias on the web.
The first paragraph of the Catholic Online Saints website page dealing with Irenaeus gives an idea of his place within Christianity:
“The writings of St. Irenaeus entitle him to a high place among the fathers of the Church, for they not only laid the foundations of Christian theology but, by exposing and refuting the errors of the Gnostics, they delivered the Catholic Faith from the real danger of the doctrines of those heretics”
Another article that the reader may wish to check is at the online Catholic Encyclopedia. Below is an excerpt that clearly establishes the powerful and important place of Irenaeus in the Christian Church:
“Irenaeus wrote in Greek many works which have secured for him an exceptional place in Christian literature, because in controverted religious questions of capital importance they exhibit the testimony of a contemporary of the heroic age of the Church, of one who had heard St. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John, and who, in a manner, belonged to the Apostolic Age.”
In my opinion this particular reference from the works of St. Irenaeus that we have chosen to examine in this link does not come near the strength of the Persian, Sanskrit and other documents presented in the tomb link, at least one of which explicitly equates Yuz Asaf with Jesus Christ. But we are presenting this reference because it appears to present information that states that Jesus was alive long after the age of thirty.
We will present excerpts from an important document written by St. Irenaeus entitled, Against Heresies. That entire book is online on the Internet, and can be read at your leisure. The quotes that we will present later come from the Gnostic Society Library’s online translation of Against Heresies, and we encourage the reader to visit their website and browse through the materials.
Now, it must be stated that St.
Irenaeus still believed that Jesus Christ was crucified, but that he was “more
than fifty years old when he died.” In
fact, Irenaeus believed in the standard teachings of Christianity, as this
example, taken from Against Heresies
reveals: “...who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensation of God,
and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection
from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ
Jesus, our Lord, and his future manifestation from heaven in the glory of
Later you will see that St. Irenaeus stated that Jesus was alive during the reign of the Emperor Trajan (Marcus Ulpius Trajanus). But emperor Trajan (98-117 A.D.) began his reign in the year 98 A.D., which means that Jesus would have been at least 98 years old during the reign of Trajan. If Irenaeus was referring to Jesus as being seen in Asia [some believe he was referring to John], then it appears that this was a sighting that Irenaeus believed occurred before the crucifixion, and that, though Jesus was seen in Asia at an older age, this sighting must have occurred before the crucifixion. According to St. Irenaeus, the crucifixion took place when Jesus “was more than fifty years old.” But as you shall see in the tomb link, there exist other evidence that states that the sightings of Jesus in Asia are sightings that occurred after the crucifixion, not before.
Mark Mason (In Search of the Loving God) says the following at his website:
“For instance, in his celebrated book, Against Heresies, which was crucial in establishing church orthodoxy against the perceived threat of the Gnostics, the second century Church Father Irenaeus wrote that Jesus lived to be an old man, and remained in ‘Asia’ with his disciple John, and others, up to the times of the Emperor Trajan, before finally dying. Trajan’s reign began in 98 A.D., at which time Jesus would have been just over 100 years old”
So Mr. Mason is also of the opinion that Irenaeus was referring to Jesus Christ, and not to John. Incidentally, Mark Mason is a committed Christian who believes that Christians should be prepared to accept the possibility that Jesus Christ may have survived the crucifixion and lived and ministered afterwards. He states:
“What are Christians to make of this supposed return of Jesus to India after the crucifixion? Despite the evidence for it being thin, perhaps we could, at least, ask this question: what if the inevitable further research into the theory does authenticate it? What if the remains of ‘Yuz Asaf’ in Srinagar are exhumed and are well enough preserved to show evidence of crucifixion? My own belief is that this should not adversely affect Christian faith. Whether Jesus actually physically died on the cross is a minor point. The important thing is that he suffered for the sins of all, and indeed, if he didn’t physically die he would have suffered much more (have died a worse ‘death’) due to the pain of recovering, than he would have if he had just quickly died and been miraculously raised to life.
“Later versions of the Nicene Creed say Jesus ‘descended into hell’ for three days, which would be a good description of such an ordeal of recovery from terrible wounds while lying in a grave. In either case the Bible makes it clear that Jesus ended up very much alive in his original body, and that his body was not subject to decay during the ordeal (Acts 2:31). What is possible is that he was what we would now call ‘clinically dead’ for a while, and that, like many patients in modern hospitals, he was restored to life. We do not, however, any longer think of ‘clinically dead’ as really being dead—only when the brain has decayed so much as to lose its ability to function do we pronounce a person dead. And, as we have just seen, the Bible says Jesus’ body was not subject to any decay. It is also worth noting that Jesus said there would be no miraculous sign to demonstrate his authority, except the sign of the prophet Jonah…”
“Jesus may have visited India, and he may even have returned there after his crucifixion. We just don’t know for sure yet, one way or the other. The fact that there is room for speculation about this, and that it can’t be ruled out, shows just how little we actually know about Jesus, and the importance of keeping an open mind about him and his teachings.”
The reader will have noticed that Mr. Mason states that the evidence of a visit by Jesus to India after the crucifixion is “thin.” But he then offers the cautious observation that if it is actually proven that Jesus Christ lies in the Roza Bal, then, “this should not adversely affect Christian faith.” As you will discover in subsequent links, the evidence is far from “thin.”
Since we are going to quote excerpts from this ancient, early work of the Christian Church, we ask that the reader, in his or her own time, consider reading Book II of that work. The specific chapter of interest in that book is Chapter 22, #5. The title of the chapter is:
“CHAP. XXII—THE THIRTY AEONS ARE NOT TYPIFIED BY THE FACT THAT CHRIST WAS BAPTIZED IN HIS THIRTIETH YEAR: HE DID NOT SUFFER IN THE TWELFTH MONTH AFTER HIS BAPTISM, BUT WAS MORE THAN FIFTY YEARS OLD WHEN HE DIED.”
The reader may wish to consider taking some time to study the intense polemical war that Irenaeus was conducting against the Gnostics, whom he considered to be heretics. And that is another important factor here: Irenaeus was fighting to defend the Church and to defend the figure of Jesus Christ.
We will now quote St. Irenaeus. Any emphasis is ours:
“5. They, however, that they may establish their false opinion regarding that which is written, ‘to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,’ maintain that He preached for one year only, and then suffered in the twelfth month. [In speaking thus], they are forgetful to their own disadvantage, destroying His whole work, and robbing Him of that age which is both more necessary and more honourable than any other; that more advanced age, I mean, during which also as a teacher He excelled all others. For how could He have had disciples, if He did not teach? And how could He have taught, unless He had reached the age of a Master? For when He came to be baptized, He had not yet completed His thirtieth year, but was beginning to be about thirty years of age (for thus Luke, who has mentioned His years, has expressed it: ‘Now Jesus was, as it were, beginning to be thirty years old,’(13) when He came to receive baptism); and, [according to these men] He preached only one year reckoning from His baptism. On completing His thirtieth year He suffered, being in fact still a young man, and who had by no means attained to advanced age. Now, that the first stage of early life embraces thirty years (1) and that this extends onwards to the fortieth year, every one will admit; but from the fortieth and fiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, even as the Gospel and all the elders testify; those who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord, [affirming] that John conveyed to them that information. (2) And he [Jesus or John?] remained among them up to the times of Trajan. (3) Some of them, moreover, saw not only John, but the other apostles also, and heard the very same account from them, and bear testimony as to the [validity of] the statement. Whom then should we rather believe? Whether such men as these, or Ptolemaeus, who never saw the apostles, and who never even in his dreams attained to the slightest trace of an apostle?”
There are some who believe that the sentence, “And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan,” is referring to John. Others, such as Mark Mason, believe that the sentence is referring to Jesus. We do not believe that St. Irenaeus was referring to John, because of the fact that the title of the chapter from which the reference is taken indicates that the topic of discussion surrounded the age of Jesus.
But whichever is the case, Irenaeus clearly stated that he believed that Jesus lived to “that more advanced age.” And he stated that Jesus Christ advanced to an “old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher.”
It is difficult to accept Irenaeus’ belief that Jesus died on the cross at some older age, simply because there are other documents that state that he was alive and well, but mention nothing about his having died on the cross at some later date. In short, Irenaeus’ statements cannot be read in isolation, due to the fact that there exists other information that states that Jesus was alive very long after age 30. So Irenaeus’ statements must be weighed against the other available accounts.
Irenaeus was bound by doctrine. So even if he had heard a report that Jesus was alive long after the age of 30, his religious faith in the doctrine would have caused him to draw conclusions based on that doctrine. He would not necessarily, for instance, have concluded that Jesus actually survived the crucifixion. Since he was receiving reports about Jesus having been seen alive many years after the age of 30, he would have concluded that Christian doctrine needed to be adjusted to accommodate what he saw as the reality that Jesus died long after age 30.
Later Irenaeus states the following as his testimony that Jesus Christ was not a mere apparition or ghost, but a physical human being:
“6. But, besides this, those very Jews who then disputed with the Lord Jesus Christ have most clearly indicated the same thing. For when the Lord said to them, ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad,’ they answered Him, ‘Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?’(4) Now, such language is fittingly applied to one who has already passed the age of forty, without having as yet reached his fiftieth year, yet is not far from this latter period. But to one who is only thirty years old it would unquestionably be said, ‘Thou art not yet forty years old.’ For those who wished to convict Him of falsehood would certainly not extend the number of His years far beyond the age which they saw He had attained; but they mentioned a period near His real age, whether they had truly ascertained this out of the entry in the public register, or simply made a conjecture from what they observed that He was above forty years old, and that He certainly was not one of only thirty years of age. For it is altogether unreasonable to suppose that they were mistaken by twenty years, when they wished to prove Him younger than the times of Abraham. For what they saw, that they also expressed; and He whom they beheld was not a mere phantasm, but an actual being(5) of flesh and blood”
So you see that in the above testimony, St. Irenaeus attempts to interpret a pre-crucifixion discussion that was held between Jesus Christ and those Jews who were disputing with him. Irenaeus interprets the statement, “Thou art not yet fifty years old...” as clearly indicating that Jesus had at least passed the age of forty. For there would be no reason for his detractors to state “thou art not yet fifty” if he were only thirty. If he were only thirty, they might say “thou art not yet forty.” Of course, it is possible that they could very well have stated “Thou art not yet fifty years old,” even though Jesus was thirty. But that is not what St. Irenaeus believed.
So, if we are to believe that St. Irenaeus was referring to Jesus Christ having been seen in Asia, and that he was not referring to John, could St. Irenaeus have believed that Jesus was seen in Asia sometime before the age at which St. Irenaeus believed Jesus might have been crucified? Remember, St. Irenaeus believed that Jesus was crucified, as he stated in the title of Chapter 22, at some later time: “...But was more than fifty years old when he died.” But did St. Irenaeus believe that Jesus was even more than 98 years old when he died, since Irenaeus (if we are to believe he was referring to Jesus, and not John) stated that Jesus was seen alive during the reign of Emperor Trajan, who ascended the throne in 98 A.D.? Remember, St. Irenaeus said the following: “...but from the fortieth and fiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher.” Did St. Irenaeus believe that Jesus Christ was an old man when he was crucified? Did St. Irenaeus believe that Jesus was seen alive in Asia during the reign of Emperor Trajan, and that he was crucified at an old age? Could this explain his belief that Jesus was seen “in Asia” at what he would call “an advanced age”?
If we conclude, as some do, that St. Irenaeus was speaking of John, and not Jesus, there still remains the question, why did St. Irenaeus state that Jesus Christ possessed “old age”? Why did St. Irenaeus state that Jesus “was more than fifty years old when he died”? Only the examination of other evidence can shed some light on this question.