by Dee Finney

(compiled 8-11-2001)



Rev 14:14

And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed [are] the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud [one] sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.

Rev 14:15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.

Rev 14:16 And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
Rev 14:17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
Rev 14:18 And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
Rev 14:19 And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast [it] into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

Rev 14:20 And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand [and] six hundred furlongs.

SEE:  9/11 WTC

8-10-2001 - DREAM - I was sitting at a piano in my 16th St. house in Milwaukee.  Joe was on the far end of the livingroom writing something at a desk. While he was writing, I decided to play the piano. The music I chose was classical and there were little birds written above the notes which were trilled and arpeggioed. I did this very well; my fingers flying over the keys as fast as they could go. .

I then chose another piece of music which was light green, and on the cover was a picture of two pillar candles. It was really pretty.  

8-11-2001 - DREAM  - I was sitting in the office of our apartment building in Milwaukee, WI. Joe came in, saying he needed to check on the welfare of some children he knew about. He picked up the phone to call the police to meet him at 1415 W. Beckett.  He told them he wanted them to look into the medicine cabinet. He told them he wanted them to look into the medicine cabinet to see if there were any illegal drugs there.  The cops asked what was the name of the people who lived there. Joe said, "Irenaeus."

Joe left then to go meet the cops and I went to the front door of our building. A pretty blonde, curly-haired girl was bringing her little brother to me to take care of. He was very young with short curly blonde hair like his bigger sister. I asked her what his name was. She said, "Irenus."  She wanted to stay so she could be on TV with me, but she had to go back home and see what was happening there.

After she left, I stood there with my right arm around his shoulders, and asked the little boy again what his name was and he said, "Irenus. My Father's name is Irenaeus."

NOTE: There is no record of Irenaeus of having been married or having children. When I meditated on this issue, I had a vision of my white knitting coming undone. I can only assume the children are symbolic of something else he gave birth to during his teachings.


Irenaeus (whose name means lover of peace) was born in Asia Minor, probably a native of Smyrna, in modern day Turkey.and became bishop of Lyon. He worked with Bishop Pothinus in Lyons as a presbyter and after the martyrdom of Bishop Pothinus in 177 or 178 A.D. in a persecution of the Emperor Aurelius, Irenaeus was appointed his successor, becoming the second Bishop of Lyons, France.

Irenaeus is known as the father of Catholic dogma. He denounced the Gnostics and supported the primacy of the bishop of Rome. Against the Gnostics (dualistic sects that maintained that salvation is not from faith but from some esoteric knowledge) Irenaeus urged that Catholic teaching was verified because a continuous succession of teachers, beginning with the Apostles, could be demonstrated.

Saint Irenaeus is one of the Pillars of Truth in the Church. St. Irenaeus was one of the first Church Fathers to provide a coherent rationale for a Christian bible, including both testaments, and was the first to offer a comprehensive account of belief in God's universal providential and redemptive economy.

He was born in Asia Minor in about AD 125. This time and place were still permeated with the teachings and power of the Apostles themselves, and was led by the immediate disciples of the apostles. He was well versed in the texts of Holy Scripture and is known to have learned much of Greek philosophy.

There had been for quite some time established trading routes between Asia Minor and the Marseilles/Lyons area of present day France. Irenaeus was sent as a priest to Lyons to serve the vigorous Christian Church established under Bishop Pothinus, another oriental like Irenaeus.

Irenaeus' high regard amongst the clergy of Lyons shows when he was sent to Rome on behalf of the Church in Asia Minor. At this same time, the great persecutions of the Catholic faithful at the hands of both Romans and pagans suffered the Church at Lyon, Rome, and in Asia Minor. Montanism, one of the many gnostic and semi-gnostic heresies, had implanted itself in the Churches of Asia Minor, and a most religious and orthodox letter was given to Pope Saint Eleutherius by Irenaeus pleading for leniency in dealing with the Montanist brethren in Phrygia. During Irenaeus' time in Rome, Pothinus and many others were martyred in Lyons, and the Saint was sent back to Lyons to fill the vacant See.

By the time of his arrival, the persecution had stopped, and his tenure as Bishop of Lyons was one of relative peace. In addition to his pastoral duties, he is known to have evangelized the neighboring lands, and he was also forced to deal with the preponderance of gnostic heresies emerging in the name of or separate from Christ throughout Gaul.

He wrote in Greek then it was quickly translated to Latin a five volume exposition of Christian truth where the doctrines of the numerous gnostic sects were presented, then contrasted with the teachings of the Apostles and the Holy Scriptures.  irenaeus' concern was to stress that due succession from the Apostles was the best way to safeguard the faith and to ensure that Christianity did not become corrupted by other teaching. Nor was he simplistic in this, merely emphasising a "pipeline"-a chain of ordaining hands down the years from a to b to c and so on. The apostolic succession was in part a matter of such due succession, but insofar as it was a mechanism to ensure continuity of belief and practice. (This sort of understanding was complemented by his insistence on sticking to the four Gospels and not including other so-called gospels in the emergent canon (the collection of books that make up the Bible). He intended to "strip the fox" as he stated, removing the veil of secrecy surrounding gnosticism. It was a well circulated set of texts and did much to vanquish gnosticism in the Church of Christ. He is thought to have died in about 203.

The Polycarp /John Connection

According to Irenaeus, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (Martyred in AD 155?) knew the Apostle John. This doesn't seem likely and has been denounced by the great Church historian B.H. Streeter (The Primitive Church ,1923) and others. The date of Polycarp's Martyrdom is fixed by W.A. Waddington (see Richardson, Early Christian Fathers, p.144). The tradition recorded in the Martyrdom of Polycarp says that he was 86 years old when he went to his glory as a martyr. This would place his birth in the year 69 AD. Assuming he was a teenager (and he was supposed to be very young) when he knew John, this would place their friendship around the late 80s. Is it possible that John lived this long? Clearly legend has it that John lived to be over 100, returned from Patois and worked in the church of Ephesus. But those legends are probably driven by the statements in the Gospel which imply that John would not die or would be very old when he did die. If Johannie authorship holds up, and John was in Ephesus in 90 to write his Gospel, than it is possible that he knew Polycarp. The information that these two men did know each other comes through Irenaeus who did know Polycarp.

Nevertheless Polycarp never mentions the name John. He does quote form the epistles of John, and alludes to the Gospel, but not in any detailed quotations. We do have one epistle written by Polycarp. Some scholars have suggested that it was not the Apostle John that he knew, but the Elder John alluded to by Papias (Perhaps the author of the epistles of John, who introduces himself as "the Elder"). This would another figure, probably younger than the Apostle but an "Elder" to the church in the late first century. IF this figure were 20 in AD 30 he would be 80 in A.D. 90 (the writing of the Gospel). He could have known Polycarp any time from the 80s and early 90s. It is possible that he knew either figure.

The Structure and Worship of the Early Church

The Fathers of the Early Church

Neo-Montanism - (since 1900)

St. Irenaeus

b.125   d.202   Feastday: June 28

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.

He was probably born about the year 125, in one of those maritime provinces of Asia Minor where the memory of the apostles was still cherished and where Christians were numerous. He was most influenced by St. Polycarp who had known the apostles and was a disciple of the Apostle John.

Many Asian priests and missionaries brought the gospel to the pagan Gauls and founded a local church. (Christian Gauls) To this church of Lyon, Irenaeus came to serve as a priest under its first bishop, St. Pothinus, an oriental like himself. In the year 177, Irenaeus was sent to Rome. This mission explains how it was that he was not called upon to share in the martyrdom of St Pothinus during the terrible persecution in Lyons. When he returned to Lyons it was to occupy the vacant bishopric. By this time, the persecution was over. It was the spread of gnosticism in Gaul, and the ravages it was making among the Christians of his diocese, that inspired him to undertake the task of exposing its errors. He produced a treatise in five books in which he sets forth fully the inner doctrines of the various sects, and afterwards contrasts them with the teaching of the Apostles and the text of the Holy Scripture. His work, written in Greek but quickly translated to Latin, was widely circulated and succeeded in dealing a death-blow to gnosticism. At any rate, from that time onwards, it ceased to offer a serious menace to the Catholic faith.

The date of death of St. Irenaeus is not known, but he is believed to have been martyred during the persecution of Septimus Severus around the year 202. The bodily remains of St. Irenaeus were buried in a crypt under the altar of what was then called the church of St. John, but was later known by the name of St. Irenaeus himself. This tomb or shrine was destroyed by the Calvinists in 1562, during the Wars of Religion and all trace of his relics seems to have perished.

Druids in Gaul:   With the Romanization of Gaul began the attempt to subdue Celtic leaders, particularly the Druids as their high station and level of respect threatened Roman rule. The writers Seutonius, Tacitus, and Pliny wrote that the Roman Emperors of the early 1st century CE discouraged and suppressed Druidism. Augustus banned Roman citizens from participating in Druidical practices, thereby excluding Druids from Roman citizenship. Tiberius, the successor of Augustus, completely banned Druidism by a decree of the Roman Senate, trying to rid Rome entirely of 'that class of seers and doctors.' Seutonius says Claudius 'completely abolished the barbarous and inhuman religion of the Druids in Gaul' in 54 CE.

The Wars of Religion were religious and political civil wars fought in France intermittently from 1562 to 1598, at a time when French Calvinists (Huguenots) formed a strong and often aggressive minority.

1562 - 1598

The Wars of Religion were religious and political civil wars fought in France intermittently from 1562 to 1598, at a time when French Calvinists (Huguenots) formed a strong and often aggressive minority. The wars were caused and prolonged by the alignment of rival aristocratic factions along opposing religious lines during the rule of two weak monarchs, Charles IX (r. 1560-74) and Henry III (r. 1574-89). From 1562 to 1576, the Huguenots, led at first by Louis I de Condé (see Condé, family) and Gaspard de Coligny, were supported only by external Protestant armies in their conflict with the Catholic crown. After 1572, when several thousand Huguenots were killed in the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, a third party of moderate Catholics, known as the Politiques, emerged under the family of Montmorency.

John Calvin

St. Irenaeus

Bishop of Lyons, and Father of the Church.

Information as to his life is scarce, and in some measure inexact. He was born in Proconsular Asia, or at least in some province bordering thereon, in the first half of the second century; the exact date is controverted, between the years 115 and 125, according to some, or, according to others, between 130 and 142. It is certain that, while still very young, Irenaeus had seen and heard the holy Bishop Polycarp (d. 155) at Smyrna. As a boy he had, as he delighted to point out, listened to the sermons of the great bishop and martyr, Polycarp of Smyrna, who was regarded as a disciple of the apostles themselves. Here he came to know, 'the genuine unadulterated gospel', to which he remained faithful throughout his life.

The era in which Irenaeus lived was a time of expansion and inner tensions in the church. In many cases Irenaeus acted as mediator between various contending factions. The churches of Asia Minor (where he was probably born) continued to celebrate Easter on the same date (the 14th of Nisan) as the Jews celebrated Passover, whereas the Roman Church maintained that Easter should always be celebrated on a Sunday (the day of the Resurrection). Mediating between the parties, Irenaeus stated that differences in external factors, such as dates of festivals, need not be so serious as to destroy church unity.

Irenaeus adopted a totally negative and unresponsive attitude, however, toward Marcion, a schismatic leader in Rome, and toward the Valentinians, a fashionable intellectual Gnostic movement in the rapidly expanding church that espoused dualism. Because Gnosticism was overcome by the Orthodox Church, Gnostic writings were largely obliterated. In reconstructing Gnostic doctrines, therefore, modern scholars relied to a great extent on the writings of Irenaeus, who summarized the Gnostic views before attacking them. After the discovery of the Gnostic library near Nag Hammadi in Egypt in the 1940s (see Robinson), respect for Irenaeus increased. He was proved to have been extremely precise in his report of the doctrines he rejected.

The oldest lists of bishops also were countermeasures against the Gnostics, who said that they possessed a secret oral tradition from Jesus himself. Against such statements Irenaeus maintains that the bishops in different cities are known as far back as the Apostles - and none of them was a Gnostic - and that the bishops provided the only safe guide to the interpretation of the Scriptures. With these lists of bishops the later doctrine of "the apostolic succession" of the bishops could be linked.

From these 2 sources we can appreciate the importance of Irenaeus as the first great Catholic theologian, the champion of orthodoxy against Gnostic heresy, and a mediating link between Eastern and Western churches.

During the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, Irenaeus was a priest of the Church of Lyons. The clergy of that city, many of whom were suffering imprisonment for the Faith, sent him (177 or 178) to Rome with a letter to Pope Eleutherius concerning Montanism, and on that occasion bore emphatic testimony to his merits. Returning to Gaul, Irenaeus succeeded the martyr Saint Pothinus as Bishop of Lyons. During the religious peace which followed the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, the new bishop divided his activities between the duties of a pastor and of a missionary (as to which we have but brief data, late and not very certain) and his writings, almost all of which were directed against Gnosticism, the heresy then spreading in Gaul and elsewhere. In 190 or 191 he interceded with Pope Victor to lift the sentence of excommunication laid by that pontiff upon the Christian communities of Asia Minor which persevered in the practice of the Quartodecimans in regard to the celebration of Easter. Nothing is known of the date of his death, which must have occurred at the end of the second or the beginning of the third century. In spite of some isolated and later testimony to that effect, it is not very probable that he ended his career with martyrdom. His feast is celebrated on 28 June in the Latin Church, and on 23 August in the Greek.

Sacred Days in the 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. None of these writings have come down to us in the original text, though a great many fragments of them are extant as citations in later writers (Hippolytus, Eusebius, etc.). Two of these works, however, have reached us in their entirety in a Latin version:

A treatise in five books, commonly entitled Adversus haereses, and devoted, according to its true title, to the "Detection and Overthrow of the False Knowledge". (Gnosticism). Of this work we possess a very ancient Latin translation, the scrupulous fidelity of which is beyond doubt. It is the chief work of Irenaeus and truly of the highest importance; it contains a profound exposition not only of Gnosticism under its different forms, but also of the principal heresies which had sprung up in the various Christian communities, and thus constitutes an invaluable source of information on the most ancient ecclesiastical literature from its beginnings to the end of the second century. In refuting the heterodox systems Irenaeus often opposes to them the true doctrine of the Church, and in this way furnishes positive and very early evidence of high importance. Suffice it to mention the passages, so often and so fully commented upon by theologians and polemical writers, concerning the origin of the Gospel according to St. John, the Holy Eucharist, and the primacy of the Roman Church.

Of a second work, written after the "Adversus Haereses", an ancient literal translation in the Armenian language. This is the "Proof of the Apostolic Preaching." The author's aim here is not to confute heretics, but to confirm the faithful by expounding the Christian doctrine to them, and notably by demonstrating the truth of the Gospel by means of the Old Testament prophecies. Although it contains fundamentally, so to speak, nothing that has not already been expounded in the "Adversus Haereses", it is a document of the highest interest, and a magnificent testimony of the deep and lively faith of Irenaeus.

Of his other works only scattered fragments exist; many, indeed, are known only through the mention made of them by later writers, not even fragments of the works themselves having come down to us. These are a treatise against the Greeks entitled "On the Subject of Knowledge" (mentioned by Eusebius); a writing addressed to the Roman priest Florinus "On the Monarchy, or How God is not the Cause of Evil" (fragment in Eusebius); a work "On the Ogdoad", probably against the Ogdoad of Valentinus the Gnostic, written for the same priest Florinus, who had gone over to the sect of the Valentinians (fragment in Eusebius); a treatise on schism, addressed to Blastus (mentioned by Eusebius); a letter to Pope Victor against the Roman priest Florinus (fragment preserved in Syriac); another letter to the same on the Paschal controversies (extracts in Eusebius); other letters to various correspondents on the same subject (mentioned by Eusebius, a fragment preserved in Syriac); a book of divers discourses, probably a collection of homilies (mentioned by Eusebius); and other minor works for which we have less clear or less certain attestations.

Internet Medieval Sourcebook

1. Eusebius - Conversion of Constantine - Medieval Sourcebook provides Eusebius' famed account of the Roman emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity.

2. Eusebius - Martyrdom of St. Domnina and Her Daughters - Medieval Sourcebook provides Eusebius' account of the martyrdom of St. Domnina and her two daughters from his "Ecclesiastical History."

3. Porphyry - Eusebius on Porphyry - Medieval Sourcebook offers excerpts from Eusebius' "Church History" that chronicle Porphyry's anti-Christian writings.


Regarding the New Testament canon, one finds in Adversus Haereses quotations from all the books of the New Testament with the exception of:

           Philemon,     II Peter,     III John, and   Jude

He also considered these writings, not in the present New Testament, of value:

          I Clement , Shepherd of Hermas

However, the following he considered heretical:

          Gospel of Truth

For a summary of his opinions see the Cross Reference Table. Irenaeus was especially insistent that there are exactly 4 Gospels, and used numerological arguments surrounding the number 4, such as the 4 covenants, for support.

          Irenaeus and the Gospel according to Matthew

         Irenaeus writes in Adversus Haereses:

Now the Gospels, in which Christ is enthroned, are like these. ..... Matthew proclaims his human birth, saying, 'The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham,' and, 'The birth of Jesus Christ was in this manner' . for this Gospel is manlike, and so through the whole Gospel [Christ] appears as a man of a humble mind, and gentle. (3.11.8)

According to the lists in [Hoh], Irenaeus, in Adversus Haereses, quotes 626 times from all 4 Gospels. Irenaeus was especially insistent that there are exactly 4 Gospels.

           Irenaeus and the Gospel according to Mark

           Irenaeus writes in Adversus Haereses:

Now the Gospels, in which Christ is enthroned, are like these. ..... But Mark takes his beginning from the prophetic Spirit who comes on men from on high saying, 'The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet,' showing a winged image of the gospel. Therefore he made his message compendious and summary, for such is the prophetic character. (3.11.8)

According to the lists in [Hoh], Irenaeus, in Adversus Haereses, quotes 626 times from all 4 Gospels. Irenaeus was especially insistent that there are exactly 4 Gospels.

        Irenaeus and the Gospel according to Luke

        Irenaeus writes in Adversus Haereses:

Now the Gospels, in which Christ is enthroned, are like these. ..... That according to Luke, as having a priestly character, began with the priest Zacharias offering incense to God. For the fatted calf was already being prepared which was to be sacrificed for the finding of the younger son. (3.11.8) [c.f. Luke 15:23]

According to the lists in [Hoh], Irenaeus, in Adversus Haereses, quotes 626 times from all 4 Gospels. Irenaeus was especially insistent that there are exactly 4 Gospels.

          Irenaeus and the Gospel according to John

          Irenaeus writes in Adversus Haereses:

Now the Gospels, in which Christ is enthroned, are like these. For that according to John expounds his princely and mighty and glorious birth from the Father, saying, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,' and, 'All things were made by him, and without him nothing was nothing made' . Therefore this Gospel is deserving of all confidence, for such indeed is his person. (3.11.8)

According to the lists in [Hoh], Irenaeus, in Adversus Haereses, quotes 626 times from all 4 Gospels. Irenaeus was especially insistent that there are exactly 4 Gospels.

        Irenaeus and Acts

According to the lists in [Hoh], Irenaeus, in Adversus Haereses, quotes from Acts 54 times.

        Irenaeus and the Four Gospels

        Irenaeus writes in Adversus Haereses:

The Gospels could not possibly be either more or less in number than they are. Since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is spread over all the earth, and the pillar and foundation of the Church is the gospel, and the Spirit of life, it fittingly has four pillars, everywhere breathing out incorruption and revivifying men. From this it is clear that the Word, the artificer of all things, being manifested to men gave us the gospel, fourfold in form but held together by one Spirit. As David said, when asking for his coming, 'O sitter upon the cherubim, show yourself '. For the cherubim have four faces, and their faces are images of the activity of the Son of God. For the first living creature, it says, was like a lion, signifying his active and princely and royal character; the second was like an ox, showing his sacrificial and priestly order; the third had the face of a man, indicating very clearly his coming in human guise; and the fourth was like a flying eagle, making plain the giving of the Spirit who broods over the Church. Now the Gospels, in which Christ is enthroned, are like these. (3.11.8)

The 4 creatures are allusions to Revelations 4:7-8. Irenaeus goes on to compare them to the Gospels according to John, Luke, Matthew, and Mark respectively. The Davidic quotation is from Psalms 80:1.

        Irenaeus and the Four Covenants

       Irenaeus writes in Adversus Haereses:

... As is the activity of the Son of God, such is the form of the living creatures; and as is the form of the living creatures, such is also the character of the Gospel. For the living creatures were quadriform, and the gospel and the activity of the Lord is fourfold. Therefore four general covenants were given to mankind: one was that of Noah's deluge, by the [rain] bow; the second was Abraham's, by the sign of circumcision; the third was the giving of the Law by Moses; and the fourth is that of the Gospel, through our Lord Jesus Christ. (3.11.8)

        Irenaeus and I Clement

        Irenaeus writes in Adversus Haereses:

When the blessed apostles had founded and built up the Church, they handed over the ministry of the episcopate to Linus. Paul mentions this Linus in his Epistles to Timothy. Anencletus succeeded him. After him Clement received the lot of the episcopate in the third place from the apostles. He had seen the apostles and associated with them, and still had their preaching sounding in his ears and their tradition before his eyes -- and not he alone, for there were many still left in his time who had been taught by the apostles. In this Clement's time no small discord arose among the brethren in Corinth, and the Church in Rome sent a very powerful letter to the Corinthians, leading them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which they had recently received from the apostles, which declared one almighty God, maker of heaven and earth and fashioner of man, who brought out the people from the land of Egypt; who spoke with Moses; who ordained the Law and sent the Prophets; and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. Those who care to can learn from this Writing that he was proclaimed by the churches as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so understand the apostolic tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is older than those present false teachers who make up lies about another God above the Demiurge and maker of all things that are. (3.3.3)

The last sentence makes it clear that Irenaeus regards I Clement as authoritative.

         Irenaeus and the Shepherd of Hermas

According to [Grant] p. 153 and [Metzger] p. 155, Irenaeus calls the Shepherd of Hermas 'scripture' in Adversus Haereses 4.20.2.

         Irenaeus and the Gospel of Truth

        Ireneaus reports in Adversus Haereses:

But the followers of Valentinus, putting away all fear, bring forward their own compositions and boast that they have more Gospels than really exist. Indeed their audacity has gone so far that they entitle their recent composition the Gospel of Truth, though it agrees in nothing with the Gospels of the apostles, and so no Gospel of theirs is free from blasphemy. For if what they produce is the Gospel of Truth, and is different from those which the apostles handed down to us, those who care to can learn how it can be show from the Scriptures themselves that [then] what is handed down from the apostles is not the Gospel of Truth. (3.11.9)

        Irenaeus and the Gospel of Judas

According to [Schneemelcher] p. 386, Irenaeus condemns the Gospel of Judas in Adversus Haereses 1.31.1.


Leading theologian and polemicist whose arguments against gnostic sects helped establish the doctrinal standards of Catholic Christianity: creed, canon of scripture & apostolic succession of bishops. A native Greek from Smyrna (Asia Minor), Irenaeus came to prominence after migrating to the Latin west. In 177 CE he was appointed bishop of Lugdunum, Gaul (Lyons, France) where he soon published his five volume Refutation & Overthrow of what is wrongly called 'Knowledge' (commonly referred to simply as Against Heresies). His defense of four canonical gospels became the standard orthodox view of their authorship, sequence & circumstances of composition:

Matthew also published a gospel in writing among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter & Paul were preaching the gospel and founding the church in Rome. But after their death, Mark, the disciple & interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing what Peter used to preach. And Luke, Paul's associate, also set down in a book the gospel that Paul used to preach. Later, John, the Lord's disciple --- the one who lay on his lap --- also set out the gospel while living at Ephesus in Asia Minor. (Against Heresies 3.1.1)

Irenaeus follows the canonical sequence. He did not, however, suggest any literary relationship between these gospels. Note also that he did not explicitly mention the order of composition of the synoptics. While he claims John wrote "later," he lists Matthew, Mark & Luke with parallel grammatical conjunctions ("also...also...also").

The only thing in Irenaeus' statement that would lead someone to infer the chronological priority of Matthew is his attempt to link the canonical gospels with the activity of Peter & Paul. He claims that a Hebrew edition of this gospel was in circulation during the lifetime of the leading apostles, while Mark & Luke were composed "after their death." The source from which Irenaeus derived this dating is not clear. While he knew & valued the now lost commentaries of Papias, he does not credit this chronological data to that source. Nor do the excerpts from Papias cited by Eusebius support this sequence.

It is possible---even probable---that Irenaeus' dating of the gospels is based on nothing more than an educated guess. Irenaeus was, after all, eager to draw direct links between the doctrinal authorities of Catholic Christianity and the apostolic generation. The gospels list Matthew with Peter & other apostles (Mark 3:16-19 & parallels), a role that Paul claimed for himself (1 Cor 9:1 & Gal. 2:8). So Irenaeus would naturally infer that a gospel with an apostolic name must come from the era that apostles were still active. Mark & Luke, on the other hand, were names only associated with companions of the apostles (1 Pet. 5:13; Col. 3:14). So Irenaeus could safely assign works attributed to them to the post-apostolic era.

In any case, Irenaeus claims historical priority only for a Hebrew version of Matthew which is no longer in existence. Unlike Papias, he does not mention the translation of this work. Thus, Irenaeus does not support the opinion of those who claim that the current Greek edition of Matthew was composed prior to the other gospels. Nor does his claim that Mark transcribed Peter's preaching support the view of Augustine, Griesbach & other western Christians that Mark condensed Matthew.

Other On-line Resources:

GNOSTICISM  (according to Irenaeus)

Not all Gnostics believed exactly the same thing, but the general outlines of the belief are fairly clear.

Gnostics were dualists, teaching that there are two great opposing forces: good versus evil, light versus darkness, knowledge versus ignorance, spirit versus matter. Since the world is material, and leaves much room for improvement, they denied that God had made it. "How can the perfect produce the imperfect, the infinite produce the finite, the spiritual produce the material?" they asked. One solution was to say that there were thirty beings called AEons, and that God had made the first AEon, which made the second AEon, which made the third, and so on to the thirtieth AEon, which made the world. (This, Gnostics pointed out to the initiate, was the true inward spiritual meaning of the statement that Jesus was thirty years old when he began to preach.) As Irenaeus pointed out, this did not help at all. Assuming the Gnostic view of the matter, each of the thirty must be either finite or infinite, material or non-material, and somewhere along the line you would have an infinite being producing a finite one, a spiritual being producing a material one.

The Gnostics were Docetists (pronounced do-SEE-tists). This word comes from the Greek word meaning "to seem." They taught that Christ did not really have a material body, but only seemed to have one. It was an appearance, so that he could communicate with men, but was not really there. (If holograms had been known then, they would certainly have said that the supposed body of Jesus was a hologram.) They went on to say that Jesus was not really born, and did not really suffer or die, but merely appeared to do so. It was in opposition to early Gnostic teachers that the Apostle John wrote (1 John 4:1-3) that anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of antiChrist.

Gnostics claimed to be Christians, but Christians with a difference. They said that Jesus had had two doctrines: one a doctrine fit for the common man, and preached to everyone, and the other an advanced teaching, kept secret from the multitudes, fit only for the chosen few, the spiritually elite. They, the Gnostics, were the spiritually elite, and although the doctrines taught in the churches were not exactly wrong, and were in fact as close to the truth as the common man could hope to come, it was to the Gnostics that one must turn for the real truth. They remind me very much of the Rosicrucians. When I mention this, I often get blank stares, but not many years ago many popular science magazines carried their advertisements, with assertions that Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, Plato, Archimedes, and so on had all been members of a secret society called the Rosicrucians, and owed their achievements largely to this fact. Was there any evidence of this aside from the traditions of the group itself? Of course not! They were a secret society. Why were they secret? "Because our wisdom would be misunderstood by the common man, and so must be reserved for the tiny handful of mankind in every generation who are spiritually advanced enough to appreciate it. So send us twenty bucks and we'll spill our guts."

In opposition to this idea, Irenaeus maintained that the Gospel message is for everyone. He was perhaps the first to speak of the Church as "Catholic" (universal). In using this term, he made three contrasts:

He contrasted the over-all church with the single local congregation, so that one spoke of the Church in Ephesus, but also of the Catholic Church, of which the Churches in Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, Antioch, etc. were local branches or chapters.

He contrasted Christianity with Judaism, in that the task of Judaism was to preserve the knowledge of the one God by establishing a solid national base for it among a single people, but the task of Christianity was to set out from that base to preach the Truth to all nations.

He contrasted Christianity with Gnosticism, in that the Gnostics claimed to have a message only for the few with the right aptitudes and temperaments, whereas the Christian Gospel was to be proclaimed to all men everywhere.

Irenaeus then went on to say: If Jesus did have a special secret teaching, to whom would He entrust it? Clearly, to His disciples, to the Twelve, who were with Him constantly, and to whom he spoke without reservation (Mark 4:34). And was the teaching of the Twelve different from that of Paul? Here the Gnostics, and others since, have tried to drive a wedge between Paul and the original Apostles, but Peter writes of Paul in the highest terms (2 Peter 3:15), as one whose teaching is authentic. Again, we find Paul saying to the elders of the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:27), that he has declared to them the whole counsel of God. Where, then, do we look for Christ's authentic teaching? In the congregations that were founded by the apostles, who set trustworthy men in charge of them, and charged them to pass on the teaching unchanged to future generations through carefully chosen successors.

Fingerprints of Satan

Statement of Irenaeus on the Book of Revelation

The Witness of Irenaeus on the Roman Supremacy

External Evidence: Irenaeus

Resisting Dualism - Irenaeus

Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus

Irenaeus on the Spiritual Gifts

Irenaeus Books

Online Texts

Other Searches for Irenaeus

Cantebury, in Kent is the seat of the Anglican Communion.
Canterbury is dominated by the impressive Norman Cathedral, where in 1170
Thomas Beckett was murdered - turning Canterbury into a place of pilgrimage.

Thomas Beckett dies at the foot of a pillar:

And those knights who approached the confused and disordered people who had been observing vespers but, by now, had run toward the lethal spectacle exclaimed in a rage: "Where is Thomas Becket, traitor of the king and kingdom?" No one responded and instantly they cried out more loudly, "Where is the archbishop?" Unshaken he replied to this voice as it is written, "The righteous will be like a bold lion and free from fear," he descended from the steps to which he had been taken by the monks who were fearful of the knights and said in an adequately audible voice, "Here I am, not a traitor of the king but a priest; why do you seek me?" And [Thomas], who had previously told them that he had no fear of them added, "Here I am ready to suffer in the name of He who redeemed me with His blood; God forbid that I should flee on account of your swords or that I should depart from righteousness." With these words - at the foot of a pillar - he turned to the right. On one side was the altar of the blessed mother of God, on the other the altar of the holy confessor Benedict - through whose example and prayers he had been crucified to the world and his lusts; he endured whatever the murderers did to him with such constancy of the soul that he seemed as if he were not of flesh. The murderers pursued him and asked, "Absolve and restore to communion those you have excommunicated and return to office those who have been suspended." To these words [Thomas] replied, "No penance has been made, so I will not absolve them." "Then you," they said, "will now die and will suffer what you have earned." "And I," he said, "am prepared to die for my Lord, so that in my blood the church will attain liberty and peace; but in the name of Almighty God I forbid that you hurt my men, either cleric or layman, in any way." The glorious martyr acted conscientiously with foresight for his men and prudently on his own behalf, so that no one near him would be hurt as he hastened toward Christ. It was fitting that the soldier of the Lord and the martyr of the Savior adhered to His words when he was sought by the impious, "If it is me you seek, let them leave."

With rapid motion they laid sacrilegious hands on him, handling and dragging him roughly outside of the walls of the church so that there they would slay him or carry him from there as a prisoner, as they later confessed. But when it was not possible to easily move him from the column, he bravely pushed one [of the knights] who was pursuing and drawing near to him; he called him a panderer saying, "Don't touch me, Rainaldus, you who owes me faith and obedience, you who foolishly follow your accomplices." On account of the rebuff the knight was suddenly set on fire with a terrible rage and, wielding a sword against the sacred crown said, "I don't owe faith or obedience to you that is in opposition to the fealty I owe my lord king." The invincible martyr - seeing that the hour which would bring the end to his miserable mortal life was at hand and already promised by God to be the next to receive the crown of immortality - with his neck bent as if he were in prayer and with his joined hands elevated above - commended himself and the cause of the Church to God, St. Mary, and the blessed martyr St. Denis.

The Constitutions of Clarendon, 1164

The Priory of Sion - The Beckett Connection

From: Life in the Middle Ages

The Church in the Middle Ages

Becoming a monk became the favorite way of imitating Christ and affirming belief when the period of persecution and martyrdom was over, especially when Christianity became a state church. Christians came to believe that being a monk was actually a better way of Christian life than that ordinary men led. Therefore, there were many more clerics in the Middle Ages as a proportion of the population than there are now. In England, for example, there was one cleric for every 70 laymen.

Many monasteries which had been the keepers of manuscripts and learning were destroyed or damaged in the invasions following the reign of Charlemagne. The Vikings and Muslims had ransacked the monasteries, and to defend themselves, abbots had sought protection from feudal lords and soon fallen under their protection. In return for protecting the churches, lords would insist that their relatives and hangers-on, some with no real avocation for the church, would be named as prelates. Monastic observances began to decline.

A new standard of independence and sanctity was set by the Cluny monastery movement. The first house was founded in 909 by William the Pious of Aquitaine. The Cluniac movement came to stand for celibacy and suppression of simony (the sale of church offices). Cluny helped to reform others along its lines, and especially urged other monasteries to remain free of non-church or secular influences. The order grew to 1184 houses by the 12th century. It was directly subject to the pope, not the neighborhood lord, and in stressing celibacy and separation of church and state, the Cluniacs increased the differences between the Catholic church in the west and the eastern church at Byzantium. In time, however, Cluny became so popular that spiritual fervor in the movement began to decline, as Cluniacs grew rich on the gifts of devout believers and became ever softer in lifestyle.

Thus a new revival of fervor occurred with the Cistercians in the 12th century who devoted themselves to a severe code of morality. They refused all gifts and lived only in uninhabited areas where they would be free of corrupting worldly influences. No high or powerful laymen were even allowed inside their walls to preserve their simplicity and independence. Because they paid no taxes to Rome, they could utilize less profitable areas such as the moors of northern England into which they introduced sheep grazing. The Cistercians were also quick to employ technological advances such as water mills. As a result, the Cistercians became the great pioneers of the 12th and 13th centuries, engaging in massive land reclamation. They brought under cultivation areas of the Black Forest and low-lying swampsóand in the process died in droves. On the other hand, they created some of the most fertile and well kept agricultural lands in Europe, and in time became the victims of their own success as worldly people eyed their land holdings greedily.

The papacy remained to be reformed. In the 10th century, the papacy was in a period of decline, where popes represented ruling factions of squabbling Roman aristocratic families rather than any deep seated religious fervor. Most seemed concerned with advancing their material well-being and their political aims rather than in personal salvation, and the office of pope was openly bought and sold. Worse, in the 10th and 11th centuries, many priests were not celibate and were instead either married or living with women. Celibacy had become mandatory only in the 4th century, and many priests argued they needed the help of a spouse to survive in the hard world of the early Middle Ages.

It was Pope Leo IX (1049-54) who tried to suppress simony, the married clergy and other violations of church doctrine. He tried to set a high moral example himself. And in 1059, the election of pope was made the sole privilege of the college of cardinals, the leaders of the church, instead of Roman aristocratic families.

One of the first popes elected under these new rules was Gregory who gave his name to the Gregorian Revolution. Unlike most popes, Gregory was lowborn, the son of Tuscan peasants. He had had an excellent education in a Cluniac monastery and had absorbed Cluniac ideas about the superiority of the church over the state. Thus Gregory believed that as the successor to St. Peter and thus God's vicar on earth, the pope would decide if a king were ruling justly or not. The only duty a king had was to preserve the peace so people could get on with the more important task of their personal salvation. Only the pope would make the decision as to whether the king was doing his job, and if he did not, the pope would replace him. According to Gregory, the church was clearly superior to any secular authority. The reforms of the church begun under Gregory continued under Innocent III, who defined church doctrines like transubstantiation for the first time. The theory of church supremacy these popes advanced was not new, but the difference was that Gregory and later Innocent actually tried to put it into practice.

The chief bone of contention became lay investiture. In 1075, Gregory prohibited lay investiture, the practice whereby secular authorities chose their own bishops. Gregory threatened to excommunicate any lay person who did it or any churchman who submitted to it. Every major ruler of Europe objected, but the contest came down to Gregory and Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire. As the German emperor, Henry was shocked that the pope would claim the right to depose him as king, especially since in the 100 years or so previously, the German emperors had deposed five and named twelve popes. It struck Henry as a case of the mouse that roared. Moreover, Henry needed churchmen he could trust to help him run his half civilized and half pagan empire. He wanted the right to name his own men.

Henry declared Gregory to be unfit as pope, and Gregory retaliated by excommunicating Henry. In this struggle the clergy of Germany supported the emperor, knowing they had been chosen for their loyalty to him and not the pope, and knowing further that their easy-going lifestyles would meet with no favor in a church controlled by a Cluniac. By contrast, the nobles of Germany backed the pope, for anything which weakened the emperor benefited them.

At Canossa, Henry was obliged to stand barefoot in the snow for three days, begging forgiveness of Gregory who finally gave it. But in 1080, Henry was excommunicated again when he went back to naming his own prelates. This time, however, Henry invaded Italy and dragged the pope off to die in exile. The problem of lay investiture continued in France and England all along, something Gregory could not do anything about since he was so engaged with the Holy Roman Empire on his border.

Theoretically, the problem was solved at the Council of Worms in 1122, when bishops would be chosen by the clergy in the presence of the king, giving the latter a kind of veto power, but in spite of the compromise, civil war raged in the empire for many years and occupied Germany with Italy and the pope rather than the process of nation building. German lords, claiming devotion to the pope, built castles as signs of independence and the emperor could do nothing about it. Thus, the Investiture Controversy was in part responsible for the long delay in German unification that would not occur until 1871.

Medieval England

England had been united under the Anglo Saxons, but Edward the Confessor died without an heir in 1066. Harold, the new king, was weakened after fighting off a Viking invasion to the north when the King of Norway believed the throne should be his. Having just dispatched Norway, Harold was faced with an invasion to the south, launched by William, Duke of Normandy, who claimed the throne of England on rather flimsy hereditary grounds. At the Battle of Hastings, Williamís mounted cavalry broke the English shield wall and Harold was killed. The conquest of England by a Frenchman oriented England away from Scandinavia and back towards Europe

Since England was now his by right of conquest, William kept some of the land for himself but ceded the rest to his Norman nobles in exchange for military service. He was using feudalism to help govern his realm, because there were simply not enough trained administrators to do it any other way. William, did, however, hedge his bets by scattering the fiefs all over England to avoid having large concentrations of land in potentially rebellious hands.

The king then sent out an inquest to determine how many people there were in his new kingdom, how much wealth, and where it was, so as to be able to tax fairly. Called the Domesday Survey, this was the first systematic attempt to survey an entire country, but William had no choice, since there were only a handful of Normans in a sea of Anglo-Saxons. Unfair taxes might spark a revolt and push the Normans back into the sea. William also dominated the church with lay investiture and decreed that the pope could not freely circulate his decisions without William's consent. Ironically, William's actions occurred at the same time the Holy Roman Emperor was struggling with Pope Gregory to maintain his right to lay investiture, but England was much farther away from Rome than the Empire and William was too small a fish for the pope to fry.

Eventually Henry II took the throne of England in 1154. He owned more of France than the French king did, since he was Duke of Normandy as well as King of England. His holdings increased when he married Eleanor of Aquitaine whose huge holdings in southwestern France he treated as his own.

Henry sent out royal justices annually to dispense royal justice in circuit courts and thus weaken his barons. The royal justices gave out more uniform justice than the feudal courts did, and they were cheap to run. The judges traveled about in circuits, meaning one judge could do for a rather large area, and these judges built up a body of decisions which would serve as precedent in later cases, a system known as common law. Henry also developed the jury system to solve problems of land disputes, but these juries were used in civil cases only. People accused of criminal offenses were not tried by jury but rather by ordeal. Henry thought this latter system irrational, but only gradually did the jury system begin to be seen in criminal trials.

Henry believed in one justice, and no where was this more clearly shown than in his battle to control the English church. Thomas Beckett had been named Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry, but they soon fell to feuding because Beckett demanded that churchmen be tried in church courts only and not be subject to royal justice. Since Henry had been at great pains to decrease the number and influence of the many feudal courts, a separate system of ecclesiastical courts would defeat his purpose of bringing uniform justice to England. Moreover, the punishments in royal courts were more severe than in church ones; in royal courts the condemned could be mutilated by having arms or feet cut off, while the most severe punishment in church courts was a pilgrimage. Beckett fled to France and it seemed that things had been patched up between himself and Henry when he finally returned to England. But Beckett immediately excommunicated all those priests named during his absence and in a fury, Henry asked someone to kill Beckett. Four of Henry's henchmen did just that, stabbing Beckett in the Cathedral. Henry did penance and sponsored Beckett for sainthood, but he remained in control of the English church which had been his goal all along.

Henry was eventually hunted down by his own sons, one of whom, Richard the Lion Hearted, had him killed. Richard took the throne but looked on England merely as source of revenue for his military exploits elsewhere. Although Richard ruled from 1189-98, he was in England for less than six months. He is even buried in Normandy. Henry's bureaucracy was so well developed that it could keep the country going even in the king's prolonged absence.

Richard's brother John, first Prince John and later King John, was cruel and unscrupulous, although to be fair he taxed excessively in part to pay off Richardís ransom when the latter was taken prisoner by the Holy Roman Emperor while returning from the third crusade. Worse for John, he was up against Philip Augustus of France(Philip II)who as king of France was technically John's liege lord as John was Duke of Normandy. Philip declared John an unfit vassal when the latter swiped someone else's fiancée to gain her lands, and when John refused to turn up, Philip declared war on him. John was defeated at Bouvines in 1214.

The barons of England were becoming less Norman French and more English, and they rebelled following this defeat, demanding that John take more care of England rather than use England as a cash cow to finance his exploits in France. At Runnymeade in 1215, John was obliged to sign the Magna Carta. This document implied that everyone, including the king, must obey the laws and that the law was designed to protect the rights and property of all English people. The king could not raise a large sum of money without consulting the barons. This tradition of a creative tension between the king and the nobles was different from the tradition on the continent, where kings worked to crush their nobles and nobles fought back to crush the king whenever an opportunity presented itself.

Henry IIís grandson, Edward, created Parliament. The word comes from the French parler, meaning "to speak" in Norman French (reminding us that the court continued to speak primarily French). Edward summoned the representatives of the shires and towns to meet with the Great Council of barons, thus recognizing the growing wealth and influence of the middle class following the economic revival we have already spoken of. These groups were called the commons, not because they were common in any sense we would recognize itóserfs, peasants and women were not represented at allóbut because they were simply not noble. In the 14th century, these commons began to meet separately from the lords spiritual and temporal. The Parliament could without financial support from the king, although they rarely did so, but they did establish a precedent of requiring the king to redress certain grievances before the money would be allocated.

The formation of Parliament in England was similar to developments elsewhere in Europe. Representative assemblies were started in France (the Estates General), in Spain (the Cortes) and in Russia (the Duma). But only in England, and only after a long time, did Parliament become really independent.

Henry II "Plantagenet" King Of ENGLAND [FITZEMPRESS] was born on 5 Mar 1133 in Le Mans, Sarthe, France. He died on 6 Jul 1189 in Chinon, Indre-et-Loire, France.

Henry II was born in 1183, the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet , Count of Anjou, and Matilda, daughter of Henry I . He grew up in Anjou, but visited England as early as 1142 to defend his mother's claim to the disputed throne of Stephen ; educated by famous scholars, he had a true love of reading and intellectual discussion. Geoffrey of Anjou died in September 1151, leaving Normandy and Anjou to Henry. Henry's continental possessions more than doubled with his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitane, ex-wife of King Louis VII of France. After a succession agreement between Stephen and Matilda in 1153, he was crowned Henry II in October 1154. Eleanor bore Henry five sons and three daughters between 1153 and 1167; the relationship between Henry, Eleanor, and their sons Henry, Richard, and John proved to be tumultuous and treacherous. The empire ruled by Henry and his sons was considerably larger than the lone English island - the French Angevin positions extended from Normandy southward to the Pyrenees, covering the counties of Brittany, Maine, Poitou, Touraine, and Gascony, as well as Anjou, Aquitane, and Normandy. Henry was extremely energetic, and traveled quickly and extensively within the borders of his kingdom.

Henry revitalized the English Exchequer, issuing receipts for tax payments and keeping written accounts on rolled parchment. He replaced incompetent sheriffs, expanding the authority of royal courts, which brought more funds into his coffers. A body of common law emerged to replace feudal and county courts, which varied from place to place. Jury trials were initiated to end the old Germanic customary trials by ordeal or battle. Henry's systematic approach to law provided a common basis for development of royal institutions throughout the entire realm.

The process of strengthening the royal courts, however, yielded an unexpected controversy. Church courts, instituted by William the Conqueror , became a safe haven for criminals of varying degree and ability, for one in fifty of the English population qualified as clerics. Henry wished to transfer such cases to the royal courts, as the only punishment open to the Church courts was demotion of the cleric. Thomas Beckett, Henry's close friend and chancellor since 1155, was named Archbishop of Canterbury in June 1162. In an attempt to discredit claims that he was too closely tied to the king, he vehemently opposed the weakening of Church courts. Henry drove Beckett into exile from 1164-1170, when the Archbishop returned to England and greatly angered Henry over opposition to the coronation of Prince Henry. Exasperated, Henry publicly announced a half-hearted desire to be rid off Beckett - four ambitious knights took the king at his word and murdered Beckett in his own cathedral on December 29, 1170. Henry is perhaps best remembered for Beckett's murder, but, in fact, the realm was better off without the contentious Archbishop. Henry endured a rather limited storm of protest over the incident, but the real threat to his power came from within his own family.

Henry's sons - Henry the Young King, Richard, Geoffrey, and John - were never satisfied with any of their father's plans for dividing his lands and titles upon his death. The sons, at the encouragement (and sometimes because of the treatment) of their mother, rebelled against the king several times. Prince Henry, the only man ever to be crowned while his father still lived, wanted more than a royal title. Thus from 1193 to the end of his reign henry was plagued by his rebellious sons, who always found a willing partner in Louis VII of France. The death of Henry the Young King in 1183, and that of Geoffrey in 1186, gave no respite from his children's rebellion - Richard, with the assistance of Louis VII, attacked and defeated Henry, forcing him to accept a humiliating peace on July 4, 1189.


The Murder of Thomas Becket, 1170

King Henry II was the father of Richard-the-Lionhearted and of King John of Magna Carta fame.

King Henry VIII destroyed the shrine dedicated to Thomas Becket at Canterbury.

A sword's crushing blow extinguished the life of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, on a cold December evening as he struggled on the steps of his altar. The brutal event sent a tremor through Medieval Europe. Public opinion of the time and subsequent history have laid the blame for the murder at the feet of Becket's former close personal friend, King Henry II.

Becket was born in 1118, in Normandy the son of an English merchant. His family was well off, his father a former Sheriff of London. Becket benefited from his family's status first by being sent to Paris for his education and from there to England where he joined the household of Theobold, the then Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket's administrative skills, his charm, intelligence and diplomacy propelled him forward. The archbishop sent him to Paris to study law and upon his return to England made him Archdeacon of Canterbury.

Becket's big break came in 1154, when Theobold introduced him to the newly crowned King, Henry II. The two hit it off immediately, their similar personal chemistries forming a strong bond between them. Henry named Becket his Chancellor. Archbishop Theobold died in 1161, and Henry immediately saw the opportunity to increase his influence over the Church by naming his loyal advisor to the highest ecclesiastical post in the land. Henry petitioned the Pope who agreed. There was only one slight hindrance. Becket, busy at court, had never been ordained. No problem, Becket was first invested as a priest. The next day he was ordained a Bishop, and that afternoon, June 2, 1162, made Archbishop of Canterbury.

If King Henry believed that by having "his man" in the top post of the Church, he could easily impose his will upon this powerful religious institution, he was sadly mistaken. Becket's allegiance shifted from the court to the Church inspiring him to take a stand against his king. In those days, the Church reserved the right to try felonious clerics in their own religious courts of justice and not those of the crown. Henry was determined to increase control of his realm by eliminating this custom. In 1163, a Canon accused of murder was acquitted by a church court. The public outcry demanded justice and the Canon was brought before a court of the king. Becket's protest halted this attempt but the action spurred King Henry to change the laws to extend his courts' jurisdiction over the clergy. Becket vacillated in his support of the king, finally refusing to agree to changes in the law. His stand prompted a royal summons to Henry's court at Northampton and the king's demand to know what Becket had done with the large sums of money that had passed through his hands as Chancellor.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Becket fled to France where he remained in exile for six years. The two former friends appeared to resolve their dispute in 1170 when King Henry and Becket met in Normandy. On November 30, Becket crossed the Channel returning to his post at Canterbury. Earlier, while in France, Becket had excomunicated the Bishops of London and Salisbury for their support of the king. Now, Becket remained steadfast in his refusal to absolve the bishops. This news threw King Henry (still in France) into a rage in which he was purported to shout: "What sluggards, what cowards have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their lord. Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest."

The king's exact words have been lost to history but his outrage inspired four knights to sail to England to rid the realm of this annoying prelate. They arrived at Canterbury during the afternoon of December 29 and immediately searched for the Archbishop. Becket fled to the Cathedral where a service was in progress. The knights found him at the altar, drew their swords and began hacking at their victim finally splitting his skull.

The death of Becket unnerved the king. The knights who did the deed to curry the king's favor, fell into disgrace. Several miracles were said to occur at the tomb of the martyr and he was soon canonized. Hordes of pilgrims transformed Canterbury Cathedral into a shrine. Four years later, in an act of penance, the king donned a sack-cloth walking barefoot through the streets of Canterbury while eighty monks flogged him with branches. Henry capped his atonement by spending the night in the martyr's crypt. St. Thomas continued as a popular cultist figure for the remainder of the Middle Ages.

Observations of a Monk

Edward Grim, a monk, observed the attack from the safety of a hiding place near the altar. He wrote his account some time after the event. Acceptance of his description must be qualified by the influence that Becket's sainthood had on Grim's perspective. However, the fundamentals of his narrative are no doubt true. We pick up the story after the knights have stormed into the cathedral.

"The murderers followed him; 'Absolve', they cried, 'and restore to communion those whom you have excommunicated, and restore their powers to those whom you have suspended.'

"He answered, 'There has been no satisfaction, and I will not absolve them.'

'Then you shall die,' they cried, 'and receive what you deserve.'

'I am ready,' he replied, 'to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace. But in the name of Almighty God, I forbid you to hurt my people whether clerk or lay.'

"Then they lay sacrilegious hands on him, pulling and dragging him that they may kill him outside the church, or carry him away a prisoner, as they afterwards confessed. But when he could not be forced away from the pillar, one of them pressed on him and clung to him more closely. Him he pushed off calling him 'pander', and saying, 'Touch me not, Reginald; you owe me fealty and subjection; you and your accomplices act like madmen.'

"The knight, fired with a terrible rage at this severe repulse, waved his sword over the sacred head. 'No faith', he cried, 'nor subjection do I owe you against my fealty to my lord the King.'

"Then the unconquered martyr seeing the hour at hand which should put an end to this miserable life and give him straightway the crown of immortality promised by the Lord, inclined his neck as one who prays and joining his hands he lifted them up, and commended his cause and that of the Church to God, to St. Mary, and to the blessed martry Denys. Scarce had he said the words than the wicked knight, fearing lest he should be rescued by the people and escape alive, leapt upon him suddenly and wounded this lamb who was sacrificed to God on the head, cutting off the top of the crown which the sacred unction of the chrism had dedicated to God; and by the same blow he wounded the arm of him who tells this. For he, when the others, both monks and clerks, fled, stuck close to the sainted Archbishop and held him in his arms till the one he interposed was almost severed.

"Then he received a second blow on the head but still stood firm. At the third blow he fell on his knees and elbows, offering himself a living victim, and saying in a low voice, 'For the Name of Jesus and the protection of the Church I am ready to embrace death.'

"Then the third knight inflicted a terrible wound as he lay, by which the sword was broken against the pavement, and the crown which was large was separated from the head. The fourth knight prevented any from interfering so that the others might freely perpetrate the murder.

"As to the fifth, no knight but that clerk who had entered with the knights, that a fifth blow might not be wanting to the martyr who was in other things like to Christ, he put his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr, and, horrible to say, scattered his brain and blood over the pavement, calling out to the others, 'Let us away, knights; he will rise no more.'


Abbot, Edwin A., St. Thomas of Canterbury (1898); Compton, Piers, The Turbulent Priest (1964); Hollister, Warren C., Medieval Europe: a short history (1975)

Resources on the Web:

Henry II

Canterbury Cathedral

"The Murder of Thomas Becket, 1170" EyeWitness - history through the eyes of those who lived it, (1997).

Beckett's Assassins Travel to Jersalem

The Crusaders Capture Jerusalem

In the last 1300 years, with only one exception, the Temple Mount has been in the hands of Moslems. On July 15, 1099 Jerusalem was taken from the Moslems by the Crusaders from Europe. The Crusaders slaughtered the inhabitants of Jerusalem in an unjustified carnage. The Dome of the Rock was converted into a Christian Church called the Templum Domini---Temple of our Lord.

The Crusaders then began to use the Al-Aksa Mosque as headquarters for the Knights of the Templar who officiated the Temple Compound. A remnant of the Crusader occupation still exists today, the tombs of the assassins of Thomas Beckett the Archbishop of Canterbury (1118-1170). After murdering Beckett the assassins traveled to Jerusalem and took up with the Templar Knights. Their tombs are situated near the main entrance.

The Western world rejoiced that Jerusalem was in the hands of "Christians." The victory, however, caused Muslims to immediate launch campaigns to regain the city and the Dome from the Christian infidels.

The Crusader occupation was relatively short-lived. The Muslim leader Saladin (Salah al-Din) proclaimed a jihad, or holy war, to retake the land of Palestine. After ninety years of Crusader control, Jerusalem surrendered to Saladin's army on October 2, 1187. In contrast to the brutality of the Crusaders, Saladin treated the defeated Crusaders with kindness and mercy.

The golden cross that was placed on the Dome of the Rock was torn down. Saladin rededicated the Templar's headquarters as a mosque. The Dome was covered with beautiful mosaics and a prayer niche facing Mecca was added.

Jerusalem was back in the hands of the Moslems and Europe was ready to avenge the defeat. A Third Crusade was undertaken (1189-1192) to free Jerusalem from the armies of Saladin. Richard the Lion-hearted led England and other Crusaders in a fruitless attempt to retake the city. To this day, the Temple Mount remains in Moslem control.

This Article says that the State has the right to take any property of the Church, determine how much time may be spent in prayer and where prayer may occur, in other words, it rejects God's kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven" and replaces it with a state destined to consume every evidence of Christianity. And then this Article asks that we respectfully obey "Civil Authority" rather than obey the Lord Jesus Christ. If we follow the moral law of God, we create a stronger society, but if the society becomes corrupt or requires us to reject God, we cannot obey. Christians are meek and humble, and do not practice murder, but the Church should be obeyed first. Traditionally, the Church was the "First Estate;" the king was the "Second Estate." This was the controversy between Thomas Beckett and king Henry II; which had the greater authority, the Church or the State. King Henry II finally obeyed the Church, asking to be publicly flogged as penance after the death of Thomas Beckett.

Article XXXVIII. "Of Christian Men's Goods, which are not common."

The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same, as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.

Henry II - 1154-89; had Thomas Beckett murdered in 1170; reconstructed legal system

1164-1170 Henry's quarrels with Thomas Beckett (later St.Thomas the Martyr)

1170 Christmas, Henry's men murder Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury

1170 Martyrdom of St. Thomas Beckett

Geoffrey Chauser (1340-1400) English son of a wine merchant. Worked with the king. Wife of Bath, a collection of stories about 30 people. Canterbury Tales, about Thomas Beckett

1378-1415: Great Schism: Rome versus Avignon

1403-1406 Barons' rebellion against Henry

1409: Council of Pisa: three-way schism

1413-1422: Reign of Henry V (in England)

1415- the Battle of Agincourt. British Victory

1415-1418: Council of Constance: schism healed; beginning of conciliarism

1413 Death of Henry

1413-1422 Reign of Henry V

1415 Henry's attack on France, ruled by mad King

Charles VI; Henry responsible for building first Royal fleet

October 25, 1415, Shakespeare -- Henry V

1415 Battle of Agincourt

1420 Henry enters Paris with Charles, forces him to sign Treaty of Troyes: Henry to succeed to   French crown and marry French Princess Katherine

1420- Treaty of Troyes. Charles VI declares Henry V as French heir.

1422- Both kings die

Charles VII begins to claim the thrown, because Henry VI is too young.

1422 Death of Henry, leaving nine-month old heir to   both crowns


William the Conqueror was a genuinely pious man, but he refused to let Gregory VII encroach on powers which rightfully belonged to him as king. In 1080 Pope Gregory demanded that William render fealty to the papacy for the kingdom of England. William the Conqueror was a man of spirit and declined. He had previously deposed an earlier Archbishop of Canterbury and imprisoned him for life in a well!

William I worked well with Lanfranc the new Archbishop of Canterbury. They adopted the Norman practice of separating church and secular courts, and embarked on many constructive church reforms.

William Rufus was determined that no pope and no Archbishop of Canterbury would get the chance to impede his administration. He believed himself to be dying in 1093. This supposed pagan was terrified of dying unshriven because he anticipated damnation and eternal torment. The See of Canterbury was finally filled in 1093. This was a condition imposed on William before the Church would absolve him from sin and confer the last rites!

Henry I had his own problems with the papacy. In 1095 the Council of Clermont had forbidden lay investures. It also decreed that no priest should swear fealty to a layman for his lands. Henry I appointed bishops and abbots but the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to consecrate them. Only a compromise averted excommunication. Henry I surrendered his right to invest bishops, and they agreed to swear fealty for lands held from him.

Henry II, the grandson of Henry I, was determined to reverse the concessions which the Church had wrung from the beleaguered King Stephen. He had worked very well with Thomas Beckett, his Royal Chaplain and Chancellor. Henry II foolishly appointed Beckett as Archbishop of Canterbury. He had an ulterior motive for doing this. Henry sincerely believed that his erstwhile friend and boon companion would allow him free rein to curb the power of the Church.

For reasons which have escaped historical scrutiny, Margaret Murray claimed that Beckett died as a willing substitute for the Sacred king. There is a much more prosaic explanation. Henry II made a serious error of judgement when he appointed his successful Chancellor to replace Theobald as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Thomas Beckett was a Londoner of Norman parentage. His mother reared him to fear God and to choose the Virgin Mary as his guide through life. His big break came when he was appointed a clerk in the household of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Theobald was impressed with this pious and mild-mannered deacon. He nominated him for the office of Chancellor because he was convinced that Thomas would always place the interests of the Church above those of the State.

Thomas Beckett sorely disappointed Theobald when he assumed the office of Chancellor. Beckett had a unique gift for reinventing himself to cope with every change in his circumstances. He was a mild clerk, a flamboyant Chancellor who spent more lavishly than any European monarch, and a jealous Archbishop who emulated Pope Gregory VII in stressing the Church’s role in the temporal world.

Henry II had a major confrontation with Beckett at the Council of Westminster in 1163. The king wanted criminous clerks to be tried in secular courts as laymen. Beckett would have none of this. He accused the assembled bishops of cowardice, and exhorted them to face martyrdom sooner than betray the rights of the Church.

Henry’s father, Geoffrey of Anjou, had a surefire way of dealing with bothersome clerks: he castrated several of them. Henry II decided to hit Beckett where it hurt most: he demanded the return of castles and manors which Beckett should have relinquished when he resigned as Chancellor.

The Pope’s almoner was sent to England to change Beckett’s mind. The Archbishop caved in and agreed to acquiesce to the king’s demands at the Council of Clarendon in 1164. Both barons and bishops were called to this Great Council.

The customs of the land which had prevailed in the reign of Henry I were produced for the bishops’ ratification. Beckett was outraged, and the bishops stood by him. The Archbishop was cowered when armed men entered the room where the bishops were assembled. He promised to adhere to the Constitution of Clarendon and ordered his bishops to accept it.

The bishops were becoming alarmed at Beckett’s vacillations. The Archbishop wrote to the Pope and advised that he had suspended himself from priestly duties because of his weakness and cowardice. The Pope gave Beckett absolution, but otherwise told the Archbishop to get his act together.

Beckett made two abortive attempts to leave England to visit the Pope. The king chided him by asking whether he was leaving because England wasn’t big enough for both of them.

In 1164 Beckett was charged before the Grand Council of Northampton with failing to appear in the King’s Court without due cause. He was found guilty by the assembled peers and bishops. His assets were placed at the king’s mercy. Henry II then became spiteful and made increasingly difficult demands on Beckett.

Rumours circulated that Beckett would be thrown into prison. Some of his bishops begged the Archbishop to resign. Beckett stood firm. He instructed his bishops to excommunicate anybody who laid hands on him. His bishops were ordered not to participate in criminal proceedings against him.

King Henry told the bishops that Beckett was in flagrant breach of the Constitution of Clarendon, which he had sworn to uphold. The Bishop of Winchester implored Beckett to resign for the sake of the Church.

The King delayed permission for Beckett to leave the country. The Archbishop fled to the French Court. King Henry advised the rulers of France and Flanders that Beckett, "formerly" Archbishop of Canterbury was a traitor, and had fled overseas. Both the Pope and the pious French king took umbrage at the word "formerly." They demanded to know who had deposed the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Beckett had a papal audience and tended his resignation to Pope Alexander III.

The Pope absolved him but refused to accept his resignation. Beckett was confirmed as Archbishop of Canterbury. This new investure by the Pope filled Beckett with manic zeal.

Henry II was furious that the Pope had personally invested Beckett as Archbishop of Canterbury. He confiscated all the property in the See of Canterbury, and ordered that all of Beckett’s relatives be driven out of England!

The Pope had placed Beckett in the care of the Abbot of Pontigny. The self-exiled Archbishop was becoming a martyr in his own mind. He opined that his dispute with the intransigent English king was the most pressing problem confronting Christendom. It was Beckett’s own intransigence which cost him his life.

In 1165 Pope Alexander III annulled Beckett’s conviction at the Great Council of Northampton. He subsequently gave the Archbishop full authority to excommunicate those who had seized the property of his See of Canterbury.

Beckett sent some very threatening letters to the English king. He asked to be restored to his See of Canterbury. Beckett promised to serve Henry faithfully, but added a qualifying clause. The Archbishop added that Henry should heed his warnings or suffer the vengeance of God!

Henry II asked the Council of Chinon what he should do. The Archbishop of Canterbury was clearly planning interdict or excommunication. He fulminated against their lack of advice.

On Whit Sunday 1166 Beckett excommunicated five people who had incurred his righteous wrath. The English bishops apprised the Pope of Beckett’s extreme actions. Beckett retaliated by accusing his fellow bishops of cowardice, and reproaching them for not mending their ways. He threatened severe censures against the king unless Henry became more amenable.

In 1166 Henry II stepped up his vendetta against Beckett. He wrote to the Cistercian Order. His letter conveyed a veiled threat. Henry pointed out that the Cistercians were harbouring his personal enemy in one of their French monasteries. He reminded them of how many manors and properties they held in England. The Cistercians took the hint and Beckett sought sanctuary elsewhere.

Henry’s overtures to the Pope also bore fruit. Alexander III appointed a Legatine Commission to settle the dispute between Henry and his Archbishop. He also admonished Beckett to refrain from excommunicating anybody for the time being. The Pope also arranged for the absolution of those men already excommunicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Beckett’s intransigence nonplussed the Papal Legates. Henry II agreed to abide by the decision of the Cardinals. He burst into tears as the Cardinals were leaving, and begged them to get rid of Beckett. Henry claimed he just wanted to be rid of this troublesome Archbishop.

In 1169 other envoys appointed by the Pope arranged a meeting between Beckett and Henry. The King of France was in attendance. King Henry was prepared to be generous and accept his Archbishop back despite his personal anguish. However, once more Beckett’s obduracy wrecked any chance of reconciliation. Henry sent two envoys to Pope Alexander, and requested Beckett be either deposed or translated to another See.

In April 1169 Beckett excommunicated more culprits. He warned the clergy in London that six more excommunications were planned for Ascension Day. Beckett’s bitterness was clearly affecting his judgement. He cheerfully excommunicated another twenty souls who had somehow angered him. The Pope begged Beckett to withdraw the excommunications. However, Beckett was too far gone in his delusions. It was his role to defend the liberty of the Church. Beckett ignored Pope Alexander’s instructions.

Papal envoys made no headway with Henry in a new meeting to settle the dispute between King and Archbishop. Beckett then proclaimed that he would place England under interdict if Henry II had not backed down by February 1170. He also arranged for a friend to request a papal interdict on Henry’s extensive continental lands.

The English king retaliated by drafting extreme decrees which everyone in his kingdom over the age of fifteen was to uphold. The English Bishops refused to swear. They warned Henry that their allegiance was to the pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In some desperation Henry arranged a meeting with Beckett, and once more the French king was in attendance. Beckett once more asked to be reinstated. Unfortunately, he asked for things which Henry, who wanted to be conciliatory despite his better judgement, was not prepared to grant. This meeting was a fiasco, and Henry called down curses on Beckett’s head as he departed.

One of the papal envoys threatened Henry that time was short. The King was told to accept Beckett’s terms, or interdict and excommunication might follow.

The Pope sent yet another delegation to settle the feud between king and Archbishop. These envoys were authorized to absolve some of the men Beckett had excommunicated. The Archbishop was beside himself with rage when he heard that a bishop he positively detested had been absolved by a papal envoy.

Excerpts from Beckett’s letter to Cardinal Albert at the papal court should settle the question once and for all as to his true religious allegiance:

"Let any cardinal who will rise up against me. Let them arm not only the King of England but the whole world to encompass my ruin! I, under the protection of God, will never retreat from my loyalty to the Church, either in life of in death..... I commit my cause for the future of God, for whom I am suffering exile and proscription..... There is no need for me to trouble the Roman court again. I will leave that to those who do evil and triumph."

King Henry had apparently misunderstand the papal envoys. He arranged for the coronation of his son by the Archbishop of York. Both Beckett and the Pope forbade the coronation. Henry was reluctantly forced into a reconciliation with Beckett. This was effected because neither man insisted on airing the contentious issues which had divided them.

The Pope suspended the bishops who were present at the young king’s coronation, and revived the excommunications imposed on two bishops.

Beckett then queered his own pitch by forwarding letters which excommunicated the Bishops of London and Salisbury, and suspended the Archbishop of York. This action would ensure his death. The three outraged bishops joined Henry in Normandy. Meanwhile, Beckett was back in Canterbury. He excommunicated another batch of miscreants who had offended him.

Henry was aghast when he heard of the latest round of excommunications. He fulminated against his subjects in general. Their king was being made a fool of by a low-born clerk. Four knights of his household were stung to the quick by this tirade. They hastily embarked by separate routes to bring Beckett to his senses. This point has to be stressed.

The absence of the four knights was reported to Henry, who immediately suspected their intentions. He ordered Richard de Humet, the Justiciar of Normandy, to head them off before they took ship for England. Unfortunately, the four knights had too good a head start.

Henry was no fool. Beckett was definitely the bane of his life, but a martyred Archbishop would certainly lead to excommunication and an interdict.

It appears that the four head-strong knights intended to earn their king’s favour by forcing Beckett to absolve the three bishops, and accede to Henry’s will. They were taken to Beckett’s room and sat patiently on the floor until the Archbishop had finished his discussion with a clerk.

Reginald FitzUrse demanded that Beckett absolve the three bishops, and lift the suspension on other bishops who had attended the young king’s coronation. Beckett replied that the Pope had sentenced the bishops.

The four knights then ordered Beckett to leave England because he had broken the peace. They assured Beckett that the king demanded that he leave England. The Archbishop expostulated that he was now back in his own See, and no king could force him to leave England. The knights then claimed that Beckett was insulting their king.

The knights left in high dudgeon because they suspected that Beckett had threatened to excommunicate them. The Archbishop had warned that he would not spare anyone who broke the laws of the Church.

John of Salisbury, Beckett’s friend and chronicler, was present at this exchange. He remonstrated with the Archbishop. Beckett could have discussed the demands with his clerks and priests. No doubt a suitable response to placate the knights could have been furnished.

The knights went to don their armour. This is a vital point. They were initially prepared to parley with the Archbishop to see if they could change his mind! Only three people were with Beckett when the knights confronted him in the Cathedral. One was William FitzStephen, an old friend and chronicler. The knights were now in full armour and had drawn their swords. Even at this point Beckett was asked if he would absolve the men he had excommunicated, and restore the bishops to their offices.

The knights seized Beckett when he refused their demands. He struggled and adamantly refused to yield. Beckett was killed on the spot.

In the modern literature, this connection has been expressed with extraordinary penetration and beauty in the sermon of Thomas Beckett, in the play of T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

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