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Did Irenaeus And Papias Deny The Crucifixion?


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I was recently reading Tom Harpur's book, The Pagan Christ, and in it Harpur claims that Irenaeus and Papias both denied that Jesus died on a cross. He claims that they both believed that Jesus lived to be an old man and died a peaceful death in bed. He uses this in his argument to prove the crucifixion is a myth and that Jesus in turn is purely mythological, but this is the first I've heard of this claim. I had always assumed that Irenaeus believed in a literal crucifixion of Jesus and I can't find the exact quote of what Harpur is talking about. Is it true that Irenaeus and Papias didn't believe Jesus died on a cross or is Harpur misunderstanding them?

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Guest Valk0010

Don't know really much of anything about there views of the crucifixion, but based on my superficial understanding I would say harpur might be misunderstanding them. Without the crucifixion I don't think there could have ever been a resurrection belief, because the resurrection belief would be a immediate comfort to the solemn believer when there apocalyptic prophet died.

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A quick once over of Irenaeus gives me:

22.5 [...] 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, [3140] 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.

[...]

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 [3144] of flesh and blood. He did not then want much of being fifty years old; [3145] and, in accordance with that fact, they said to Him, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?” He did not therefore preach only for one year, nor did He suffer in the twelfth month of the year. For the period included between the thirtieth and the fiftieth year can never be regarded as one year, unless indeed, among their Æons, there be so long years assigned to those who sit in their ranks with Bythus in the Pleroma;

[...]

So likewise He was an old man for old men, that He might be a perfect Master for all, not merely as respects the setting forth of the truth, but also as regards age, sanctifying at the same time the aged also, and becoming an example to them likewise. Then, at last, He came on to death itself, that He might be “the first-born from the dead, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence,” [3136] the Prince of life, [3137] existing before all, and going before all. [3138]

So in his argument against these heretics he mentions the age of Jesus at ~50 years old with him teaching for ~20 years. He mentions elsewhere plenty of things about the crucifixion so I'm not sure that this lack of mention here should be taken to mean he did think he wasn't crucified but just offed at an old age. And he seems to argue pretty hard against anything but a literal, real life, human so I'm not sure where "myth" comes into play unless he's taking it away from one of the other sects beliefs.

 

mwc

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Here's the quote from Harpur on Irenaeus from his book on pages 157.

The good bishop claims that Jesus was not crucified at the age of thirty-three but passed through every age and lived on to be an "oldish man," a claim that he says is testified to by Church "elders" and was bequeathed to them directly from John.
Harpur never gives the full quote or cites where he pulled this info from, so I don't know what writings of Irenaeus he's referring to.
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Here's the quote from Harpur on Irenaeus from his book on pages 157.

The good bishop claims that Jesus was not crucified at the age of thirty-three but passed through every age and lived on to be an "oldish man," a claim that he says is testified to by Church "elders" and was bequeathed to them directly from John.
Harpur never gives the full quote or cites where he pulled this info from, so I don't know what writings of Irenaeus he's referring to.

Okay. That lines up with what I posted which was from Against Heresies Book II (I'm pretty sure it was book 2 at least).

 

mwc

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Here's the quote from Harpur on Irenaeus from his book on pages 157.

The good bishop claims that Jesus was not crucified at the age of thirty-three but passed through every age and lived on to be an "oldish man," a claim that he says is testified to by Church "elders" and was bequeathed to them directly from John.
Harpur never gives the full quote or cites where he pulled this info from, so I don't know what writings of Irenaeus he's referring to.

 

That quote doesn't say that he wasn't crucified at all, it says that he wasn't crucified at the age of thirty-three.

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If you look up that book on Amazon, you will see several negative reviews that state the "scholars" Harpur used are not legitimate. I like Tom Harpur, and was interested in this book, but then decided not to bother due to his controversial sources.

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There are so many good reasons to not believe in Christianity, I find it strange when people use bad or dubious arguments.

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