Irenaeus Against The Gnostics (And Romanism)

1. When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but viva voce: wherefore also Paul declared, “But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world.” And this wisdom each one of them alleges to be the fiction of his own inventing, forsooth; so that, according to their idea, the truth properly resides at one time in Valentinus, at another in Marcion, at another in Cerinthus, then afterwards in Basilides, or has even been indifferently in any other opponent, who could speak nothing pertaining to salvation. For every one of these men, being altogether of a perverse disposition, depraving the system of truth, is not ashamed to preach himself.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.2.1


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  1. He also writes things like:”We refer {the heretics} to that tradition from the apostles which is preserved through the succession of presbyters in the churches”, and makes (questionable) lists of presbyters for the churches of the major urban centers of the age going back to the apostles. He also refers to the uniformity in doctrine among the Churches in various locals. This tends to make him a favorite among roman scholars for use in support of their concept of apostolic succession and tradition, but I think passages like this help clarify that when he says tradition, he means that which is taught in Scripture, they are the same thing, and it’s rather anachronistic of Rome to read their modern conceptions of tradition back into his writings.

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