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re: Unveiled Isis (Abrantes)

Jun 11, 1996 01:31 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

Abrantes Writes:

>HPB says in Unveiled Isis Vol III chapterVII note 91, that
>Irenaeus distorted gnostic doctrines. In this posting I
>reproduce some comments that we can find in Encyclopaedia
>Britannica Vol 6 Micropaedia 15th edition (search for Irenaeus).

I went through chapter VII is book I and II of the original
edition of ISIS UNVEILED and was unable to find a footnote to the
effect that you describe above.  I then when back and skimmed the
body of the text in chapter VII in Bk. II where HPB does discuss
Irenaeus, but found no statements to the effect that he
"distorted gnostic doctrines."  Though I did find where HPB
called him "prejudiced" (292) and a "bible-kaleidoscopist" (304).
She also gives ample support for these contentions in this
chapter.  My lack of success in finding the statement you are
citing leads me to wonder if the text you are using is either
annotated or contains interpolations.

I would not be surprised if HPB accuses Irenaeus of distorting
gnostic doctrines somewhere in ISIS UNVEILED, but it would be
unlike her to do so without offering specific instances of
distortion, and explaining in what manner he had distorted
doctrines.  One example of how HPB treats Irenaeus and backs up
her information would the following description concerning his
debate with Ptolemaeus:

Ecclesiastical history assures us that Christ's ministry was but
of three years' duration.  There is a decided discrepancy on this
point between the first three synoptics and the fourth gospel;
but it was left for Irenaeus to show to Christian posterity that
so early as A.D. 180--the probable time when this Father wrote
his works against heresies--even such pillars of the Church as
himself either knew nothing certain about it, or deliberately
lied and falsified dates to support their own views.  So anxious
was the worthy father to meet every possible objection against
his plans, that no falsehood, no sophistry, was too much for him.
How are we to understand the following; and who is the falsifier
in this case?  The argument of Ptolemaeus was that Jesus was too
young to have taught anything of much importance; adding that
"Christ preached for one year only, and then suffered in the
twelfth month."   In this Ptolemaeus was very little at variance
with the gospels.  But Irenaeus, carried by his object [went] far
beyond the limits of prudence, from a mere discrepancy between
one and three years, makes it ten and even twenty years!
"Destroying his (Christ's) whole work, and robbing him of that
age which is both necessary and more honorable than any other;
that more advanced age, I mean, during which also, as a teacher,
he excelled all others."  and then, having no certain data to
furnish, he throws himself back on tradition, and claims that
Christ had preached for over TEN years! (book ii, c. 22, pp.
4,5).  In another place he makes Jesus fifty years old.
ISIS UNVEILED II. pp. 304-305.

I think you need to keep in mind that the winners write our
history.  Therefore if Blavatsky (who is on the side of the
losers in this case) can show that Irenaeus distorted gnostic
doctrines, then this would be very significant, because one would
expect such evidence to have disappeared a long time ago.

As to your Britannica entry saying that respect for Irenaeus
"increased," you might keep in mind the historical context of
this statement and how it relates to ISIS UNVEILED.  In 1877,
when ISIS was published, almost no gnostic mss were known to
exist.  Therefore, unbiased scholars had to suspect that any
statements made by the Church Fathers concerning gnosticism,
since they are the ones who had seen to it that the gnostic mss
were destroyed or buried.  When the Nag Hammadi mss (1948) were
finally translated in the 1970's the scholars found to their
surprise that the church fathers, including Irenaeus, were more
accurate concerning gnostic teachings than they had at first
assumed.  But this does not mean that the church father's
summaries of gnostic doctrines were not selective, or that they
by any stretch of the imagination intended to offer a scholarly
and unbiased account of the gnostic movements.  Their task was to
discredit and destroy the gnostic movement through debate, and
later by political force.  History shows that they succeeded in
their task.


   |Jerry Hejka-Ekins,                      |
      |Member TI, TSA, TSP, ULT                |
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