PATRISTICS IN ENGLISH HOMEPAGE
FRAGMENTS OF THE ELDERS
FRAGMENTS OF THE ELDERS
Translated By J. B. Lightfoot & J. R. Harmer
Edited By Rev. Daniel R. Jennings

Synopsis: The fragments of the elders are quotations, preserved by Irenaeus, that were made by those who learned
directly from the Apostles or from the disciples of the Apostles.

Fragment 1
According to what was said of such cases by one better than we are: the precious stone, The emerald, accounted of
much worth Is shamed by artful mimicry in glass, whenever he is not by, who hath power to prove it, and Detect the
craft so cunningly devised. Again, when alloy of Brass Is mixed with silver, who that simple is Shall easily be able to
assay?
(Against Heresies, preface to Bk 1)

Fragment 2
As he that was better than we are affirmed of such persons, A daring and shameless thing is a soul heated with empty
air.
(Against Heresies, 13:3)

Fragment 3
Wherefore also justly did the divine Elder and herald of the truth exclaim against thee in verse, thus saying Thou idol-
framer, Mark, and portent-gazer, Skilled in the astrologer's and wizard's art, Strengthening thereby the words of thy
false lore, Dazzling with signs whomever thou leadest astray, Strange handiwork of God-defying power Such to
perform thy father Satan still Affords thee might, by an angelic Power Azazel:-thee,by the destroyer marked Chosen
forerunner of the impious craft.  Thus far that Elder, beloved of God.
(Against Heresies, 1:15:6)

Fragment 4
But that the age of thirty years is the prime of a young man's ability, and that it reaches even to the fortieth year,
every one will allow but after the fortieth and fiftieth year, it begins to verge towards elder age: which our Lord was of
when He taught, as the Gospel and all the Elders witness, who in Asia conferred with John the Lord's disciple, to the
effect that John had delivered these things unto them: for he abode with them until the times of Trajan.  And some of
them saw not only John, but others also of the Apostles, and had this same account from them, and witness to the
aforesaid account.
(Against Heresies 2:22:5)

Fragment 5
As was said by one who was before us, concerning all who in any way deprave the things of God, and adulterate the
truth, It is evil mingling chalk in the milk of God.
(Against Heresies 3:17:4)

Fragment 6
As one of the ancients saith, God for His part transferred the curse unto the earth, that it might not continue in the
man.
(Against Heresies 3:23:3)

Fragment 7
For which cause they who have been before us, yea, and much better men than we, were nevertheless unable to
dispute against the Valentinians, as not knowing their system: which we in our first Book have very diligently
expounded unto thee.
(Against Heresies, preface to Bk. 4)

Fragment 8
For God doeth all things in measure and order, and nothing with Him wants measure, since nothing is unnumbered.  
And well spake he who said that the Immeasurable Father Himself was measured in the Son: for the measure of the
Father is the Son, since He even contains Him.
(Against Heresies, 4:4:2)

Fragment 9
As I have heard from a certain Elder, who had heard from those who had seen the Apostles, and from their scholars:
that it is enough for the ancients to be reproved, as they are by the Scriptures, for what they did without counsel from
the Spirit.  For God, being no respecter of persons, upon things not done to His pleasure brings such reproof as is
suitable.  [Thus in the case of David, when on the one hand he was suffering persecution from Saul for righteousness'
sake, and flying from king Saul, and avenged not himself on his enemy, and was singing of Christ's Advent, and
teaching the nations wisdom, and doing all by the suggestion of the Spirit, he Pleased God.  But when for lust he took
to his own self Bathsheba, Uriah's wife, the scripture hath said of him, but the thing etc. and Nathan the prophet is
sent unto him, to shew him his sin, that he, passing sentence on himself, and judging himself, may find mercy and
forgiveness from Christ.  And he said unto him, etc and goes over the rest in order, upbraiding him, and reckoning up
God's favours towards him, and how he had provoked the Lord in having done this.  For that such conduct pleases
not God, rather great anger is hanging over his house.  And hereupon David was pricked to the heart, and said, I
have sinned against the Lord and afterwards he chanted the psalm of confession, waiting for the coming of the Lord,
Who washes and cleanses the man who had been bound in sin.  And so it is also concerning Solomon as long as he
went on to judge rightly, and to declare wisdom, and was building the figure of the true Temple, and setting forth the
glories of God, and announcing the peace which should come to the Gentiles, and prefiguring the Kingdom of Christ,
and was speaking his three thousand parables on the coming of the Lord, and his five thousand songs, by way of
hymn to God, and gathering accounts of God's wisdom in the Creation,after the manner of a natural philosopher, from
every tree, and from every herb, and from all fowls and quadrupeds and fishes, and saying, Will God indeed etc. (I
Kings viii).  He both pleased God, and was admired by all, and all the kings of the Earth sought his face, to hear his
wisdom which God had given him, and the Queen of the South came to him from the ends of the earth, to know the
wisdom which was in him; who also, as the Lord saith, will rise again in the judgment with the generation of those who
hear His words and believe not in Him, and will pass sentence upon them: because, while she submitted herself to the
wisdom declared by the servant of God, they despised that wisdom which was given by the Son of God.  For Solomon
was a servant; but Christ the Son of God, and the Lord of Solomon.  Well then, as long as he served God without
offence, and ministered to His purposes, so long he has glorified: but when he took wives of all nations, and permitted
them to set up idols in Israel, the Scripture hath said of him, And King Solomon was a lover etc.]  The rebuke laid on
him by Scripture was sufficient, as that Elder affirmed, that no flesh might glory before the Lord.  And therefore, he
said, the Lord descended to the parts under the earth, announcing to them also the good news of His coming; there
being remission of sins for such as believe on Him.  [And those all believed on Him, who were hoping for Him: i.e., who
foretold His coming and ministered to His purposes, righteous men and prophets and patriarchs: whose sins He
forgave, even as He forgave ours, neither ought we to impute the same unto them, unless we despise the grace of
God.  For as they did not charge us with our irregularities, which we wrought before Christ was manifested in us so
neither is it just for us to charge the like, before the coming of Christ, on such as sinned.  For all men need the glory
of God and are justified not of themselves, but by the coming of the Lord- those I mean who look steadily on His
Light.  And their deeds, he said, were written for our admonition: to teach us, first of all, that our God and theirs is one
and the same; a God, Whom sins please not, though wrought by renowned persons: and next that we should abstain
from evils.  [For if those of old time who went before us in God's special graces, for whom the Son of God had not yet
suffered, were visited with such disgrace, if they transgressed in some one thing, and became slaves to fleshly
concupiscence; what shall this generation suffer, as many as have despised the coming of the Lord, and turned utter
slaves to their own pleasures?  And they indeed had our Lord's death for the healing and remission of their sins: but
for those who now sin Christ shall no more die, for death shall no more have dominion over Him; but the Son shall
come in the glory of the Father, exacting from His agents and stewards the money which He lent them, with usury: and
to whom He gave most, of them will He require most.]  
      We ought not therefore, said that Elder, to be proud, nor to reproach the ancients, but ourselves to fear, lest
haply, after the knowledge of Christ, if we do anything which pleases not God, we no longer have remission of our
sins, but find ourselves shut out of His Kingdom.  And to this he referred Paul's saying, For if He spared not etc.  In
like manner again the transgressions of the people, you see, are written down, not for their sake who did then
transgress, but for our rebuke, and that we might know that it is one and the same God, against Whom they sinned,
and against Whom sin even now certain of those who are said to have believed.  And this again, he said, the Apostle
did most clearly point out, saying in the Epistle to the Corinthians, For I would not have etc.  [Whereas therefore the
Apostle declares, in a way which admits not of doubt or gainsaying, that it is one and the same God, Who both judged
the things which then were, and searches out those which now are, and since he tells us the purpose of their being
set down: unlearned and daring and senseless withal are all those proved to be, who take occasion from the sin of
them of old time, and the disobedience of the greater part of them, to affirm that their God (Who is also the Maker of
the world) is a different Being from the Father taught by Christ, and is in decay, and that it is this latter who is mentally
received by every one of them.  Because they consider not, that as in that case God was not well pleased with the
greater part of them, being sinners, so also in this case many are called but few chosen (S. Matt. x) as among them
the unjust and idolaters and fornicators lost their life, so also among us.  For both the Lord proclaims that such are
sent into the eternal fire, and the Apostle saith, Know ye not etc.  And in proof that he said this not to those who are
without, but to us, lest we be cast out of the Kingdom of God, for doing some such thing, he hath subjoined, And these
things etc.  And as in that case those were condemned and cast out, who did evil, and led the rest astray, so in this
case also the very eye is dug out which gives offence, and the foot, and the hand, that the rest of the body perish not
alike.  And we have it ordained, If any is named etc.  And again the Apostle saith, Let no man deceive you etc.  And as
then the condemnation of them that sinned imparted itself also to the rest, in that they were pleased with them, and
they held converse together: so here also a little leaven corrupteth the whole mass.  And as there God's anger came
down against the unrighteous, here also saith the Apostle in like manner, For the wrath of God etc.  And as there
upon the Egyptians, who were punishing Israel unjustly, vengeance from God took place, so here also; since both the
Lord saith, And shall not God etc. and the Apostle in the Epistle to the Thessalonians declares as follows, Since it is a
righteous thing etc. Both here therefore and moderation; but here truly, and for ever, and more severely.  For the fire
is eternal; and the anger of God which shall be revealed from heaven from the countenance of our Lord brings a
greater penalty on those who incur it: as David also saith, But the countenance etc.  This being so, the Elders used to
declare those persons to be very senseless, who from what befell God's disobedient people of old try to bring in
another Father: objecting the great things which the Lord when He came had done to save those who received Him, in
His pity for them but saying nothing of His judgment and of all that is to happen to such as have heard His words and
fulfilled them not and how it were good for them if they had not been born and how it shall be more tolerable for
Sodom and Gomorrah in the judgement than for that city which received not the words of His disciples.
(Against
Heresies, 4:27:1-28:1)

Fragment 10
Those again who upbraid and charge us with the circumstance, that the people by command of God, on point of
departure, received of the Egyptians vessels of all sorts and apparel, and so went away, from which stores the
Tabernacle also was made in the wilderness, prove themselves ignorant of God's ways of justification, and of His
providences as that Elder likewise used to say. [Since, had not God permitted this in the typical journey, no man could
at this day be saved in our real journey, i.e., in the faith wherein we are established, whereby we have been taken out
of the number of the Gentiles.  For we are all accompanied by some property, moderate or large, which we have
gotten out of the Mammon of iniquity.  For whence are the houses in which we dwell, and the garments which we put
on, and the furniture which we use, and all the rest of what serves us for our daily life, but out of what in our Gentile
state we gained by avarice, or what we have received from Gentile parents, or kinsmen, or friends, who acquired it by
injustice?  Not to say that even now, while we are in the faith, we gain.  For who sells, and desires not to gain from the
buyer?  And who buys, and would not fain be dealt with by the seller to his profit?  Again, what person in business
does not carry on his business, that so he may get his bread thereby?  And how is it with those believers who are in
the royal court?  Have they not goods from among the things which are Caesar's, and doth not each one of them
according to his ability impart unto such as have not?  The Egyptians were debtors to the people not only for their
goods but for their life also, through the former kindness of the Patriarch Joseph: but in what respect are the Gentiles
debtors to us, from whom we receive both profit and the commodities of life?  Whatsoever they gain with toil, that we,
being in the faith, use without toil.  Besides, the people were serving the Egyptians in the worst of servitude, as saith
the Scripture, And the Egyptians violently etc. and with much toil they built them fortified cities, adding to their stores
for many years, and in every kind of servitude whereas the others, over and above their ingratitude toward then, were
fain even to destroy them utterly.  What then was unrighteously done,if they took a little out of much, and if those who
might have had much property, and gone away rich, had they not served them, went away poor, receiving for their
heavy servitude very scanty wages?  So, if any free person, carried away violently by some one, and serving him
many years and increasing his goods, should afterwards, upon gaining some little support, be suspected of having
some small portion of his master's property (whereas in fact he goes off with a very little,out of his own many toils and
of the other's great gain) and if this were charged on him by any one as a wrong; the judge himself will rather appear
unjust towards him who had been reduced to slavery by force.  Now of like sort are the aforesaid, who blame the
people for taking to themselves a little out of much, yet blame not themselves, who have made no due return
according to the merit of their parents, but rather, reducing them into most heavy servitude, have obtained from them
very great advantage.  And while they charge the Jews with unjust dealings, for receiving, as we said before, in a few
little vessels uncoined gold and silver; of themselves (for the truth shall be spoken, ridiculous as it may appear to
some) they say that they do justly in bearing about in their girdles stamped gold and silver and copper from others'
toils, with the inscription and image of Caesar upon it.  But if we and they are compared, which will seem to have
received more honestly?  The people from the Egyptians, who were in all their debtors, or we from the Romans and
other Gentiles, those even who owe us no such debt?  Rather by them the world hath peace, and we walk on the
highways and sail whithersoever we will without fear.  Against this sort of objector then, our Lord's saying will be
applicable, thou hypocrite etc.  For, if he who lays this to the charge, and glories in his knowledge, is cut off from the
assembly of the Gentiles, and there is nothing of others' property with him; if he be simply naked and barefoot, and
haunt the mountains without a home, like some of those animals which eat grass: he will obtain pardon, as not
knowing what is needed in our manner of life.  But if he take from men his share in the property of others,as it is
called, while he finds fault with the type of the same, he proves himself to be most unjust, and turns back on himself
the aforesaid accusation.]  For he will be convicted of carrying about what is another's, and of desiring what is not his
own: and with a view to this, they report, the Lord said, judge not that you etc.  [Not of course that we rebuke not
sinners, or consent to things done amiss, but that we judge not unfairly God's ways of ordering things, whereas He
bath provided in righteousness whatsoever shall be profitable.  Thus, because He knew that we would make a good
use of our substance, which we should have, receiving it from another, he that hath two coats, saith He, let him impart
etc.  Again, For I was an blind etc.  Again, When thou doest alms etc. and all other acts of bounty upon which we are
justified, redeeming our own as it were by what was another's.  And when I say, Another, I do not mean that the world
is alien from God, but that we receive from others and possess the aforesaid gifts, even as they from the Egyptians
who knew not God and by these same we build up for ourselves the tabernacle of God.  For with doers of good God
dwelleth: as saith the Lord, be to you select friends, etc.  For whatsoever things we had acquired, when we were
heathens, by unrighteousness, those same, now we have believed, we turn to the Lord's service, and so are justified.  
These things were then of necessity practised in type beforehand, and out of those materials the tabernacle of God is
wrought in which matter,  as we have explained, both they received justly, and we were prophetically indicated, how
that we should begin to wait on God with things not our own.  For all that journey of the people, whereby God brought
them out of Egypt, was the type and image of the Church's journey, which was to take place from among the Gentiles
which journey accordingly ends also with leading her hence into her inheritance, which not indeed Moses the servant
of God, but Jesus the Son of God, will give her to inherit.  And if any one will look more carefully at what the Prophets
say of the end, and at all that John the Lord's disciple saw in the Apocalypse, he will find the Gentiles generally
enduring the same plagues, which at that time Egypt in particular endured.]  By statements of this kind touching the
ancients did that Elder console us, and say that concerning those faults, which the Scriptures themselves have laid to
the charge of Patriarchs and Prophets, we must not reproach them, nor be like Ham, who scoffed at the disgrace of
his father, and fell into the curse; but we must give thanks to God for them, inasmuch as their sins were forgiven them
in the coming of our Lord.  For that (his word it is) they give thanks and exult in our salvation.  But in respect of those
things, for which the Scriptures reprove them not, but simply state the facts, we must not, he said, become accusers
(for we are not more exact than God, nor can we be above our master), but look out for the typical meaning.  For
none of all the things, which are set down in the Scriptures without definite censure, is without its force.
(Against
Heresies, 4:30)

Fragment 11
In the same way also did that older disciple of the Apostles reason about the two Testaments: declaring that both are
indeed from one and the same God; and that there is no other God, besides Him Who made and formed us, nor any
strength in their argument, who say that this world of ours was made either by Angels, or by any kind of Power, or by
some other God.  [For if a person once withdraw himself from the Creator of all things, and grant that the world with
which we are concerned is made by some different God, or through another, such an one must needs fall into much
absurdity and many contradictions; for which he will render no reasons with either appearance or substance of truth.  
And therefore such as introduce other doctrines, hide from us the opinion which they themselves have concerning
God; knowing the unsoundness and futility of their own doctrine, and fearing to be overcome, and so to have their
salvation endangered.]
(Against Heresies, 4:32:1)

Fragment 12
For the word `son,' as a certain person also before us hath said, has two meanings: one is naturally such, as being
born a son; while another is counted for a son, because he is made such: notwithstanding the difference between the
born and the made.
(Against Heresies 4:41:2)

Fragment 13
Where then was the first man placed?  In paradise plainly, as it is written; and he was cast out thence into this world,
owing to his disobedience.  Wherefore also the Elders, disciples of the Apostles, say that those who were translated
were translated thither (for paradise was prepared for righteous and inspired men, whither also the Apostle Paul was
carried and heard words unspeakable, to us at least in this present life), and that they who are translated remain
there until the end of all things, preluding immortality.
(Against Heresies, 5:5:1)

Fragment 14
For since by wood we lost Him, by wood again He was made manifest unto all, shewing forth the length and height and
depth and breadth in Himself; and as one of those who have gone before said, by the divine extension of His Hands
gathering the two peoples together unto one God.
(Against Heresies, 5:17:4)

Fragment 15
Now such being the state of the case, and this number being set down in all the good and old copies, and testimony
being given by the persons themselves who had seen John with their eyes, and reason teaching us that the number
of the name of the Beast, according to the reckoning of the Greeks, by the letters therein, will have 600, and 60, and
6...some, I know not how, have erred, following a particular reading, and have taken liberties with the middle number
of the name, subtracting the value of fifty, and choosing to have one decade instead of six.
(Against Heresies 5:30:1)

Fragment 16
As the Elders, who saw John the disciple of the Lord, relate that they had heard from him, how the Lord used to teach
concerning those times, and to say "The days will come, in which vines shall grow, each having ten thousand shoots,
and on each shoot ten thousand branches, and on each branch again ten thousand twigs, and on each twig ten
thousand clusters, and on each cluster ten thousand grapes, and each grape when pressed shall yield five-and-
twenty measures of wine.  And when any of the saints shall have taken hold of one of their clusters, another shall cry,
I am a better cluster; take me, bless the Lord through me. Likewise also a grain of wheat shall produce ten thousand
heads, and every head shall have ten thousand grains, and every grain ten pounds of fine flour, bright and clean,
and the other fruits, seeds and the grass shall produce in similar proportions, and all the animals, using these fruits
which are products of the soil, shall become in their turn peaceable and harmonious, obedient to man in all
subjection."  These thing Papias, who was a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp, an ancient worthy,
witnesseth in writing in the fourth of his books, for there are five books composed by him. And he added, saying, "But
these things are credible to them that believe. And when Judas the traitor did not believe, and asked, How shall such
growths be accomplished by the Lord? he relates that the Lord said, They shall see, who shall come to these (times)."
(Against Heresies 5:33:3-4)

Fragment 17
As the Elders say, then also shall they which have been deemed worthy of the abode in heaven go thither, while
others shall enjoy the delight of paradise, and others again shall possess the brightness of the city; for in every place
the Saviour shall be seen, according as they shall he worthy who see Him.  They say moreover that this is the
distinction between the habitation of them that bring forth a hundred-fold, and them that bring forth sixty-fold, and
them that bring forth thirty-fold of whom the first shall be taken up into the heavens, and the second shall dwell in
paradise, and the third shall inhabit the city; and that therefore our Lord has said, In My Father's abode are many
mansions; for all things are of God, Who giveth to all their appropriate dwelling, [according as His Word saith that
allotment is made unto all by the Father, according as each man is, or shall he, worthy.  And this is the banqueting-
table at which those shall recline who are called to the marriage and take part in the feast.]  The Elders, the disciples
of the Apostles, say that this is the arrangement and disposal of them that are being saved, and that they advance by
such steps, and ascend through the Spirit to the Son, and through the Son to the Father, the Son at length yielding
His work to the Father, even as it is said by the apostle, “For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet.  
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” For in the times of the kingdom the just man who is on the earth
shall forget to die. “But when He saith all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted which did put all
things under Him. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him
that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
(Against Heresies 5:36:2)