Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, “Chapter 13. Ecclesiastical Literature of the Ante-Nicene Age, and Biographical Sketches of the Church Fathers.” sec. 159-204.
§ 182. Irenaeus.
After an extensive annotated bibliography, Schaff observes that the time and person of Irenaeus is still inadequately researched. “Almost simultaneously with the apology against false religions without arose the polemic literature against the heresies, or various forms of pseudo-Christianity, especially the Gnostics; and upon this was formed the dogmatic theology of the church” (Schaff 2014, loc. 21980). In this movement are Irenaeus and Hippolytus, Greek by education but in the Western tradition of Christianity.
Irenaeus, probably from Smyrna, was instructed by Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John (Schaff 2014, loc. 21990). Among other places of service, Schaff finds him as a missionary in southern Gaul, possibly also spending some time in London and Vienna. He became bishop of Lyons in 178, after which time he wrote and spoke extensively about defending and expanding Christianity (Schaff 2014, loc. 21995). Schaff is unable to trace his death year, but places it after 190. He was buried in Lyons, at the church of St. John (Schaff 2014, loc. 22000).
Irenaeus championed orthodoxy and catholicity between Easern and Western churches. Schaff describes him as “neither very original nor brilliant, but eminently sound and judicious” (Schaff 2014, loc. 22005). He showed extensive knowledge of the Scriptures, of philosophy, and of the activities of Christians. Schaff does, however, note that Irenaeus was pre-millenarian in his eschatology (Schaff 2014, loc. 22020).
Irenaeus’ most important work is a refutation of Gnosticism, composed between 177 and 190. Schaff considers this the most important text for understanding both Gnosticism and the polemical style of Christians in the period (Schaff 2014, loc. 22034). Schaff does observe that the heretical opinions are “ever-shifting and contradictory” (Schaff 2014, loc. 22044). Irenaeus counters these opinions with unchanging Christian truth. In addition, we know of an Epistle to Florinus, preserved in a fragment, discussing God’s unity and the source of evil. Another work pertains to the centrality of the number eight in Gnosticism (Schaff 2014, loc. 22058). Another work about schisms is known, as well as several other treatises known only by title or from fragmentary quotations in other works.