Recapitulation and Salvation in Irenaeus of Lyon

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Theology (Th.M)


Systematic Theology

First Advisor

George Kalantzis


Irenaeus of Lyon is well known for his use of the term recapitulation (ἀνακεφαλαίωσις) in his main work Against Heresies. This thesis examines the intersection of recapitulation language and human salvation eschatology in Irenaeus. Concluding that recapitulation language describes for Irenaeus an observed shape to salvation history, this thesis probes whether that recapitulative shape extends to human eschatology. Answering affirmatively, the conclusion is grounded on a reading of Irenaeus which puts pride of place on those passages in which he quotes and interprets Ephesians 1:10. It is these uses of the term which frame his more specific application of recapitulation language to the incarnation and events within the career of Jesus Christ.

The recapitulative shape of salvation eschatology is seen in Irenaeus’ use of “image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26) terminology. He views salvation eschatology as the fulfillment of God’s original intention for humanity. The Spirit transforms humanity progressively into the image of God, which is Christ Himself. Christ is the true declaration of what humanity was intended to be in the beginning. Salvation eschatology thus displays a recapitulative shape, the tendency of God to work in history by restoring and renewing that which He has made.

Chapter one surveys literature on Irenaeus’ use of recapitulation language and his salvation eschatology. Chapter two consists of a word study showing the development of the semantic domain of ἀνακεφαλαιόω from its rhetorical context, through Paul’s expansion of the domain in Ephesians to Irenaeus’ further expansion in Against Heresies. Chapter three proposes a reading of salvation eschatology language in Irenaeus which reflects the recapitulative shape of redemptive history.


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