Irenaios of Lyon Against Heresies
And he recapitulated in himself the work originally fashioned, because, just as through the disobedience of one man sin came in, and through sin death prevailed (Rom. 5:12, 19), so also through the obedience of one man justice was brought in and produced the fruit of life for the men formerly dead. And as the first-fashioned Adam received his substance from earth uncultivated and still virgin ("for God had not yet rained and man had not worked the earth", Gen 2:5) and was fashioned by the hand of God (Ps 119:73), that is, by the Word of God, for "everything was made through him" (John 1:3) and "the Lord took dust from the earth and fashioned man" (Gen 2:7), thus the Word, recapitulating Adam in himself, from Mary still virgin rightly received the generation that is the recapitulation of Adam. If then the first Adam (1 Cor 15:45) had had a man for father and had been born of the seed of a man, the heretics could rightly say that the second Adam (1 Cor 15:47) was generated by Joseph. But if the first Adam was taken from the earth and fashioned by the Word of God, it was necessary that the Word himself, working in himself the recapitulation of Adam, possessed a like origin. One might object, why did God not take dust anew and why did he make what he fashioned proceed from Mary? So that there would not be another fashioning nor another work fashioned to be saved but that the same being might be recapitulated, with the likeness preserved.
Why would Christ have come down into her if he was to receive nothing from her? And if he had received nothing from Mary he would never have taken foods derived from the earth; after fasting forty days like Moses and Elijah he would not have felt hunger because his body needed food; John his disciple would not have written of him: "Jesus sat, wearied from the journey" (John 4:6); nor would David have proclaimed, "They have added to the pain of my wounds" (Ps 69:26); he would not have wept over Lazarus (John 11:35); he would not have seated drops of blood (Luke 22:44); he would not have said, "My soul grieves" (Matt 26:38), nor would blood and water have come forth from his pierced side (John 19:34). All these are signs of the flesh taken from the earth, which he recapitulated in himself, saving what he had formed.
Like the Lord, the Virgin Mary is also found obedient when she says, "Behold your servant, Lord, may it be for me according to your word" (Luke 1:38), but Eve, disobedient, for she disobeyed while still a virgin. For just as Eve had Adam for a husband but was still a virgin – "for they were both naked" in Paradise "and had no shame" (Gen 2:25), since recently created, they had not understanding of procreation: they had to grow up first and then multiply (Gen 1:28) – and by disobeying became the cause of death for herself and the whole human race, so also Mary, with a husband predestined for her but yet a virgin, was obedient and became the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race. For this reason the Law calls the one betrothed to a man the wife of the one betrothing her, even though she is still a virgin, signifying the recycling that Mary effected for Eve. For what has been tied cannot be loosed unless one reverses the ties of the knot so that the first ties are undone by the second, and the second free the first: thus it happens that the first tie is unknotted by the second and the second has the place of a tie for the first. This is why the Lord said that the first would be the last and the last first (Matt 19:30; 20:16); and the prophet indicates the same thing by saying, "In place of the fathers that they were, they became your sons" (Ps 45:16).
For the Lord becoming the First-born from the dead (Col 1:18) and receiving the ancient fathers into his bosom, regenerated them not the life of God, himself becoming the first of the living because Adam had become the first of the dead. This is why Luke (3:23-38) began his genealogy with the Lord to trace it back from him to Adam, thus indicating that the fathers did not give life to the Lord but he regenerated them in the Gospel of life. So too the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by Mary's obedience, for what the virgin eve had bound by her unfaith, the virgin Mary loosed by her faith.
Therefore at the beginning of Adam's transgression, as the scripture tells, God did not curse Adam himself but the earth that he worked. As one of the ancients says, "God transferred the curse to the earth so that it would not continue in man." In condemnation for his transgression man received weariness and earthly labor and eating bread by the sweat of his brow and returning to the earth from which he was taken (Gen 3:1-19); and likewise the woman received weariness and labor and groaning and the pangs of birth and servitude, that is, to her husband (3:16), so that they might not be accursed by God and utterly perish or remain unpunished and despise God. The whole curse, however, fell upon the serpent who led them astray. "And God said to the serpent, ‘Because you did this, you are accursed among all the domestic animals and all the wild beasts of the earth'" (3:14). The Lord in the Gospel pronounced the same curse to those found on his left: "Depart, you accursed, into the eternal fire which my Father has prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt 25:41), signifying that the eternal fire has not been prepared primarily for man, but for the one who led him astray and made him sin and inaugurated apostasy, and for the angels who became apostates with him. This is the fire which they who like the angels persevere in wicked works, without penitence and return, will justly experience.
This is why God interrogates them, so that the accusation may fall upon the woman; then he interrogates her, so that she may turn the accusation against the serpent. She tells what had happened: "The serpent seduced me and I ate" (Gen 3:13). God did not interrogate the serpent, for he knew that he was the instigator of the transgression. But he made his curse fall first on him, so that he might turn to man with a second condemnation. For God hated the one who seduced man, while he gradually felt pity for the one seduced.
Those who reject the whole "economy" of God, deny the salvation of the flesh and reject its regeneration, saying that it is not capable of receiving imperishability, are absolutely vain. If this flesh is not saved, the Lord did not redeem us by his blood (Col 1:14) and the cup of the Eucharist is not communion with his blood and the bread we break is not communion with his body (1 Cor 10:16). For blood comes only from veins and flesh and the rest of the human substance, which the Word of God became when he redeemed us by his blood. As his Apostle says, "In him we have redemption by his blood, the remission of sins" (Col 1:14). And because we are his members (1 Cor 6:15) and are nourished by means of the creation (which he himself provides, making his sun rise and raining as he will [Matt 5:45]), he declared that the cup from the creation is his blood, out of which he makes our blood increase, and the bread from the creation is his body, out of which he makes our body grow.
If then the cup of mixed wine and the bread that is made receives the word of God and becomes the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ, and from these it grows and consists of the substance of our flesh, how can they deny that the flesh is receptive of the gift of God, which is eternal life, when it has been nourished by the body and blood of the Lord and is a member of him? When the blessed Apostle said in the letter to the Ephesians, "that we are members of the body, of his flesh and his bones" (Eph 5:30), he was saying these things not of some spiritual and invisible man ("For a spirit does not have bones or flesh" [Luke 24:39]) but of the real man's constitution, consisting of flesh and sinews and bones, which is nourished from the cup, which is his blood, and grows from the bread, which is his body.
What proves that it is not the substance of flesh and blood that the Apostle attacks when he says it does not possess the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50) is the fact that he constantly uses the terms flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, sometimes to show that he was a man (for the Lord himself called himself Son of man) and sometimes to confirm the salvation of our flesh. For if the flesh were not to be saved the Word of God would not have become flesh (John 1:14) and if the blood of the just were not to be requited the Lord would not have had blood.
But since from the beginning the blood of the just spoke, as God said to Cain when he had killed his brother, "The voice of your brother's blood cries out to men" (Gen. 4:10). And that their blood would be requited, he said to those about Noah, "I will require your blood of your souls from the hand of every beast" (9:5), and again: "Whoever sheds the blood of a man, his own blood will be shed in return" (9:6). Likewise the Lord said to those who were going to shed his blood, "The blood of every just man shed on earth will be requited, from the blood of the just Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the temple and the altar; truly, I tell you, all that will come upon this generation" (Matt. 23:35-36). He was pointing to the future recapitulation in himself of the shedding of the blood of all the just and the prophets from the beginning and the requital of their blood through himself. He would not have demanded requital unless it was to be saved, and the Lord would not have recapitulated these things in himself if he too had not been made flesh and blood in accordance with the first-formed work, thus saving in himself at the end what had perished at the beginning in Adam.
If, however, the Lord became incarnate by means of another "economy" and took flesh from a different substance, then he did not recapitulate man in himself, and one cannot even call him flesh, since flesh really is what succeeded to the work first modeled from earth. But if he had to take matter from a different substance, from the beginning the Father would have taken a different substance for his clod of earth. But now the saving Word was made what the man who perished was, through himself effecting communion with him, and obtaining his salvation. What was lost (cf. Luke 19:10) had blood and flesh; for taking earth from the ground God fashioned man, and for him was the whole "economy" of the Lord's coming. Therefore he too had flesh and blood, recapitulating in himself the original work of the Father, not something different, and seeking what was lost (19:10). And therefore the Apostle says in the letter to the Colossians, "and you were formerly aliens and enemies of his purpose in evil works but are now reconciled in the body of his flesh through his death, to present yourselves holy and pure and without blame before him" (Col. 1:21-22). "You have been reconciled in the body of his flesh," because the just flesh has reconciled the flesh that was captive to sin and brought it into friendship with God.
So if anyone says that the flesh of the Lord was different from ours in that it did not sin "nor was guile found in his mouth" (1 Peter 2:22), while we are sinners, he speaks correctly. But if he imagines that the flesh of the Lord was different in substance from ours, the word of the Apostle on reconciliation will have no weight for him, for what is reconciled was formerly in enmity. If the Lord took flesh of another substance, what became hostile by transgression is not reconciled to God. But now by our communion with him the Lord reconciled man with the Father, reconciling us by the body of his flesh (Col. 1:22) and redeeming us by his blood, as the Apostle says to the Ephesians: "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins" (1:7). And again to the same: "You who were formerly far off have been made near by the blood of Christ" (2:13). And again: "In his flesh he destroyed enmity, the Law of precepts in decrees" (2:14-15). And in the whole letter the Apostle clearly testifies that we have been saved by the flesh of our Lord and his blood.
If then flesh and blood are what make life for us, it was not literally said of flesh and blood that they cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50), but of the carnal actions we have mentioned, which turn man toward sin and deprive him of life. And therefore in the letter to the Romans he says, "Let not sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey it. Do not deliver your members to sin as weapons of injustice, but deliver yourselves to God as living from the dead and your members as weapons of justice for God" (Romans 6:12-13). Thus by the same members with which we served sin and bore fruit to death, he desires us to serve justice in order to bear fruit to life (6;6, 7:5; 6:19).
Remember therefore, beloved, that you have been redeemed by the flesh of our Lord and bought by his blood, and "holding to the head from which the whole body" of the church "is knit together and grows" (Col. 2:19), that is, at the carnal coming of the Son of God; confess him as God and hold firmly to him as man, using the proofs drawn from scriptures. Thus you will easily avoid, as we have shown, all the opinions later invented by the heretics.
Therefore when the Lord obviously came into his own domain, with his own creation bearing him up as it was borne by him, and by obedience on the tree recapitulating the disobedience in the tree, and with the seduction of that betrothed virgin Eve dissipated by the truth announced by the angel to Mary, also a betrothed virgin – as the first one was seduced by the word of an angel to escape God and lie about his word, so the second was given the good news by the word of an angel to bear God and obey his word; and as the first was seduced into disobeying God, so the second was persuaded to obey God so that the virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve; and just as the human race was subjected to death by a virgin, it was freed by a virgin, with the virginal disobedience balanced by virginal obedience; thus the sin of the first man was corrected by the rectitude of the Firstborn, and the prudence of the serpent was overcome by the simplicity of the dove (Matt. 10:16), and by that the bonds were dissolved by which we have been tied to death.