If you read Genesis at face value (and why not, but thats another blog one day and not the purpose of this entry) then Methuselah died in the year of the Flood. Therefore he would have known Noah who survived the flood and would have passed on to him all his wisdom and experience. But if you look closer at Genesis then you also see that Methuselah would have also known Adam. So Noah could easily have been aware of Adam’s thoughts, warnings and wisdom because he could glean it from Methuselah. 3 degrees of separation.
Irenaeus was ministering around the 180s AD. However, when Irenaeus was a boy he knew the famous martyr Polycarp who was Bishop of Smyrna. And Polycarp knew John the apostle, who was a companion of Jesus Christ. 3 degrees of separation.
It’s a small world, but the thing about Irenaeus is that he was in a unique position to defend the gospel because he knew someone who knew one of the very gospel writers. He could therefore skilfully combat the Gnostics of the 2nd century by refuting their claims to secret knowledge passed on from the apostles.
Not only did Irenaeus know Polycarp (and therefore his recollections of John) he was also influenced by Justin Martyr who was able to skilfully show that Greek philosophy did not have all the answers. Justin had tried many philosophical ways but only found the truth and the peace that it brings by discovering Christ through the Old Testament scriptures. And then Irenaeus influenced others and so on.
Have you ever wondered how the New Testament came together? I’m convinced that most Christians think that somehow it just dropped out of heaven, neatly bound and ready for the back pocket. Crucially, Tony Lane’s book (The Lion Christian Classics Collection) shows the key people who bridge the gap between the first apostles and the great councils a couple of centuries later.
If you want an example of the amazing courage of the young church then read the account of Perpetua and Felicitas (a young Roman woman and her slave girl) who were martyred for their faith in Carthage in AD 203 (page 39-42). It truly shows the cost of a declaration for Christ.