July 11—16, 2021, Fr. John Behr and Professor Lewis Ayres will lead a summer seminar of graduate students in a close reading of Irenaeus’ Adversus Haereses. One of the first systematic presentations of the Christian theology, Irenaeus’ refutation of Gnosticism, as well as his bold defense of the canon of Scripture and its connection with the preaching of the apostles, set the trajectory for future theological reflection. Through the engagement of this principal text, students will be able to grasp the contours of the early Church’s discernment of the Christian faith.

The seminar will be held in the monastic setting of St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana. Meals and lodging will be provided and students will receive a travel stipend.

Working knowledge of relevant ancient languages will be helpful, but not essential. Preference will be given to Ph.D. students in theology, though advanced M.A. students will be considered.

There will be two sessions each day in the morning and in the afternoon. Each session will include lectures and seminar-style discussions working through all five books of Adversus Haereses. Students will be expected to prepare the readings carefully and participate in the discussions of the material.

Applicants will be required to submit:

  • A completed online application form.
  • An updated CV.
  • At least one and no more than two letter(s) of recommendation.
  • A statement of research interest no longer than 750 words, which includes an explanation of how this seminar might bear on the student’s current or future research plans.
  • One academic writing sample (30 pages maximum).

All application materials can be submitted via the online application. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Fifteen students will be admitted to this seminar. Applications are now closed.

Please contact us with any questions.

Required Reading Before Seminar

Irenaeus, Against Heresies in Ante-Nicene Fathers 1, eds. A. Roberts and J. Donaldson (Edinburgh, 1887; reprinted Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987). [digital copy provided in advance]

Preliminary Bibliography

This bibliography contains only a few suggestions of things worth reading before our sessions together. Moreover, it lists only works in English. This will give a distorted view of scholarship on Irenaeus, but it is a point of departure. For further literature see the extensive biography in John Behr’s Irenaeus of Lyons (Oxford, 2013), which we suggest you read before we meet.

If you can read literature other than English it is important to be aware of the extensive notes attached to the multi-volume Sources Chrétiennes edition of Against Heresies, and the huge corpus of the late Spanish scholar Antonio Orbe. Behr’s bibliography will provide indications to both these resources. If you have French, an invaluable resource for the biographies of writers in this period is Pierre Nautin’s Lettres et Écrivains Chrétiens des IIe et IIIe Siècles. Not in Behr’s bibliography but a useful book (if you have German) is Brox, Norbert, Offenbarung, Gnosis und gnostischer Mythos bei Irenäus von Lyon (Salzburg/Munich: Verlag Anton Pustet, 1966). 


  • Roberts, A., and J. Donaldson (eds.), ANF 1 (Edinburgh, 1887; repr. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1987). [this is the version that we will send around as a word document. It is also available online fairly easily]
  • Unger, D. J., rev. J. J. Dillon, St. Irenaeus of Lyons Against the Heresies, Book 1, ACW 55 (New York: Paulist Press, 1992).
  • Unger, D. J., rev. J. J. Dillon, St. Irenaeus of Lyons Against the Heresies, Book 2, ACW 65 (New York: Paulist Press, 2012).
  • Unger, D.J. rev. Irenaeus M. C. Steenberg, St. Irenaeus of Lyons: Against the Heresies, Book 3, ACW 64 (New York: Newman Press, 2012).
  • Grant, R. M., Irenaeus of Lyons (New York: Routledge, 1997) [Extracts].
  • Behr, J., St Irenaeus of Lyons: The Apostolic Preaching (New York: SVS, 1997).

Secondary Literature

  • Behr, J. Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement, OECS (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
  • Blowers, Paul M., ‘The Regula Fidei and the Narrative Character of Early Christian Faith’, Pro Ecclesia 6 (1997), 199-228.
  • Brakke, David, The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).
  • Briggman, A. God and Christ in Irenaeus. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).
  • Farkasfalvy, D., ‘Theology of Scripture in St Irenaeus’, RB 78 (1968), 319-33.
  • Hill, Charles E. Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).
  • Steenberg, M. C. Irenaeus on Creation: The Cosmic Christ and the Saga of Redemption (Leiden: Brill, 2008).
  • Markschies, C. Gnosis: An Introduction. Trans. John Bowden. London: T&T Clark, 2003.