In his Against Heresies (c. 180 AD), Ireneaus of Lyon writes

[God] pronounced no curse against Adam personally, but against the ground, in reference to his works, as a certain person among the ancients has observed: “God did indeed transfer the curse to the earth, that it might not remain in man.”

Who is Irenaeus quoting here? The Ante-Nicene Christian Library gives a cross-reference to Genesis 3:16, but does not identify the ancient writer. I can't even tell if it refers to a Christian writer or a pre-Christian writer!

  • The only “ancient” that I know of who confirmed that god cursed the ground is Lamech, Noah’s father in Gen 5:29. May 19, 2021 at 17:41

1 Answer 1


Irenaeus doesn't say and he doesn't give any hint.

Unfortunately, that question couldn't be answered by several other experts in the field:

It is unclear to whom Irenaeus is here referring.

— M. C. Steenberg: "Irenaeus on Creation: The Cosmic Christ and the Saga of Redemption", Vigiliae Christianae, Supplements, Brill: Leiden, Boston, 2008, p185.

Though the chain is not as compressed as in IV 20.2, he does it in III 23.3. Here, spliced between two references to Genesis, and followed by a reference to the Lord’s words in Matthew, are the following words of an unnamed, non-Scriptural authority: ‘As a certain person among the ancients has observed: “God did indeed transfer the curse to the earth, that it might not remain in man”.’

— Charles E. Hill: "‘The Writing which Says ...’ The Shepherd of Hermas in the Writings of Irenaeus", in: Markus Vinzent (Ed): "Papers presented at the Sixteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2011", Studia Patristica Vol. LXV, Volume 13: The First Two Centuries — Apocrypha Tertullian and Rhetoric From Tertullian to Tyconius, Peeters: Leuven, Paris, Walpole, 2013. p134

  • 3
    I think in the internet age, when all knowledge seems at our fingertips, its tough for a lot of people to wrap their heads around the fact that we only have a very tiny amount of surviving writing from the pre printing press era. Basically everything we know from that period could be considered luck. So if someone in the ancient period made an oblique reference to someone else, the odds against us having any more writing on the same subject from another source to put the pieces together are astronomical.
    – T.E.D.
    May 19, 2021 at 14:24

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