Killing the human being within: Irenaeus and moral injury

Fr John Behr*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This chapter explores the theme of moral injury from the perspective of early Christian anthropology. Seeing Christ’s words on the Cross, “It is finished!”, as a reference to the project of God announced in Genesis, “Let us make a human being in our image,” early Christian writers such as Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus of Lyons held that to be a human being is to follow Christ on the path of the cross, laying down our life, as an entrance into immortal life, in love for him and our neighbor. This opens up a space for seeing the human being, in the words of the Letter of Barnabas, as “earth that suffers,” so seeing in the pathos of our being the birth pangs of truly human existence. This does not entail a mere passivity in the face of suffering, but a creative, active, passivity, transforming the experience of passive suffering into an active movement of growth into the stature of human existence revealed by Christ.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMoral Injury and Beyond
Subtitle of host publicationUnderstanding Human Anguish and Healing Traumatic Wounds
EditorsRenos K. Papadopoulos
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780415309707
ISBN (Print)9781351862479, 9781138714540
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 selection and editorial matter, Renos K. Papadopoulos; individual chapters, the contributors.


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