APOCALYPSE • • • APOCALYPSE • • • APOCALYPSE Eschatology Towards the End of the First Millennium W. MARK ELLIOTT Keywords: Eschatology, millennium, apocalypse, Augustine, revelation, resurrection, antichrist, Byzantium, Jerusalem As we; at the end of the second millennium, consider bound and evangelism can take place (City of God the beliefs which those approaching the end of first 20, 7&8 with reference to Rev. 20:5). It is millennium held about it, it goes without saying that well-known that Augustine set the tone for much many things were different then. The extent to thinking about the interpretation of the Revelation which the view of people living one thousand years of St. John when he wrote that one was not to take ago yet professing the Christian faith has something the mention of the 'one thousand year reign' as to teach us, I shall consider in the final part of this pointing forward to any hoped-for one thousand article. First I shall sketch the history of the doctrine years of paradise on this earth, such as 'the chiliasts' of the Last Things in the first millennium, paying believed. After all, the mention of a 'first resurrec particular attention to the use of Scripture and to the tion' (Rev. 20:5), often taken to mean that the mar different concerns of the Byzantine and Roman tyrs are to be raised for a thousand years before the churches general resurrection (e.g. Irenaeus Against the Her esies 5.33.3-4), is interpreted by Augustine to mean 'baptism'. Nothing more is to be expected until the Reasons for sidelining the Apocalypse second, general resurrection, that of the body, by of John which time history will be left behind like markings on a runway. Until such time, the Augustinian view is Augustine believed that the millennium meant 'the that God acts in the realm of souls, not politics. age of the Church', the time during which the devil is Many have seen the Augustinian legacy as muting EVANGEL Autumn J 999 • 81 .
• • • • APOCALYPSE • APOCALYPSE • APOCALYPSE the strong voice of the Book of Revelation. It be This added up to a date which Baalbek fixed as A.D. trays, perhaps, the North African's strongest debt to 572. The Antichrist was identified as an enemy within: the ahistorical theology of Origen, although his there had been disobedience of Old Testament propor near-contemporary and fellow North African, the tions at the heart of the Byzantine theocracy. God had Donatist Tyconius, was the immediate influence. laid bare his judgement in the defeat of the arrogant However, Augustine cannot be held wholly responsi Emperor Heraclius in A.D. 636 at Yarmuk, and things ble. Just as influential on the post-Augustinian cli could only get worse during the short time that mate of opinion was Jerome's determination to edit remained.4 the Apocalypse Commentary of Victorious of Pettau so that those passages which represented a 'chiliastic' interpretation were removed. The Good News In the Greek East It was a sign of how desperate things had become that The dispute over the canonicity of the Book of theology demanded some sort of divine intervention. Revelation in the East appears as early as Dionysius of The Revelation of Methodius of Patara (mid-C7) em Alexandria. 1 Interpretation of Revelation was generally ploys the 'description' in Psalm 68:32 of a champion avoided by the Greek commentators until the sixth cen emperor coming from Ethiopia: 'Ethiopia will reach out tury. 2 The Syriac-speaking church avoided it altogether her hand to God.' There was no room in this schema so that, by the thirteenth century, a writer such as for chiliasm: events were telescoped into a fe~ years' Bar-Hebraeus, argues, according to the Gospels, that duration, according to the pattern of 2 Thessalonians. signs and portents tell us that the end is near, but not ex The champion would defeat the Arab rebellion, sup actly when it will take place; he discusses the Gospel ported by the Archangel, when the northern forces of passages, not the significance of Revelation. Gog and Magog attack his flank. However, he is not strong enough to withstand the Antichrist who comes out of Chorazin and was educated in Bethsaida (d. Mt. The Bad News and the Enemy Within 11:21). The Emperor is driven to Jerusalem, where, ascending Golgotha, he will hand over the crown to The lack of interest in the Book of Revelation should not Christ who then descends to defeat the Antichrist. blind us to the early Byzantine fascination with the mys terious 'Antichrist figure', 'the man of lawlessness' in 2 Thessalonians 2:3f. The royal historian Procopius Continuing Expectation and Indifference turned against his master the Emperor Justinian after the latter's death: 'This inscrutable man who, in his The patriarch Sophronius viewed the Arab capture of physical appearance, resembled the infamous Emperor Jerusalem and entry of Caliph Ummar into the Holy Domitian, who was allegedly observed to turn late at Sepulchre in A.D. 634 as 'the abomination of desola night into a headless phantom, whose face was some tion.' The enemy is now 'without' and the expectation times transformed into a mass of featureless flesh, could is of God's judgement wrought through the Byzantine surely be regarded as the Prince of Demons or the 'Israel' on the Islamic 'nations'. The Old Church Sla Antichrist himself.' 3 vonic Vision of Daniel includes a long list of Byzantine The idea that the world was in its last days was by this Emperors; the last, Michael II (820-829) is followed by time well established. The early Christian apologist, the prediction of '. . . a series of eschatological emper Theophilus of Antioch (c. A.D. 180), had calculated ors, for instance, a tetrarchy of two Eastern and two that the Incarnation occurred five thousand, five hun Western rulers-a feature to which no historical reality dred and fifteen years after creation. This chronology corresponded in the Ninth Century.'5 Yet in the East which Eusebius, the Emperor Constantine's theologian, general fascination with the world's end waned as adjusted meant that by A.D. 500 the world was Byzantium settled down to 'business (trade, culture, approaching its seventh millennium, since the duration religion) as usual'. Whereas, in the West ever since of the world was generally agreed to be 7 x 1000 years Jerome's Hebraica veritas was adopted by Bede, in accordance with the seven days of creation and the scholars realized that according to the Hebrew text the helpful equation in Psalm 90:4/2 Peter 3:8: 'One day world began shortly after 4000 B.C., so that the end of with the Lord is as a thousand years: unus dies apud the world was to come considerably later, the Greeks, dominum sicut mille anni'. who followed the Septuagint's reckoning of the world's In the mid-sixth century, the Oracle of Baalbek used beginning in c. 5325 B.C., when the world did not end another way of reckoning. According to its interpreta by A.D. 675, began to lose interest in end-times. tion of Daniel 7:23 the Christian Roman Empire (held From the mid-ninth century onwards Byzantium to begin properly in the 390s) was to last 180 years. enjoyed easier and more prosperous times. Arethas (d. 82 • EVANGEL Autumn 1999 .
• • • • APOCALYPSE • APOCALYPSE • APOCALYPSE 944) gives the interpretation on Revelation 20: 1-3 of years to run from A.D. 618, resulting in an end-date of his sixth-century predecessor Andreas of Crete, where A.D. 863: its years, if not its days, were numbered. the Antichrist's binding means simply the Incarnation, the First Advent of Christ, as Justin Martyr had said. Tenth Century France Arethas takes this as a clue to set the clock ticking from the Incarnation with 1000 years to run, rather than fix While these Spanish expectations had been based on ing the End-time as six thousand years after creation. counting from the beginning of creation, Bede 's new Arethas however goes on to defuse the notion that the chronology (adopted from Dionysius Exiguus) meant world would end within the coming century (i.e., by that 'A.D.' began to be used for dating letters, edicts, A.D. 1000), since of course one cannot understand the and so on, although it took time to become established. millennium in terms of exact time. The Revelation of The consequence was that some thoughts, especially in John was therefore used to support the Byzantine certain monastic circles, were fixed on A.D. 1000. regime, not in order to tell of coming judgement and sal Adso of Montier-en-Der, writing in A.D. 953, became vation. Despite indications of popular apprehension in acquainted with the 'Last World Emperor' motif, and late tenth-century Byzantium, Photius the Patriarch was transposed it into Frankish terms.10 To give a para typical in avoiding the subject of what happens between phrase of his letter to his queen, Gerberga: Some of death and final judgement, preferring to focus on the our learned men say that one of the Kings of the resurrection. Although even in the twelfth century Franks will possess anew the Roman Empire. He will Alexios Kommenos would expect to lay down his crown be in the last time and will be the greatest and the in Jerusalem, 'Byzantine Emperors, by not recapturing last of all kings. After he has successfully governed Jerusalem, effectively postponed the end indefinitely. '6 his empire, he will finally come to Jerusalem and will lay aside his scepter and crown on the Mount of Ol ives. This will be the end and the consummation of The West the Roman and Christian Empire. J.N. Hillgarth comments about Visigothic Spain: 'St Late Tenth and Early Eleventh Century Augustine's denial of the Eusebian assumptions, his sep Western Europe aration of the heavenly city of God from the earthly city of men, was too radical to win general assent'. There Despite the famous historian Michelet's conviction, was correspondingly an optimism that superseded the based largely on sixteenth-century evidence, that there pessimistic 'wait and see' of the attitude of Gregory the was widespread terror just before A.D. 1000, research Great. In the 680s Julian ofTa ledo replied to the Jewish by H. Focillon and G. Duby have shown that this is an il assertion that the age of the Messiah had not yet come, lusion: no Papal or Imperial documents mention such a saying that it had in fact begun with Christ's birth. This thing; wills were still being drawn up in 999 in the belief was reaffirmed by Elipandus of T aledo in his letter to that it was worth disposing of property. However, they Alcuin, Charlemagne's favourite scholar. add that there was tension and fear bubbling below The Book of Revelation regained an audience in the the surface. Abbo of Reury and Odo of Cluny both context of oppression and resulting eschatological fer spoke of the possible arrival of the Antichrist in either ment, characterized by the Cordoba martyrs in A.D. 1000 or 1033 (a thousand years after Christ's passion), 850.7 Beatus of Liebana, one of the most read commen although, as time went on, the former monk became tators on the Book of Revelation during the Middle Ages less sure of this, yet had to preach against excited popu proclaimed the end was nigh during an Easter vigil. 8 lar belief. The monastic historian Rodulfus Glaber saw Even though Beatus' own commentary is 'spiritualising' the connection of unquiet times with the loosing of and interested in the poetic symbolism of Revelation Satan (Rev. 20:3), for in those evil days in the early part rather than 'political' and predictive, nevertheless it con of the eleventh century, Baptism, the Trinity, even tains a good deal of excitement! As Richard Southern meat-eating were slandered.11 We see here the begin wrote concerning Eulogius, the leader of the Cordoba nings of Catharism, the heresy which, among other Martyrs, and Paul Alvarus, who narrated the martyrdom things, deprecated the body and believed in reincarna soon afterwards: 'Briefly, both were impressed by the tion. Not surprisingly, 1022 saw the first heretic burn idea that the role of Islam was a preparation for the final ing in Medieval Europe. The end was not just 'nigh'; it appearance of Antichrist. '9 This could well be Moham was here: Glaber reports 'darkening of the sun' and vi med himself who after all had died in A.D. 666 and sions of saints coming back to life. The tissue dividing whose namesake Mahomet I was now on the throne. this world from the next was wearing very thin. Relics of Meanwhile Paul Alvarus, the chronicler of the Cordoba saints were clung to for protection while the trend of martyrs, estimated from Daniel 7:23 ('3.5 periods of pilgrimages to Jerusalem (for the rich) was instigated, as years') that this meant the Muslim hegemony had 245 the alarm was raised in the monasteries and spread to EVANGEL Autumn 19 99 • 83 .