Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/626

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560

ANTICHRIST


560


ANTICHRIST


while in other works it stands for a hostile god. Following mere analogy, one might interpret ivrl- XP'(rT0i as denoting one resembling Christ in appear- ance and power; but it is safer to define the word according to its biblical and ecclesiastical usage.

I. Biblical Meaning op the Word. — The word Antichrist occurs only in the Johannine Epistles; but there are so-called real parallelisms to these occur- rences in the Apocaljnxse in the Pauline Epistles, and less explicit ones iii the Gospels and the Book of Daniel.

\. In the Johannine Evistles. — St. John supposes in his Epistles that the early Christians are acquainted with the teaching concerning the coming of Anti- christ. "You have heard that Antichrist cometh" (I John, ii, IS); "This is Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he cometh" (I John, iv, 3). Though the -Apostle speaks of several Antichrists, he distin- guishes between the many and the one principal agent: "Antichrist cometh, even now there are be- come many .Vntichrists" (I John, ii, 18). Again, the writer outlines the character and work of Antichrist: "They went out from us, but they were not of us" (I John, ii, 19); "Who is a liar, but he who denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is Antichrist, who denieth the Father, and the Son" (I John, ii, 22); " And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus, is not of God; and this is Antichrist" (I John, iv, 3); "For many seducers are gone out into the world, who con- fess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh: this is a seducer and an Antichrist" (II John, 7). As to the time, the Apostle places the coming of Anti- christ at "the last hour" (I John, ii, 18); again, he maintains that " he is now already in the world' ' (I John, iv, 3).

B. In the Apocalypse. — Nearly all commentators find Antichrist mentioned in the Apocalypse, but they do not agree as to the particular chapter of the Book in which the mention occurs. Some point to the "beast" of xi, 7, others to the "red dragon" of xii, others again to the beast " having seven heads and ten horns" of xiii, sqq., while many scholars identify Antichrist with the beast which had " two horns, like a lamb" and spoke "as a dragon" (xiii, 11, sqq.), or with the scarlet-coloured beast "having seven heads and ten horns" (xvii), or, finally, with Satan "loosed out of his prison," and seducing the nations (xx, 7, sqq.). A detailed discussion of the reasons for and against each of these opinions would be out of place here.

C. In the Pauline Epistles. — St. John supposes that the doctrine concerning the coming of Antichrist is already known to his readers; many commentators believe that it had become known in the Church through the writings of St. Paul. St. John urged again.st the heretics of his time that those who denied the mystery of the Incarnation were faint images of the future great Antichrist. The latter is described more fully in II Thess., ii, 3, sqq., 7-10. In the Church of Thessalonica disturbances had occurred on account of the belief that the second coming of Jesus Christ was inuninent. This impression was owing partly to a misunderstanding of I Thess., iv, 15, sqq., partly to the machinations of deceivers. It was with a view of remedying these disorders that St. Paul wrote his Second lOpistle to the Thessalonians, inserting es- pecially ii, 3-10. The Paviline doctrine is this: "the day of the Lord" will be preceded by "a revolt", and the revelation of the "man of sin". The latter will sit in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God; he will work signs and lying wonders by the power of Satan; he will scihicc "tliose who re- ceived not the love of the truth, that they miglit be saved; but the Lord Jesus shall kill him with the spirit of His mouth, and destroy him with the bright- ness of His coming. As to the time, " the mysterj- of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now


holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way." Briefly, the "day of the Lord" will be preceded by the "man of sin" known in the Johannine Epistles as Antichrist; the "man of sin" is preceded by "a re- volt," or a great apostasy; this apostasy is the out- come of the "mystery of iniquity" which already "worketh", and which, according to St. Jolm, shows itself here and there by faint types of Antichrist. The Apostle gives three stages in the evolution of evil: -tlie leaven of iniquity, the great apostasy, and the man of sin. But he adds a clause calculated to determine the time of the main event more accu- rately; he describes something first as a thing (tA KOT^X""). then as a person (6 Karix'^"), preventing the occurrence of the main event: " Only he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way." We can here only enumerate the principal opinions as to the meaning of this clause without discussing their value: (1) The impediment of the main event is "the man of sin"; the main event is the second coming of the Lord (Grimm, Simar). (2) The im- pedim.ent is the Roman Empire; the main event im- peded is the " man of sin " (most Latin Fathers and later interpreters). (3) The Apostle referred to per- sons and events of his own time; the Karix"' and the "man of sin" are variously identified with the Emperors Caligula, Titus, Nero, Claudius, etc. (Protestant theologians living after the seventeenth century). (4) The Apostle refers immediately to contemporary men and events, which are, how- ever, types of the eschatological kut^xov, " man of sin", and day of the Lord; the destruction of Jerusa- lem, e. g., is the type of the Lord's second coming, etc. (Dollinger).

Before leaving the Pauline doctrine of Antichrist, we may ask ourselves, whence did the Apostle derive his teaching? Here again we meet with various answers. — (1) St. Paul expresses merely liis own view based on the Jewish tradition and the imagery of the Prophets Daniel and Ezechiel. This view has been advocated by several Protestant writers. (2) The Apostle expresses the impression produced on the early Church by the eschatological teaching of Jesus Christ. This opinion is expressed by Dollinger. (3) St. Paul derived his doctrine concerning Anti- christ from the words of Christ, the prophecy of Daniel, and the contemporary events. This opin- ion, too, is expressed by Dollinger. (4) The Apostle uttered a prophecy received through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Catholic interpreters have gen- erally adhered to this opinion.

D. In the Evamjelists and Daniel. — After studying the picture of Antichrist in St. Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians, one easily recognizes the " man of sin" in Dan., vii, 8, 11, 20, 21, where the Prophet describes the "little horn". A type of Antichrist is found in Dan., viii, 8 sqq., 23, sqq., xi, 21-45, in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes. Many commen- tators have found more or less clear allusions to Antichrist in the coming of false Christs and false prophets (Matt., xxiv, 24; Mark, xiii, 6, 22; Luke, xxi, 8), in the "abomination of desolation," and in the one that "shall come in his own name" (John, v, 43).

II. Antichrist in Ecclesiastical Language. — Bousset believes that there was among the Jews a fully developed legend of Antichrist, which was ac- cepted and aniplilicd by Christians; and that this legend divt'rgrs lidiii and coiilradicts in important points tlu' concept ions found in the Apocalypse. We ilo not believe that Bousset has fvilly proved his opinion; his view as to the Christian development of the concept of Antichrist does not exceeil the merits of an ingenious theory. We need not here enter upon an investigation of (iunkel's work, in which he traces back the itiea of .Vntichrist to the primeval dragon of the deep; this view deserves no more attention than