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MILLENNIUM


308


MILLENNIUM


ical circumstances, tlio cxpcctjitioii of iv Messiah wlio noulil flee llie people of Clotl hail, in the Jewish niinif, assuiuctl a character that wjis to a great extent earthly; the Jews longed above all for a saviour who would free them from their oppressors and restore the former splendour of Israel. These expectations generally in- cluded the belief that Jeho\ah would conquer all powers hostile to Himself and to His chosen people, and that He wovild set up a final, glorious kingdom of Israel. The apocalyptic books, principally the book of Henoch and the fourth book of Esdras, indicate various details of the arrival of the Messiah, the defeat of the nations hostile to Israel, and the union of all the Israelites in the Messianic kingdom followed by the renovation of the world and the uni%'ersal resurrection.

The natural antl the supernatural are mingled in this concejition of a Messianic kingtiom as the clos- ing act of the w-orld's history. The Jewish hopes of a Messiah, and the descriptions of apocalj^itic writers were l)lendod; it was Ijctwecn the close of the present world-ortler and the commencement of the new that this sublime kingdom of the chosen people was to find its place. That many details of these conceptions should remain indistinct and confused was but natu- ral, but the Messianic kingdom is always pictured as something miraculous, though the colours are at times earthly and scn.suous. The evangelical accounts clearly prove how fervently the Jews at the time of Christ expected an earthly Messianic kingdom, but the Saviour came to proclaim the spiritual kingdom of God for the 'leliverance of man from his sins and for his sanctification, a kingdom which actually began with His birtli. There is no trace of chiliasm to be found in the Gospels or in the Epistles of St. Paul; everything moves in the spiritual and religious sphere; even the descriptions of the end of the world and of the last judgment bear this stamp. The victory over the symbolical beast (the enemy of God ami of the saints) and over Antichrist, as well as the triumph of Christ and His saints, are described in the Apocalypse of St. John (.\poc., 20-21), in pictures that resemble those of the Jewish apocalyptic writers, especially of Daniel and Henoch. Satan is chained in the abyss for a thousand years, the martyrs and the just rise from the dead and share in the priesthood and kingship of Christ. Though it is difficult to focus sharply the pictures used in the Apocalypse and the things expressed by them, yet there can be no doubt that the whole description refers to the spiritual com- bat between Christ and the Church on the one hand and the malignant powers of hell and the world on the other. Nevertheless, a large number of Christians of the post-.Vpostolic era, particularly in Asia Minor, yielded so far to Jewish apocalyptic as to put a literal meaning into these descriptions of St. John's Apoca- lypse ; the result was that millenarianism spread and gained staunch advocates not only among the heretics bvit among the Catholic Christians as well.

One of the heretics, the Gnostic Cerinthus, who flour- ished towards the enil of the first century, proclaimed a.spleiidid kingdom of Christ on earth which He would establish with the risen saints upon His second advent, anrl pictured the pleasures of this one thousand years in gro.s.«, sensual colours (Caius in Eusebius, " Hist. Eccl.", Ill, 28; Dionysius Alex, in Easebias, ibid., VII, 25). Later among Catholics, Bishop Papijis of Hierapolis, a disciple of ,St. John, appeared as an ad vo- cate of millenarianism. He claimed to have received his doctrine from contemporaries of the Apostles, and Irena>us narrates that other "Pre.sbyteri", who had seen and heard the disciple John, learned from him the belief in millenarianism as part of the Lord's doctrine. According to Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., Ill, 39) Papias in his book asserted th.at the resurrection of the dead would be followed by one thou.sand years of a visible, glorious earthly kingdom of Christ, and according to Irenifius (Adv. Hajreses, V, 3.3), he taught that the


saints too would enjoy a superalnrndaiicc of earthly pleasures. There will be days in which \ines will grow, each with 10,000 branches, and on each branch 10,000 twigs, and on each twig 10,000 shoots, and on each shoot 10,000 clusters, and on each cluster 10,000 gra[)es, and each grape will produce 216 gallons of wine etc.

Millenarian ideas are found by most commenta- tors in the Epistle of St. Barnabas, in the passage treat- ing of the Jewish sabbath; for the resting of God on the seventh day after the creation is explained in the following manner. After the Son of God has come and put an end to the era of the wicked and judged them, and after the sun, the moon, and the stars have been changed, t hen He will rest in glory on the seventh day. The author had premised, if it is said that God created all things in six days, this means that God will complete all things in six millenniums, for one day represents one thousand years. It is certain that the writer advocates the tenet of a re-formation of the world through the second advent of Christ, Init it is not clear from the indications whether the author of (he letter was a millenarian in the strict sense of the word. St. Irenajusof Lyons, a native of AsiaMinor, influenced by the companions of St. Polycarp, adopted millena- rian ideas, discussing and defending them in his work against the Gnostics (.\dv. Hsereses, V, 32). He de- veloped this doctrine mainly in opposition to the Gnostics, who rejected all hopes of the Christians in a happy future life, and discerned in the glorious king- dom of Christ on earth principally the prelude to the final, spiritual kingdom of God, the realm of eternal bliss. St. Justin of Rome, the martyr, oppo.ses to the Jews in his Dialogue with Tryphon (ch. 80-81) the tenet of a millennium and asserts that he and the Christians whose belief is correct in every point know that there will be a resurrection of the body and that the newly built and enlarged Jeru- salem will last for the space of a thousantl years, but he adds that there are many who, though ad- hering to the pure and pious teachings of Christ, do not believe in it. A witness for the continued belief in millenarianism in the province of Asia is St. Melito, Bishop of Sardes in the second century. He developes the same train of thought as did St. Irena'us.

The Montanistic movement had its origin in Asia Minor. The expectation of an early advent of the celestial Jerusalem upon earth, which, it was thought, would appear in Phrygia, was intimately joined in the minds of the Montanists with the idea of the millen- nium. Tertullian, the protagonist of Montanism, ex- pounds the doctrine ( in his work now lost, " De Spe Kidelium " and in " Adv. Marcionem ", IV) that at tne end of time the great kingdom of promise, the new Jerusalem, would be established and last for the space of one thousand years. All these millenarian authors appeal to various passages in the prophetic books of the Old Testament, to a few passages in the Letters of St. Paul and to the Apocalypse of St. John. Though millenarianism had found numerous adherents among the Christians and had been iipheld by several ecclesi- astical theologians, neither in the post-Apostolic period nor in the course of the seconfl century, does it appear as a universal doctrine of the Church or as a part of the Apostolic tradition. The primitive Apostolic symbol mentions indeed the resurrection of the body and the return of (.'hrist to judge the living and the dead, but it says not a word of the millennium. It was the second century that produced not only defenders of the millennium but pronounced adversaries of the chili- astic ideas. Gnosticism rejected millenarianism. In Asia Minor, the principal seat of millen-irian teachings, the so-called Alogi rose up against millenarianism as well as against Montanism, but they went too far in their opposition, rejecting not only the Apocalypse of St. John, alleging Cerinthus as its author, but his Gospel also. The opposition to millenarianism