Antichrist Myth

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THE QUESTION OF THE ANTICHRIST MYTH

The question of the origins and early development of the Antichrist myth was the focus of my doctoral research at the University of Queensland. The dissertation was subsequently published by Walter de Gruyter in the series Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft (BZNW, 59 - 1991).[1]

By arrangement with the publisher, selections from that book will be made available here as a catalyst for new research and further discussion as some years have now passed since the original publication of the book.

This page will serve as a gateway to the selections, with links being added to the Table of Contents when an extract is available on this site.

Your contributions and discussion are most welcome, and will make this research come alive once more for a new audience.


Greg Jenks

The Question of the Origins and Early Development of the Antichrist Myth

Towards the end of the first century of the Common Era an otherwise unknown Christian writer addressed a pastoral letter to a Christian community whose precise location and character remain uncertain. In that letter, the writer stated:

Children, it is the last hour;

and as you have heard that Antichrist is coming,
so now many antichrists have come;

therefore we know that it is the last hour. (1John 2:18)

1John assumed a knowledge on the part of its recipients, whoever they were, of some previous instruction about the coming of an "Antichrist" and it drew on that knowledge for the sake of interpreting the immediate experience of the recipients. They had apparently recently experienced a split within their community (cf. §13.3.2). In its aftermath, the author of 1John identified the opposing group with an evil eschatological figure known in Christian tradition as "the Antichrist."

Despite the appearance of the term in the Johannine epistles (see also 1John 2:22; 4:3; 2John 7), the form and extent of the primitive Christian tradition about an Antichrist figure remains something of a mystery. Antichrist Literature The word appears in the Johannine epistles for the first time, and does not recur (except in a citation of those epistles by Polycarp) until the extended discussion of the Antichrist doctrine by Irenaeus a hundred or so years later (haer. V.25). Thus both the origins of the idea prior to the Johannine epistles and its development through to the writings in the third century, which present it as a well developed tradition, require some consideration.

The question is important for both historical and contemporary reasons. Historically, the development of distinctive Christian beliefs and their expression in various forms often drew on older Jewish and hellenistic traditions. While the Christian form of these beliefs should be understood in its own right, this still requires an appreciation of the processes by which those ideas developed. This is true of early Christian eschatology in general, and of the Antichrist idea in particular.

However, more than a study of the past is involved in any enquiry into the origins and development of the Antichrist myth. Despite the assertion by Wilhelm Bousset (ERE 1,581) that the nineteenth century had seen "interest in the [Antichrist] legend entirely disappear," so that it is now to be found "only among the lower classes of the Christian community, among sects, eccentric individuals, and fanatics", interest in and speculation about this more esoteric aspect of Christian doctrine remains lively.[2] Any study which can elucidate the origins, development and earliest significance of the Antichrist myth is therefore potentially of some interest in the contemporary world, as well as having its own value as a piece of historical research.

Table of Contents

The following table of contents from the original study will give idea of the design of the research project and the range of evidence drawn upon to elucidate the origins and early development of the Antichrtist myth. As new pages are added to this project, a link will be created for each item. These pages will include new material not included in the original study, as well as references to more recent literature.


Foreword
Abstract and Acknowledgements
List of Tables
Abbreviations


1. THE QUESTION OF THE ANTICHRIST MYTH
1.1 The Question of the Origins and Early Development of the Antichrist Myth
1.2 Recent Research into the Origins of the Antichrist Myth
1.3 The Present Study

I. THE ANTICHRIST MYTH IN THE THIRD CENTURY CE

2. INTRODUCTION: THE WITNESSES AND THE PERIOD
2.1 The Witnesses
2.2 The Period
2.3 The Method

3. USE OF SCRIPTURE TO ELUCIDATE THE MYTH
3.1 The Book of Daniel
3.2 2 Thessalonians
3.3 The Book of Revelation
3.4 Other Biblical Passages

4. SKETCHES OF THE ANTICHRIST FIGURE
4.1 The Antichrist Figure and the Satan Figure
4.1.1 Satan and the Antichrist
4.1.2 The Deceiver
4.1.3 Signs and Wonders
4.2 False Teachers and Heretics
4.3 The Unparalleled Evil of the Antichrist
4.4 The Sinful Pride of the Antichrist
4.5 The Antichrist's Claim to Divine Honours
4.6 The Sovereignty of God

5. THE ACTIVITY OF THE ANTICHRIST FIGURE
5.1 The Origins of the Antichrist
5.2 The Military Conquests of the Antichrist
5.3 The Antichrist's Treatment of the Jews
5.4 The Dominion of the Antichrist
5.5 The Name of the Antichrist
5.6 The Destruction of the Antichrist and his Domain
5.7 Ambivalence Towards the Roman Empire in the Antichrist Literature of the Third Century
5.8 Summary: The Antichrist Myth in Christian Literature of the Third Century

II. ANTECEDENT TRADITIONS TO THE ANTICHRIST MYTH

6. INTRODUCTION: THE SEARCH FOR ORIGINS

7. DEMONIC POWERS IN EARLY JEWISH WRITINGS
7.1 Non Qumran Literature
7.1.1 The Documents
7.1.2 The Demonic Powers
7.2 Qumran
7.2.1 The Angel of Darkness
7.2.2 Belial
7.2.3 Melchiresha'
7.2.4 The Prince of the Dominion of Ungodliness
7.2.5 Mastemah

8. ANTIOCHUS IV IN JEWISH TRADITION
8.1 The Crisis and the Tyrant
8.2 Daniel
8.3 The Animal Apocalypse
8.4 Jubilees
8.5 1 Maccabees
8.6 2 Maccabees
8.7 The Testament of Moses
8.8 Sibylline Oracles

9. ASPECTS OF HELLENISTIC JEWISH WRITINGS WITH PARALLELS TO THE LATER ANTICHRIST LITERATURE
9.1 False Teachers and Heretics
9.2 Lawlessness and the Climax of Evil
9.3 The Deceit Motif
9.4 The Endtyrant Figure
9.4.1 Daniel 7 12
9.4.2 MartIs 2
9.4.3 Qumran
9.4.4 TMos 8
9.5 The Jewish People
9.6 Persecution of the Elect
9.7 Divine Sovereignty
9.8 The Destruction of the Hostile Powers
9.9 Ambivalence Towards the Roman Empire
9.9.1 Qumran
9.9.2 PssSol and SibOr 189


III. THE EMERGING ANTICHRIST MYTH

10. INTRODUCTION: CONVERGING STRANDS IN JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN LITERATURE PRIOR TO 175 CE

11. THE ENDTYRANT TRADITIONS PRIOR TO 70 CE
11.1 The Synoptic Gospels
11.1.1 Eschatological Traditions in the Synoptic Gospels
11.1.2 The Synoptic Eschatological Tradition and the Antichrist Myth
11.2 2 Thessalonians
11.2.1 Authenticity
11.2.2 The Occasion of 2 Thessalonians
11.2.3 Exegesis of 2 Thessalonians 2:1 17
11.2.4 The Literary Relations of 2 Thessalonians 2:1:17
11.3 The Book of Revelation
11.3.1 Significance of the Apocalypse for this Study
11.3.2 Composition, Setting and Structure
11.3.3 The Hostile Powers in the Apocalypse
11.3.4 Parallels in the Apocalypse to the Later Antichrist Myth
11.3.5 The Book of Revelation and the Origins of Antichrist Myth

12. THE ENDTYRANT TRADITIONS AFTER 70 CE
12.1 Sibylline Oracles
12.1.1 SlbOr 111.63 74
12.1.2 SibOr IV
12.1.3 SibOr V
12.2 The Epistle of Barnabas
12.2.1 Satan and the Demonic Powers in Barnabas
12.2.2 Endtyrant Traditions in Barnabas
12.3 4 Ezra
12.3.1 Eschatological Themes in 4 Ezra
12.3.2 Rome and the Endtyrant in 4 Ezra
12.3.1 EschatologicalThemes in 4 Ezra
12.3.2 Rome and the Endtyrant in 4 Ezra
12.4 The Apocalypse of Abraham
12.5 2 (Syriac Apocalypse of) Baruch
12.6 The Odes of Solomon
12.7 3 (Greek Apocalypse of) Baruch
12.8 The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
12.9 Sibylline Oracles

13. THE EARLIEST ANTICHRIST TRADITIONS
13.1 The Didache
13.2 The Testament of Hezekiah
13.2.1 Introduction
13.2.2 Text of THez
13.2.3 The Endtyrant Tradition in THez
13.2.4 THez and the Antichrist Tradition
13.3 The Johannine Epistles
13.3.1 Significance of 1 and 2 John for this Study
13.3.2 The Composition of the Johannine Epistles
13.3.3 The Antichrist Myth in the Johannine Epistles
13.3.4 1 and 2 John and the Tradition History of the Antichrist Myth
13.4 The Apocalypse of Peter 347 13.5 Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians
13.6 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho

14. CONCLUSION: THE ORIGINS OF THE ANTICHRIST MYTH
14.1 Points of General Agreement
14.2 Matters Still Subject to Debate
14.3 The Synthesis Proposed in this Study

BIBLIOGRAPHY