Introductions to the Ancient History
The Quest for
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-- The Orthodox "Father" Athanasius - "Discourses"
The Quest for the Historical "Antichrist"
"Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?
He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son." (1 John 2:22 )
"And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist,
whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." ( 1 John 4:3 )
"For many deceivers are entered into the world,
who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.
This is a deceiver and an antichrist." (2 John 1:7)
It is signicant that the author of John stresses the importance of the explicit denial of the belief that Jesus came in the flesh. In writing that the antichrist would "not confess Jesus came in the flesh." the author of John indirectly implies that the term antichrist is also to be applied to those who would deny that Jesus had any historical existence. These are elsewhere referred to as the Docetae or the Docetics, and the heresy to which they subscribed is termed Docetism.
For every one who shall not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is antichrist:
and whosoever shall not confess the testimony of the Cross, is of the devil;
and whosoever shall pervert the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts and say
that there is neither resurrection nor judgment, that man is the first-born of Satan.
Irenaeus (2nd century CE - c. 202) held that Rome, the fourth prophetic kingdom, would end in a tenfold partition. The ten divisions of the empire are the "ten horns" of Daniel 7 and the "ten horns" in Revelation 17. A "little horn," which is to supplant three of Rome's ten divisions, is also the still future "eighth" in Revelation. He identified the Antichrist with Paul's Man of Sin, Daniel's Little Horn, and John's Beast of Revelation 13. He sought to apply other expressions to Antichrist, such as "the abomination of desolation," mentioned by Christ (Matt. 24:15) and the "king of a most fierce countenance," in Gabriel's explanation of the Little Horn of Daniel 8. Under the notion that the Antichrist, as a single individual, might be of Jewish origin, he fancies that the mention of "Dan," in Jeremiah 8:16, and the omission of that name from those tribes listed in Revelation 7, might indicate Antichrist's tribe. He also speculated that it was “very probable” the Antichrist might be called Lateinos, which is Greek for “Latin Man”.
Irenaeus: Against Heresies - BOOK I
I. But there is another among these heretics, Marcus by name, who boasts himself as having improved upon his master. He is a perfect adept in magical impostures, and by this means drawing away a great number of men, and not a few women, he has induced them to join themselves to him, as to one who is possessed of the greatest knowledge and perfection, and who has received the highest power from the invisible and ineffable regions above. Thus it appears as if he really were the precursor of Antichrist. For, joining the buffooneries of Anaxilaus to the craftiness of the magi, as they are called, he is regarded by his senseless and cracked-brain followers as working miracles by these means.
Our heretic must now cease to borrow poison from the Jew-"the asp," as the adage runs, "from the viper" -and henceforth vomit forth the virulence of his own disposition, as when he alleges Christ to be a phantom. Except, indeed, that this opinion of his will be sure to have others to maintain it in his precocious and somewhat abortive Marcionites, whom the Apostle John designated as antichrists, when they denied that Christ was come in the flesh; not that they did this with the view of establishing the right of the other god (for on this point also they had been branded by the same apostle), but because they had started with assuming the incredibility of an incarnate God. Now, the more firmly the antichrist Marcion had seized this assumption, the more prepared was he, of course, to reject the bodily substance of Christ, since he had introduced his very god to our notice as neither the author nor the restorer of the flesh; and for this very reason, to be sure, as pre-eminently good, and most remote from the deceits and fallacies of the Creator. His Christ, therefore, in order to avoid all such deceits and fallacies, and the imputation, if possible, of belonging to the Creator, was not what he appeared to be, and reigned himself to be what he was not-incarnate without being flesh, human without being man, and likewise a divine Christ without being God! But why should he not have propagated also the phantom of God? Can I believe him on the subject of the internal nature, who was all wrong touching the external substance? How will it be possible to believe him true on a mystery, when he has been found so false on a plain fact? How, moreover, when he confounds the truth of the spirit with the error of the flesh, could he combine within himself that communion of light and darkness, or truth and error, which the apostle says cannot co-exist? Since however, Christ's being flesh is now discovered to be a lie, it follows that all things which were done by the flesh of Christ were done untruly, -every act of intercourse, of contact, of eating or drinking, yea, His very miracles.
Origen (185 - 254 CE) refuted Celsus's view of the Antichrist. Origen utilized Scriptural citations from Daniel, Paul, and the Gospels. He argued: Where is the absurdity, then, in holding that there exist among men, so to speak, two extremes-- the one of virtue, and the other of its opposite; so that the perfection of virtue dwells in the man who realizes the ideal given in Jesus, from whom there flowed to the human race so great a conversion, and healing, and amelioration, while the opposite extreme is in the man who embodies the notion of him that is named Antichrist?... one of these extremes, and the best of the two, should be styled the Son of God, on account of His pre-eminence; and the other, who is diametrically opposite, be termed the son of the wicked demon, and of Satan, and of the devil. And, in the next place, since evil is specially characterized by its diffusion, and attains its greatest height when it simulates the appearance of the good, for that reason are signs, and marvels, and lying miracles found to accompany evil, through the cooperation of its father the devil.
Eusebius of Caesarea - The one and only early researcher of "Christian Church History" makes several vague references in his "Church History" to "Antichrist". In Book 3 at Chapter XVIII - "The Apostle John and the Apocalypse", and in Book 5 . Chapter VIII. "The Statements of Irenaeus in Regard to the Divine Scriptures" Eusebius makes vague allusions to antichrist. In Book 6 - "Chapter VII. The Writer, Judas" Eusebius makes a further mention of "the coming of Antichrist".
68. And he was altogether wonderful in faith and religious, for he never held communion with the Meletian schismatics, knowing their wickedness and apostacy from the beginning; nor had he friendly dealings with the Manichaeans or any other heretics; or, if he had, only as far as advice that they should change to piety. For he thought and asserted that intercourse with these was harmful and destructive to the saul. In the same manner also he loathed the heresy of the Arians, and exhorted all neither to approach them nor to hold their erroneous belief. And once when certain Arian madmen came to him, when he had questioned them and learned their impiety, he drove them from the mountain, saying that their words were worse than the poison of serpents.
69. And once also the Arians having lyingly asserted that Antony's opinions were the same as theirs, he was displeased and wroth against them. Then being summoned by the bishops and all the brethren, he descended from the mountain, and having entered Alexandria, he denounced the Arians, saying that their heresy was the last of all and a forerunner of Antichrist.
.... Know therefore that there have recently arisen in our diocese lawless and anti-christian men, teaching apostasy such as one may justly consider and denominate the forerunner of Antichrist. I wished indeed to consign this disorder to silence, that if possible the evil might be confined to the apostates alone, and not go forth into other districts and contaminate the ears of some of the simple. [Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History Book 1, Chapter VI. Division begins in the Church firm this Controversy; and Alexander Bishop of Alexandria excommunicates Arius and his Adherents.]
"And ever since [the Council of Nicaea] has Arius's error been reckoned for a heresy more than ordinary,
being known as Christ's foe, and harbinger of Antichrist. [Athanasius Discourses]
Hilary - In 365, Hilary published the Contra Arianos vel Auxentium Mediolanensem liber, against both Auxentius and Arianism in general. Either in the same year or somewhat earlier he also wrote the highly polemical Contra Constantium Augustum liber, in which he declared that Constantius II had been the Antichrist, a rebel against God, and "a tyrant whose sole object had been to make a gift to the devil of that world for which Christ had suffered."
John Chrysostom (c. 347–407) warned against speculations and old wives' tales about the Antichrist, saying, “Let us not therefore enquire into these things”. He preached that by knowing Paul's description of the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians Christians would avoid deception.
Jerome (c. 347-420) warned that those substituting false interpretations for the actual meaning of Scripture belonged to the “synagogue of the Antichrist”. “He that is not of Christ is of Antichrist,” he wrote to Pope Damasus I. He believed that “the mystery of iniquity” written about by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 was already in action when “every one chatters about his views.” To Jerome, the power restraining this mystery of iniquity was the Roman Empire, but as it fell this restraining force was removed. He warned a noble woman of Gaul: “He that letteth is taken out of the way, and yet we do not realize that Antichrist is near. Yes, Antichrist is near whom the Lord Jesus Christ “shall consume with the spirit of his mouth.” “Woe unto them,” he cries, “that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days.”... Savage tribes in countless numbers have overrun run all parts of Gaul. The whole country between the Alps and the Pyrenees, between the Rhine and the Ocean, has been laid waste by hordes of Quadi, Vandals, Sarmatians, Alans, Gepids, Herules, Saxons, Burgundians, Allemanni, and—alas! for the commonweal!-- even Pannonians. In his Commentary on Daniel, he noted, “Let us not follow the opinion of some commentators and suppose him to be either the Devil or some demon, but rather, one of the human race, in whom Satan will wholly take up his residence in bodily form.” Instead of rebuilding the Jewish Temple to reign from, Jerome thought the Antichrist sat in God’s Temple inasmuch as he made “himself out to be like God.” He refuted Porphyry’s idea that the “little horn” mentioned in Daniel chapter 7 was Antiochus Epiphanes by noting that the “little horn” is defeated by an eternal, universal ruler, right before the final judgment. Instead, he advocated that the “little horn” was the Antichrist: We should therefore concur with the traditional interpretation of all the commentators of the Christian Church, that at the end of the world, when the Roman Empire is to be destroyed, there shall be ten kings who will partition the Roman world amongst themselves. Then an insignificant eleventh king will arise, who will overcome three of the ten kings... after they have been slain, the seven other kings also will bow their necks to the victor.
Tiburtine Sibyl (c. 380 CE): an apocalyptic pseudo-prophecy falsely attributed to the Tiburtine Sibyl describes Constantine as victorious over Gog and Magog. Later on, it predicts: When the Roman empire shall have ceased, then the Antichrist will be openly revealed and will sit in the House of the Lord in Jerusalem. While he is reigning, two very famous men, Elijah and Enoch, will go forth to announce the coming of the Lord. Antichrist will kill them and after three days they will be raised up by the Lord. Then there will be a great persecution, such as has not been before nor shall be thereafter. The Lord will shorten those days for the sake of the elect, and the Antichrist will be slain by the power of God through Michael the Archangel on the Mount of Olives.
Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430) wrote “it is uncertain in what temple [the Antichrist] shall sit, whether in that ruin of the temple which was built by Solomon, or in the Church.”
Nero as antichrist - very late in the manuscript tradition, Nero is associated with the antichrist. The following is sourced from Witnesses to the Historicity of Jesus by Arthur Drews (1912).
But how could the legend arise that Nero was the first to persecute the Christians? It arose, says Hochart, under a threefold influence.
The first is the apocalyptic idea, which saw in Nero the Antichrist, the embodiment of all evil, the terrible adversary of the Messiah and his followers. As such he was bound, by a kind of natural enmity, to have been the first to persecute the Christians; as Sulpicius puts it, “because vice is always the enemy of the good.”
The second is the political interest of the Christians in representing themselves as Nero's victims, in order to win the favour and protection of his successors on that account.
The third is the special interest of the Roman Church in the death of the two chief apostles, Peter and Paul, at Rome. Then the author of the letters of Seneca to Paul enlarged the legend in its primitive form, brought it into agreement with the ideas of this time, and gave it a political turn. The vague charges of incendiarism assumed a more definite form, and were associated with the character of Antichrist, which the Church was accustomed to ascribe to Nero on account of his supposed diabolical cruelty. He was accused of inflicting horrible martyrdoms on the Christians, and thus the legend in its latest form reached the Chronicle of Sulpicius. Finally a clever forger (Poggio?) smuggled the dramatic account of this persecution into the Annals of Tacitus, and thus secured the acceptance as historical fact of a purely imaginary story.
At the end of the day it appears that the earliest historically cited appearance of the antichrist which is multiply attested is with Arius of Alexandria, at the time the Christian religion was first made the very favored centralised registered state religion c.325 CE at the sharp point of Constantine's sword. To reinforce this idea Constantine tells us that Arius thought Jesus was a "figment". [In a very nasty letter to Arius c.333 CE Constantine asks Arius: "According to hypothesis do you accept as a figment him who has condemned the figments of the heathen?"] How can a "figment" be a real historical person?
Quite obviously Arius of Alexander, who was awarded the "Antichrist Medal" by a number of 4th century orthodox figures, had a very contraversial opinion about this Jesus figure put forward in the new testament which Constantine brought with him to the Eastern empire. Constantine pronounced damnatio memoriae on Arius shortly after the Council of Nicaea. It is quite reasonable to entertain the notion that Arius may well have refused to "confess Jesus came in the flesh." If Arius were here today he would likely argue strenuously against the historicity of Jesus.
Therefore it is Arius of Alexandria, "Christ's Foe" according to Athanasius, who appears to be the first multiply-attested heretic to have been awarded the "AntiChrist Medal". The Quest for the Historical Anti-Christ seems to start at the council of Nicaea. The quest for the earliest historical Christ and the quest for the earliest historical antichrist may in fact be highly related in a contraversial political manner. Perhaps the quest for an historical christ also starts at the council of Nicaea?
Quantum physics suggests that out of the void arises both the particle along with its own anti-particle. What might this suggest?
Even the terms "Docetic; Docetism; Docetae" have been ameliorated and attenuated by the heresiological agendas down through the centuries. The docetic heretics have been exterminated, their writings burnt, and their names and their very historical memory have been subject to church anathema and imperial "damnation memoriae". A very simplified history of the obscuration, suppression and censorship of Docetism is as follows:
(2) "BLASPHEMY LAWS": operated from the 15th to the 18th/19th century. (Death or prison to the blasphemers)
(3) APPEARANCE of MYTHICIST THEORIES from the 18th/19th century.
By their failure to mention and to address the historical evidence of the obscuration and suppression of heresy and blasphemy (by the church and the state), these people are not doing history. They are engaged in apologetic propaganda and polemic.
Historical investigation clearly establishes that the Denial of Jesus's historicity was seen as, and still is seen as, a pernicious heresy that did not serve the monotheistic state cult. [The] presence and growth [of denial of Jesus's historicity] has been severely checked by Draconian Church inquisitions, and Draconian national and state "Blasphemy Laws" until recent centuries. As we are all aware, such laws still exist in the 21st century on planet Earth.
Not only has the [Denial of Jesus's historicity] been suppressed (ameliorated) from the record, but also the "History of the Denial [of Jesus's historicity] has been subjected to the same fate. That is, the history of the Denial of Jesus's historicity has been CENSORED and suppressed from the historical record.
The propaganda floated by modern scholars, such as Bart Ehrman, that "the idea that Jesus did not exist is a modern notion which only appeared (in writing) in the 18th century" is to be rejected. Between the 15th and the 19th century, state and national "Blasphemy Laws" made it very unlikely that any person would commit to writing the idea that Jesus did not exist. Before the 15th century, the precursor to "Blasphemy Laws" were "Heresy Laws". The church (then) had greater (Inquisitional) power, and directly executed its own dissidents. The first state church inquisition is attested in the mid 4th century. Ammianus Marcellinus (Book 19,CH 7). These Draconian abominable throw-back despicable insane "Heresy Laws" essentially operated for an entire millennium between the 4th and the 14th century, when they were migrated into the "Blasphemy Laws". [AS IF Jesus and God and their monotheistic church need protection!!]
Some of the books of the gnostic authors committed to writing the notion that Jesus did not really exist:
And I often wished, as I walked with him, to see his footprint, whether it appeared on the ground (for I saw him as it were raised up from the earth), and I never saw it.
Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter: (Jesus laughs at his substitute's crucifixion)
The Second Treatise of the Great Seth: (Jesus laughs AGAIN at his substitute's crucifixion)
Gospel of Barnabas: (Used by the Quranic compliers - "The wonderful God" swaps Judas with Jesus, and Judas is the one crucified)
The Interpretation of Knowledge: (Jesus did not die his own death)
WHERE: In all likelihood, the texts were publically performed in the theatres of Alexandria. "The Leucian Acts are Hellenistic romances, which were written to appeal to the masses" (see Watson E. Mills, Roger Aubrey Bullard, Mercer Dictionary of the Bible). Eusebius, in "Life of Constantine", Ch. LXI, entitled "How Controversies originated at Alexandria through Matters relating to Arius" writes:
In it, the apostles trek to the summit of the Mount of Olives, and persistently petition for the appearance of Jesus.
"Listen to my words that I may speak to you.
"Why are you asking me?"