The theory of being Anti-Christ of the Popes was spread gradually by three ancient groups namely Albigenses, Waldenses and Fratcellis between 11th and 16th centuries. Yet, whether are these [Popes] the interpreters whom Christian churches must intake the real interpretations of the prophecies of?
In all Abrahamic Religions the subject matter of antichrist appearance in the Apocalypse has been mentioned. But the questions of “who this Antichrist is” “what features he has” “how he will re-appear and so on, are the issues which there are less agreed on by them. What will be following are translations from the paragraphs beneath the entry of Antichrist in the Catholic Encyclopedia. This review article gives us comprehensive information about the biblical views over Antichrist and the relatives. With appreciation from our respectful translator and Mr. Hossein Tofighi who accepted the responsibility of edition and correction of this translation we are here below presenting following article.
Prefix “ANTI” when is composed with other words may contain different meanings: Antibasileus means the king who is elapsing an incubation period; Antistrategos means the governor consul (province governor in ancient Rome). Anthypatos in ancient Rome was being used for General Governor; in Homer, Antiheos is a personality who is carrying divine power and beauty while in other written works represents a combative god. If one merely following analogy, can interprets Antichristos as a character who carries resemblance to the Christ but it is more confident is that above mentioned word to be defined according to the Bible and Christian language.
A) Antichrist meaning in the Bible:
The word Antichrist has been mentioned only in the Epistles of John but it has been claimed that in the Revelations of John, Epistles of Paul and with less assertion in the Gospels and in the book of Daniel there have been used some synonyms for this word.
1- Epistles of John
Saint John in his epistles has presumed that primitive Christians are acquainted with the concepts of Antichrist arrival, consider some points as following:
“And just as you heard that the antichrist is coming”: Saint John, Epistle 1, 2:18.
“And this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming”: Saint John, Epistle 1, 4:3.
Although Saint John has talked about several antichrists but distinguished one of them which appears to be one special, original and the main one amongst all:
“The antichrist is coming, by now many antichrists have appeared”: Saint John, Epistle 1, 2:18.
He also describes the nature and treatments of antichrist:
“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us”: Saint John, Epistle 1, 2:19.
“Who is the liar, but the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ?” This one is the antichrist, the person who denies the Father and the Son”: Saint John, Epistle 1, 2:22.
“But every soul that does not confess Jesus has resurrected is not from God and is the spirit of the antichrist”: Saint John, Epistle 1, 4:3.
“For many deceivers have gone out the world, people who do not confess Jesus as Christ coming in the flesh. This person is the deceiver and the antichrist!”: Saint John, Epistle 2, 7.
Also John predicts the time of antichrist coming under the tilt of “the Last Moment” Saint John, Epistle 1, 2:18.
As well, he believes antichrist is still present in the world today: Saint John, Epistle 1, 4:3.
2- Book of Revelations
Almost all interpreters have perceived that Antichrist has been mentioned in Revelations of Saint John; but about the special chapter in which he has referred there is no common opinion. Some point it to the Beast in chapter 11, verse 7, and some to Giant Fiery Dragon in chapter 12 and others to ten-horn and seven-headed Beast in chapter 13 and subsequent verses; while many of researchers believe the antichrist complies with the beast having had two lamb-like horns and spoken like dragon, 13:11 and subsequent verses or with the red beast having seven heads and ten horns, chapter 17, or eventually complies with Satan who will be released from his own prison and will deceive nations at the four corners of the earth 20:7. Elaborated description of the reasoning for or against above opinions is not discussed in the current study.
3- Epistles of Paul
Saint John presumed that the concept of Antichrist coming are fully understood by his readers. Interpreters believe that Saint John’s trainings have been known via Saint Paul′s writings in Christianity. Saint John used to assert against his contemporary heretics that everybody who denied the Resurrection is weak kind of the future great antichrists. Antichrist has been fully described in the Paul’s second Epistle to Thessalonians (2:3) and the subsequent verses (7-10). In Thessaloniki Church some concerning aroused due to the belief that Jesus’ second appearance is imminent. This imagination was derived from misunderstanding over verse 15 and next verses in chapter four of the Paul’s first Epistle to Thessalonians and to some extent from the conspiracies of deceivers.
For the purpose of removing these concerns Saint Paul wrote his second letter to Thessalonians and especially he emphasized on this matter in verses 3 up to 10 of chapter 2. The Paul’s taught is as follows:
“Before the Jesus’ day a heresy will occur and the evil man will emerge. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. He will act with the devil’s power and false evidences and miracles and deceive people who rejected true love to receive redemption. But whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. But for present time that secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.”
Shortly it can be said that before the Christ’s day the evil man who has introduced as the antichrist in the John’s epistle will emerge but before that a pervasive riot or heresy will occur up which is the result of religion-less secret acting right now and as the John’s speech shows itself off here or there in weak figures of the original antichrist. Saint John introduces three steps for the evil emergence: the evilness essence, big heresy and evil man. But to determine precise time of the basic event he adds an emphasis. He first describes one object as element or agent (to datechon; to answer what) and then a personality as a character (ho hatechon; to answer who) both of them block the big event: “but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.” (Thessalonians 2, 2:7). Here we can only study the main interpretations about the meanings of these two emphases (agents) irrespective to their values.
The impediment against the basic event is evil man; the Jesus’ reappearance is the basic event. (Grimm & Simar).
The impediment is the Roman Empire; the main event impeded is the “man of sin” (most Latin ancestors and later interpreters).
The Apostle refers to people and events of his own time; the katechon (impediment) and the “man of sin” are variously identified with the Emperors Titus, Nero, Claudius, etc. (Protestant theologians living after the seventeenth century).
The Apostle refers directly to people and events of his own time but there are some samples of Katechon (impediment), evil man and the day of Christ will be on Apocalypse for instance Jerusalem destruction (in 70 AC) can be considered as a sample for the Jesus reappearance (Dlinger).
Before leaving the Paul’s viewpoint about Antichrist, one can asks the question that where Paul has taken his doctrine? For this question also we can face different answers:
Saint Paul expressed his viewpoint based on Jewish tradition and Daniel′s and Ezekiel′s imagery. This viewpoint has been agreed on by some Protestant writers.
The Apostle expresses a thought which was presented via Apocaliptic doctrine of Jesus Christ in the Christianity. (Remarked by Dlinger).
Saint Paul has gained his doctrine about the antichrist from the Christ’s words, the Daniel’s prophecies and contemporary events (Remarked by Dlinger).
The Apostle has expressed prophecy which was already received through revelation by Holy Spirit. Catholic interpreters usually believe this.
4- Gospels and Daniel’s Book
After reviewing the Antichrist’s picture in the Paul′s Epistle to Thessalonians, the evil man in Daniel 7:8, 11, 20, 21, where Daniel describes the “Little Horn” is easily known. A type of Antichrist is found in Daniel 8:8 and next verses, 23, and next verses, 11:21-45, in the writings of Antiochus Epiphanes. Many interpreters have found more or less clear evidences of Antichrist in the coming of false Christs and false prophets (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:6, 22; Luke 21:8), in the one that “shall come in his own name” (John 5:43).
B) Antichrist in Ecclesiastical Language
Bousset believes that there was among the Jews a fully developed legend of Antichrist, which was accepted and strengthened by Christians; and that this legend diverges from and contradicts in important points and conceptions found in the Apocalypse. We do not believe that Bousset has fully proved his opinion; his view as to the Christian development of the concept of Antichrist does not exceed the merits of an ingenious theory. We need not here enter upon an investigation of Gunkel’s work, in which he traces back the idea of Antichrist to the primeval dragon of the deep in the sea; this view deserves no more attention than the rest of the author’s mythological fancies. Then, what is the true ecclesiastical concept of Antichrist? Suarez maintains that it is of faith that Antichrist is an individual person, a leading enemy of Christ. This excludes the opinion of those who explain Antichrist either as the whole collection of those who oppose Jesus Christ, or as the Papacy. The Waldensian and Albigensian heretics, as well as Wyclif and Hus, called the Pope, the Antichrist; but the expression was only a metaphor in their case. It was only after the time of the Reformation that the name was applied to the Pope in its proper sense. It then passed practically into the creed of the Lutherans, and has been seriously defended by them as late as 1861 in the “Zeitschrift für lutherische Theologie”. The change from the true Church into the reign of Antichrist is said to have taken place between February 19 and November 10, 607 A.D. When Pope Boniface III obtained from the Greek Emperor Newton, the title “Head of All the Churches” for the Roman Church. An appeal was made to Revelations 13:8, in confirmation of this date, and it was calculated from the Revelations 11:3, that the end of the world might be expected 1866 A.D. Cardinal Bellarmin refuted this error both from an exegetical and historical point of view in the book “De Rom Pont” III. The individual person of Antichrist will not be a demon, as some of the ancient writers believed; nor will he be the person of the devil incarnated in the human nature of Antichrist. He will be a human person, perhaps of Jewish origin, if the explanation of Genesis 49:17, along with that of Dan’s omission in the list of the tribes, as found in the Apocalypse, be correct. It must be kept in mind that extra-Scriptural tradition furnishes us no revealed supplement to the Biblical data concerning Antichrist. While these latter are sufficient to make the believer recognize the “evil man” at the time of his coming, the lack of any additional reliable revelation should put us on our guard against the vain thoughts, the Mormons, and other recent proclaimers of new revelations.
It is good to draw the reader’s attention to two epistles by the dead Cardinal Newman on the subject of Antichrist. The one is entitled “The Thought, Antichrist in Church Clergies”; it considers his time, religion, city, and harassment. It formed the eighty-third number of the “Tracts for the Times”, and has been republished in the volume entitled “Discussions and Arguments on Various Subjects” (London, New York, and Bombay 1899). The other dissertation is contained among the Cardinal’s “Essays Critical and Historical” (Vol. II; London, New York, and Bombay, 1897), and bears the title “The Protestant Idea of Antichrist.”
In order to understand the significance of the Cardinal’s essays on the question of the Antichrist, it must be kept in mind that a variety of opinions sprang up in course of time concerning the nature of this opponent of Christianity.
1. Koppe, Nitzsch, Storr, and Pelt contended that the Antichrist is an evil principle, not embodied either in a person or a polity; this opinion is in opposition to both St. Paul and St. John. Both Apostles describe the adversary as being distinctly concrete in form.
2. A second view admits that the Antichrist is a person, but it maintains that he is a person of the past; Nero, Diocletian, Julian, Caligula, Titus, Simon Magus, Simon the son of Giora, the High Priest Ananias, Vitellius, the Jews, the Pharisees, and the Jewish realots have been variously identified with the Antichrist. But there is little traditional authority for this opinion; besides, it does not appear to satisfy fully the prophetic predictions, and, in the case of some of its adherents, it is based on the supposition that the inspired writers could not transcend the limits of their experiences.
3. A third opinion admitted that the Antichrist must indeed appear in a concrete form, but it identified this concrete form with the system of the Papacy. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melanchthon, Bucer, Beza, Calixtus, Bengel, Michaelis, and almost all the Protestant writers of the Continent are cited as upholding this view; the same may be said of the English theologians Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Hooper, Hutchinson, Tyndale, Sandys, Philpot, Jewell, Rogers, Fulke, Bradford, King James, and Andrewes. Bramhall introduced qualifications into the theory, and after this its ascendancy began to wane among English writers. Nor must it be supposed that the Papal-Antichrist theory was upheld by all Protestants in the same form; the False Prophet or second Apocalyptic Beast is identified with Antichrist and the Papacy by Aretius, Foxe, Napier Mede, Jurieu, Cunninghame, Faber, Woodhouse, and Habershon; the first Apocalyptic Beast holds this position in the opinion of Marlorat, King James, Daubuz, and Galloway; both Beasts are thus identified by Brightman, Pareus, Vitringa, Gill, Bachmair, Fraser, Croly, Fysh, and Elliott.
After this general survey of the Protestant views concerning the Antichrist, we shall be able to appreciate some of Cardinal Newman’s critical remarks on the question.
1. If any part of the Church be proved to be antichristian, all of the Church is so, the Protestant branch inclusive.
2. The Papal-Antichrist theory was gradually developed by three historical bodies: the Albigenses, the Waldenses, and the Fraticelli, between the eleventh and the sixteenth centuries: are these the expositors from whom the Church of Christ is to receive the true interpretation of the prophecies?
3. The defenders of the Papal-Antichrist theory have made several signal blunders in their arguments; they cite St. Bernard as identifying the Beast of the Apocalypse with the Pope, though St. Bernard speaks in the passage of the Antipope; they appeal to the Abbot Joachim as believing that Antichrist will be elevated to the Apostolic See, while the Abbot really believes that Antichrist will overthrow the Pope and usurp his See; finally, they appeal to Pope Gregory the Great as asserting that whoever claims to be Universal Bishop is Antichrist, whereas the great Doctor really speaks of the Forerunner of Antichrist who was, in the language of his day, nothing but a token of an impending great evil.
4. Protestants were driven to the Papal-Antichrist theory by the necessity of opposing a popular answer to the popular and cogent arguments advanced by the Church of Rome for her Divine authority.
5. Warburton, Newton, and Hurd, the advocates of the Papal-Antichrist theory, cannot be matched against the saints of the Church of Rome.
6. If the Pope be Antichrist, those who receive and follow him cannot be men like St. Charles Borromeo, or Fénelon, or St. Bernard, or St. Francis of Sales.
7. If the Church must suffer like Christ, and if Christ was called Beelzebub, the true Church must expect a similar reproach; thus, the Papal-Antichrist theory becomes an argument in favor of the Roman Church.
8. The gibe, “If the Pope is not Antichrist, he has bad luck to be so like him”, is really another argument in favour of the claims of the Pope; since Antichrist simulates Christ, and the Pope is an image of Christ, Antichrist must have some similarity to the Pope, if the latter be the true Vicar of Christ.
IRENAEUS, Adveresus Haer., IV, 26; ADSO (PSEUDO-RABANUS MAURUS), De ortu, vitâ et moribus Antichristi, P. L., CI, 1289-98); BELLARMIN, De Rom. Pont., III; NEWMAN, The Patristic Idea of Antichrist, No. 83 of Tracts for the Times, republished in Discussions and Arguments on Various Subjects (London, New York, and Bombay 1897);