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The Early Church Fathers on the Millennium


Irenaeus (ca. 125-202) was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyons, France. Irenaeus was born in Smyrna in Asia Minor, where he studied under bishop Polycarp, who in turn had been a disciple of the Apostle John.

Johann Lorenz von Mosheim or Johann Lorenz Mosheim was a German Lutheran church historian.

Gregory's History of the Franks records how this conversion came about, in the time of Clovis (ruled 481-511), the first important Frankish king. Gregory became bishop, or the leading church official, for the city of Tours in 573.

Ebionite/Nazarene is a good historical designation to refer to those original, 1st century, mostly Jewish, followers of Jesus, gathered around James the brother of Jesus in Jerusalem, who were zealous for the Torah.

Victorians (about a.d. 270)

Papias of Hierapolis Papias was a Greek Apostolic Father, Bishop of Hierapolis, and author who lived c. 60 – c. 130 AD. He wrote the Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord in five books.

Origen of Alexandria (c. 184 - c. 253), also known as Origen Adamantius, was an early Christian scholar, ascetic, and theologian who was born and spent the first half of his career in Alexandria.

Montanism. 140 AD 2 nd century heresy of tongue speaker Ancient Pentecostal History and Roots. Pentecostalism is the ancient heresy of Montanism revived . See: Neo-Montanism: 19th century heresy Introduction: 1. In this historic account by Eusebius who wrote in 325 AD, he documents how Montanus and two women who lived about 140 AD, began claiming they had the supernatural gifts of the Holy .

Cornelius Nepos, Cornelius Nepos was a Roman biographer. He was born at Hostilia, a village in Cisalpine Gaul not far from Verona.

DIONYSIUS. di-o-nish'-i-us (Dionusios, surnamed "the Areopagite"): One of the few Athenians converted by Paul ().We know nothing further about him (see AREOPAGUS).According to one account he was the first bishop of the church at Athens; according to another he suffered martyrdom in that city under Domitian.

Apollinarianism was a fourth-century Christian heresy that plagued the early church and that denied the full humanity and perfection of Jesus Christ. It is named after Apollinaris the Younger, who was bishop of the Laodicean church and who originated the teaching c. AD 361.

Jerome had begun his translation into Latin from the "Hebraica veritas" - the "Hebrew truth" - and Augustine opposed him. I will quote at length from Law: The disagreement between the two men was also tied to their respective philosophies of language.

Philip Schaff (January 1, 1819 - October 20, 1893) was a Swiss-born, German-educated Protestant theologian and ecclesiastical historian, who spent most of his adult life living and teaching in the United States.

Augsburg Confession, The Augsburg Confession, also known as the Augustan Confession or the Augustana from its Latin name, Confessio Augustana, is the primary confession of faith of the Lutheran Church and one of the most important documents of the Protestant Reformation.Wikipedia

The Early Church Fathers on the Millennium

1.    Neander’s History of Christian Dogmas, Vol. I, p.
“The idea of a millennial reign proceeded from Judaism; for
among the Jews the representation was current that the Messiah would reign a thousand years upon earth...........Such
products of Jewish imagination passed over into Christianity.”
2.    The first principal teacher who attempted to introduce this doctrine into Christianity was Cerinthus, who lived before the death of the Apostle John. Our most direct information concerning Cerinthus comes to us through Eusebius, the “Father of church history.” In his Ecclesiastical History, Book HI, chap. 28, is preserved part of the writings of Caius, who lived about the close of the second century, and which gives the following account of Cerinthus* heresy: “But Cerinthus, too, through revelations written, as he would have us believe, by a great apostle, brings before us marvelous things, which he pretends were shown him by angels; alleging that after the resurrection the kingdom of Christ is to be on earth, and that flesh dwelling in Jerusalem is again to be subject to desires and pleasures. And being an enemy to the Scriptures of God, wishing to deceive men, he says that there is to be a space of a thousand years for marriage festivities.” “One of the doctrines he taught was, that Christ would have an earthly kingdom.”

Irenaeus, who was bom about ajd. 120, was acquainted with the venerable Folycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was a disciple of John the Apostle. Eusebius is authority for the statement of Irenaeus that “while John was at Ephesus, he entered a bath to wash and found that Cerinthus was within, and refused to bathe in the same bathhouse, but left the building, and exhorted those with him to do the same, lest the bath fall in, as long as Cerinthus, that enemy of the truth, is within” (Ibid., Book m, chap. 28}.

3. Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History, p. 50: “Cerinthus required his followers to worship the supreme God.............He promised them a resurrection of their bodies, which would be succeeded by exquisite delights in the millenary reign of Christ. .... For Cerinthus supposed that Christ would hereafter return _____and would reign with his followers a thousand years in Palestine.”

4. Gregory and Ruler’s Church History, p, 30: “Cerinthus required his followers to retain part of the Mosaical law, but to regulate their lives by the example of Christ: and taught that after the resurrection Christ would reign upon earth, with his faithful disciples, a thousand years, which would be spent in the highest sensual indulgences. This mixture of Judaism and oriental philosophy was calculated to make many converts, and this sect soon became very numerous. They admitted a part of St. Matthew’s gospel, but rejected the rest, and held the epistles of St. Paul in great abhorrence.”

5. The Ebionites (first century) Neander’s Ecclesiastical History: The Jewish conception of a millennial reign of the Messiah was fully reflected in the heretical system of the Ebionites; a sect who held the Mosaic law binding upon the Christians, rejected Paul as an apostle, and denied the miraculous birth of our Lord.

6. Victorians (about a.d. 270) Commentary on the Apocalypse (Ante-Nicene Fathers): “Even though the floods of the nations and the vain superstitions of heretics should revolt against their true faith, they are overcome, and shall be dissolved as the foam, because Christ is the rock by which, and on which, the church is founded. And thus it is overcome by no traces of maddened men. Therefore they are not to be heard who assure themselves that there is to be an earthly reign of a thousand years; who think, that is to say, with the heretic Cerinthus. For the kingdom of Christ is now eternal in his saints.”

7. Papias, millennial advocate (second century) in Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, Book HI, chap. 39) under the heading, “The Writings of Papias,” says of him: “The same historian also gives other accounts, which he says he adds as received by him from unwritten tradition, likewise some strange parables of our Lord, and of his doctrine, and some other matters rather too fabulous. In these he says there would be a certain millennium after the resurrection, and that there would be a corporeal reign of Christ on this very earth; which things he appears to have imagined, as if they were authorized by the apostolic narrations, not understanding correctly those matters which they propounded mystically in their representations. For he was very limited in his comprehension, as is evident from his discourses.”

8. Origen’s opposition to millennialism. Waddington’s Ecclesiastical History, p. 56: As Papias was very zealous in advocating this imaginary reign of Christ on earth, the great Origen opposed it. Says Waddington: ‘The first distinguished opponent of this doctrine was Origen, who attacked it with great earnestness and ingenuity, and seems in spite of some opposition to have thrown it into general discredit.” And again Waddington: “This obscure doctrine was probably known to but very few except the Fathers of the church, and is very sparingly mentioned by them during the first two centuries; and there is reason to believe that it scarcely attained much notoriety, even among the learned Christians, until it was made a matter of controversy by Origen, and then rejected by the great majority. In fact we find Origen himself asserting that it was confined to those of the simpler sort." 250 Christ's Second Coming

9. The heresy of Montanism. Toward the close of the second century a man named Montanus began to claim the role of a prophet (in the person of the Paraclete or Comforter). In company with two female associates he taught wild fanaticism; a sort of unrestrained religious enthusiasm. The coming of Christ to establish a millennial reign upon earth was one of their favorite themes. They started a heretical sect and selected Papuza as the center of their propaganda. They supposed that their city would be the site of the New Jerusalem and the center of the millennial kingdom.

10. Nepos, Egyptian Bishop, about ju>. 255 (Eusebius Ecclesiastical History, Book VII, chap. 23). Under the heading, “Nepos and His Schism,” Eusebius states: “He taught that the promises given to holy men in the Scriptures should be understood more as the Jews understood them, and supposed that there would be a certain millennium of sensual luxury on this earth: thinking, therefore, that he could establish his own opinion by the Revelation of John____he (Nepos) asserts that there will be an earthly reign of Christ.”

11. Nepos opposed by Dionysius, a.d. 200-265 (Ibid., Book VII, chap. 24). Nepos had written a book, called Refutation of the AUegorists. Dionysius rejected the arguments of that hook and convinced his followers that Nepos was wrong. The discussion took place in Arsinoe, where that doctrine was afloat and had caused schism and apostasy, and as a result of the discussion, Coracio, the founder and leader of the doctrine there, in the hearing of all the brethren present confessed and avowed that he would no longer adhere to it, as he had been fully convinced by the opposite arguments.

12. Apollinaris, the heretic, aj>. 370 (See Epiphanus. Haer. LXXVTI. 26). The last echo of millennialism in the Eastern Church was given by the young Apollinaris, who went so far in his Jewish sympathies that he thought the Temple ought to be rebuilt and the entire Jewish worship restored and the Mosaic Law observed. In support of his millennial views he cited the Apocalypse of John, which, however, he admits was understood in a spiritual sense by the greatest number and the pious Christians.

13. Augustine and Jerome. Jerome was opposed to mil- Sketch History of ihe Millennium Mlennialism, with a great enthusiasm. And so great was the influence of the teaching of Augustine that “the doctrine of millennarianism was banished from the realm of dogmatics.”

14. Later manifestations of millennarianism. After mentioning its decline in the early church, rejected East and West as a heresy, the great historian Hamack says: “It still lives on, however, in the lower strata of Christian society; and in certain undercurrents of tradition it was transmitted from century to century.”

Says Dr. Schaff (History, p. 299): “Though miliennialism had been suppressed by the early church, it was nevertheless revived from time to time by heretical sects.”

During the Sixteenth Century Reformation, when men’s minds were greatly excited, there was wild fanaticism both in England and in Germany, “Among the wild imaginations of the time, the Anabaptists embraced millennarianism in its grossest forms, and used their belief as a plea for lawlessness and crime, desiring to establish the earthly kingdom of Christ by fire and sword.” Munster in Germany was their “Mount Zion,” and they claimed to be the elect people of God. Luther and Melanchthon were strongly against the doctrine.

Millennarianism was condemned both by the Augsburg Confession (Article VI1X) and by the Swiss Confession (Article XI). It was also expressly condemned in the original articles of the Church of England, in these words: “They that go about to renew the fable of heretics called Millinnarii be repugnant to Holy Scriptures, and cast themselves headlong into a Jewish dotage” (Article XLI).

15. Historical restatement—for and against miliennialism.

(1) FOR: There were four widely known and outstanding men in the early church who advocated millennarianism: But please note: there is no doubt that Irenaeus was influenced directly by Papias, for in teaching the doctrine he uses almost the identical words of Papias. But Papias had no commendable reputation, it seems, even if he was widely known; for Eusebius said of him: “He was very limited in his comprehension.

1. Justin Martyr

2. Papias

3. Irenaeus

4. Tertnllian But Please note: There is no doubt that Irenaeus was influenced

​But please note: there is no doubt that Irenaeus was influ-
enced directly by Papias, for in teaching the doctrine he uses almost the identical words of Papias. But Papias had no com-
mendable reputation, it seems, even if he was widely known; for Eusebius said of him: "He was very limited in his corn-

​prehension, as is evident from his discourses." And Tertullian as an authority belongs on both sides. In his earlier writings there is not a trace of millennialism: it was only after he went over to and joined the wild fanatical sect of Montanus that he began to advocate millemaariatu' sm.

(2) NOT FOR, BUT AGAINST: I have in my library practically all the extant writings of the early Church Fathers. I have not found premillennialism in the following writers, but very much against it in most of them:

I. Clement of Rome                      -9. Cyprian   

2. Ignatius                                       10. Philastrius
3. Polycarp                                      11.. Clement of Alexandria
4. Tatian                                          12. Origen 
5. Athenagoras                               13. Dionysius of Alexandria
6. Theophilus                                   14. Jerome
7. Cahn                                              15. Eusebius
8. Victorinus                                     16. Augustine

For later men of the church, not premillennialists, there were such outstanding figures as:

1. Savonarola                                    5. Calvin
2. Huss                                               6. John Wesley
3. Luther                                            7. Dr. Adam Clarke
4. Melanchthon

And ALL TYH.S GREAT 'THEOLOGIANS OF CHRISTIAN CHURCH. Even most of the old founders of the Na-
tional Holiness movement were opposed to millennialism.

The theory is a very ingenius, fanciful, complicated, imaginative idealism. The air of mystery and mysticism, constantly reiterated in high-sounding phrases, has deeply impressed the popular mind in recent times. Dr. Charles Ewing Brown, in The Hope of His Coming, p. 71, enumerates some of these com-
plicated and mysterious phrases: "The great tribulation, the parousia, the rapture, the aions, the remnant, the revelation, eight covenants, seven dispensations, three comings of Christ, four judgment days, two endings of the world, several sets of last days, three resurrection days," etc. And I would add: all these have created such a mist that the ordinary mind often