Were the early fathers premillenial?

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by Daniel David, Dec 31, 2004.

  1. Daniel David

    Daniel David
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    Among these things, Papias says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth.

    - Eusebius, citing Papias

    Who was Papias? He was the bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor and a disciple of John and a friend of Polycarp. He lived from 60-130.

    So a personal disciple of the man who wrote Revelation was premillenial.

    You cannot get any closer to the apostles than this. This is the kind of information that the crazy amills and postmills and preterists don't want you to know.

    I got this information from a book I just picked up called, "A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs". David W. Bercot was the editor. He was anglican and no friend of premill theology. Yet, any honest person will examine the writings of the fathers and see that they were premill.
     
  2. Daniel David

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    There is so much more to post, but I cannot type this book. I have been like a kid in a candy store with this thing going from one topic to another.

    Not only was premillenial theology held to by Papias, but also Irenaus, and Ignatious. Even Justin Martyr weighed in as premillenial. These were people who lived so close to the apostles themselves, that some of them were personally known. Now, do I take their word for understanding the apostles, or the crazy catholic eschatology? Hmmmm.

    Anyway, they didn't believe Daniel's 70th week had occurred yet. Uh oh. I also have quotes from Tertullian (a contemporary of Irenaus) and Irenaus himself who expected the Lord to come at any moment. That is what you call imminence.

    When you put those three things together, you get pretrib, premill.

    They might not have been full-blown classic dispensationalists, but there is no question about their eschatology. Well, the question is only in the minds of those who are confused enough to deny premill theology.
     
  3. Charles Meadows

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    I too have Bercot's book. We should note that it was Irenaeus who ascribes these words to Papias - we have NONE of Papias' writings at all.

    And what of Ignatius of Antioch?

    His writings hint strongly of a belief that upon dying Christians will BE WITH GOD IN HEAVEN (millenial?).

    What of Polycarp?

    "We are convinced that all these did not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness, that they are in their due place with the Lord...(translation from Charles Hill's book "Regnum Caelorum"). Where is the millenium?

    What of Justin?

    L.W.Barnard said of him, "It is a hopeless task to reconcile this belief of an earthly millenium in Jerusalem with Justin's other opinion that the new Jerusalem will be an immdeiate, spiritual, eternal land or inheritance."

    In dialogue with Rusticus when asked if he will "ascend" upon death Justin said, "I do not think but I am fully convinced of it." Millenium in between? He doesn't mention it.

    And what of Irenaeus?

    Arguably he is the only "father" who can be classified wholely as millenial. In his polemics against gnosticism he articulated that the souls of the righteous must be detained until the resurection - indeed they needed a place of preparation before meeting God (sounds a bit catholic huh?). His opinions bear surprising similarity to 2 Baruch, and less so to 4 Ezra, suggesting some dependence on earlier Jewish sources. Sound like Irenaeus was pretrib premill? Not really.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. rjprince

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    The expectation of being in heaven at the moment of death in no way minimizes the reality of their millennial expectation!

    Is that the substance of your arguement that the early fathers were not premillennial?

    Again, as noted on another thread, no one here is suggesting that their eschatology was fully developed at this point in church history. They were still trying to resolve more basic issues like the hypostatic union!

    Pauline theology is clear -- absent from the body present with the Lord. This in no way minimizes their expectation of a future bodily resurrection or a millennial kingdom. You will have to do better than that, even so, Scripture is the authority, not the early church fathers.

    What the early fathers do show is that premillennialism is not new!
     
  5. Charles Meadows

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    Again, as noted on another thread, no one here is suggesting that their eschatology was fully developed at this point in church history

    That much is for sure. Justin in particular epitomizes this. Thus the claim the the early fathers were mostly premillenial is just not true.

    Pauline theology is also not as clear as premillers claim. The concept of a thousand year reign dates back to Jewish messianism and thus certainly is not new. But the idea of a secret rapture is just about as unscriptural as catholic purgatory!

    I am amillenialist because that's what (I think) is dictated in scripture, if analyzed properly.

    I do not object to historic millenialism. But I am opposed to this newer pretrib rapturist stuff because it is completely nonscriptural and very clearly the product of human thought, and nonerudite human thought at that.
     
  6. Amity

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    Daniel David, that book sounds really cool! I think I'll do a search on the net and look for a copy myself. [​IMG]

    rjprince....the more I see your posts, the more I have to say "AMEN!!!"

    And, you typed exactly what I was thinking:
    and


    and AMEN!!!
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  7. Daniel David

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    Okay, Chaz, if you have the same book, look up Millennium. Go ahead and post some of the good stuff.

    Justin Martyr -

    There was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem. AD 180

    Is he premillenial?

    Hyppolytus -

    The Sabbath is the type and symbol of the FUTURE KINGDOM of the saints, when they shall reign with Christ after He comes from heaven, as John says in his Revelation. For "a day with the Lord is as a thousand years". AD 205

    So he equates the number of years in human history with the pattern of the creation week. The seventh day, the sabbath, was a picture of the kingdom on earth. Was he premillenial?

    There are others in that same section who testify to the expectation of an earthly aspect of the kingdom.

    Further, consider their words about the antichrist, the 70th week of Daniel, the second Advent of Christ, etc.

    Papias personally knew John. According to Irenaus, Papias wrote of the millenial reign in his fourth book. He apparently wrote five books. We actually do have some of his writings, Chaz. I have ordered them as well from Amazon.

    Please note when these people lived. They were within a generation of the apostle John.

    How far back can we trace Premillenialism? To the very disciples of John.

    How far back can we trace the bastardly amillenialism? All the way back to the heretic Origen. Nice company Chuckles, but I am not surprised.
     
  8. Daniel David

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    Btw, I could give quotes all night. Amills can only trace their way back to a heretic and the hero of catholicism (see my thread on the reign of amill theology and its origins). Once the dark ages were over, so went the reign of amill theology. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
     
  9. Charles Meadows

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    DD,

    Whether you like it or not many of the "fathers" were undecided on certian aspects of eschatology. You claim that they were all premillenial (I assume you were told this somewhere along the line by someone who like you has studied only what he wants to believe).

    And if Irenaeus had it all right then why were his words not in the canon? Because he like the other fathers were partially in the dark like all humans were and are still.

    If you actually had a grasp on ANY of this you would post with scholarly reserve and decency to other posters. You would also realize that we don't know it all and that nearly all aspects of theology are debated among fallible human theologians. You still insist on calling me things other than my name. What a good example you set. :rolleyes:

    Anyway your initial unresearched statement that the fathers were all premillenial has been debunked.

    By the way if you desire to read a scholarly work by one who HAS done the research before deciding what he believes try "Regnum Caelorum" by Charles Hill. Hey he's from Reformed Seminary - you might like him!

    :D
     
  10. KenH

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    Personally, I believe that the Bible trumps the early church fathers and their interpretations, regardless of which side people say they came down on - amillennial, premillennial, postmillennial, or preterist. [​IMG]
     
  11. Charles Meadows

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    Personally, I believe that the Bible trumps the early church fathers and their interpretations, regardless of which side people say they came down on - amillennial, premillennial, postmillennial, or preterist.

    [​IMG]

    Agreed!

    It's nice when an ancient commentator can shed a little light on how something was viewed near the time of Christ. But in the end the "fathers" were just fallible me like you and I!
     
  12. Marcia

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    Charles, you are giving me a chance to address one of my pet peeves -- the bad grammar of using "you and I" as objects in a sentence. This is becoming quite common but it's wrong.

    It should read "fallible like you and me." (I think you have that me there in the wrong place or by accident).

    I keep hearing people say things like, "That was a great vacation for my wife and I." It makes me cringe! :eek:

    Take out "wife" and one would never say, "That was a great vacation for I."

    "I" is subject and "me" is always for the direct or indirect object. I am not lecturing you, Charles, just anyone who reads this and does this. Let's rescue English grammar from this pitfall! [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  13. rjprince

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    Charles,

    My acknowledgment that the theology of the early church fathers was not clearly and fully developed was in no way a concession to your contention that they were not premillennial. You have argued that the early fathers knew nothing of premillennialism since we cannot find a formal pretrib rapture statement that distinguishes between Christ’s coming in the air for His church and returning to judge the nations and rescue Israel.

    The fact that their eschatology was not fully developed focuses on the fact that just as God’s revelation was given in a progressive manner so the Holy Spirit has illuminated that truth in a progressive manner. Progressive revelation, progressive illumination, this has been the record of history.

    The Jewish expectation for a literal kingdom was based on clear statements in the OT. At no time did Jesus ever tell them that their expectations were improper. On the contrary, His teachings, up until the leaders rejected Him, were entirely consistent with a literal kingdom. Further, when Jesus met with His disciples during the forty day post-resurrection ministry He spoke with them “of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God”. Then, in their final conversation before His ascension, they asked, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”

    It is inconceivable that even if they had been that wrong in their understanding that He would not have corrected them IF their expectation was so badly out of place!!! Rather, He did not say that their idea of a literal kingdom for Israel was wrong, just out of TIME. The Jews did not misunderstand the many clear OT promises of a literal kingdom nor did the disciples misunderstand the Lord in that regard. Therefore, HE did not correct their expectation, only delayed it.

    What was unclear to both the OT Jews and the disciples was the mystery of the church, Jews and Gentiles together in one NEW body. For many years the relationship between Jews, Gentiles, and the Mosaic Law would be a matter of some confusion to many. Even though the Jerusalem Council clearly established that the Gentile believers were not under the law, the relationship of Gentiles to the Mosaic Law is still a matter of debate!

    Premillennialism is very clear in the Word of God and there is clear evidence of premillennialism in the early fathers as well. As DD has noted, there is no evidence of amillennialism or the allegorical method upon which it is founded until Origen.
     
  14. Daniel David

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    rjprince, I would contend with you on your historical point.

    The theological fights in the early days were on the nature of Christ, salvation, holy living, etc.

    The reason the timing of the rapture was not addressed was due to a common knowledge of the fact.

    In fact, if I can find it, the only record in the earliest commentaries to non-premill theology was from a guy that was a heretic. This guy also denied that John even wrote the book, so he was a kook. Funny huh? Kook and non-premill. Snicker snicker.
     
  15. rjprince

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    DD,

    I do not understand your point of contention? I do not deny that they were premillennial, only that their premillennialism was not as fully developed as we have today.

    No intimation of any understanding of the "seventieth week", a future restoration of Israel to national status, etc.

    I fail to see where you and I differ on this point.
     
  16. church mouse guy

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    Augustine, referring to Daniel 7, wrote: "But he who reads this passage even half asleep cannot fail to see that the kingdom of Antichrist shall fiercely, though for a short time, assail the Church."
     
  17. Daniel David

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    Yes, but you should read what the disciples of John and the friends of John's disciples have said about it.
     
  18. Charles Meadows

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    RJPrince,

    You misunderstood my post.

    The early fathers did speak often of the millenium. Irenaeus was quite definitely premillenial. I have never denied that. And what we know of Papias suggests he was as well. Although he was a companion of Polycarp who was arguably not so this is a little uncertain.

    Two criticisms I have of the standard conservative seminary line, "the early fathers were premillenial":

    Many of the fathers wrote about a millenium. Some of them, including Justin and Ignatius seem to be millenial in one passage and not millenial in others. A "premillenial" stance for Justin, Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement and others CANNOT be firmly established.

    And the millenialism of the fathers was quite different from the premill rapturist stuff. I'm sure you know this well.

    My position is that the fathers were fallible men, many of whom were not 100% sure of the particulars of eschatology. To say they were all premillers is simply either a big exaggeration or a statement made in ignoracne of their actual writings.

    By the way have you read much of Irenaeus?
     
  19. Charles Meadows

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    Marcia,

    I think there are probably better things to discuss here than grammar! I do share your frustration with those who would use subjective pronouns as objects. What bothers me more is the use of a reflexive pronoun as a subject or an object (This was done by myself).

    "You and I" are really not objects here. They are properly the subjects of a clause with a subordinating conjection. My sentence was sloppy and IS incorrect as it stands.

    What I should have said was, "as you and I are".

    "As" should be used when a subordinate clause follows. "Like" should be used when two dissimilar things are compared.

    :D
     
  20. Kiffen

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    I think there is no question about it that the early Church Fathers were premillenial and postrib. Their view is what is often called Historic Premillennialism as opposed to the 19th century version of Darby and Scofield that we called Dispensational Premillennialism.
     

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