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Palestine. The Saints were to be raised from their graves, and to enjoy in Sion a millennial banquet of Elysian bliss.
This doctrine, thus transferred from the Synagogue into the Church, was eagerly embraced by the enthusiastic followers of Montanus * in Phrygia. Nor was this all. Some even eminent in the Church, espoused it. Of these one of the first was Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, in the second century. He, we are informed by Eusebius, was a man of ardent zeal, but of slender judgment t. It is also recorded of him --indeed, he states it of himself-that he did not set so much value on what he read, even in the Scriptures themselves, as on what he heard from oral tradition t. He gave currency in his writings to certain fantastical fables , which he had received on hearsay; one of which was the doctrine of a millennial reign of Christ on earth. This tenet, it is added, he imputed to Apostolic language, which
* Gieseler, Eccl. History, $ 46, observes that ($ 50) Phrygia was the cradle of Montanism and Millenarianism, which, he adds, was taught in spurious writings.
+ Euseb. iii. 39. σφόδρα σμικρός ών τον νούν.
1 Euseb. iii. 39. ου γαρ τα εκ των βιβλίων τοσούτόν με ωφελεϊν υπελάμβανον όσον τα παρά ζώσης φωνής και μενούσης.
8 Euseb. iii. 39. Ξένας παραβολάς, και άλλα μυθικώτερα, εν οις χιλιάδα τινά φησιν ετών έσεσθαι μετά την εκ νεκρών ανάστασιν, σωματικώς της Χριστού βασιλείας επί ταυτησί της γής υποστησομένης. .
he had erroneously understood in a literal and material *, whereas it was spoken in a figurative and spiritual sense t.
The facts and doctrines of Holy Scripture have been allegorized into shadowy parables by the wild and destructive licentiousness of some [ expositors; but, on the other hand, the literal interpretation of what is spoken figuratively in Holy Scripture, especially by the Prophets, has been one of the most prolific sources of error. It generated the carnal notions current among the Jews in our Saviour's age, concerning the Messiah's temporal reign ou earth; and so it was one of the most powerful hindrances to the reception of Him Whose kingdom is not of this world g. It suggested the question of St. John himself, and of his brother, St. James : Grant, Lord, that we may sit, the one at Thy right hand, and the other on Thy left, in Thy kingdom || ;
* Euseb. iii. 39. τα εν υποδείγμασι μυστικώς ειρημένα μη συνεωρακώς. .
† Hottinger. Hist. Eccl. i. p. 154, Hanov. 1655. Hujus sententiæ (Chiliasticæ) auctor traditur Papias, scriptor quidem vetustissimus, sed teste Eusebio (iii. 39), exigui judicii homo, qui neglectis Scriptis Apostolicis diligenter sectabatur traditiones seniorum : et ita hunc errorem allegoricis loquendi modis Prophetis et Joanni cumprimis in Apocalypsi usitatis deceptus, imbibit.
I See Rosenmüller, Hist. Interp. iii. 41-52, and Bp. Marsh on the Interpretation of the Bible, Lect. vi. and ix.
$ John xviii. 36.
and it is remarkable that our Blessed Lord appears to have given in the present chapter, the twentieth, of the Apocalypse, rightly understood, a correction of those earthly notions concerning Himself and His kingdom—a correction so much the more striking, because it is supplied by St. John, who, as we know from the petition just quoted, once entertained the Jewish notion of a millennial kingdom of the Messiah on earth, and aspired to fill a place of eminence and dignity in it *.
So deeply rooted was this expectation of a temporal reign, even in the hearts of the Apostles, at
Very excellent are the observations of Dr. S. Glasse on this subject, and very necessary to be well considered in the present times :- Philol. Sacr. Amst. 1711, Præf. p. 23. Si tropicus sermo proprie fuit intellectus, absurdissimarum opinionum monstra peperit. In ipsâ Christi scholâ ruditatem discipulorum ejus, et præconceptam de regno terreno opinionem inter alia ortum ex eo sumpsisse certum est, quod vaticinia Prophetarum quibus illi regnum Messiæ magnificè admodum describunt, et ad illustrandam ejus amplitudinem spiritualem metaphoris utuntur, ut propriè dicta cum vulgo Judæorum intellexerunt. Eandem originem Chiliastarum error obtinet, in ipsis statim Ecclesiæ incunabulis, et sequentibus, quem et nostro hoc ævo a nonnullis Christi de nomine gloriantibus revocatum novimus : dum scilicet ea quæ a Prophetis de Ecclesiæ gloriâ et pace verbis a rebus terrenis desumptis sunt prædicta, propriè accipiuntur, atque ex iis, per suave somnium, Ecclesiæ status formatur ejusmodi, ut triumphos meros agat, et pace temporali sine afflictionum obturbantium nube fruatur, atque ita iter ad regnum cælorum afflictionibus consecratum præcluditur, aliâ apertâ viâ quam neque Christus instituit neque suos docuit.
the very close of Christ's ministry, that the last question which they are recorded in Scripture to have addressed to Him was,—Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel *? Again, this literal mode of interpretation produced another misapprehension concerning St. John himself. If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? said our Blessed Lord of him t. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. They understood literally what our Lord had spoken figuratively. It was for St. Peter to follow Christ to the cross, but for St. John to tarry till Christ came, and took Him to himself by a natural death : and, in a higher spiritual sense, St. John was to tarry in the world, in his Gospel and in his Apocalypse, which reveals the history of the Church even to the end; and thus St. John tarries with us till Christ comes.
Still further: It is well known that an opinion was entertained by many of the Jewish Rabbis, from whom it was borrowed by some early Christian teachers, that as the world was created in six days, which were succeeded by a seventh of rest, so it would endure for six millenary periods, to be followed by a Sabbatical Millennium [.
It will appear,
* Acts i. 6. Compare Luke xvii. 20.
# See the passages in Cornel. à Lapide, Wetstein, and Vitringa, in Apoc. xx. ; and the recent observations of Abbé
from these considerations, that many of the primitive Christians, especially those of Jewish extraction, were predisposed to misunderstand, in a carnal sense, the prophecies concerning the Second Advent: and we shall not be surprised that such an exposition of the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse should have been adopted by Cerinthus, who is called by the Fathers half a Jew; or by Papias, who was more eminent for zeal than for some other qualities which are requisite in an interpreter of Scripture; or by others, however learned, who passed from the Synagogue into the Church.
Such, then, was the origin of the doctrine of the Millennium.
Papias, by reason of his piety and antiquity, exercised great influence. Eusebius * expressly testifies that the propagation of this dogma was mainly due to him. We need not wonder that it should have been embraced by Tertullian, whose Montanistic bias prepossessed him in its favour; nor that it should have been, in some respects, sanctioned by Justin Martyr, when we recollect his Jewish extrac
Gaume, in his Preface to his Histoire de la Société, p. 132–137. The remark of St. Augustine, that the other six days (Gen. i.) are said to have consisted of a morning and evening, but that evening is not mentioned in the case of the seventh day (De Civ. Dei, xx. c. 7), must suggest a more spiritual application of the history.
* Euseb. iii. 39. Cf. Gennad. (flor. 480) de Eccl. Dogm. c. 25, ap. S. August. tom. viii. p. 1699. Appendix, ed. Paris, 1837.