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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas

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Medieval prophecy belonged to Christian eschatology.
The belief in death, judgment, heaven, and hell
engendered different notions of how their sequence
would occur. These included the idea of a final age
of peace and concord before the end of the world and
the Last Judgment. As an apocalyptic expectation of
a violent and sudden end to the present order, it had
its source in the Prophetic Books of the Old Testament—
above all the Book of Daniel—and the Book of Revela-
tion of Saint John of the Apocalypse. Together they
transmitted to Christian thinking the Jewish legacy of
a messiah who would deliver his people from tribula-
tion after untold suffering. God having punished those
who had deserted him would reign over those who had
remained true to him from a New Jerusalem for a
thousand years (though this number was not invariable)
until the final destruction of the world.

Such visions were the invariable accompaniment of
persecution, both in Jewish and early Christian times
and during the Middle Ages. They offered redress for
present sufferings. As projections of desires which could
not be realized in the here and now they derived their
power from being invested with divine agency. The
prophecies of the Old and New Testaments were in
the form of inspired dreams and divine revelations;
moreover they were on a cosmic scale, involving the
whole world in a struggle between the righteous and
unjust, the oppressed and the oppressors. It would
culminate in the ending of the present dispensation.
This theme unites Jewish and Christian prophecy from
the Book of Daniel, written ca. 165 B.C., to the six-
teenth century; it stressed the conviction in a coming
denouement to be followed by a new and better dis-
pensation on earth.

The Book of Daniel was among the earliest and the
most formative elements in this tradition. In its imagery
and pattern it formed the prototype of much of subse-
quent prophecy, above all the struggle between the
forces of evil and goodness. The former, representing
the four world empires, were symbolized by four
beasts, albeit mythical. The fourth and most terrible
anticipates the later figure of Antichrist: it “was differ-
ent from all the beasts that were before it; and it had
ten horns... and, behold, there came up among them
another horn, a little one before which three of the
first horns were plucked up by the roots; and behold,
in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a
mouth speaking great things” (Daniel 7:8). This horn
represented a future king who will “exalt himself and
magnify himself above every god and shall speak
astonishing things against the God of gods” (Daniel
11:36); he would make war against the saints and
prevail over them until “judgment was given for the
saints of the Most High, and the time came when the
saints received the kingdom” (Daniel 7:22). This would
be by “one like the son of man,” coming with the
clouds of heaven, who would overthrow this false king.
These different symbols prefigured Antichrist and
Christ and the form their conflict would take; it would
be one both of open tyranny and deceit in which
Antichrist would claim to be God. Already there is the
notion of some world kingdom of God, under the son
of man, “that all peoples, nations and languages should
serve him” (Daniel 7:14).

It was with the Book of Revelation, composed ca.
A.D. 93, during the Christian persecutions of the em-
peror Domitian (51-96), that Daniel's figures became
firmly established as the dramatis personae of Christian
apocalyptic. The Book of Revelation went beyond any
of the other canonical writings among which indeed
it was accepted only through misconception. Its
importance for subsequent Christian and medieval
belief cannot be exaggerated. Diffused through com-
mentaries and mingling with other legends it penetra-
ted the outlook of the Middle Ages and inspired much
of its prophecy. Through its imagery of the opening


of the scroll sealed with seven seals it unfolded the
sequence which “must soon take place.” With the
undoing of each seal a new phase was revealed, which
would culminate in a thousand years of Christ's reign
on earth before a final struggle with Satan, followed
by the Last Judgment. “This first glory was reserved
for those who had been beheaded for their testimony
to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not
worshipped the beast or its image and had not received
its mark on their foreheads or their hands. The rest
of the dead did not come to life until the thousand
years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed
and holy is he who shares in the first resurrection! Over
such the second has no power, but they shall be priests
of God and Christ and they shall reign with him a
thousand years” (Revelation 20:5-6). And the new
Jerusalem in which they would live would come down
from heaven; it would only be attained after Satan had
been bound and thrown into a pit for a thousand years.
Before this he would reign over the world, inflicting
terrible sufferings and causing men to worship him and
to blaspheme against God. The fourth beast of the Book
of Daniel now becomes the great red dragon with seven
heads and ten horns and firmly identified with Satan
thrown down to earth with his minions (Revelation
12:9). The dragon persecuted the faithful in the form
of two beasts: “a beast rising out of the sea with ten
horns and seven heads... to it the dragon gave his
power and throne and great authority” (Revelation
13:1-2); and “another beast which rose out of the earth;
it had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.
It exercises the authority of the first beast in its pres-
ence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship
the first beast” (Revelation 13:11-12). These two beasts
stood for the Roman empire, which made “war on the
saints,” and the priests who served it; together with
the Dragon they henceforth constituted the figure of
Antichrist. Where Christ remained always clearly
conceived as God and man—depicted as a divine
warrior and as the lamb “with seven horns and seven
eyes which are the seven spirits sent into all the earth”
(Revelation 5:6)—Antichrist was demonic and bestial.
Thus the second beast attempts to beguile the faith-
ful by appearing like the lamb yet speaking “like a
dragon.” Like the serpent in Paradise it works by
deceit, at the same time wreaking destruction. Just as,
in orthodox belief, man's redemption came through
having first sinned, so in Christian apocalyptic, de-
liverance would be after the dragon had conquered.
“If anyone is to be taken captive to captivity he goes;
if anyone slays with the sword, with the sword must
he be slain. Here is call for the endurance and faith
of the saints” (Revelation 14:10). Antichrist was thus
a presence on the same cosmic scale as Christ; he
represented a universal power for evil, which could
take diverse human manifestations.

This was the form as transmitted by the Book of
Revelation in which the Middle Ages received the
Jewish-Christian apocalyptic legacy. It was one which
was more mythological than theological. In being
concerned with the future it relied upon imagination
rather than reason; its rich and often extravagant
imagery acted as an intoxicant, often upon those not
themselves apocalyptic. But it flourished mainly
amongst the visionaries and the persecuted. There was
also a tributary stream from the so-called Sibylline
writings. These, too, derived originally from Judaism,
but in this case from its Hellenic branch. Composed
initially in Greek hexameters they purported to be
pronouncements from Greek oracles designed to con-
vert the Greeks to Jewish belief. They sought to do
so by trying to show that the present emperor was the
last; since both the Greeks and the Romans by then
worshipped the emperor as divine they hoped to make
them accept the (Jewish) messiah who would succeed
their ruler.

The oldest Sibyl known to the Middle Ages was the
Tiburtina, written in the mid-fourth century A.D. To-
gether with seventh-century pseudo-Methodius— pur-
porting to be by the fourth-century bishop and
martyr of that name—it introduced a similar apoca-
lyptic note. There would be a time of impending sor-
rows, from which after dreadful struggles a world
emperor would emerge, bringing peace and joy to all
the nations until the final struggle between Christ and
Antichrist. As later developed in the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries the legend was used to depict both
future emperors and popes; they, however, could be
the instrument of either Christ or Antichrist.

The development of these ideas into a distinctive
outlook during the Middle Ages only becomes signifi-
cant in the twelfth century. At one level it could be
said that some kind of apocalyptic belief was common
to the greater part of medieval society. Conviction in
the existence of the devil was integral to the Christian
recognition of the pervasiveness of sin; the struggle
between Christ and Antichrist expressed the dualism
between the flesh and the spirit. God's retribution was
as real as his love; and in times of stress or tension
the sense of impending doom came easily to the sur-
face, among the learned and the sophisticated as well
as the illiterate and poor. Adherence to God or rejec-
tion of him marked the difference between the saved
and the damned, which Saint Augustine (354-430) in
the City of God identified with the difference between
the heavenly and earthly cities. What distinguished the
apocalyptic outlook as such was not only a belief in
imminent and violent change but a perspective upon


the future; what was occurring now, and would occur
in the future, belonged to the same sequence within
which alone events could be measured.

In that sense prophecy was historical, however
idealized, as well as eschatological; for it drew upon
what had already happened in order to point to what
was about to come. Not surprisingly, therefore, the idea
of prophecy as more than periodic outbursts of fear
and distress which punctuated periods of disturb-
ance—such as the People's Crusade at the end of the
eleventh century or peasant risings from that time
onwards—was grounded in an interpretation of history.
While throughout the earlier Middle Ages there had
been writings on Antichrist, such as by Adso in the
tenth century, medieval prophecy only became signifi-
cant with the renewed study of history in the twelfth

The Middle Ages are commonly believed to have
lacked historical awareness. In the modern under-
standing of history as a discipline that is true, but as
a recognition of temporal sequence and change it is
not. Like the Judaic-Christian tradition on which it
drew, medieval prophecy saw in the impending dis-
solution of the present order the climax of the world's
history. It differed in giving that history a new pattern
which it owed to Saint Augustine more than to anyone
else. In the City of God he had taken the seven days
of Genesis as the paradigm of the seven ages of the

The first age, as the first day, extends from Adam to the
deluge; the second from the deluge to Abraham, equalling
the first not in length of time but in the number of genera-
tions, there being ten in each. From Abraham to the advent
of Christ there are, as the evangelist Matthew calculates,
three periods, in each of which are fourteen genera-
tions—one period from Abraham to David, a second from
David to the captivity, a third from the captivity to the
birth of Christ in the flesh. There are thus five ages in all.
The sixth is now passing, and cannot be measured by any
number of generations.... After this period God shall rest
as on the seventh day, when he shall give us (who shall
be the seventh day) rest in himself... the seventh shall
be our sabbath which shall be brought to a close, not by
an evening, but by the Lord's day, as an eighth and eternal
day, consecrated by the resurrection of Christ, and prefigur-
ing the eternal repose not only of the spirit but also of the

(City of God, Book XXXII, Ch. 30).

This periodizing of Christian history from the Bible
formed the basis of the world histories of the twelfth
century. They were particularly in vogue among
German writers, like Anselm of Havelberg, Geroch of
Reichersberg, Otto of Freising, and Rupert of Deutz.
Germany, as the seat of the medieval empire since the
tenth century, had been the focus of the struggles
between its kings and the papacy; each side in its claim
for precedence over the other sought for antecedents
and historical precedents which stimulated the study
of history. But this was also part of a European-wide
revival of learning, speculation, and the study of law;
and Calabria not Germany was the scene of a new
apocalyptic conception of history which was to be the
most influential for over two centuries.

Its author, Joachim of Floris, was a Cistercian monk,
who, after becoming abbot of the Calabrian monastery
of Curazzo, founded his own monastic order in 1196.
Joachim arrived at his interpretation through biblical
exegesis. Drawing upon the separation of history into
seven epochs, he combined it with another and larger
trinitarian division into the three ages of the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which Rupert of Deutz
had also adopted (De Trinitate). This enabled Joachim
to go beyond the present. Saint Augustine in the City
of God
had treated the Book of Revelation as allegory:
the millennium had begun with Christ and was main-
tained in the sacramental life of the Church which
would endure until the end of time. Joachim also
treated the Apocalypse allegorically; but he translated
it differently because of his tripartite framework. In
his three main works, The Concord of the Old and the
New Testaments,
the Exposition of the Apocalypse and
The Psaltery of the Ten Chords, Joachim, by means of
elaborate parallels and calculations, established the
relation between the three great ages. That of the
Father corresponded to the period of the Old Testa-
ment; the age of the Son roughly covered that of the
New Testament, running from King Ozias (Matthew
1:9) until around the middle of the thirteenth century-
beyond Joachim's own lifetime; it would be followed
by the third and final age of the Holy Spirit, which
would last for 1000 years until the world's destruction
and the Last Judgment. Each age was symbolized by
a particular group of men: the patriarchs or married
men in the first age; the clerics in the second age; the
third age would be the age of spiritual monks of whom
the Benedictines were the precursors. Each age also
had or would have three great men; but whereas those
for the first two ages were actual figures drawn from
the Old and the New Testaments—Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob, and Zachariah, John the Baptist, and Christ—the
three for the coming third age were symbolical: the
man clothed in linen, taken from Daniel, and two
angels of the Apocalypse, from the Book of Revelation.

The distinction between the first two ages and the
third is central to Joachim's outlook. From the relation
between the first two he was able to deduce the pat-
terns which could be transposed to the future third
age. This applied especially to the way in which the
transition from the first to the second age had occurred.


The third age was taken as the consummation of what
had gone before. It was this which changed the tradi-
tional perspective. For Joachim it meant superseding
the existing forms and replacing them by a higher state.
In a series of antitheses he sought to characterize the
differences between the three ages. The first had been
under the law, the second was under grace, but the
third would have still greater grace. The first age had
been of knowledge, the second was of partial wisdom,
the third would be of full understanding; servile
servitude and filial servitude would give way to liberty.
In these and other examples Joachim drew upon meta-
phor, which makes his precise meaning elusive. It
seems clear, however, that he envisaged the new order
still to come as one of spiritual renewal in which, to
use his own recurrent phrase, the spirit would triumph
over the letter. Joachim did not specify what this would
entail; but he was emphatic that the change would
be in man's understanding of the Bible and the sacra-
ments rather than in a new faith or a new church.

Paradoxically it was here that Joachim's thinking was
to be most betrayed by those who called themselves
his disciples. His symbolic terms such as a new “spirit-
ual church” and new “spiritual men,” his frequent
contrast between the outward “figures” of the sacra-
ments and their inner meaning came to stand inde-
pendently and to be opposed to their existing visible
forms. By the end of the thirteenth century, among
some of the Franciscan Spirituals and their followers
in Provence and Italy, the spiritual church had come
to stand for their opposition to the carnal church at
Rome under the pope, which they condemned as the
Whore of Babylon and the congregation of Antichrist.
The spiritual church was the bearer of a new gospel
and possessed a new spiritual insight.

Not only was the terminology from Joachim; so also
was the significance of the confrontation between the
spiritual and carnal churches. This related directly to
Joachim's subdivision of the first two ages, of the Father
and Son, into seven phases or epochs. From the con-
cordance of the Old and New Testaments he deduced
the order of succession from one phase to the next.
First, he saw something like a dialectical interplay
between them; within an existing phase the new was
already germinating and would finally supersede that
from which it arose. Thus the spiritual men who were
to typify the third age of the Holy Spirit had their
harbingers in Saint Benedict's (d. ca. 547) monastic
order, which had been founded in the fourth phase
of the second great age. Since Joachim computed that
the age of the Son would end in about the year 1260,
the bearers of the new age had coexisted with the old
for 600 years. They were the agents by which the
dualism between the flesh and the spirit, characterizing
the age of the Son, would be overcome when the Spirit
triumphed in the third great age. In the second place,
this transformation would be through struggle between
the old and the new.

From the first two ages Joachim distinguished be-
tween periods of quiescence and disturbance. As each
main age drew to a close the latent antagonism be-
tween the forces of the old order and the new came
to a head; only after their collision could the new age
finally emerge. Joachim placed the conflict in the sixth
and penultimate phase of the expiring age. As Christ
and his disciples had been persecuted, and he had been
crucified before his message had finally prevailed, so
Christ's successors, the new spiritual monks, would
have to suffer the attacks of Antichrist before they,
too, emerged to inaugurate a new golden age on earth,
in the seventh and last phase of the second age.
Accordingly, the pattern which Joachim presented was
of an underlying continuity through discontinuity, of
a series of consummations, or periods of sabbatical calm
as he called them, preceded by periods of violent
struggle, until some time after the middle of the thir-
teenth century a new and final era of sabbatical peace
would reign.

Now it was in the transition from the second to the
third age that Joachim's teaching was so relevant for
the thirteenth century and beyond; for by his own
computation the present age of the Son should end
around 1260 with the completion of the forty-second
generation from the birth of Christ (counting each
generation as thirty years). The beginning of the thir-
teenth century thus also marked the opening of the
sixth phase of the second age culminating in the strug-
gle between the old and the new. For the generations
immediately succeeding Joachim's they appeared to be
living in the center of the upheaval. Hence the
immediacy of his message to those who, like the
Franciscan Spirituals and others, were suffering either
persecution or the effects of the devastating papal-
imperial war in Italy; their miseries found a vindication
in Joachim's predictions and his stress upon the tribu-
lations which would precede the advent of the third
age. He had foretold that the years from 1200 to 1260
would be worse than the preceding centuries of the
second age put together. They would be filled with
the evil doings of Antichrist. The sixth phase would
contain great persecutions culminating in the seventh
with the appearance of the first Antichrist. (The second
would appear at the end of the world and the Last
Judgment.) The same sixth epoch, however, would also
see the first heralding of a new spiritual understanding
of the Old and New Testaments, which would be
consummated in the final defeat of Antichrist. This
would be followed by a second incarnation of Christ


and the period of sabbatical calm which would inau-
gurate the third great age of peace on earth and the
rule of the Spirit.

Joachim, then, offered an interpretation of the pres-
ent which at once explained its tribulations and gave
hope in suffering them. Like all apocalyptic visions it
provided a cosmic setting to the struggles of the various
reforming and apostolic groups; they were enacting
the final struggle between the forces of Christ and
Antichrist, Jerusalem and Babylon. Nor was the impact
of Joachim's teaching initially confined to sects or
opposition groups. It is to be found among thinkers
like Robert Grosseteste, Adam Marsh, William of St.
Amour, Saint Bonaventure, and John Pecham (or
Peckham), among others. Many members of the new
orders of friars identified themselves with Joachim's
prophecy of the new spiritual monks. One thirteenth-
century pope at least, John XXI, was sympathetic to
Joachite ideas.

By the middle of the thirteenth century, however,
as the time allotted for the close of the second age
approached, Joachism became increasingly a focus of
dissent. The extent to which it had become subversive
was first revealed in the so-called affair of the Eternal
Gospel at Paris in 1254. A young Franciscan, Gerard
of Borgo San Donnino, published an Introduction to
the Eternal Gospel
(Introductorius in evangelium
1254) in which he substituted Joachim's three
main writings for the authority of the Bible; they had
become the everlasting gospel in the year 1200 when
“the spirit of life had departed from the two gospels.”
The change marked the beginning of the sixth epoch
of the age of the Son. Joachim's images in turn became
translated into contemporary Franciscan Spiritual
terms: Saint Francis (1182-1226) and those true to him
were the new order of spiritual monks and the renewers
of Christ's teachings. The Roman church was the carnal
church characterized in the language of the Apoca-
lypse as the Whore of Babylon, drunk with the blood
of martyrs; its persecutions of those who upheld Saint
Francis' ideal of absolute poverty represented the
struggle between the forces of Christ and Antichrist.
The year 1260 would bring the denouement of the
present second age with the appearance of Antichrist.
After unspeakable ravages and destruction Christen-
dom would be reunited and a new era would open.

Gerard's Introduction was a direct challenge to the
Church. It was condemned and he was imprisoned.
Although disavowed by other adherents of Joachim
among his order Gerard represented an extreme tend-
ency which grew with the persecution of the Francis-
can Spirituals during the later thirteenth century. They
turned Joachim's teaching into a doctrine of dissent
which sought the supersession of the Church rather
than its renewal. Inevitably this threatened it as an
institution. Although Joachim's teachings were never
officially banned, Gerard of Borgo revealed them in
another light. The first outbreak of the Flagellant
movement in 1260, the year of Joachist prophecy, the
emergence of the heretical semi-Joachist sect of the
False Apostles, condemned in 1274, and above all the
conflict within the Franciscan order, all helped to
discredit Joachism and identify it with subversion by
the end of the thirteenth century.

What Gerard did in 1254, transposing Joachim's
doctrines into an apologia for poverty, was done
repeatedly over the next century. Among the Francis-
can Spirituals, Saint Francis was in the imagery of the
Apocalypse, the angel of the sixth seal “who had the
seal of the living God upon him” (Revelation 10:4).
With him the sixth age had begun. He was the renewer
of Christ's life and teaching, the center of which was
poverty. The test of loyalty to Christ thus became
loyalty to the Franciscan rule of absolute poverty; and
persecution of its adherents was the mark of Antichrist.
Poverty accordingly took on a cosmic significance. It
represented the struggle between the forces of Christ
and Antichrist. To suffer for it was to be of Christ;
it was the badge of those who would triumph not in
some distant and timeless void, but in the imminent
change from the second to the third eras. For Spirituals
like Peter John Olivi, his follower, Ubertino of Casale,
and Angelo of Clareno such a conviction did not lead
to indiscriminate identification of the church hierarchy
with Antichrist. But for their less sophisticated follow-
ers the distinction became blurred; popes like Boniface
VIII and John XXII became either Antichrist or his
forerunners—Boniface for rescinding in 1295 his pred-
ecessor Celestine V's recognition of the Spirituals as
a separate order; John for declaring heretical in 1323
the Franciscan doctrine of Christ's absolute poverty.

It was at this point that the apocalyptic tradition
of Joachim mingled with the Sibylline tradition, men-
tioned earlier. This produced the two other figures of
a Last World Emperor and a line of Angelic Popes.
The role of the first was now usually reversed from
that in the original Sibylline books. Generally called
Frederick III—as last in the line of the Hohenstaufen
emperors of whom Frederick II (1194-1250) in the first
half of the thirteenth century was the archetype—he
was often identified with the sixth or seventh head of
the dragon. The revival of the notion of a Last World
Emperor came from the revival of the Sibylline genre
of writings. It began in Italy where the destructive
effects of Frederick II's wars against the North Italian
cities and the papacy fed Joachist prophecy. From the
early decades of the thirteenth century there was a
growing stream of pseudo-Joachist writings, which also


incorporated the older Sibylline tradition. Notable
among them were the so-called Oracle of the Angel
and the Erithrean Sibyl, both of which saw in
Frederick II and his descendants the precursors of
Antichrist, whose coming would be presaged by the
future Frederick III. These works were taken up by
leading Franciscan Spirituals like Angelo of Clareno.
But they also found popular expression, above all in
the Liber de Flore written in the early fourteenth cen-
tury. It contains the other aspect of pseudo-Joachist
prophecy: a line of angelic or redeeming popes who
would reform the Church and return it to its true
apostolic state. For this it drew upon a Byzantine
legend, from the ninth and tenth centuries, known
as the Leo Oracles; these consisted in a series of
prophecies over the future of the Byzantine empire,
falsely ascribed to the emperor Leo the Wise. They,
too, were incorporated into Joachist prophecy during
the thirteenth century. Among the earliest works in
which they were found in the West were the Prophecies
of Merlin
(ca. 1275)—a glorification of Venice—again
of Italian provenance. They entered the Joachist canon
in the form of compilations—ascribed either to
Joachim or an apocryphal bishop Anselm—of popes
both historical and yet to come; these popes were
depicted by portraits, usually of animals drawn from
the Apocalypse, accompanied by captions, in the case
of future popes as prophecies. They thereby served at
once to condemn past popes for having served Anti-
christ and to exalt in future popes the evangelical vir-
tues which would triumph after the Antichrist's defeat.
These future popes were thus the agents of the new era,
fulfilling the positive role which had been given to a
Last World Emperor in the original Sibylline Books. Such
collections continued to circulate in new up-to-date ver-
sions down to the seventeenth century. Not the least
significant of these later developments is that Joachim's
works were among some of the first to be printed at
Venice in the early part of the sixteenth century.

By the fourteenth century, then, Joachist prophecy
had become the umbrella for a syncretism of
apocalyptic belief. If little of it was authentically
Joachim's it owed to him the almost universal expecta-
tion of the coming end to the present age, and its
displacement by a new golden age, which would en-
dure for the rest of time. Although in this form it was
the preserve of the dissidents, the sense of impending
upheaval was very strong in the later Middle Ages.
It was stimulated by natural disasters such as the Black
Death from 1348 to 1350, the endemic social and
political disturbances of the period, and then by the
nearly forty years of the Great Schism (1378-1417),
which led many thinkers and ecclesiastics to see in the
two rival popes of Rome and Avignon the advent of
Antichrist. The defeat of the Franciscan Spirituals by
about 1325 ended the open association of Joachism
with an organized sect; but it continued among its
dissident remnants—the Fraticelli—as well as promi-
nent individuals such as John of Rupescissa, imprisoned
in the papal court at Avignon (ca. 1350) for his
prophetic writings.

Prophecy, however, extended far beyond Franciscan
circles; it is to be found among diverse groups and
individuals: the Flagellants in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries, the heretical semimystical sect of
the Men of Intelligence in the first decade of the
fifteenth century, many of the Czech Reformers, as well
as mystics like Catherine of Siena. It reached its climax
in the early years of the Hussite Revolt in 1419 and
1420 in the Taborite movement which was organized
upon the assumption of the imminent end of the world.
Such proclamations continued to be made during the
fifteenth century, especially in Germany, where in the
sixteenth century they culminated with Thomas
Münzer (or Müntzer), (ca. 1489-1525), a German
Anabaptist and popular leader.

Prophecy in the Middle Ages, then, as at other times,
was a state of belief. If it derived its inspiration from
the prophetic writings of the Bible it lent itself to other
influences which were consonant with the experiences
of the epoch. Foremost among these was Joachism,
which by the fourteenth century embraced almost the
whole range of prophetic belief. In providing an
historical framework it served to explain the sufferings
and aspirations of any group or individual, even when
many went beyond it. Together they transmitted the
apocalyptic legacy to the succeeding age.


Saint Augustine, Basic Writings of St. Augustine, ed.
W. J. Oates (Edinburgh and New York, 1948), II, 663. O.
Holder-Egger, “Italienische Prophetien des 13 Jahrhun-
derts,” Neues Archiv, 15 (1890), 143-78; 30 (1904), 324-86;
33 (1907), 95-187. E. Jordan, “Joachim de Flore” in
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, Vol. 8, Part II, Cols.
1425-58. F. Kampers, Die Deutsche Kaiseridee in Prophetie
und Sage
(Münster im Westfal, 1896). G. Leff, Heresy in
the Later Middle Ages,
2 vols. (Manchester, 1967), with
bibliography. M. E. Reeves, “Joachimist Influences on the
Idea of a Last World Emperor,” Traditio, 17 (1961), 323-70.
M. E. Reeves, “The Liber Figurarum of Joachim of Fiore,”
Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies, 2 (1951), 57-81; idem,
Influence of Prophecy in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford and
New York, 1969).


[See also Allegory; Christianity in History; Dualism; God;
Historicism; Metaphor; Myth; Prophecy in Hebrew Scrip-
Sin and Salvation.]