Dear List Members,
Regading the discussion of the first millenium, I found a few extraordinary
statements in Andrew Gow's "Jewish Shock-Troops of the Apocalypse:
Antichrist and the End, 1200-1600, [Journal of Millennial Studies, Sprint
1998] http://www.mille.org/publications/summer98/agow.pdf ,
1) where in fn. 2 he writes that the Lollard theory that identified "the
papacy with the Antichrist was not merely a political move, but also a
fundamentally theological, Bible-centered exegesis."
Does he really mean this objectively, or is he saying that "to the Lollards
it was so"? Since if there was a scriptural basis, I find it amazing that
it would have taken 13th centuries for the Lollards to come along and find
it. And since no one had found it in 13 centuries, then I supposed it would
be reasonable to assume that they had a political motive, rather than a
2) where Gow holds that the identification of the Antichrist with the one
who many Jews would accept as their Christ as opposed to Jesus Christ was a
Medieval, largely anti-semitic invention (pp. 2-3). I guess he has never
read Scripture (John 5:43; Mt 24:24; 2 Thes 2:1ff.) or St. Chrysostom, St.
Augustine, St. Cyrill, who are hardly described as medievals.
3) Throughout he manifests an anachronistic reinterpretation of texts,
reading a classification of the discendents of Abraham based on their
religious beliefs concerning the Messiah as if it were simply a racial
category that had nothing to do with personal choices.
The texts he cites pp. 3-13, in as much as he quotes them, seem to agree
entirely that racial categories are not being used, but rather religious
categories; to read anti-semitism back into them is to be decidely
What value is there in attacking anti-semitism when it is your own
reinterpretation of texts which accuses authors of the distant past of the
prejudice of the last century?
It seems rather that the communication of the Patristic and Scholastic
traditions on the Antichrist into a popular form coincided with a
transformation of the quality of the relationship between the Antichrist
and the Jew in the Medieval mind. I think a study of the changing nature of
the identity of the Jew in the Western European popluar mind might have
more to do with the iconification of the role of Jews in Western society
and the reinterpretation of scriptural and patristic traditions on the
Antichrist and the Jew, than with a medieval invention of such a
relationship or a latent Christian anti-semitism. One must remember to the
medieval the context of the dominate Christian terminology, forged from a
classical and patristic experience, was a medieval one and not a classical
or patristic one, and that therefore there was an inherent preponderance to
understand patristic and even scholastic discussion in a medieval context
rather than one govern by the canons of strict Christian theology.
To the medieval the Jew was more a unique minority with a foreign culture
than a people which shared the same religious tradition from which their
own Christianity was based. Thus it was not surprising that they were
demonized in the popular mind, just as foreigners and minorities have
always been. With that, the discussions of the Antichrist and the role of
the Jews at the end of time in Christian theology were ripe targets for the
truly novel invention of anti-semitism as a racial hatred of the descendent
of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Sincerely in Christ,
Br. Alexis Bugnolo
The Franciscan Archive
"A WWW Resource on St. Francis and Franciscanism"
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