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The Idea of the Antichrist: Tyconius the Donatist and Adso of Montier-En-Der

Seminararbeit 2008 11 Seiten

Geschichte Europa - and. Länder - Mittelalter, Frühe Neuzeit


The Idea of the Antichrist: Tyconius the Donatist and Adso of Montier-En-Der

Eschatology, or study of the End of World, is a part of theology concerned with the final destiny of humankind. It is in human nature to ponder such matters, and therefore, it is no wonder that similar questions appeared in Christianity as early as the writing of the Scripture. Christianity began with an announcement that time and history were about to end.[1] The interpretations of the Bible depended on their writers’ attitude. Consequently, certain passages from the Bible were interpreted literally or allegorically, but common ground was established in understanding the Book of Daniel and the Revelation of John, which were seen as good examples of eschatological writings. The second coming of Christ was the most important eschatological event. Some authors saw this second arrival as a literal, pre-millennial event, in which Christ would reign on Earth a thousand years before the second coming. Others saw it allegorically, as a post-millennial event.

In early Christianity there was a widespread belief that the end of the world was coming close. This belief was further corroborated by the fact that this end was nowhere precisely determined in the Bible. On the one hand, the end was seen as a final victory of Christianity and conversion of all the Jews into Christianity, and, on the other hand, it was seen as a time when evil powers reigned, as well as Antichrist, as the absolute counterpart of goodness in the world. This paper is concerned with the latter, the beliefs in the reign of evil before the second arrival of Christ and the final victory of good.

In Christian eschatological literature, the Antichrist was the being who would appear at some point in time and oppose Christ, taking over his place and position. He resembled Christ in appearance and power. The idea of the Antichrist was born in parallel with the scriptural texts. Bernard McGinn believes the Antichrist developed out of a belief in malevolent angelic and human forces.[2] This scholar has demonstrated how the Antichrist often reflected the human need to comprehend the persistence of the evil in the world. The need for the definition of the Antichrist throughout the history of mankind is enduring and it is interesting per se. Although this idea of the Antichrist appeared frequently, it is more interesting to ask when various definitions of the Antichrist appeared. Could it be that definitions of the Antichrist appeared in the turbulent times, when people were more likely to feel the end of the world was near? Was there a common pattern in the political circumstances that instigated such definitions to appear?

A good example of a definition of the nature of Antichrist is the letter of Adso of Montier-En-Der to Queen Gerberga on her personal request. It is known that Adso’s letter to Queen Gerberga became a valuable medieval source for the definition of the Antichrist. This letter dates to the 10th century. But, if we ask ourselves about the dogmatic definitions of the Antichrist from earlier centuries, and if we take into consideration the ways dogmas about Christ were shaped throughout time and in numerous church councils, can we really say that there is a counterpoint to the way the Antichrist was defined? Did anyone ever define the idea of the Antichrist in the same way Christ was defined? In this regard, Tyconius, a 4th-century theological author, is worth investigation.

Tyconius the Donatist is said to be one of the most interesting original minds among the Latin theologians of the 4th century AD,[3] although very little is known about him. He remains one of the most elusive representatives of the North African Christianity, a member of the Donatist party but also a critic of its principles, and an influential figure in the struggle between the Donatist and the Catholic churches in Africa. He was quoted and mentioned by Augustine in the De doctrina Christiana.

Both Tyconius and Adso wrote about the Antichrist, though in different contexts and over the course of five centuries. The ways they saw Antichrist certainly were different, as well as the reasons for writing their treatises. What was the difference in the definition of the Antichrist in the writings of these two authors? How did this picture develop and change from the 4th to the 10th century? What influenced this picture? What were the particular features of the Antichrist and what inspired these authors to write about him?


[1] Fredriksen, Paula. “Apocalypse and Redemption in Early Christianity.” Vigiliae Christianae 45 (1991): 151.

[2] Bernard McGinn, Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil, Columbia University Press, 2000.

[3] Ackroyd, Evans, Lampe, Greenslade, The Cambridge History of the Bible, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
500 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Central European University Budapest
Idea Antichrist Tyconius Donatist Adso Montier-En-Der



Titel: The Idea of the Antichrist: Tyconius the Donatist and Adso of Montier-En-Der