Apocalypticism in Western History and Culture, by Bernard McGinn (ed.)

By Bernard McGinn (ed.)

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Although eschatology is not a central theme in Cyprian's work, he frequently expresses the conviction that the present troubles of empire and church are signs of the world's final crisis. In his apologetic address to the proconsul Demetrianus (252), who had accused the Christians of causing the wars and disasters of the mid-third century by neglecting the traditional gods, Cyprian develops the Stoic theme of "the world's old age" (senectus mundt). 4 If natural resources seem now to be diminished allover the world, if human skills seem on the decline and famine and plagues increasing, You must in the first place know this, that the world has now grown old and does not remain in that strength in which it formerly stood; nor does it enjoy that vigor and force by which it once flourished ....

5). The Mrican bishop Quintus Julius Hilarianus composed a brief chronological treatise, On the Course o/Times (De cursu temporum), around 397, which concludes with a narrative of the coming end-times drawn from Revelation and which estimates that the date of Christ's second coming will be March 25,500 (16-19). DALEY: EARLY CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY 23 More striking, perhaps, is the strong sense of apocalyptic anxiety and hope running through the elegant writings of Sulpicius Severus (d. ca. 420), the disciple and biographer of Martin of Tours who also composed a history of the world, dialogues, and letters.

Origen does defend the plausibility of a historical Antichrist figure, as representing utter evil in contrast to Christ, the embodiment of goodness, although he prefers elsewhere to see him simply as a symbol for "every word which is alien to truth, and claims to be the Word of God" (Comm. ser. 33; c£ 42). Alluding probably to the millenarian traditions Irenaeus had so eagerly accepted, Origen is also contemptuous toward those "disciples of the mere letter" who interpret scripture's promises of future beatitude in terms of material plenty in an earthly Jerusalem (De prin.

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