On Jerusalem and the Apocalypse, or, why you should be deeply unsettled right now

Ever since Constantine the Great converted to Christianity, it has not been possible to simultaneously be both a Westerner and view Jerusalem as simply a city. Part of this, obviously, has to do with the fact that some of the more memorable parts of the life of Jesus took place in Jerusalem.* The other thing is that Jerusalem is absolutely integral to the Christian idea of the Apocalypse.

Now as a sane, happy (I hope, anyway. I believe in you.) person, you may not quite get why we should give any fucks about the Apocalypse. Why worry about the end of the universe? Why does that come into play at all in the day to day life of your average Christian? These are good relevant points that we must cling to in order to continue to fight off overwhelming feelings of dread in the nightmarish hellscape that is the current political landscape.

 

Trouble is, Christianity as a religion is obsessed with the apocalypse.

Christianity as a belief structure is intrinsically linked to the concept of time as linear. The universe had a beginning when God ‘spoke’ at the beginning of Genesis.

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God creating the heavens at the earth, from the library façade of Rouen Cathedral.

The mid-point came along with the arrival of Jesus, when God decided he was done with the whole Jewish thing and that it was time to really crank shit up a notch. Because Jesus has now come, that means that we’re all just looking at our watches and waiting for the end of the universe, which the man himself claimed would be soon. According to ya boy he’s just nipped ahead to heaven to ‘prepare a place for you’ [John 14:3] and he’ll BRB.

I mean that is all well and good right? The idea of spending eternity with the merciful Christ who died for the world’s sins and what not? Yeah trouble is for that to happen we all have to have a very Bad Time first, and that explicitly involved a) Jerusalem and b) Wajesus, aka the Antichrist.

Antichrist stuff is, to put it mildly, really fucking odd. Not least because it involves a lot of magic, torture, and demons, but also because it sorta has a biblical basis, but not really. In that way, Antichrist is like the fanfic of Christian theology.

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Antichrist riding the Leviathan from the Liber Floridus

Jesus only ever really talked about Antichrist in a theoretical way in the parts of the Gospels that those of us who have devoted their life to the weirdest shit possible refer to as the Little Apocalypse: Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; and Luke 21. In all of these Jesus gives a sermon about how shit is about to GO DOWN, the end of the world is coming, all our asses are gonna get sorted into either sheep or goats, and BTW ‘many will come in [his] name claiming, “I am the Messiah”, and will deceive many … [and we will see] standing in the holy place the abomination of desolation spoken of through the prophet Daniel.’ Also this is gonna happen, at like, any minute so keep your shit together or you’ll go to hell after being tortured IRL.

Cheery!

So anyway this warning had people like :thinking emoji:, and because they wanted to learn more about the imminent doom of the world they went back into the book of Daniel to look for clues.

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Daniel’s vision of the four beasts. Spoiler: they are all sorta Antichrist.

The Book of Daniel comes HARD with that Old Testament monster nonsense and is Extremely My Shit. I encourage you to go check it out because it’s wild, but suffice to say that the vision in question has a lot of monsters (all of whom are Antichrist) and also a battle between the King of the South and the King of the North. Team Stark enthusiasts will be sad to learn that the King of the North was read as Antichrist (he was actually Antiochus IV Epiphanes, but whatever.) So anywho, people took this info and ran with it and started looking for other info to figure out who Antichrist was.

Jesus never had much more to say on the subject, but John would not shut up about this mess, and he wrote about it in both 1 John (2:18; 2:22; and 4:2-3), and 2 John (1:7), so people used that. Weirdly, they also brought poor Paul into the whole mess and a bunch of stuff from 2 Thessalonians 2 got thrown in even though he never says Antichrist. He does, however warn  that ‘the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming.’ Which, sure.

Anyway because John of Patmos was John, and was presumably on some shit that none of us will ever be able to afford, he then broke it all down in the Apocalypse, which people call Revelations now because they have no poetry in their souls and also like people to not think about all the nuts ass shit that is involved in Christian Dogma.

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John of Patmos by Hieronymus Bosh

The Apocalypse. Is. Crazy. It also has a tonne of monsters, almost all of which can be identified as Antichrist, or who John refers to as the Prophet of Satan, which is like, samesies.

Also it’s important to note here that all the weird-assery that goes down in the Apocalypse was seen by medieval people as being totally legit because they were a little unclear on the fact that John of Patmos (my boy) was NOT John the Apostle who wrote, you know, the book of John and also the afore-mentioned letters that yell about Antichrist a lot and make up three more books of the New Testament. I mean, they were so unclear on this that when they would write saints’ lives about them they were often combined into one. That helped people just be like, ‘yeah sure a leopard with wings, feet like a bear, and a mouth like a lion. I can see that as a thing that is defo real. I mean you did hang with Jesus.’ We now know they were two different dudes who lived hundreds of years apart, but we have also just accepted the Apocalypse for what it is, because it’s probably the best part of the whole book, TBH, and also advocates for the smoking of weed. I’ll take that.

So yeah there you go, that’s the biblical basis for Antichrist. Here’s the resultant fanfic:

Antichrist is going to be born in Babylon, because of course he is. Now, either he is going to be the son of an evil monk and nun OR he is going to be born in a brothel as the son of a sex worker. (Get it? Because sex is BAD and the Virgin Mary was good because she didn’t have any!) Anyway, the Devil will send a demon to posses said baby in utero, and boom there is Antichrist. He will then be raised in Chorazin, and educated in Bethsaida, because in Matthew 11:21 Jesus yells about them (‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!”), which is as good a reason as any.

Antichrist’s career is going to take off big time, and he’s going to start to convince people that he is, in fact, the second coming of Christ. He’s gonna use his special demonic powers to convince everyone he is doing miracles, and people are going to start worshipping him, and he’s going to take himself off to Jerusalem to seek his fortune.

Guess who the first people to worship him are going to be? It’s a really fucked up answer.

It’s Jewish people. You know! Because they are evil? Amiright?

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Antichrist on the throne in Jerusalem, Weltchronik. Sibyllenweissagung. BSB Cgm 426, Bayern. Note his jaunty demon.

Yeah so since that is totally good and not at all problematic, Antichrist is then going to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and have himself worshipped there. Meanwhile good Christians who aren’t taken in by all of this, unlike those terrible Jews, are going to be tortured and killed, and bibles are going to get burned. The whole nine yards.

God is going to take a dim view of all of this and send the prophets Enoch and Elijah back down to earth (they are chilling corporeally in heaven previous to this), and they are gonna go around telling everyone that Antichrist is actually really whack, and sorta torturing people and rather Not Holy altogether. Antichrist will get pissed off at this, kill them both, and leave their bodies in the open for four days. On the fourth day their bodies will mystically rise into heaven.

In order to prove himself, Antichrist will then march his ass up to the Mount of Olives (also in Jerusalem) and attempt to prove that he is Christ once and for all by ascending into heaven himself after the prophets. So, then his ass will get pretty high in the air and then BANG he gonna get struck down by the spirit of Christ’s mouth (?), and die.

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The Antichrist in the Weltchronik Sibyllenweissagung doesn’t have sufficient demons to keep him aloft.

Then everyone is gonna be like, oh schnap, that was just some dude with magical powers, huh? Damn we should not have worshipped him as a God in this temple he rebuilt.

Then real Jesus is going to come back and this time all the Jewish people are going to convert to Christianity for REALS this time. (LOL). What happens next is up for debate. Some say that there is going to be a two thousand year reign of peace where everyone is going to be Christian, and stuff will be great, and THEN God is going to be like, ‘Well now I am bored”, and release the beast from the abyss and start the apocalypse. The hordes of Gog and Magog (shout out to both Ezekiel AND the Apocalypse) will be released and begin to siege Jerusalem. Then there’s your standard rains of fire, seas of blood, mountains crumbling to dust – you get the picture. Other people say we’re skipping right to the not nice bit and there’s no reign of peace first. One way or another we’re gonna get to the Final Judgement. That’s when everyone living AND dead will be lined up to be judged a final time. Dead people gonna jump up out their graves and anyone who made it through the rain of fire unscathed will rock up alive, I guess.

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The final judgement, east porch of St. Vitus cathedral, Prague.

Then that’s it. There’s just the eternal heaven and hell and no more universe to serve as a proving ground.

So, that is pretty fucking weird. You know what is weirder? A lot of Christians are actively into that shit. They are down for the Apocalypse and the fire, and monsters, and blood, because since they are theoretically good Christians they get the heaven bit of the deal at the end. Yay.

It’s specifically that mindset which is linked to the American push to have Jerusalem recognised as the capital of Israel. Some presidents have been explicit about their belief in the biblical Apocalypse. George W Bush, for example once told Jaques Chirac that he saw ‘Gog and Magog’ at work in the Middle East. This is especially fun and racist because since the medieval period there has been an explicit link between the forces of Gog and Magog and Muslims. (Before that it was at times Rome, the Scythians, or the Huns. During the Cold War, Ronald Regan thought it was Russia! Fun!)

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The forces of Gog and Magog attack the city of saints. Toulouse MS. 815, fol 49v.

You can see the issue here. If you perceive a group of people from one religion as representative of demonic, cannibalistic forces who are at work to bring down Jerusalem/Israel and that conflict in Jerusalem is necessary to bring about the end of the world, and you think you’re going to go to heaven when that happens, well … I guess you might start some shit.

I do not pretend to know what the hell the current American president believes, I mean, other than that he has a right to grope all over any woman in a four-foot radius of him, and that his comb over is fooling people. I can tell you that the current Vice President is a massive evangelical douchebag who thinks you should convert gay people and that it is dangerous to be alone with women cuz, you know, you might accidentally have sex with them. (We’ve all been there.)

What I can say, is that pushing to have Jerusalem recognised as the capital of Israel is a part of a specific apocalyptic mindset. For the end of the world to come about, Jerusalem has to be the seat of power in Israel. This is so Antichrist can show up, take over, and convince the Jewish population there to worship him.

You should be fucking disturbed.

Obviously there are also real-world political ramifications to these beliefs that should worry the fuck out of you as well, most especially because for the people pushing for stuff like Jerusalem as a capital, the unrest that results isn’t a side effect – it is the fucking goal. These people want an Apocalypse war so that they can go to the after party.

Who wants a drink?


*Please note that as an historian I am not out here to debate the existence of Jesus, and how the historical person did/did not differ from the Christ we see in the Bible. What is important to historians is not whether these people necessarily existed in the way that religious works depict. What we are interested in is how people reacted/react to these ideas. Go argue with someone who cares.


For more on medieval history and politics, see:
On medieval healthcare and American barbarism
On chronicles versus journalism, and ruling versus governing
On the medieval separation of Church and state, or, putting the ‘holy’ in Holy Roman Empire
On the American election, teaching history, and why it matters
Such a nasty woman – on Eleanor of Aquitaine, femininity, reputation, and power
On power and entitlement to the bodies of lower-status women, or, the thing that is actually medieval about Trump
The medieval case for remain, or, fuck Brexit

For more on medieval religious culture, see:
Keep the word ‘Judeo’ out of your racist mouth, Nigel Farrage
Islam was the party religion, or, why it is lazy and essentialist to say that Islam oppresses women
Look up – this church is judging you

 

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Author: Dr Eleanor Janega

Medieval historian, lush, Kendrick Lamar enthusiast.

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