Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Premillennialism of Hippolytus. [A.D. 200]

Little is known about Hippolytus, other than the fact that he lived during the late second and early third centuries. Some suggest he was a bishop at Rome, others at Porto, though it was possible that he was both at some time, or that there was more than one Hippolytus during this time. Hippolytus gives us the most complete eschatology of any church father during this time period, and has writings that support several different viewpoints.

Hippolytus seems to have been a premillennialist, expecting that Christ would set up an earthly reign in 530 AD (500 years after Christ’s First Advent, thus destroying the Roman Empire.

“For the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem, under Augustus, in the year 5500; and He suffered in the thirty-third year. And 6,000 years must needs be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day “on which God rested from all His works.” For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they “shall reign with Christ,” when He comes from heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse: for “a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.” (Psalm 90:4) Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6,000 years must be fulfilled. And they are not yet fulfilled, as John says: “five are fallen; one is,” that is, the sixth; “the other is not yet come.” (Revelation 17:10)” (Fragments Part I:III, Section II - The interpretation by Hippolytus, (bishop) of Rome, of the visions of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, taken in conjunction Section 4)

Hippolytus also considered the ten toes of Daniel to be ten Roman kings, whose evil rule would usher in the kingdom of Christ.

“After this, then, what remains, beloved, but the toes of the feet of the image, in which “part shall be of iron and part of clay mixed together?” By the toes of the feet he meant, mystically, the ten kings that rise out of that kingdom. As Daniel says, “I considered the beast; and, lo, (there were) ten horns behind, among which shall come up another little horn springing from them;” by which none other is meant than the antichrist that is to rise; and he shall set up the kingdom of Judah. And in saying that “three horns” were “plucked up by the roots” by this one, he indicates the three kings of Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia, whom this one will slay in the array of war. And when he has conquered all, he will prove himself a terrible and savage tyrant, and will cause tribulation and persecution to the saints, exalting himself against them. And after him, it remains that “the stone” shall come from heaven which “smote the image” and shivered it, and subverted all the kingdoms, and gave the kingdom to the saints of the Most High. This “became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” (Fragments Part I:III, Section II - The interpretation by Hippolytus, (bishop) of Rome, of the visions of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, taken in conjunction Section 2)

Yet while Hippolytus was premillennial, he seemed to hold to only one resurrection, and did not expect a future Jewish exaltation, but considered such belief a gross error.

“..but they confess that another Messiah will come, who as yet has no existence; and that he will usher in some of the signs which the law and the prophets have shown beforehand, whereas, regarding the rest (of these indications), they suppose that they have fallen into error. For they say that his generation will be from the stock of David, but not from a virgin and the Holy Spirit, but from a woman and a man, according as it is a rule for all to be procreated from seed. And they allege that this Messiah will be King over them, - a warlike and powerful individual, who, after having gathered together the entire people of the Jews, and having done battle with all the nations, will restore for them Jerusalem the royal city. And into this city He will collect together the entire Hebrew race, and bring it back once more into the ancient customs, that it may fulfil the regal and sacerdotal functions, and dwell in confidence for periods of time of sufficient duration. After this repose, it is their opinion that war would next be waged against them after being thus congregated; that in this conflict Christ would fall by the edge of the sword; and that, after no long time, would next succeed the termination and conflagration of the universe; and that in this way their opinions concerning the resurrection would receive completion, and a recompense be rendered to each man according to his works.” (Refutations Book 9 - Chap. XXV. - The Jewish Religion)

The set date for Christ’s advent, as well as an absence of world kingdom between the Rome and Christ’s Advent, make the writings of Hippolytus to be incompatible with modern premillennialism. It could be said that Hippolytus held to some modified form of Historical Premillennialism. However, accepting Hippolytus as a pure historicist has its own difficulties. Historicism is based on the idea that the seven churches in Revelation refer to seven “spiritual ages” of church history, and that certainly was not the view of Hippolytus. Concerning of the Nicolaitan Heresy, he writes:

“But Nicolaus has been a cause of the wide-spread combination of these wicked men. He, as one of the seven (that were chosen) for the diaconate, was appointed by the Apostles. (But Nicolaus) departed from correct doctrine, and was in the habit of inculcating indifferency of both life and food. And when the disciples (of Nicolaus) continued to offer insult to the Holy Spirit, John reproved them in the Apocalypse as fornicators and eaters of things offered unto idols. (Revelation 2:6)” (Refutations Book 7 - Chap. XXIV. - The Melchisedecians; the Nicolaitans.)

So Hippolytus was a premillennialist with a preterist view of Revelation 2 and a Historicist view of Daniel 2. He also applied the Olivet Discourse, as well as the great tribulation, to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

“What then? Are not these things come to pass? Are not the things announced by thee fulfilled? Is not their country, Judea, desolate? Is not the holy place burned with fire? Are not their walls cast down? Are not their cities destroyed? Their land, do not strangers devour it? Do not the Romans rule the country? And indeed these impious people hated thee, and did saw thee asunder, and they crucified Christ. Thou art dead in the world, but thou livest in Christ." (Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 30)

“But why, O prophet, tell us, and for what reason, was the temple made desolate? Was it on account of that ancient fabrication of the calf? Was it on account of the idolatry of the people? Was it for the blood of the prophets? Was it for the adultery and fornication of Israel? By no means, he says; for in all these transgressions they always found pardon open to them, and benignity; but it was because they killed the Son of their Benefactor, for He is coeternal with the Father. Whence He saith, "Father, let their temple be made desolate; for they have persecuted Him whom Thou didst of Thine own will smite for the salvation of the world;" that is, they have persecuted me with a violent and unjust death, "and they have added to the pain of my wounds." In former time, as the Lover of man, I had pain on account of the straying of the Gentiles; but to this pain they have added another, by going also themselves astray. Wherefore "add iniquity to their iniquity, and tribulation to tribulation, and let them not enter into Thy righteousness," that is, into Thy kingdom; but "let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous," that is, with their holy fathers and patriarchs.” (Expository Treatise Against the Jews, 6-7)

As with all church fathers so far, Hippolytus was a replacement theologian.

“For this reason, even up to our day, though they see the boundaries (of their country), and go round about them, they stand afar off. And therefore have they no longer king or high priest or prophet, nor even scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees among them. He does not, however, say that they are to be cut off; wherefore their race still subsists, and the succession of their children is continued. For they have not been cut off nor consumed from among men--but they are and exist still--yet only as those who have been rejected and cast down from the honour of which of old they were deemed worthy by God. But again, "Scatter them," he says. "by Thy power;" which word has also come to pass. For they are scattered throughout the whole earth, in servitude everywhere, and engaging in the lowest and most servile occupations, and doing any unseemly work for hunger's sake.

For if they were destroyed from among men, and remained nowhere among the living, they could not see my people, he means, nor know my Church in its prosperity. Therefore "scatter" them everywhere on earth, where my Church is to be established, in order that when they see the Church rounded by me, they may be roused to emulate it in piety. And these things did the Saviour also ask on their behalf." (Doubtful Fragments - On Psalm lix. 11. Concerning the Jews.)

The works of Hippolytus show a mixed eschatological bag or Premillennialism, with a heavy dose of both Historicism and Preterism. However, he was clearly wrong is the timing of Christ’s return.


JaredMithrandir said...

"The set date for Christ’s advent, as well as an absence of world kingdom between the Rome and Christ’s Advent, make the writings of Hippolytus to be incompatible with modern premillennialism."

His view is compatibly perfectly with Post-Tribulaitonism, as close to "Modern" post Tribulaitonism as someone living in his day could be.

Your admitting Hipolytus was Premillenial and Futurist undemriens your convoluted argument about Irenaus. All Hipolytus did was expand on what his mentor irenaus believed.

JaredMithrandir said...

As far as his date being wrong. If one accept all of his Logic but his Creation date, which among other things was probably wrong because of Septuagint Favoring.

A Masoretic Text based dating usually points to our time. Ussher had the year 6000 in 1997. But if if Ussher was wrong only on how to line up Abraham's birth with Terah's. That gives us 2057.

I would not sate any of those dates however. Premillenism does not require 6000 years alignment.

I'll say this, given what Hiuppoytus thought would happen, like Rome needing to fall first. The generation approaching 530 could have felt like he was being proven right.