Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Inconclusive Eschatology of Novatian [A.D. 250]

Novatian was a Roman Presbyter in the middle of the Third Century. Due to his disagreements with Cornelius, he is often referred to as the “anti-pope” or “the first Puritan”. After careful reading of his treatise on the Trinity, I have been unable to discover anything of significance in terms of Eschatology. Novatian did mention the resurrection of the righteous, and in another place the judgment of the wicked, but he does not give us any chronology concerning these events.

“And that He was raised again in the same bodily substance in which He died, is proved by the wounds of that very body, and thus He showed the laws of our resurrection in His flesh, in that He restored the same body in His resurrection which He had from us. For a law of resurrection is established, in that Christ is raised up in the substance of the body as an example for the rest; because, when it is written that “flesh and blood do not inherit the kingdom of God,” (1 Corinthians 15:50) it is not the substance of the flesh that is condemned, which was built up by the divine hands that it should not perish, but only the guilt of the flesh is rightly rebuked, which by the voluntary daring of man rebelled against the claims of divine law. Because in baptism and in the dissolution of death the flesh is raised up and returns to salvation, by being recalled to the condition of innocency when the mortality of guilt is put away.” (Chap. X. Argument. — That Jesus Christ Is the Son of God and Truly Man, as Opposed to the Fancies of Heretics, Who Deny That He Took upon Him True Flesh.)

In his work, On Jewish Meats, we can see that Novatian separates true believers from “Jews and Heretics”, thus agreeing unanimously with the other church fathers that Judaists are outside any Covenant with God.

“I urge you on, — that, treading under foot and rejecting as welt the sacrilegious calumnies of heretics as also the idle fables of Jews, you may hold the sole word3 and teaching of Christ, so as worthily to claim for yourselves the authority of His name. But how perverse are the Jews, and remote from the understanding of their law, I have fully shown, as I believe, in two former letters,4 wherein it was absolutely proved that they are ignorant of what is the true circumcision, and what the true Sabbath; and their ever increasing blindness is confuted in this present epistle, wherein I have briefly discoursed concerning their meats, because that in them they consider that they only are holy, and that all others are defiled.” (On Jewish Meats, Chapter I)

“For of those creatures which divide the foot into two hoofs the walk is always vigorous; the tendency to slip of one part of the hoof being sustained by the firmness of the other, and so retained in the substantial footstep. Thus they who do neither are unclean, whose walk is neither firm in virtues; nor do they digest the food of the divine precepts after the manner of that chewing of the cud. And they, too, who do one of these things are not themselves clean either, inasmuch as they are maimed of the other, and not perfect in both. And these are they who do both, as believers, and are clean; or one of the two, as Jews and heretics, and are blemished; or neither, as the Gentiles, and are consequently unclean.” (On Jewish Meats, Chapter III)

Novatian makes no mention of a millennium, but his writings were mainly for the purpose of defending the doctrine of the Trinity against heretics such as the Sabellians. Therefore, it is impossible to draw any conclusion on the subject of eschatology from the writings of Novatian, other than Replacement Theology.