I have two items for my write-up today on The Cambridge History of Christianity: Origins to Constantine.
1. A while back, I wrote a post entitled Eusebius and Arianism, in which I critiqued the Da Vinci Code,
particularly its claim that the early Christians believed that Jesus
was a mere human being who married Mary Magdalene, but that this view
was suppressed at the Council of Nicaea by Christians who wanted to
proclaim that Jesus was divine. I wrote:
"Against the Da Vinci Code
is the fact that a belief in Jesus' divine status was widespread among
Christians. Even Arius thought that Jesus was more than a mere mortal,
since he portrayed him as the very logos who created the
cosmos. The debate at Nicaea and Chalcedon was not over whether Jesus
was divine or a mere mortal, but rather over how to conceptualize Jesus'
The Nicaea Council met in the fourth century.
But it turns out that there was a Christological controversy way before
then, in the second-third centuries C.E. According to Frances
Young, Eusebius discusses a controversy that occurred in the time when
Victor was bishop of Rome (193-202). There were people who were
claiming that Jesus was merely a human savior. They held that this was
the belief of earlier generations of Christians going back to the time
of the apostles, but that "it had been perverted in their own day"
(Young's words on page 457). Detractors countered, however, that
Scripture, Justin, Clement, Irenaeus, Melito, and liturgical
compositions depict Christ as God. (See here
for more information.) So there was debate about whether Christ was
divine or human long before the Nicaea Council. At the same time, my
impression is that the view that Christ was merely human was not
suppressed at the Nicaea Council, for what was debated there was whether
or not the pre-existent Word that became Jesus Christ was created or
eternally begotten. In that case, both sides thought that Christ was
more than a human being.
2. On page 531, Adolf Martin Ritter says
about Hippolytus (second-third centuries C.E.): "Hippolytus intensifies
the apocalyptic point of view by admitting that 'Rome' is
indeed the restraining power of 2 Thessalonians 2:6, 7...but it is also
the precursor of the Satanic regime which will finally be destroyed by
Believers in a pre-tribulational rapture
appeal to II Thessalonians 2:6-7. Many of them maintain that the force
that is restraining the rise of the Antichrist is the Holy Spirit, but
that the Holy Spirit will be gone from the earth once believers (the
ones who have the Holy Spirit inside of them) are raptured to heaven.
Somehow, there will be people left behind in the rapture who will then
be able to believe in Jesus Christ, apart from the Holy Spirit.
How this will occur, in this scenario, I'm not entirely sure. One
claim I've heard is that the Tribulation Saints will be like believers
of God in the Old Testament. But didn't the Old Testament saints have
the Holy Spirit, too, since David in Psalm 51 asks God not to take the
Holy Spirit from him?
It was interested to read how one
other Christian interpreter, Hippolytus, approached II Thessalonians
2:6-7. Essentially, he said that the Roman empire was restraining the
rise of the Antichrist. It's interesting that Hippolytus did
not equate the Antichrist with Rome, when the Book of Revelation appears
to equate the Beast with the Roman empire.
John Gill interprets
II Thessalonians 2:6 in a manner that overlaps with both pre-trib views
(though Gill was not pre-trib) and those of Hippolytus (see here).
Gill, like a lot of Protestants in the past, believes that the
Antichrist is the pope (which is not my belief, but I'm simply saying
what Gill thinks). And what was hindering the rise of the pope?
According to Gill, it was the spread of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit, and
the Roman emperors. Once these were lessened or out of the way, Gill contends, there
was a clear path to the religious corruption that the Antichrist
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