Chiliasm In The Early Church Until Nicea: Apologists -- By: Richard J. Perhai

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 16:2 (Fall 2012)
Article: Chiliasm In The Early Church Until Nicea: Apologists
Author: Richard J. Perhai

Chiliasm In The Early Church Until Nicea: Apologists

Rick Perhai

Academic Dean
Kiev Theological Seminary
Kiev, Ukraine


As the Christian church grew in the second century, so did the interaction between believers and others in the Roman Empire. With growing persecutions and especially after the Bar-Kokhba revolt, Christians found it necessary to defend their religion as both law abiding, non-pagan, and clearly distinct from Judaism. Historians generally place the age of the apologists between the Bar-Kokhba revolt (c. 132) and about 230.1 Persecutions which started during the late apostolic era continued in the apologists’ era. Crutchfield notes that the apologists’ three objectives included countering false and malicious statement circulating about the church; exposing absurdities and immoralities in paganism in contrast to Christianity; and convincing detractors of the absolute truth of Christianity versus the half-truths of paganism.2

In order to limit the scope of this article and because the following apologists generally are given short shrift as relates to their eschatology, the writings of only seven apologists will be analyzed in this paper.3 These include the millenarian views of Justin Martyr, Melito of Sardis, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Irenaeus, Tertullian (and the Montanists with him).4

Justin Martyr (C. 100–165)

Considered by some to be the most significant of the apologists,5 Justin wrote two Apologies and a Dialogue with Trypho between 155 and 165.6 Most who analyze his millennial views center on his Dialogue with Trypho. Trypho was a Jew with whom Justin debates to prove the superiority of Christianity over Judaism.7 He refers to the second advent and renewal of Jerusalem in First Apology 118 and especially in Dialogue 113:

But why do you not similarly investigate the reason why the name of Oshea the son of Nave (Nun), which his father gave him, was changed to Jesus (Joshua)? But since not only was his name altered, but he was also appointed successor to Moses, being the only one of his contemporaries who came out from Egypt,...

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