The Antichrist and the "trewe men": Lollard apocalypticism in late medieval and Early Modern England.
AuthorBostick, Curtis Van.
Committee ChairOberman, Heiko A.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe outpouring of apocalyptic thought in the late sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries in England has been acknowledged, the sources of these ideas have not been explored sufficiently. The aim of this study is to redress that imbalance by showing the pervasiveness of fear aroused by the Antichrist and the sense of imminent judgment that affected mentalities of the Later Middle Ages and Reformation. Particularly in the case of the Lollards, one finds a heightened sense of the impending "Day of the Lord" because they perceived that the principal foe of Christ, the horrific Antichrist, had seized the Holy See of the established church; hence, Christ must soon appear to vanquish his enemy. The identification of the papacy as the dreaded Antichrist was more than a rhetorical ploy used by the Lollards to cast aspersions on their opponent. They corroborated the historical record of the papacy's rise to power with the absolute standard of the 'law of Christ'. Biblical prophecies of the Antichrist's tactics were confirmed by their experiences before episcopal commissions--at times concluded by death at the stake. In homes and in secret gathering places, they communicated the revolutionary vision that the Antichrist was a 'corporate' entity, not a super-human megalomaniac nor a mere symbol of evil; indeed, the 'Abomination of Desolation' reigned from within the church. Denouncing the Roman church as the " sinagogue of Satan", they resisted the hegemonic control stealthily acquired by the Antichrist, propagated through church law and papal accretions of dogma. They exposed the machinations of the Beast attempting to gain absolute control over secular authorities as well. Thus, the Lollards abrogated the authority claimed by the medieval church as they formed their own concept of church and community. A reform movement, initiated from the 'ivory tower' of Oxford University, penetrated into the fields, villages and towns of late medieval and Reformation England. The measure of its impact is reflected in the concerted effort of church and crown to eradicate Lollardy and in its legacy--that harried Elizabeth I, while it motivated Oliver Cromwell.