Revelation’s Beast is the Church of the Roman Empire.

The ultimate purpose of this series is to identify the Mark of the Beast. The purpose of the current article is to identify the Beast, namely, the beast that comes out of the Sea (Rev 13:1). The previous article has shown that the Sea Beast is the same as the evil 11th horn of the fourth animal in Daniel 7. (See here) The current article identifies it more specifically.  This article assumes that the articles discussing Daniel 7 and Revelation 13:1-4 have been read. See the list of articles below.

The current article identifies the Sea Beast as the Roman Church, which is the Church of the Roman Empire. To explain:

which that Empire thereafter has protected for several centuries, and which was the remnant of that empire after it had fragmented into many parts. One specific manifestation of that ‘Roman Church’ was the church of the Middle Ages, which continued the principles of the Roman Empire, killing countless numbers of God’s people. That church no longer exists as one single organization but its principles and practices are found in many denominations.

SUMMARY

The Beast identified from Daniel 7

The only reason that Daniel 7 mentions the four animals and the other ten horns is to allow us to identify that evil 11th horn. Daniel 7 lists several specific characteristics of this horn. This section considers five of them and, for the reasons below, identifies it as the Church of the Roman Empire:

The 11th Horn Church of the Roman Empire
1 Grew out of the Roman Empire. Was one of the divisions into which the Roman Empire fragmented.
2 Blasphemes God by attempting “to make alterations in times and in law.” Blasphemes God with doctrines and practices that insult God.
3 Persecutes God’s true people. Engaged in brutal forms of coercion, such as the Inquisition, seeking to compel or exterminate the people who resisted its practices and doctrines.
4 Uprooted three of the others as it came up. In the sixth century, Justinian uprooted three of the Arian Christian nations that previously dominated the ‘Roman Church’.
5 “Was larger in appearance than its associates.” During the High Middle Ages, the church became dominant over the other kingdoms that arose from the Roman Empire.

Since Revelation’s Beast is the 11th horn of Daniel 7, and since that horn symbolizes ‘the Roman Church’, Revelation’s Beast symbolizes the state religion of the Roman Empire.

The Beast identified from Revelation 13

The previous section identified the Sea Beast by identifying Daniel’s evil horn. The current section identifies it based on what Revelation 13 itself says about it.

The fatal wound and resurrection of the Sea Beast suggest that this world power would have a period of great authority for “42 months,” followed by a period of death before its ‘resurrection’. This may be applied as follows to the ‘Roman Church’:

1. The 42 months represent the many centuries during the Middle Ages when it massacred people who did not accept its blaspheming doctrines and practices.

2. Its authority received a fatal wound through religious liberty and the separation of church and state in the time of the French Revolution.

3. In the end-time, the wound will be healed (Rev 13:3) when an image of the beast (a copy of the system during the Middle Ages) will be set up which will again kill its opponents.

A further indication – that the beast is the ‘church’ – is that the Sea Beast is not just a political power; it is also a religious power, for it “blaspheme His name and His tabernacle“and “make war with the saints.”

More specifically, the Sea Beast is a Christian organization, for it is a deliberate counterfeit of Jesus Christ. Like Jesus Christ, it:

      • Receives its authority,
      • Looks like one from which it receives its authority, and
      • Has a ministry that lasts three and a half years, followed by a death and a resurrection.

Other indications that the Sea Beast is a Christian organization are:

      • It specifically persecutes God’s people. Only a Christian organization is able to do that.
      • It uses a lamb-like beast as its agent. Revelation refers 28 times to Jesus as a lamb.
      • The Bible predicts in various places that the church would become corrupted.

The End-time Antichrist

The Sea Beast is not ‘personally’ involved in the end-time. Just like it received its authority from the Dragon (Rev 13:2), which symbolizes the Roman Empire, the Sea Beast gives its authority to its end-time assistant; the Beast from the Earth (Rev 13:12). The Earth Beast then convinces the people of the world to make an Image of the Sea Beast (Rev 13:14), which is an end-time organization in the likeness of the Sea Beast. In other words, it is an end-time organization that functions on the principles of the church in the Middle Ages. It is this ‘Image’ that persecutes and kills God’s end-time people (Rev 13:15).

The religious oppression and intolerance of the Protestant Orthodoxy (in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) were disturbingly similar to the Church in the High Middle Ages. The Holocaust and similar more recent religious cruelties make it clear that today’s version of institutional Christianity is not significantly improved over that of the Middle Ages. The end-time Antichrist is not any of the specific organizations that exist today, but an application of the principles of the church of the Middle Ages. Whenever we see persecution and killing of people for their religious convictions, whatever form that persecution takes, then we must know that the principles of the Roman Empire are at work, for God never uses force.

– END OF SUMMARY – 


PREVIOUS CONCLUSIONS

The Beast is the remnant of the Roman Empire.

Daniel 7

In Daniel 7, ten horns grow out of the fourth animal. After them, a little horn comes up that becomes larger than the rest. This 11th horn is the Antichrist because, different from the others, it explicitly opposes God. It blasphemes the Most High and persecutes His people (Dan 7:8, 24-25).

For clarity, this article reserves the term “Beast” for the Beast in Revelation 13:1 and refers to the creatures of Daniel 7 as animals.

Revelation 13

In Revelation 13, a Beast comes up from the Sea and receives its authority, throne, and power from a Dragon (Rev 13:1-2). A previous article identified the Dragon as the fourth animal in Daniel 7, which has been identified as the Roman Empire. A further article has identified the Sea Beast as the 11th horn growing out of that fourth animal. Therefore:

Firstly, since the Sea Beast receives its authority from the Dragon, and since the Dragon symbolizes the Roman Empire, the Sea Beast receives its authority from the Roman Empire.

Secondly, since the Sea Beast is one of the horns that grow out of Daniel’s fourth animal, it is one of the kingdoms into which the Roman Empire fragmented about 500 years after Christ.

Thirdly, more specifically, since the Sea Beast is Daniel’s evil 11th horn, it is the remaining fragment of the Roman Empire after it has already fragmented into 10 parts.

THE ROMAN CHURCH

To identify the Sea Beast more specifically, this section identifies the Horn of Daniel 7, and therefore the Sea Beast, as the Church of the Roman Empire, referred to here as the Roman Church but not referring to any specific present-day organization. This identification is based on the marks of identity found in the book of Daniel: 

1. It is a fragment of the Roman Empire.

Firstly, as stated above, the evil horn grew out of the Roman Empire. The church, similarly, was one of the divisions into which the Roman Empire fragmented:

A major task of the Roman Emperors was to ensure the unity of the Empire, which consisted of a multitude of nations. The sword was one means of maintaining unity but religion was another. The emperors, therefore, always governed religion. They decided which religions were legal and they managed the legal religions closely.

Therefore, after Constantine legalized Christianity in the year 313, church and state became one. The modern concept of a distinction between church and state did not exist. The church became a department of government, with the emperor as the real head of the church 1“Simonetti remarks that the Emperor was in fact the head of the church.” Hanson RPC, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381. 1988, p849 and the ultimate authority in disputes about church doctrine, 2“If we ask the question, what was considered to constitute the ultimate authority in doctrine during the period reviewed in these pages, there can be only one answer. The will of the Emperor was the final authority.” Hanson RPC, p849 much like the king of England is still today the head of the Church of England. The so-called “ecumenical councils of the fourth century were the means by which the emperors governed the empire. 3“The general council was the very invention and creation of the Emperor. General councils, or councils aspiring to be general, were the children of imperial policy and the Emperor was expected to dominate and control them.” Hanson RPC, page 855

In the year 380, Emperor Theodosius made the Trinitarian version of Christianity, which, at the time, was a minority in the Church, the only legal religion in the Empire and ruthlessly persecuted all opposition. In this way, Trinitarian Christianity became the State Religion of the Roman Empire, referred to here as the ‘Roman Church’.

In the fifth century, Germanic tribes, which had migrated into the territory of the Roman Empire over the previous century or more, gained control over the Western Empire and it between themselves. Although these tribes were so-called ‘Arian’ and, in theory, should opposed the Trinitarian ‘Roman Church’, the ‘Roman Church’ flourished in the West because these Germanic people regarded themselves as part of the Roman Empire and respected the Roman Church as part of that empire. (See – Fifth Century) The Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire was the guardian of the ‘Roman Church’ and these Germanic tribes sought his approval.

In the sixth century, the Eastern Emperor Justinian, seeking to free the ‘Roman Church’ in the West from Arian domination, sent troops that significantly weakened the Germanic tribes in the West. Over the subsequent two centuries, the Eastern Roman emperors, reigning from Constantinople, continued to rule the nations in the West THROUGH the ‘Roman Church’. This period is known as the Byzantine Papacy. The ‘Roman Church’ functioned clearly as an important part of the Roman Empire. See – Byzantine Papacy.

2. It blasphemes and persecutes.

The horn of Daniel 7 will blaspheme God and persecute His people. These two things are related: It blasphemes God by disregarding God’s Law and through teachings and practices that insult God. God’s true people protest and refuse to submit to its law. Consequently, it persecutes them. In support of this, note the parallelism in Daniel 7:25:

Blaspheme Persecute
He will speak out against the Most High  and wear down the saints of the Highest One
and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.

According to the column on the left, the horn “will speak out against the Most High” by attempting “to make alterations in times and in law.” According to the column on the right, the consequence will be that God’s true people will protest, with the result that the horn will persecute them.

Blaspheme – The church in Rome blasphemed God by developing doctrines and practices that insult God. It gradually deviated from biblical truth in multiple areas, for example, deviations in Christology eventually resulting in Mariology. Other examples include false teachings concerning salvation and indulgences, confession, and the veneration of people declared to be saints.

Persecute – “He will … wear down the saints of the Highest One” (Dan 7:25). As a clear mark of its identity, the church of the Middle Ages engaged in brutal forms of coercion, such as the Inquisition, seeking to compel or exterminate the true people of God who dared to stand up against these evil innovations. It killed and massacred God’s people. For example, see the massacres of the Waldensians. In so doing it had drifted far from the spirit of Jesus, as recognized by such medieval “saints” as Francis of Assisi, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Eberhard of Salzburg.

Other Identifications

The little horn uprooted three of the others as it came up (Dan 7:8; 20, 24). In the sixth century, Justinian uprooted three of the Arian Christian nations that previously dominated the Church in Rome. This allowed the papacy to become a dominant force in the territory of the previous Western Roman Empire.

The evil horn “was larger in appearance than its associates” (Dan 7:20). During the High Middle Ages, the church became dominant over the other kingdoms that arose out of the Roman Empire.

In this section, we argued that the dominant horn of Daniel 7 is the church of the Middle Ages. We only discussed four indicators:

      • Fragment of the Roman Empire;
      • Blasphemy & Persecution;
      • Uprooted three; and
      • Larger than the others.

A series of articles is available on this website that discusses the history of the church. Some of these articles have been referenced above. That series discusses all marks of identity provided in Daniel 7 to identify the church of Rome as the only historical entity that fits both the timing and the characteristics of the 11th horn of Daniel 7.

Evidence from Revelation

The previous section discussed evidence from Daniel 7. The current section identifies the beast as the church based on marks of identity in Revelation 13 itself:

1. 42 Months, followed by Death and Resurrection

The death and resurrection of the beast suggest that the world power, of which the beast is a symbol, would have a period of great authority for “42 months,” followed by a period of death (the fatal wound – Rev 13:5) before its ‘resurrection’ (“his fatal wound was healed” – 13:5). Then the beast would play a major role in the final conflict in the history of this world.

The nature of Revelation, with things such as beasts with seven heads and ten horns, that are worshiped by the people of the world, implies that time indications are also symbolic. For example, the ten horns are ten kings that reign “for one hour” (Rev 17:12). This must be symbolic for a much longer period than one literal hour, but still a short period; perhaps only some months. Compared to one literal hour, 42 literal months (3½ years) is a very, very long time.

It is, therefore, quite possible that the 42 months represent the many centuries during which the mainstream church of the Middle Ages in the most horrendous ways massacred people who did not accept its blaspheming doctrines and practices.

The authority of the church received a fatal wound through religious liberty in the time of Napoleon and the French revolution. Today, the church is not able to kill God’s people as it did during the Middle Ages. The mainstream church, therefore, also had a long period of dominance, followed by a period of death; the fatal wound.

Revelation predicts that, in the end-time, an image of the beast (a copy of the system during the Middle Ages) will be set up which will again kill its opponents.

2. Religious Power

The beast is not just a political power like ancient Babylon and Rome but, like the church of the Middle Ages, it is also a religious power, for it “blaspheme His name and His tabernacle“ (Rev 13:6) and “make war with the saints” (Rev 13:7).

3. Christian Organization

More specifically, the beast, like the church of the Middle Ages, is a Christian organization. Firstly, it is a deliberate counterfeit of Jesus Christ:

It looks like the dragon because it has the same number of heads and horns and gets its authority from the dragon (Rev 13:2). This mirrors the relationship of Jesus with His Father because Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9) and because the Father has given Jesus “all authority … in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18).

Like Jesus, the beast has a ministry that lasts three and a half years, followed by a death and a resurrection.

Secondly, the beast specifically persecutes God’s people. That only a Christian organization is able to do, for God’s people are identified by their protest against unbiblical doctrines and practices in the church.

Thirdly, the beast works with a lamb-like beast (Rev 13:11-12). Revelation refers 28 times to Jesus as a lamb. This is the only instance in Revelation where “lamb” does not refer to Jesus. The lamb-like beast looks like Jesus but “spoke as a dragon” (Rev 13:11).

The beast is something dragon-like that has a Christian face! It names Jesus as its reason for existence, yet its actions serve the dragon!

Other Bible Evidence

Revelation is not alone in such a prediction. There are numerous other texts in the New Testament that forecast a similar future for the church, though in less dramatic terms. For example:

“The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim 4:1; cf. Acts 20:28-31; 2 Tim 3:1-5; 1 John 2:18-19).

In summary, so far, the main sections of this article have argued as follows:

        1. Revelation’s beast and daniel’s horn are two different symbols for the same world power – the Antichrist.
        2. That horn is the church of the Middle Ages. Therefore the beast is the same.
        3. Revelation itself identified the beast as a Christian organization.
        4. Various other Bible texts predict that the church would become corrupted.

The End-time Antichrist

Given that the beast represents the church of the Middle Ages, the question in this section is about the identity of the Antichrist in the end-time war.

Each beast is a head.

To discuss the seventh head, we first need to review the phases of the beast. As previously argued, each beast is one of the heads (phases) of the beast-power. According to the article on the Seven Heads:

      • The first four heads are the four beasts of Daniel 7. The fourth beast is the Roman Empire, represented in Revelation 12:3 as a dragon.
      • The last three heads are the three phases of the beast (the 11th horn); before, during, and after the fatal wound.

In other words:

      • Head 4 is the dragon in Rev 12:3, representing the Roman Empire.
      • Head 5 is the beast from the sea in Rev 13:1; another symbol for Daniel’s evil horn – the Antichrist.
      • Head 6 is the scarlet beast in Rev 17:3, which is in prison (the Abyss – Rev 17:8). This is the fatal wound (Rev 13:3).
      • Head 7 is the beast after its resurrection.

Indications of Dissimilarity

The beast, therefore, is the Antichrist in both the fifth and seventh phases, but that does not mean that the same organizations will be involved in both phases. For example, in Revelation 12, the dragon symbolizes Satan’s forces in different forms at different times:

      • At the time of Christ (Rev 12:3);
      • In the war in heaven (Rev 12:7);
      • During the Middle Ages (Rev 12:14) and
      • In the end-time war (Rev 12:17).

In the same way, the beast is a symbol for Satan’s forces in different forms at different times. Just like the Babylonian Empire was the first of the seven heads but very different from the church of the Middle Ages, the final phase (head) of the beast, when the fatal wound is healed, may again be very different from the church of the Middle Ages. We should, therefore, not necessarily expect the same organizations to be involved in the end-time crisis. That beast of the fifth phase was the mainstream church of the Middle Ages does not mean that beast of the seventh phase is the Catholic Church.

Indications of Similarity

On the other hand, Daniel and Revelation indicate a significant continuity between the Middle Ages and the end-time, because:

      • The evil horn of Daniel 7 is the Antichrist in both eras, and
      • In the end-time war:
        • The sea beast will be resurrected, and
        • An “image” of the beast will be set up (Rev 13:14).

The question then, given these indications of similarity and dissimilarity, is how to define the beast.

Mainstream Church of Christendom

History teaches that the mainstream church of Christendom in the Middle Ages brutally persecuted and executed believers who dared to stand up to its doctrines and practices, but the mainstream churches of our day will act similarly. The religious oppression and intolerance of the Protestant Orthodoxy (in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) were disturbingly similar. For example; the role which Calvin played in the murder of Michael Servetus. Bosnia, Rwanda, and the Holocaust make it clear that today’s version of institutional Christianity is not significantly improved over that of the Middle Ages.

To make provision for both the indications of similarity and dissimilarity, I propose that we define the beast as the mainstream church of Christendom. That definition would allow it to be represented by different organizations at different times.

God never uses force.

As we continue to read Revelation 13, we will see further indications of the form which the beast will assume during the final crisis of this world’s history. However, whenever we see persecution and killing of people for their religious convictions, then we must know that the spirit of Satan is at work, for God never uses force. If God used forced, He would not have allowed evil to develop. But He created us with the wonderful ability to make our own choices. He protects our freedom, for if He would override our freedom to choose against Him, He would be destroying the miracle which He has created.

God knows the future.

Is it also not wonderful to be reassured that God know the future? The prophecies of Daniel and Revelation were given thousands of years ago and, according to the interpretation above, correctly predicted events over these centuries. But, for that reason, God shrouded these predictions in symbolic language so that only people that want to believe, will believe. The others will hear but not hear, see but not see”

“None of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand” (Dan 12:10).

Final Conclusions

The beast of Revelation is the mainstream church of Christendom. This is based on the following:

 – The beast of Revelation is another symbol for the world power (the Antichrist) that is symbolized by the evil horn in the Book of Daniel.
 – The evil horn of Daniel is the church of the Middle Ages.
 – Consequently the beast in Revelation is a symbol for the church of the Middle Ages.

Further evidence of this is that the description of the beast in Revelation 13 identifies it as the church; both during the Middle Ages and in the end-time (after the fatal wound has been healed).

More specifically, the description of the beast in Revelation 13 identifies it as a Christian organization.

Consequently, the beast symbolizes the Antichrist in both the Middle Ages and in the end-time, but different organizations may be involved in the two phases. In the end-time, the beast could take the form of the Protestant Orthodoxy.

Other Articles

FOOTNOTES

  • 1
    “Simonetti remarks that the Emperor was in fact the head of the church.” Hanson RPC, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381. 1988, p849
  • 2
    “If we ask the question, what was considered to constitute the ultimate authority in doctrine during the period reviewed in these pages, there can be only one answer. The will of the Emperor was the final authority.” Hanson RPC, p849
  • 3
    “The general council was the very invention and creation of the Emperor. General councils, or councils aspiring to be general, were the children of imperial policy and the Emperor was expected to dominate and control them.” Hanson RPC, page 855

Justinian and the Byzantine Papacy made an end to Arianism.

Purpose

JUSTINIAN THE GREAT

This article series has a dual purpose:

Firstly, it shows that the decision to adopt the Trinity doctrine was not taken by Councils but by the Roman Emperors; particularly Constantine, Theodosius, and Justinian. 

Secondly, it identifies the 11th horn of Daniel 7. After the fourth beast in Daniel 7 has already fragmented into many kingdoms, an 11th horn grows out of that beast (Dan 7:7, 24). That horn becomes God’s all-time great adversary (Dan 7:25) and is destroyed only when Christ returns (Dan 7:9-14). A comparison of the beasts of Daniel 7 and 8 identifies the fourth beast as the Roman Empire. Since the current article series also explains the history of the fall of the Roman Empire, it also identifies that 11th horn.

Summary of this article

Fall of the Western Roman Empire

In the fifth century, the Germanic people, who have migrated into the Western Roman Empire over the previous century or more, became a dominant force within the Western Roman Empire due to their large numbers and military supremacy. They revolted against the severe conditions under which they were allowed to remain in the Empire, sacked Rome twice, and deposed the last Roman Emperor. Through wars, they divided up the territory of the Western Empire into Germanic kingdoms. However, these nations at least pretended to function as part of the Roman Empire—under the governance of the Emperor in Constantinople.

Although they were Arian Christians, they allowed the Roman peoples and the Roman Church to remain in their territories. This is one indication of the desire of these immigrants to remain part of the Roman Empire.

The Roman Church had to depend on the Arian nations for physical protection. But still, the Roman Church managed to grow in strength, partly due to its central and superior organization and administration and expertise in statecraft from years of being part of the Roman Government in the fourth century.

Unity of Church and State

Justinian I was the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire (also called the Byzantine Empire) from 527 to 565. 

It is important to understand that separation of Church and State did not exist at that time. In the view of the time, the Christian Roman Emperor was regarded as God’s agent on earth. The supreme bishops of the Empire – the spiritual heads of the Christian world – acted in harmony with him. Church and State, therefore, were one. Justinian believed that “he had the right and duty of regulating by his laws the minutest details of worship and discipline.”

His authority was not limited to the church in the east. In Justinian’s view, the Church included the Church in Rome and he, as emperor, had the right and duty to also protect and regulate the Church in Rome. 

The Imperial conviction always was that the unity of the Empire presupposes the unity of faith. Emperor Justinian protected the ‘purity’ of the faith by persecuting and killing ‘heretics’.

Delivered the Papacy from Arian domination.

After the Germanic peoples, in the fifth century, divided the territory of the Western Empire between them, the Church in Rome was subject to their laws and customs. The Roman Church was unable to dominate or to compel the population in Europe to comply with its doctrines.

As a keen supporter of the Nicene church in Rome, Justinian considered it his divine duty to restore the Roman Empire to its ancient boundaries and to liberate the church in Rome from Arian domination. He sent troops to combat the Arian nations in the west:

      • They dispersed the Vandals of North Africa to the fringes of the empire.
      • Following their final defeat at the Battle of Mons Lactarius in 553, the Ostrogoths went back north and (re)settled in South Austria.
      • Justinian’s troops recovered a small strip of land along the Mediterranean coast which formed a barrier between the Visigoths and Rome.

It is remarkable that Justinian attacked the Christian nations in the west, but was willing to negotiate a truce with the pagan nations to his east. As it turned out, in later years, these pagan nations later became Muslim countries and conquered most of the previous territory of the Eastern Empire.

Byzantine Papacy

Justinian’s wars conquered the Italian peninsula and delivered the church in Rome from Arian domination. This commenced the period of about two centuries which is known today as the Byzantine Papacy because the Byzantine monarch claimed for himself the right to approve the appointment of the bishop of Rome.

On the one hand, the Roman Church was now once again subject to the authority of the Roman (Byzantine) Emperor. On the other hand, the Nicene Church (the Byzantine Papacy), with the protection and status it received from the Byzantine Empire, became a powerful social and political institution in Europe. 

This relationship also allowed the Byzantine Empire, through the Byzantine Papacy, a certain level of control over the Germanic nations in the West. To some extent, the Roman Empire was reunited.

The Germanic tribes, consequently, during the Byzantine Papacy, abandoned Arianism in favor of Catholicism. By the 8th century, Arianism had ceased to be the mainstream belief of the Germanic people as the tribal rulers gradually came to adopt Nicene orthodoxy.

Conclusions

Firstly, this article shows how the Trinity Doctrine was advanced by the military might of the Roman Empire. If Justinian, followed by the Byzantine Papacy, did not wipe out Arianism in the territory of the Western Empire, Arianism might still have dominated the church today. It is not possible to deny the decisive influence which emperors such as Constantine, Constantius, Valens, Theodosius, and Justinian had on the church’s acceptance of the Trinity doctrine.

Secondly, this article helps us to identify the little horn of Daniel 7 as the Nicene Church. As predicted in Daniel 7:

    • The Roman Empire was divided into MANY FRAGMENTS (symbolically, the 10 horns),
    • The 11th horn comes into existence AFTER the Roman Empire has already been fragmented into many kingdoms (horns), and
    • It UPROOTED THREE of the other horns as it came up; the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and the Vandals.

– END OF SUMMARY –

Fall of the Western Roman Empire

Barbarians divided the territory of Western Rome

Arian and Chalcedonian kingdoms in 495
Arian and Chalcedonian kingdoms in 495

In the fifth century, the Germanic people, who have migrated into the Western Roman Empire over a century or more, became a dominant force within the Western Roman Empire due to their large numbers and military supremacy. They revolted against the severe conditions under which they were allowed to remain in the Empire, sacked Rome twice, and deposed the last Roman Emperor. Through wars, they divided up the territory of the Western Empire into Germanic kingdoms. However, these nations continued to function as part of the Roman Empire—under the governance of the Emperor in Constantinople.

Tolerated the Roman Church

There are at least two reasons why the Germanic peoples might have made an end to the Roman Church (the Church in Rome):

Firstly, the Roman Church was part of the Roman government. In the Roman Empire, there was no separation of church and state. The church was a department of government. In practice, the bishop of the Church in Rome was accountable to the Roman Emperor.

Secondly, the Germanic peoples were Arian Christians because they became Christians during the 50 years in the fourth century when the Roman Church was Arian (Fourth Century Arian Period). These Germanic peoples included the Ostrogoths, the Visigoths of Spain, and the Vandals in North Africa.

Despite these facts, the Arian nations allowed the Roman peoples and the Roman Church to remain in their territories. This is one indication of the desire of these immigrants to remain part of the Roman Empire.

The Roman Church grew in strength.

After the Western Roman Empire was divided up into these kingdoms, the Roman Church had to depend on the Arian nations for physical protection. But the Roman Church managed to grow in strength. The reasons include the following:

1. Previously, the Emperor appointed the bishop of Rome and the bishop was subordinate to the Roman Emperor. Now, the church had more independence.

2. The church’s central and superior organization and administration and expertise in statecraft from years of being part of the Roman Government allowed it to stand out among the various Germanic nations that had no central political control.

3. The Germanic nations desired to remain part of the Empire. As the official religion of the Empire, the church had a certain status.

Unity of Church and State

Justinian I is traditionally known as Justinian the Great. He was the Eastern Roman emperor from 527 to 565. He ruled from Constantinople; the capital of the empire. Due to his religious preferences and actions, he is venerated by the Roman Catholic Church and by some other churches.

What was the Byzantine Empire?

This article often refers to the “Byzantine Empire.” Byzantium was an ancient Greek colony in early antiquity that later became Constantinople; the capital of the Roman Empire.

The Byzantine Empire is simply another name for the Eastern Roman Empire after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. The Byzantine Empire, therefore, was the continuation of the Roman Empire.

Byzantine Empire is a term created after the end of that empire. Its citizens referred to their empire simply as the Roman Empire and to themselves as Romans.

Church and State were One.

It is important to understand the context of the time. A Cambridge article explains the relationship between church and state in the Byzantine Empire:

The idea of papal sovereignty was foreign to the Byzantines. … unintelligible, unreasonable, and unhistorical. … (in) their concept of the order of the Christian world … The Christian Roman Emperor was the elect of God and God’s vice-gerent (God’s agent on earth) on earth … His patriarchs or supreme bishops of the Christian Empire … were the spiritual heads of the Christian world, acting in harmony with him. Church and State were therefore one, indissoluble and interdependent.

Modern readers may find this lack of separation of Church and State may be difficult to grasp but unless we understand this concept, we will not understand the history of the church or of the process through which the Trinity doctrine became accepted.

Similar to his predecessors, Justinian believed that “he had the right and duty of regulating by his laws the minutest details of worship and discipline, and also of dictating the theological opinions to be held in the Church”.1Ayer, John Cullen, ed. (1913). A Source Book for Ancient Church History. Mundus Publishing (2008 reprint). p. 553 The Emperor regulated everything:

At the very beginning of his reign, he promulgated by law the Church’s belief in the Trinity and the Incarnation and threatened all heretics with the appropriate penalties.[See Wikipedia page on Justinian 1]

He made the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan creed the sole symbol of the Church: “We direct that all Catholic churches, throughout the entire world, shall be placed under the control of the orthodox bishops who have embraced the Nicene Creed.” (Codex Justinianus)

Justinian felt entitled to settle disputes in papal elections, as he did when he favored Vigilius and had his rival Silverius deported.

As a result, the church within the Eastern Roman Empire had become firmly tied with the imperial government. Church and State were one.

Including the Church in the West

The First Council of Nicaea in 325 affirmed that the bishop of a provincial capital had a certain authority over the other bishops of the province. It also recognized the authority of the sees of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch and granted special recognition to Jerusalem. The First Council of Constantinople in 381 added the see of Constantinople.

Emperor Justinian assigned to those five sees (including Rome) a superior ecclesial authority that covered the whole of his empire. In other words, in Justinian’s view, the Church included the Church in Rome and he, as emperor, had the right and duty also to protect and regulate the Church in Rome

A Genuine Interest in the Church

Justinian had a genuine interest in the church. Over the course of his reign, he authored a small number of theological treatises. He was indeed a “nursing father” of the Church. Both the Codex and the Novellae contain many enactments to benefit the church. Just in Constantinople, he built 25 churches (see traditioninaction). Justinian also rebuilt the Church of Hagia Sophia, with its numerous chapels and shrines, gilded octagonal dome, and mosaics.

Suppressed Heretics

Even before Christianity was legalized in 313, the Imperial conviction always was that the unity of the Empire presupposes the unity of faith. Emperor Justinian protected the ‘purity’ of the church by suppressing heretics. For example:

The Codex contained two statutes [WIKIPEDIA JUSTINIAN NOTE 76] that decreed the destruction of paganism. These provisions were zealously enforced.

At Constantinople, on one occasion, not a few Manicheans, after strict inquisition, were executed in the emperor’s very presence: some by burning, others by drowning. [WIKIPEDIA JUSTINIAN NOTE 93] Manichaeism was a major religion that was founded by the Iranian prophet Mani. It taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. (See the Wikipedia page on Manichaeism.)

Monophysitism

In the east, in Justinian’s time, the main threat to the orthodoxy was not Arianism but Monophysitism. This sect had many adherents in the eastern provinces of Syria and Egypt. While the Council of Chalcedon in 451 concluded that Jesus has two natures; a divine and a human nature, Monophysitism maintained that Jesus Christ only had one nature; a divine nature or a synthesis of a divine and human nature.

Previous emperors and the Patriarch of Constantinople tolerated Monophysitism and allowed the appointment of Monophysites to church offices but this had been a source of tension in the relationship with the bishop of Rome.

Justin I—Justinian’s predecessor—reversed this policy, confirmed the Chalcedonian doctrine, and openly condemned the Monophysites. This allowed him to reestablish the union between Constantinople and Rome.[WIKIPEDIA – JUSTINIAN – NOTE 75]

Justinian’s policies alternated between ATTEMPTS TO FORCE Monophysites to accept the Chalcedonian creed by persecuting their bishops and monks – thereby embittering their sympathizers in Egypt and other provinces – and ATTEMPTS AT A COMPROMISE that would win over the Monophysites without surrendering the Chalcedonian faith.

Justinian’s wife Theodora favored the Monophysites unreservedly. While Theodosius’ wife is venerated in the Catholic Church because she was a fervent supporter of the Nicene Creed, Empress Theodora, for Catholics, was “one of the most … deplorable figures of ancient history,” for “she became an enemy of the Faith and a supporter of the heresies, and she strove to make Justinian enter into conflict with the Holy See at the end of his life” (traditioninaction). “Near the end of his life, Justinian became ever more inclined towards the Monophysite doctrine” (Wikipedia).

Wars against the Arian nations in the West

After the Germanic peoples divided the territory of the Western Empire between them in the fifth century, the Church in Rome was subject to their laws and customs. 

From a catholic perspective, the website Traditioninaction states that the Catholics at the time were groaning under the yoke of the barbarians. But from a Jewish perspective, “in contrast with the domination of the orthodox church, the Arian was distinguished by a wise tolerance and a mild treatment of the population of other faiths” (Kohler et al, ARIANISM”. Jewish Encyclopedia). 

What we can conclude, at least, is that the Roman Church was unable to dominate or to compel the population in Europe to comply with its doctrines.

As an ardent supporter of the Nicene church in Rome, Justinian considered it his divine duty to restore the Roman Empire to its ancient boundaries and to liberate the church in Rome from Arian domination. Justinian never personally took part in military campaigns, but one of the most spectacular features of Justinian’s reign was the recovery of large stretches of land around the Western Mediterranean basin that had slipped out of Imperial control in the 5th century.

Through these wars, Justinian neutralized the three main Arian nations that prevented the supremacy of the Papacy:

Vandal kingdom of North Africa

The first Arian Christian kingdom which Justinian’s armies attacked was the Vandals in North Africa. Again, from a catholic perspective, “that whole area had been taken over by the worst barbarians, the Vandals” (traditioninaction). Although the Arians generally tolerated other faiths, the Vandals tried for several decades to force their Arian beliefs on their North African Nicene subjects, exiling Nicene clergy, dissolving monasteries, and exercising heavy pressure on non-conforming Nicene Christians. This might have been why Justinian attacked them first.

In the Vandalic War of 533–534, general Belisarius defeated the Vandals.2[WIKIPEDIA ARIANISM NOTE 40] The Vandals were dispersed to the fringes of the empire and became lost to history.

Ostrogoths in Italy

Justinian next attacked the Ostrogoths; another Arian Christian nation. This war may be divided into three phases:

In 535, Belisarius invaded Sicily and advanced into Italy, sacking Naples and capturing Rome in 536. In 540 he reached the Ostrogothic capital Ravenna and reclaimed it for the Empire.[WIKIPEDIA JUSTINIAN NOTE 52]

But Belisarius was recalled in the face of renewed hostilities by the Persians to the East. While military efforts were focused on the east, the Ostrogoths made quick gains in Italy. They reconquered the major cities of Southern Italy and soon held almost the entire Italian peninsula.

The third phase of the war in Italy (from 541 to 554) followed after a truce was agreed upon with the Persians. Following their final defeat at the Battle of Mons Lactarius in 553, the Ostrogoths went back north and (re)settled in south Austria. Through the Gothic War, Justinian restored Dalmatia, Sicily, Italy, and Rome to the empire after more than half a century of Ostrogoth rule.

Visigoths in Spain

In 552, Justinian dispatched a force of 2,000 men to invade Visigothic Hispania: still another Arian Christian Germanic nation. This short-lived reconquest recovered only a small strip of land along the Mediterranean coast, known as the new province of Spania (Hispania) before being checked by the Visigoths. This campaign marked the apogee (apex) of Byzantine expansion. Spania kept the Visigoths as a threat to Hispania alone and not to the western Mediterranean nor to Africa.

Perhaps it is worth commenting that Justinian was willing to negotiate a truce with the pagan nations to the east of his empire but attacked Christian nations in the west. One obvious reason was that his purpose was to reunite the old empire, but it also reveals his intolerance for Arianism.

Byzantine Papacy

After Justinian conquered the Italian peninsula and delivered the church in Rome from Arian domination, he replaced the pope and also appointed the next three popes. In this way, Justinian put the church in the west firmly under the control of the Byzantine monarch. This practice was continued by his successors for the next two centuries. The papacy in the years 537 to 752 is known as the Byzantine Papacy because the Byzantine monarch claimed for himself the right to approve the appointment of the bishop of Rome. This allowed the emperor to also dominate the Papacy in other ways during this period.

Dominance of the Greek Language

One indication of the dominance of the Byzantine Empire, over the church in Rome, during these years, was the Greek dominance of the Roman Church:

The two halves of the Empire always had cultural differences, exemplified particularly by the widespread use of the Greek language in the Eastern Empire and its more limited use in the West. The spoken vernacular in the West was Latin.

During the Byzantine Papacy, countless Easterners rose through the ranks of the clergy in the church in Rome. At the end of the sixth century, Easterners constituted less than one percent of the papal hierarchy. In contrast, according to Ekonomou, over a century later, between 701 and 750, “Greeks outnumbered Latins by nearly three and a half to one”.

This confirms that the church in the west was now once again firmly subject to the authority of the (Eastern) Roman Emperor. 

The Empire reigned over the West.

After Justinian defeated the Goths, the Roman Church was no longer dependent on the Arian Germanic nations for protection. The church and its Nicene Christology, with the protection and status it received from the Byzantine Empire, became a powerful social and political institution in Europe. 

This relationship also allowed the Byzantine Empire, through the Church, a certain level of control over the Germanic nations in the West. To some extent, the Roman Empire was reunited.

Arian conversions to the Papacy

The Franks entered the Western Roman Empire as Pagans. In 496, before the time of Justinian, Clovis I, the pagan king of the Franks, was the first important barbarian ruler to convert to Catholicism rather than to Arianism. He forcibly converted the Franks to Chalcedonian Christianity.

After Justinian established protection for the Papacy, the Germanic tribes, consequently, abandoned Arianism in favor of Catholicism.

The first Germanic ruler to convert from Arianism to Chalcedonian Christianity was Reccared I of the Arian Visigoths in Spain. He converted in 587. Visigothic Spain converted to Catholicism at the Third Council of Toledo in 589

Pope Gregory I reigned from 590 to 604; a few decades after Justinian. He was perhaps the best-known pope of the Byzantine Papacy. Britannica describes him as the first of the medieval popes. With the support of the Byzantine Empire, He reformed the ecclesiastical structures and administration, which then launched renewed missionary efforts to convert the peoples of northern Europe as far north as Ireland. These efforts were able to convert the Arian peoples to Catholic (Nicene) Christianity:

The Anglo-Saxons of Southern Britain were the predecessors of the English. They had never been part of the Empire and were entirely pagan, but were forcibly converted by their king Æthelberht of Kent, following the work of missionaries sent by Pope Gregory the Great.

The Anglo-Saxons in turn sent missionaries to northwestern Europe – to what is now the Netherlands. 

The Visigoths also converted to Catholicism during the Byzantine Empire.

Aripert I of the Lombards converted to Catholic Church in 653. Grimwald, King of the Lombards (662–671) and his young son and successor Garibald (671) were the last Arian kings in Europe. By 700, the Lombards in northern Italy have moved away from Arianism to Catholicism.

By the 8th century, Arianism had ceased to be the mainstream belief of the Germanic people as the tribal rulers gradually came to adopt Nicene orthodoxy.

Conclusions

Trinity Doctrine

Firstly, this article shows how the Trinity Doctrine was advanced by the military might of the Roman Empire. What would the Christian world have looked like if Justinian did not effectively wipe out Unitarianism (Arianism) in the territory of the Western Empire? If Europe was allowed to remain Unitarian, Unitarianism might have dominated the church today.

The Little Horn

Secondly, this article helps us to identify the little horn of Daniel 7 as the mainstream Christian Church:

Daniel 7 This article confirms:
The fourth empire, identified as the Roman Empire, divides into many fragments – symbolized as 10 or 11 horns. The current article mentions some of these kingdoms, such as the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, Franks, and the Anglo-Saxons.
The little horn comes into existence AFTER the fourth (Roman) empire has already been fragmented into many kingdoms (horns). The Papacy was not able to dominate until after Justinian conquered the Arian nations.
The little horn uprooted three of the other horns as it came up. The Roman Empire uprooted the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and the Vandals to establish the Papacy.
The eleventh horn will become larger than the others, persecute the saints, and attempt to change the law.
The next articles will explain this.

Other Articles

FOOTNOTES

  • 1
    Ayer, John Cullen, ed. (1913). A Source Book for Ancient Church History. Mundus Publishing (2008 reprint). p. 553
  • 2
    [WIKIPEDIA ARIANISM NOTE 40]