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

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

The current article identifies that as the Church of the Roman Empire, meaning, the church that the Roman Empire, in the person of Emperor Theodosius, in the fourth century established as the state religion of the Roman Empire, 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

The Little Horn of Daniel 7 became the Beast of Revelation.

Purpose

Antichristus, a woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder of the pope using the temporal power to grant authority to a generously contributing ruler

The Remnant of Rome

A previous article concluded that the 11th horn of Daniel 7 names out of the Roman Empire. That horn was “little” when it came up (Dan 7:8) but it grew and became “larger than its associates” (Dan 7:20). That means that it will dominate the other “horns” that came up out of the Roman Empire. Daniel 8 also indicates similarly that the little horn began “small” but “grew exceedingly great” (Dan 8:9).

The Antichrist

That little horn becomes the Antichrist (Dan 7:25). It will become so important that a court in heaven will sit to judge between it and God’s people (Dan 7:22, 26).

The Beast

This horn is also the beast of the Book of Revelation:

“The whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; …  they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?'” (Rev 13:3-4)

The Church

To identify that beast, we have to identify the little horn of Daniel 7. In that way, another article identified the 11th little horn as the Christian Church of the Middle Ages. The purpose of the current article is to explain how and when the Church became “larger” than the other 10 horns. Other articles address the other identifying marks of this little horn, as found in Daniel 7. 

Summary

Overview

There always was a power struggle between the Church and the kings over ultimate authority, for the Church and the State demand the loyalty of the same people.

After Christianity was legalized in 313, the Roman emperors believed that they had the right and duty of regulating by law the worship and doctrines of the Church. After the Islamic conquests weakened the remainder of the Roman Empire, the Church was subordinate to the rulers of the Carolingian Franks (in the 9th century) and the Ottonian dynasty (in the 10th century).  

In the eleventh century, for the first time in its existence, the church was able to resist the dominance of the kings. In this and subsequent centuries, known as the High Middle Ages, the popes not only claimed independence from the state but also authority over the state. During these centuries, the Church rose to become the dominant power in the West. This was when the church became “larger in appearance than its associates.”

HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE

During the period known as the Byzantine Papacy, the Papacy was subject to the demands of the Eastern Roman Emperor. In the 8th century, due to Muslim conquests, much of the Christian world suddenly was under Muslim rule. Consequently, Byzantine authority all but vanished in Italy, making an end to the Byzantine Papacy. 

This drove the Papacy to find a new protector.  After a period of volatility, the popes linked their fate to the Carolingian dynasty.  This was a large Frankish-dominated empire in western and central Europe during the Early Middle Ages (800–888), also called the Holy Roman Empire. This was the first time, after the fall of Rome, that most of western Europe were ruled by a single monarch. The Carolingians followed in the footsteps of their Roman predecessors by asserting “immense authority over the Western church” (Britannica).

In the 10th century, the Ottonian dynasty in Germany established a new imperial line and became the preeminent power in Latin Europe. The Ottos, similar to the previous empires, appointed bishops on royal nomination and forbidden appeals to Rome. (Britannica)

WHAT ALLOWED THE CHURCH TO BECOME ‘LARGER’

After the fall of Rome, the church in Rome actually grew stronger:

    • While there was no single government that united all people, the Church had a strong, centralized organization.
    • Secular governments came and went through chaos and warfare, but the Papacy remained. 
    • The Church gave people a sense of communal identity. 

Other factors that, in later years, allowed the Church to become “larger” than the kings of Europe include the following:

Ordinary people had to ‘tithe’ 10 percent of their earnings to the Church. This allowed the Church to amass great wealth.

The Church taught that escape from eternal hell was only possible through the sacraments of the church.  If a king disobeyed the pope, the pope could refuse to perform certain sacraments in the king’s lands, scaring the king’s subject and causing civil unrest.

Christian monasteries became storehouses of knowledge, education, crafts, artistic skills, and agriculture. 

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Catholic Church authorized military expeditions called Crusades to expel Muslim “infidels” from the Holy Land and to return it to Christian control. The crusades greatly enhanced papal prestige.  They gave the people a common purpose, and they inspired waves of religious enthusiasm among people.

THE CHURCH’S STRUGGLE FOR POWER 

The Cluniac reform, which began in the year 910, placed monasteries under the direct control of the pope rather than under the secular control of feudal lords.

The College of Cardinals, organized in 1059, vested with the right to name new popes in this institute and restricted interference from political rulers. 

The Church attempted to control most marriages among the great by prohibited marriages involving blood kin and kin by marriage to the seventh degree of relationship. Under these rules, almost all great marriages required a dispensation.

The European monarchs traditionally controlled appointments to the higher church offices within their lands. These are called lay investitures. Beginning in the mid-11th century, the popes challenged this authority. This is known as the Investiture Controversy. Church and State reached a compromise in 1122 in the Concordat of Worms.

AUTHORITY OVER THE STATE

The Church was not satisfied to have authority over itself.  It reasoned that the pope has full power over the whole church and that that makes it the ultimate ruler of the kingdoms within Christendom. From a catholic perspective, emperors and kings, to reign lawfully, had to be in communion with the Pope. Otherwise, the Pope could declare the ruler unfit to reign. 

One famous incident during the Investiture Controversy illustrates how powerful the pope has become. Henry IV, the mightiest king in Europe at the time, had to wait for three days, stripped of his royal robes and clad as a penitent, barefoot in ice and snow, before pope Gregory was willing to withdraw his ex-communication of the king.

WEAR DOWN THE SAINTS OF THE HIGHEST ONE (Den. 7:25)

The authority of the Pope also resulted in the massacre of Christians:

Innocent III (1198–1216) called the Albigensian Crusade, which resulted in the massacre of Christians.

The Inquisition is infamous for the severity of its tortures. The Spanish Inquisition alone resulting in some 32,000 executions. (History.com)

– END OF SUMMARY – 

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

There always was a power struggle between the Church and the kings of the world over ultimate authority (Springfield Public School), for the Church and the State demand the loyalty of the same people.

In ancient times, in most civilizations, there was no distinction between religion and state. People worshiped the gods of the particular state in which they lived. (Britannica

After Christianity was legalized in 313, the Roman emperors dominated the Church: Emperor Constantine controlled the Council of Nicaea, emperors Constantius and Valens exiled Nicene bishops to the other ends of the empire and emperor Theodosius unilaterally declared Arianism illegal.  The emperors believed that they had the right and duty to regulate the worship and doctrines of the Church.

After emperor Justinian destroyed the major Arian nations in the sixth century, the Church was subject to the Eastern (Byzantine) Roman emperors for two centuries. After the Islamic conquests weakened the Byzantine Empire. the Church sought the protection of the Carolingian Franks, but the Franks also dominated the church in the 9th century. After the Frankish empire was weakened, the Ottonian dynasty dominated the Church in the 10th century.  

During the eleventh century, for the first time in its existence, the church was able to resist the dominance of the temporal rulers over it. As is discussed below, the popes not only sought independence from the state but eventually claimed authority over the state.

HIGH MIDDLE AGES

The term “Middle Ages” describes Europe between the fall of Rome in the 5th century and the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries.  The High Middle Ages was the period of European history that commenced around 1000 and continued for some centuries. During these centuries, the Church rose to become the dominant power in the West (Wikipedia). This was when the church became “larger in appearance than its associates.”

The remainder of the article discusses the developments more or less in chronological sequence, beginning where the previous article ended, namely the Byzantine Papacy.

ISLAM WEAKENED THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE.

The Early Muslim conquests of the 7th century began to expand the sway of Islam beyond Arabia. Their first clash with the Roman Empire was in 634. This was followed by decades of war between Islam and the Roman Empire.

In the 8th century, the Byzantine Empire lost its richest provinces—Egypt and Syria—to the Arab caliphate.  Suddenly, much of the Christian world was under Muslim rule. Over the subsequent centuries, the Muslim states became some of the most powerful states in the Mediterranean world. 

CONSEQUENCES

Byzantine authority all but vanished in Italy.  Pope Zachary, in 741, was the last pope to seek the emperor’s approval for his election. By 751, Rome ceased to be part of the Byzantine Empire.  This was the end of the Byzantine Papacy

Muslim conquests of the territories of the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem left in effect only two patriarchates, namely those of Rome and Constantinople.

With the dominance of Islam in the east, the power base of the Catholic Church shifted from Constantinople to Rome.  The Bishop of Rome became the Pope and the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. 

Though the Roman church claimed religious authority over Christians everywhere, it was unable to stamp out ‘heresy’ among the vast numbers of Christians in Muslim lands for the new Muslim rulers tolerated all Christian sects. 

Additionally, subjects of the Muslim Empire could become Muslims simply by declaring a belief in a single deity and reverence for Muhammad. As a result, the peoples of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria largely accepted their new rulers and many declared themselves Muslims within a few generations.

COMMENT

In the sixth century, Justinian was willing to negotiate a truce with the nations that later became Muslim but viciously attacked his fellow (Arian) Christian nations is the west.  If he did not do that, the Muslims probably would not have been able to defeat the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire.

CAROLINGIAN DYNASTY

After the demise of effective Byzantine protection of Italy in the 8th century, the Lombards again emerged as a threat to the Papacy.  This drove the Papacy to find a new protector.  For this purpose, it appealed to other Germanic rulers for protection.

After a period of volatility, the popes gained a powerful protector by linking the fate of the Papacy to the Carolingian dynasty.  This was a large Frankish-dominated empire in western and central Europe during the Early Middle Ages (800–888 – Wikipedia).  

The Frankish-papal alliance was reinforced when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as Patricius Romanorum (Holy Roman Emperor) on Christmas Day, 800. This laid the foundation for the Holy Roman Empire, which was to last until 1806.

Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was King of the Franks from 768, then also King of the Lombards from 774, and then Holy Roman Emperor from 800. He was the first recognized emperor to rule western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. The expanded Frankish state that Charlemagne founded is called the Carolingian Empire (Wikipedia).

The popes gained security from the relationship with the Carolingian dynasty, but the Carolingians followed in the footsteps of their Byzantine and Roman predecessors by asserting “immense authority over the Western church” (Britannica). The Carolingians blended the authority of the church and the state: Charlemagne used both secular and religious people as his representatives and claimed to govern both. On the other hand, the pope exercised influence in Carolingian affairs by maintaining the right to crown emperors and by sometimes directly intervening in political disputes. Church and state were re-united:

“The great harlot … with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality” (Rev. 17:1-2).

OTTONIAN (GERMAN) DYNASTY

As Carolingian power waned in the late 9th and the 10th century, the papacy once again found itself threatened by powerful local nobles, seeking to control it.

In the 10th century, the Ottonian dynasty in Germany established a new imperial line and became the preeminent power in Latin Europe.

Otto I was German king (from 936) and Holy Roman Emperor (962–973).  By suppressing rebellious vassals and his decisive victory over the Hungarians, he consolidated the German Reich and revived Charlemagne’s empire in 962. He used the church as a stabilizing influence to ensure a secure empire.  For this reason, he required papal stability and deposed Pope John XII (955–964) for immorality.

The Ottos, accustomed to the tradition in which great landowners built and owned the churches on their estates as private property, treated Rome and all important sees in this spirit. Bishops were appointed on royal nomination and forbidden appeals to Rome. (Britannica)

WHAT ALLOWED THE LITTLE HORN TO BECOME ‘LARGER’

The article on the Fifth Century provides some reasons why the Roman Church, after the Western Roman Empire fell, actually grew stronger, such as:

      • While there was no single government that united all people, the Church had a strong, centralized organization.
      • Secular governments came and went through chaos and warfare, but the Papacy remained. 
      • The Church gave people a sense of communal identity. 

Other factors that, in later years, allowed the Church to become “larger” than the kings of Europe include the following:

TITHING

Ordinary people across Europe had to ‘tithe’ 10 percent of their earnings each year to the Church. This allowed the Church to amass a great deal of money and power.

One indication of the high status of the Church during the Middle Ages is that cathedrals were the largest buildings in medieval Europe.  They could be found at the center of towns and cities across the continent.

SALVATION IS THROUGH THE CHURCH.

In the Middle Ages, people did not have access to information. Consequently, the Church was able to teach that salvation—escape from eternal hell—was only available through the Church, namely through the sacraments and ceremonies which priests and other clergy administered.  The church used this monopoly on salvation to wield power over political rulers:

Popes excommunicated disobedient kings. This meant the king is denied salvation and his vassals are freed from their duties to him.

If an excommunicated king continued to disobey the pope, the popes used an even more frightening weapon; the interdict.  Under an interdict, many sacraments and religious services could not be performed in the king’s lands. As Christians, the king’s subjects believed that, without such sacraments, they are doomed to hell.

MONASTERIES

Christian monasticism is the practice of individuals who live ascetic and typically secluded lives that are dedicated to Christian worship. This became popular in the Middle Ages.  The monastic communities became storehouses of knowledge.  In addition to being centers for spiritual life, they preserved crafts and artistic skills and were centers for agriculture and production. 

Before the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, books were works of art. Craftsmen in monasteries created handmade books with colored illustrations, gold and silver lettering, and other adornments.

Convents were one of the few places where women could receive an education.  Nuns wrote, translated, and illuminated manuscripts as well.

The monasteries elevated the authority of the Roman Catholic (McFarland). Many times, monasteries were the only reason the Bible and records of history survived at all (Bainton, 1964, 129). 

CRUSADES

Toward the end of the 11th century, the Catholic Church began to authorize military expeditions, or Crusades, to expel Muslim “infidels” from the Holy Land and to return it to Christian control. In 1095, Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade when he received an appeal from Byzantine emperor Alexius I to help ward off a Turkish invasion.

Crusaders, who wore red crosses on their coats to advertise their status, believed that their service would guarantee the remission of their sins and ensure them eternal life. They also received worldly rewards, such as papal protection of their property and forgiveness of some kinds of debts.

The crusades were unsuccessful, and brutality committed by the armies of both sides left a legacy of mutual distrust between Muslims and Christians.

The Crusades were a sign of the increased authority of the popes over the political rulers, for the pope called for the crusades. The kings, by (1088–99) participating in the crusades, in a sense, submitted themselves to the authority of the pope. 

The crusades also greatly enhanced papal prestige in the 12th and 13th centuries.  They gave Catholics a common purpose, and they inspired waves of religious enthusiasm among people.

THE POWER STRUGGLE 

EARLY RESISTANCE

The Cluniac reform of monasteries already began in the year 910. This placed abbots under the direct control of the pope rather than under the secular control of feudal lords.

The popes, during this time of increasing dominance, also sought to establish the primacy of Rome over the church worldwide. This worsened tensions between Rome and Constantinople and eventually brought about the Schism of 1054 between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

One important measure—initiated in 1059—was the organization of the College of Cardinals in which was vested with the right to name new popes. This served to restrict interference from political rulers. 

The Church also attempted to control most marriages among the great. In 1059, the Church prohibited marriages involving consanguinity (blood kin) and affinity (kin by marriage) to the seventh degree of relationship. Under these rules, almost all great marriages required a dispensation.

INVESTITURE CONTROVERSY

Beginning in the mid-11th century the popes challenged the traditional authority of the European monarchs to control appointments to the higher church offices within their territories. This is known as the Investiture Controversy. Investiture means “the action of formally investing a person with honors or rank.”

POPE GREGORY VII AND KING HENRY IV

One famous incident illustrates how powerful the pope has become:

In 1075, Pope Gregory VII, with the Dictatus Papae (1075), claimed the pope as the highest authority in the church and banned lay investiture. 

In response, the German emperor—King Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire, ordered Gregory to step down from the papacy. Gregory then excommunicated the king. Afterward, German bishops and princes sided with the pope. To save his throne, the king tried to win the pope’s forgiveness:

Stripped of his royal robes, and clad as a penitent, Henry had to come barefooted in ice and snow, and request for admission to the presence of the pope. All day he remained at the door of the citadel, fasting and exposed to the wintry weather, but was refused admission. A second and third day he thus humiliated and disciplined himself, and finally, on 28 January, l077, he was received by the pontiff and absolved from censure. (Cath. Ency. VI, 794)

Henry was the mightiest king in Europe at the time. Imagine the head of the mightiest nation today having to ask the pope for forgiveness in this way.  This shows how powerful and arrogant the Church has become.

CONCORDAT OF WORMS

Gregory died in exile, but his ideals eventually prevailed, for royal intervention in church affairs was seriously curtailed. The successors of Gregory and Henry continued to fight over lay investiture until 1122. In that year, representatives of the Church and the emperor met in the German city of Worms. They reached a compromise known as the Concordat of Worms. By its terms, the Emperor renounced the right to invest ecclesiastics with ring and crosier, the symbols of their spiritual power, and agreed that the Church would appoint their own officials, but that the emperor could veto the appointment of the bishops. This was a victory for the pope, but the emperor did retain considerable power over the Church.

While on the surface it was over a matter of official procedures regarding the appointments of offices, underneath was a power struggle for control over who held ultimate authority, the King or the Pope.

AUTHORITY OVER THE STATE

The Church was not satisfied to have authority over itself.  It reasoned that the pope has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole church and that that makes it the ultimate ruler of the kingdoms within Christendom.  It believed that the Pope, as the Vicar of Christ on earth, should have authority over the state:

Emperors and kings had to … be in communion with the Pope, as essential conditions of their reigning lawfully; if these conditions were broken, of which the Pope was the judge, then … he could … declare their ruler unfit to reign. [Cath Dic, 257]

Pope Leo III’s crowning of Charlemagne as emperor in 800 was a first attempt to establish the tradition that Papal endorsement is required for the crowning of emperors. 

During the High Middle Ages, the Popes claimed the right to depose the kings of Western Europe. They were sometimes successful. For example, Sixtus V (Cath. Ency. I729) excommunicated Protestant Henry III of Navarre and sent an army to unseat him.  Sixtus promised the Spanish King a subsidy for the Armada, with which England was to be subjugated.  

In consequence to these developments, powerful popes, such as Alexander III (r. 1159–81), Innocent III (r. 1198–1216), Gregory IX (r. 1227–41), and Innocent IV (r. 1243–54) claimed authority over emperors and kings.

The Catholic Church therefore reformed from being subordinate to the secular power to be supreme over the secular rulers.  It developed political power, rivaling that of the secular rulers of Europe. For more detail, see:

Church and state in medieval Europe (Wikipedia)
The Power of the Church

12TH CENTURY

The 11th century was a period of change. In the 12th century, both the popes and kings adjusted to the new realities.

The papacy evolved into a great administrative bureaucracy. The papal court created legal machinery of great sophistication and became, in some ways, the highest court of appeals, exercising jurisdiction in a broad range of matters (Britannica).

13TH CENTURY

In the pontificate of Innocent III (1198–1216), the papal claims to authority reached their zenith. Innocent:

      • Declared that the pope stood between God and humankind as the vicar (stand in the place) of Christ.
      • Expanded papal legal authority by claiming jurisdiction over matters relating to sin.
      • Involved himself in the political affairs of France and the Holy Roman Empire.
      • Called the Fourth Crusade (1202–04), which led to the sack of Constantinople.
      • Also called the Albigensian Crusade, which was intended to end heresy in southern France and resulted in the massacre of Christians classified as heretics by the Papacy.
      • Approved legislation requiring Jews to wear special clothing.

Innocent’s successors continued his policies and further extended papal authority.

The popes carried out the Inquisition, which was a powerful office set up within the Catholic Church to root out and punish heresy. Beginning in the 12th century and continuing for hundreds of years, the Inquisition is infamous for the severity of its tortures. Its worst manifestation was in Spain, where the Spanish Inquisition was a dominant force for more than 200 years, resulting in some 32,000 executions. (History.com)

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