4.1. Islamophobia



The most important apocalyptical prophecies, theories, calculations and movements of the first millennium were tied to the fate of the Roman Empire. But, after the failure of the years 1000 and 1033 and the Great Schism between Catholicism and Orthodoxism, the concept of the revived Roman Empire or of the Christian Empire was gradually abandoned.

The image of Nero who had to come back as the Antichrist shared the same fate. In the 16th century, at the time of the Reformation, Protestants identified the Antichrist with the Papacy, while Catholics said he that would be a future Jewish tyrant. However, in our days there is a trace of the connection between Nero and the Antichrist: in the Armenian language “Antichrist” is pronounced Neren.218

The millennial week theory was also discarded as scientific knowledge developed and in the 21st century almost all the initial apocalyptic structures can be categorized as theological errors. In any case, in the 11th century the schism between Rome and Constantinople and the rise of Islam changed the religious and apocalyptical paradigm. From this moment on the Western apocalypticism was divided into two main themes: the Muslim threat and the call to ecclesiastical reform due to the corruption of the clergy.

Christians came into contact with the religion of Muhammad in the 7th and 8th centuries in the Orient and then in Northern Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. The Christian views regarding Islam varied, but they all had negative connotations. At first it was not clear the role this new and powerful religion was going to play in the final days; the Antichrist was expected to be a Jew. So, medieval scholars sought guidance on this issue in the early writings. In the 2nd century, although he formulated a critique against the Jews in the epistle to the Antiochians, Ignatius of Antioch precisely stated the essence of the future Islamic religion:

Whosoever, therefore, declares that there is but one God, only so as to take away the divinity of Christ, is a devil, and an enemy of all righteousness. He also that confesseth Christ, yet not as the Son of the Maker of the world, but of some other unknown being, different from Him whom the law and the prophets have proclaimed, this man is an instrument of the devil. And he that rejects the incarnation, and is ashamed of the cross for which I am in bonds, this man is antichrist. Moreover, he who affirms Christ to be a mere man is accursed, according to the [declaration of the] prophet, since he puts not his trust in God, but in man.219

This is how Islamophobia was born. In the areas of conflict texts were fabricated to demonize Muslims and to depict the satanic origin of Islam. One example was the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Ephraem, a 7th-century Syriac text which depicts the events in the Middle East and the expansion of Muslims in a catastrophic light.220 The Apocalypse of Pseudo-Ephraem circulated in two versions: in Syriac and in Latin. In the Syriac version Muslims prepare the appearance of the Jewish Antichrist:

A people will emerge from the wilderness, the progeny of Hagar, the handmaid of Sarah; who hold fast to the covenant with Abraham, The husband of Sarah and Hagar. Set in motion, he (Ishmael) comes in the name of the ram, the herald of the Son of Destruction. ... He will rebuild and establish himself in Zion, and will make himself to be God and enter into the sanctuary to take a seat In accordance with what the Apostle wrote to us. The Jews will take pride in him; they will prepare themselves and come to him. ... He will affect all the wonders Which Our Lord performed within the created order, Except that he will not be able to resurrect the dead, for he will not have authority over (the) spirits (of the dead).221

The Latin version of the text is newer and considerably different from the Syriac one, and most likely its anonymous author was influenced by the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius. The Latin version focuses on demonizing the Jews: ... (This text is incomplete. If you wish to read it in full, please purchase the book)

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