Introduction: Reformations, Prophecy and Eschatology

In: Early Modern Prophecies in Transnational, National and Regional Contexts (3 vols.)
Andreas Pečar
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Damien Tricoire
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This chapter gives an overview of the history of eschatological and prophetical movements during the late medieval and early modern period. In Western Christendom, between approximately 1100 and 1600, the idea that mankind was living in the last phase of its history may have become increasingly present. This probably had mainly to do with reform(ation) endeavours. From the late 12th century onwards, many reform-minded laymen and clerics were convinced that the church was corrupt. Faced with resistance, they concluded that the Antichrist was already on earth, and often identified him with the Papacy. In the early fifteenth century, the first reformation took place in Bohemia. It was based on the idea that the true Church of Christ was being revealed in its fight against the Antichrist. The sixteenth-century reformation took over this idea from the Hussites. With the fifteenth-century Taborites, the first Christian millenarian movement since antiquity had already taken shape, and it greatly inspired—directly or indirectly—similar movements in early modern times. With Pietism and the Great Evangelical Awakening, more peaceful millenarian movements developed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The idea of reformation was furthermore closely connected to the idea of prophecy. Many reformers considered themselves or were considered as prophets, which led to controversies. In the eighteenth century, the eschatological and prophetical ideas remained very much alive, especially in the Protestant world.

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