Antichrist in English literature 1380-1680


Material Information

Antichrist in English literature 1380-1680
Physical Description:
viii, 258 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Macfarlane, Jean Elizabeth Lig, 1926-
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Antichrist -- History of doctrines   ( lcsh )
Antichrist in literature   ( lcsh )
English literature -- History and criticism -- Middle English, 1100-1500   ( lcsh )
English literature -- History and criticism -- Early modern, 1500-1700   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis--University of Florida.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 252-257).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Jean Elizabeth Macfarlane.
General Note:
General Note:

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 000098444
notis - AAL3891
oclc - 06751576
System ID:

Full Text







Copyright 1980


Jean Elizabeth Macfarlane


To my committee chairman, Dr. Tommy Ruth Waldo, I

extend my deepest gratitude for her patience and guidance.

I thank Dr. T. Walter Herbert and Dr. Aubrey Williams

for their comments and requirements, which pointed

unerringly toward improvement. Dr. Sidney Homan and

Dr. Cary Reichard have freely cooperated whenever called

upon. Without the warm encouragement of these, my task

would have been impossible.

I thank my husband, David, for keeping the other

levels of life moving while this dissertation was develop-

ing. His forbearance and support were essential to its


Not forgetting the One to whom all praise is due,

I appropriate words carved in an old church: Gebet Gott

die Ehre.




ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ------------------------------- iii

ABSTRACT --------------------------------------- vii


ONE INTRODUCTION ------------------------- 1

Notes -------------------------------- 11


Notes -------------------------------- 22


John Wyclif -------------------------- 23
Post-Wyclif Lollard Writers ---------- 32
William Tyndale ---------------------- 49
John Bale ---------------------------- 65
John Foxe ---------------------------- 101

Notes -------------------------------- 119


Thomas Lancaster --------------------- 132
Writer from Roanne ------------------- 135
Miles Coverdale ---------------------- 137
Robert Crowley ----------------------- 138
John Swan ---------------------------- 140
John, a Monk ------------------------- 143
Oliver Ormerod ----------------------- 145
Thomas Beard ------------------------- 149
The Discoverer ---------------------- 155

Notes -------------------------------- 159


FIVE SECULAR WRITERS ---------------------- 164

A Fabulist --------------------------- 167
Translator, W. P. -------------------- 170
Sir John Harington ------------------- 178
Ben Jonson --------------------------- 181
The Genealogist ---------------------- 188
John Cleveland ----------------------- 196
King James I ------------------------- 199

Notes -------------------------------- 206


Pre-Renaissance Solutions ------------ 212
Renaissance Solutions ---------------- 214
Thomas Beard ---------------------- 215
John Swan ------------------------- 217
John Bale ------------------------- 217
Francis Potter -------------------- 218
Nonpapal Solutions ---------------- 220

Notes -------------------------------- 223

SEVEN CONCLUSION --------------------------- 225


A AREAS FOR FURTHER STUDY -------------- 229

Notes -------------------------------- 237

B GUIDE TO GEMATRIA -------------------- 238

C THE CONCLUSIONS OF 1395 -------------- 241

Notes -------------------------------- 242


Notes -------------------------------- 244

1327-1700 ---------------------------- 245

Notes -------------------------------- 246


F POPES IN OFFICE 1316-1700 ------------ 247

Notes -------------------------------- 248

AND PAPACY --------------------------- 249

Notes -------------------------------- 250

TERMS 1378-1435 ---------------------- 251

BIBLIOGRAPHY ----------------------------------- 252

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ---------------------------- 258

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Jean Elizabeth Macfarlane

June, 1980

Chairman: Tommy Ruth Waldo
Major Department: English

This study examines the subject of Antichrist in

English writings from about 1380 to 1680. It shows how

writers took the abstract idea of antichrist described in

1 and 2 John of the Bible and attached it to the more con-

crete figures in the Biblical book of Revelation, calling

the fusion "Antichrist." It notices the way in which

authors applied this term by analogy to the pope and his

hierarchy, thereby creating a line of resistance to what

they considered the spiritual bondage and deception prac-

ticed by the Roman Catholic Church.

The study focuses on writers' assimilation of Anti-

christ into their interpretations of Scripture and on their

methods for linking this figure to the Roman Church.

Theologians such as John Wyclif, John Bale, and John Foxe

used the term variously as a criticism of church leadership,


a crusader's banner, and a vehicle for religious argument.

Secular authors such as Sir John Harington and Ben Jonson

appropriated the term for witty or comic effects in imagina-

tive literature; King James I incorporated the concept into

his treatises on the divine right of English kings to be

supreme in their land. Most of the fifteenth and sixteenth

century writings on Antichrist stem from a theological

viewpoint, but by the seventeenth century, as secular

writers became more popular, theological writers and favor-

ite themes such as Antichrist decreased in importance.

This study scrutinizes writings related to or employing

the term "Antichrist" as it developed, diminished, and


The identification number of one Biblical figure

absorbed into the concept of Antichrist was 666. A sec-

tion in this study shows how certain writers blended

second and third century interpretations of this number

with their own and applied the results directly to the

pope and his hierarchy, thus claiming further Scriptural

corroboration that the pope was the Antichrist.




The purpose of this study is to show how the term

"Antichrist" was generated, expanded, and employed by

English writers from the late fourteenth to the end of the

seventeenth century as a device for shaping public opinion.

In general, to the common noun antichristt" taken from two

Biblical books--1 and 2 John--were added characteristics

of one or more figures portrayed in the Revelation. Theo-

logical writers then identified the resulting composite,

now given the proper name, "Antichrist," with the pope

at Rome. By setting up a Scriptural denunciation of the

pope and his hierarchy, these writers created a powerful

weapon which contributed greatly to the ultimate defeat

of Roman Catholic purposes in England.

Various genres are represented by the literature in

this study--essay, exposition, drama, history, poetry, and

translation. Essays predominate in definitive, persuasive,

and political modes. Quite a few essays are transcribed

philippics and jeremiads originally delivered as sermons.

The detailed expository analysis in The Image of Both

Churches by Bale amplifies the theme permeating even his

nonreligious works. Dramas written sixty years apart pre-

sent interesting opportunities to compare and contrast the

secular writings of Bale and Jonson. Bale's King John

(c. 1535) (below, p. 87) combines allegorical and historical

characters in a minimal plot concerning one recurring nega-

tive theme that only an audience agreeing with the author's

premises would tolerate; in contrast, Jonson's The Alchemist

(1610) (below, p. 182) contains an intricate plot and some

well-defined characters in an entertaining offering for

sophisticated Elizabethans. History is represented by

Foxe's multivolume work (below, p. 101) about martyrs and

martyrdom. Two works of fiction illustrate how a treatise

on Antichrist might be either didactic or humorous. Here

Begynneth the Byrthe and Life of the most False and

Deceytfull Antechryst (1550?) (below, p. 167) presents

an inversion of Scriptural events and principles to paint

Antichrist as the antithesis of Christ. In a dialogue

interspersed with witty and irreverent comments, Pasquine

in a Traunce (1556?) (below, p. 170) reveals the pope as

Antichrist and the Roman Church as his corrupt organization.

The lightness of tone and the connotations of the charac-

ters' names disguise somewhat the homiletic nature of the

conversation and add dimensions not found in the work on

Antichrist's "byrthe." Dialogue form is utilized by another

theological writer and by one poet included here. Poems

relevant to this study are of uneven quality; some possess

literary merit, while some approach vicious doggerel.

A few of the works are translations which injected

ideas and attitudes into English literature from Italy

(Pasquine in a Traunce) and the Netherlands (A Treatise

Touching Anti-Christ) (below, p. 140), thus diminishing

the cultural isolation of Englishmen who could not read

foreign languages. Like native English literature, these

translated works made use of humor and satire as well as

more direct modes of criticism.

Some regularization of lettering seemed reasonable,

since modern type fonts do not include a few characters

used in earlier works. Therefore, the letters "g" and

"th" appear for "3 and "J respectively. The ampersand

presents no problems for typist or reader, so it is re-

tained. Though the easy flow of comprehension may

occasionally meet resistance because of early spelling,

it has been largely retained. What appear to the modern

reader as irregularities are mainly variations of the same

word and letter substitutions. Frequently, "i" is used

for "j," and "u" and "v" are often interchanged. When

decided oddities in vocabulary, grammar, and manner of

expression occur, I have included a convenient moderniza-

tion in the notes. In spite of the difference in their

English, these early writers conveyed a depth of thought

that remains available to the reader four or five hundred

years later. Their way of expressing ideas, though some-

times strange, is understandable and pleasing: one book

is written "for the more lernyng of smale vndirstondars"

(below, p. 38), and Thomas Beard modestly discusses the

reason for checking the "virilities" of the pope (below,

p. 153). Once the technical and semantic variations have

been clarified, the language of these early writers is

highly communicative and appealing.

The roots of the concept of Antichrist in England

reach back to the medieval period. This study, therefore,

begins with John Wyclif's writings, a major influence on

the course of the anti-Roman conflict that continued for

three hundred years after his death. William Tyndale,

John Bale, John Foxe, Thomas Beard, and James I were all

later concerned with the same problems that engaged Wyclif's

attention, but Wyclif's presentation of the problems turned

out to be the most direct and uncomplicated, providing a

basis for understanding later writings as they changed

emphasis in response to current pressures. His writings

operate as a control group to which the ideas in later

writings can profitably be compared.

Wyclif's writings also exerted a major influence on

anti-Roman events outside England and were carried by

Jerome of Prague (d. 1416), who studied at Oxford during

Wyclif's lifetime, to John Hus (1369-1415), whose work,

some critics believe, greatly influenced Martin Luther

(1483-1546). If one accepts this line of influence,

Wyclif's writings were a germinating ground for the

Reformation, which strongly affected events in Renaissance

England. These works formed the direct source for many

subsequent English writers; and they also helped to bring

about the Continental climate of anti-Romanism, from which

English dissenters drew strength.

The Lollard writers after Wyclif are nearly all anonymous

and use a rather desperate tone in response to the perse-

cution which began in England early in the fifteenth century.

These beleaguered men form the connection between Wyclif

and Tyndale. They reiterated so closely the opinions first

stated by Wyclif that many of their documents have been

erroneously credited to him. These writers kept alive the

religious protestations until the major figures of the

Renaissance came along to take up the cause.

The contributions of the major theological writers are

familiar to anyone interested in church history or in the

development of the English Bible. Tyndale's work remains

with us in some sections of the King James Version of the

Bible. Foxe's work on martyrs and the official acts which

allowed--even demanded--their martyrdom has been excerpted

and expanded by other writers for various purposes, but

Foxe's work itself is a historical treasure-trove. Bale,

whose fame rests mainly on King John, contributed in his

drama a picture of a decadent Roman Church and in his

exposition an example of Renaissance theology.

The works of lesser known theologians, while not so

impressive, were perhaps more an intimate part of the

lives of the people. Many carried messages of instruction

or consolation to local congregations from their particular

clergyman who had been arrested and imprisoned. Many were

sermons injected into the daily lives of the parishioners

to explain events and to encourage perseverance in their

beliefs. One unifying theme runs through each communica-

tion--the conviction that Antichrist flourished in the

Roman Church.

The secular writers did not look on the question of

Antichrist as the consuming issue of life. They were not

concerned with its place in Scripture; instead, they used

the term "Antichrist" as the basis for sensational fiction,

for moral lessons, or for political leverage. Ben Jonson

employed the term to generate humor. James I carried the

English view of Antichrist into Continental politics.

The study ends with an examination of various solu-

tions for the puzzle "666," a Biblical identification for

one of the beasts of Revelation which became a prominent

part of "Antichrist" during the period of this study. The

English talent for invention which asserted itself in the

variety and ingenuity of solutions supplies an additional

glimpse into the scope of their intellectual and spiritual


I found no twentieth century book which was concerned

with close investigation of Renaissance literature on

Antichrist. The only book related to this study is

Antichrist in Seventeenth Century England by Christopher

Hill, who mentions many works which I have located and

many more that I had not. Hill's work provides, however,

only brief quotations from a few works and extensive dis-

cussion of none. As he deals with the seventeenth century,

he traces the identification of Antichrist with, first, the

Pope, then with any Catholic prelate, then with assorted

Anglican churchmen, and then with every imperfect individual,

so that finally "Antichrist" became a common epithet with

only vague meaning.1 Hill supports this dilution of the
term by literary examples and appears to assume that the

question of Antichrist lost its importance at this point.

But I think it is clear that after England had settled

most of her problems with Rome, neighboring countries (for

example, France and Spain) were still experiencing religious

conflict because the pope continued as persecutor or Anti-

christ to Protestants in those countries. Some Englishmen,

therefore, continued to fear and resist the return of

Antichrist's papal influence, particularly at times of

political transition. Hill is less inclined to relate the

term to the seventeenth century papacy than to its adoption

in national disputes that had progressively less and less

connection with Rome. In his view, the term degenerated

into little more than an item in name-calling episodes.

This petty manifestation among English Protestants lay

outside the central issue--England's objections to Roman

influence--with which the term had been associated for at

least two hundred years.

One comment by Hill helps to explain why Catholicism

proved so difficult to dislodge: the ecclesiastical struc-

ture of remunerative livings retained from previous

Catholic domination remained an invitation for the Papists

to return to England.2 The Catholics, familiar with the

organizational structure of the Anglican Church, could

resume their former positions with very little difficulty,

as they did during the reign of Mary Tudor. Much of the

attitude and ritual of the Church remained the same under

both the Anglican and Roman labels.

I found one writer who agrees that the question of

Antichrist in England had not disappeared by the end of

the seventeenth century, but that a kind of power balance

between Protestant forces and those of Antichrist had been

achieved. Charles McIlwain, the editor of The Political

Works of James I proposes (below, p. 204 ) that the battle

between Catholics and Anglicans continued as long as the

Catholics had any hope of regaining a hold in England and

that the success of the Protestants in the Revolution of

1688 produced a stalemate which necessarily resulted in

toleration on both sides.3 Had this state not been reached,

the pope, I believe, would have continued to try to gain

influence in England and the struggle would have continued

in some form. The idea that Englishmen needed to remain

vigilant to prevent the return of the power of the pope

as Antichrist to England was never discarded by some


The initial reason for the prominence of the term

"Antichrist" lay in the oppression and persecution of

dissenters practiced by the Catholic Church in the four-

teenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. Though as the

Protestants derived and applied the term it lacked the pur-

ported Scriptural basis, it nevertheless proved useful to

the cause for which it was chosen--that of lessening Roman

influence in England. A quotation from The Divine Right

of Kings by John Neville Figgis may explain what appears

to be unreasoned convictions on the part of the reformers:

Large numbers of men may embrace belief
without good reason, but assuredly they
will not do so without adequate cause.4

The synthesis of the term "Antichrist" defies reason, but

it cannot be doubted that the early writers had cause to

create such a weapon as the term proved to be.

Several literary tools have proved essential in this

study. For questions of vocabulary, especially in the

early works, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was used.

Except where noted, Biblical quotations are from the King

James Version (KJV) because it is closely related to other

and earlier English versions and because it is more readily

available to present-day readers. For factual historical

data, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1929 edition, was found to

contain a great amount of information on persons and events

from the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries not

printed in the most recent editions.

The writers in this study display some of the attitudes

important in the transition from the medieval to the modern

world. They risked much to speak out individually against

oppression by entrenched religious authority. They laid

the perpetuation of error to the dynastic passage of

authority from one corrupt papacy to the next. Though

many who prominently voiced these views were put to death,

other men took up the dangerous task. Of the major writers

in this study, Tyndale was executed (1536) for defying the

Church; and Wyclif, Bale, and Foxe knew in varying degrees

what it meant to be in peril because of their anti-Roman

statements. Even through the unsigned Lollard writings

runs a sense that the author knew he risked his life to

point.out a better way to do things than had yet been tried.

Without these irrepressible gestures towards new religious

ideas, a segment of the Renaissance would have been truncated.

Modern civilization probably owes more to the Renaissance

period than has yet been recognized. This study concerns

a small portion of what that time bequeathed to us. It is

my wish that what follows will increase awareness of another

Renaissance contribution to the world as we know it today.


Christopher Hill, Antichrist in Seventeenth-Century
England (London: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 135.

Hill, p. 56.

Charles McIlwain, ed., The Political Works of James I
(New York: Russell & Russell, Inc., 1965), p. Ixxix.

John Neville Figgis, The Divine Right of Kings, 2nd
ed. (Cambridge: at the University Press, 1922), p. 2.



John is the only Biblical writer to use the word

antichristt," a common noun composed in the Greek of anti,

meaning "against" or "instead of," and Christos, meaning

"Messiah" or "anointed one." Throughout the New Testamentl

Christos or "Christ" is used to indicate Jesus and to link

him to the prophecies of Daniel (9.24-25) and Isaiah

(61.1,2), and to the kingly line of the Hebrew nation

(1 Sam. 16.13), as the "anointed one" who was to be the

promised redeemer. We never see the prefix "anti-" linked

with "Jesus," the name under which he grew up, or with

"lord," a title not necessarily indicating deity. The

word "Christ" occurs over five hundred times in the New

Testament and appears in every book in the New Testament

except 3 John, a book which deals with matters in a local


Having narrowed the use of the word antichristt" to

one writer, we can further narrow its occurrence to two

of the five books accepted as John's by medieval and Renais-

sance theologians, who based their evidence on book names

or style and content. The word appears in the third and

fourth smallest of the five books only five times:

Little children, it is the last hour:
and as ye have heard that antichrist com-
eth, even now have there arisen many
antichrists; whereby we know that it is
the last hour. (1 John 2.18)

Who is the liar but he that denieth
that Jesus is the Christ? This is the
antichrist, even he that denieth the
Father and the Son. (1 John 2.22)

And every spirit which confesseth not
Jesus is not of God: and this is the
spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye
have heard that it cometh; and now it is
in the world already. (1 John 4.3)

For many deceivers are gone forth into
the world, even they that confess not that
Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh. This is
the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John

The Greek New Testament2 shows the word without an

article in two instances, making it a common noun; the

three instances which are accompanied by the article occur

as predicate nominatives related by the use of the demon-

strative pronoun to a type of individual who makes a

particular statement:

HaSa, eoiT pa I

Little ones, it is a last hour, and


just as ye heard that antichrist was coming,

KCi v1vV &vVr{1XpIaTOl ffOXXOI yeyQvaolv.
even now many antichrists have come into being;

06ev yIvWaKooEv OTI kacXTn Upat aTIv.
from which we know that it is a last hour.
(1 John 2:18)

Tis EaTrv o6 peuaTns Et U 6 &pvou6.evos
Who is the liar, if not the one who denies

that Jesus is the Christ? This one is

o aVTIXPIaTOS, 0 apvouIievos Tov aTrepa
the antichrist, the one who denies the father

and the son. (1 John 2:22)

KaI a 7rVseUp 0 Po O oXoyEI TOV
And every spirit that confesses not that

Jesus is from God; even this one is the

one of the antichrist, who ye have heard is

EpXerTa, Kai v\U ev T$ KoUyP EUTI n6n.
coming, and is now already in the world.
(1 John 4:3)

OTIn oXXoi 7TXavot EEnkOov EIs TOV KOcUov,
For many deceivers came into the world,

01 Pn opoXoyoOVTes 'InaoOv XPiCToV EpXO6e'vov
the ones not confessing Jesus Christ coming in

ev oaopK -OTO'S EaTIV o T7Xavos Kac 6 a vTIXp1aTOs.
flesh; this is the deceiver and the antichrist.
(2 John 1:7)

From the above passages, John's views of antichristt"

may be extracted as follows:

1. The appearance of antichrists had been expected,

possibly from Jesus' own prediction that "false

Christs" would appear before the end of the

world (Matt. 24.24).

2. Many antichrists will appear, not just one.

3. Some of them were already in the world when John

wrote his books in the first century.

4. The antichrists whom John knew had first been

associated with the original group of believers,

but because of essential differences, they left

the group: "They went out from us, but they were

not of us ." (1 John 2.19).

5. The proliferation of antichrists is to be a sign

of the imminence of the "last time"--that period

which is to immediately precede the world


6. Some antichrists are spirits; some are men moti-

vated by those same spirits.

7. Antichrists are deceivers and liars.

8. Specifically, an antichrist will deny

a. that Jesus was sent from God.

b. that Jesus is the Christ, the "anointed one."

c. that Jesus, the anointed one, appeared in

human form.

d. the father-son relationship between God and


Thus, according to John, the activity and presence of anti-

christ will span all the years stretching from the first

century until the "last time" or the end of world history

brought about by violent events referred to by Biblical

writers from Isaiah in pre-Christian times to John in the

first century. This is as much as Scripture says about

antichrist. (For purposes of this study, antichristt"

[uncapitalized] refers to John's usage and follows the form

found in KJV [1908]; "Antichrist" refers to the term's use

by all other writers.)

After John introduced the term into the Biblical

vocabulary it probably was first applied to persecutors

of the early Christians. Nero (37-68)3 was given this

title, but since he was not a Christian, it may be assumed

that he had little objection. Oliver Ormerod (1580?-1626)

asserts that Jerome (340-420?) wrote against the influence

of Antichrist, saying that if so-called Christians got

their name from someone other than Christ, they were of

the synagogue of Antichrist.4 In a book of Jerome's

letters, two references to Antichrist occur: "Antichrist

pretends to be Christ,"5 and "The word Satan means

'adversary,' since Christ's adversary is anti-christ, who

finds Christ's precepts displeasing."6 Jerome's explanation

of the term in the second quotation goes back to the two

Greek meanings of the preposition "anti" (below, p. 48).

Jerome, seeming to view the person of Antichrist as Satan

himself, understood antichristt" to be a part of Satan's

effort to neutralize or defeat Christ's purposes.

Antichrist continued to be a rather indefinite figure

signifying a major adversary to God-ordained order in the

world until some bishops laid claim to superiority over

their peers. Other members of the clergy viewed this

attempted self-elevation as contrary to Christ's teaching.

By 600 A.D., the struggles for supremacy among the regional

bishops caused the current bishop of Rome, Gregory I, to

warn that any who "in the pride of his heart, desire to

be called universal Bishop" should be called Antichrist.7

Three years after Gregory's death in 604, Boniface III

actually assumed the title "Universal Bishop"; his opponents

remembered Gregory's admonition, and the combination of pope

and Antichrist--made perhaps in only a few minds at first--

was available as a precedent for later criticism of the

papacy. Various writers have viewed Boniface's assumption

of the title as the end of the true Christian religion at

Rome. Robert Crowley (1518?-1588) says that gradually,

in the first six hundred years after Christ, "Catholic

tares" sprang up in the Church, until "the whole state did

professe Antichristianisme and began to persecute such as

continued in the profession of the ancient and true

Catholike religion. ."9 Crowley also declares that

Gregory I was the last Roman bishop who was a true Christian,

an idea reflected in the late Renaissance by John Donne

(1573?-1631), writing in "Satire III":

Seek true religion. 0, where? Mirreus
[a Roman Catholic]
Thinking her [true religion] unhoused here
[England], and fled from us,
Seeks her at Rome; there, because he dot0 know
That she was there a thousand years ago.

When in about 1160 the Waldenses, the Albigenses, and

the Cathari began to suffer persecution, they blamed the

pope, calling him "Antichrist."11 By the time of Wyclif,

the epithet had long been applied to any pope who oppressed

or abused groups disagreeing with the principles and prac-

tices of the Church of Rome. When fifteenth century writers

mentioned "Antichrist," they usually referred to the pope

as he acted out the qualities of a tyrant punishing his

subjects for disobedience.

Perhaps during later medieval years, an unidentified

writer likened this pope-Antichrist to one of the beasts

in Revelation, paralleling the prophesied apocalyptic terror

and bloodshed with the terror and bloodshed visited on

rebellious factions by Rome. Either the original writer

or someone who followed extended the concept to include

the characteristics of a second Revelatory beast:

And I saw a beast coming up out of the
sea, having ten horns and seven heads. .
(Rev. 13.1b)

And they worshipped the beast, saying, Who
is like unto the beast? (Rev. 13.4b)

And there was given to him [the beast] a
mouth speaking great things and blasphemies;
and there was given to him authority to con-
tinue forty and two months. And he opened
his mouth for blasphemies against God, to
blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, even
them that dwell in the heaven. And it was
given unto him to make war with the saints,
and to overcome them: and there was given
to him authority over every tribe and people
and tongue and nation. (Rev. 13.5-7)

The beast that thou sawest was, and is
not; and is about to come up out of the
abyss, and to go into perdition. (Rev.

And I saw another beast coming up out of
the earth; and he had two horns like unto
a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he
exerciseth all the authority of the first
beast in his sight. And he maketh the
earth and them that dwell therein to wor-
ship the first beast. (Rev. 13.11,12)

Between them, these beasts had power to bring fire down

from heaven (Rev. 13.13), to give life to an image (Rev.

13.15), to regulate buying and selling by requiring a

particular mark of identification (Rev. 13.17), and to

overcome the saints (Rev. 13.7). In comparing John's

antichrist (above, p. 15) with the fifteenth century

figure, we see that the later Antichrist had many attrib-

utes that the earlier one did not have.

In its prophecy of end-time events, the book of Daniel

makes prominent mention of beasts which were taken by

medieval and Renaissance writers to be identical to the

beasts in Revelation. On this basis, fifteenth century

writers proceeded to refer to Old Testament beasts as

freely as to the ones in the New Testament. Having carried

their subject into the Old Testament, they adopted for

their purposes portions of other Hebrew books. Someone

else postulated that the "man of sin" and the "son of

perdition" in the New Testament (2 Thess. 2.3) also per-

tained to the pope-Antichrist, and these juxtapositions,

along with Jesus' teaching of false Christs (Matt. 24.24),

provided the foundation for a host of New Testament texts.

Fifteenth and sixteenth century authors supported their

arguments dealing with Antichrist from this wide Biblical

network, often disregarding the literal meaning of the

Scripture--the level at which Wyclif had taught it should

be understood. No one paused to explain why John himself

would not have used the name "Antichrist" in Revelation

if indeed such a character appeared in that book. The

importance they gave to their subject overshadowed quibbles

about its genesis. Thomas Beard (d. 1631), for example,

considered the ability to identify Antichrist second only

in importance to knowledge about Christ:

Next unto the knowledge of our Lord and
Savior lesus Christ, there is nothing so
necessarie, as the true and solide knowl-
edge of Antichrist, the cruellest enemy
to Christ and his members As it is
a notorious iniurie and outrage, to call
anyone by the name of Antichrist, or to
flye from him, he being not so; so it is

a palpable flattery unworthy a Christian,
to honor, reuerence, and adore as a God on
earth, him whom we ought to detest and
abhorre, as the most pernitious organe of
the diuell.12

Thus we see what part of Antichrist is actually found

in the Bible and what has been added to that by inference

and analogy. The process included peer criticism by Catho-

lic bishops and vehement objections by persecuted victims.

When we arrive at the time of our first writer, John Wyclif,

the matter is still contained within the Catholic Church.

Before the influence of the Church is transferred to

English hands, many lives will be lost and conditions set

up which have affected England in some degree ever since.

Wyclif's writings begin the sequence of events involving

Antichrist and England.


1Holy Bible, King James Version (Oxford: University
Press, 1908), hereafter KJV. All Biblical references
in the text refer to this edition unless otherwise noted.

2The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland et al.,
2nd ed. (Stuttgart: Wurtemberg Bible Society, 1968).

3Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1929 ed., XVI, 231.

4Oliver Ormerod, The Picture of a Papist (1606)
(University Microfilms, Reel 968, 1963), p. 185.

St. Jerome, Select Letters of St. Jerome, trans.
F. A. Wright (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
1954), p. 149.

St. Jerome, p. 165.

7Ephraim Pagett, Christianographie, or the Description
of the Multitude and Sundry Sorts of Christians in the World
Not Subject to the Pope (London, 1635) (University Micro-
films, Reel 968, 1963), p. 52.

8Ormerod, pp. 185-186.

Robert Crowley, A Deliberate Answere Made to a Rash
Offer, Which a Popish Antichristian Catholique Made to a
Learned Protestant (as He Saieth) and Caused to be Published
in Printe: Anno Do. 1575 (1587) (University Microfilms,
Reel 213, 1944), p. 42.

10John Donne, The Complete Poetry of John Donne, ed.
John T. Shawcross (Garden City, New York: Anchor Books,
Doubleday & Company, 1967), p. 24.

11Hill, p. 7.

12Thomas Beard, Antichrist the Pope of Rome (1625)
(University Microfilms, Reel 1126, 1968), "To the Reader."



The writers who now engage our attention lived over a

period of two hundred years. Probably educated by Catholic

theologians in English universities, they all later criti-

cized the Church in varying degrees. All wrote about the

activity of Antichrist in both the English and Italian

divisions of the Church. As a means of resisting Anti-

christ, two of these men produced early English transla-

tions of parts of the Bible, the source of many ideas which

formed English culture and directly influenced English

literature. Two others described events of one period

when hundreds of Englishmen died for what they believed.

All of them chronicled the dismay and outrage of English-

men viewing increasing corruption and oppression from the

Church to which they had looked for salvation. As each

writer added accusations and embellishments, the personality

of the Antichrist developed.

John Wyclif

John Wyclif (1320-1384), whose works furnish the

starting point in this study, formulated the basis, or at

least provided the impetus, for nearly all the anti-Roman

arguments of the following three centuries. His writings

are among the earliest in English which compare activities

and doctrines of the pope with those thought to be charac-

teristic of Antichrist. Frequent targets for his criticism

were the Church's traditional religious practices or beliefs,

such as the meaning and method of confession or the proper

duties and qualifications of priests. He wrote as a

grieved family member hoping to see errors corrected rather

than as a meddlesome outsider criticizing opposing opinion.

The writings of Wyclif and his followers give us the back-

ground for understanding events and ideas involved in the

onset of the Reformation, which in turn greatly affected

the English Renaissance.

Wyclif uses the word "Antichrist" according to its

grammatical roots rather than the definition given by


Crist hadde not propre good wher-ynne
he shulde reste his hed; men seyn this
pope hath more than half of the empire
with-outen his spuyling. Crist was most
meke & most seruysable & girte hym with
a cloth & wayschide his disciplis feet,
as the gospel of ioon tellith; the pope
sittith in his troone & makith lordis to
kisse his feet. Crist wente mekely fro
plase to place & prechide the gospel &
taught pouert; the pope dwellith in
auyoun & doith not this but the contrarie.
& so sith that anticrist is he that is
agenus crist, it semyth bi his feyned lif
that he is opyn anticrist.1

When writers before Wyclif used the word "Antichrist,"

they almost always connected it in some way with the abuses

of the Church against dissenting groups or individuals.

By the time Wyclif writes, the growing prominence of the

pope has exposed him to criticisms such as those directed

at him by Wyclif, who designates the pope "Antichrist"

because of specific contradictions in the pope's teachings

to those of Christ. Wyclif's characterization of the pope

set the pattern for subsequent English writers.

Had Wyclif been writing a century later, he would

most likely not have died as he did in his own bed; he

certainly would not have been free to produce the works

which so intimately influenced and inspired the later

antipapists. Except for a few official attempts to

question him, Wyclif seemed to be free to write in England

without fear for his life, a privilege not widely enjoyed

by critics of the Church on the Continent. While Wyclif

was receiving a prebend for his services in the Catholic

Church, he disagreed with Rome over political elements

in the hierarchical system of the Church; he may himself
have been a victim of this system early in his career.

He developed strong objections to the amount of money being

sent from England to Rome and from there, sometimes, to

England's political opponents:

Prelatis ouere this robben oure lond of
mochil tresour & senden it to aliens &
enemys of oure rewme & bryngen agen goddis
curs & heresie.3

Increasingly, Wyclif dealt with spiritual matters.

Tied to the political question of revenue for Rome were

questions of corruption in the Church. In a continuation

of the excerpt quoted above, he deplores some of the reasons

for which money was sent to Rome: to buy spiritual benefits

simonyy), or worse yet, to buy exemptions from the penalty

of premeditated sins. Wyclif believed that these practices

directly violated God's laws.

For thei don not here spiritual offis
aftir goddis lawe, & yit gredely gedren
dymes & offryngis & procuracies, & senden
moche gold coine for the first fruytis,
& to purchase & apropre to hem moo benefices,
preuylegies & indulgences; & this is thefte
& symonye yif goddis lawe & mannus & reason
be sougt, & the sillere of benefices &
spiritual things & the gevere of gold for
hem ben cursed of god & man & ben foule
heretiks. & sumtyme the court of rome is
worldly aduersarie to oure lond, & namely
in fauour of oure enemys; but more harme
is of gostly ennemyte, whanne thei
enuenymen oure people with cursed symonye
and meyntenynge & consent of synne bi
blynde obedience. For yif ony worldly
prelat wole do ony wrong agenst rigt &
reason, he schal geten a priueilege or
exempcion or sentence of curs for his gold
sent & spendid at rome, & moche gold goth
out of oure lond bi long pledynge at rome,
& rigt born a doun, & synne contyned &
meyntened, that vnnethis dar ony man speke
theragenst; and thus is our lond robbid of
gold, & curs & heresie brought in, and synne
long meyntened, & rigtwisnesse stopped.4

Wyclif came to the conclusion that righteousness was

the only justification for claiming title to authority

or property, and that unrighteous clergy had no right to

either. And from his view, many of the clergy were not

righteous. He mentions a startling catalogue of sins in

which he says some were involved; he declares that Satan

tempts young priests to covetousness and lust and offers

them wealth and various sexual activities, leading some to

set up elaborate domestic establishments in contradiction

to their.vows and to God's laws:

For many preistis now kepen neither
matrimonye ne charite, but defoulen
wyues, maidenes, widewis & nunnes in
eche manere of lecherie, & children ben
mortherid, & synne agenst kynde is not
clene fleed. For sathanas caste to
purchase worldly honour & plente of
worldly goddis & welfare & ydelnesse
to yonge prestis, & dalliaunce with
women & priue rownyng; & is redy nyght
& day to stere both parties to leccherie,
& sumtyme to hyden here synne bi fals
this & motheryng of children, & sumtyme
haunten it opynly & schamen not ther-of;
& her-bi high prelatis wynnen many
thousand pondis in fewe yeris & holden
grete housholde as lordis, & thus by this
ypocrisie in bothe poyntis ben lordis &
prestis & communes encombrid, & goddis
lawe dispisid & broken & synnes gedred
in grete hordis.5

Following this passage, Wyclif discusses deeper ques-

tions of doctrine, clarifies his differences with the

Church, and offers principles of discernment for those

unaccustomed to thinking for themselves on theological


Wyclif did not, as so many did later, wrest Scripture

out of context to prove his arguments. He presents what

he considers to be a malpractice on the part of the Church

or the pope and then shows the Scriptural basis for his

objections. In his discussion of confession, he says that

Antichrist, the pope, directs men to confess their sins

to priests, who, the pope says, have power to forgive them

as was shown by Christ when he ordered his disciples to

loose the burial wrappings at the raising of Lazarus from

the dead. Wyclif did not believe Scripture gave one man

the power to forgive another man's sin; so refuting what

the Church taught, he explains in "Of Confession" that men

certainly were exhorted to confess their sins to each

other, not to obtain forgiveness, but to remind each man

of his own frailty in the face of Satan's temptations.

This confession should be reciprocal, without one person's

setting himself up as better than the others. Those who

claimed superior virtue or power over sin Wyclif calls

"emperor prelates," referring mainly to the priests. Did

not Christ say that anyone who elevated himself should be

lowered? These emperor priests should be lowered according

to Christ's words. What Christ meant, says Wyclif, by the

disciples' loosing of the bonds of Lazarus was that through

preaching the gospel priests should teach men how to loose

themselves from sinful habits; only Christ can raise dead

bodies and only Christ can give sinners spiritual life by

forgiving their sins. Wyclif points out that John the Baptist

preached confession of sins, but the Scripture in that place

does not say that confession had to be made either to John

or a priest.6

In this discussion Wyclif relies on Scriptural support

in a way strikingly different from many later writers con-

sidered in this study. He speaks from the epistle of James

but gives no chapter and verse designation. He does not

pull out phrases which in their excised state support his

arguments, but he refers instead to James' idea within its

completed statement, opening his own argument to the sense

and meaning of the whole book of James. In the section on

confession Wyclif preserves the literal unity of the Scrip-

tural accounts of Lazarus and John Baptist throughout his

interpretation. Some later writers avoided the inclusion

of even one complete verse of Scripture to support an argu-

ment, because their support came from a short phrase useful

only if set apart from its context. There is in Wyclif's

writings a sanity and an unforced use of ideas wholly lack-

ing in the superficial cleverness and confusing illogicali-

ties of the fanatic. Most of his arguments are based on

wide knowledge of the Bible and sound thinking rather than

on popular cliches and unsupportable inherited assumptions.

In discussing the pope's office, Wyclif contrasts the

pope's anti-Christian life of riches with Christ's poverty:

it semeth that the pope is
anticrist heere in erthe. For he is
agenus crist bothe in lif & in lore.
Crist was most pore man fro his birthe
to his deth, & lefte worldly richees &
beggyng, aftir the staat of innocense;
but anticrist agenus this, fro the tyme
that he be maad pope til the tyme that
he be deed heere, coueytith to be worldly
riche, & castith bi many shrewid weyes
hou that he may thus be riche.7

Wyclif amasses additional evidence of Antichrist in the

pope as he contrasts the pope's pride in allowing his feet

to be kissed by lords with Christ's humility in washing

his disciples'feet, the pope's isolation in a castle with

Christ's free movement among common men, and the pope's

restrictions on spiritual rewards with Christ's diligence

in preaching to men of all ranks. Wyclif says the pope

convinces men to hold his laws more important than Christ's,

thereby causing men to omit those things necessary for

salvation. Besides deceiving men, the pope carries out

vengeance on any who resist him, whereas Christ prayed

for his enemies. In all these things, the pope sought

his own glory rather than God's, thereby proving himself

"very anticrist & not cristis viker heere."8

Wyclif hoped that the Great Schism of 1378 would

destroy the people's trust in the papacy. He thought the

people, doubting the authenticity of either pope, would

perhaps learn to follow men only as they followed Christ.

But he feared that the popes would divert attention from

their deceptions by involving men in wars resulting from

papal disputes. If the nations, however, would resist the

popes' demands, they would have an opportunity to re-

evaluate their beliefs, and in addition, they would be

relieved of the financial burdens imposed by the Church.

The Schism was "medicyn" sent from God to reveal the false-

hood of Antichrist, if nations and men would only heed it.

Wyclif's writings provided an important and durable

impetus picked up and carried by other men toward the

Reformation. It is known that Jerome of Prague studied at

Oxford in 1398 while strong supporters of Wyclif were still

there and that he made copies of some of Wyclif's major

works. Later, returning to Prague, he became the friend

of John Hus, who then adopted many of Wyclif's ideas, using

excerpts from Wyclif's writings in his own. Both Jerome

and Hus were martyred for their refusal to reject beliefs

very similar, if not identical, to those found in Wyclif's

writings. Hus's writings eventually influenced Luther,

whose beliefs culminated directly in the Protestant


As the first in a line of Englishmen who effectively

spoke out against religious corruption and oppression,

Wyclif presented many of the ideas that reappear in the

works of writer after writer through the Catholic-Protestant

struggle. As we shall see next, his Lollards spread his

doctrine too widely for the Church to eradicate it and

promoted the coinciding interest of layman and theologian

that Rome could not ignore. Wyclif's ideas persisted

though some men died because they adopted them. The

religious revolution which became a part of the Renaissance

in England can be traced directly to Wyclif's introduction

to the English people of the pope as Antichrist. In the

next century, men with somewhat less literary skill but

with equal courage assumed the task begun by Wyclif.

Post-Wyclif Lollard Writers

Before he died, Wyclif sent men who carried his

ideas and his writings throughout much of England. These

men and those who followed came to be called "Lollards"

or "Lollers" about the time of Wyclif's death.11 They were

recognized by their possession of English books and Scrip-

tures and by their opposition to the pope. The Lollards

were so closely connected with the English Bible that

Reginald Pecock (1395-1460) called them "Bible men."12

The possession of English books was in itself reason for

suspicion of Lollardy.13 After the passage of Archbishop

Arundel's "Constitutions" (1409), vernacular Scriptures

translated during Wyclif's time were illegal and figured

in many trials for heresy.

Lollard belief that the pope was Antichrist is abun-

dantly evident. A 1499 record of a Salisbury heresy trial

involving two parish priests included their statement that

"the Pope is antecrist."14 The manuscript which is.the

source of An Apology for Lollard Doctrines (late fourteenth

or early fifteenth century) contains three other treatises

on Antichrist: "De Christo et Antichristo," "Of anticrist,

and his meynee [family]," and "Of antecristis song in

chirche." The Apology itself discusses the pope as Anti-

christ, an analogy based on the pope's divergence from

Biblical standards, known to the Lollards from their read-

ing of English Scriptures. After a wide study of manuscript

and printed sources, a twentieth century scholar, John

Thomson, states that one of the two most important aspects

of Lollard doctrine was their antipapal stance, epitomized

in their frequent use of the epithet "Antichrist."15

The Church countered by trying to stop the spread of

Biblical knowledge, burning offensive books, and persecuting

offending Lollards. Most, if not all, Lollard trials

involved possession of English Scriptures, since "the

chief question at issue was always the testing of some

doctrine by an appeal to the letter of the New Testament."16

Lollards brought to trial for unorthodox views regarding

the nature of the Sacrament consistently defended themselves

with words from the English Testament.

In spite of formidable opposition, Lollards continued

to speak of the pope as Antichrist. Using their newly

acquired Biblical insights they began to aver that worldwide

religious jurisdiction had never been instituted in the

Scriptures;17 that if anyone had maintained widespread in-

fluence in the early Church, it was Paul, not Peter; that

if the office of pope were justifiable, it should be filled

by the most virtuous man alive; and that if the pope were

to be Christ's vicar, he should carry out the commandments

and principles of his superior. Each one of these points

was enlarged in various polemical essays which stated

repeatedly that Christ alone is the head of the Church,

and if the pope abrogates this position he is "a blasphemer

and Lucifer and antecrist."l8 Had God instituted the papacy

by choosing the best possible human being, Paul, not Peter,

would have been first pope, they argued. Peter's uneven

Biblical career includes denying Christ, losing faith on

the water-walk, and being called "Satan" by Jesus--all

dubious recommendations for a religious leader. Peter's

admirable accomplishments were all surpassed by those of

Paul in his traveling, writing, preaching, and suffering

for the gospel. Paul's gift of wisdom seemed to one Lollard

greater than that given to Peter.19 When Lollard writers

pointed out individually and generally the lapses in the

lives of popes since Peter, the Church, unable to deny the

allegations, countered with the doctrine that, even if a

priest or pope was sinful, his services remained efficacious

(below, p.106)--a doctrine further violating Lollard belief.

A statement by a Wyclif contemporary affirms the scope of

Lollard beliefs:

The sect is held in such great honour
these days, and has so multiplied, that
you can hardly see two men passing in the
road, but one of them shall be a disciple
of Wyclyffe.20

Though Lollard leadership fell apart after the exe-

cution of Sir John Oldcastle in 1419, the following evidence

verifies an industrious production of Lollard books and


1. The amount of work that went into the careful

handcopying of these works implies financial

support to an organization of some magnitude.

2. A large number of books on religion and philoso-

phy appear as references in remaining literature.
3. Critical remarks made by Lollard opponents show

widespread awareness of Lollard works.

4. The supply of Lollard books was sufficient to

fuel numerous bonfires.21

Anne Hudson believes that the works which influenced English

thought throughout the fifteenth century and beyond were

copies of works written early in the century.22 Eventually,
some were printed by early reformers after the invention

of the printing press. Many sixteenth and seventeenth

century Puritan treatises retain characteristic Lollard

phrases and catchwords.23 Tyndale's essays frequently

reflect Lollard thought, and his determination to make the

Scripture generally available extends Lollard goals into

the sixteenth century. Though few Lollards writers can be

named, the existence and influence of their works are not

to be doubted. Admittedly unremarkable for literary

polish, they, nevertheless, carry in an unbroken line

from Wyclif to Tyndale the idea that the pope is anti-

thetical to Christ.

Lollards extended the epithet "Antichrist" beyond the

pope to the hierarchy making up his organization, as the

following typical excerpt explains:

I calle antecrist al the confederacie
of hem that agens Crist and aboue his
gospel magnyfien mennys tradiciouns and
lawis for wynnyng and delicate lijf, and
bisily doen execucioun of her owne will
and comaunding, not reckinge of the
heestis of God and his lawe.24

Their bitter opposition to the local prelacy at times

overshadowed their enmity toward the pope. Friars were

said to be of the house of Caym (Cain), the first murderer.

"Caym" stands for the initials of four orders of friars:

Carmelites, Augustinians, Jacobites (Dominicans), and

Minorites (Franciscans).25 Archbishops and bishops received

a fair share of Lollard invective as well.

Increasingly an accusatory tone permeated their doc-

trinal discussions. The epithet "Antichrist," frequently

voiced in this phase of Lollard expression, reflects the

growing hostility to rising opposition in the surrounding

society. Their essays contain specious, fearful, and hys-

terical statements that often divert attention from illogical

or ill-founded arguments supported by parts of Scripture

taken carefully out of context. Instead of citing one or

two texts for support, they give numerous references in

what may have been either an attempt to overwhelm any

possible objections or simply a medieval exercise in list-

making. The implied divine approval in the theologians'

use of seemingly corroborative Scripture proved an

effective barrier to counterarguments. Then, too, before

a critic could address the real issue of the works, he had

to successfully dispose of the many Scriptures in which

the premises were imbedded and avoid being snared in side

issues brought to mind by the references. As a result,

the more the writings on the Antichrist became layered

in specific, if oblique or nonrelevant, Scriptural refer-

ences, the more the Lollard idea of Antichrist was protected

from close scrutiny and the harder it became to test the

validity of the idea itself. The general unacceptability

of any anti-Christian person or attitude in medieval or

early Renaissance society was such that few writers suc-

ceeded in lifting a discussion of that person or attitude

out of the emotional sphere onto a scholarly, objective

level. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it became

easier to get rid of the writer or his disciples than to

keep Lollard works from flourishing even though they might

be emotional and illogical.

Of the post-Wyclif writings, The Lanterne of Ligt is

one of the most interesting. Some think the book is Wyclif's,

but in the preface to her study, Lillian Swinburn presents

evidence to show that it was certainly produced after the

passage of Arundel's "Constitutions" in 1409--at least

twenty-five years after Wyclif's death in 1384. The book

was copied widely for secret circulation, figuring in the

condemnation of at least one man to the martyr's stake.

John Claydon, though illiterate, was burned in 1415 after

being tried for listening to a friend's reading of the

book and for agreeing with its principles.26

The author of Lanterne, writing "for the more lernynge

of smale vndirstondars,"27 refers to Antichrist as follows:

For now the devel hath married this world
bi his leeftenaunt anticrist .. The
enemy of God hath sowen taaris upon the
seed of Jesu Crist. This wicked man is

Reflecting the restrictions placed on the Lollards in 1409,

the writer says:

There shal no man preche Goddis word
in thoo daies neither heere it but if he
have a special letter of lisence that is
clepid the mark of this beest anticrist.

In the first excerpt, Antichrist is personified as a

subordinate of Satan, the one who, as the "enemy of God,"

sowed tares among the "seed of Jesus Christ," or his true

followers. The writer alludes to the parable (Matt.

13.24-30) which Jesus explained (vv. 36-43) as a picture

of the devil's propagation of his wicked children among

the children of God. This characterization is congruent

with John's ideas of Antichrist.

In the second of the above excerpts the writer sets

"Antichrist" in apposition to a beast described in the

Revelation, allowing Antichrist now to possess all the

attributes of the beast, thus acquiring an individual

personality. The writer disregards the fact that the word

"Antichrist" does not appear in the Revelation; furthermore,

he overlooks the complete disparity of purposes attributed

by John to the beasts and antichrist while each is in the

world. The only common element, if one adheres to the

Scriptures, is that they all belong to the kingdom of

Satan. The beasts are to be world rulers, to be wor-

shipped universally, to regulate economics, to perform

miracles, and to appear in history as the "last time"

approaches, and not before. John's antichrist seeks only

to form opinion.

Chapter 3 of Lanterne discusses the "general" defini-

tion of Antichrist:

To speke in general, that is in most in
comune, anticrist is euery man that lyueth
agan Crist, as seint Ion seith.30

The writer arrives at his independent definition by first

giving the root meaning of the word "Antichrist" ("every

man that lives against Christ"), following with a partial

quotation ("Now are many antichrists"--I John 2.18), and

then quoting from St. Augustine ("Who liveth contrary to

Christ, he is an antichrist"). While giving John as the

authority for his statement, the writer uses Augustine's

definition to support his belief that an Antichrist reveals

itself by its actions and affiliations just as true

Christians display characteristic behavior. Looking at

the conflicts around him, the author sees Antichrist in

the courts and the Church.

Having equated John's antichrist with the beasts of

Revelation, the Lanterne writer then connects this "beest

anticrist" with the prophecies of Daniel in which beasts

similar to those in Revelation also appear. Because he

thus places Antichrist in the Old Testament as well as the

New, he can thereby include in his exposition many Old

Testament prophecies related to those in Revelation. Some

other writers were more careful to explain the relationship

of John's antichrist to other parts of Scripture, and some

made other connections which will be considered later.

Chapter 4 of Lanterne presents a description which

the author calls a "particular" definition of Antichrist.

He says that David's Psalms contain a prophecy supporting

five points to show how Antichrist assaults God's people:

1. by constitution;

2. by tribulation;

3. by Inquisition;

4. by persecution;

5. by execution.

All of these five were operating in the society of which

the Lollards and other dissenters during the fourteenth and

fifteenth centuries were a part; but to say that David was

prophesying specifically about those centuries or about

Antichrist forced the passage out of context.

In discussing the first point, the author begins with

a quotation from Psalms and then applies the verse to the

conditions around him:

"Lord suffre thou to ordeynea lawemaker
vpon the people, in peyne of her synne. For
thei wole not consent to the trouthe." That
is thus to mene, Anticrist vseth fals lucra-
tif or wynnyng lawis as ben absoluciouns,
indulgence, pardouns, priuelegis, & alle
othir heuenli tresour, that is brought in
to sale for to spoile the people of her
worldli goodis & principal this newe
constituciouns, bi whos strength anticrist
enterditith chirchis, soumneth prechours,
suspendith resceyuours, & priueth hem their
bennefice, cursith heerars, & takish awey
the goodis of hem that fortheren the
precheing of a prest, ghe though it were
an aungel of heuene, but if that prest
schewe the mark of the beest, the which
is turned in to a newe name & clepid a
special lettir of lisence for the more
blyndyng of the lewid peple.32

In Psalm 9, the given source of the quotation, the words

attributed to David were a plea for a righteous leader who

could overthrow the wicked. The Lanterne author turns

David's request to the Lord into a prophecy of Antichrist,

injecting current regulations by the Roman Church against

dissenting Christians into the interpretation of the chapter.

Where David's tone was one of supplication, the Lanterne's

author changes the meaning so that the tone becomes one of


The discussion of the five points mentioned previously

inveighs against a current practice or abuse approved or

carried out by the Church--pilgrimages, prohibition of

Bible reading in English, greed of priests, and execution

of martyrs, all of which were allowed or perpetrated by

the Roman Church. But the forced use of Scripture verses

purporting to show prophesied disapproval is a far departure

from Wyclif's method of disagreement with the Church.

The Lanterne author does not hesitate to add whatever

suits him to verses of Scripture. His method, as seen in

the discussion on constitutions, is to quote a verse of

Scripture and then discuss it. Usually he quotes in Latin

and follows with an English translation, sometimes with

startling additions. Speaking of Antichrist's persecution

of Christians (above, p. 41, point 4), he quotes the follow-

ing verse:

Vidi de ore draconis et de ore bestie
et de ore pseudoprophete spiritus tres
immundos exisse in modum ranarum. LRev.
16.13J -

The Lanterne author translates the passage as follows:

I saw seith seint Ion out of the mouthe
of the dragoun, that is the heed of anti-
crist, & out of the mouthe of the beest,
that is the bodi of anticrist, & out of
the mouthe of the pseudo-prophete or fals
prechour, that is the taile of anticrist,
there vnclean spirits to have passid out
in the maner of froggis.34

Here the writer implies that the dragon, the beast, and

the false prophet together make up the Antichrist: he

emphasizes the anatomical comparisons made earlier between

Antichrist and the Roman Church in which the head of

Antichrist is "an old or honored man in the court of

Rome,35 his body or the seat (in its most unflattering

sense) is composed of archbishops and bishops,36 and the

tail comprises monks, canons, and friars.37 Though Isaiah

9.15, his given reference for this analysis, says nothing

about either Antichrist or Rome, the author pulls the

word "head" and "tail" from the reference where they apply

to the nation of Israel. He speaks next from 2 Peter of

false teachers as opponents of Christ, and though the word

"Antichrist" does not appear, it is more clearly implied

in this place than in many of the other passages referred

to. Yet he merely touches on this reference and continues

to other less applicable verses, generally ignoring the

contexts of the excerpted portions.

If the exaggerations and additions ultimately weaken

the impact of the work, the author's use of imagery serves

to strengthen it. The passage on the frogs emphasizes a

vivid picture of clerical sin:

Froggis sitting in hoolis bi the watir-
brink purchassen of the ground abouen
hem & on either side hem. But that that
is vndirnethen hem thei wole not her
thanks, neither leesen it ne loosen it.
So this there spirits croking in coueitis,
glotenie & leccherie bitokenen anticrist
in hise there partise. For thei pur-
chassen of lordis, that ben abouen hem,
miche parte of her good with the tung of
flatering & feyned ypocrisie. And of the
comunes abouten hem, thei whiglen in to
her hands miche parte of her catel. But
that that thei han wonnen, thei holden
fast agen the autorite of bothe Goddis

The picture of three fat frogs croaking greedily in their

mud puddle shows something of the reason for the common

man's impotent resentment against the Church's assumed

right to confiscate from dissenters their lands and posses-


The Lanterne writer is concerned with protecting

Christ's true flock against whom Antichrist is warring

from being weakened by evil of any sort. To strengthen

their resistance, he compares familiar experiences to the

seven deadly sins: as tempests are perilous for the

fisherman's net, so pride is dangerous to Christ's Church;

as the water of the sea is bitter and sour to the taste,

so envy and hate are as bitter and as damaging to cordial

relations among men; as storms with sudden winds grieve

fishermen, so wrath causes much sorrow in the world; no

grass or flower grows where the sea touches, just as

sloth kills the flower of virtue in man; the sea reaches

out to take whatever it can, just as covetousness prompts

men to grasp without thankfulness; the sea belches filth,

as lechery causes men to defoul themselves, whose bodies

are God's temple; the sea sometimes drowns men upon it,

as gluttony drowns those who practice it. Thus the

writer encourages his fellow-Christians to remain strong

that they might more effectively resist Antichrist's

assaults. The Lanterne author's skill in attaching visual

reinforcement to abstract ideas and in maintaining an

extended metaphor must certainly have contributed to the

popularity of his book and the spread of his ideas.

The Lollard tract in James Henthorn Todd's An Apology

for Lollard Doctrines adheres closely to the usual Lollard

arguments against un-Biblical Church practices, unsuitability

of priests, and superstition in the Church. Point by point

the tract shows how the pope opposes himself to Christ.

The author is also concerned about how corrupt doctrine

affects the man in the pew. He deplores the granting of

indulgences by parish priests to praying worshippers hoping

to accrue as many as ten thousand years of pardon; for, says

the author,

S. by suelk sophymis of anticrist, the
lawe of God is despicid, and rigtful is
put in veyn hope, and vpon ilk side a
liuar in this world is falsely iapid
S. And alle feynid arguments of 39
anticrist are not worth to be rehersid.

For some pages the discussion goes on without specific

mention of Antichrist, but eventually a more comprehensive

statement about Antichrist is made:

This a another poynt, that the pope,
cardinalis, bischopis, and other
prelats benethe, are disciplis of
anticrist, and sellars of merit .
Therefor who that usith swilk werks is
disciple of anticrist, and anticrist .
Ilk one contrary to Crist is anticrist,
and the tung a lone is not to be axid,
but the lif .Whoever is contrary
to the doctrine, and to 4he word of God,
he is anticrist .

Other criteria for identifying Antichrist follow,

all based on Scriptural principles or authorities such

as St. Augustine (354-430) and Robert Grosthead, Bishop

of Lincoln (1235-1253), who opposed the legal power of the

Roman Church. Augustine is supposed to have said, "Ilk

man axe her his conciens wether he be anticrist."41 Lincoln

is purported to have said, "Scheperds, clepid the person

of the verray shepherd Ihu Crist, nougt schewing the

gospel, thof thei ekid [added] not other malice ouer, they

are anticrists."42 Predating Wyclif by one hundred years,

Lincoln already ties Antichrist to churchmen who neglect

the Scriptures. The Church's strenuous attempts to pro-

hibit Scripture reading by lay persons is directly tied

to Lollard use of the Scriptures in criticizing the Church.

Thomson's account in The Later Lollards 1414-1520

reveals the persistence through the fifteenth century of

basic Lollard beliefs, even though no new Lollard leaders

emerged and though (if Hudson is correct) the sect lacked

original writers after 1425.43 Trials for Lollardy took

place at intervals throughout this time because of con-

tinuing resistance to the Church. Along with other

familiar objections to doctrine or practices, the prisoners

repeatedly admitted to the courts that they believed the

pope to be Antichrist.44 Occasionally a novel criticism

appears in the literature: one prisoner said that the

Church as an organization was the beast of the Revelation;45

another said that the cross was the sign of Antichrist;46

one called the pope "Father Antichrist";47 and one claimed

that churchbells were "antecristis homes."48 The vigor

of Lollard beliefs in the sixteenth century is an indica-

tion of their initial strength, though it hardly explains

the contagious appeal of a doctrine that led ultimately

to disgrace, impoverishment, or death.

The literature of this post-Wyclif period is not with-

out its elements of confusion. Some writers disagreed--not

on whether it was logical to bring a term from 1 John into

Revelation, but on which of the two Revelation beasts the

title "Antichrist" should properly be settled, or whether

Antichrist was really the False Prophet spoken of in the

same book. Some writers were using "ante-," the prefix

meaning "before," instead of "anti-," meaning "against" or

"instead of," thus further clouding the understanding of

the term "Antichrist." In fact, Bibles in print during

the next century still contained both spellings. The

Great Bible (1540)49 shows the word spelled "Antechrist"

or "Antechriste" three times out of the five occurrences.

(The 1550 edition50 spells them all using "anti-.")

The Bible in Englyshe (1541)51 uses "ante-" in the same

three instances. Coverdale's Bible (1550)52 spells all

five with "anti-." Whether this irregularity is just

another instance of unstandardized spelling or whether

it indicates differing opinion as to the meaning of the

term, the variations perpetuated confusion. In 1589,

Lambert Danaeus wrote to clarify this disparity:

Speaking against some that were
ignorant in the Greek tongue, he
[Augustine] reasoneth thus, that Anti-
christ is not so called, for that [be-
cause] he should come before Christ
(whereupon they harped by misunderstand-
ing the word,) but for that [because] he
should prove contrarie to Christ and his
word, the word antichristt] being
Greek, not Latin.53

Danaeus, trying to correct the current and previous frequent

misspelling, quoted St. Augustine who had recognized a

similar problem in the fifth century.

We have considered some works by representatives of

an anonymous group who continued after Wyclif's death to

spread his precepts in sermons and books. The resulting

disagreements with Rome sprang directly from the Lollards'

familiarity with the written Scriptures, the availability

of which Rome discouraged through extreme measures, if

necessary. In spite of the danger, another writer deter-

mined to give the English people a Bible they could read

to free themselves from the ignorance that allowed the

Roman Church as Antichrist to deceive them.

William Tyndale

William Tyndale (1490-1536), writing about one hundred

years after Wyclif's works had been banned, found reason to

criticize the Roman Church for some of the same practices

and doctrines deplored by his predecessor 125 years before.

He concluded that the Church had shown very little disposi-

tion to change in response to critics and reformers, for

it was still composed of

S. malicious and wily hypocrites, which
are so stubborn and hard-hearted in their
wicked abominations, that it is not pos-
sible for them to amend anything at all,
(as we see by daily experience, when both
their livings and doings are rebuked with
truth,). .54

I have also uttered the wickedness of the
spirituality, the falsehead of the bishops,
and juggling of the pope, and how
they have put out God's testament, .
and set up their own traditions and lies.55

With this opinion as incentive, he set out to accomplish

what other reformers had sought to do--defeat Antichrist

by making the Scriptures available to Englishmen.

Tyndale believed that Antichrist resided in the Roman

Church because it carried out persecutions, taught false

doctrine, and suppressed the truth by inadequately preparing

its clergy and by prohibiting Scripture reading. Though

none of these reasons originated with Tyndale, he added

his own peculiar expression to each one.

The most convincing evidence supporting his position

lay in the persecutions which had been going on for a

hundred years in England by the time Tyndale was a young

man. His essay "The Revelation of Antichrist" directly

identifies Antichrist on this basis:

I will show thee an evident reason, that
thou mayest know without doubting who is
the very Antichrist: and this argument
may be grounded upon their furious per-
secution, which Paul doth confirm, writ-
ing to the Galatians. We, dear brethren,
are the children of promise, as Isaac was;
not the sons of the bondwoman, as Ishmael.
But, as he that was born after the flesh
did persecute him that was born after the
Spirit, even so it is now. Mark Paul's
reason. By Isaac, are signified the
elect; and by Ishmael, the reprobate.
Isaac did not persecute Ishmael; but,
contrary, Ishmael did persecute Isaac.
Now let us make our reason:

All they that do persecute as Ishmael,
be reprobates and Antichrists.
But all the popes, cardinals, bishops,
and their adherents, do persecute.
Therefore all the popes, cardinals,
bishops, and their adherents, be
Ishmael; reprobates and Antichrists.

I ween our syllogismus is well made, and
in the first figure.5

The false doctrine to which Tyndale mainly objected

concerned the teaching that salvation depended heavily on

the believer's work. He claimed that this doctrine was

a manifestation of Antichrist within the Church:

And he [St. John] writeth sore against a
sect of heretics, which then began to
deny that Christ was come in the flesh,
and calleth them very antichrists; which
sect goeth now in her full swing. For
though they deny not openly, with the
mouth, that Christ is come in the flesh,
yet they deny it in the heart, with their
doctrine and living. For he that will be
justified and saved through his own works,
the same doth as much as he that denied
Christ to be come in flesh, seeing that
Christ came only therefore in the flesh,
that he should justify us with his
works only, and with his blood-shedding,
without and before all our works. (Tyn-
dale, p. 166)

Tyndale returned frequently to this concept of meritorious

works as one of the major Antichristian deceptions per-

petrated on the people by the Church:

And yet in these works they have so
great confidence, that they not only
trust to be saved thereby, and to be
higher in heaven than they that be

saved through Christ, but also promise to
all other forgiveness of their sins through
the merits of the same; wherein they rest,
and teach other to rest also, excluding
the whole world from the rest of forgive-
ness of sins through faith in Christ's
blood. (Tyndale, p. 69)

[They] teach us to put our trust in our
own works for the remission and satisfac-
tion of our sins. (Tyndale, p. 190)

Faith of works was the darkness of the
false prophets, out of the which the true
could not drawn them. Faith of works was
the blindness of the Pharisees, out of the
which neither John Baptist nor Christ could
bring them. (Tyndale, p. 279)

But thou, reader, think of the law of God,
how that it is never fulfilled with
deeds or works. (Tyndale, p. 867)

Tyndale argued that belief in salvation by works and

belief in salvation by faith in Christ were mutually

exclusive and that holders of the works theory were dupes

of Antichrist. Agreeing with Luther, Tyndale accepted sal-

vation through grace alone, a position Wyclif would have

been reluctant to join.

Another false doctrine deplored by Tyndale dealt

with the elevation of Mary and the saints to a level nearly

equal to that of Christ. Mixing wit with criticism, Tyn-

dale describes how Antichrist downgrades Christ with the

doctrine which says that

he [Christ] was a holy prophet, and
that he prayeth for us as other saints do;
save that we Christians think that he is

somewhat more in favour than other saints
be (though we imagine him so proud, that
he will not hear us but through his mild
mother and other holy saints, which all
we count much more meek and merciful than
he, but him most of might), and that he
hath also an higher place in heaven, as
the Grey friars and Observants set him,
as it were from the chin upward, above
St. Francis. (Tyndale, p. 183)

His sarcastic presentation of carefully measured heavenly

position reflects the view of many reformers who believed

that Jesus was the only intermediary necessary between God

and man and any additional requirements for approaching

God sprang from Antichrist.

In addition to the outright teaching of false doctrine,

the Church, Tyndale said, suppressed the truth of the

Scriptures that would have enabled the people to recognize

falsities. Priests were not taught how to understand

Scripture and could not transmit its teachings to their


In the Universities they have ordained
that no man shall look on the Scripture
until he be noselled [nursed] in heathen
learning eight or nine years, and armed
with false principles with which he is
clean shut out of the understanding of
the Scripture. (Tyndale, p. xv)

"Heathen learning" refers to the study of systematized

logic, philosophy, and theology based on the principles

of Aristotle's Logic and Metaphysics. Tyndale felt that

by the time the priests completed this portion of their

studies, their whole approach to Scripture was already

prejudiced by acquired thought processes and disdain for

uncomplicated literal understanding. The education of

medieval priests who did not attend a university was even

worse,'according to Archbishop John Peckham (d. 1292)

and Giraldus Cambrensis (d. 1220).57 They were not

required to know much about the Bible,58 but they had
to be able to say and sing a Latin mass. Requirements

for some levels of the clergy appear to have been based

on ability to perform the mass rather than on knowledge

of the Scripture.

The corrupting of student priests through the teaching

of scholastic theology, Tyndale says, resulted in inanities:

Of what text thou provest hell, will
another prove purgatory; another limbo
patrum; and another the assumption of
our lady; and another shall prove of
the same text that an ape hath a tail.
(Tyndale, p. 330)

He decried the Church's attitude that Scripture could be

molded to fit whatever purpose suited the Church:

They need not to regard the scripture,
but to do and say as their Holy Ghost
moveth them; and if scripture be contrary,
then make it a nose of wax, and wrest it
this way and that way, till it agree.
(Tyndale, p. 279)

In his wax nose figure Tyndale pictures the extreme result

of the Church's withdrawal of more and more doctrines from

the understanding of ordinary people. He laments the

Church's policy of employing fantastical mysteries rather

than literal meaning to explain contradictions between

Scripture and Church doctrine. The deepest concern of

the clergy, Tyndale declared, lay not in the plain teaching

of the Bible, as it should. If, as he believed, the Scrip-

ture was God's word, it should regulate the Church, and not

the other way around. If the Bible says that Christ is

the head of the Church, then his teachings should be fol-

lowed. Anyone changing or defying those teachings because

of greed or self-interest was Antichrist, according to

Tyndale. One reason he thought the clergy were reluctant

to make the Bible known was to protect the esoteric aspects

of their profession:

What then saith my lord of Canterbury to
a priest that would have had the new testa-
ment gone forth in English? "What," saith
he, "wouldest thou that the lay- people
should wete [know] what we do?"6u

Perhaps as a result of their un-Biblical preparation,

few priests were inclined to accurately preach Christ's

gospel. When they did preach, Tyndale thought their

sermons aided Antichrist's cause by being ineffectual or

misleading. Doctrine was taught by allegory, which he

considered an especially diabolical mixture of truth and

fiction. In "Four Senses of the Scripture" Tyndale shows

how allegory could rightly be used to clarify New Testament

ideas by referring to Old Testament events or objects:

And likewise do we borrow likenesses or
allegories of the scripture, as of Pharaoh
and Herod, and of the scribes and Pharisees,
to express our miserable captivity and per-
secution under antichrist the pope. (Tyn-
dale, p. 343)

But the priests, he says, had long ago lost the proper

way of applying allegories and had turned them into a means

of deception:

The greatest cause of which captivity and
the decay of the faith, and this blindness
wherein we now are, sprang first of alle-
gories. For Origen [185?-254?] and the
doctors of his time drew all the scripture
unto allegories: whose ensample they that
came after followed so long, till they at
last forgot the order and process of the
text, supposing that the scripture served
but to feign allegories upon Then
came our sophisters with their anagogical
and chopological sense, and with an anti-
theme of half an inch, out of which some
of them draw a thread of nine days long.
(Tyndale, p. 343)

The word "chopological" is a variation of "choplogic,"

meaning sophisticall or contentious argument" (OED). The

OED finds "chopological" only in Tyndale, saying he employed

it in derision of "tropological," a word the Church used

to signify metaphorical or figurative interpretation of


What turned out to be Tyndale's major effort against

Antichrist was the first printed English New Testament

translated from Greek and Hebrew sources rather than from

the Latin Vulgate (Tyndale, p. xv). Gervaise E. Duffield

reports that young Tyndale originally conceived the idea

of translating the Bible into his native tongue after

becoming acquainted with some local priests in the home of

his employer and finding them ignorant and deceptive. He

is reported to have said to them that "if God spares my

life, ere many years pass, I will cause a boy that driveth

the plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou

dost" (Tyndale, p. xiv). In his efforts, he met with

many obstacles; the Church held that translation of the

Bible was an impossible, dangerous, and unlawful task

(Tyndale, p. 30). But Tyndale understood the Church's

resistance as the work of Antichrist:

What is the cause that we may not have
the old Testament, with the new also,
which is the light of the old .?
I can imagine no cause verily, except
it be that we should not see the work
of Antichrist and juggling of hypo-

After his translation was printed, the Church claimed

that it contained two thousand corruptions or errors.

Tyndale professed willingness to rectify mistakes, desiring

"them that are learned to amend if ought were found amiss"

(Tyndale, p. 30). But instead of offering corrections,

he says, the priests told the lay people that his Testament

could not be mended. Recognizing the inspection some

clergymen had given his work, he nevertheless opined that

it was more Scripture than many of them had ever read be-

fore, and he regretted that it was only to count every

undotted "i" and label it heresy. He averred that the

clergy preferred "a thousand books to be put forth

against their abominable doings and doctrine, than that

the scripture should come to light" (Tyndale, p. 31). In

a lengthier reply to adverse remarks; he doubted that

his priestly critics knew enough Greek or Latin to make

reliable judgments on his translation even though they

managed to read a Latin work by Albertus (perhaps Albertus

Magnus [1206?-1280], a Dominican monk who wrote exten-

sively on theology, metaphysics, and natural science)62

called De Secretis Mulierum (The Secrets of Women) "in

which yet, though they be never so sorrily learned, they

pore day and night, and make notes therein, and all to teach

the midwives, as they say" (Tyndale, p. 32). He appears

unconvinced by their claim that they read to gain informa-

tion for teaching midwives, who were not usually taught

by theologians except perhaps for the use of certain drugs

related to the practice of midwifery. He also said the

priests struggled through a compilation of "Constitutions"

by William Lyndwood (a renowned medieval cannonist)63

just to learn what levies they might put on the people.

Tyndale viewed the Church's prohibition of Scripture

reading and the promotion of secular literature as a result

of Antichrist's influence:

Finally, that this threatening and for-
bidding the lay people to read the scrip-
ture is not for the love of your souls
(which they care for as the fox doth for
the geese), is evident, and clearer than
the sun; inasmuch as they permit and suf-
fer you to read Robin Hood, and Bevis of
Hampton, Hercules, Hector and Troilus,
with a thousand histories and fables of
love and wantonness, and of ribaldry, as
filthy as heart can think, to corrupt the
minds of youth withal, clean contrary to
the doctrine of Christ and of his apostles.
(Tyndale, p. 331)

He derided the Church's approval of "unwritten verities"

as spiritual guides:

Covetousness blinded [More's] eyes
and hardened his heart against the
truth, with the confidence of his painted
poetry, babling eloquence, and juggling
arguments of subtle sophistry, grounded
on his "unwritten verities,"'. as
true and as authentic as his story of
Utopia. (Tyndale, p. 276)

In fact, he says, the clergy consider part of the Bible

little more than fiction:

And the lives, stories, and gests of men,
which are contained in the Bible, they
[the clergy] read as things no more per-
taining unto them than a tale of Robin
Hood. (Tyndale, p. 86)

The preference of man's word over God's was evidence to

Tyndale of Antichrist at work in the Catholic Church.

Seventy-five years after Tyndale died, fifty-four of

King James' most noted scholars accepted large sections of

his translation for the English Bible issued in 1611. The

characterizations of the scholars reveal men of erudition:

Lancelot Andrews, skilled in more than ten languages, was

described as one "who might have been interpreter general

at Babel. The world wanted learning to know how

learned he was"; William Bedwell was known as the "greatest

living Arabic scholar"; and John Harmer was reported to be

"a most noted Latinist, Grecian and divine."64 These men

drew freely on the work done by Tyndale and those who

worked with him:

Eighty percent of the text of the King
James Version is taken from the Tyndale

Almost nine-tenths of the New Testament
portion of this version [KJV] can be found
word for word in the Tyndale version of

To show the proportion of Tyndale's influence in relation

to the contributions of others, Wilbur M. Smith, writing

in an editorial essay in the Open Bible edition of the

KJV, states:

It has been said that four percent of the
vocabulary goes back to the days of Wyc-
liffe, eighteen percent came from Tyndale,
thirteen percent from Coverdale, nineteen
percent from the Geneva Bible, four per-
cent from the Bishops' Bible, and three
percent from all other preceding versions.
Thirty-nine percent of the vocabulary of
the KJV is unique.67

Yet an early twentieth century critic, James Gairdner,

questions Tyndale's ability and the wisdom of distributing

the Scriptures to the laity:

The whole English-speaking world is largely
indebted to him [Tyndale] for his vigorous
and lucid translation of the Scriptures,
which, so far as it extended, became ulti-
mately, with really rather few alterations,
the text of the familiar Bible of King
James. Tyndale indeed was, for his day,
a fair scholar in Greek and Hebrew, and
he applied all his learning most consci-
entiously to the great object he had at
heart, of putting the source and fountain
of all divinity within the reach even of
the least educated readers, that they might
form their own views of the Gospel inde-
pendently of any teaching from professional
theologians. That this was a really dan-
gerous design founded on a view of Scripture
which was in itself superstitious does not
diminish our admiration.68

In judging Tyndale to be a "fair" scholar and in saying

that the men working on the 1611 version accepted much

of his work, Gairdner implies that the King James scholars

either approved inferior work or were not discriminating

enough to detect it. Presumably, they would not have

adopted Tyndale's efforts if they had appeared defective.

Granted the limitations of Bible studies in the sixteenth

century, their acceptance places Tyndale's scholarship

on a level with theirs and allows for his work the same

kind of recognition theirs received.

Another Gairdner objection is as specious as some

that angered Tyndale. Gairdner quotes accurately from

Tyndale's "The Interpretation of Scripture,"

Thou shalt understand that the Scrip-
ture hath but one sense, which is the
literal sense. And that literal sense
is the root and ground of all, and the
anchor that never faileth, whereunto if
thou cleave, thou canst never err or go
out of the way.69

Then he analyzes the quotation as follows:

The metaphors are rather curious.
Cleaving to an anchor cannot be recom-
mended as a safe process if the ship be
in any danger. Nor does an anchor
direct us s 0as to prevent our going out
of the way.

Gairdner makes the word "anchor" the referent for "where-

unto," and since "root" and "ground" are parallel, they

would also be referents, compounding the oddity of Tyn-

dale's thought. But, Tyndale's paragraph emphasizes the

"literal sense" as the means for avoiding error; if

Gairdner's explanation were correct, Tyndale's words cer-

tainly would be nonsensical.

Gairdner correctly points to Tyndale's marginal notes

as a source of much animosity from the Catholic Chruch;

he declares that Tyndale took advantage of every passage

from which to draw comments against the pope and the clergy.71

Beside the verse "How shall I curse whom God curseth not?"

he wrote, "The Pope can tell how."72 Beside the verse

"They blessed Rebekah" he noted, in an allusion to papal

blessings, "To bless a man's neighbor is to pray to him and

to wish him good, and not to wag two fingers over him."73

Beside Exodus 12.12, a verse telling how God planned to

pass through Egypt to kill the first born of man and

beast, he noted:

The lambe was called passeover that the
very name itself should put them in
remembraunce what it signified, for the
signes that God ordained either signified
the benefits done, or promises to come
and were not dome [dumb] as are the signes
of oure domme God the Pope.74

In the margin for Exodus 18.21 describing what kind of

men Israel should choose to lead ("able men, such as fear

God, men of truth, hating unjust gain"), he restated the

Renaissance claim that the pope accepted dominion from


Oure prelates nether feare God, for
they preach not truely: nor are lesse
covetouse than ludas: for they haue
receaued of the devill the kyngdomes of
the erth and the glorie tereof which
Christ refused Mathe. 4.

Though some of Tyndale's notes are instructive, the

ones that were derogatory drew resentment from the Church

and its representatives. It is difficult to understand

why he added the insulting notes when the translation

itself was enough to imperil his life.

Tyndale is the only major writer in this study to lose

his life to the forces against which he fought. Before

his death he spoke out against methods used in trying those

accused of religious offenses:

Read here with judgment, good reader, the
examination of the blessed man of God
[William Thorpe], and there thou shalt
easily perceive wherefore our holy church
(so the most unholy sort of all the people
will be called) make off [oft?] their ex-
aminations in darkness, off [oft?] the lay
people clean excluded from their counsels
of whose articles and examination
there is no layman that can shew a word.
Who can tell wherefore (not so many years
past) there were seven burnt in Coventry
in one day? Who can tell wherefore that
good priest and holy martyr sir Thomas
Litton was burnt, now this year, at 6
Maidstone in Kent? I am sure, no man.

Tyndale himself may have experienced the injustice he

alludes to; for at least nine years (1527-1536) during

which his works were banned and burned, he had to produce

his translations in foreign countries; in Antwerp where

he became the victim of a conspiracy, he was jailed for

a year and a half while he disputed on doctrinal matters

with the priests at the University of Louvaine.77 At some

point in his conflict with the Church, he felt that if

Antichrist were not exposed and rebuffed in England, the

country was doomed to bondage under him,

.inasmuch as we deny Christ .
and will not have him reign over us; but
will be still children of antichrist, and

antichrist's possession, burning the gospel
of Christ, and defending a faith that may
not stand with his holy testament.78

Foxe gives no actual offense as the basis for Tyndale's

imprisonment, and perhaps because the trial took place in

a foreign country the information was not available to him;

but it is known that English clergy disapproved of Tyndale's

work and that his sentence was passed after lengthy dis-

putations with French clergy. It therefore seems reasonable

to assume, as Foxe implies, that the sentence arose out of

ecclesiastical displeasure, including that of Rome. What-

ever the reason, he was condemned by the Austrian emperor,

and in 1536, Tyndale was strangled and burned outside of


After Tyndale's death, other men continued to espouse

the causes of the reformers. John Bale, whose works we

consider next, was as strongly convinced as was Tyndale

that the forces of Antichrist were ravaging England and

should be driven out. Though his goal was similar to

Tyndale's, Bale fought with different weapons.

John Bale

John Bale (1495-1563) was the harshest and most

uninhibited of the writers who directed their efforts

against what they considered to be Antichrist. His view

of this enemy agreed with the widely held sixteenth century

opinion that the Roman Church was actually working against

the teachings of Christ. Bale was concerned that England

should no longer be exploited by churchmen who, he says,

had been for the preceding one thousand years under Satan's

leadership. The force of his conviction marks him as a

major figure in the religious struggle worked out in

Renaissance England.

Bale joined the numerous Renaissance authors who

accepted the transfer of John's antichrist into the Reve-

lation as "the Antichrist," where the idea was combined

with or absorbed in the figure of one or both of the beasts.

From there he saw Antichrist throughout the Bible, using

the term to summarize all the ramifications of this idea

and anything else which he considered contrary to Christ's

teachings or to the true Church. Bale employed the term,

not to deal with the question of Christ's divinity, the

sole application in the Johannine letters, but with the

question of whether the Roman Church was Christian. Bale

was convinced that the Church showed few evidences of

following Christ and therefore could not be the true Church.

Bale's works, whether prose or drama, emphasize his

belief that the pope was Antichrist. They portray the

Catholic Church riddled with gross immorality and decep-

tion, blaming the corruption on Antichrist, the name by

which Bale identified the pope and his hierarchy. From

Bale's viewpoint, the remnants of Catholicism in the

government were responsible for the deaths of the martyrs,

some of which he apparently witnessed. His blanket state-

ments charging the Church with harboring Antichrist

accomplished two things at once: the lumping together of

particular issues and the eliciting of support from

Englishmen who would not be thought in league with Anti-

christ, no matter who he was. His propositions contain

much Scripture but are flawed by some of the same leaps

found in earlier treatises.

Bale says little about the apocalyptic role of the

Antichrist, whom he placed for the most part in the past

and in sixteenth century England. Bale, however, may have

thought of his time as that directly preceding the end-


I doubt no within short space she
shal be whollye turned over into the
bottomlesse pytte again with all her
heytnishe ceremonies, supersticions and
sorceryes, and never return heytherward
nomore tha the great myghte mylstone t
is thrown into the sees bottom, Y
Christe so restored unto his ryght

Like any Englishman born before the Act of Supremacy

in 1534, Bale was part of a Catholic family, and at the

age of twelve he entered a Carmelite monastery. Later he

attended Cambridge, where he came under the influence of

Thomas Cranmer and Thomas Wentworth, becoming an ardent

reformer around 1530.80 As he looked back on his early

association he evaluted it in this manner:

Yea, they have bene so dased with their
dottages, and so tangled with customers,
that as men losynge their wittes without
all Godlye remembraunce, reason, wisdom,
discressyon, understandynge, judgement,
and grace, the lawes of God played a part,
the commaundementes neglected and the
scriptures despysed, they have not only
kneled, crossed, kyssed, set up lyghtes,
and holden up theyr hands before rotten
postes, but also called their fathers in
heaven. Yea (I axe God mercie a thousand
tymes) I have bene one of them myself.81

Such strongly felt sentiments recur frequently throughout

his literature, and I found no hint that he ever considered

returning to the Roman Church. Of the change in his

thinking, he relates:

[I] presently saw and acknowledged my own
deformity, and immediately, through the
divine goodness, I was removed from a
barren mountain to the flowing and fertile
valley of the gospel Hence I made
haste to deface the mark of wicked anti-
christ, and entirely throw off his yoke
from me.82

Bale had been closely involved with the Roman Church for

about twenty years; yet he said very little good about it

after he left. A few of his specific criticisms are re-

flected in his costuming directions for the play, The

Three Laws: Sodomy is to dress like a monk, Ambition like

a bishop, Covetousness like a spiritual lawyer, False

Doctrine like a popish doctor, and Hypocrisy like a grey

friar.83 The names of these characters comprise a concise

list of the themes found in both the plays and the prose

considered in this study. Bale's early experiences did not

turn him away from religion, but only from religion as he

had seen it practiced.

Though he did not die because of his dissenting be-

liefs, Bale was forced to flee the Church's retribution

at least twice, going to Germany in 1540 when Cromwell

fell and embarking for Holland in 1553 when Mary took the

throne. On his second flight he was taken by pirates

and sold as a slave.84 Although he eventually returned

to England, his health was permanently impaired.

The Church's reluctance to teach the Scriptures as

authoritative along with laws prohibiting laymen from

reading Scripture in English seemed to Bale Antichrist's

attempts to keep people in ignorance, putting them at the

mercy of the clergy. That persons found reading English

translations of the Bible could be condemned as traitors

and heretics without even such refuge as was still granted

to thieves and murderers85 confirmed Bale's conviction

that the Church was afraid of the very truth it claimed

to teach and defend. Bale was aware of Wyclif's efforts

to provide an English Bible and of repeated official

attempts to destroy it; and though he was born a hundred

years after Wyclif's death, he was greatly influenced by

Wyclif's works. Bale, in turn, played an important part in

the preservation of Wyclif's books:

Great slaughter and burning hath been
here in England for John Wycliffe's books,
ever since the year of our Lord M.CCC.LXXXII.
[1382]; yet have not one of them thoroughly
perished. I have at this hour the titles
of a hundred and forty-four of them which
are many more in number: for some of them
under one title comprehendeth two books,
some three, some four; yea, one of them
containeth twelve.86

Bale's works frequently do not reflect the dignified,

pompous clergyman that might be expected from his title:

Doctor of Divinity, the Bishop of Ossory. Margins of

theological discussions heavily shaded with references to

authority carry also subjective and emotional comments.

An edge of desperation surfaces in Select Works as he

deplores the unjust treatment of the martyrs and lashes

out against the doctrines of persons who sent English

Christians to the burning stake. In his account of

Anne Askew's trial (also described by Foxe, below, p. 115),

Bale reaches a peak of unclerical exasperation. He reports

that during questioning about her belief in transubstanti-

ation, Anne was asked specifically "whether a mouse eating

the host received God, or no." Bale sarcastically remarks,

"Is not here (think you) well-favored and well-fashioned

divinity [theology] to establish an article of the christian

faith?" After emphasizing that Catholic clergymen them-

selves disagreed on this question over which Anne was sent

to her death, Bale bursts out, "O blasphemous beasts, and

blind blundering Balaamites!"87

In his historical essays, Bale gathered a random net-

work of Scripture references to corroborate his arguments.

Ignoring context, he selected segments of Scripture con-

taining words or phrases that fitted in with his viewpoint

and applied them to events and personages of the fifteenth

and sixteenth centuries. He chose bits and pieces to

support his constant theme that the Church of Rome was

completely antithetical to anything godly. The following

comparison of Scriptural with Balian contexts found in

Select Works illustrates these points.

Bale uses sixteen references (not one of which comes

from 1 or 2 John) to describe and identify the Antichrist

and to relate him to persons and events. He selects a

Scripture verse containing a particular epithet appropri-

ate to his idea of Antichrist and then claims that the

verse is actually speaking of Antichrist, when in many

cases the full context of the verse deals with another

subject altogether. Whether the verses refer to the

beasts of Revelation, to the man of sin, to Satan, or only

to some general evil, Bale links them at will to the


In the first of these sixteen references Bale claims

that 2 Thessalonians 2 refers to Antichrist as an "adver-

sary." Characteristically, Bale neglects to mention a

specific verse; apparently here his background verses are

numbers 3 and 4a:

Let no man beguile you in any wise: for
it [the apocalyptic day of the Lord men-
tioned in verses 1 and 2] will not be, ex-
cept the falling away come first, and the
man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,
he that opposeth and exalteth himself against
all that is called God or that is worshipped.
(2 Thess. 2.3,4a)

Bale is not alone in considering this passage a description

of Antichrist; writers who believed that Antichrist was

to be revealed during future apocalyptic events often

include this text in their discussions. Bale correctly

interprets "he that opposeth and exalteth himself against

. God" as "adversary," but Antichrist is not mentioned

in the verse. Rather, this adversary is the yet-to-be

revealed man of sin, the son of perdition, not John's

antichrist who has been in the world since the beginning

of the Christian era.

Next, Bale calls the Antichrist an "unsatiable [sic]

dog,"89 adopting a phrase from the pre-Christian Hebrew

prophet Isaiah who, concerned with the sins of his own

nation, promised in chapter 56 God's acceptance of sincere

converts to Judaism, a subject unrelated to the New Testa-

ment antichrist. In spite of this context, Bale uses the

following verses to refer to Antichrist:

His watchmen are blind, they are all without
knowledge; they are all dumb dogs, they
cannot bark; dreaming, lying down, loving
to slumber. Yea, the dogs are greedy; they
can never have enough; and these are shep-
herds that cannot understand. (Is. 56.10,

Bale then takes two references from the Psalms to

comment on Antichrist. He erroneously gives Psalm 4 to

support a description of Antichrist as a "pursuing enemy"

that in fact appears in Psalm 7:

If I have rewarded evil unto him that was
at peace with me, let the enemy pur-
sue my soul, and overtake it. (Psalm

No possible connection with Antichrist can be found in

this whole Psalm; the same is true of Psalm 74, to which

he next refers and from which he takes the epithet "enemy

to the sanctuary."90 This Psalm appeals to God to show

his power before the writer's enemies, which did not in-

clude Antichrist; yet Bale finds Antichrist in the words

Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual ruins,
all the evil that the enemy hath done in
the sanctuary. (Psalm 74.3)

The next four references are all given as support for

"ravening wolf" (Matt. 7.[15], Luke 10.[3], John 10.[12],

and Acts 20.[29]) and merit no criticism. Each pictures

a wolf as a threat to Christ's flock, beginning with the

twelve disciples as they were sent into the world, going

on to the larger circle of Christ's early followers, and

then on to Paul's concern for the believers in Ephesus.

The fifth New Testament reference, showing one of the

apocalyptic angels pouring a vial of God's wrath on the

earth, Bale gives to support his accusation that one

activity of Antichrist is to "vex men with heat of the

fire,"91 probably alluding to the fiery deaths of the


And the fourth [angel] poured out his
bowl [or vial] upon the sun; and it was
given unto it to scorch men with fire.
And men were scorched with great heat,
and they blasphemed the name of the God
which hath power over these plagues; and
they repented not to give him glory.
(Rev. 16.8,9)

Bale is apparently calling attention to the scorching of

men with fire, reminding his readers of the martyrs' deaths

at the burning stake. But the analogy to the martyrs

breaks down in the second clause of sentence two: ". .

and they blasphemed the name of the God which hath power

over these plagues. ." Both Bale and Foxe report the

victorious prayers of the martyrs as their bodies shriveled

in the fires. And though the angel is said to pour the

bowl, Bale attributes the vexation to Antichrist.

The sixth New Testament reference is the part of

2 Thessalonians 2.4 omitted from the first discussion of

this verse: ". so that he sitteth in the temple of

God, setting himself forth as God." Bale quotes this sec-

tion thus: "'Antichrist," saith St. Paul, 'shall sit,'

not without, but 'within the very temple of God.'"92 By

substituting "Antichrist" for the pronoun "he" in the

verse, Bale again makes the name "Antichrist" an appositive

for "the man of sin" and "the son of perdition."

Next follow three Old Testament references and three

from the New Testament. First, Bale attempts to make a

point about imprisonment for religious offenses and claims

that Antichrist tried to "hold men in prison."93 He again

sees Antichrist in Isaiah:

Is this the man that made the earth to
tremble, that did shake kingdoms; that
made the world as a wilderness, and over-
threw the cities thereof; that let not
loose his prisoners to their home? (Is.

Without doubt, this verse was for Bale more of a report

on current events regarding prisoners about whom he was

concerned than a prophecy of future events.

Next follow words from Isaiah frequently given as a

quotation from Lucifer shortly before his fall out of


I will ascend above the heights of the
clouds, I will be like the most high.
(Is. 14.14)

Bale unhesitatingly assigns these sentiments to Antichrist,94
Bale unhesitatingly assigns these sentiments to Antichrist,

disregarding the time between Satan's fall before man was

created and the events of Revelation. Ideas usually con-

nected with Lucifer, or Satan, are mixed with those referring

to the most outstanding personage of end times--one of the

beasts pictured in Revelation. The emphasis remains on a

conspicuous figure of great power of a kind totally absent

from John's epistles. Having accumulated an impressive list

of negative characteristics and overlooking other prophecies

connected to apocalyptic happenings, Bale applies all his

selections to the pope. He uses these verses to express

his hope for England's imminent release from the influence

of Antichrist figures, whether that influence comes from

the pope himself or from English clerics still operating

under remnants of papal domination. At the downfall of

this enemy, Bale implies that the people will victoriously

shout the words of Isaiah 14.17 (above, p. 75) in derision

and triumph over the fallen Antichrist.
Citing next Ezekiel 34,95 Bale comments that Anti-

christ "churlishly checks] and rules] in cruelty." The

closest the KJV comes to this terminology is in verses

3 and 4:

Ye [the shepherds of Israel, v. 2] eat
the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool
S. The diseased have ye not strength-
ened. neither have ye sought that
which was lost; but with force and with
rigour have ye ruled over them. (Ezek.

These shepherds, who are doing their job badly, seem analo-

gous to Bale's view of the pope as a political and religious

leader, but the passage furnishes no proof of the pope's

wrongdoing nor support for the argument that the pope is

Antichrist; and there is certainly no resemblance to John's

antichrist. Bale could have used the words just cited for

his next accusation--that Antichrist "eat[s] the flesh of

the fattest." But he chooses to add another reference,

perhaps for increased weight of evidence--Zechariah

ll.[16b]: "He [again, the shepherd] shall eat the flesh

of the fat. .. .,96 These fragmented references from

the Old Testament contribute no more certainty to Anti-

christ's identification than random phrases chosen from

any writing; their only authority lies in their Biblical


Drawing next from the New Testament, Bale finds that

Antichrist is "drunk with blood"97 (Rev. 17.[6]). The

actual verse says, "And I saw the woman [Babylon, v. 5]

drunken with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." This

reference moves from the beast to yet another character

in Revelation--the Whore of Babylon, who is an entity

quite apart from the beasts. The two remaining references98

support Bale's statement that Antichrist will perform

"false miracles and exalt himself above God":

For there shall arise false Christs, and
false prophets, and shew great signs and
wonders, so as to lead astray, if pos-
sible, even the elect. (Matt. 24.24)

And he [the second beast] doeth great won-
ders, so that he maketh fire come down
from heaven on the earth in the sight of
men. (Rev. 13.13)

The first reference could apply to someone who worked

against Christ or who claimed to function in his place,

as the root meaning of the word "Antichrist" would allow,

but the second reference has no connection with John's

antichrist or, indeed, with any of the popes.

Bale's starting point in these writings seems to be

the belief that the church was riddled with Antichrists;

second, using his own definition of the word, he labels

specific people as Antichrists; third, he finds verses

that mention their particular misdeeds; and last, linking

appropriate verses to the specified Antichrists, he pre-

sents the selected individuals to his reader as proven

Antichrists. Bale was doubtless speaking against real evil

in the Church, but his method of argument is open to

question. He was not using Scripture to teach truth as

he said preachers should; instead, he was molding it to

prove his own propositions and accusations.

In another attempt to move his readers away from the

influence of the Church, Bale wrote an exposition of the

book of Revelation, The Image of Both Churches. Though the

theme is again the pope and the Church as Antichrist and

though his forceful, somewhat bellicose, personality does

not hide itself completely under a scholarly clerical

manner, he adjusts his method to his material. Commenting

at length on each verse of this favorite source of inspira-

tion for apocalyptic authors, he takes frequent oppor-

tunity to reiterate his theme. His discussion of chapter

13 will show how he approaches this task and how he

emphasizes his theme.

Before he takes up the chapter itself, Bale writes

a short introduction:

By the monstruouse, ougelye, and most
odiouse beast rysyng out of the sea, with
vii heades and x homes is mente the
universal or whole Antichriste compre-
hendinge in him all the wickednesse, furye,
falshede, frowardnesse, deceyt, lyes,
craftes, slaightes, subtilities, hipoc-
resye, tirannye, mischieffes, pride, and
all other devilyshenesse, of all his
maliciouse members which hath bene sens
the begynninge. The exceedinge pre-
sumpcyion of them that hateth the,
blessed Lorde (sayth David) ariseth daye
by daye. Contynuallye thine enemies
growe, always they increase, and ever-
more they prospere in this world. Not
from the stedfaste or sure ground (which
are the Lordes people) aryseth this
beast, but out of the waveringe sea, or
from the fyckle felyshyppe and moveable
multitude of the ungodlye. For the
wycked sort after Esaye are the ragynge
sea that can not rest, whose water fometh
with the mire and gravel. No peace is
among the ungodly (sayth the Lord) no
unite, no charyti, nor mutual Christen
love. It pleased therefore the holie

ghost to provoke Johan after his secrete
vysion, to describe this mighty antichriste
thus in his right colors, according to
that he had seane, to the fore warning
of Christes people.99

Bale's highly figurative language grows out of his famil-

iarity with Scripture, forming a background for the awe-

some power of his Antichrist. The picture he projects

includes a wavering sea of people from which arises a

creature worthy of superlatives. Bale's conception is

so grand that at times he surpasses John's original.

Bale draws on David and Isaiah again, although they remain

secondary in importance here.

Following the introduction, Bale quotes the first

two verses of chapter 13, dividing them into eleven

phrases. A typical example of his phrasing follows:

[Phrase] 1 And I sawe a beast ryse out
of the sea, [phrase] 2 having seven heads
and ten homes, [phrase] 3 and upon his
homes ten crownes 100

After each verse division follow lengthy comments; the

discussion of phrase 3 will illustrate the practice:

3 This beast had upon his x homes
.x. crounes, sygnifyenge his victories,
dominion, and primacie over the unyversall
world, and that he through the wicked-
nesse of the people, is the unworthy
captayne and prince therof. In this
only poynt dyffereth the Dragon from
the beast, the devyll from his members,
or sathan from his carnall synagoge.
He had vii crounes upon his vii heades.

They have .x. crounes here upon theyr
.x. homes. For that he hath but in
symple suggestion, they have in double
powre of coaccion. Wher as he doth but
dallyenglye persuade, they maye enforce
and compel. Where as he doth but easely
move, they maye by rigorous auctorite
constraine. Whan he hath propouned an
erroure, they maye by their powre
established it for an infallyble truthe,
and make of it a necessary article of
the christen believe, as they have done
of purgatory, pardons, confession, saints
worshippinge, latten service hearing,
and such like. Whan he hath once made a
lye (as he is the father of all lyes)
they maye auctorise it for an unwritten
veryte, lyke as they have done many.
Much more mischefe may they do, being
his spiritual instruments than he can
do alone, as largely apereth by their
workers. Never coude sathan have put
Christe unto death, had he not entered
into Judas and so betrayed him, had he
not entered into the bysshopes and lawyers
and so condemned him. Never had the
Apostles, nor all other godly preachers
sens their tyme, bene sent out of the
waye, had not those mytred Mahometes and
priests wrought still their old feares.101

"He" includes the Dragon, the devil, and Satan, all three

really one entity, an evil trinity. "They" includes the

beast (already identified in the introduction as the

Antichrist), the devil's members, and Satan's carnal

synagogue. Bale explains that Satan plans wickedness,

and Antichrist in the Catholic Church puts it into doc-

trinal and legal form. He sketches the cooperation of "he"

and "they" from Christ's betrayal until the persecution of

his own day. As in this example, Bale's ability to produce

numerous thoughts out of a short phrase while skillfully

aiming darts at his current adversaries continues for the

whole of his exposition. When he finishes his discussion

of 404 verses, Bale's book is 438 pages long--a tribute to

his expansive style and creative mind.

The first part of Bale's Image contains numerous mar-

ginal notes from the Scriptures and from religious works

of ancient and contemporary writers. He lists eighty-two

writings on the book of Revelation which he says he con-

sulted--ones as ancient as Justinus (154 A.D.) and as

contemporary as John Calvin (1509-1564) and Luther (1483-

1546). Most of the writers were monks or Catholic clergy

at some time or other, and Bale claims he used them only

as they agreed with the Scriptures, but his main criterion

seems to be that they agreed with him. He does not analyze

or discuss their writings; rather he selects from them

sections which support his arguments against the Roman

Church. Since most of the works of the eighty-two authors

are not readily available, his accuracy in their use cannot

be judged directly. But if he used them in the same manner

in which he used those of Biblical writers whose works are

available, it seems probable that some titles are mentioned

only for effect or for some very obscure reason. Some

materials may be taken out of context, as are some of

the Scriptural references. At least one contemporary

questioned the suitability of several references in Image,

as Bale himself tells us. In the preface to the second

part of Image, he discusses a criticism by someone he calls

"Momus" aimed at his use of 1 Corinthians 6 in a marginal

reference at the beginning of the first part:

Satan upon the pynacle of the temple
never bestowed his alleged scripture more
perverselye, than this Momus interpreted
certain of my allegations, nor yet farther
from their right understanding: But I
forgeve it hym with thys fore warnynge
for this tyme, though it be not the fyrst
lewde point that he hath played, in that
case he so leave his quarelling. My
second allegacyon upon the preface .1.
Cori. vi. is not sett there to aucthori-
tise the Apocalyps, as he most falsely
and all contrary to my meaning hath in-
terpreted it, but affyrmeth that the
Christen belevers are Christes members,
which ought of necessyte by the holye
ghostes appointment to hear and to reade
the words of the sayd boke. For I knowe
that the Epistle unto the Corinthianes
was written of Paul x years at the least
before Saint Johans Apocalips. No lesse
is he than a false prophete that resysteth
Jeremye rebuking Babylon for her wycked-

This last sentence evidently acknowledges an additional

criticism from Momus on Bale's use of Jeremiah 50.8, which

warns people to flee from Babylon and other wicked places.

Since Bale consistently uses Babylon to refer to the powers

of darkness, Momus' objection seems in this instance


The other enemy is the printer who incorrectly set

down some of the marginal notes in spite of the efforts

of two proof readers supplied by Bale to insure accuracy.

What obligated him and his helpers to print their own con-

demnation is difficult to imagine:

But ii cruell enemies have my just labours
had in that behalf, of whom the one have
them falsyfyed, the other blasphemed. Which
hath caused me to leave them out in al that
here foloweth. The printers are the fyrst,
whose heady hast, negligence, and covetuous-
nesse commonly corrupteth all bokes. These
have both displaced them and also changed
their numbers to the truthes derogacion,
what though they had at their hands ii
learned correctours which toke all paynes
possible to preserve them.103

Bale actually did leave out most of the marginal references

in the second part of Image, presumably because he was

displeased with his printers. And thus we have lost an

additional template of the writer's thinking processes.

Bale did not restrict himself to exposition. Follow-

ing the same theme as in the prose, he wrote several plays

using dramatic exaggeration to express additional dimen-

sions in his idea of the pope as Antichrist. Reading

Bale's accounts of the martyrs or his exposition on Revela-

tion does not prepare one for his plays. Though in the

prose the evils of the clergy are balanced by the saint-

liness of the martyrs or the inescapable justice of God,

in the plays positive qualities appear in very few charac-

ters. Many writers are satisfied with one villain per

play; Bale made up his casts predominantly of villains.

In his plays Bale adds his touch to two recurring

accusations which are almost routine in anti-Roman litera-

ture--that priests and nuns engaged in various sexual sins

and that the pope obtained his world power from Satan.

Bale's best known work, King John, deals with both of these

as his characters develop Bale's larger theme that the pope

is Antichrist. But the accusations are presented in a more

concentrated form in two other plays by Bale, and a look

at these before going on to King John will enhance our

understanding of these two allegations. The first

accusation--sexual sins among priests and nuns--surfaces

often enough in the writings of the time to warrant a

degree of belief, although how much is difficult to say.

Wyclif, a man of much more moderate language, had deplored

sexual activities among the fourteenth century clergy

(above, p. 27). Since, however, Bale exaggerates so many

other ideas, it would be safe to assume that he also

amplifies the prevalence of the sexual misdeeds to which

he refers. The repetition in Renaissance writing of the

second accusation--the pope's acceptance of world dominion

from Satan--constitutes an important contribution to the

idea of the pope as Antichrist.

In a dialogue between two allegorical characters in

The Three Laws, Infidelity requests that Sodomy describe

his perversion of the law of Nature put in man by God to

guide him in sexual practices:

Sodomy: I dwelt among the Sodomites,
The Benjamites, and Midianites,
And now the popish hypocrites
Embrace me everywhere.
I am now become all spiritual,
For the clergy at Rome, and over all,
For want of wives to me doth fall--
To God they have no fear .
If monkish sects renew,
And popish priests continue,
Which are of my retinue,
To live I shall be sure.
Clean marriage they forbid,
Yet cannot their ways be hid;
Men know what hath betid
When they have been in parel.
*Oft have they buried quick
*Such as were never sick,
Full many a proper trick
They have to help their quarrel.
In Rome to me they fall,
Both bishop and cardinal,
Monk, friar, priests, and all; 104
More rank they are than ants .

The two starred (*) lines refer to some kind of violence

leading to death in the exercise of sodomy. A few pages

later Natural Law and Infidelity discuss claims that some

of the clergy indulged in heterosexual activities (p. 26)

which sometimes required further sins to cover up the

initial ones. Natural Law mentions nuns who kill their

unwanted babies and bury them in "privies" (p. 27). The

murder is not censured any more than the fornication and

the sodomy; Natural Law declares that were priests allowed

to marry, all such sins would be eliminated from among them.

The second recurring accusation regards Satan's be-

stowal on the pope of the worldly power refused by Jesus

during his temptation. In The Temptation of Our Lord,

Satan peevishly reacts to Jesus' refusal:

Satan (to Jesus):
Thy vicar at Rome I think will be my
friend .
He shall me worship, and have the world
to reward;
That thou here foresakest he will most
highly regard.105

Though they believed in an all-powerful God, medieval and

Renaissance reformers frequently repeated this explanation

as to why the powers of evil were temporarily victorious

over Christ's true followers.

Bale's major drama and the work for which he is best

known is King John.106 A combination of the morality and

the historical play, it deals with religious matters and

allegorical characters as well as political events and

historical personages. The specific objective is to expose

the Roman Church as the tool of Antichrist and as a threat

to the existence of civil government, using the fall of

King John as a dramatic example. Along with this, Bale

carries the familiar thread of discrepancies between the

Bible and Catholic dogma. We do not know how accurately

Bale recounts his own experience with the Church in his

plays; we know that the overall historical basis is weak

in places, although some events and characters can be

located in written accounts. Whatever the authenticity

of the plays, the opinions and attitudes presented are

strongly consistent and fit in with the remainder of Bale's


The characters in King John belong to one of three

groups, the first headed by the king, the second consisting

of the pope and his hierarchy, and the third composed of

the people of England--noble and common. The first and

second groups represent opposing characteristics and objec-

tives; the third group is the rope in the tug-of-war be-

tween the first two groups. The play pleads with clergy

and nobility to realize that they are unwitting papal

agents in England and that as such they often exploit the

common people. If the clergy and the nobility would

assume their rightful relationship to their monarch, the

play implies, many of England's social, economic, political,

and religious problems would disappear.

To the second group Bale gives only negative charac-

teristics and qualities. Out of the nineteen characters

in the play, eleven belong to this group and all are

members of the Catholic hierarchy; even the allegorical

characters are eventually revealed to be synonymous with

a human member of the Church and are so noted in the list

of characters at the beginning of the play.

The main member of the third group is England, who

portrays the downtrodden English people, impoverished

by the greed of the Church. Bale seems not at all con-

cerned with the class system as a cause for the poverty in

the land, even though he does picture the noble members of

the third group at odds with England through most of the


King John depicts the Roman Church carrying out Anti-

christ's determination to suppress vernacular Scripture,

thereby fostering spiritual ignorance. The king claims

that even the clergy were ignorant of what the Bible

taught and often did not own a copy to use in teaching

the people (King John, p. 287). In place of Gospel, the

king accuses, the people were given man-made doctrines:

K. John:

. It was never well since the
clergy wrought by practise,
And left the scripture for men's
imaginations. (King John, p.

In addition, the play criticizes the anti-Christian

substitution of man's laws for those given by God in the

Scriptures. The clerical characters support the pope's

manipulation of the gospel, while King John deplores the

subversion and suppression of true religion:


K. John:


K. John:

. He [Nobility] believeth
nothing but as Holy Church
doth tell.
Why, giveth he no credence to
Christ's holy gospel?
No, sir, by the mass! but he
calleth them heretics
That preach the gospel, and sedi-
tious schismatics;
He'tach them, vex them, from
prison to prison he turn them;
He inditeth them, judge them; and,
in conclusion, he burn them.
(King John, pp. 185-186)

. In her [England], more and
more, God's holy word decays
(King John, p. 192)

Clergy: Of our Holy Father, in this I
take my ground,
Which hath authority the Scrip-
tures to expound.
K. John: Nay, he presumeth the Scriptures
to confound. (King John, p.

His [the pope's] intent shall
be for to supress the Gospel.
Yet will he glose it with a very
good pretense--
To subdue the Turks by a Christian
The Pope's power shall be above the
powers all,
And ear-confession a matter necessary;
Ceremonies will be the rites ecclesi-
He shall set up there both pardons
and purgatory.
The Gospel preaching will be an
heresy. (King John, pp. 219-220)

K. John (to Private Wealth or Cardinal Pandulphys):
Your curses we have that we never yet
But we cannot have that [what] God
hath you commanded,
the preaching of the Gospel.
(King John, p. 236)

The play also condemns the practice, derived from

Antichrist and sanctioned by the Church, of granting indul-

gences for sins not yet committed. The phrase "a poena

et culpa" applied specifically to Plenary Indulgences from

the thirteenth century to the Reformation:107

The laity cared little about the analysis
of it [the phrase], but they knew that the
a culpa et poena was the name for the
Biggest t-ing in the nature of an Indl-
gence which it was possible to get.108

In King John, Sedition grants such an indulgence to Clergy

in a farcical scene that furnishes one of the few attempts

at humor in the play:

Sedition (to Clergy):
Sit down on your knees, and ye shall
have absolution
A pena et culpa, with a thousand days
of pardon.
Here is first a bone of the blessed
A dram of the turd of sweet Saint
Here is a feather of good Saint Michael's
A tooth of- Saint Twyde, a piece of David's
harp string,
The good blood of Hales, and our blessed
Lady's milk;
A louse of Saint Francis in this same
crimson silk.
A scab of Saint Job, a nail of Adam's toe,
A maggot of Moses, with a fart of Saint
Here is a fig-leaf and a grape of Noe's
A bead of Saint Blythe, with the bracelet
of a bearward.
The devil that was hatched in Master John
Shorn's boot,
That the three of Jesse did pluck up by
the root.
Here is the latchet of sweet Saint Thomas'
A rib of Saint Rabart, with the nuckle
bone of a Jew'
Here is a joint of Darvel Gathiron,
Besides other bones and relics many one.
In Nomine Domini Pape, amen!
(King John, p. 229)

Each of the items is in some way ridiculous, either because

of an impossible time element, or an inconsistency between

what is spiritual and what is real, or between who is

spiritually significant and who is not. The second Latin

phrase, "In Nomine Domini Pape," translated by John Farmer

as "In the name of our Lord, the Pope,"109 is blasphemous;

yet Bale puts the words in the mouth of Sedition, later

revealed as a clergyman. Following this ceremony, Sedition

declares to Clergy, "Ye are now as clean as that day ye

were born" (King John, p. 229), promising he would remain

so in the eyes of the Church for two years and nine months,

no matter what he would do in that interval.

The inaccuracy of the Latin phrases provided additional

material for dramatic attack on Church practices. Sedition

is either a careless or ignorant clergyman, for neither

phrase is stated correctly. "A pena et culpa" should be
"a poena et culpa," the words which mean "from penalty and

fault or responsibility." Perhaps "pena" is merely a

spelling error, although in Renaissance works Latin and

Latinate words are spelled more regularly than many common

English words. Perhaps he is making a bawdy pun, a possi-

bility entirely congruent with his character. The word

"Pape" is not usually included in the second phrase and

would be completely unacceptable.

The play supports Bale's contention that the pope's

activities in England advanced the cause of Antichrist as

they conflicted with English national interest. Bale

paints vivid pictures of papal interference in English

affairs, showing the pope undermining the king's sovereignty

.; AO