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The Book of Daniel and the Revelation of John opened the floodgates to the millenarianism that has plagued Christianity from the Roman Empire to Anton LaVey and the Process Church. According to the biblical sources the Second Coming of Christ would be presaged by the reign of The Beast, The Man of Sin, the false Messiah, ""Antichrist'--and the hunt for Antichrist has produced bloodbaths, persecutions, and witch hunts too numerous to chronicle. But Chamberlin does itemize some of them from the early days when the Antichrist was associated with persecutors like Nero through the stories of divinity and diabolism which surrounded the 13th century Emperor, Frederick Hohenstaufen--since he dared to defy the Pope, wasn't it self-evident that he must be Antichrist? Frederick was known as The Emperor of the Last Days, and after him, as the Christian world broke asunder, Antichrist became the special concern of various fringe groups of Protestants--the Anabaptists, the Fifth Monarchy Men, the followers of the 18th century Devonshire prophetess Joanna Southcott and even more bizarre groups like the Jezreelites who made Antichrist a woman. Chamberlin doesn't do much by way of social analysis except to point out that the millenarian germ was incubated by poverty, hunger and the cruel, bitter lives of peasants and industrial workers. Now that the year 2000 is nearly upon us and the Renaissance notions of ""the superiority of reason over emotion"" are fast fading, millenarian ideas are probably in for a new flowering--and what rough beast slouches toward Bethlehem at this very moment? Not in the same league with Norman Cohn's The Pursuit of the Millennium but filled with enough sea-monsters, hydra-headed demons, witches, torturers and satanists to trouble anyone's sleep.

Pub Date: April 21st, 1975
Publisher: Saturday Review/Dutton