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Ecclesia and Pornapolis: Two Churches, Two Women

  • Megan L. Hickerson

Abstract

When Foxe began the Acts and Monuments project, his goal was to do more than chronicle the suffering of the true church and its martyrs. His principal purpose was to use history to prove the identity of the Roman Catholic Church as a false church, and its members and institutions as the body of Antichrist. The Acts and Monuments, therefore, while a history of the true church, is also, and more, a history of its opposite, the false church. It is, however, history unfinished: its end is yet to come. As prophesied in the Book of Revelation, it will end with Christ’s return to earth, his victory over Antichrist, his final judgement of humanity and his marital union with the New Jerusalem, the eternal heavenly city.

Keywords

Corporate Body Marital Union Church History Marital Fidelity Roman Church 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    V. Norskov Olsen identifies the Ecclesiasticae Historiae of Matthias Flacius Illyricus (better known as the Magdeburg Centuries) as the ‘first Protestant church history’ (John Foxe and the Elizabethan Church [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973], 20). The Magdeburg Centuries, however, were published between 1561 and 1574, a full 20 years after the Image.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Christianson, Reformers and Babylon, 9–15; Richard Kenneth Emmerson, Antichrist in the Middle Ages: A Study of Medieval Apocalypticism, Art, and Literature (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1981)Google Scholar
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  4. 3.
    The early century saw a growing debate about the canonicity of the text, one mainly based on the question of its authorship (whether John the Divine was the same man as John the Evangelist), but also on its past appeal to medieval heretical sects. Erasmus of Rotterdam challenged the canonicity of the Apocalypse, arguing against its apostolic authorship and suggesting that it was tinged with heresy: while the text might be ‘holy’, it was ‘less holy’ than canonical, apostolic Scripture (Irena Backus, Reformation Readings of the Apocalypse: Geneva, Zurich, and Wittenburg [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000], 3–5). Luther’s 1522 attack on Revelation was different — while he had clearly read Erasmus’s Annotations (1516) criticizing the text, his reasons for rejecting it are theological rather than philological: to Luther, Revelation neither teaches nor recognizes Christ, and its author, who is not the Evangelist, is too self-promoting. Luther never accepted the text’s canonicity, although he did accept it as holy.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Bale cites Lambert more than any other author, 42 times, but he deviates from him significantly, in both his interpretation of Revelation and his ‘close integration of history and exegesis’. See Richard Bauckham, Tudor Apocalypse: Sixteenth Century Apocalypticism, Millenarianism and the English Reformation from John Bale to John Foxe and Thomas Brightman (Appleford: Sutton Courtenay Press, 1978), 23–5. Lambert, while using Joachim as an interpreter of signs and symbols, does not historicize Revelation himself, instead arguing, unlike Luther, that it should be interpreted for what it tells of the glory of God, not as a history of the church (Backus, Reformation Readings, 12–13). Bale acknowledges his debt to Joachim in the Image, citing him twelve times (Bauckham, Tudor Apocalypse, 24). As Marjorie Reeves has pointed out, as of 1553 Bale owned a number of Joachimist manuscripts and printed texts, but Bauckham cautions that it can be ascertained neither how many of these were collected following his Henrician exile, nor, indeed, how much of his library he had with him in Germany during the Image’s authorship (Marjorie Reeves, The Prophetic Sense of History in Medieval and Renaissance Europe [Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999], 104–6). Reeves uses Honor McCusker’s list of titles in Bale’s book collection, as of 1553 (McCusker, John Bale, 29 passim).Google Scholar
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    Bernard McGinn sees Joachim’s pastor angelicus as usurping the role of the ‘Last World Emperor’, a mythical figure (deriving from a seventh-century Syriac text attributed to Pseudo-Methodius) who gives his crown to Jesus, ending the Roman Empire and triggering the advent of Antichrist. See Bernard McGinn, The Calabrian Abbot: Joachim of Fiore in the History of Western Thought (New York: Macmillan, 1985), 66–7.Google Scholar
  7. 19.
    For the popularity of Adso’s Libellus de Antichristo, see Bauckham (Tudor Apocalypse, 19) and Curtis V. Bostick, The Antichrist and the Lollards: Apocalypticism in Late Medieval and Reformation England (Leiden: Koninkilijke Brill NV, 1998), 26–7. An English version of the Adsonian Antichrist legend was printed in English in 1520 (Here begynneth the byrthe and lyfe of the moost false and deceytfull Antechryst), and an English translation of the Libellus itself was circulating among English Catholics during the mid-sixteenth century (Bauckham, Tudor Apocalypse, 91–2).Google Scholar
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    Caroline Walker Bynum, Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (New York: Zone Books, 1991), 98–100, passim.Google Scholar
  11. 28.
    The association of the Whore of Babylon with a cup is not new: she is described holding one in Revelation 17, and she holds one in medieval iconography. But her cup, in such earlier imagery, exists alongside Ecclesia’s chalice. The medieval Ecclesia is sometimes opposed, not to the Whore of Babylon, but to synagoga. As Jo Spreadbury notes, the positive image of woman represented by Ecclesia is often balanced by a negative image. See Jo Spreadbury, ‘The Gender of the Church: The Female Image of Ecclesia in the Middle Ages’, in Gender and Christian Religion: Papers Read at the 1996 Summer Meeting and the 1997 Winter Meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society, ed. R. N. Swanson (London: The Boydell Press for the Ecclesiastical History Society, 1998), 97–8.Google Scholar
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    Martin Ingram, ‘Ridings, Rough Music and Mocking Rhymes in Early Modern England’, in Popular Culture in Seventeenth-Century England, ed, Barry Reay (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1985)Google Scholar
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  18. 36.
    John Bale, The Image of both churches after the moste wonderful and heavenly Revelacion of Saincte John the Evangelyst, contaynyng a very frutefull exposytion or Paraphrase upon the same, Wherin it is conferrd with the other scripturs, and most authorised histories (London: John Wyer, 1550), I, Ai(v).Google Scholar
  19. 40.
    William Tyndale, The newe Testament, dylygently corrected and compared with the Greke by Willyam Tindale (Antwerp: Marten Emperowre, 1534), Lxi(r).Google Scholar
  20. 49.
    John Bale, The Actes of Englysh votaryes, comprehendynge their unchaste practices and examples by all ages, from the worldes begynnynge to thys present yeare, collected out of their owne legends and Chronycles (Wesel, 1546), 6v, 77r.Google Scholar
  21. 51.
    John Frith (as Richard Brightwell), A pistle to the Christen reader. The Revelation of Antichrist, and Antithesis/wherin are compared to geder Christes actes and oure holye father the popes (Antwerp, 1529), xxi(v).Google Scholar
  22. 75.
    In 1956, Ruth Kelso described the ideal woman as she found her in Renaissance literature, without specific reference to religion or country. Kelso found that Renaissance theorists, unable to ‘see’ the lady outside her marital role, focused in their writing on education and upbringing for women on preparation for one vocation, marriage. The woman who emerges from Kelso’s study has become, with various minor modifications, the model informing most modern study of early modern women: chaste, silent, discreet, loving, modest and obedient. See Ruth K. Kelso, Doctrine for the Lady of the Renaissance (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1956).Google Scholar
  23. 81.
    John Hazel Smith argues convincingly that Christus Triumphans was written during Foxe’s exile, almost certainly after the imprisonment of Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley in the Bocardo prison in Oxford (Foxe refers to this prison in the text). For this and other reasons, Smith suggests early 1556 as the period of the play’s authorship (John Hazel Smith [ed.], Two Latin Comedies by John Foxe the Martyrologist [Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1973], 31–3). For a discussion of the play’s aesthetic quality, dramatic genre and antecedents, see Smith (31–44).Google Scholar
  24. 82.
    Foxe describes the play in his dedicatory epistle to English merchants in exile: ‘Potissimum autem in Ecclesiae persecutionibus describendis versatur comeodiae nostrae materia, quibus infoelix ille veterator, ex quo è coelo per Christum exturbatus est, nunquam destitit sponsam Christi fatigare.’ See John Foxe, Christus Triumphans, Comoedia Apocalyptica (Basilae: Joannem Oporinum, 1556), A6v-A7r.Google Scholar

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© Megan L. Hickerson 2005

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  • Megan L. Hickerson

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