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Antichrist-Dajjal I - Biblical, Jewish and Christian Roots

Images of the slaying of the Antichrist

 Antichrist - Dajjal Part I


Stephen Lambden UC Merced.


Last updated 23-03-2021

Revised from an early 1980s version printed in the Newcastle upon Tyne, (UK), Baha'i Studies Bulletin (BSB)

  • Antichrist-Dajjāl : Some Notes on the Christian and Islamic Antichrist traditions and their Bahā’ī Interpretations BSB VOLUME 1 No. 3 December 1982. p. 14ff.

Antichrist - Dajjal  : Some Notes  on the Christian and Islamic "Antichrist" Traditions and  their  Babi and Baha'i Interpretations. Part 1.

 Παιδία, ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν, καὶ καθὼς ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἀντίχριστος ἔρχεται, καὶ νῦν ἀντίχριστοι πολλοὶ γεγόνασιν· ὅθεν γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐσχάτη ὥρα ἐστίν.

Little children, it is the last time [hour]: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time (1 John 2:18). .

Messianic and eschatological expectations lie at the heart of Shī`ī piety and were, around the middle of the 19th century, of considerable importance to the adherants of the school of Ithnā `Asharī (Twelver") Shī`ī Islam in which the Bābī and Bahā'ī religions have their roots. The demythologization and interpretation of eschatological prophecies and traditions is thus, in the light of the attempt to show that they have been or will shortly be fulfilled, one of the central features of a large number of the writings of the central figures of the Bābī-Bahā'ī religions -- Siyyid `Alī Muḥammad, the Bāb (1819‑1850),  Mīrzā Ḥusayn `Alī, Bahā'u'llāh (1817-­1892 CE) and `Abbas Effendi, `Abdu'l‑Bahā (1844-1921). as well as a fairly large number of their  followers and devotees,

In certain ot his major works and letters (alwah, scriptural "Tablets"), the Bāb commented at length   on the Qur'ānic and traditional materials that detail the signs surrounding the advent of the Qā'im or Maḥdī (whom he from 1847 openly claimed to be). He interpreted allegorically and announced the onset of the Day of Resurrection and Judgement. Not only did Bahā'u'llāh and `Abdu'l‑Bahā make frequent reference or allusion to eschatologica]ly oriented Islamic materials, but they also claimed to have "unsealed" the secrets of a fairly large number of Biblical texts of prophetic import.

To date very little attention has been paid by students of the Bābī‑Bahā'ī religions to the manner in which eschatological prophecies have been interpreted or to the influence pre‑Bābī  millenial expectations had upon Bābī‑Bahā'ī historiography ‑ or even, we might add, the early career of the Bāb and the actions of the Bābīs. The extent to which many Bahā'ī writings contain quotations from or allusions to  the Bible, Qur'ān and traditions (aḥadīth) intended to underline their eschatological fulfillment on the "Day of God" remains for the most part unrecognised.

It is the purpose of this essay to set down some preliminary notes  on certain aspects of the background to and Bahā'ī interpretation of the Antichrist-­Dajjāl traditions in Christianity and Islam. Interest will at times be focused on the physiognomic descriptions of the Antichrist-Dajjāl or the belief that the Evil One of the "last hour" will have an eye or eyes of a peculiar or deformed nature. This inasmuch as the latter physiognomic motif in connection with the Antichrist-Dajjāl has been thought to have been fulfilled or realized by various Bābī‑Bahā'ī writers in terms of the physical characteristics of a few anti‑Bābī/ Bahā'ī individuals -- most notably, the Shaykhī leader Ḥajjī Mullā Muhammad Karīm Khān‑i Kirmāmī (1810‑ 1870/1). It should not be imagined that this essay, it may be noted at this point, deals in anything like a comrehensive manner with the many often obscure texts that speak about the "Antichrist" in Jewish, Christian or Islamic eschatology.

The term Antichrist  ( ἀντιχρίστου)  occurs five times in the Johannine Epistles of the New Testament. It has been usefully defined as signifying, "a mythical demoniac or demoniac‑human adversary of Christ who will appear before the second advent as the last oppressor and persecutor of the Christians, only in turn to be defeated and overcome by Christ on his return to earth" (Rist, 1962:140). Different writers on the subject of the Antichrist have applied the term to an whole host of "mythic figures" and satanic manifestations that have been thought to exist or are expected to appear in the last days. At times the `Antichrist idea', as it occurs in a plethora of Jewish, Christian and Islamic writings, has taken on the meaning implied by such expressions as "mythical beast", "satanic incarnation",  "demoniac ruler", "wicked tyrant", "eschatological adversary", "pseudo‑Christ" , "anti‑Messiah", anti‑Mahdī" or "anti‑Qāim", etc. Consequently, though such Christian oriented definitions as the one cited above are useful,it should be recognized that it is virtually impossible to set down a simple definition that is both accurate and expressive of the  bewildering variety of meaning that the `Antichrist idea' has acquired throughout the many centuries (two millennis+) of Jewish. Christian , Islamic and other categories of thought.

It is generally acknowledged today that the origins of the Christian concept of the Antichrist are obscure. While many would agree that the Antichrist idea "represents a Christian variant on the eschatological opponent of God in Apocalyptic" (Vielhauer, 1965:613) ­different scholars have expressed the importance of a variety of Bibical and extra-­Biblical texts and legends that they believ constitute its background or led to the emergence of the idea. Babylonian chaos and similar myths and Iranian‑Zoroastrian dualism, demonology and eschatology are rrequently recognised as important influences that led, through Jewish apocalyptic, to the emergence of the Christian idea of the Antichrist. The concept is almost certainly pre‑Christian, or, as Russell puts it, "Though the actual term first appears in Christian writings, the idea is very much earlier and probably reflects a well‑established and fully developed legend familiar to the writers of the apocalyptic books." ( Russell, 1971:276.­) On the subject of the background to the Christian idea of the Antichrist and its subsequent developments reference may be made to W. Bousset's The Antichrist Legend [ET by A.H.Keane] London 1896 and to his article Antichrist in the Encyclopedia of Reli~ion and Ethics(ERE),Vol.l.,and in the Encyclopedia Biblica (Ed.Cheyne and Black )as well as to the many later books and articles on the subject.

Within the Old Testament a variety of prototypes, antecedents or models for the Christian concept of the Antichrist have been identified. The account of Gog and Magog (or Gog of Magog?) in Ezekiel chapters 38‑39 is of considerable importance in this  connection as are those chapters in the book of Job that describe Behemoth and Leviathan (Job 40‑41). Various passages in the book of the prophet Zechariah (especially chapters 12‑l4), among a variety of other texts in the Hebrew Bible have been singled out  as being of some importance. Particularly influential though, in respect to the emergence of the Christian Antichrist idea, was the book of Daniel which has been thought to contain the "earliest reference to this idea of Antichrist in the apocalyptic writings" (Russell, 1971:277).­

On the subject of the background to the Christian idea of the Antichrist and its subsequent developments reference may be made to W. Bousset's The Antichrist Legend [ET by A.H.Keane] London 1896 and to his article Antichrist in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (ERE), well as the Encyclopedia Biblica (Ed.Cheyne and Black ). More recent volumes on this subject include :

 Four "beasts" are mentioned in Daniel chapter 7 the last of which has a "little horn". It blasphemes against the Most High (God) and is to make war against the saints only to have its dominion taken away and be slain. In Daniel chapter 8 we read that out of the four horns of the "he‑Goat" a "little horn" emerged which "grew great even to the host of heaven" and magnified itself " even up to the prince of the host". The sanctuary and the host are to be trampled under­‑foot for 2,300 "evenings and mornings" for the "little horn" is to destroy many; even risng up against the "prince of princes". Further cryptic details are given in the 9th chapter of the book of the prophet Daniel where we are informed that the Jewish daily sacrifice and offering are to cease for half a week and that upon "the wing of abomination shall come one who makes desolate". Again, chapters 11-12 of the same book maybe seen to contain what appears to be a lengthy prophecy regarding a "king of the north" who will oppress Judea, take away the daily sacrifice, and set up the "abomination that makes desolate".

Certain of these `prophecies'  have been thought (they cannot be commented on in detail here) to `predict' or be modelled upon the anti‑Jewish activities of the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes IV (died. c.l64. BCE). He became, at least for a number of the Church Fathers, a prototype of the Antichrist, though he is not identified as such in the book of Daniel itself which, in fact, neither explicitly speaks of a Messiah or, consequently, an anti‑Messiah or "Antichrist". (cf. Rist IDB 1:141). Like Antiochus, other rulers who were the object of Jewish hatred such as the Roman general Pompey (possibly described as a "dragon" in the Psalms of Solomon [2:29] and Herod the Great (cf. The Assumption of Moses 8:lff), seem to have assumed, for various apocalypticists, the "Antichrist" type role during the golden age of Jewish apocalyptic (loosely speaking between 200 BCE and lOO CE). Indeed, the Jewish eschatological nation that evil would rise to its peak before the inbreaking of a new order and that a wicked tyrant would appear in the latter days undoubtedly contributed to the emergence of the Christian Antichrist idea (cf. Stone EJ 3:60)

Certain Jewish and Jewish‑Christian texts make mention of the figure Belial/Beliar who is the satanic arch‑enemy of God as Angra‑Mainyu (= Ahriman) is the enemy or antagonist of Ahura Mazda and his angels in the Zoroastrian writings. In one or two of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriachs (c. lOO BCE? but subsequently reworked) it is predicted that God's  Messiah will wage war against the evil Beliar, rescue those whom ho has ensnared, and cast him into everlasting fire. Beliar is also mentionod in the Sibylline Oracles. In Bk.III, which is probably Jewish and was perhaps written around 150.B.C., it is stated that Beliar is to come from the Sebastenes (= of the stock of Samaria ?) and deceive many until God shall destroy him by folding up the cosmos during a terrible fiery catastrophe. In the Qumran War of the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness (1QM) Belial is the leader of the eschatological hosts of evil, the "sons of darkness" who are to be destroyed by the angelic Guardian of Israel (= Michael ?) and the pious "sons of light". These and other similar passages in Jewish apocalyptic writings have also been thought by many modern Biblical scholars to have contributed to the Antichrist idea.

As previously indicated, the New Testament does not directly furnish us with any evidence that Jesus himself spoke of the coming of the Antichrist. According to Mark's Gospel he did, however, speak of the coming of false Christs (               ­) and false prophets  (                ) (refer Mk 13:6,22 + parallels) and, referring back to Daniel (9:27,12:11 ), make mention of the coming "desolating sacrilege" (to ßS          = the "abomination of desolation"; in the Greek the construction is masculine, refer Mk 13:14 / Matt 24:15, cf.Lk 21:20). The "Little Apocalypse" (Mk 13), it has been asserted, unmistakably  sketches the "outlines of the Antichrist". (refer Kauder 1:125). The story of Jesus' temptation (Mk 4:1-11 + parallels) and Jn 5:54, "I (Jesus) have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another come in his own name ( = Antichrist ? ), him you will receive", have been interpreted in a similar light (ibid., cf James HDB :276).

The possibly deutero‑Pauline letter II Thessalonians contains within its second chapter (especially verses 3‑11) what is perhaps "the earliest Christian belief in an antichrist combined with a pseudo‑Christ." (Rist IBD 1:141). A good many features of the Patristic and later expositions of the career of the Antichrist are rooted in II Thess. 2:3‑12. where we read,

"Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion  comes first, and the man of lawlessness [sin] is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so‑called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming. The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make then believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

For detailed expositions of this passage reference should be made to the commentaries. It may be noted however, that we learn from it that Christ's second coming is to be preceeded by (1) a "falling away" (          ) followed by (2) the revealing of the "man of lawlessness [sin]" (                   ), the "son of perdition" (                    ) who exalts himself  to the status of Godhead and as such sits in the "temple of God" having the power to work deceptive miracles. This evil figure is to he destroyed by the returning Jesus, by the "breath of his mouth" (see Isaiah 11:4 Targum). What prevents the appearence of the "Son of Perdition" is referred to as impersonal power, "that which restrains" (=                     [neuter], v.6) and then as a person, "he who now restrains" (= he who now restrains (=                 [masc.], v.7). No agreement as to the meaning of these expressions has been reached by modern Biblical scholars. Tertullian and many subsequent fathers and commentators connected the restraining power or person with the Imperium Romanum or with one of the Roman Emperors though this interpretation is widely questioned today. The reference in II Thess 2:4 to the desecration of the Temple may reflect the activities of the abovement­ioned Antiochus Epiphanes who set up a statue of Zeus in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem or the pretensions of Caligula (or Nero if this part of II Thess. is pseudo‑Pauline ?). Refer, for a brief discussion of Il Thess 2:6f, Vielhauer, 1965: 614-5 and on the Patristic and later interpretations Emmerson, 1981: esp.p.37ff.

A bewildering variety of expressions of the "Antichrist" have been detected in the canonical Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation (c.96 CE ?) --  but very likely containing earlier reworked Jewish/Jewish‑Christian apocalyptic materials. This work claims to be the revelation of  the risen Christ and is attributed to John of Patmos whose identity is uncertain. Bousset held written that "the predictions of the Revelation of John borrow their fundamental tone from the fancies regarding the Antichrist" (ERE 1:579). The following is a summary of those images and figures mentioned in the Apocalypse that have a bearing on our theme‑:

  • (1) The beast that ascends from the bottomless pit (Rev 11:7ff) which is to make war on the "two witnesses" who have the power to prophesy for 1,26O days and kill them (12:3,7‑ff).
  • (2) The great red dragon or Satan, the Devil, "that ancient serpent" (Rev 12:3ff). This demoniac figure is pictured as having "seven heads and ten horns and seven diadems upon his heads". It will persecute the "woman clothed in the sun" and attempt to devour her "male child..who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron". Michael and his angels will fight against this manifestation of the Evil One, the "deceiver of the whole world", and cast it down from heaven. On the earth and in a state of anger the "great red dragon" will make war on the rest of the offspring of the "woman clothed in the sun".
  • (3) The beast which rises out of the sea (Rev 13:1ff) which has "ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems upon its horns and a blasphemous name upon its heads." This beast takes over the power of the "great red dragon" (2) and sits on its throne though it has a"mortal wound" on one of its heads. Its wound, however, will be healed and the whole earth is to follow it imagining that it is indestructible. It does in fact exercise authority for 42 months (= 1,260 days) making war on and even defeating the saints.
  • (4) The beast which rises out of the earth (Rev 13:11ff) which has "two horns like a lamb", speaks "like a dragon" and exercises all the authority of the beast which arose out of the sea (3) forcing people to worship it by working great "signs" and deceiving many. This beast promotes the worship of the "image" of the beast which rose out of the sea (3) and prevents all who do not bear the mark of the beast from buying and selling. Its number is 666 which is a "human number".
  • (5) The scarlet beast full of blasphemous names on which Babylon the great harlot is seated (Rev 17:3ff) and which has "seven heads and ten horns". The significance of this terriblc creature is explained to the seer of Patmos. It both "was and is not" and is to "ascend from the bottomless pit and go to perdition". Its seven heads are "seven hills" and / or "seven kings" (5 past, 1 present, l to come) while its "ten horns" are "ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to recieve authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast". The women who has "Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth's abominations" written on her forehead "is the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth."

Further complicating the above picture it should be noted that Rev 19:19f mentions yet another (? or beast No 4 again) beast and its "false prophet". After attempting to defeat the "Word of God" who sits on a "white horse" with the aid of "the kings of the earth and their armies" these two are to be "thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone". Finally, Rev 20:1ff informs us that the Dragon or Satan (= No 2?) is to be bound by an angel for 1,000 years after which he is to emerge from the "bottomless pit" for "a little while". He, alone with Gog and Magog, will surround the "camp of the saints and the beloved city" only to be consumed by heavenly fire and made to join the beast and the false prophet in the lake of "fire and brimstone".

This highly complex apocalyptic imagery contributed a great deal to subseq­uent Christian (and to some extent Islamic) Antichrist-Dajjāl speculation. Modern exegetes using historico‑critical tools, despite the fact that much in the Apocalypse remains obscure, find reflections of the (proto‑) Antichrist myth in the Revelation of John. Though Rist, for example, thinks that the beast of Rev 11 (= No 1) is "not an antichrist" he does concede that the "class­ical antichrist tradition" is reflected in Rev chapters 13,16:12‑16, 17 and 19:19‑21.(Rist IDB 1:142). For most modern Biblical scholars the Beast/Antichrist symbology in the Apocalypse constitutes a kind of apocalyptic polemic against the Roman Empire with its pagan rites and Emperor worship. Behind the imagery surrounding the beast with the healed wound (= No 3) the Nero redivivus legend can be discerned and the name Nero Ceasar written in Hebrew/Aramaic characters (    N = 50+      R=200 +     `0'= 6 +    ḥNero} N = 50+     Q = l00 +   S = 60+   R = 200 ḥCeasar}) has a gematric numerical value of 666. The "scarlet beast" of Rev 17 (= No 5) has similarly been identified with Rome.

Shortly after thc death of Nero (c.68 CE) the legend arose that he was not dead but alive soon to return with a Parthian army in order to take vengence upon Rome (he had friendly relations with the Parthiana). This idea, the Nero redivivus legend which is echoed in the Shī`ī notion of the "occultation" (ghayba)  and eschatological reappearence of  various  Imans and Mesaianic protenders, persisted to the end of the 1st century A.D.  and beyond. It coloured, as indicated below, Jewish eschatological speculation (refer, Sibylline Oracles Bk.IV.119‑39.c 80CE?, Bk.V.28ff, 361‑70 ,c.120CE?) and had some impact on Christian traditions about the Antichrist. Most of the articles and books mentioned in the bibliography (below) reflecting NewTestament scholarship, contain some discussion of the Nero redivivus legend and the interpretation of the "beast" and associated inmagery in the Apocalypse, Of particlar interest in this connection is the following passage from the pseudepigraphical work known as the Ascension of Isaiah or, more explicitly, part of the so‑called Testament of Hezekiah (= Asc.Isa. 3:13‑4:18. lst‑2nd centuries CE) in which Boliar the Evil One appears as Nero the "lawless king" who slew his mothor Agrippina in c. 59 CE;

"And now Hezekiah and Josab [Josiah] my son, these are the days of the completion of the world. After it is consummated Beliar the great ruler, the king of this world, will descend, who hath ruled it since it came into being; yea he will descend from his firmament in the likeness of a man, a lawless king the slayer of his mother: who himself (even) this king will persecute the plant which the Twelve Apostles of the Beloved have planted. Of the twelve one will be delivered into his hands [= Peter ? who according to tradition was martyred in tho Neroian persecution of 64‑65 CE). This ruler in the form of that king will come and there will come with him all the powers of this world, and they will harken unto him in all that he desireth. And at his word the sun will rise at night and he will make the moon to appear at the sixth hour. And all that he hath desired he will do in the world: he will do and speak like the Beloved and he will say: "I am God and before me there hath been none." And all the people in the world will believe in him. And they will sacrifice to him and they will serve him saying: "This is God and beside him there is no other". And the greater number of those who shall have been associated together in order to receive the Beloved, he will turn aside after him. And there will be the power of his miracles in every city and region. And he will set up his image before him in every city. And he shall bear sway three years and seven months and twenty‑seven days [= 1,335 days, refer Daniel 12:12].. And after (one  thousand) three hundred and thirty‑two [read, 1335 ?] days the Lord will come with his angels.. and he will drag Beliar into Gehenna and also his armies." (Asc.Isa. 4:1‑14 trans. Charles 1917:31-38). ­

Here the figure of Beliar/Nero is portrayed as both a pseudo‑Christ and an Antichrist claiming, like Nebuchadnezzar (Judith 3:8,6:12), Antiochus Epiphanes IV (Daniel 11:36f), Pompey (? Ps.Sol.2:28) and Caligula (Philo of Alexandria, Legat.22,74‑80,93‑7) to be, also Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. Similar ideas are reflected in the "Song of the Two peoples" of the probably 3rd century Latin poet Commodian (fl. c. 250‑450 CE?) who taught that there would be two Antichrists, "a revived Nero in the West who would be killed by the final Antichrist arising from Persia and ruling over the Jews," [1]  and in the writings of a number of the Church Fathers (see Emmerson 1981:28f). See further McGinn, 1979:23. According to McGinn the Latin poet Commodian’s "two main works, the Instructions and the Song of the Two Peoples, both evidence a strong apocalypticism that may have been influenced by the Gothic invasions and the imperial persecutions of the time." (ibid, p. 22).

We may now quote and comment on the first and second Johannine Epistles (written c. lOO CE?) where the earliest Christian use of the term Antichrist occurs.

"Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour..Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son..  Beloved do not believe every spirit (     ) but   test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets (   )  have gone out into tho world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (      ) is of God, and every    spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of the antichrist of which you have heard that it was coming, and now it is  in the world already." (l Jn 2:18,23;4:1-3).

"For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such an one is the deceiver (    ) and the antichrist." (2 Jn 2:7).

1Jn  seems to have been born out of a dialogue between the author's Christocentric and moralistic interpretation of what being a true discipl­e of Jesus Christ entails and the  elitist proto‑gnostic orientation of potential and/or actual schismatics within a community  over which the author exercised or commanded some authority. It is essentially anti‑docetic and anti­elitist. The docetic heretics are labelled antichrists . The idea of the eschatological appearence of the Antichrist is demythologized or realised and th­e imminent return of Christ (which the docetists can hardly have awaited since they appear, in their pneumatic transcendentalism, to have negated the soteriological efficacy of the person of Jesus) is affirmed in the hope of terrifying the "little children" into  a less radical but still proto‑gnostic "orthodoxy". The same concern it appears, lies behind 2 Jn which is addressed by an unknown elder to a community referred to as "the elect lady" (v.l.).

Emmerson in his Antichrist in the Middle Ages  writes on the later influence of the texts from the Johannine Epistles quoted above, "These..texts form the basis for the medieval understanding of Antichrist. They establish important features of the Antichrist tradition by associating Antichrist with the last days and the time of the end.. by describing the contemporary appearance of many Antichrists, and by identifying Antichrist with those who deny Christ and with other heretics." (Emmerson, 1981:36)

­In a library of a monastery in Constantinople in 1873 a volume was discovered containing a work known as The Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles, through the Twelve Apostles or more conveniently, the Didache (= the Teaching). It is probably the product of a Syrian (or Egyptian?) Christian community being a kind of "Church Manual" written (most probably) between c.90 and llOCE The last chapter of this manual exhorts the faithful to watchfulness and refers to the Antichrist as the "Deceiver of the World" :


"In the last days of the world false prophets and deceivers will abound..Thenthe Deceiver of the World will show himself, pretending to be a Son of God and doing signs and wonders, and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will work such wickedness as there has never been since the beginning. After that all humankind will come up for the fiery trial.. And then the signs of the truth will appear.. And then the whole world will see the Lord as he comes riding on the clouds of Heaven." (From Didache  11 trans. Stainsforth 1968:225).

The so‑called Epistle of Barnabas, which a few of the Church Fathers regarded as inspired and which was written sometime between 70 and 130 A.D., appears to refer to the  Antichrist as the "last great Hindrance of all". This evil power is, furthermore, related to the "fourth beast" of Daniel 7 thus in all liklihood alluding to the Roman Empire as the "fourth kingdom" and that of the Antichrist (refer Barnabas  4:1ff). Polycarp of Smyrna (c.70‑c.155CE?) in his Epistle to the Philipians (7:1ff), 1ike the author of 1 Jn, identifies the Antichrist(s) with those who deny the incarnation of Jesus:

"To deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is to be Antichrist. To coatradict the evidence of the Cross is to be of the devil. And to pervert the Lord's words to suit their own wishes, by asserting that there are no such things as resurrection and judgement, is to be a first-begotten son of Satan. So let us have no more of this nonsense from the gutter, and these lying doctrines, and turn back again to the Word originally delivered to us."  (Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians, 7:1ff, trans. Staniforth, 1968:147), 

 The foremost Christian apologist of the second century, Justin Martyr (c. 100- c.l65CE), believed that the "time, two times and a half of time" (Dan 12:7) were running on to their consummation and that the Antichrist or "Man of Sin"  was already, as it were, "at the door". He is to be preceeded by false prophets who speak in the name of Christ and appear with the "whole panoply of diabolic power" (Dyer. NCE., 1:617). Irenaeus (c.130‑ c.202), one time bishop of Lyons (France), in his The Unmasking and Refutation of False Gnosis  (book V.) gives a fairly detailed account of the career of the Antichrist. The Antichrist is identified with the "Man of Sin" (2 Thess 2:3), various "beasts" mentioned in the Apocalypse of John, the "little horn" of Daniel (8:9), and is associated with the "abomination of desolation" (Dan 9:27,12:11; Mk 13:14+ parallels). 666, the enigmatic number of the "beast" in Rev 13:18, is given some interesting interpretations by Irenaeus who regarded it as expressing the recapitulation of all apostasy in the Beast-Antichrist figure. The number is, in cryptic symbolic fashion, related to the age of Noah when he entered the ark (600) and the dimensions of Nebuchadnezzar's golden image (60X6 cubits, refer Dan 2:3ff). By gematria the number was made to yield (1) Evanthas, (2) Lateinos and (3) Teitan. Of these three possibilities Irenaeus regarded the second as a quite probable solution since, signifying the Roman Empire, it coincides with the name of the "fourth kingdom" seen by Daniel. He himself preferred however, the third possibility, namely Teitan, in part because it is a human name belonging to a tyrant (Adv, Haer.V.30). Whatever may prove to be the name of the Antichrist he is to establish himself in Jerusalem and reign for 3 1/2 years. As intimated in Jeremiah 8:16 and in the light of the absence of the tribe of Dan among the tribes listed in Rev 7:5f, the Antichrist is to be of Jewish Danite stock. This association of the Antichrist with the tribe of Dan appears to have its origin  in Judaism (refer, Test.XII.Pat. Test.Dan 5‑7 where the prince of the tribe of Dan is identified with Satan/Beliar, etc. cf. also Jud.18:30, I Kings 12:29). It is a notion that was repeated by many of the Church Fathers who found OT warrant for it in (among other texts) Gen.49:17, Deut.33:22 and (as mentioned) Jer.8:16  (Refer, Emmerson, 1981 esp. 20, 46, 79‑83; Russell, 1971:279f).

Tertullian of Carthage (c.160‑c.220CE) it has been said, "added a new dimension to patristic thought when he applied the term antichrist to any heretic or rebell against Christ (Adv. Marcion  5.16; De Praescr.Haer. 4.4.)" (Dyer, NCE 1:617) though he did distinguish these "antichrist" from the eschatological Antichrist. Like Irenaeus he identified the Antichrist with the "Man of Sin" and the "Beast(s)" of the Apocalypse (ibid). He is to appear just before the resurrection, persecute the church and precipitate the emergence of a second company of magtyrs (On the Resurrection 25f; Scorpiace 12). Hippolytus of Rome (d.c.235CE) composed a fairly lengthy Treatise on Christ and Antichrist addressed to a certain Theophilus. This treatise, which was written around 200CE, constitutes  "the most complete summary of early patristic tradition on the final enemy of man" (McGinn, 1979:22). In it the representation of Antichrist as a pseudo‑Christ is dealt with in detail, "For the  deceiver seeks to liken himself in all things to the Son of God" (Ch.6). (Refer,Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, trans., 1883:3‑45).

The erudite Origen (c.185‑c.254) did not, it seems, have a great deal to say about the Antichrist. He did however, apply the idea to both his own and eschat­ological times. The Antichrist is both the wicked king mentioned in Daniel 8:23f and the Pauline "Man of Sin" (II Thess 2:3) as well as any heresy or falsity professing to belong to Christ (Against Celsus VI.44f, Comm. ser 33, 42ff). Cyprian (c.200‑c.258) held similar views. He made a list of heretics and schismatics whom he believed to be antichrists at the same time holding the view that Antiochus Epiphanes IV was a type of the Antichrist still to come (Ep 69.5;70.3., Treatise addressed to Fortunatus, ll).

The subject of the Antichrist and related questions are dealt with by Victor­inus  bishop of Pettau (d.c.304CE) in his extant "Commentary on the Apocalopse. The many details given in this commentary cannot be set down though it may be noted that he saw in the "black horse" of Rev.6:6 a sign of the famine to come during the days of the Antichrist when all shall suffer or be injured. The "angel..with the seal of the living God" (Rev 7:2) is none other than Elijah the precursor of the Antichrist. In fact, it may be added here, many of the Church Fathers held the belief that Enoch and Elias, the "two witnesses" (Rev 11:3ff cf. Gen 5:24,2Kings 2:1l, Mal 4:5), are to return in the last days and preach against the Antichrist for 31/2 years or 1,260 days. They are to succeed in converting some Jews and free some souls from the evil of the Antichrist (cf.Zech.12:10, Rev 12:6) but are to be killed by the Wicked One (Rev 11:7) only to receive their place among the saints in heaven (Rev 11:11‑12) (see Emmerson, 1981:41, 46, 78, 90, 96ff, 136ff).

For Victorinus the "two witnesses" are to preach for  3 1/2 (literal) years after which, but before the onset of the "last time", the Kingdom of the Antichrist is to be set up for 31/2 (literal) years. As regards the identity of the Antichrist, he is tho "beast" of Rev ll:llf and was among the Ceasars. He will spring from the "great red dragon" mentioned in Rev 11:3f which is Rome: "His seven heads were the seven kings of the Romans, of whom also is antichrist. (XII.3). The first "beast" mentioned in Rev.13 is the kingdom that will exit in the time of the Antichrist. By gematria 666 is once again made to yield the number of the Antichrist. Teitan and Antemos are two possibilities but the Latin antiphrase DICLUX stands for the Antichrist (see Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse 1899:344ff; Froom, 1950:337f).

­Lactantius (c.259‑330CE) in his doctrinal treatise the Divine Institutes­ (written c.310CE) chapters 14‑24 summarized his views about the ages of the world, the defeat of two antichrists and the coming of the millenial kingdom as did Cyril of Jerusalem (c.315‑c.386) in his XVth Catechetical Lecture. Cyril taught that,      

"At a moment when the Chruch and state are paralysed by disunity.. Antichrist will first restore unity to the state. Then he will attach all Jewry to his person, and in that he will be accepted as Messiah. Having obtained such an ascendency as no previous emperor ever had, he will reveal himself in his true colours, and the Church will undergo its final trial till rescued by the second coming of the Saviour."  (see W.Telfer (ed) The Library of Christian Classics, Vol.IV (= Cyril of Jerusalem and Nemesius of Emesa)  154 fn.44. Cyril's XVth Catechetical Lecture is to be found in Engliag translation  with valuable notes on pp.l47‑167 of this volume.

Hilary of Poitiers (c.300‑c.368) was apparently the first of the fathers to link the corrupt Christian priesthood with the Antichrist ( Froom, 1950:408ff). While Ambrose of Milan (c.340-c.397) repeated many of the views regarding the Antichrist noted below (such as his coming from the tribe of Dan) he, in the course of commenting on Luke 21:20, spoke of three Antichrists ‑: (1) The coming "Man of Sin" who will sit in the Jewish Temple, (2) The author of the latter's evil, the Devil, and (3) Arius or Sabellius and their like who endeavour to mislead the faithful through the erroneous interpretation of Scripture (Refer, Ambrose, Expositio in Lucan, Bk X (On Lk 21:20) referred to in Froom, 1950:421..

Ephraem Syrus (c. 306‑373 CE). 

A number of Homilies on the Antichrist have been attributed to the great Syrian exegete Ephraem Syrus (c. 306‑373 CE). The authenticity and dating of apocalyptic Sermons handed down under his name in Syriac, Greek, Latin and other languages is a matter of considerable scholarly debate (cf McGinn, 1979:60f+fns.) He appears to have been particularly anxious about the imminent appearence of the Antichrist and to have expected the breakup of the Roman Empire to be a prelude to the emergence of the "Man of Sin". The beginning of the barbarian migrations and the "invasion of the eastward regions of the Roman Empire by the Huns (= Gog and Magog)" provide the historical events round which, in part, [pseudo‑] Ephraim's eschatological speculations revolve (Bousset, EB [1903]:181).

It must suffice here to note that the Antichrist predictions contained in the Homilies and Sermons attributed to Ephrem found their way (being somewhat modified) into traditions (aadīth) attributed to Muhammad and the twelver Imams and the writings of Islamic thinkers and commemtators (i.e the notion that the Antichrist/Dajjāl would appear in Khurasan, Ephrem's Choras(en)e; see below) and to quote from a pseudo‑Ephraemic (in part?) "Sermon on the End of the World":

"When the Roman Empire begins to be consumed by the sword, the coming of the Evil one is at hand. It is necessary that the world come to an end at the completion of the Roman Empire. In those days two brothers [Valentinian (364‑375) and Valens (364‑378)?] will come to the Roman empire who will rule with one mind, but because one will surpass the other, there will be a schism between them. And so the Adversary will be loosed and will stir up hatred between the Persian and the Roman empires. In those days many people will rise up against Rome; the Jewish people will be her adversaries.."­  (Pseudo‑Ephraem, "Sermon on the End of the World"  trans. from the ed. of G.P. Caspari (Brief, Abhandlungen und Predigton.. Rep. Brussels 1964, p.208f) cited in McGinn, 1979:61).

Sulpicus Severus (c.353‑c.420),

Sulpicus Severus (c.353‑c.420), the friend and biographer of Martin of Tours,  the Father of Western Monasticism,  attributes to his saintly master (d.c.397)  some interesting speculations regarding the Antichrist. In his Dialogues (I.41) we are led to understand that there will be two Antichrists, (1) Nero "who will rule the western region after subduing ten kings" and force the worship of pagan idols upon the people and (2) the   Antichrist proper who, after seizing the Eastern (Roman) Empire will make Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom. The Antichrist furthermore, will set himself up as the Anointed One (Messiah) and persecute in the sense of compelling people to deny that Christ is God and forcing them to be circumcised in accordance with the Jewish Law. In blasphemous parallel to the conception of Christ the Antichrist will be "conceived by an evil spirit" and be destroyed by Christ at his second coming. Indeed, St. Martin actually seems to have believed that the Antichrist was a child already born who would seize the empire when he comes of age.  Refer, Sulpicus Severus, Dialogues I.4l, McGinn 1979:53; Emmerson, 1981:29 writes, ".. Sulpicus Severus.. states that Nero is to return before Antichrist, and after he works groat evils similar to those he did when emperor, he will be killed by Antichrist." Other Church Fathers and later theologians questioned the idea that Nero would reappear (for refs see Emmerson, 1981:29f).

Jerome (347‑ 420)

Jerome (347‑420) regarded the "most wicked" Antiochus Epiphanes as a type of the Antichrist and thought that Jeremiah 9:14‑16 predicted the punishment of the Jews for preferring Antichrist to Christ. (Jerome, De Anti. in Dam [CCL] 75A 914; In Hier. proph.II.78.2). He imagined, in the light of the numerous apocalyptic condemnations of the evil Babylon, that, though the Man of Sin is to be born a Jew, this city would be the birthplace of the Antichrist (De Dan 75A 918). On the basis of Luke 10:13,15, it might be noted here, it was also imagined that the Antichrist would be born in Chorozaim, reared in Bethsaida and rule in Capernaum (refer, Pseudo‑Methodius 14; Emmerson 1981:80-81).  ­

Such, in brief, are some of the ideas of a few of the more important Church Fathers with respect to the Antichrist. The need for brevity and the complexity of the subject has made selectivity desirable. The aforementioned patristic speculations were greatly systematised and elabouratod in the Middle Ages and continued to be influential into the Renaissance and beyond. As is well-known, from the thirteenth century onwards "a radically different view of the ­Antichrist developed that identified him with a specific pope or political figuro or with other opponents of the particular writer, heretic or reformer." (see Emmerson, 1981:7). ­No attempt will be made here to summarize the countless  medieval and later Christian speculations regarding the Antichrist. We turn now to an examination of  certain apocalyptically oriented expressions of the physiognomic characteristics of the Antichrist in various Christian and other writings.

Physiognomic descriptions of the Antichrist which seem to draw on ancient Jewish  and pagan physiognomic literature and serve the purpose of warning men by setting down his supposed physical characteristics are to be found in a wide range of Christian  texts (a number of them forming part of the pseudepigraphical Elijah and Daniel cycles) extant (sometimes fragmentarily and in several recensions) in a variety of languages (i.e. Latin, Greek, Coptic, Syriac, Ethiopic, Armenian and Arabic). Not all these texts, a number of which will be set out below, have points of literary dependence if they have them at all. The portraits of the Antichrist found in Christian texts from perhaps the 3rd century  CE onwards form the literary topos which lies behind the traditional Islamic physiognomic descriptions of the Dajjal (see further below) just as the views of the Church Fathers about the Antichrist influenced Islamic literatures.

The most ancient extant physiognomic description of the Antichrist is found in the  3rd century fragmentary Christian pseudepigraphon the Coptic Elijah Apocalypse (= 1 Elijah). Perhaps based on an earlier Jewish work composed in Egypt in the first century BCE., its detailed 3rd chapter contains legends about the Antichrist. (On 1 Elijah see Charlesworth, 1981:95f.. His description is as follows:

"He is somewhat..young, thin‑legged, while on the front of his head is a place (lock) of white hair.. His eyebrows reach even to his ears, while leprosy scales are on his hands."­ (trans. Houghton, 1959:118)

A similar, though probably unrelated, physiognomic description of the Antichrist, again attributed to Elijah, is found in a Greek MS the text of which was first printed by F. Nau in the Journal Asiatique (XI.9(1917),p.454). The Greek text of this Elijah fragment is printed in The Books of Elijah. Parts 1‑2 collected and translated by Stone and Strugnell (p.29). cf. also K.Berger, 1976:116 (i.e. chart opposite this page) and Denis (ed.) 1970:104. We learn from this brief text that the Antichrist is to have a head like a flame of fire, a right‑eye mixed with blood or glad (?), double pupils in the left eye, white eyelids, a large lower lip, a thin right thigh and broad feet (see Stone and Strugnell, 1979:36-37)­

Double pupils in the eye[s] is  an evil sign. A witch in P. Ovidius Naso's Amores  (I.8.15) caIled Dispas who is learned in the magical arts has double pupils in her eyes. Pliny in his Natural History, it may also be noted, writes, "Cicero states that the glance of all women who have double pupils is injurious every­‑where (VII.ll.8); "We have already said enough about double pupils, or persons who have the evil eye. Blue‑grey eyes see more clearly in the dark" (XI.54).

The Testament of the Lord (3rd‑5th cent. CE?)

The document known as the Testament of the Lord (3rd‑5th cent. CE?) purports to give the instructions of the Risen Christ to his disciples and contains an apocalyptic discourse (3rd centCE?). In several Syriac and other versions of this work ‑ which formed part of the Clementine Octateuch of the Syrian Church ­we find some interesting physiognomic descriptions of the Antichrist that appear to be related to the Greek Elijah fragment mentioned above. One Syriac version (Camb. Univ. Lib. Cod. Add 2918) has been translated by Arendzen. The section of interest reads as follows:

"Concerning the Son of Perdition he says: Those are the signs of his likeness: His head a flame of fire and his right eye mixed with blood and the left one has two pupils and his eyebrows white and his lower lip larger than its fellow and his right thigh small and his feet broad and his little finger large as a sickle, that is the sickle of devastat­ion." (Arendzen, 1901: 414).

Physiognomic details of select  Portraits of the Antichrist.

Below I shallI selectively or partly reproduce the chart (slightly altered in form) from Stone and Strugnell, 1979: 36‑7 (refer this source for full references). I have also consulted the similar but more comprehensive chart in Berger, 1976:(opposite) ll6 (= Berger chart).and  In Cooper and MacLean's The Testament of the Lord. This Testament readsin one translation of a Syriac version (l:ll) as follows:

"And these are the signs of him: his head is as a fiery flame; his right eye shot with blood, his left eye blueblack, and he hath two pupils. His eyelashes are white; and his lower lip is large; but his right thigh is slender; his feet broad; his great toe is bruised and flat. This is the sickle of destruction." (1902:57‑8).

Physiognomic details supplied by other Syriac MSS of the Testament of the Lord and related versions may be tabulated as follows - In the chart below YES = a physiognomic characteristic mentioned and X = not mentioned.


We now turn to another series of texts resembling in their physiognomic description of the Antichrist those tabulated above; namely, the various versions of the so-called Tiburtine Sibyl and a few associated related texts. The original Greek TiburtineSibyl (  which is lost)  was probably composed between c. 378‑390 CE and appears to have been partly based on Egyptian apocalyptic themes (cf. 1 Elijah quoted above; see McGinn, 1979:43ff+fns.). It was  "intended as a response to the military disaster of Adrianople (378) where the Emperor Valens had been killed by the Goths" (McGinn,1979:43) was soon translated into Latin (Wa which is lost) and survives in several Greek MSS composed in Phoenecia around 500 CE (the so‑called Oracle of Baalbeck) as well as a number of l0th‑llth century Latin MSS (W1 etc.; for an English trans. see Alexander, 1967). None of the surviving Greek or Latin forms of the Tiburtine Sibyl  contain the physiognomic description of the Antichrist though certain Ethiopic and Arabic texts provide us with such portraits. These latter texts may again be tabulated - here I draw again on  the chart in Stone+ Strugnell, 1979: 36 ‑7. cf.also the Berger chart(in Berger, 1976 [opposite] p.ll6: ­

  • 53. Refer, Stone+Strugnell, 1979: 36‑7. Text on p.33 taken from J.Schleifer, Die Erzahlung der Sibylle, ein Apokryph, K. Ak. Wiss. Wein. Phil‑Hist. Kl. Denk­‑schriften 53 (Wein, 1910),pp.45-5, 70.
  • 54. Refer, ibid. 36‑7.Text on p.32 taken from an Arabic version of the Tibertine Sibyl in J.Schleifer, op cit, 45, 70.
  • 55. Refer, ibid, 36‑7. Text on p.33 taken from the Garshuni text of the Wisdom of the Sibyl in J.Schleifer,o p cit, 44,70.
  • 56. Refer,ibid 36‑7. Text on p.35 and cf. R.Basset, Les Apocryphes Ethiopiens X (Paris 1900), 51‑2 ; Bib. Nat. Fonds Arabe 70.
  • 57. Refer, ibid 36‑7.Text on p.35 taken from R. Basset, op cit. 61 (Paris, Bib. Nat. Fonds Arabe  281).

In connection with the two tabulations charted above, Stone and Strugnell in their collection The Books of Elijiah Parts 1&2  (which I have drawn on in reproducing the above tabulations) also note the physiognomic descriptions of the Antichrist contained in the Ethiopic Apocalypse of Baruch (5 Baruch, a medieval reworking of 4 Baruch extant only in Ethiopic) and in a related "Ethiopic Wisdom Sibyl". These two texts both represent the Antichrist as having his right eye mixed with blood (cf. above) and a thin right foot (SEE Stone & Strugnell 1979:36-7; On 5 Baruch see Charlesworth, 1981:89f).­

Not to be confused with the canonical Apocalypse of John there exists a Greek Apocalypse of [Pseudo‑] John which probably dates from the 5th cent. CE. (cf. Hennecke, 2, 1965:752; McGinn, 1979:51. It is a product of Eastern Christendom and appears to draw on the writings of Ephrem. Arranged in question and answer form this Apocalypse gives a fairly detailed account of eschatological events and purports to be a post­resurrection discourse of Christ. Sometimes referred to as the Revelation of the Holy Theologian John it contains the following physiognomic description of the Antichrist:

"And again I said, "O Lord, what will take place after this?" And I heard a voice saying to me, "Hear, O righteous John, at that time the Denier shall be manifest, the one banished in darkness, the one called Antichrist." And again I said, "Lord, reveal to me what he is like." And I heard a voice saying to me, "The appearence of his face is gloomy [or dusky], his hair like the points of arrows; his [eye]brows rough [or like a wild beast's]; his right eye as the rising morning star and the left like a lion's. His mouth is a cubit wide, his teeth a span in length, his fingers are like sickles. His footprints are two cubits long, and on his forehead is the writing, 'The Antichrist'. He will be lifted up to heaven and he will be brought down to the Abyss, working falsehood."

The above English translation is of the text edited by von Tisehendorrf in Apocalypses Apocryphae ( pp. 70‑94; in McGinn, 1979:55).. In Walker's translation (Edinburgh 1870) reference is made to a "MS.E" which adds to the physiognomic description of the Antichrist the following details: "He holds in his hand a cup of death; and all that worship him drink of it. His right eye is like the morning star, and his left like a lion's; because he was taken prisioner by the archangel Michael, and he took his godhead from him. And I was sent from the bosom of the Father, and I drew up the head of the polluted one, and his eye was consumed.. He shall remove mountains and hills and beckon with his polluted hand, Come all to me.." (p. 495. fn.2).

This interesting description of the Antichrist apparently exists in several Arabic MSS. It should be noted that a number of the Antichrist's features mentioned in it correspond with those mentioned in both Sunnī and Shī`ī traditions about the Dajjāl (see below). A strikingly similar description of the Antichrist is contained in the Apocalypse of Ezra (Greek Esdras) a "rather late" (6th‑8th contCE?) pseudopigraphon apparently extant in only two MSS (Charlesworth, 1981:117). A. Walker's translation of the passage of interest here from one of the MSS (Paris gr.929 ff. 510-32) reads as follows:

"And they "And they [Michael and Gabriel] took me to the north [of Tartarus] and I saw there a man bound with iron chains. And I asked:  Who is this? And he said to me:  This is he who said I am the Son of God, that made stones bread, and water wine. And the prophet said:  My Lord let me know what is his form, and I shall tell the race of men, that they may not believe in him. And he said to me: The form of his countenance is like that of a wild beast; his right eye like the star that rises in the morning, and the other without motion; his mouth one cubit; his teeth span long [1 span long]; his fingers like scythes [sickles]; the track of his feet two spans; and in his face an inscription  Antichrist. He has been exalted to heaven; he shall go down to Hades [cf.Matt 11:23]. At one time he shall become a child; at another an old man.. and no one believes him that he is my beloved Son.." ­(trans. Walker, 1872:472)

Several texts belonging to the pseudepigraphical Daniel cycle give us yet further physiognomic descriptions of the Antichrist: such pseudo‑Daniel Apocalypsesbeing extant in Greek, Old Church Slavonic, Armenian, Coptic, Arabic, Persian, Serbian and Russian. An eclectic Greek text of a "Byzantine Daniel Apocalypse" has been edited and translated (into German) by Klaus Berger (1976:116+fn.4 cf. Charlesworth, 1981:276-7). The 11th chapter (verses 17‑26) of this Daniel Apocalypse (part of its eschatological section that may date back to the 4th‑5th century CE. in its original form ‑- the current form being 9th century CE.  which has much to say about the Antichrist describes his appearence thus:

" .. 17 Es wird aber die Höhe seiner Statur zehn Ellen betragen [Heieht/Stature:10 Ells]. 18 Und die Haare seines Hauptes kommen herab bis zu seinen Fußen [Length of Hair: reaching the feet]. 19 Er wird dreisch­eitelig sein (die Fingerspitzen behaart) [Hair: 3 tufts spiked like fingertips]. 20 Die Spur seiner Fuße betragt drei Ellen [Span of Feet: 3 Ells]. 21 Seine Augen sind wie der Stern, der in der Fruhe aufgeht [Eyes: like the rising morning star]. 22 Und seine Zähne sind im oberon Teil aus Eisen [Teeth: upper Part of iron]. 23 Und der untere Teil der Wange ist hart wie Diamant [Cheeks: lower, hard like diamond]. 24  Sein rechter Arm ist aus Eisen und sein limker von Kupfer [Rt.Arm: made of iron; Lt.Arm: made of Copper]. 25  Die linke Hand ist drei Ellen lang und seine Rechte vier Ellen [Lt.Hand: 3 Ells; Rt.Hand: 4 Ells]. 26 Er ist großäugig, großnasig [Eyes: large; Nose:large].   27 Auf seine Stirn schreibt er drei Buchstaben: ([MSS] M), nämlich: Antichrist [Inscription on Forehead: 3 letters ( signifying Antichrist].." (Berger, 1976:103, cf.107)

Finally, but by no means exhaustively, reference may be made in connection with Christian physiognomic descriptions of the Antichrist to the Seventh Vision of Daniel (5th‑7th centCE?) which is extant only in Armenian (cf. Charlesworth, 1981:276-7). ­The Antichrist is described as follows:

"His knees are unbending, he is crippled in his eye, with wide eyebrows, crooked [sickle] fingered, with a pointed head, gracious, boastful, wise, sweet in laughter, visionary, clever, sober, gentle, mild, worker of of signs, bringing close to him the souls of the corrupt, bringing forth bread from stones [making] the blind to see, the lame to walk, he will move mountains from place to place.." XX

XX. Trans Stone (from the edition of Z. Kalemkian, Die siebente Vision Daniels,  WZKM 6 (1892) 109‑36/see p.25ff) in EJ Vol.3. col.60. cf. also Berger, 1971 (chart opposite p.ll6). For yet further Christian texts containing physiognomic descriptions of the Antichrist reference may be made to J. M. Rosenstiehl's `Le Portrait de'l Antichrist' in M. Philoneko (ed), Pseudepigraphes de'l Ancien Testament et manuscrits de la Morte (Paris, 1967), pp 45‑60) and Bergerts chart (Berger, 1971 opposite p.ll6). cf.also Stone+Strugnell,1979:38f. Berger, for example, refers to Cl. Huart's Le Livre de la creation et de It historie d'Abou‑Zeid Ahmed ben Sahl el Balkhi  II (Paris, 1901), p.167f (" Buch d. Schöpfungl -- not seen) where the Antichrist is described as having  the letters K-F-R (= Arabic Kafir, "Infidel") written on his forehead (or in his eye[s]?), a distance of 12 or 40 spans between his eyes, a right eye like the morning star and 60,000 cubits wide(?) and each footstep a distance of 3 days walk (refer, Berger, chart + p.ll8).Berger's chart, in fact, tabulates no less than 34 texts that contain phy­siognomic descriptions of the Antichrist or throw some light on these portraits.

The Anti-Messiah/Armilus in select Neo‑Hebraic Apocalyptic texts

Brief notice may now be given (those neo‑Hebraic Apocalyptic texts that include descriptions of the "Anti‑Messiah". Important in this respect is the neo‑Hebraic Apocalypse of Elijiah (2 Elijah) which, though apparently preserving early traditions and closely related to the abovementioned Coptic Elijah Apocalypse (1 Elijah), hardly dates as far back as 250 CE as Buttenweiser suggested.( Buttenweiser, 1897+ JE 1:681. On 2 Elijah refer, M. Rist, `Elijah, Apocalypse of' in IDB. l:88; Charles­worth, 1981:96), . Extant in Rabbinic Hebrew it "purports to be a revelation by Michael to Elijah on Mt Carmel" (Charlesworth,1981:96) and teaches that before the advent of the Messiah whose name is Winon an Anti‑Messiah will appear who will subdue the world and persecute Israel. The latter's description is as follows:

"These will be his signs on which Daniel gazed: his face will be long; a bald spot will be between his eyes; his stature will be very tall; the soles of his feet will be high (? broad) and his legs will be thin."­ (trans. Stone + Strugnell, 38 from Buttenweiser, 1897:16).

According to Buttenweiser such descriptions of the "adversary of the Messiah" are a "conventional feature of a great number of Neo‑Hebrew apocalypses." ­They are indeed not only to be found in 2 Elijah but also, for example, in the Book of Zerubabbel (Sepher Zerubabbel), the Signs of the Messiah (Otot Mashi'a), the Prayer (Tefillat) and Mysteries of Simeon ben Yohai (Nistarot de‑Rabbi Simeon ben Yoai), the Midrash Va‑Yosha, the Chapters on the Messiah (Pirkei ha‑Mashi'ah) and the Persian Apocalypse of Daniel. In most of these texts the Anti‑Messiah is named Armilus which is perhaps derived from Romulus (traditionally, along with Remus, the founders of Rome) or a corruption of the name of the Evil One in Zoroastrianism, Angra‑Mainyu or Ahriman (Gk =         ). Informative articles on or relating to Armilus can be found, for example, in `Armilus' JE 2:118f; art. `Ahriman..' JE 1:29f; `Armilus' EJR: p.41f; `Armilus' in EJ 3:76f.

This figure is mentioned in the Targumim (Ps‑Jon. Isa.11:4 and Targ.Jer. Deut 34:3) and in Saadiah Gaon's Emmot ve‑De'ot  (apparently influenced by the Book of Zerubabbel). Probably originating in the early Gaonic period, the legends associated with Armilus cannot be sketched in detail here. It may be noted, though, that this Anti‑Messiah is to kill the Messiah ben Joseph and himself be defeated and slain by the Messiah ben David -- at least in a number of the texts mentioned above (see Buttenweiser JE:681f; XX ;EJ 3:476).

The Book of Zerubabbel,  (early 7th cent CE --there is no mention of Islam), describes various visions of Zerubabbel (the last Davidic ruler) who was taken in spirit to Ninevah where he witnessed the events of the latter days (Refer, art, Zerubabbel, Book Or (Sepher) in EJ 16:1002. cf.Buttenweiser, JE 1:682f. In this apocalyptic work the evil Armilus is represented as having hair like gold with two spikey tufts (?), sunken or deep‑set eyes one span apart and arms reaching down to his feet (cf. Berger, 1976:116). The description in the Signs of the Messiah, which sets down ten occurances that "foreshadow the imminent appearence of the Messiah".is similar (see  J.Dan, ??? EJ II:1413; cf. Buttenweiser, JE 1:683). Armilus, known to the gentile nations as Antichrist, will be 12 Ells in height or statue; have hair like gold  with two spikey tufts(?), eyes both red sunken, and a span apart, and large(?) yellowish‑green feet(?) (Berger, 1976:116). Again, in the Midrash Va‑Yosha the Anti­-Messiah has a metallic forehead(?), is bald‑headed with one large and one small eye, posessed of a maimed or short (1 handbreadth) right arm but a left arm that is 2 1/2 ells long, and deaf in one ear (Buttenweiser JE 1:685). The following passage is a translation of some of the details about Armilus and his appearance in the Chapters on the Messiah:

"They tell that in Rome there is a marble statue of a beautiful maiden, fashioned not by human hand but by the Holy One blessed be He, who created it in His might. The wicked of the nations of the world, the sons of Belial, come and warn her and lie with her, and He preserves their seed within the stone from which He creates a being and forms it into a child, whereupon she splits asunder and there issues from her the likeness of a man whose name is the Satan, Armilus, whom the Gentiles call Antichrist. He is 12 cubits tall and two cubits broad, there is a span between his eyes which are crooked and red, his hair is golden‑coloured, the soles of his feet are green, and he has two heads."  (Trans. Klatzkin `Armilus' EJ 3:477) from the ed of Pirkei ha‑Mashi'ah in J. Even Shemuel (Kaufmann) Midreshei Ge'ullah 2 (1944) 320. cf. also Buttenweiser, JE 1:685).

The Persian Apocalypse of Daniel

This apocalypse was edited and translated by H. Zotenbarg, Gesichte Danielq/Ein Apokryph...  (see bibliography). cf.Buttenweiser, JE 1:684f. Refer also, Darmester, 1887 and Stone + Strugnell, 19XX:38). Finally, but by no means exhaustively, we are informed in the Persian Apocalypse of Daniel of an unamed Armilus type Anti‑Messiah who is to unite with Gog and Magog, subdue the world, and persecute Israel He is no less than 100 cubits (ells) 11 spans tall, has hair on his face and a mouth one span in width (see Berger, 1971:116).On the possible influences from the Hebrew Bible on the physiognomic descriptions of the Antichrist cf. Berger, 1976:115ff (+ chart)   

Some Notes on the Roots of the Physiognomic Descriptions pf the Anti-Christ/-Dajjal.

A number of attempts have been made to trace the origins of such physiognomic descriptions of the Antichrist/Anti‑Messiah as have been outlined above.  On the possible influences from the Hebrew Bible on the physiognomic descriptions of the Antichrist see Berger, 1976:115ff (+ chart)    It appears that this literary topos is complex in origin and has pre‑Christian roots. Biblical and post‑Biblical apocalyptic symbolism have obviously contributed to it. In particular  descriptions of angels, mythical beasts and demons have made their mark for the Evil Antichrist has supernatural powers (especially as pseudo‑Christ) yet is essentially demoniac in nature (cf. Berger, 1976:115). The influence of images found in the Biblical books attributed to Daniel and John (the Apocalypse) should not be over­‑looked.

The following texts in Daniel deserve mention‑: (l) 2:31f which describes the massive "image" seen by Nebuchadnezzar and the metals and clay which compose it (cf. 3:1f where the golden image made by Nebuchadnezzar is 6 X 6 cubits), (2) 4:33 where we are informed that Nebuchadnezzar, driven from amongst men, grew " long as eagles feathers" and " bird's claws" (3) 7:7f,19f, here the fourth beast has "great iron teeth" and reference is made to the "horn" with eyes "like the eyes of a man" and a mouth that "speaks great things". Similar imagery (cf. below) is found in the Apocalypse; note particularly the description of the "locusts" in Rev 9:7f and the complex beast imagery in chapters 11‑13 and 17. The nature of the Antichrist's  eye/s and skin, etc., it might also be mentioned here, may in part be rooted in or related to the leprous/skin diseases described in Leviticus 13. [1] Also worth noting is the suggestion that the notion of the `one­‑eyed' Antichrist (important in Islamic descriptions of the Dajjāl, see below) derives from Zechariah 11:7 (note also the withered arm), Refer, Jenkinson, 1930:50‑, the same writer's The Unwritten Sayings of Jesus, 66ff (not seen).: 

"Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the Lord smite his right arm and his right eye! Let his arm be utterly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!"

[1] See, for example, Rosenstiel, 1967 cf. idem  1972 (not seen) Berger, 1971? chart opposite p.ll6 and especially, "Exkurs VI Die Physiognomie des Antichrist im Rahmen der spätaniken Physiognomik", p.115ff; Stone, 1982: esp. 8‑9. cf.also, Nau, 1917, esp. 452‑63; Denis, 1970:165+fn5  (for further refs.).

.Of considerable importance in relation to the roots of the portraits of the Antichrist are the extant physiognomic and the related chiromantic and ast­rological texts (though they do not contain portraits of the Antichrist/Anti-Messiah) which form part of the heritage of Jewish mysticism which imcludes texts representative of Shi'ur Qomah or "Dimensions of the Deity" mysticism ( On this subject refer, for example, Gruenwald, 1980:218ff (see fn's for further refs.); Charlesworth, 1977.

Related to or to some extent lying behind the Jewish physiognomic literature are the Greek and Latin physiognomic texts represontative of a "science" of considerable antiquity and believed to have been founded by Pythagoras or (among others) Hippocrates and which also throw light on the physiognomic descriptions of the Antichrist. See, for example, Berger, 1976:ll5f.. See also R. Foerster, Scriptores Physiognomici (Leipzig 1893); G. Misener, `Iconistic Portraits,' Classical Philololy  Vol.19 (1924), 97‑123; R. A. Pack, `Physiognomic Entrance Examinations'  in Classical Journal  31 (1935), 42‑7;E. Evans, `Roman Descriptions of Personal Appearence in Histo and Biography,' Harvard Studies in Classical Philology  46 (1935), 43‑84.; `The Study of Physiognomy in the Second Century A.D.' in Transactions of the Amer­ican Philological Association. 72 (1941), 96‑108.

Worth noting is the fact that there existys a curious cryptographic Qumran text the quintessence of which "is that man's moral and spiritual qualities can be defined through an examination of the size and shape of his thighs, toes, fingers, hair, eyes, beard, teeth and height (4Q 186)" (Gruenwald, 1980:218). Also of interest is the Qumran so‑called Messianic Horo­scope (4Q Mess Ar) found in the same cave along the shores of the Dead Sea. This text "appears to fortell the physical appearence and character of the future.. royal Messiah" (trans. Vermes, 1977:85). He is to have red hair like the Islamic Dajjāl (see below) and a birth‑mark on his thigh (cf. Muhammad's lump‑like "seal of prophethood"]). Such messianic physiognogomy  may throw light on the kind of arcane speculation that led to the physiognomic descriptions of the Messiah/Chrisy-like Antichrist.

J. Rosenstiehl has discussed the possible relationship between portraits of Caligula (d.c.41CE) in Seneca's De Constantia (Bk.XVIII.1) and in Suetonius' Caligula (in The Lives of the Ceasars, Bk.IV.50) and those of the Antichrist. Refer, Rosenstiehl, 1967. Seneca's  De Constantia Bk. XVIII.l (Refer, Loeb. Cl. Lib. ed. and trans J.W.Basore, (London.. 1928) 99 describes Caligula as having "an ugly pale face, wild eyes, the brow of an old hag, a hideous bald head, a neck overgrown with bristles, spindle shanks and enormous feet. The portrait in Suetonius' Caligula (The Lives of the Ceasars, Bk. IV. 50, (Loeb.Class. Lib. ed and yrans J.C. Rolfe (London. Rept.1970) 481) is as follows: "He was very tall, and extremely pale, with an unshapely body, but very thin neck and legs. His eyes and temples were hollow, his forehead broad and grim, his hair thin and entirely gone on the top of his head, though his body was hairy."

Berger, in the same connection, has drawn attention to the portraits in Sidonius' Epistle to Angricola  (Ep.I.2.2. cf. his Panegyric in honour of Mairianus, 235f) and in a version of the Life of Alexander. Refer, Berger, 1976:ll6. For a translation of Sidonius' Epistle to Angricola  in which there is a pen portrait of Theodoric II (reigned 453‑66) king of the Goths see Sidonius Vol.l (Loeb.Class. Lib. ed. W. B. Anderson 1936), 335‑6. Refer H. V. Thiel (ed.), Vita Alexandri Magni, cod. L. (Darmstadt 1974), I.13.3.

The actual physical characterists of anti‑Jewish/Christian rulers, invaders and individuals along with the way they were pictured in terms of the ancient physiognomic traditions must also be taken into consideration in the attempt to fathom the roots of the characterists of the "Man of Sin" as drawn in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Apocalyptic. In order to sum up (at least in part) we may quote Stone, 

"Thus, it seems that in giving the physiognomic descriptions of the Antichrist, these later apocalypses are combining two old traditions, that of the physiognomic literature and that of the Antichrist." Stone, XXX (The Metamorphosis.. ).

Physiognomy continued to be studied and written about in the Islamic world and, it might be noted here, there are interesting portraits of both the Prophet Muammad and the Shī`ī Imams including the expected Madī in certain Sunnī and Shī`ī literatures. Details cannot be entered into here but see, for example, the Sunnī traditions collected in the Mishkāt al‑Maābī (trans. Robson I (Pt.XVI):1239‑1244., cf.p. 1223f.


45 = [1] Refer, Stone and Strugnell, 1979:36‑7.Text p.29 taken from pp. l4-15 of Ign. Ephraim II (Rahmani's Ed. Moguntiae, 1899).

46 = [2] 46. Refer,ibid 36‑7.Text on p.31 based on Camb. Add 2918 (translated above), P. 206 (= Parisinus Syr 206) fol.l26 r-v  and P. 207 (= Parisinus 207) fol.240.




1891. The Computation of 666 and its relation to Antichristian systems, but having reference to a person, the coming Antichrist, who is to be overthrown by the Sun of Righteousness. By Two Servants of Christ.London : Nisbet & Co., 1891,  398 pp.

1893. A Description of Antichrist in Latin [from ms. 36 in the Stadtbibliothek at Treves].. English printed book Mentioned in W. Cat;


Alexander,  P.J.

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Arendzen, J.P.

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Benesh, Gary 

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Berger, K.

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Bousset,Wilhelm (1865-1920). .

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  • The antichrist legend : a chapter in Christian and Jewish folklore.Atlanta, Ga. : Scholars Press, 1999.  xxxi, 307 pp.  = W. Bousset ; translated by A.H. Keane ; introduction by D. Frankfurter.
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Bruce, F F 

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Burr, D..

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Dyer, G.J.

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Friedländer, Moritz 

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Froom, L. E.

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Fuller,  Robert C.,  

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Gruenwald, I

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 Heid, Stefan 

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Hughes,  Kevin L Hughes

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"The figure of Antichrist has gripped the Christian imagination for two thousand years. But Antichrist does not spring fully formed from the pages of Scripture. Rather, he emerges over a millennium of reflection on hints and clues scattered throughout Scripture and Christian tradition. In particular, the image of Antichrist is tied in a vital way to the man medieval Christians knew simply as 'the Apostle' - St. Paul." "Constructing Antichrist engages readers with the question : what does Paul have to do with the Antichrist? Integrating new scholarship in apocalypticism and the history of exegesis, this book is the first longitudinal study of the role of Paul in apocalyptic thought. Readers will gain new appreciation for the theological weight of medieval exegesis generally and for the persistence of apocalypticism in the medieval Christian imagination as it dared to envision the Adversary."--Dust Jacket

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`Some Aspects of Isrā’īliyyāt and the Emergence of the Bābī- Bahā’ī Interpretation of the Bible’. Unpublished 1980s/2002, PhD. thesis

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1995, Art and antichrist in medieval Europe. Manchester, UK ; New York : Manchester University Press ; New York : St. Martin's Press, 1995.

"In this fascinating study of medieval iconography, Rosemary Muir Wright looks at the changing image of the Antichrist (and his female counterpart, the Whore of Babylon) through seven centuries. Taking the Beatus tradition as her starting point, Wright draws on many previously unpublished illuminated manuscripts, from throughout Europe. These illustrate the way in which the image of Antichrist was used, and how it changed through the centuries in response to the political environment. She examines its use for propaganda purposes during times of religious and political crises. The volume finishes with a detailed analysis of the image of the Whore of Babylon. This unique study will be extremely valuable to art historians and historians of the medieval period"

Nau. F.

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  Peerbolte, L J Lietaert

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"The present volume discusses the earliest Christian views on eschatological opponents and their backgrounds in contemporary Judaism. It treats the rich variety of early Christian speculations on the subject and shows that, within this variety, a continuity with Jewish speculations is to be discerned. Part One of this book treats the early Christian passages of the period up to Irenaeus that contain speculations on the coming of an eschatological opponent. Part Two offers a survey of Jewish expectations that formed the basis for the Christian speculations discussed. After the General Conclusion the book finishes with an extensive Bibliography and an Index. The book is of interest for any student of early Christian eschatology and the continuity between early Christianity and contemporary Judaism."

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