'Anonymous' 14th Century Apocalypse Commentary Identifies the Pope as the Antichrist

Edited by Rand Winburn

Protestant Reformation Publications



            In 1528 Martin Luther thought it worthy to publish an Apocalypse Commentary sent him from a Christian in Livonia, at that time a province of Russia.[1] The date of the Commentary’s original publication is a point of controversy, one which Professor Hudson spends considerable time debating. German Reformer David Pareus, on the other hand, does not, citing the anonymous author’s remarks in Rev. 20 where he discloses the year of its authorship to be A. D. 1357.[2] According to Hudson, the origin of this Latin Commentary is to be found in the Lollard movement of England. Pareus makes no such distinction, believing the manuscript to predate Wycliffe and the Lollards. Though Hudson admits the Commentary utilizes numerous biblical authorities, she notes that not once is Wycliffe quoted.[3] This is quite strange, given her claim that the Commentary was written in 1390. Be that as it may, both agree the Commentary’s origin to be the 14th century. Furthermore, both agree the Commentary contains numerous condemnations of the Papacy and Roman clergy, calling the Pope Antichrist. The importance of this Commentary lies in the historical fact that before the Protestant Reformation there were Christians who believed and taught the Papacy to be the fulfillment of the prophetic Antichrist. Thus, the doctrine of the papal Antichrist was not an invention of the Protestant Reformation, nor was it a passing ideology applicable only to the Reformation Age. Furthermore, like the Reformers after them, these ancient Christians understood the book of Revelation as revealing the identity of the Antichrist and his Church.

While Hudson is not interested in translating  its Latin passages into English, she does summarize certain points the author makes. For example, the door open in heaven, Rev. 4, is not to be understood literally of a door, but spiritually of Holy Scripture ‘by which men can come to a vision of the secrets of heaven.’[4] The seven angels of Rev. 15:6 are not literal angels, but the evangelical preachers, worldwide, in all ages, who preach against the Antichrist and his colleagues.[5] The anonymous author gives six explicit ‘reasons why bishops should not take part in war;’ he condemns the friars’ views on the Eucharist and also their banning the vernacular Scriptures.[6] In Rev. 11:6, he equates the plagues with the ten plagues of Egypt, ‘and these in turn are said to result from neglect of the ten commandments.’[7] The Commentary then denounces, in detail, the friars’ contempt for each of the commandments. Hudson lists some of the denunciations: ‘The friars’ preaching of fables is seen as an offense against the 2nd commandment; indulgences against the 4th; the licentiousness of the priesthood against the 6th; appropriations, ecclesiastical patronage and simony against the 10th.’[8]

We will now focus on the translated passages of this Commentary as given by David Pareus.


Pareus’ Excerpts of Anonymous’ Revelation Commentary [9]


144,000 out of all the tribes of the children of Israel. (Rev. 7:4)

Of all the children of Israel [is to be understood] of all nations imitating the faith of Israel, because God hath elected some to salvation out of every part of the world.”[10] [Editorial Note: The Commentator does not interpret this Scripture literally as do our modern-day Futurists.]


And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer, etc. (Rev. 8:3)

“This altar Angel is Christ, who is present with his elect to defend them from the deceit of heretics, unto the end of the world. He offereth the prayers of the Saints upon the golden Altar, that is to say, himself, who is both God and man, and also intercedes for his Church before the Father. He sends forth the censer and fire upon the earth, that is to say, by sending the Holy Ghost upon his Apostles. And there were thunderings, etc., that is to say, the threatenings of God’s ministers against Antichrist. And earthquakes, that is to say, through the preachers of the Gospel Christianity was divided against itself, some favoring Antichrist’s superstitions, while others impugn them.”[11]


And the second Angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea, and the third part of the sea became blood. (Rev. 8:8)

        [Pareus states,] “The greater part of the interpreters, both Papists and Protestants, as well as Anonymous, Lambert and others also understand, that this mountain [is symbolic of] Satan, the prince of the world who, burning with the fire of envy at the preaching of the Gospel, is cast into the sea of this world and causeth it to rage tumultuously against Christ. By ‘sea’ is meant the peoples, nations, princes and kings, compelling them to shed much innocent blood and dissipate many Churches.”[12]


And the fourth Angel sounded, and the third part of the Sun was smitten, and the third part of the Moon, and the third part of the Stars, so as the third part of them was darkened….(Rev. 8:12)

          “Anonymous interprets the Sun as shadowing out [i.e., a type of; symbolic of] the chief Prelates of the Church, specifically Popes, Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, who ought to shine before others by the light of their life and doctrine. The Moon, which receives its light from the Sun are to be understood as the inferior Ecclesiastical Orders, such as curates and religious under vows. The Stars are symbolic of the laity, being less in light than the others.”[13]


And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. (Rev. 9:3)

          “Anonymous, Illyricus, and Bullinger understand by these Locusts the disciples of Antichrist, that is to say, the innumerable troops of the Popish clergy.”[14]


And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails….(Rev. 9:10)

          “Anonymous saith well that Officials, Commissioners, Deacons, Registrars, Chancellors, and Apparitors [15] are the Prelates tails who, like venomous serpents, poison both clergy and laity by their wicked life and doctrine, though they pretend purity.”[16]


And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar….(Rev. 11:1)

          “The rod, saith Anonymous, is the sense of the scripture because as a rod of diverse colors it chastiseth sinners……By altar Anonymous understands Christ.”[17]


But the court which is without the temple leave out [or ‘cast forth’], and measure it not: for it is given unto the Gentiles….(Rev. 11:2)

        Anonymous rightly expounds this verse, though he retains the Latin Vulgate reading. Antichrist and his accomplices, he says, are those in the outer court, who labor even before the doors of the Church to maintain their avarice and vain, ostentatious hierarchical positions. It also comprises the false Christians, many of whom are notorious and manifest transgressors, who in words feign themselves to be the Church, but in deed, deny it. The words, ‘cast forth’, insinuate that they are to be cast them out of fellowship with the faithful.”[18] ……….“By the term ‘Gentiles,’ or ‘nations,’ Anonymous understands it synonymous with unbelievers, yea, worse, for it had been better not to have known the way of righteousness, then after it was known turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them, 2 Peter 2.”[19]


And when they [the two witnesses] shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war with them and kill them. (Rev. 11:7)

          “Anonymous understands the Beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit to be the same Angel of the bottomless pit, Abaddon, king of the Locusts, spoken of in chapter 9, verse 11: that is to say, Antichrist.”[20]…………..“[Anonymous continues,] He [the papal Antichrist,] shall overcome the two witnesses by virtue of his reputation in the world among his friends. He shall kill them either corporally by burning, or by murdering them with the sword, as well as by other means, such as perpetual imprisonment. This he does through civil authorities and mock trials. Those whom he cannot capture, he thunders out excommunications against them. By so doing, they are to be considered spiritually dead.”[21]


Pareus lists instances of ‘Anonymous’ identifying the Pope of Rome as the Antichrist [22]


(P. 78 of the Commentary): “The first Angel, whoever he is, was the first to declare the Pope to be Antichrist…..It came to pass by great boldness that everyone dares declare the Pope, who calls himself ‘Apostolic,’ to instead be known as ‘Apostate’ and ‘Antichrist.’”


(P. 108 of the Commentary): “Unless a man becomes a spiritual temple of the Holy Ghost, having evangelical conversation and doctrine, he cannot receive the grace necessary to interpret the mysteries of Christ and his adversary, Antichrist. Nor can he understand the truth that that great Prelate, the Pope of Rome, should be the great Antichrist.”


(P. 115 of the Commentary): “In Pope Urban VI all the mysteries of Antichrist are fulfilled.”[23]


(P. 117 of the Commentary): “Antichrist is a leopard, signifying he is spotted with divers heresies.[24] The mixture of several beasts seen in the Beast from the Sea signifies that though he insists he is Christ’s Vicar on Earth, he opposes Christ’s Law more than any other man, and is really an adulterate mongrel, an Apostate, not Apostolic, just as the mating of a Leopard and Lion results in the birth of an adulterate Leopard.”[25]


(P. 119 of the Commentary): “The worshippers of the Beast worship the Devil in the Pope.”[26] ……“The Pope has his power, seat and great authority from the Dragon causing him to be sacrilegious and tyrannical, wasting on himself and his friends the goods of the poor. He defrauds  men of their goods for his filthy dung’s sake! And whereas he is the greatest hypocrite, calling himself ‘Apostolic,’ in reality he despises Apostolic conversation more than any man living.”……“Who was able to fight with the Beast or resist his will? This prophecy predicts the Pope’s two-fold supreme power: Imperial and Priestly, power which he pretends to have over the Church Militant.”


(P. 120 of the Commentary): “It appears, therefore, that when the Pope sits in the Temple of God extolling himself above all that is called God, or is worshipped, that he boasts as if he were God. Consequently, he betrays himself to be that Son of Perdition who commonly is called Antichrist.”


And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates, and the water thereof was dried up….(Rev. 16:12)

          “Anonymous interprets ‘dried up’ to mean the preaching of the Gospel does and shall cause men to take away all temporal things, such as the possessions and earthly dominion of the clergy, and they shall no more be given unto them.”[27]


And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles….(Rev. 16:13-14)

          “These spirits, says Anonymous, are unclean like frogs because they remain in the mire of riches, prating and tattling against the truth of the Gospel. They are spirits of devils because they are inspired by the Devil that they may work miracles or signs, that is to say, making a show of outward holiness, though in truth they are the greatest hypocrites, having their affections set on the earth and worldly pomp. Thus, though in reality they are the Proctors of Antichrist, yet because of their being outwardly cloaked with so many signs of sanctity, they are able to captivate all men to think to esteem them holier than the rest of mankind.”


I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored beast….(Rev. 17:3)

          “Anonymous calls the beast ‘Antichrist,’ the woman ‘the wife, spouse and church of Antichrist.’ ”[28]


And the woman was arrayed with in purple and scarlet color….And upon her head was written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT….(Rev. 17:4-5)

          “Anonymous interprets ‘Babylon the Great,’ as the city of Rome, or the Papal Court.”[29]


And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. (Rev. 17:6)

        “By ‘drunken’ Anonymous understands Antichrist’s Church, having been finally condemned for the waste and abuse of the goods of the Church, shall suffer so great punishment that she will no longer be able to feel its pain, just as a drunk is without sense or feeling. Her being drunk with blood is certainly to be understood of her cruelty against the Saints and Professors of the Gospel; especially the blood of them who fear not to profess the doctrine of the Gospel despite Antichrist’s entire college of Cardinals pitted against them.”


For she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. (Rev. 18:7)

          “Anonymous views this verse to address the rule of the Church of Rome over all, exceeding all others in riches and worldly glory. She is therefore a Queen both in spiritual dignity and secular honor…..She is no widow because the greater part of professing Christianity agrees with her and she has a singular consolation in the subsidies of Simonists……She  believes she will see no sorrow though her adversaries threaten that she shall be damned forever in Hell.”[30]


And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more. (Rev. 18:11)

          “Anonymous says that no man shall buy the wares of the clergy who merchandized the goods of the Church because all simony and covetousness shall then eternally cease from the Church. And by these ‘Merchants’ is also meant hypocrites who sell holiness for a temporal reward.”[31]





[1] Anne Hudson, A Neglected Wycliffite Text, (Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Volume 29, No. 3, July, 1978, p. 261. A second source, David Pareus’ A Commentary Upon the Divine Revelation of the Apostle and Evangelist John, 1644, will be used for several citations. He confirms Luther’s publishing of this Commentary in 1528; p. 12.

[2] Hudson notes this date and mentions another, 1338, but insists the correct date of 1390 is found elsewhere in the Commentary.

[3] P. 264.

[4] P. 261.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] P. 262.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Slight alterations in the text by this editor are for clarity only.

[10] Pareus, p. 143.

[11] P. 153.

[12] P. 159.

[13] P. 165.

[14] P. 176.

[15] “One that attends or serves an officer or authority.” (Webster)

[16] P. 184.

[17] Pgs. 212-13.

[18] P. 214.

[19] P. 215.

[20] P. 231.

[21] P. 232.

[22] P. 319.

[23] Urban VI reigned from A. D. 1378-89. This would corroborate Anne Hudson’s view that the Anonymous author wrote in 1390. However, it is also possible that when copies of the original manuscript were transcribed for circulation, the copyist may have updated the Commentary, adding what he considered pertinent data of the times in which he lived.

[24] By this we may understand the Anonymous author interprets the Beast from the Sea, Rev. 13:1, as the Antichrist.

[25] The mating of a male Lion with a female Tiger produces a ‘Liger.’ Search the WWW for amazing photographs of the creature!

[26] Rev. 13:4. The Beast from the Sea is the Pope.

[27] Pareus, P. 393.

[28] P. 404.

[29] P. 413.

[30] Pgs. 463-64.

[31] P. 466.