- Apr 2011
Interesting observations from Philip Jenkins in "Papias, Jesus, and the Miraculous Vines" in regards to a thousand year reign in ancient Christianity:
"The Apocalypse of Paul
The motif continued to circulate in the Christian world as well as the Jewish. In the third or fourth century, the Apocalypse of Paul (Visio Pauli) claimed to report the visions of heaven and Hell received by the apostle. In one section, the angel tells Paul that,When Christ whom thou preachest cometh to reign, then by the decree of God the first earth shall be dissolved, and then shall this land of promise be shown and it shall be like dew or a cloud; and then shall the Lord Jesus Christ the eternal king be manifested and shall come with all his saints to dwell therein; and he shall reign over them a thousand years, and they shall eat of the good things which now I will show thee. And I looked round about that land and saw a river flowing with milk and honey. …. And the trees were full of fruits from the root even to the upper branches. …. From the root of each tree up to its heart there were ten thousand branches with tens of thousands of clusters, [and there were ten thousand clusters on each branch,] and there were ten thousand dates in each cluster. And thus was it also with the vines. Every vine had ten thousand branches, and each branch had upon it ten thousand bunches of grapes, and every bunch had on it ten thousand grapes. And there were other trees there, myriads of myriads of them, and their fruit was in the same proportion. [adapting M R James’s translation]Significantly, the setting for this image is precisely that offered by Papias, namely the thousand year earthly reign of Christ. Is this work drawing directly on Papias’s writings, or on a more widespread Christian tradition? If it is using Papias directly, one speculation comes naturally to mind. Although this is unprovable, might other portions of the Apocalypse of Paul be quoting other lost works of Papias, especially his famous five books?In any case, the Apocalypse of Paul was a hugely popular work in medieval Europe, bringing these ideas to a widespread audience. Originally written in Greek, we have translations in Coptic, Syriac, Irish, and other languages, and many Latin versions exist. (See J. K. Elliott, The Apocryphal New Testament, 616-644)."