This introduction to Book Five, added in the 1570 edition, is of importance as one of the fullest statements of Foxe's apocalyptic interpretation of history given in the Acts and Monuments. Here Foxe clearly sets out his belief, derived from John Bale, that the thousand year binding of Satan described in Revelation 20, is a prophecy of a period of history which not only preceded the second coming of Christ, but also preceded the Reformation. But this introduction - along with Foxe's exegesis of Revelation 13 on 1570, pp. 138-9, 1576, pp. 101-2 and 1583, pp. 100-2 - marks an important break with Bale's and an original contribution to Protestant apocalyptic thought. Bale had interpreted the thousand-year binding of Satan as running from the nativity of Christ until AD 1000. Based on his under-standing of the 42 month period, described in Revelation 13, in which the Beast held dominion, Foxe calculated that the binding of Satan did not begin until the triumph of Constantine around 324 and ended just before the advent of Wiclif a thousand years later. (This had the result of foregrounding the historical significance both Constantine and Wiclif). The periodization of history outlined here not only undergirds the Acts and Monuments, but also the Eicasmi, Foxe's commentary on Revelation, written at the end of his life.[Back to Top]
Thomas S. Freeman
University of Sheffield
For the better explanation of the which mystery, let vs first consider the context of the Scripture: afterward, let vs examine by history and course of tymes, the meanyng of the same. And first to recite the wordes of the Apocal. the text of the Prophecy is this, cap. 20
MarginaliaApoc. 20. And I saw an Aungell descendyng from heauen, hauyng a kay of the bottomlesse pitte, and a great chayne in hys hande. And he tooke the Dragon the olde Serpente, which is the deuill and Satanas, and bound him for a thousand yeares, and put hym in the bottomlesse dongeon and shutte hym vp, and signed hym with hys seale, that hee should no more seduce the Gentiles, till a thousand yeares were expired. And after that, he must be losed agayn for a little space of tyme. And I saw seates, and they sate vpon them: and iudgement was geuen vnto them, and the soules I sawe of them which were beheaded for the testimony of Iesus. &c.[Back to Top]
By these wordes of the reuelation here recited, 3. speciall tymes are to be noted.
1. First, the beyng abroade of Sathan to deceyue the world.
2. The bynding vp of hym.
MarginaliaThe place of the Apocal. 20. Expounded, for the loosing out of Satan. 3. Thirdly, the losing out of hym again, after a M. yeres consummate, for a tyme.
Concernyng the interpretation of which tymes, I see the common opinion of many to be deceyued by ignoraunce of histories, and state of thinges done in þe church: supposing that the cheyning vp of Sathan for a thousand yeares, spoken of in the reuelation, was ment from the tyme of Christ our Lord.
Actually, this was not a common opinion, but it was held by Bale and by Foxe until shortly before this passage was written. (On the first page of the 1570 edition, Foxe declares that the binding Satan began with the nativity of Christ).
And thus to expound this proheticall place of scripture I am led by three reasons.
MarginaliaThree reasons MarginaliaThe first reason. The first is, for that the bynding vp of Sathan, and closyng hym in the bottomles pit by the Aungell, importeth as much that he was at liberty, ragyng and doyng mischief before. And certesse those so terrible & so horrible persecutions of the primitiue tyme vniuersally through the whole world, duryng the space of 3 hundreth yeares of the Church, do declare no lesse. Wherin it is to be thought and supposed, that Sathan all that tyme, was not fastened and closed vp.[Back to Top]
MarginaliaThe 2 reason. The second reason moouyng me to thinke that the closing vp of Sathan was after the ten persecutions of þe primitiue Church, is taken out of the xij. chap. of the Apocalips. Where we read, that after the woman (meanyng the Church) had trauayled forth her man childe, the olde Dragon the deuill, the same tyme beyng cast downe from heauen, drawing the third part of the starres wyth hym: stoode before the woman wyth great anger, and persecuted her (that is the Church of God) wyth a whole floud of water (that is, wyth aboundaunce of all kyndes of tormentes) and from thence went moreouer to fight agaynst the residue of her side, and stoode vpon the sandes of the sea, wherby it appeareth that he was notas yet locked vp[Back to Top]
MarginaliaThe. 3. reason.
Apoc. cap. 13. The third reasō I collect out of þe Apocalips xiij. chapter, where is written of the beast, signifiyng the Emperiall Monarchie of Rome: that he had power to make warre fourty and two monethes. By þe which monethes is ment no doubt, the tyme that the Dragon, and the persecutyng Emperours, should haue in afflicting the Saintes of the primitiue Church. MarginaliaXlij. monethes in the Apocal. cap. 13 examined. The computation of which xlij. monethes (countyng euery moneth for a Sabbat of yeares, that is for seuen yeares, after the order of Scripture) riseth to the summe, countyng from the passion of the Lord Christ, three hundred yeares lacking six,
Foxe explains this calculation in more detail, and how he arrived at it, on 1570, pp. 138-9, 1576, pp. 101-2 and 1583, pp. 100-2.
Actually Maxentius's death (at the battle of the Milvian Bridge) took place in AD 312.
MarginaliaWhat tyme Satan was tied vp. After the which xlij. monethes beyng expired, manifest it is that the fury of Sathan, that is, his violent malyce and power ouer the Saintes of Christ, was diminished & restrayned vniuersally through the whole world.
Thus then the matter standing euident, that Sathan after 300. yeares, counting from the passion of Christ, began to be chayned vp, at what tyme the persecution of the primitiue Church began to cease: Now let vs se, how long this bynding vp of Sathan should continue, which was promised in the booke of the reuelation, to be a thousand yeares. Which thousand yeares, if ye adde to the xlij. monethes of yeares, that is, to 294. yeares: they make 1294. yeares, after the passion of þe Lord. To these moreouer adde the thirty yeares of the age of Christ, and it commeth to the yeare of the Lord 1324. MarginaliaAbout what time and yeare Satan was let out, by the count of the Apocalips. which was the yeare of the lettyng out of Sathan, accordyng to the prophesie of the Apocalips.[Back to Top]
|The first persecution of the primitiue |
church, beginnyng at the 30. yeres of Christ,
was prophecied to continue 42. monthes, that
MarginaliaThe ceasing of persecution in the primitiue church. The ceasing of the last persecution of the |
primitiue church by the death of Licinius the
last persecutour, began an. 324. from the nati-
uitie of Christ, which was frō the thirty yere
of hys age. an.