Article by Gary Dickson, Enyclopedia of millennialism and millennial movements (publisher link), "Joachism", Routledge (2000).
Joachism was a highly influential medieval system of prophecy, based upon the interpretation of the Bible, which was devised by the Calabrian abbot Joachim of Fiore (c. 1135-1202). “Joachism” must also include numerous works falsely attributed to Joachim himself, as well as the writings of his followers and those he influenced, directly or indirectly, down to the time of Hegel, Marx, and beyond. The presupposition of Joachite prophecy is a providential Christian philosophy of history in which scripture, both Testaments brought into concordance with one another, allows the prophet-exegete to project the biblical vision forward toward the divinely ordained millenarian future for mankind. If Joachim’s vision of the future is an ultimately optimistic, joyous one under the sway of contemplative Christians, in the foreground lies the imminent persecutions of Antichrist, bringing terrible afflictions of all kinds before that blissful future dawns.
As a result of a series of religious experiences, Joachim claimed to have been endowed with the spiritual intelligence to penetrate the hidden, symbolic meaning of scripture. The Joachite system is too complex to detail here. But his best-known pattern is the three stages of universal history, that of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Joachim’s authentic writings were supplemented by a significant number of pseudo-Joachite texts, which, for example, viewed the struggle between pope and emperor in the light of prophecy. In his lifetime Joachim’s fame was such that King Richard Lionheart met with him while en route to the third crusade (1190).
Medieval millenarians especially wanted to know when the Third Age (or status) would come and what it would hold for those who survived the crisis or transition which would mark its coming. Early expositions of Joachim’s prophecies stressed the appearance of Antichrist. The Calabrian prophet suggested that the years from 1200 onward would see the beginning of the transition to a new age, bringing tribulation with it. Joachim himself never assigned a specific year to the time when the age of the Son would give way to the age of the Holy Spirit, although the year 1260 began to assume a prophetic aura to his followers. It was this anticipated year of crisis which witnessed the extraordinary movement of the flagellants (disciplinati).
Joachite prophecy cannot be divorced from the major religious enthusiasms of the Middle Ages. The Franciscans saw themselves as one of the prophetically ordained orders of novi viri spirituales (new spiritual men). The excitement of the Lombard “Great Hallelujah” of 1233, which gave as impetus to Joachite studies within the Franciscan order, also led to a period of Joachist agitation from 1255-63, which culminated in the condemnation of Joachite teachings by the provincial council of Arles (1263). But from the time of Olivi (d. 1297) to that of Savonarola (d. 1498) the influence of Joachite prophecy continued to make itself felt. The significance of this influence was brought to the attention of the English-speaking world through the research of the Oxford scholar Marjorie Reeves.
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