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The Revelationes of Pseudo-Methodius and ‘Concerning the Coming of Antichrist’ in British Library Ms Cotton Vespasian D. XIV

Stephen Pelle

THE text known as the Revelationes of Pseudo-Methodius (so called because of its attribution to the early church father Methodius of Olympus), was originally composed in Syriac in the late seventh century and was translated into Greek and Latin early in the eighth century.1Michael Twomey summarizes the text in this way:The original version of the Revelations is a Syriac apocalypse divided into historical and prophetic sections. It recounts the Creation, Fall, and Flood, followed by the succession of empires, the Arab invasions, the eventual triumph of the Last Roman Emperor, the coming of the Antichrist, and the end of the world.2Despite the influence of the Revelationes on medieval eschatological ideas and the clear interest in eschatology present in Old English religious literature, the work does not seem to have been popular in England before the Norman Conquest. As Twomey describes, of the almost two dozen pre-twelfth-century Latin manuscripts of the Revelationes, only two are of English origin, and neither of these can be shown to predate 1075.3

Most connections hitherto realized between the Revelationes and Old English literature have been quite indirect. Hill has noted echoes of Noe’s fourth son in the Revelationes in certain Anglo-Saxon royal genealogies, but the correspondences are not exact.4 Late twelfth-century notes in the Old English Hexateuch cite Methodius as a source, but are taken from quotations of Pseudo-Methodius excerpted by Peter Comestor.5 TheRevelationes served as a kind of ultimate source for one Old English homily (Napier XLII6), but only through the mediation of the very popularDe Ortu et Tempore Antichristi of Adso, whom the Revelationesinfluenced.7

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