St Andrew of Caesarea’s commentary on the Apocalypse is the first substantial Eastern reflection on the Apocalypse as a whole. Earlier saints like Methodios and Cyril of Jerusalem gave pointed exhortations, and Andrew is in line with their conclusions. What makes Andrew’s work important in the history of Christian thought is a) he is working independently of Augustine’s City of God and b) he is the first to offer a non-premillennial stance on Revelation 20. True, earlier writers had rejected premillennialism, but few gave a systematic analysis of Revelation 20. Below are my notes on Andrew. I skipped some of his comments simply because they restated the passage and so on. I am not necessarily endorsing Andrew’s comments. My own review will follow later.
Andrew probably wrote around 610, just before the Islamic invasions. He could not have written before 564, since the lists of bishops of Caesarea is complete (until then) and he isn’t mentioned.
Nota bene: unless otherwise pointing out specific passages (e.g., Comm. 1:1), page numbers will refer to the pagination of the volume in the Ancient Christian Texts series.
The Spirit inspired the text in a “tripartite manner according to the tripartite structure of man” (Introduction, xxvi, 116).
- The body of scripture/story is the literal meaning, sense-referent.
- the tropological meaning = the soul
- spirit = anagogical meaning of “higher things to come,” the kingdom of God.
Andrew further divides Revelation into “24” books corresponding to the 24 elders.
1:1. Christ receives revelation according to his humanity. According to his deity he is the revealer.
1:4. The seven churches is the church everywhere. “Seven” is the period of the Sabbath rest of the coming Age. The seven spirits could be “the energies of the Holy Spirit,” but Andrew isn’t dogmatic on this point. It is interesting, though, that a Christian thinker is using “energies” long before Palamas.
1:7. The “clouds” are either incorporeal powers or something similar to the Taboric glory-clouds.
1:12-13. Spiritual hearing and spiritual seeing are the same thing. His eyes as “flames of fire” enlighten the saints and burn the defiled. This isn’t the same as what St Gregory Palamas says. Palamas (correctly) says we see the divine/spiritual glory/light with our bodily eyes.
2.1. He sees the possibility, following Epiphanius and Irenaeus, that the seven stars (angels) reveal the arrangement of the spiritual orders in the seven intelligent heavens that are in the right hand of Christ.
2:7. Only spiritual people have spiritual ears (cf. Isaiah 50:4). We “conquer” in our struggle against demons and share in the blessings of the future age.
2:9. A proper Jew is one who confesses Christ and is so inwardly. Andrew sees a connection between “confession” (exomologesis) and Gen. 29:35, could also read “thanksgiving.”
2:15. Andrew identifies “Balaam” as the “mental Balaam, the Devil.”
2:16. The “hidden manna” is the Bread of Life, who is Jesus (Eucharist).
2.28-29. The Lion from Judah is Christ. The Lion from Bashan is the devil. See also Psalm 22.
3.1. Without getting into Filioquist debates, Andrew argues that since Christ is homousios, he supplies the Spirit.
3:7. Andrew identifies the “key of David” with Jesus’s kingdom. Further, the Holy Spirit is the key of the book of the Psalms and every prophecy.
3:9. Jews falling at their feet means their conversion and enlightenment.
3:20. Interestingly, he sees Christ’s knocking as knocking on the door of the heart for salvation.
3:21-22. Throne represents the coming age
4:1. The opening of the door represents the revelation of the hidden mysteries of the Spirit.
4:5-6. “spirits” probably represent energies of the life-giving Spirit. “Sea of glass” signifies the multitude of the holy powers and utter quiet of the life to come. Irenaeus says the nature of heaven is like crystal.
5:1. The book with seven seals is the all-wise memory of God (Ps. 139.16). The “seven” could refer to the economies of Christ.
5:7-8. The bowls are symbolic of the pure thoughts from which the incense (lives/prayers of the saints) arises.
6:1. The “first living creature, the Lion” symbolizes the royal intention of the apostles against the demons.
6:2.The loosing of the first seal is the generation of the apostles. They stretch forth like a bow, the Gospel message against demons.
6:3. The second creature is the bull, which represents the sacrifices of the martyrs.
6:4. The second seal is the succession of the apostles fulfilled through the martyrs and teachers, which takes away peace from the earth.
6:5-6. Black horse depicts the sorrow that comes on those who have fallen away from faith in Christ on account of torments. The command “do not harm wine and oil” indicates that it is the healing of Christ through repentance ought not to be rejected.
6:7-8. Andrew thinks these events happened in 312, as recorded by Eusebius.
6:12-13. Represents the transition from the times of persecution to the time before the arrival of the false Christ. Andrew notes that terms like “earthquakes” often signifies changes of things.
6:14. The heavens rolled like a scroll symbolizes that heaven does not disappear but changes into something better. The rolling out of a scroll “effects” the appearance of that which is written within.
6:14-17. The mountains figuratively represent “great men” in church and state.
7:1. The holding back of the winds represents the dissolution of the good order and the inevitability of evil.
7:4-8. The omission of Dan means that Antichrist will come from Dan.
7 seals = future events, not Christ’s incarnation (he follows Methodios on this point).
8:7. Angel blows trumpet, ⅓ burned up. Symbolizes not sufferings of Gehenna but future trials of war.
8:8-9. The ⅓ symbolizes those who are being punished are more than those who are being saved. The “great mountain” is the Devil.
8:10-11. The star Wormwood could be the Devil (Is. 14:12).
9:1-5. The star is a divine angel who leads with God’s permission up from the pit the evil demons who have been condemned
9:7-9. Locusts = evil demons.
9:13-16. Andrew thinks the four angels are the most evil of the demons. Andrew notes that demons are often tied to places (148). He suggests that Antichrist might come from this area.
11:1-2. Antichrist will persecute the church for 3 ½ years.
11:11-13. The earthquake is a mental symbol for the transposition of tottering things to things more firm.
12:1. Andrew says the Woman is the Church. Methodios does not think the child is the Christ.
12:5. Through those who are baptized the church is always giving birth to Christ, since in them he is being formed to the fullness of spiritual maturity in believers (Eph. 4:13).
12:15-16. The demonic water is the host of demons and ungodly men. The earth is the wilderness places for the church to hide.
13:1. The beast of the sea is Antichrist. Oecumenius thought he was a demon. He will come as king of the Romans.
13:11. The beast from the earth is the false prophet. So Irenaeus. The “healing of the wound” could be the short-lived unity of the Empire or the temporary restoration of Antichrist.
13:14-17. Demons can make wonders appear. Those who have their faces sealed with divine light need not fear the mark of the Beast.
14:8. Babylon = the confusion of the world (“babel”)
14:11. The mark of the beast is to proclaim Antichrist as God both in Word (head) and Deed (hand).
16:12. Gog and Magog will arise from the region of the Scythians. Andrew also suggests that the Euphrates River might dry up to allow military passage.
16:15-16. Andrew doesn’t seem as interested in speculating on Armageddon as moderns are.
16:19. Andrew suggests Jerusalem is divided into three parts for Christians, Jews, and Samaritans. His comments assume the Byzantine Emperors making the Jews hide their impious works. Unless Vladimir Putin or al-Assad takes over Jerusalem, it’s hard to see how this interpretation works today.
16:20. Islands = churches and mountains = leaders of the churches.
17:1. He rejects that Rome = literal city, but probably equals Antichrist’s domain. He knows that for this interpretation to hold, the current Byzantine model must fall.
17:6-7. He examines how Babylon is used throughout Scripture (sometimes referring to one city, sometimes another). He sees it as a type of Antichrist.
17:9. The seven heads/mountains = those places that excel all the rest: (1) Assyrians, (2) Medians, (3) Babylonians, (4) Persians, (5) Greeks/Alexander, (6) Old Rome (including Constantine), (7) The Rome Yet To Come
17:10. The seven kings, five of whom are fallen Andrew reads as referring to “ages,” thus following Hippolytus et al. The sixth kingdom is Old Rome. He says the Seventh Kingdom has not yet come, which means that the line of the Constantines falls under the 6th Rome.
17:11. Antichrist will be the 8th Kingdom.
20:1-3. The destruction of Satan occurred at Christ’s Passion. Andrew rejects a literal 1,000 years (189). He says it is the time of the Incarnation until the “arrival” of Antichrist. Interestingly, this is not a pure amillennialism, for Andrew does not see it as synonymous with the whole church age. Weinrich in a footnote (189 n22) links this position with Augustine and the West, but this is not entirely the case.
20:4. The teaching thrones were given to the holy apostles who enlightened the nations. He connects these enlighteners with martyrs primarily, but also including pious kings (190). Indeed, the kings demonstrate their power against demonic activity.
20:5-6. Scripture teaches two livings and two dyings.
20:7-8. The thousand-year period is the preaching of the gospel. Andrew rejects the idea that Gog/Magog = the Scythians (192). They will be revealed in the future.
21:7. We currently struggle in an invisible war against demons.