Paul Tillich, A History Of Christian Thought

Thirteenth Century: Joachim di Fiore, Franciscan theology, Dominic.

The last lecture dealt with Hugh of St. Victor and the sacramental interpretation of reality which we have found in him. I want to give you now a sacramental interpretation of history which has become extremely inf luential upon the Middle Ages and on modern thinking, namely the theology of Joachim di Fiore – (a monastery in Calabria, southern Italy, where Joachim was the abbe. ) He wrote a group of books in which he developed a philosophy of history which has become the alternative to the Augustinian interpretation of history and was the background for most revolutionary movements in the Middle Ages and in modern times, while Augustine’s interpretation of history was the basis for most conservative movements during the same time. So what I want to do is to confront the Joachimistic interpretation of history with the Augustinian.

About the Augustinian I told you already that it puts the reign of Christ, the so- called thousand-years, in the present time and identifies the reign of Christ with the control of this period by the hierarchy and its Divine graces. The sacramental power of the hierarchy makes it the immediate medium of Christ, so that the thousand years, the monarchy of Christ, is the monarchy of the Church. Since this, according to Daniel, is the last period, there is no future any more, the thousand years are present, we live in them, and everything critical can be critical only about the mixed body of the Church, but not about the foundation of the Church, which is final. You can imagine that in this way Augustine removed the threat of millenariansm – the doctrine of-the thousand years – which still lay ahead, and which then was used to criticize the Church and the hierarchy.

Joachim renewed the idea of the thousand years of Christ laying still ahead. He speaks in a good philosophy-of-history-way about the three dispensations which go on in history and are characterized by historical figures. The first period goes from Adam to John the Baptist, or the Christ – it is the age of the Father. But this age is overcome by the very fact of the Christ. Then there is the 2nd period which goes from King Uzziah (Isaiah 6) to the year 1260. These years are produced by the fact that according to the genealogies of the Old Testament, this age embraces 42 generations. Then the 3rd dispensation is that of Benedict in the 5th century after Christ, where Western monasticism starts, and is called the age of the Holy Spirit. It has 21 generations after Christ, which leads to the year 2360.leads: to the year 1260.

This seems to be very artificial. The ages overlap, The 2nd age is identical with the first, in the years from King Uzziah to the birth of Christ, or to John the Baptist. And the 2nd is overlapped by the third in the birth from St. Benedict to 1260. Now what is this overlapping about? It is a very profound insight into historical developments. History, historical periods, never start sharply but always develop in terms of overlapping. There is no “the end of the Gothic period and the beginning of the Renaissance. ” There is no “end of the Renaissance” and “the beginning of the Baroque.” There is no “end of the baroque” and “beginning of the Rococo,” etc.

etc. Every new period is conceived and born in the womb of the former one. This is an insight of which no one was more aware than Karl Marx when he made his interpretation of history and described how every new period was prepared in the womb of the preceding period – for instance, the socialist period in the womb of the bourgeois period, and that in the womb of the late feudal period. It is like birth: there is a certain period in which mother and’ child are in one and the same body, and here in one and the same period. This insight is expressed in the idea of overlapping. The germs of the new period are earlier than what he called fructificatio (fructification), mature realization. A period is not mature when its first beginnings are visible. So we have this trinitarian scheme applied to history, but in such a way that the following period always is present for a certain time in the former period. Christ in this way is one moment in the three periods of history, and history goes beyond Him. It is the same problem which we have in the Fourth Gospel, which is discussed there, whether the Spirit goes beyond the Christ or not.