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Gregory the Great
Gregory the Great

Gregory the Great: the man who started the Dark Ages

According to both Christian and non-Christian scholars, Gregory marked the start of the Dark Ages. He is thus crucial to our understanding of the 1260 "day"period.


Let's keep it very simple

If we were to really simplify the "1260" prophecies, I suppose they are basically saying this: Some time after the Roman empire split up, a power would arise that would persecute the saints. Does that sound a fair summing up of the prophesies? Well, we can immediately see that the prophesy was fulfilled - Rome did break up, and the church did enter its "Dark Ages". So the start of the "1260" is the start of the Dark Ages.

Let's play safe

Some historians don't like the term "Dark Ages" (especially as I extend the term further than most). So maybe we should ask when the medieval period began. The simplest view is that it began when Rome gave way to Europe. This was a long process, but the most important date was AD 570.

The Hodder Bible Handbook

The popular "Hodder Bible Handbook" reserves its last section for a short history of the Christian Church. It records that the "early church" period ends, and the "medieval church" period begins, with Gregory the Great.

Or as "The Story of the Church" puts it, "The middle ages may well be taken as beginning in 590 when Gregory I ascended the Papal throne." (He was forced to became Pope in 590 as a result of his his existing fame - the really important date was 570, when he burst onto the public scene - see bottom of page).

ReligiousTolerance.org (http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_hise.htm)

This well respected web site identifies the "early church period" as lasting to 170 (when the apostles and those who heard them first hand are all dead). Then "the Ante-Nicene Era" lasts to 325 (when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire). It notes that many varieties of religion survived in this period. Then comes "the Post-Nicene Era" until 590 CE - in other words, until Gregory the Great. (Note: in this web site I argue that AD 570 is the more important turning point in relation to Gregory).

The period up to Gregory is described as so: "The church had evolved from a small, geographically concentrated institution under the authority of the apostles, to a widespread church under the authority of many bishops. There was no single individual who spoke for the entire church and had the authority to decide matters of belief and practice."

This is the great difference as far as history and prophecy is concerned. Until Gregory, different views could survive. After Gregory, the Roman church ruled with a single voice and an iron hand.

Other church histories

The Hodder bible Handbook did not invent this idea. Philip Smith's "History of the Christian Church" (London: John Murray, 1886) says on page 398, quoting the respected historian Schaff:

"[Gregory] marks the transition of the patriarchal system into the strict Papacy of the middle ages"

(The patriarchal system referred to was the system of bishops. After the apostles died, there was no higher office in the church than bishop. As far as false claims to authority are concerned, Gregory marks the turning point).

"The Study of Church History" at http://www.thechristian.org/church_history/study_church_history.html divides church history into three parts:

  1. Ancient (A.D. 1-590) - e.g. from Christ to Gregory
  2. Medieval (A.D. 590-1517) - e.g from Gregory to Luther
  3. Modern (A.D. 1517 - present)

The "HISTORY of the CHRISTIAN CHURCH" at http://ccel.wheaton.edu/s/schaff/history/ divides church history as so:

Then, from the time of Gregory, an entirely new section begins, headed "MEDIAEVAL CHRISTIANITY: From Gregory I to Gregory VII: A.D. 590–1073". Then there is the sub-heading "MEDIEVAL CHRISTIANITY: From a. d. 590 –1517" and then we continue with the numbered periods:

All agree that Gregory the Great marked the great turning point in church history.


Let's check that conclusion

What do other historians say?

Many agree on the late sixth century, and pinpoint one man in particular who stood at the center of the whole process. Manschreck says that the empires effectively changed hands (from Classical world to Medieval world) at the time of Gregory the Great in the late sixth century. The on-line history of the church agrees:

"More than any other. St. Gregory is, if any man can be it, the founder of Medieval Europe." (For the significance of this, see Europe, the "little horn")

The well known scholar and atheist, Bertram Russell, agrees. In his "History of Western Philosophy", he states that one man above any other marked the transition from the Roman Empire to the "Dark Ages". That man was Pope Gregory the Great.

Langer states (on page 165):

"Gregory was the last of the four great Latin Fathers and the first of the medieval prelates, a link between the classical Greco-Roman tradition and the medieval Romano-German."

Let's double-check that conclusion

In this web site, I promised not to rest any conclusions on obscure history. But then I start talking about Gregory the Great, a man you maybe never heard of! Don't worry. The prophecies are even clearer than that. The next page shows how 570 was also the start date for the greatest non-Christian religion in the world, and was marked by signs like the world has never seen! But what if you don't know any history at all? Then you don't need to look any further than the Bible itself. The date AD 570 is spelled out to the exact year in the book of Daniel. Daniel and Revelation have the topic covered from every possible angle. They can be no danger of misunderstanding. AD 570 is the date that matters.

Let's triple-check that conclusion

Paul prophesied in 2 Thessalonians that the apostasy would begin when the Roman Empire lost its secular power over the church. It's all explained in the William Smith Bible Dictionary Gregory was the key player in gaining secular power for the Roman church.

 


Gregory the Great - The "first Pope"

Gregory the Great was the key figure in the transition from Roman empire to medieval church. "Through him, Papal primacy in spiritual matters and Roman order in secular affairs made their impact on the new kingdoms of Western Europe" (i.e. on the horn of Daniel's prophecy).

How the medieval church came about through Gregory,
and how the Lombards were
the turning point.

From the "Dialogue of Catherine of Siena (1370) translated by Algar Thorold (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd.,1907)

"The papal monarchy had come about, as most things come about in this world, by what seems to have been the inevitable force of circumstances. The decay of the Imperial power in Italy due to the practical abandonment of the Western Empire -- for the ruler of Constantinople lived at too great a distance to be an effective Emperor of the West -- had resulted in a natural increase of secular importance to the See of Rome. To the genius of Pope Gregory I., one of the few men whom their fellows have named both Saint and Great, was due the development of the political situation thus created in Italy.

"Chief and greatest of bishops in his day was St. Gregory the Great. Seldom, if ever, has the papal dignity been sustained with such lofty enthusiasm, such sagacious political insight. Himself a Roman of Rome, Romano di Roma, as those who possess that privilege still call themselves today, the instinct of government was his by hereditary right. . . . Gregory may truly be looked upon as the founder of popular Catholicism . . .

"No miracle is needed to explain the political ascendancy which such a man inevitably came to acquire in an Italy deserted by the Empire, and, but for him and the organization which depended on him, at the mercy of the invading Lombard.

"More and more, people came to look on the Pope as their temporal ruler no less than as their spiritual father. In many cases, indeed, his was the only government they knew. Kings and nobles had conferred much property on the Roman Church. By the end of the sixth century the Bishop of Rome held, by the right of such donations to his See, large tracts of country, not only in Italy, but also in Sicily, Corsica, Gaul, and even Asia and Africa. Gregory successfully defended his Italian property against the invaders, and came to the relief of the starving population with corn from Sicily and Africa, thus laying deep in the hearts of the people the foundations of the secular power of the Papacy."

Gregory "powerfully affected the destiny of the world" and was "the architect of the Medieval Papacy". (See notes and the page on European history.) Indeed, "he is really the first 'Pope' who can, with perfect accuracy, be given this title" ("The Story of the Church", p.64). This is why:

Political power

He was "founder of the worldly power of the papacy in Italy". He extended the power of the church beyond the Alps to the rest of Europe. This period was the turning point, "extremely consequential for Papal domination in the future".

Doctrine

He established the church-wide doctrines by simplifying Augustine into a "vulgar" version. He popularized doctrines such as relic worship, and made purgatory official. And "from his administration date the foundations of later claims to Papal absolutism".

Church organization

Gregory de-emphasized the bishops and gave more power to (un-Biblical) monks. He began the trend for clergy to be intellectually different from their congregations. He stressed that Rome was above other bishops.

The Great Evils

Gregory was a saintly man who made one or two colossal mistakes. When he blessed Phocas (a cruel dictator who had recently had some of his own family murdered), he established a terrible precedent. Later medieval Popes would follow his precedent of effectively absolving the sins of an evil tyrant. Gregory also invented the idea of the crusade, or holy war, of "converting" non-Christians by force. (See Britannica, "Gregory I"



Gregory the man

Prophecies concerning antichrist

"Antichrist" is strong language, but the New Testament uses the term only in the general sense of those who brought the apostasy. Gregory, though an honest and good man in many ways, was a key antichrist by that definition. He almost said as much himself!

In 588, John, Patriarch of Constantinople, called himself "Universal Bishop". Gregory was outraged, and declared that anyone who called themselves such was the forerunner of Anti-Christ. Following this, Gregory made himself the universal bishop - not in so many words, but in practice. He invented the Papal title "servant of the servants of God"...

"but Gregory's attitude seems somewhat ludicrous given that he made for himself the stupendous claim of being the 'successor of Peter' and the 'Vicar of Christ on earth', which clearly implied supremacy over all the Church. He made this claim very specifically. It was recognised almost everywhere in the West, the Celtic church again being a notable exception." ("The Story of the Church", p.65. Note that one of Gregory's most famous acts was to ensure the Celtic church would ultimately submit to Rome).

More prophecies fulfilled (and the year 2000)

1 Timothy 4:1-3 gives two examples of practices by which the apostate church would be known - forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats. Gregory was the first monk to become Pope, and gave more influence to the monks. Monks of course were known for their celibacy, and their abstinence from food.

Daniel 7:25 gives more signs - changing times and laws. It is notable that in the sixth century the modern calendar was popularized (thanks to Dennis the Little - which is why we celebrate the 2000 when we do. It's all to do with the issue of dating Easter, which brings us to the Celtic church, but that is another story...). As for changing the laws, Gregory popularized the doctrines that replaced the simple truths of the Bible (see above).

The Watchman

Gregory fulfilled so many prophesies that it is no surprise to discover that the name Gregory is Greek for "watchman", from the same word used in the New Testament about "watch"ing for the signs of the times. True to his name, Gregory was convinced that the end of the world was close. (See the quotation in the discussion of Europe).

He set the seal on the Dark Ages

As a scholar, Augustine had realized that prophets have seen God face to face. But here Gregory disagreed. While credited with popularizing Augustine, Gregory believed that God was entirely unknowable. That belief still survives today, and contrasts with John 17:3: "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God", and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent".

In summary, Gregory was by all accounts a very good man, and tried to reform the church. But he was not a prophet of God. So instead of reviving the sick church, he effectively killed it.


When did Gregory's career begin?

When did Gregory's career begin? Most people date it to his calling as Pope, in AD 590. But this is not what the Bible is interested in:

The Bible attributes the blasphemies to the beast and its offshoots. Beasts (whenever they are identified) are kingdoms or groups of kingdoms, not just churches. So we should be looking for Gregory's career in total, and not just the ecclesiastical part.

Daniel links the start of the dark ages to the destruction of "three kingdoms" by the "little horn", which seems to be linked to the invading "barbarian" kingdoms (see the discussion in relation to Europe).

Gregory became Pope as a result of AD 570

Rome fell largely because of the invading "barbarian" tribes. The last of the kingdoms to invade Italy and the city of Rome was the Lombards, in 568-571. And who is credited with saving Italy from the Lombards? Gregory of course - years before they persuaded him to reluctantly become Pope.

Twenty years before he became Pope, Gregory had become "the actual ruler of the Italian peninsula... technically he was under the emperor, but in fact he acted independently".

This was the key job, and set the stage for his later strengths as Pope. It trained Gregory in administration. It gave him his first serious contact with the northern tribes he would later try to convert. It shaped his opinions of the church and the world at large - after this (before being forced into the Papacy) he became a monk. It shaped his work as Pope - strengthening the post politically, and bringing in the northern tribes.

Gregory did not want to become pope, but it was his success against the Lombards that made the church want him and make him be their leader.

Conclusion

What was the year when Gregory became effective ruler of Italy, the year that changed Gregory forever, and thus changed the world? AD 570.

The year 570 is the year when Medieval Christendom began. It was the year when the European power began to speak with such blasphemies. And nobody would have the authority to challenge it for 1260 years.


Great signs and desolations

When Gregory was born, contemporary accounts speak of the sky being full of fire, and blood raining down from heaven. For years there was famine. This probably contributed to the other great events that occurred soon after - the plagues, and the movement of nations in search of more fertile lands. It may have been indirectly the cause of the final barbarian invasion of the Lombards.

For more on these signs, see the page on abominations that lead to desolations.



Sources

Bertram Russell's "History of Western Philosophy"

The copy at my local library was the second edition, published in London by George Allen & Unwin, in 1961.

The Hodder Bible Handbook

Unger , Merrill F. (Editor) "The Hodder Bible Handbook (revised edition)." London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1984

Biographical details about Gregory:


the bottom line

If you have ever made things worse when you thought you were doing the right thing, spare a thought for poor Gregory!

 

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