The Great Apostasy
Seven proofs History of Christianity History part 2 A non-LDS view
'Antichrists' Matthew 24 Second Coming Other theories

Bible commentaries

Well informed Bible readers know that:

1. There had to be a Great Apostasy
2. It would last for 1260 prophetic "days"
3. It would start when the Roman empirelost control of the church.
4. It would end some time around the 1830s.

Don't take my word for it!


Download the original texts
used on this page:
(part 1) | (part 2) | (part 3)
(about 160K each)


See also:

The History:

When Rome gave way to Europe
Gregory the Great
The year 570

The Scriptures:

Relevant Scriptures in depth
The "1260" prophecy
"days" and "years"

Traditional interpretations:

Antiochus Epiphanes
Different approaches
What happened in 1830

Don't take my word for it!

In this web site I have argued that the 1260 "days" in Daniel and Revelation refer to the period AD 570 - 1830. But so what? I am a Mormon. I am biased. Of course I would say the Great Apostasy ended in 1830. So don't take my word for it.

Listen to what the Bible experts say.

Who are the Bible experts?

If the Bible is the ultimate authority for most Christians, then the greatest Christian authority must be the greatest Bible commentary. Or in other words, the Bible commentary that is best informed. Modern Bible commentaries are often disappointing. They tend to fall into three groups:

  1. Faithful but vague.
    Some commentaries (such as big sellers in Christian book stores) accept the inspiration of scripture, but avoid the question of what difficult prophecies mean.
  2. Faithful but prejudiced.
    Some commentaries (such as many on the Internet) give precise meanings to the prophecies, but without seriously considering alternative explanations. (This web site tries to avoid that trap. Hence this page and the pages on alternative views.).
  3. Precise and agnostic.
    Some commentaries (such as those favored in many universities) give precise but naturalistic explanations for everything. They assume that the scriptures are uninspired (or as good as uninspired) and then base all their guesses on this flawed assumption.

The William Smith Bible Dictionary

The best informed Bible commentary I have ever found is the "Dictionary of the Bible" edited by William Smith (3 volumes: London, John Murray, 1863). It avoids all of the pitfalls identified above. In particular it identifies and destroys many fallacies that are still used by many modern commentaries who should know better. In over 3000 pages of double column small print, it gives fair space to all the major points of view. It does not just summarize viewpoints, but lists who said what and when, and quotes them directly when necessary - in the original languages. It is a monumental achievement, the kind of book that would be impossible to undertake in today's publishing environment.

If any reader of this web site knows of a better Bible commentary, I would like to know.

What follows is based on the article on "Antichrist" by Frederick Meyrick, from Appendix B in volume 3. Lest you think I am distorting this great work, I have scanned the pages that deal with "the beast":

(part 1) (part 2) (part 3)

As this is the best non-LDS commentary I can find on the 1260 "day" prophecies, let us use this as our starting point.

Informed Christians accept the Church was in apostasy...

According to the above named commentary:

... but they refuse to accept the implications

If the 1260 "day" apostasy did not begin when the apostles were alive, or even for a while after (until the restraining power was removed), it must have referred to something more than just good and bad church members or churches existing together. Otherwise it would be said to be present always. It must be something much worse.

If the 1260 "day" apostasy refers to when the church itself was corrupt (as the article states), and the church was no longer "bringing forth children to Christ" (as the article states), then this apostasy was total. There were no more true Christians being produced.

Good people existed, of course. The woman (the church) was in the wilderness but was not destroyed. But she was in the same situation as the Jewish church when Jesus began his ministry. The man child had gone. This is far worse than simply good and bad existing together. This is a total apostasy!

Informed Christians accept the apostasy was to last 1260 "days"...

To quote the above named source:

"It [the Beast] must last three and a half times, i.e. nearly twice as long as the empire of Assyria, or Persia, or Grecia, to which only two times seem to be allotted (Dan 7:12)".

So it is accepted that this period is made of real historical time. Given the comparison (and historical time elapsed since New Testament times), this was probably something over a thousand years, but less than two.

And if it is a fixed period, it has a beginning and an end.

It is difficult to come to any other conclusion, given that the Beast / little horn is part of the sequence Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Grecia, Rome, Beast.

... but they won't believe the Bible was accurate:

It is perverse to accept all this and deny that the "days" simply mean "years" in this context:

Informed Christians accept that the Great Apostasy begins with the fall of Rome...

The William Smith Bible Dictionary devotes quite some space to this. This is clearly very important. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2, says that the apostasy is inevitable. But in verses 6-7, Paul says that something holds the apostasy back and prevents it starting quite yet. Yet Paul does not identify it in writing.

"There was something which prevented the open manifestation of the Antichrist in the Apostles' days which they spoke of by word of mouth, but were unwilling to name in letters. ... The general opinion of the early writers and fathers is that it was the power of the secular law existing in the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire fell, and upon its fall, and in consequence of its fall, there arose a secularization and corruption of the church, which would not have been so secularized and corrupted had it been kept in check by the jealousy of the imperial power."

"What is that thing which withholdeth (2 Thess. ii.6)? ... There is a remarkable unanimity among the early Christian writers on this point. They explain the obstacle known to the Thessalonians but unknown to us, to be the Roman Empire. Hence Tertulian, St. Chrysostom and Theophylact, Hippolytus, St. Jerome, etc., etc."

"It is very difficult to see whence the tradition could have arisen except from St. Paul's own teaching. ... It would appear then that the obstacle was probably the Roman Empire, and on its being taken away out of the way there did occur the 'falling away' ".

... but they refuse to look at the date.

Everyone agrees that the fall of the Roman Empire was a process that took some time. But there were key events that marked turning points. One was the adoption of Christianity in AD 325. Another was the sacking of Rome in 410 and another was the fall of the western empire in 476. But as shown elsewhere on this web site, the final straw, the pivotal event, was the last barbarian invasion of Italy in AD 570.

This final invasion was also the trigger to start the decline in the eastern empire. And more importantly, it marked the beginning of the worldly power of the medieval church, and the beginning of the Medieval period.

For the end of secular control of the church by the empire, the key date is AD 570.

The transfer of secular power and AD 570

I have shown elsewhere in this web site that the significance of AD 570 was that the church stopped looking to the Roman Empire for support.

AD 570 marked the end of control by the empire, and the beginning of the worldly power of the church.

Hence AD 570 is doubly proven to fulfil the prophecy.

Not only does the empire fall, but also the medieval church is created by the same processes.

Did well informed Christians always know this? They must have done. For hundreds of years, the classic text on the fall of the Roman Empire was Gibbon's work of the same name. This, and other histories, show clearly that the "secular power" was transferred to the church in the year 570.

Gibbon's "Fall of the Roman Empire"

Anyone seriously interested in the topic has to become familiar with this classic work - a historical landmark in its own right.

"The Fall of the Roman Empire" records how the Western empire fell in AD 476, but at that time the Empire was controlled from the East. It records how the Eastern Empire continued until the fall of Constantinople in 1453, but how long before that it had ceased to be an empire in any meaningful sense. It shows how the last great emperor was Justinian, who re-conquered Italy and the other major centers, who had a special interest in controlling the church, and whose reign ended in 565.

It shows how barbarians invaded Italy for over a hundred years, finishing in AD 570. It shows how, from this date, Italy stopped looking to the Empire for support and instead looked to the north and west. It shows how, from this point, the church of Rome took secular power to itself.

Anyone reading Gibbon must know that the secular power finally passed from the Empire to the Church because of the events of 570.

The barbarian invasions, 410-570

Gibbon is not the only historian to cover this crucial period. When the William Smith Bible Dictionary was written, the classic work on the history of Europe was Koch's "Revolutions of Europe" (London: Whittacker & Co., 1839, translated from the French). That book records the great changes in Europe from the barbarian invasions of Rome (starting with the sack of Rome in 410) up to the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. It thus covers the main political events of the 1260 years, even if it does not say as much.

"The Revolutions of Europe" is clear, like every other history book, that the barbarian invasions are the most obvious feature in the fall of the Roman Empire. The book lists the invasions of Italy, right up to the last one in AD 570. Then it goes on to discuss the great significance of the barbarian (Germanic) tribes for European history. Then it continues with its history, now that the Medieval Church is the dominant political force. After recording the various barbarian invasions, Koch concludes on pages 14-16:

"A new revolution happened in Italy (568), by the invasion of the Lombards. [The invasion is then described.] The revolution, of which we have just now given a summary view, changed the face of all Europe; but it had a more particular influence on the fate of ancient Germany." [The changes in Germany are then described.]

"There is one thing which, at this period, ought to above all fix our attention, and that is the influence which the revolution of the fifth century [which Koch just showed was completed by the events of 570] had on the governments, laws, manners, sciences, and arts of Europe." [The great changes in these areas are then described. Koch then focused on the dividing of Europe into new nations along German lines.]

"This new division caused a total change in the geography of Europe. The ancient names of the countries were everywhere replaced by new ones; and the alterations which the nomenclature of these divisions underwent in course of time created no small embarrassment in the study of history and geography of the middle ages."

The rise of the worldly church after 570

Koch then discusses, at length, the introduction of the system of fiefdom at this time. This is discussed in more detail in another part of this web site. He continues with his discussion of the triumph of barbarism in Europe. The destruction of anything beautiful or learned. Then he moves on to the significance of all this for the church. The clergy were practically the only people left who could read and write:

"These advantages, which the clergy enjoyed, contributed in no small degree to augment their credit and their influence. Everywhere they were entrusted with the management of state affairs; and the offices of chancellor, ministers, public notaries, and in general all situations where knowledge of the art of writing was indispensable, were reserved for them; and in this way their very name (clericus) became as it were the synonym for a man of letters, or any person capable of handling the pen. The bishops, moreover, held the first rank in all political assemblies, and in war marched to the field in person, at the had of their vassals."

And there we have it. Just as prophesied, the fall of the Roman Empire saw the beginning of the secular power of the church. Thus the 1260 year Great Apostasy began. And the fall of secular Roman control in the west was completed in the year 570.

Bible students come to the same conclusions

I have noted elsewhere that the most famous date from the Bible was 1844, the year that Joseph Smith completed the restoration. But can we trust these scholars? Perhaps they were all just lucky guesses? Or perhaps they did not really understand the spirit of the bible? Then let us turn to a more reliable guide - and who is admired more by Christians than John Wesley (1703-1791) the founder of Methodism. A great man, powerful preacher, and humble believer, surely Wesley would have had important insights into the prophecies? And remember that all this was written many years before the dates in question.

Wesley's commentary on Revelation

Wesley did not claim to have a perfect understanding of the Book of Revelation (many of his minor details have proven to be mistaken). But he knew they were hugely significant. He begins:

"It is scarce possible for any that either love or fear God not to feel their hearts extremely affected in seriously reading either the beginning or the latter part of the Revelation. These, it is evident, we cannot consider too much; but the intermediate parts I did not study at all for many years; as utterly despairing of understanding them, after the fruitless attempts of so many wise and good men...

Wesley was deeply impressed by the work of another scholar, Bengelius. Something about Bengelius' work must have made Wesley feel in his heart that "yes, this is close to the truth."

"Yet I by no means pretend to understand or explain all that is contained in this mysterious book. I only offer what help I can to the serious inquirer, and shall rejoice if any be moved thereby more carefully to read and more deeply to consider the words of this prophecy. Blessed is he that does this with a single eye. His labour shall not be in vain. "

Many of Wesley's (Bengelius') dates may look doubtful nw, but one date is mentioned more than any other. He seems deeply impressed that the final and most important date is 1836.

Wesley and 1836

For Wesley, 1836 was the Big Date in prophecy. (For full details, click on the above link.)

Why 1836?

Perhaps Wesley was six years out. Or perhaps not. It appears that in the key fact, Wesley was right. Christ did return in 1836 (though this was not the final Second Coming). He accepted the first temple of the Latter Days, which ultimately opened the way to salvation for the dead, or in other words, the unlocking of the gates of hell and the ending of Satan's power over the dead. The great event is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants section 110.

The background to the revelation:

The Kirtland temple had been completed, at great sacrifice. It was the first temple of the last days. It was the third day of April, 1836, the Jews were celebrating the feast of the Passover, and were leaving the doors of their homes open for the coming of Elijah. On that day Elijah did come, but not to the Jewish homes.

The prophet Joseph Smith and his assistant, Oliver Cowdery, were in prayer. This is the text of section 110:

"The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened. We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.

"His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying: 'I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father. Behold, your sins are forgiven you; you are clean before me; therefore, lift up your heads and rejoice. Let the hearts of your brethren rejoice, and let the hearts of all my people rejoice, who have, with their might, built this house to my name.

" 'For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house. Yea, I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice, if my people will keep my commandments, and do not pollute this holy house. Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house.

" 'And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people. Even so. Amen.'

After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north. After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.

"After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said: 14 Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi--testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come-- To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse--

"Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors."

And it is not just OLD Bible commentaries

It is not just nineteenth century commentaries that point to the late sixth century as the turning point. As noted elsewhere, modern commentaries also point to that period. For example, the Hodder Bible handbook indicates that the "early church" period ended and the "medieval church" period began with Gregory the Great.

(The Hodder handbook chooses the date of 590 as the turning point, when Gregory became Pope. But it would have been more accurate to choose 570, when his political career began, for the reasons already given.)


Later history books agree, and add more detail. The Lombard invasions were the turning point in the transfer of secular power from the Empire to the Church and new European states.

No well informed Christian can afford to be ignorant of these facts.

The Bible indicates that the church would be in apostasy for 1260 years, beginning with the transfer of secular power from the Roman Empire. And that transfer of secular power effectively took place in AD 570.

the bottom line

No well informed Christian has an excuse to be ignorant of the 570-1830 prophecies.


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