The Millennium – Critique Of Grenz’ View Of Revelation 20:1-6 – Part 3

Historical Misinformation

Stanley Grenz (in The Millennial Maze: Sorting out Evangelical Options) shows his strength in Chapter Two, where he narrates the history of theological thinking about the millennium. It is helpful getting a sense of scope and sequence in the life of a doctrine.

There is one misleading error in Grenz’ historical summary, however. It is his statement that the early church, at the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., condemned “as superstition the belief in a literal, future thousand-year reign on the earth” (Grenz, page 44). The source of the error and how it was proliferated has been ably presented by Michael J. Svigel:

In The Millennial Maze, Grenz appears to rely upon both Toon’s 1970 work and an earlier book by Cohn (1957) when he writes that at Ephesus the church “condemned as superstition the belief in a literal, future thousand-year reign on the earth” [Michael J. Svigel, “The Phantom Heresy: Did the Council of Ephesus (431) Condemn Chiliasm?,” Trinity Journal 24, no. 1 (spring 2003): 109].

Svigel explains that Toon, in turn, depended on Cohn’s 1957 and 1961 editions of Pursuit of the Millennium, which both contain this assertion, based on an erroneous French work of 1904 by Leon Gry.  Gry took an off-topic comment by an Eastern Bishop about chiliasm (which comment did not result in any discussion) and Gry jumped to the conclusion that the comment was approved by the Council. Cohn conspicuously leaves out this assertion in his 1970 “expanded” edition, but the incorrect citing has spread like wildfire and is incorrectly accepted as fact by many.

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