Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we remember the medieval apocalyptic thought of Joachim of Fiore.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 30th of March 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Today, once again, I will not be telling the story of Christianity in Hawaii. After a mistake yesterday, I was convinced I made an error by confusing the 29th and 30th.

So- as I am prepping my show on the history of Christianity in Hawaii, I realize that I was correct this time, but my source was incorrect. I might have said, “to heck with it; I’m talking about Hawaii and missionaries and some complicated but interesting stuff.”

I glanced at a few of my regular sources and saw that today was the day when Joachim of Fiore died in 1202- and while I will not be telling the story of Christianity in Hawaii today- I will tell you about Joachim.

First- you will see him called Joachim of Flore or Flora or Floris or Fiore. Marjorie Reeves was the Joachim scholar in the last generation, and she wrote “Fiore”- so there it is.

“Fiore” was the Italian town where he founded his monastic order- but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Reeves herself was skeptical of the stories of Joachim’s early life (in the 1100s) except that during a pilgrimage, he had a spiritual experience that hastened his decision to take up holy work.

He began preaching and teaching as a layman until he was advised to work with the established Cistercian Order (the Cistercians were Benedictine literalists… so pretty hardcore). He was very popular- charismatic- something of an enigma to those who knew him.

He was made abbot of his monastery but asked if the Pope would personally intervene, which he did. Pope Lucius III gave him a dispensation to choose the monastery of his liking and work unbothered. The catch was that he had to submit all of his work to the Vatican for approval.

By 1200 he had submitted his significant works but died before they could be judged. Which they were. Because they were pretty wild, his charisma, poetic expression, and ideas helped his reputation weather the storm.

Here is his thought: he was a Gnostic who believed he had seen past the "letters” in the Bible to discern the “Spirit” behind them properly. And this spiritual reading- primarily of the book of Revelation taught that the world is divided into three ages (not 7! Augustine and others likened the world to the seven days of creation and suggested that we are at, or near, the end…)

Joachim separated all of the time into three epochs- the Old Testament was the epoch of the Father, the New Testament and present was the epoch of the Son, and starting in 1260 (a convenient 60 years away for Joachim in 1200), the age of the Spirit would commence.

In this coming age, there would be no need for clergy. And everything would be awesome. I don’t think we have to do much digging here- a soft apocalypse was coming in which the people would rule.

It was so popular that even when 1260 came, and these things didn’t happen, it was reinterpreted spiritually. His claim that the antichrist would be a Pope made him famous in the Reformation despite being past 1260.

His followers would continue writing and attributing their writings to Joachim himself, making some Joachim scholarships difficult. Still, the general eschatological picture was one of a coming new age.

Whenever I think of Fiore, I think of this strange throwaway line by historian Diarmaid MacCulloch- whose book “Christianity” is a solid one-volume survey of Christian history. He wrote:

“Those who listen to the vapid rock anthem ‘The Age of Aquarius’ are catching the last echo of the twelfth-century Cistercian abbot whose vision was of a dawning new age.”

(Just a sucker punch to Galt McDermott and the 5th Dimension)

Interestingly, the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 condemned aspects of his teaching- but not him… he is not officially a heretic. (They got him on the Trinity- but if you keep writing on the Trinity, you’ll likely fall afoul of something).

His more radical views were answered by Thomas Aquinas, although Dante held Joachim in high regard (Joachim shows up in Dante’s Paradiso)

(You know who else held him in high regard? Richard the Lionheart… that’s right- all medieval roads lead back to Robin Hood).

Joachim of Fiore was born in or around 1130- we’re pretty sure he died on this, the 30th of March in 1202.

The Last Word for today comes from Revelation 1:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 30th of March 2022, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man who knows that if you want vapid Rock Anthems- that’s pretty much why KISS exists… he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man who would like to suggest Dr. MacCulloch get a load of Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” I am Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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