Some of the fathers of the Church speak of Christ and the saints reigning on earth for a thousand years, once six thousand years of history have passed; some others speak of the antichrist as due to arrive after six thousand years.  Is there any way to reconcile this?

The Roman martyrology gives 5199BC as the date of creation.  As I have mentioned before, Venerable Mary of Agreda says that the Blessed Virgin Mary told her that this date is correct.  On the other hand, calculations of the date of Adam based on taking the genealogies of the bible at face-value yield a date of somewhere around 3950-4000BC.  Is there any way to reconcile these?

We are given no indication by Holy Scripture of how long Adam remained unfallen.  We are likewise not told anything about the nature of the ‘sleep’ into which God casts Adam before the creation of Eve, although the Septuagint calls it an ‘ecstasy’ (ἐπέβαλεν ὁ θεὸς ἔκστασιν ἐπὶ τὸν Αδαμ*.)

Presumably Adam’s life before the Fall was a contemplative life of an exalted kind.  St Ambrose says in his commentary on St Luke’s gospel, chapter 10, that he enjoyed an untroubled beatitude (inoffensa beatitudine perfruebatur).  Presumably, too, the more closely one is united to the eternal God, the less sense one has of time passing.  Could it be that Adam, or both of our first parents, were rapt by God before the Fall into ecstasies that coincided with the passing of hundreds of years in the outside world, somewhat as an angel can stay fixed on the same thought for an indefinite period of time?  If so, that would explain why the martyrology mentions a higher number of years than the bible, the latter reckoning Adam’s age only from the day on which he began to be a mortal man.

In this case, it would be possible to reckon ‘six thousand years’ from two different starting points, thus reaching two different ending points.

It is very striking, as I have also mentioned before, that exactly six thousand years after the date of creation found on the martyrology, the first holy Roman emperor was crowned by the pope, inaugurating a line that lasted a thousand years.  We, or those who immediately follow us, will see what happens when the six thousand years based on a simple reading of the biblical genealogies have certainly finished.


* I don’t know why gaps appear in the Greek when one copies and pastes.

The traditional Roman martyrology gives the date of creation as 5,199BC.  This is not a date that anyone would come up with by using the Vulgate bible.  Hence St Bede, basing himself on the Vulgate, calculated the date as 3,592BC.  The date on the martyrology apparently derives from some version of the Septuagint, from which the Latin version of the bible anterior to the Vulgate derives.  Eusebius of Caesarea placed this date into his Chronicon, which was translated into Latin by St Jerome around AD 378.  See here for a reasonably learned study, which is however strangely lacking a footnote for the reference to Bede.

Ven. Mary of Agreda says that she was told by the Blessed Virgin that 5,199 was the date of creation.  Her superior or spiritual director, I forget which, told her to ask again, and Mary of Agreda says that she was again told plainly that this was the correct date.

There was a wide-spread belief in the early patristic period that the world as we know it would last 6,000 years, and that this would be followed by a thousand year reign of Christ and the saints.  This is inspired, among other things, by Apoc. 20:22 – “And he laid hold on the dragon the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.”  I’ve given some examples here.

One cannot help being impressed by the fact that, starting from the date on the martyrology, six thousand years would bring us to AD 801, and that Charlemagne was crowned by the pope as the first holy Roman emperor on Christmas day 800.  Was not this a reign of Christ on earth?  Likewise, it is impressive that the holy empire was brought to an end a thousand years later by Napoleon who became first consul in 1799 and extinguished it over the next few years.

For the end of the world was long ago,
And all we dwell to-day
As children of some second birth,
Like a strange people left on earth
After a judgment day.

At Damascus, of St Peter Mavimenus, who was killed by some Arabs who visited him in his sickness, because he said to them: ‘Whoever does not embrace the Christian and Catholic faith is lost, like your false prophet Mahomet’ (from the Roman martyrology for 21st February).