'Heaven upon Earth' : the apocalyptic thought of Joseph Mede (1586-1638)
The aim of this study is to contribute to the ongoing revision of early modern British history, particularly in the area of apocalyptic thought. Older studies, which followed either a Whig or Marxist historiography, are inadequate for developing an accurate conception of apocalyptic and more specifically millenarian interest. The rebirth of millenarianism in England can be trace to Joseph Mede; consequently, the life, writings and legacy of Mede provides the best available source in which to observe the emergence and proliferation of millenarianism in Britain. The first section begins by examining Mede within the context of the early seventeenth century. Mede’s non-apocalyptic theological positions are examined within the highly polemical climate of the early Stuart church. In addition, Mede’s connection with certain philosophical schools is discussed. The last issue considered is the relation between Mede and Protestant irenicism. All of these topics are examined in order to determine the precise relation between Mede’s millenarianism and his socio-political-intellectual context. Section two examines the roots of Mede’s millenarianism. This section begins by determining the date of Mede’s shift from a non-millenarian to a millenarian eschatology. Likewise, the compelling exegetical reasons that motivated Mede’s change are discussed. The final chapter of this section details the sources, both patristic and Judaic, which Mede used to help substantiate and justify his millenarianism. The final section traces the legacy of Mede’s millenarianism. First, attention is given to the English millenarian legacy. In England, Mede’s interpretations gained a strong following; many of Mede’s followers debated with other interpreters well into the eighteenth century. Second, the eschatology of the early New Englanders is studied carefully. The puritan “errand into the wilderness” is reassessed in light of Mede’s comments on North America, the conversion of the Jews and the pattern of Old Testament hermeneutics. Finally, this section concludes with a discussion of the Dutch apocalyptic tradition. A co-ordinate apocalyptic tradition, both critical and sympathetic the Mede, emerged in the Dutch Republic. The Dutch bore similar traits to their English counterparts, demonstrating the non-insular character of intellectual thought in the early modern world.