Mahdism has changed the landscape of geopolitics by providing an outlet for disenfranchised Sunnis in Iraq and Syria. The dramatic declaration of the worldwide caliphate following the US withdrawal in 2014 under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a public persona adopted by Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Al-Badri an Islamic religious scholar who turned Mahdist when the US invaded Iraq, was staged for propaganda purposes. We believe this to be so because they had actually declared statehood in 2006,[i] but, back then, they were not taken very seriously.
Sayf al-Adl, and Jordanian hooligan, Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi wrote of his plan to create the end of days, “caliphate according to the prophetic method.”[ii]
After the United States killed Zarqawi on June 7, 2006, al-Qaeda in Iraq carried out its leader’s dying wish. Rather than wait to establish the Islamic state until after the Americans withdrew and the Sunni masses backed the project, as Bin Laden and Zawahiri wanted, the Islamic State was proclaimed on October 15, 2006.[iii]
Abu Ayyub al-Masri took over al-Qaeda in Iraq after Zarqawi died in June 2006, only to dissolve the group a few months later when the Islamic State was declared. According to the Islamic State’s chief judge, Masri rushed to establish the State because he believed the Mahdi, the Muslim savior, would come within the year. To his thinking, the caliphate needed to be in place to help the Mahdi fight the final battles of the Apocalypse. Anticipating the imminent conquest of major Islamic cities as foretold in the prophecies, Masri ordered his men to build pulpits for the Mahdi to ascend in the prophet’s mosque in Medina, the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, and the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.[iv]
It is beyond dispute that Islam—especially in light of recent atrocities to the Holy Land—is a major factor in analyzing the Middle East, geopolitically and prophetically. The world awakened to the existential threat following synchronized attacks in Paris and the IS’ suicide bomber planted on a Russian Airliner in retaliation to recent airstrikes by the Russian Air Force illustrated. “Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed Saturday in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after breaking apart in midair, killing all 224 people on board.”[v] The IS claimed responsibility for the crash via twitter within hours of what now appears to be a suicide bombing.[vi]
A few hasty analysts dismissed the IS’ claim, but they overlooked the possibility that a “can bomb” was the IS’ means. Reliable sources have confirmed the IS’ culpability. At the end of 2015, “The latest US intelligence suggests that the crash was most likely caused by a bomb planted on the plane by ISIS or an affiliate, according to multiple US officials who spoke with CNN.”[vii]
Two-thirds of the Afghan and Iraqi populations self-identify as such Mahdists and envision the rise of a medieval-style caliphate, enforcing worldwide Sharia law—and the IS claims to be that caliphate. Mahdists are willing to martyr themselves, and Russia is offering no quarter. The latest reports state; “Russia has reportedly refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in its fight against ISIS”[viii] Given the ongoing proxy war between the US and Russia over Assad in Syria, a palatable chance exists that World War Three could very well be the net result of today’s policies. While chances are slim that the exegetical historiography that follows will dissuade the committed Mahdist, we sincerely hope it will put a “stone in the shoe” of those who ascribe preternatural prescience to dubious Hadith-based eschatology. Our position is quite simple: Early associates of Muhammad and their adherents plagiarized the eschatology of the day, a period of time when Damascus and Constantinople were centers of world religion and before the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople, transforming into it into a premiere Muslim civilization in regard to peaceful trade.
Islamic eschatology becomes terribly ironic once one faces the evidence that the “rightly guided one” Muslims revere as the Mahdi is nothing but a plagiarized character from Syrian pseudapigrapha—a legend of seventh-century Syrian Christianity, which is a mainstay in Roman Catholicism to this day. The story of Mahdi is not really from Muhammad; he is borrowed from a Syrian apocalypse. In fact, the evidence that the Mahdi is a fictional pilferage is strong enough to have inspired scholarly monographs.[ix] This series will show why in all probability the Mahdi is a Muslim version of the popular “Last Roman Emperor”(who arguably developed into the “Holy Pope” legend) who had become legendary in medieval eschatology. It all stemmed from the Apocalypse of Methodius, an alleged last-days prophecy attributed to the late third-century Christian Church Father and St. Methodius of Olympus (died c. 311) bishop, biblical scholar-theologian, and martyr.
The Syriac Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius
The Syriac Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius is honored as the crown of Eastern Christian apocalyptic literature, but it is falsely attributed.[x] The real Methodius was an active Christian apologist and churchman who was martyred in the early fourth century (ca. 313). During his day, he was primarily concerned with the hotly debated theological controversies of his time, like the nature of Christ and the Trinity. Methodius was especially repulsed by the heresies of Origen. Even though today there is little doubt the Apocalypse was falsely attributed to him, it was widely accepted as authentic for centuries.
In History of Apocalypse, self-described agnostic sceptic,[xi] Catalin Negru, describes the last Roman emperor:
The reign of this emperor is characterized by great wealth, victory over the enemies of Christendom, the end of paganism and the conversion of the Jews. After he will defeat Gog and Magog “he will come to Jerusalem, and, taking off the tiara from his head and all the imperial clothes off his body, he will let the empire of the Christians to God the Father and to Jesus Christ His Son.”[xii]
In this way, the emperor will give free passage to the Antichrist:
At that time the prince of injustice, who will be called the “Antichrist,” will rise from the tribe of Dan. He will be the Son of Perdition and the culmination of pride, the master of great wonders and signs made through lies, He will deceive many through the art of magic so that he will appear [to] call fire from the sky.… When the Roman Empire will fall, then the Antichrist will show himself and he will sit in the House of God in Jerusalem.[xiii]
The prophecy says that the Antichrist will be challenged by the two witnesses of the Apocalypse, Elijah and Enoch, but he will destroy them and he will begin a final persecution against Christians, until “he will be killed through the power of the Lord by Michael the Archangel on the Mount of Olives.”[xiv] The pseudo-prophecy of the Tiburtine Sibyl was a source of inspiration for the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius. This was written in Syriac toward the end of the 7th century as a reaction to the Islamic conquests in the Near East, and it was falsely assigned to Methodius of Olympus in order to gain credibility.[xv]
Scholars attribute the introduction of the Last Roman Emperor to the Sibylline Oracles. For example, OrthodoxWiki, a web-based encyclopaedia for Orthodox Christianity, notes:“The Tiburtine Sibyl, was a Roman sibyl (meaning “prophetess”), whose seat was the ancient Etruscan town of Tibur (modern Tivoli). An apocalyptic pseudo-prophecy exists among the Sibylline Oracles, attributed to the Tiburtine Sibyl, written ca. 380 AD, but with revisions and interpolations added at later dates. It purports to prophesy the advent in the world’s ninth age of a final Emperor vanquishing the foes of Christianity.”[xvi] The anonymous author of the Apocalypse likely borrowed from this popular Sibylline prophetic literature.
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As the following citation demonstrates, the cobbled-together prophecy does have some uncanny descriptions of end-time culture that seem ripped right from today’s headlines, and Islam is certainly the major geopolitical source of conflict facing the modern world. It was an extremely influential book and the messianic emperor is ubiquitous in Roman Catholic writings. After the canonical books Daniel and Revelation, it was among the most accepted medieval apocalyptic texts. Setting the issue of provenance aside, the following passage is rather chilling.
The Muslim Crisis
In the final seventh millennium the Persian Empire will be wiped out. In this seventh millennium the seed of Ishmael will begin to go forth from the desert of Ethribus. When they have gone forth, they will all assemble at the great Gaboath and there will be completed the saying of Ezekiel the prophet: “Son of man,” he said, “call the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and exhort them saying, ‘Gather yourselves together and come since I will give you a great sacrifice, to eat the flesh of strong men and drink the blood of the mighty’” (Ezek. 39:17)… And so the Lord God will give them (i.e. the sons of Ishmael) the power to conquer the land of the Christians, not because he loves them, but because of the sin and iniquity committed by the Christians. Such sins have not nor shall be committed for all generations. Men will get themselves up as false women wearing prostitutes’ clothes. Standing in the streets and squares of the cities openly before all they will be adorned like women; they will exchange natural sex for that which is against nature. As the blessed and holy Apostle says, “men have acted like women” (Rom. 1:26–7). A father, his son, his brothers, and all the relatives will be seen to unite with one woman….
For this reason they will be given over by God into the hands of the barbarians from whom they will sink into all uncleanness and stink of pollution. Their women will be contaminated by filthy barbarians and the sons of Ishmael will cast lots for their sons and daughters. The land of the Persians is handed over to corruption and destruction, its inhabitants led away to captivity and death. They also attack Armenia and those who dwell there fall into captivity by the sword… The land of Syria will be empty and reduced; those dwelling in her will perish by the sword…. Egypt and the East and Syria will be under the yoke and hemmed in by great tribulations. They will be constrained without mercy; weight of gold and silver beyond their strength will be eagerly desired of them. The inhabitants of Egypt and Syria will be in trouble and affliction, seven times the greater for those in captivity. The Land of Promise will be filled with men from the four winds under heaven. (Translated from E. Sackur, SibyllinischeTexte, pp. 80–83, emphasis added)[xvii]
One is initially taken aback by the correspondence to the current moral climate, but upon reflection, it is just as prescient spiritually and geopolitically. It seems fair to suggest that the seventh-century author was describing a genuine end-time vision. We will not rigorously argue the case that it is a divine revelation, but something more akin to a precognitive dream. Of course, such moral preaching applies more today than ever, and this text laments the flaunting and acceptance of homosexuality as the primary injunction against God’s people, describing the failure in modern morality, which undermines the nuclear family unit as the building block of society.
If one were to accept Methodius as the actual author, his fretting over Muslims—who would not exist for several more centuries—is extremely suspicious. It also recounts Muslim history from the decades just prior to the best estimate of its province, a dead giveaway of the real authors’ historical context. The answer is easy enough when we understand that not one single copy predates the seventh-century Syriac version. Prescience aside, Methodius of Olympus did not write this revelation, but rather an anonymous but clever medieval author composed it. Methodius, the fourth-century Christian, was still blissfully ignorant concerning the “sons of Ishmael.” For this reason, scholars are in agreement that it is an anonymous seventh-century Syrian pseudepigriphal (falsely attributed) work.
Prophecy of the Last World Emperor
It is often assumed that Catholic eschatology follows the biblical outline presented in Daniel and Revelation. However, there are significant differences due to their necessary emphasis on ongoing revelation. One such development is the “Last World Emperor” or “Great Catholic Monarch.” Also called the “Last Roman Emperor,” he is a figure of medieval European legend, who developed as an aspect of early apocalyptic literature. He first appears in the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius.
The Last World Emperor
Then suddenly tribulation and distress will arise against them. The king of the Greeks, i.e. the Romans, will come out against them in great anger, roused as from a drunken stupor like one whom men had thought dead and worthless (Ps. 77:65). He will go forth against them from the Ethiopian sea and will send the sword and desolation into Ethribus their homeland, capturing their women and children living in the Land of Promise. The sons of the king will come down with the sword and cut them off from the earth. Fear and trembling will rush upon them and their wives and their children from all sides. They will mourn their offspring, weeping over them and all the villages in the lands of their fathers. By the sword they will be given over into the hands of the king of the Romans—to captivity, death, and decay.
The king of the Romans will impose his yoke upon them seven times as much as their yoke weighed upon the earth. Great distress will seize them; tribulation will bring them hunger and thirst. They, their wives, and their children will be slaves and serve those who used to serve them, and their slavery will be a hundred times more bitter and hard. The earth which they destitute will then be at peace; each man will return to his own land and to the inheritance of his fathers—Armenia, Cilicia, Isauria, Africa, Greece, Sicily. Every man who was left captive will return to the things that were his and his fathers’, and men will multiply upon the once desolated earth like locusts. Egypt will be desolated, Arabia burned with fire, the land of Ausania burned, and the sea provinces pacified. The whole indignation and fury of the king of the Romans will blaze forth against those who deny the Lord Jesus Christ. Then the earth will sit in peace and there will be great peace and tranquility upon the earth such as has never been nor ever will be anymore, since it is the final peace at the End of time….
Then the “Gates of the North” will be opened and the strength of those nations which Alexander shut up there will go forth. The whole earth will be terrified at the sight of them; men will be afraid and flee in terror to hide themselves in mountains and caves and graves. They will die of fright and very many will be wasted with fear. There will be no one to bury the bodies. The tribes which will go forth from the North will eat the flesh of men and will drink the blood of beasts like water. They will eat unclean serpents, scorpions, and every kind of filthy and abominable beast and reptile which crawls the earth. They will consume the dead bodies of beasts of burden and even women’s abortions. They will slay the young and take them away from their mothers and eat them. They will corrupt the earth and contaminate it. No one will be able to stand against them.
After a week of years, when they have already captured the city of Joppa, the Lord will send one of the princes of his host and strike them down in a moment. After this the king of the Romans will go down and live in Jerusalem for seven and half-seven times, i.e. years. When the ten and a half years are completed the Son of Perdition will appear.
He will be born in Chorazaim, nourished in Bethsaida, and reign in Capharnaum. Chorazaim will rejoice because he was born in her, and Capharnaum because he will have reigned in her. For this reason in the third Gospel the Lord gave the following statement: “Woe to you Chorazaim, woe to you Bethsaida, and to you Capharnaum—if you have risen up to heaven, you will descend even to hell” (Luke 10:13–15). When the Son of Perdition has arisen, the king of the Romans will ascend Golgotha upon which the wood of the Holy Cross is fixed, in the place where the Lord underwent death for us. The king will take the crown from his head and place it on the cross and stretching out his hands to heaven will hand over the kingdom of the Christians to the Father. The cross and the crown of the king will be taken up together to heaven. This is because the Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ hung for the common salvation of all will begin to appear before him at his coming to convict the lack of faith of unbelievers. The prophecy of David which says, “In the last days Ethiopia will stretch out her hand to God” (Ps. 67:32) will be fulfilled in that these last men who stretch out their hands to God are from the seed of the sons of Chuseth, the daughter of Phol, king of Ethiopia. When the Cross has been lifted up on high to heaven, the king of the Romans will directly give up his spirit. Then every principality and power will be destroyed that the Son of Perdition may be manifest. [xviii]
The character of the Last Roman Emperor is still taught as standard eschatology in Catholicism. The host of the Catholic television show, The Last Things, on the EWTN network, Desmond Birch, billed as an expert on the end times, describes the “Great Monarch” or King:
They (the prophecies by the Church Fathers and other, later, great saints regarding the Great Monarch) all contain prophecy of: (1) Toward the end of time but well prior to anti-Christ, the world will be very troubled (2) which troubles are ended for a time by a great temporal ruler, a great Monarch or King (3) who works closely with a very great and saintly Pope (4) together they reestablish peace in the world which lasts for a significant period of time (5) at the end of which time the people go bad because they cannot withstand the temptations that come with continued peace and prosperity (6) as a result of their becoming worse than “ever before” Anti-Christ comes.[xix]
Students of biblical eschatology recognize that those Catholic beliefs are not derived from the Old or New Testaments, but rather later traditions, known as private revelations or “those which have been recorded since the days of Christ.”[xx] Birch cites numerous scholars and saints throughout Christian history who pointed to a Holy Pope and Great Monarch who institute an era of peace just prior to the Great Tribulation of biblical prophecy.[xxi]
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A seventeenth-century German priest known as “the Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser” in Catholic literature wrote a famous commentary on the book of Revelation, which is still held in high regard today by Roman Catholics. He argued the seven stars and the seven candlesticks seen by John signify seven periods of Church history, from its formation to the return of Christ for the final judgment. He also advocated that the seven periods correspond to the seven churches of Asia Minor addressed by John in Revelation, a view shared by many protestant premillennialists. According to Holzhauser, “the fifth period of the Roman Catholic Church began in 1520, would extend until the time of the ‘Holy Pope,’ and that fifth period would be marked by major wars, the loss of Roman Catholic Church influence, moral laxity, and that Moslems would again rise up to cause the Latin Church problems.”[xxii]
Various descriptions of the fifth period well describe recent history within and without the Catholic Church. For example, the once-Christian West has sunk to new lows in terms of promiscuity, birth control, abortion, and the widespread acceptance of homosexuality. Even so, Catholic moral influence waned largely due to the hypocrisy entailed by the institutional cover up of the worldwide pedophile-priest scandal. (Detailed in our book, Petrus Romanus).
Pope Francis seems to match the description of the “Holy Pope” presiding during a modern Muslim uprising. Even more, the “Holy Pope” is prophesied to bring the Eastern Orthodox back into communion with Rome. Right on cue, in an address to the Orthodox Church of St. George in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), Pope Francis said, “the one thing that the Catholic Church desires and that I seek as Bishop of Rome…is communion with the Orthodox Churches.”[xxiii] Francis then followed this in February 2016 by meeting with Patriarch Kirill in a “first-ever papal meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, an historic development in the 1,000-year schism that divided Christianity.” [xxiv]
After the fifth period of darkness, chastisement and restoration, Catholic prophecies predict a Great Monarch will arise to vanquish Islam and turn the world to Rome. Holzhauser prophesied:
There rise a valiant King anointed by God. He will be a Catholic and a descendant of Louis IX, yet a descendant also of an old German imperial family, born in exile. He will rule supreme in temporal matters.[xxv]
While many Catholic seers imply a restored French monarchy (almost impossible politically), the hero is predicted to be crowned king of the restored Holy Roman Empire. Dupont commented, “But the restoration of Monarchy will not be a local affair; it will be a world-wide phenomenon. This will mark a near historical epoch and, because of this, many people are finding it hard to believe.”[xxvi] Indeed, it’s even harder to believe that he will convert the world’s Muslims. Other prophecies cited predicting a French Monarch include:
Take notice that the Kingdom of the Franks is predestined by God for the defense of the Roman Church which is the only true Church of Christ. This kingdom shall someday be great among the kingdoms of the earth, and shall embrace all the limits of the Roman Empire, and shall submit all other kingdoms to its own scepter. (St. Rémi, fifth century)
Certain Doctors truly say that one of the Kings of the Frankish Empire shall possess it in its entirety which King shall live in the last time and shall be the greatest and last of Kings. (St. Anselm, eleventh century)
Peace will return to the world when the White Flower again takes possession of the throne of France. (St. Hidlegard, notably German, twelfth century)
The French people will ask for the good King, he who was chosen by God. He will come, this savior whom God has spared for France, this king who is not wanted now because he is dear to God’s Heart. He will ascend to the throne; he will free the Church and reassert the Pope’s rights. (The Ecstatic of Tours, nineteenth century)
Is not France “the tribe of Juda of the New Covenant” (St. Pius X)? (L’Abbé de Nantes, twenty-first century)[xxvii]
Leading a divinely inspired crusade, the Great Monarch is predicted to conquer many Middle Eastern nations, leading to the widespread conversion of Muslims to Roman Catholicism. A Catholic expert on private revelations,[xxviii] Dupont has collected many private revelations about the Great Monarch:
The Great Monarch…will conquer the (Middle) East. (Pareus, seventeenth century)
Cyprus, the Turks and Barbarians he will subdue. (Cataldus, fifth century)
The Eagle will also invade the Mohammedan countries. (St. Bridget, fourteenth century)
He shall destroy the Jewish and Mohammedan sects. (St. Bridget)
He shall destroy the Mohammedan sect and the rest of the infidels. (St. Francis of Paola, fifteenth century)
The Empire of the Mohammedans will be broken up (by him). (Ven. Holzhauser, seventeenth century)
He shall subdue to his dominion the Mohammedan Empire. (Gekner, seventeenth century)
He shall reign over the House of Agar (Hagar), and shall possess Jerusalem. (Isidore of Seville, seventh century)
He shall wrestle the Kingdom of the Christians from Ishmael, and conquer it from the Saracens. None of the Saracens shall be able to prevail. (Liber Mirabilis, sixteenth century)[xxix]
Dupont, naively, credits the following prophecy to the fourth-century theologian St. Methodius of Olympus:
A day will come when the enemies of Christ will boast of having conquered the whole world. They will say, “Christians cannot escape now!” But a Great King will arise to defeat the enemies of God. He will defeat them, and peace will be given to the world, and the Church will be freed from her anxieties.[xxx]
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[i] William McCants, The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State, Kindle Edition, (St. Martin’s Press, 2015). Kindle Location 79.
[ii] Ibid., 185–186.
[iii] Ibid. 237–239.
[iv] Ibid., 525–530.
[v] Louise Sassoon, “Russia Refuses to Rule Out Use of Nuclear Weapons in Fight against ISIS,” Mirror Online, UK, http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/russia-refuses-rule-out-use-6985903 accessed December 14, 2015.
[vi]Atoosa Moinzadeh, “Islamic State Claims It Downed Russian Airliner—But Cause Remains Unclear,” Vice News, November 1, 2015, https://news.vice.com/article/islamic-state-claims-it-downed-russian-airliner-but-cause-remains-unclear accessed December 19, 2015.
[vii] Barbara Starr and Catherine E. Shoichet, “Russian Plane Crash: U.S. Intel Suggests ISIS Bomb Brought Down Jet” CNN, Novembern4, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/04/africa/russian-plane-crash-egypt-sinai/index.html, accessed December 14, 2015.
[viii] Sassoon, “Russia ‘Refuses to Rule Out.’”
[ix]Andras Kraft, “The Last Roman Emperor and the Mahdī—On the Genesis of a Contentious Politico-Religious Topos,” Proceedings of the international Symposium Byzantium and The Arab World Encounter of Civilizations (Thessaloniki, 16–18 December 2011) https://ceu.academia.edu/AndrasKraft.
[x]Paul Julius Alexander, The Byzantine Apocalyptic Tradition, ed. Dorothy de F Abrahamse (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 15.
[xii] Ernst Sackur, Sibyllinische Texte und Forschungen: Pseudomethodius, Adso und die Tiburtinische Sibylle (Halle : Max Niemeyer , 1898), 185.
[xv]Catalin Negru, History of Apocalypse.
[xvi] “Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius,” Orthodoxwiki, http://orthodoxwiki.org/Apocalypse_of_Pseudo-Methodius#cite_note-0, accessed December 19, 2015.
[xvii] Ernst Sackur, Sibyllinische Texte und Forschungen: Pseudomethodius, Adso und die TiburtinischeSibylle (Halle : Max Niemeyer , 1898), 80–83, http://ubsm.bg.ac.rs/engleski/dokument/624/sibyllinische-texte-und-forschungen-pseudomethodius-adso-unit-die-tiburtinische-sibylle.
[xviii]Sackur, Sibyllinische Texte, 89–94.
[xix]Desmond A. Birch, Trial, Tribulation and Triumph: Before, During, and After Antichrist (Santa Barbara, CA.: Queenship Publishing, 1996).
[xx]Dupont, Catholic Prophecy, 9.
[xxi]Birch, Trial, Tribulation and Triumph.
[xxii]Dupont, Catholic Prophecy, 38–44.
[xxiii]“Pope Francis: I Seek Communion with Orthodox Churches,” Vatican Radio, http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/11/30/pope_francis_i_seek_communion_with_orthodox_churches/1113017, accessed July 29, 2015.
[xxv] Yves Dupont, Catholic Prophecy: The Coming Chastisement (Rockford IL, Tan Books, 1970), 43.
[xxvi] Yves Dupont, “More about the Great Monarch and the Glorious Age of Peace to Come Under the Reign of the Great Monarch,” Today’s Catholic World, October 17.2006, http://www.todayscatholicworld.com/great-catholic-monarch.htm, accessed July 29, 2015.
[xxviii]Dupont has authored many books on the subject for Tan Publishing.
[xxix] Dupont, “More About the Great Monarch.”
[xxx]Dupont, Catholic Prophecy, 13.