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Apocalypse (A User's Manual): Joseph Mede, the Interpretation of Prophecy, and the Dream Book of Achmet

Haugen, Kristine Louise (2010) Apocalypse (A User's Manual): Joseph Mede, the Interpretation of Prophecy, and the Dream Book of Achmet. Seventeenth Century, 25 (2). pp. 215-239. ISSN 0268-117X. doi:10.1080/0268117X.2010.10555647.

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[Introduction]. In 1632, the English theologian Joseph Mede proposed a new avenue for interpreting a text whose importance, for him and others, was literally worldhistorical. The biblical Apocalypse, Mede announced, should be read with the help of a Near Eastern book of ancient dream interpretations attributed to 'an Arab' called Achmet. Once it was understood that John's prophecies were, on one level, an accurate prediction of the course of world political history, Achmet's book of symbols allowed the attentive reader to cut with confidence through the Apocalypse's morass of bloody seas, horned beasts, and astronomical prodigies to determine exactly what part of John's prophecy was past and what was yet to come. Because these were among the clearest claims in Mede's Commentarius apocalypseos ('Commentary on the Apocalypse') - a book written to aid the bewildered readers of his even more difficult Clavis apocalyptica ('Key to the Apocalypse') of 1627 - and because both of Mede's books were later published in English by order of the Long Parliament in 1643, Achmet's name gained large currency among Protestant interpreters of prophecy throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 1 Nor did those interpreters confine themselves merely to repeating Mede. As late as 1796, an anonymous British follower of Joseph Priestley discovered, with the aid of 'the Oriental oneirocritics', that John had prophesied both the French and American Revolutions.2 If Achmet is little known today outside Byzantinist circles - and was little known to early modern readers before Mede's intervention - his seventeenth-century rise to fame deserves our attention not least because it reveals the priorities and the manifold difficulties of a typical scholarly churchman.

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Additional Information:Published online: 02 Jan 2013. c2010 Taylor and Francis.
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20150301-170111495
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:55358
Deposited By: Kristine Haugen
Deposited On:02 Mar 2015 20:42
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 20:45

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