St. Jerome (his actual name, Hieronymos, is Greek) lived c.347-420 AD; he is a Post-Nicene Father (the Council of Nicaea was held in 325). He wrote a number of commentaries, letters, and tracts. His views on eschatology are scattered throughout his writings. Seeing as some of these are less accessible than others, I have elected to take quotations from his Commentary on Daniel, which is an obviously eschatological text. I have accessed Gleason L. Archer’s translation of 1958 at http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/jerome_daniel_01_intro.htm .
Dan. 7:7 ‘”. ..and it had ten horns.” Porphyry assigned the last two beasts, that of the Macedonians and that of the Romans, to the one realm of the Macedonians and divided them up as follows. He claimed that the leopard was Alexander himself, and that the beast which was dissimilar to the others represented the four successors of Alexander, and then he enumerates ten kings up to the time of Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, and who were very cruel. And he did not assign the kings themselves to separate kingdoms, for example Macedon, Syria, Asia, or Egypt, but rather he made out the various kingdoms a single realm consisting of a series. This he did of course in order that the words which were written: “.. .a mouth uttering overweening boasts” [in the last part of verse 8] might be considered as spoken about Antiochus instead of about Antichrist.’
This text indicates that Jerome considered the 11th Horn on the 4th Beast to be referring to the Antichrist, and not Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who is mentioned in 1 and 2 Maccabees. This belief is shared by many modern (Protestant and Orthodox) students of eschatology. The question of who the Antichrist is and when he appears relative to Jerome will inform us as to whether Jerome supported a preterist interpretation (Antichrist = Nero or Domitian, 1st century AD) or a futurist one.
‘Verse 8. “I was looking at the horns, and behold, another small horn rose up out of the midst of them, and three of the earlier horns were torn away before it. And behold, there were in that horn eyes like unto human eyes, and a mouth uttering overweening boasts.” Porphyry vainly surmises that the little (p. 531) horn which rose up after the ten horns is Antiochus Epiphanes, and that the three uprooted horns out of the ten are (A) Ptolemy VI (surnamed Philometer), Ptolemy VII (Euergetes), and Artaraxias, King of Armenia. The first two of these kings died long before Antiochus was born. Against Artarxias, to be sure, we know that Antiochus indeed waged war, but also we know that Artarxias remained in possession of his original kingly authority. We should therefore concur with the traditional interpretation of all the commentators of the Christian Church, that at the end of the world, when the Roman Empire is to be destroyed, there shall be ten kings who will partition the Roman world amongst themselves. Then an insignificant eleventh king will arise, who will overcome three of the ten kings, that is, the king of Egypt, the king of [North] Africa, and the king of Ethiopia, as we shall show more clearly in our later discussion. Then after they have been slain, the seven other kings also will bow their necks to the victor. “And behold,” he continues, “there were eyes like unto human eyes in that horn.” Let us not follow the opinion of some commentators and suppose him to be either the Devil or some demon, but rather, one of the human race, in whom Satan will wholly take up his residence in bodily form. “. . .and a mouth uttering overweening boasts…” (cf. II Thess. 2). For this is the man of sin, the son of perdition, and that too to such a degree that he dares to sit in the temple of God, making himself out to be like God.’
This text tells us that Jerome was of a futurist persuasion. He places the 11 Horns at a time when “the Roman Empire is to be destroyed” (emphasis mine). Because of the grammatical tense-logic of the sentence and the fact that the Roman Empire had not been destroyed in Jerome’s day (neither West nor East), we may conclude that Jerome believed the 11 Horns to be still future to him. Since he identifies the 11th Horn as Antichrist, and the 11th Horn is still future to him, Jerome, the Antichrist cannot be Nero, Vespasian, Titus, or Domitian, who all lived long before Jerome. Furthermore, Jerome affirms that his interpretation is in accordance with “the traditional interpretation of all the commentators of the Christian Church”. Allowing for rhetorical exaggeration, this text still strongly implies that the futurist interpretation was common, if not prevalent, among the writers/Fathers who came before Jerome, i.e. held by the pre-Nicene Church. Notice also that Jerome identifies the Antichrist, a term taken from the Apostle John’s writings, with the “son of perdition” found in Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians (chapter 2). Thus Jerome believed that this 11th Horn would proclaim himself to be God in God’s Temple at a time still future to him, Jerome, and would do all the things he is said to do in the Book of Daniel. Now, if Jerome believed the Temple in 2 Thess. 2 to be the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem/Shiloh, then this text implies that Jerome believed the Jewish Temple would be rebuilt in the future. Nor was this foolish speculation. Ammianus Marcellinus, a Roman historian, records the fact that the emperor Julian the Apostate tried to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Julian the Apostate was in fact a partial contemporary of Jerome: Julian lived from 331 to 363 AD.
‘Verses 17, 18. “These four great beasts are the four kingdoms which shall arise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High God shall take the kingdom.” The four kingdoms of which we have spoken above were earthly in character. “For everything which is of the earth shall return to earth” (Eccl. 3:20). But the saints shall never possess an earthly kingdom, but only a heavenly. Away, then, with the fable about a millennium! [Cesset ergo mille annorum fabula.]’
This text tells us that Jerome was not premillennial in his eschatology. However, he was futurist, which is an unusual combination in today’s world, since many amilliennialists and post-millennialists are preterist in their eschatology. Jerome’s view, then, appears to be something like this:
Church Age/Millennium > Fall of Roman Empire > Antichrist’s Reign (Abomination of Desolation) > Second Coming of Christ > Last Judgement > Eternity
This view corresponds roughly to a view held in some (but not all) Roman Catholic circles.
‘“. . .And they shall possess the kingdom unto eternity, even forever and ever. …” If this be taken to refer to the Maccabees, the advocate of this position should explain how the kingdom of the Maccabees is of a perpetual character.’
Again, this text clearly shows that Jerome was not a preterist in his interpretation of Daniel.
“. . .And he shall crush the saints of the Most High, and will suppose himself to be able to alter times and laws.” The Antichrist will wage war against the saints and will overcome them; and he shall exalt himself to such a height of arrogance as to attempt changing the very laws of God and the sacred rites as well. He will also lift himself up against all that is called God, subjecting all religion to his own authority.
‘”. . .And they shall be delivered into his hand for a time, and times, and half a time.” “Time” is equivalent to “year.” The word “times,” according to the idiom of the Hebrews (who also possess the dual number) represents “two years.” [The Aramaic original here, according to the Massoretic vowel pointing, has the plural ending —-iyn, not the dual ending —-ayin. To be sure, the consonantal text could also be pointed as dual.] The half a year signifies “six months.” During this period the saints are to be given over to the power of the Antichrist, in order that those Jews might be condemned who did not believe the truth but supported a lie. The Savior also speaks of this period in the Gospel, saying: “Unless those days had been cut short, no flesh would be saved” (Matt. 24:22). In the final vision we shall assert the inappropriateness of this period to Antiochus.’
These texts show us very clearly that St Jerome had a personal Antichrist in view who would rule for 3.5 years prior to the coming of Christ. In denying the interpretation of Antiochus Epiphanes as fulfilling this passage, Jerome moves its fulfilment forward into the future.
So, why is all of this important? For me, at least, it is because Jerome provides me with a bridge to my brethren in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. By choosing to make the Millennium a secondary issue (Jerome as an amillennialist did not agree with Hippolytus who was a premillennialist), we can instead focus on the theme that is consistent and agreed upon across the fathers: the future time of trouble for the church under the reign of the Antichrist. Why have I chosen such a dark point to focus on? Well, the reason is not to prioritise it over the hope inspired by Christ’s Second Coming, when He shall reward the faithful. Rather, I have chosen this because of its pastoral relevance: in the New Testament, Jesus, Paul, and John tell us of the Antichrist, not to satisfy our curiosity, but for two chief reasons. A) Because his coming is a sign that Christ’s coming is near (c. 3.5 years away); B) To warn us regarding spiritual deception and persecution. The Copts in Egypt and the Assyrian Catholics have been living with this reality under Islam for years.