Andrew Gow (History and Classics, University of Alberta, Canada)
Journal of Millennial Studies: Volume I, Issue 1, Spring (1998)
It would not be difficult to dismiss the legend of the Antichrist in its medieval manifestations as pure fantasy — analogous to such entertaining motifs as fire-breathing dragons, unicorns, enchantments and the like. The Antichrist was, in our terms, an ‘imaginary’ figure, a product of the collective, historical, theological, mythopoeic functions of the imagination. In our terms; to medieval and early modern Christians, the Antichrist was a terrifying reality. Matthew of Janow (†1394) wrote that the Antichrist was so universally and thoroughly discussed that when he appeared, even the little children would know him instantly.
From the time of the Church Fathers, learned Biblical exegesis has tended to interpret the Beast of Revelation 13, the basis of the Antichrist legend, as a corporate entity—the totality and final sum of evil in the world. However, many medieval and early modern commentators (even many who wrote in Latin) were less concerned with precise Biblical scholarship than with that part of the Christian tradition which they knew best.