The article examines the formation and development of the idea and cult of Old Believers in the Russian Empire. The doctrine of the Antichrist in the Russian Orthodox tradition, which had a literal character, is analyzed. It is shown that in the Western Christian tradition there was no clear and distinct doctrine of the Antichrist. Antichrists were usually called opponents of the Church and political opponents. These views later influenced the formation of the Old Believer theory of the dismembered Antichrist. In intra-Protestant polemics, representatives of other, ideologically hostile, Protestant currents were called antichrists. It is proved that the Old Believers' doctrine of the spiritual Antichrist was most influenced by two books published before the split: «The Book of Cyril of Jerusalem» and «The Book of Faith». Moreover, they both gained authority among the various versions of Old Believers. The crisis of the concept of the Third Rome, the decline of piety and other events, influenced the further development of the Old Believers, who did not accept Nikon's reforms, and who became in rigid religious opposition to them. As the Antichrist the Old Believers had in mind a particular person, such as Patriarch Nikon, king Alexei Mikhailovich, Arseniy the Greek — a prominent figure in Nikon's reforms, Emperor Peter I, etc., thus expressing their opposition to them. Another part of Old Believers tried to think about the Antichrist not literally, but allegorically. Thus, the theory that the Antichrist is a departure from the true faith was gradually consolidated. Thus, Old Believers divided into those who understand the Antichrist spiritually, and the «sensualists» − supporters of a literal interpretation of this image. The difference in views on the figure of the Antichrist became decisive in the division of Old Believers into two directions: popovtsy and nepopovtsy.
Source: Аndrii E. Lebid, Anatolii Makogon (2022). History of Old Believers in the Russian Empire in the 17th and early 20th centuries in the Context of the Development of their Dogmatic Doctrine. Bylye Gody. 17(4): 1538-1550
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