538 A.D. and the Transition from Pagan Roman Empire to Holy Roman Empire: Justinian’s Metamorphosis from Chief of Staffs to Theologian

Author Faculty (Discipline)


Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Details

This article was originally published as:

Ahn, K., Damsteegt, G., de Kock, E., Kim, S., Kwon, J., … van Wyk, K. (2017). 538 A.D. and the transition from Pagan Roman Empire to Holy Roman Empire: Justinian’s metamorphosis from chief of staffs to theologian. IInternational Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 7(1), 44-85. Retrieved from http://www.ijhssnet.com/journals/Vol_7_No_1_January_2017/7.pdf

ISSN: 2221-0989


220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)

Reportable Items



The year 538 A.D. became the turning point in the history of the Roman Empire since so many aspects on political, administrative and economical levels were already switched off that when Justinian declared himself to be a theologian from this year and no longer a soldier, he crossed the barrier of his mandate between what is purely civil obligation and what is religious obligation, similarly to Constantine before, and entered in competition with the papal function and this role is evidence of Justinian’s ongoing caesaro-papism. The quest for unification of the empire by unification of the church, the fever for church-building projects with his wife Theodora, the persecution of enemies of the church and heretics, his disdain with the Sabbath although his second name was Sabbatini, his support for suppressing any eschatological fever in line with the church fathers and Oecumenius and yet trying to build the ‘Kingdom of God’ on earth, all this indicate the problem 538 was for the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church. Archaeological and historical original sources of Justinian and contemporaries of popes, biographer of Justinian and a commentator on Revelation (Oecumenius) are very revealing of these times and the shift or transition of what belonged to the Roman Empire handed over since 538 A.D. to the church and the papal function. The Code of Justinian was a persecuting instrument. Justinian upheld the supremacy of the papacy. He permitted through the Council of Orleans actions to be done on Sunday that Constantine prohibited like travel and preparation of food and cleaning the house. In Novellae CXLIV Justinian instituted a Seventh-day Sabbath persecution. He changed the times and laws ad hoc as his Novellae XLVI and coins of 538 A.D. (XII year) indicate. Private gatherings were persecuted. He had church-manual laws. Justinian studied Systematic Theology on the nature of Christ and wrote homiletical rules for preachers. He gave textcritical advice to Jews and condemned their doctrinal deviations. This theological hobby of the ruler of the once mighty Roman Empire was to be taken over by a more theological competent power that would eventually lead to papal-caesarism until the unsettling of this new aggrandizing paradigm in 1798 by Napoleon. The prophetic embedding of the 1260 days as “years” prophecies in both Daniel 7 and Revelation 12 definitely started in 538 A.D. contrary to W. Spicer’s (1918) suggestion of 533 or 538 as two alternative dates or any other dates suggested by other scholars in the history of interpretation in historicism. It is also not just a case of history of interpretation hermeneutics but data solidly supported by archaeology, iconography and original historical sources that coincides with the parameters provided by exegesis of the rest of the Books of Daniel and Revelation added with the exegesis of the detail of the passages under consideration. A necessary ingredient for the historical researcher remains to be the faith that God can predict the future and He did and that the data as well as the prophecies of the Biblical Text are evidence of that.


Used by permission: International Journal of Humanities and Social Science and the authors.

This article may be accessed from the publisher here.

At the time of writing Sook Young Kim and Koot van Wyk were affiliated with Avondale College of Higher Education as Conjoint faculty.