Joseph Mede

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Joseph Mede[1] (1586 in Berden – 1639) was an English scholar with a wide range of interests. He was educated at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he became a Fellow from 1613.[2] He is now remembered as a biblical scholar.[3] He was also a naturalist and Egyptologist. He was a Hebraist, and became Lecturer of Greek.[4]

Early life[edit]

In the will of Thomas Meade of Berden, 1595[5] there is a bequest "Item I give and bequeath to Joseph my son sixty pounds of good and lawful money to be paid to him at his full age of one and twenty years."

According to Jeffrey K. Jue, in Heaven Upon Earth,[6] “Little is known of Mede’s childhood, other than the fact that at ten years of age both he and his father fell ill from smallpox. His father never recovered and his mother remarried a certain Mr. Gower from Nasing. Mede had two sisters, Rebecca and Sister Casse.” That Joseph had a sister Rebecca is confirmed in his father’s will:[7] “Item I give and bequeath to my two daughters that is to say Anna Meade and Rebecca Meade to every of [them] xxvii li vi s viii d of lawful money to be paid to them and every of them as they come to their several ages of xviii.”

According to Venn's Alumni Cantabrigienses[8], Thomas Meade, who had also been at Christ's College Cambridge, matriculating 1564, was "doubtless son of Edward Meade of Berden, Essex".


His Clavis Apocalyptica[9] (1627 in Latin, English translation 1643,[10] Key of the Revelation Searched and Demonstrated[11]) was a widely influential work on the interpretation of the Book of Revelation. It projected the end of the world by 1716: possibly in 1654.[12] The book also posited that the Jews would be miraculously converted to Christianity before the second coming.[13]

Christopher Hill considers that Mede deliberately refrained from publication.[14] His interpretation of the Book of Daniel[15] and The Apostasy of Latter Times[16] were published posthumously. On demons, he explained at least some mental illness as demonic.[17] His collected Works were published in 1665, edited by John Worthington.


Those following Mede in part as a chronologist and interpreter included Thomas Goodwin, Pierre Jurieu, Isaac Newton,[18][19] and Aaron Kinne (1745–1824). As a critical scholar of the Bible, he started the discussion of the possible multiple authorship of the Book of Zechariah, subsequently taken up by Richard Kidder (1633–1703) and many others.[20]

Richard Popkin[21] attributes Mede's interpretation to countering scepticism, which gave it power to convince others, including the Hartlib circle. John Coffey[22] writes:

The ecumenist Scotsman John Dury, the German scientist Samuel Hartlib, and the Czech educationalist Comenius had each been profoundly influenced by the millenarianism of Alsted and Mede, and seem to have seriously entertained the idea that London was the centre from which human knowledge and divine rule would spread.

Coffey also says, however, that millenarianism was rare in the 1630s, coming in only later as an important force. William Twisse, of the Westminster Assembly, added a preface to the 1643 Key to the Revelation, a testimonial to its convincing power.[23]

Among Mede's pupils at Christ's was Henry More. John Milton studied at Christ's in Mede's time, and is considered to have been influenced by his ideas; but scholars have not found evidence that he was a pupil.[24]

Those following Mede's views in Doctrine of Demons include Arthur Ashley Sykes and Dr. Richard Mead.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joseph Meade, Joseph Mead.
  2. ^ "Meade, Joseph (MD603J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ Book of Revelation in England
  4. ^ Concise Dictionary of National Biography, under Joseph Mead.
  5. ^ Will of Thomas Meade of Berden, Essex, 1595, Consistory Court of London, at London Metropolitan Archives
  6. ^ Jeffrey K. Jue, Heaven Upon Earth, Chapter Two, Biography. p. 8,
  7. ^ Transcription of Thomas Meade’s will, 1595
  8. ^
  9. ^ Illustration of a timeline from the work
  10. ^ online text
  11. ^ Hugh Trevor-Roper, Religion, the Reformation & Social Change (1956) says by the MP Richard More (p. 248); also CDNB, giving constituency Bishop's Castle, death in 1643.
  12. ^ Christopher Hill, Milton and the English Revolution, p. 33.
  13. ^ Scult, Mel (1978). Millennial Expectations and Jewish Liberties: A Study of the Efforts to Convert the Jews in Britain, Up to the Mid Nineteenth Century. Brill Archive. pps. 20–21.
  14. ^ A Nation of Change and Novelty (1990), p. 54.
  15. ^ online text
  16. ^ online text
  17. ^ Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971), p. 585; Mede, S. Iohn 10.20. He hath a Devill, and is mad, published posthumously; [1]
  18. ^ Newton developed a method for the interpretation of prophecy based on the writings of the early seventeenth-century Cambridge divine, Joseph Mede. Mede's views were widely accepted and the scheme that Newton propounded to bring consistency to the unravelling of prophetic symbolism was not in itself controversial. (PDF) Archived 6 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^
  20. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Zacharias" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  21. ^ Pimlico/Columbia, History of Western Philosophy (1998), p. 334.
  22. ^ PDF Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, p. 126.
  23. ^ Christopher Hill (1993), The English Bible and the Seventeenth-Century Revolution, p.304.
  24. ^ Mede, Milton and More: Christ's College Millenarians by Sarah Hutton, in Milton and the Ends of Time, edited by Juliet Cummins, ISBN 978-0-521-81665-6, ISBN 0-521-81665-3.


  • Jeffrey K. Jue (2006), Heaven Upon Earth: Joseph Mede (1586–1638) and the Legacy of Millenarianism, Dordrecht: Springer.