The Sibylline Oracles
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In addition to the books already enumerated several fragments of oracles taken from the works of Theophilus and Lactantius are printed in the later editions.
In form the Pagan , Christian , and Jewish Oracles are alike. They all purport to be the work of the sibyls, and are expressed in hexameter verses in the so-called Homeric dialect. The contents are of the most varied character and for the most part contain references to peoples, kingdoms, cities, rulers, temples , etc. It is futile to attempt to find any order in the plan which governed their composition.
The perplexity occasioned by the frequent change of theme can perhaps be accounted for by the supposition that they circulated privately, as the Roman Government tolerated only the official collection, and that their present arrangement represents the caprice of different owners or collectors who brought them together from various sources.
There is in some of the books a general theme, which can be followed only with difficulty. Though there are occasionally verses which are truly poetical and sublime, the general character of the Sibylline Oracles is mediocre. The order in which the books are enumerated does not represent their relative antiquity, nor has the most searching criticism been able accurately to determine how much is Christian and how much Jewish.
Book IV is generally considered to embody the oldest portions of the oracles, and while many of the older critics saw in it elements which were considered to be Christian , it is now looked on as completely Jewish. Book V has given rise to many divergent opinions, some claiming it as Jewish, others as the work of a Christian Jew , and others as being largely interpolated by a Christian.
It contains so little that can be considered Christian that it can safely be set down as Jewish. Some authors Mendelssohn, Alexandre, Geffcken describe Book VI as an heretical hymn , but this contention has no evidence in its favour. It dates most probably from the third century. Book VIII offers peculiar difficulties; the first verses are most likely the work of a second century Jew , while the latter part verses beginning with an acrostic on the symbolical Christian word Icthus is undoubtedly Christian , and dates most probably from the third century.
In the form in which they are now found the other four books are probably the work of Christian authors. Book XI might have been written either by a Christian or a Jew in the third century, and Book XIV of the same doubtful provenance dates from the fourth century. The peculiar Christian circle in which these compositions originated cannot be determined, neither can it be asserted what motive prompted their composition except as a means of Christian propaganda. But even these, Having a haughty heart and rushing on To ruin, shall at last resolve to fight Against the starry heaven.
And then the stream Of the great ocean shall upon them pour Its raging waters. But the mighty Lord Of Sabaoth though enraged shall check his wrath, Because he promised that again no flood Should be brought upon men of evil soul. But when the great high-thundering God shall cause The boundless swelling of the many waters-- With their waves hither and thither rising high-- To cease from wrath, and into other depths Of sea their measure lessen, setting bounds By harbors and rough headlands round the land; Then also shall a child of the great God Come, clothed in flesh, to men, and fashioned like To mortals in the earth; and he doth hear.
See book iii, Four vowels, and two consonants in him Are twice announced; the whole sum I will name: For eight ones, and as many tens on these, And yet eight hundred will reveal the name To men insatiate; and do thou discern In thine own understanding that the Christ Is child of the immortal God most high. And he shall fulfill God's law, not destroy, Bearing his very image, and all things Shall he teach.
Unto him shall priests convey And offer gold, and myrrh, and frankincense; For all these things he'll also bring to pass.
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But when a voice shall through the desert land Come bearing tidings to men, and to all Shall call to make straight paths, and from the heart Cast wickedness out and illuminate With water all the bodies of mankind, That being born again they may no more From what is righteous go at all astray-- And one of barbarous mind, by dances bound, Cutting that voice off shall bestow reward Four vowels. A voice.
Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. See also Apost. Then on a sudden there shall be a sign To mortals, when, watched over, there shall come Out of the land of Egypt a fair stone; And on it shall the Hebrew people stumble; But by his guiding nations shall be brought Together; for the God who rules on high They also shall know through him, and the way In common light.
For unto chosen men Will he show life eternal, but the fire Will be for ages on the lawless bring. And then shall he the sickly heal, and all Who are blameworthy who shall trust in him.. And then the blind shall see, the lame shall walk, The deaf shall hearken, and the dumb shall speak. And then shall Israel, drunken, not discern, Nor shall they hear, oppressed with feeble cars. Watched over. Common light. John i, Cited also by Lactantius in Div. Shall Israel give him cuffs and spittle drugged.
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But when his hands He shall spread forth and measure out all things, And bear the crown of thorns, and they shall pierce His side with reeds, for which dark monstrous night Shall be for three hours in the midst of day, Then also shall the temple of Solomon Bring to an end a mighty sign for men, When he shall to the house of Hades go Proclaiming resurrection to the dead.
But when in three days he shall come again Unto the light, and show his form to men And teach all things, ascending in the clouds Unto the house of heaven shall he go Leaving the world a Gospel convenant. And in his name shall blossom a new shoot From nations that are guided by the law Of the Mighty One.
But also after this There shall be wise guides, and then afterward There shall be a cessation of the prophets. After that, when the Hebrew people reap Their evil harvest, shall a Roman king Much gold and silver utterly destroy. And afterward shall other royal powers Continuously arise as kingdoms perish,. Roman king. And they will oppress mortals. But great fall Shall be for those men, when they shall begin Unrighteous arrogance. But when the temple Of Solomon in the holy land shall fall, Cast down by barbarous men in brazen mail, And from the land the Hebrews shall be driven Wandering and wasted, and among the wheat They shall much darnel mingle, there shall be Evil contention among, all mankind; And the cities suffering outrage shall bewail Each other, in their breasts receiving wrath Of the great God, since they wrought evil work.
Introduction, A time of plagues and wickedness, The tenth race, A time of peace, Great sign and contest, A chapter of proverbs, The contest, Woes of the last generation, Events of the last day, Resurrection and judgment, Punishment of the wicked, Blessedness of the righteous, Some saved from the fire, The Sibyl's wail, Now while I much entreated God restrained My wise song, also in my breast again He put the charming voice of words divine.
But when on earth come shocks, fierce thunderbolts, Thunders and lightnings, storms, and evil blight, And rage of jackals and of wolves, manslaughter, 10 Destruction of men and of lowing kine, Four-footed cattle and laborious mules, And goats and sheep, then shall the ample field Be barren from neglect, and fruits shall fail, And there shall be a selling of their freedom 15 Among most men, and robbery of temples.
And then shall, after these, appear of men The tenth race, when the earth-shaking Lightener Shall break the zeal for idols and shall shake The people of seven-hilled Rome, and riches great. This second book appears to be a continuation of the preceding, and was probably written by the same author, In several manuscripts the two books are found united and placed after the third book. The appropriation of verses from the third and eighth books shows the later composition of these first two books, which our compiler assigned to their present position on account of their contents.
I know not. Plato, Apol.
And then shall bloody signs from heaven descend But yet the whole world of unnumbered men Enraged shall kill each other, and in tumult Shall God send famines, plagues, and thunderbolts 25 On men who, without justice, judge of rights. And lack of men shall be in all the world, So that if anyone beheld a trace Of man on earth, he would be wonderstruck. And then shall the great God who dwells in heaven 30 Saviour of pious men in all things prove.
And then shall there be peace and wisdom deep, And the fruit-bearing land shall yield again Abundant fruits, divided not in parts Nor yet enslaved. And every harbor then, 35 And every haven, shall be free to men As formerly, and shamelessness shall perish. And then will God show mortals a great sign: For like a lustrous crown shall shine a star, Bright, all-resplendent, from the radiant heaven 40 Days not a few; and then will he display From heaven a crown for contest unto men Who wrestle.
And then there shall be again A mighty contest of triumphal march. There seems to be a lacuna of one line after this, containing perhaps a mention of omens and drops of blood, as in book xii, 73, where a similar thought is found. Contest of triumphal march. See Pliny, book x, Epis. Alexandre conjectures that this whole passage lines concerning contests and crowns was first written in a time of persecution to inspire to fidelity; but after persecution had ceased it was accommodated to the more common struggles of the Christian life.
Into the heavenly sky, and it shall be 45 For all men in the world, and have the fame Of immortality. And every people Shall then in the immortal contests strive For splendid victory. For no one there Can shamelessly with silver buy a crown. And unto chaste men who run their race well 55 Will he the incorruptible reward Of the prize give, and to all men allot That which is due, and also to strange nations That live a holy life and know one God.
And those who have regard for marriages 60 And keep themselves far from adulteries, To them rich gifts, eternal hope, he'll give. For every human soul is God's free gift, And 'tis not right men stain it with vile deeds. The passage beginning here and ending with line , and consisting mainly of proverbs, has every appearance of an interpolation. It breaks the connection of thought and the figure of the iselastic contest, which is continued in lines Very few, however, will seriously accept these lines as a genuine production of a contemporary of Theognis.
They are without much doubt the composition of a Christian writer, and possibly, but not probably, by the author of the second book of the Sibylline Oracles.
The variations between the two texts are considerable, the Sibyllines adding many lines not found in Phocylides, and Phocylides having a few not found in the Sibyllines. Be satisfied With what thou hast and keep thyself from that Which is another's. Speak not what is false, But have a care for all things that are true.
Revere not idols vainly; but the God 40 Imperishable honor always first, And next thy parents. Render all things due, And into unjust judgment come thou not. Do not cast out the poor unrighteously, Nor judge by outward show; if wickedly 75 Thou judgest, God hereafter will judge thee.
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Avoid false testimony; tell the truth. Maintain thy virgin purity, and guard Love among all. Deal measures that are just; For beautiful is measure full to all. Forswear not ignorantly nor willingly; God hates the perjured man in that he swore.
A gift proceeding out of unjust deeds Never receive in hand. Do not steal seed; 85 Accursed through many generations he Who took it unto scattering of life. Indulge not vile lusts, slander not, nor kill. Give the toilworn his hire; do not afflict The poor man. Unto orphans help afford 90 And to widows and the needy. Talk with sense; Hold fast in heart a secret.