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written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the Siby ls, prophetesses who uttered divine revelations in a frenzied state. Fourteen bo oks and eight fragments of Sibylline Oracles survive. These are not considered t o be identical to the original Sibylline Books of Roman mythology, which have be en lost, but a collection of utterances that were composed or edited under vario us circumstances, between perhaps the middle of the 2nd century BC and the 5th c entury AD. The Sibylline Oracles are a valuable source for information about Classical myth ology and early first millennium Gnostic, Jewish and Christian beliefs. Some apo calyptic passages scattered throughout seem to adumbrate themes of John's Book o f Revelation and other Apocalyptic literature. In places the oracles have also u ndergone extensive editing, re-writing, and redaction, as they came to be exploi ted in wider circles. One passage has an acrostic, spelling out a Christian code-phrase with the first letters of successive lines. Contents 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Introduction Sources for the Sibylline texts History of the texts Contents See also References Sources Bibliography External links
Introduction The Sibylline Oracles in their existing form are a chaotic medley. They consist of 12 books (or 14) of various authorship, date, and religious conception. The f inal arrangement, thought to be due to an unknown editor of the 6th century (Ale xandre), does not determine identity of authorship, time, or religious belief; m any of the books are merely arbitrary groupings of unrelated fragments. These oracles were anonymous in origin and as such were apt to modification and enlargement at pleasure by Hellenistic Jews and by Christians for missionary pur poses. So common was the invention of such oracles in early Christian times that Celsus called Christians S?ß????sta? (sibyl-mongers or believers in sibyls). The preservation of the entire collection that has come down to us is due to Christi an writers. Sources for the Sibylline texts The oldest of the surviving Sibylline oracles seem to be books 3-5, which were c omposed partly by Jews in Alexandria. The third oracle seems to have been compos ed in the reign of Ptolemy VI Philometor. Books 1-2 may have been written by Chr istians, though again there may have been a Jewish original that was adapted to Christian purposes. All the oracles seem to have undergone later revision, enrichment, and adaptatio n by editors and authors of different religions, who added similar texts, all in the interests of their respective religions. The Sibylline oracles are therefor e a pastiche of Greek and Roman pagan mythology, employing motifs of Homer and H esiod; Judeo-Christian legends such as the Garden of Eden, Noah and the Tower of Babel; Gnostic and early Christian homilies and eschatological writings; thinly
all k new various versions of the pseudo-Sibylline collections. writing A Plea for the Christians to Marcus Aurelius in ca. which she commenced by the help of the Most High God. in spite of their pagan content. often por traying Rome in a negative light. as well as many allusions to the events of the later Roman Empire. whose edition appeared at Paris in 1599. kept in Rome . if he is truly the author of the Hortatory Address to the Greeks. as Lactantius: "The Erythraean Sibyl" in the beginning of her song. gives such a c ircumstantial account of the Cumaean sibyl that the Address is quoted here at th e Cumaean sibyl's entry. quoted them or referre d to them in paraphrase. Some have suggested that the surviving texts may include some fragments or remna nts of the Sibylline Books with a legendary provenance from the Cumaean Sibyl. and were unreluctant to Christianize them. The original oracular books. Lactantius (ca. in the midst of a lengthy series of classical and pagan references in cluding Homer and Hesiod. Bishop of Antioch (ca. Theophilus. The Christian apologist Athenagoras of Athens. The Catholic Encyclopedia states. 400). which resulted in an attempt i n 76 BC to recollect them when the Roman senate sent envoys throughout the world to discover copies. In 1545 Xystus Betuleius (Sixt Birck of Augsburg) pub lished at Basel an edition of eight books of oracles with a preface dating from perhaps the 6th century AD. from a manuscript in the Bi . and stated several times that all these works should a lready be familiar to the Roman Emperor. Better manuscripts were used by Johannes Opsopaeus. Justin Martyr (ca. though they were known and used d uring the Middle Ages in both the East and the West.veiled references to historical figures such as Alexander the Great and Cleopat ra. proclaims the Son of God as leader and commander of all in these verses: All-nourishing Creator. interest in them gradually diminished an d they ceased to be widely read or circulated. and Augustine (ca. 180). were often referred to by other early Church fathers. That use of the Sibylline Oracles was not always exclusive to Christians is show n by an extract from Book III concerning the Tower of Babel as quoted by the Jew ish historian Flavius Josephus. have sometimes been described as p art of the Pseudepigrapha. by as simple means as inserting "Son of God" into a passage. 17 65." Some fragmentary verses that do not appear in the collections that survive are o nly known because they were quoted by a Church Father. and the next year a version set in Latin verse appea red. in the late 1st century AD. This official copy existed until at least AD 405. and made God the guide of all. 150). "Through the decline and disappearance of paganism. w hich had been kept in temples in Rome. their initial publication caused a sensation among scholars. who in all Sweet breath implanted. Cleme nt of Alexandria (ca. The sibyls themselves. were accidentally destroyed in a fire in 83 BC. When they were recovered in the 16th century. In 1817 Angelo Mai edited a further book. AD 176. 305). They do not appear in the canonical lists of any Chur ch. 1788)." Thus. but littl e is known of their contents. quoted the same section of the extant Oracles verbatim. 200). a student may find e choes of their imagery and style in much early medieval literature. and the so-called Sibylline oracles. Later editions include those by Servaas Galle (Servatius: Amst erdam 1689) and by Andrea Gallandi in his Bibliotheca Veterum Patrum (Venice. however. These books. History of the texts Large collections of these Jewish and Christian oracles are still in existence.
Alexandre. nor has the most searching criticism b een able accurately to determine how much is Christian and how much Jewish. kingdoms. The general conclusion is that Books VI.blioteca Ambrosiana at Milan (Codex Ambrosianus) and later he discovered four mo re books. Books VI and VII are admittedly of Christian origin. the first 216 verses are most likely t he work of a second century Jew. Books I. while the latter part (verses 217-500) beginnin g with an acrostic on the symbolical Christian word Icthus is undoubtedly Christ ian. The order in which the books are enumerated doe s not represent their relative antiquity. printed in the later editions. Book VIII offers peculiar difficulties. The peculiar Christian circle in which these compositions originated cannot be determined. show that even more Sibylline oracles formerly existed. and XIII and the latter part o f Book VIII are wholly Christian. Bo oks XII and XIII are from the same pen. The Catholic Encyclopedi a suggests that "their present arrangement represents the caprice of different owners or col lectors who brought them together from various sources. XIII. Contents The so-called Sibylline oracles are couched in classical hexameter verses. it is now looked on as completely Jewish. XI.. and dates most probably from the third century. The c ontents are of the most varied character and for the most part contain reference s to peoples. Some authors (Men delssohn.. It cont ains so little that can be considered Christian that it can safely be set down a s Jewish. Book V has given rise to many divergent opinions. In the form in which they a re now found the other four books are probably the work of Christian authors. rulers. Books I and II are regarded as a Christian revision of a Jewish original . but an independent collection. but this c ontention has no evidence in its favour. It dates most probably from the third c entury. better texts also b ecame available for the parts previously published. and Book XIV of the same doubtful provenence dates from the fourth centu ry. the general character of th e Sibylline Oracles is mediocre. none of which were continuations of the eight previously printed. Several fragments of oracles taken from the works of Theophil us and Lactantius. These are numbered XI to XIV in later editions. Geffcken) describe Book VI as an heretical hymn. Though there are occas ionally verses which are truly poetical and sublime. some claiming it as Jewish." "Book IV is generally considered to embody the oldest portions of the oracle s. cities. temples. II. in the Vatican Library. etc. Book XI might have been written either by a Christian or a Jew in the third c entury. and XIV received t heir present form from a Christian. VII. In the course of the 19th century. neither can it be asserted what m otive prompted their composition except as a means of Christian propaganda. and while many of the older critics saw in it elements which were considered to be Christian." . and others as being largely interpolated by a Christian. others as the work of a Christian Jew. XII. It is futile to attempt to read any order into their plan or any connected theme. XII being a revision of a Jewish origina l.
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