SIBYLLINE ORACLES--appendix with early Christian commentary
Rabbinic writings, the Talmud, Madrash, Torah, Mishna, Tosefta, Haggada
Babylonia Talmud account of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem
The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
SIBYLLINE ORACLES--appendix with early Christian commentary
BOOK OF JASHER, Chapter 69-79 on Moses
ISAIAH'S MARTYDOM with commentary
Testament of Abraham
TESTAMENT OF ABRAHAM with commentary
Septuagint, Earliest Old Testament
Book of Jubilees, elaboration on Genesis and Exodus: part 2
Book of Jubilees: part 1, in the beginning
Book of Jubilees--Commentary
Jannes and Jambres
Old Testament & other ancient Hebrew texts with links

To gain understanding of the Sibylline Oracles of Christian and Jewish authors, one must turn to the Pagan origins upon which, being accepted in those days by Jews & Christians as prophetic.  In fact they didn’t in those days deny the Gods of the Pagan world, but rather said of them variously that they were devils, lesser gods, gods in rebellion against the authority of Yahweh, and that the ascriptions are essentially incorrect.  Thus a few Christians and Jews produced their own versions in the Pagan style, and these works in shortly thereafter these woks where held in high esteem. 


As for the Pagan Sibyl:  The world  Sibylla, of uncertain etymology, appears first in Heraclitus and was used as a proper name by the 5th cent. BC.  Specific oracles relating to events in the 4th cent. Appear to have been attributed to the Sibyl by Ephorus.  Originally the Sibyl seems to been a single prophetic women, but by the time of Heraclides a number of places claimed to be the birthplace of Sibylla.  Varro for his  Res Divinae lists ten.  Virgil offers a famous description of the Cumaean Sibyl uttering state prophecy under the inspiration of Apollo.  Legend has it that the collection first came to Rome in the reign of Tarquinius Priscus, who is said to have bought three books from the Cumaean Sibyl and placed them in the care of a priestly college {The story is that he at first refused to by them, and on each day subsequent to th3e offer to sell them, she burnt one of the 6 books.  On the 4th day the king bought the remaining 3 books for the price of six}.  This collection was housed in the temple of Capitoline Jupiter, where it was destroyed in the burning of the Capitol in 83 BC.  After this the senate commissioned a board of three to make a collection from various places.  Two collections of Sibylline oracles survive from late antiquity.  The material in these collections is extremely diverse, some Christian, some Jewish, and other Pagan.  The subject matter ranges from Christian and predictions woe for cities and peoples to Roman history and sibylline biography.


{p. 256}

{p. 257}





YE mortal men and fleshly, who are naught,
How quickly are ye puffed up, seeing not
The end of life! Do ye not tremble now
And fear God, him who watches over you,
5 The one who is most high, the one who knows,
The all-observant witness of all things,
All-nourishing Creator, who has put



This fragment is found in the writings of Theophilus, a bishop of Antioch, who lived in the latter half of the second century. Near the close of his second book, addressed to his friend Autolycus [chap. xxxvi; Migne, G., 6, 1109], Theophilus introduces these lines (thirty-five in number in the Greek) with the following words: "Now the Sibyl, who among the Greeks and other nations was a prophetess, in the beginning of her prophecy upbraids the race of men, saying." From this statement it has been inferred that the lines stood originally at the beginning of our third book, which contains the oldest portions of our present collection; for Lactantius attributes the passages which he cites from this fragment to the ErythrŠan Sibyl, to whom he attributes elsewhere citations from the third book only. Citations from other books he refers to other Sibyls.

1. This first line is cited by Clement of Alexandria, Strom., iii, 3 [Migne, G., 8, 1117], who also in the same connection quotes a similar passage from Empedocles. Comp. Homer, Od., xviii, 130: "Earth nourishes nothing feebler than man."

7-9. These lines are quoted by Lactantius, iv, 6 [L., 6, 462], who, however, {footnote p. 258} inserts the word God. He observes: "The ErythrŠan Sibyl in the beginning of her song, which she commenced by the help of the Most High God, proclaims the Son of God as leader and commander of all in these verses:

"All-nourishing Creator, who in all
Sweet breath implanted, and made God the guide of all."



{p. 258}

In all things his sweet Spirit and has made
Him leader of all mortals? God is one,
10 Who rules alone, supremely great, unborn,
Almighty and invisible, himself
Alone beholding all things, but not seen
Is he himself by any mortal flesh.
For what flesh is there able to behold
15 With eyes the heavenly and true God divine,
Who has his habitation in the sky?
Not even before the bright rays of the sun
Can men stand still, men who are mortal born,
Existing but as veins and flesh on bones.
20 Him who alone is ruler of the world,
Who alone is forever and has been
From everlasting, reverence ye him,
The self-existent unbegotten one
Who rules all things through all time, dealing out
25 Unto all mortals in a common light
The judgment. And the merited reward

[9-12. God is one.--Quoted by Justin Martyr, ad Gr., 16 [G., 6, 272]. Comp. Theodoret, Hist. Eccl., i, 3 [G. 82, 904]; Basil, adv. Eunom., iii [G., 29, 6681; Greg. Naz., Orat., xxvi, 19 [G., 35, 1252]; Lact., i, 6 [L., 6, 140]; Orphica, ed. Hermann, Frag. i, 10; ii, 11.

14-19. Cited by Clem. Alex., Strom., v, 14 [G., 9, 165], and Eusebius, PrŠp., xiii, 13 [G., 21, 1121]. Comp. Cyril, Contr. Jul., i, 82 [G., 76, 549]; Philemon in Just. Mar., de Monarch, 2 [G., 6, 316]; Xenophon, Memor., iv, 3, 13; Cicero, de Nat. Decorum, i, 12.

20-22. Cited by Lact., de fals. Relig., vi [L., 6, 141].

25. Common light.--An allusion to the universal moral sense of men. Comp. book i, 409; iii, 588; John i, 9.]


{p. 259}

Of evil counseling shall ye receive,
For ceasing the true and eternal God
To glorify, and holy hecatombs
30 To offer him, ye made your sacrifice
Unto the demons that in Hades dwell.
And ye in self-conceit and madness walk,
And having left the true, straightforward path
Ye went away and roamed about through thorns
35 And thistles. O ye foolish mortals, cease
Roving in darkness and black night obscure,
And leave the darkness of night, and lay hold
Upon the Light. Lo, he is clear to all
And cannot err; come, do not always chase
40 Darkness and gloom. Lo, the sweet-looking light
Of the sun shines with a surpassing glow.
Now, treasuring wisdom in your hearts, know ye
That God is one, who sends forth rains and winds,
Earthquakes and lightnings, famines, pestilence,
45 And mournful cares, and storms of snow, and ice.
But why do I thus speak them one by one?
He guides heaven, rules earth, over Hades reigns.


Now if gods beget offspring and remain
Immortal there had been more gods than men,
And there had never been sufficient room
For mortals to stand.

[38-47. Cited by Clem. Alex., Cohort., viii [G., 8, 97]. Line 34 is also cited in Strom., v, 14 [G., 9, 173].


This passage, which appears nowhere in the twelve books of our collection, is found in Theophilus, ad Antol., ii, 3 [G., 6, 1049].]


{p. 260}


Now if all that is born must also perish,
It is not possible for God to be
Formed from the thighs of man and from a womb;
But God alone is one and all-supreme,
5 Who made heaven and the sun and stars and moon,
Fruit-bearing earth and billows of the sea,
And lofty hills and mouth of lasting springs.
He also bringeth forth great multitude
Of creatures that amid the waters live
10 Innumerable, and the creeping things
That move upon earth he sustains with life,
And dappled, delicate, shrill-twittering birds,
That ply the air shrill-whirring with their wings.
And in the glens of mountains wild be placed
15 The race of beasts, and to us mortals made
All cattle subject, and the God-formed one
He constituted ruler of all things,
And unto man all variegated things
Made subject, things incomprehensible.
20 For all these things what mortal flesh can know?
For he himself alone, who made these things
At the beginning, knows, the incorrupt
Eternal Maker, dwelling in the heaven,
Bringing unto the good good recompense
25 Much more abundant, but awakening wrath



This excerpt, which numbers forty-nine lines in the Greek text, is preserved to us in Theophilus, and is placed by him immediately after the first fragment with the following introductory words: "Also in regard to those (gods) who are said to have been born, she thus speaks."

1, 2. Cited by Lact., i, 8 [L., 6, 1541.

4-7. Cited by Lact., i, 6 [L., 6, 147].

21-26. Cited by Lact., de Ira Dei, xxii [L., 1, 143].]


{p. 261}

And anger for the evil and unjust,
And war and pestilence, and tearful woes.
O men, why, vainly puffed up, do ye root
Yourselves out? Be ashamed to deify
30 Polecats and monsters. Is it not a craze
And frenzy, taking sense of mind away,
If gods steal plates and carry off earthen pots?
Instead of dwelling in the golden heaven
In plenty, see them eaten by the moth
35 And woven over with thick spider-webs!
O fools, that bow to serpents, dogs and cats,
And reverence birds and creeping beasts of earth,
Stone images and statues made with bands,
And stone-heaps by the roads--these ye revere,
40 And also many other idle things
Which it would even be a shame to tell;
These are the baneful gods of senseless men,
And from their mouth is deadly poison poured.
But of Him is life and eternal light
45 Imperishable, and he sheds a joy
Sweeter than honey sweet on righteous men,
And to him only do thou bow thy neck,
And among pious lives incline thy way.
Forsaking all these, in a spirit mad
50 With folly ye did all drain off the cup
Of judgment that was filled full, very pure,
Closely pressed, weighed down, and withal unmixed.
And ye will not wake from your drunken sleep
And come to sober reason, and know God
55 To be the king who oversees all things.

[27. Tearful woes.--Comp. Clem. Alex., Strom., v, 14 [G., 9, 188]; Just. Martyr, de Monarch, ii [G., 6, 316]; Cohort., xv [G., 6, 272]; Euseb. PrŠp., xiii, 12 [G., 21, 1100].]


{p. 262}

Therefore on you the flash of gleaming fire
Is coming, ye shall be with torches burned
The livelong day through an eternal age,
At your false useless idols feeling shame.
60 But they who fear the true eternal God
Inherit life, and they forever dwell
Alike in fertile field of Paradise,
Feasting on sweet bread from the starry heaven.


Hear me, O men, the King eternal reigns.


He only is God, Maker uncontrolled;
He fixed the pattern of the human form,
And did the nature of all mortals mix
Himself, the generator of (all) life.


Whenever he shall come
A smoky fire shall be in mid-night dark.

[60-64. Cited by Lact., ii, 13 [L., 6, 324]. In these last verses we may note allusions to such passages of Scripture as Matt. xix, 29; Luke xxiii, 43; 2 Cor. xii, 4; Rev. ii, 17; Psa. lxxviii, 24; cv, 40; John vi, 31.


This fragment, consisting of but a single line, is found in Lactantius, Div. Inst., vii, 24 [L., 6, 808].


These lines are found in Lactantius, Div. ii, 12 [L., 6, 319], and also in the Anonymous Preface.


This fragment is also found in Lactantius, Div. Inst., vii, 19 [L., 6, 797].]


{p. 263}


The ErythrŠan Sibyl, addressing God, says: Why dost thou, O Lord, enjoin on me the necessity of prophesying, and not rather take me aloft from the earth and preserve me unto the most blessed day of thy coming?



This, which Rzach calls a "doubtful fragment," is cited as a saying of the ErythrŠan Sibyl in Constantine's Oration to the Assembly of the Saints, chap. xxi [G., 20, 1300].]

{p. 264}


IF the labor bestowed upon the reading of the writings of the Greeks brings much advantage to them that perform it, since it is able to make those who labor on these things very learned, much more is it fitting that they who are possessed of good understanding devote their leisure continually to the Holy Scriptures, which tell about God and the things which minister profit to the soul, thence gaining the double benefit of ability to profit both themselves and their readers. It seemed good to me, therefore, to set forth in one connected and orderly series the so-called Sibylline Oracles, which are found scattered and in a confused condition, but which are helpful to the reading and understanding of those (Holy Scriptures), so that being easily brought together under the eye of the readers they may bring to these (readers) by way of reward the advantage that is to be derived from them, setting forth not a few necessary and useful things, and also rendering their study more valuable and varied. For (these oracles) also speak clearly of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the sacred and life-originating Trinity, and of the incarnate dispensation of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, I mean his birth from a virgin without emanation, and of

[1. This Preface or Prologue assumes to have been prepared by the person who collected and arranged these pseudepigraphical oracles in the order in which they have come down to us. The exact time of his writing is unknown. Alexandre (Excursus ad Sibyllina, chap. xv, pp. 421-433) argues that it was probably written in the sixth century, during the reign of Justinian.]

{p. 265}

the acts of healing performed by him, as also of his life giving passion, and of his resurrection from the dead on the third day, and of the judgment to come, and of recompense for what we all have done in this life; furthermore (these oracles) distinctly set forth what is made known in the Mosaic, writings and in the books of the prophets concerning the creation of the world, and the formation of man, and his expulsion from the garden and of his now formation hereafter. With regard to certain things which have been or perhaps are yet to be, they prophesy in various ways; and in a word, they are able in no small measure to profit their readers.

Sibyl is a Latin word meaning prophetess, or rather soothsayer; hence the female soothsayers were called by one name. Now Sibyls, according to many writers, have arisen in different times and places, to the number of ten. There was first the Chaldean, or rather the Persian (Sibyl), whose proper name is Sambethe. She was of the family of the most blessed Noah, and is said to have foretold the exploits of Alexander of Macedon; Nicanor, who wrote the life of Alexander, mentions her. The second was the Libyan, of whom Euripides makes mention in the preface of (his play) the Lamia. The third was the Delphian, born at Delphi, and spoken of by Chrysippus in his book on divination. The fourth was the Italian, in Cimmerium in Italy, whose son Evander founded in Rome the shrine of Pan which is called the Lupercal. The fifth was the ErythrŠan, who predicted the Trojan war, and of whom Apollodorus the ErythrŠan bears positive testimony. The sixth was the Samian, whose proper name is Phyto, of whom Eratosthenes wrote. The seventh was the Cumman, called Amalthea, also Herophile, and in some places Taraxandra. But Vergil calls the CumŠan Sibyl Deiphobe, daughter of Glaucus. The eighth was the Hellespontine, born in the

{p. 266}

village of Marpessus near the small town of Gergithion, which, according to Heraclides of Pontus, was formerly, in the time of Solon and Cyrus, within the boundaries of the Troad. The ninth was the Phrygian, and the tenth the Tiburtine, named AlbunŠa.

It is said, moreover, that the CumŠan Sibyl once brought nine books of her oracles to Tarquinius Priscus, who was at that time king of the Romans, and demanded for them three hundred pieces of gold. But having been disdain fully treated, and not even questioned as to what they were, she committed three of them to the fire. Again, in another audience with the king she brought forward the six remaining books, and still demanded the same amount. But not being deemed worthy of attention, again she burned three more. Then a third time bringing the three that were left, and asking the same price, she said that if he would not procure them, she would burn these also. Then, it is said, the king examined them and was astonished, and gave for them a hundred pieces of gold, took them in charge and made request for the others. But she declared that neither had she the like of those that were burned nor had she any such knowledge apart from inspiration, but that certain persons from various cities and countries had at times excerpted what was esteemed by them necessary and useful, and that out of these excerpts a collection ought to be made. And this (the Romans) did as quickly as possible. For that which was given from God, though truly laid up in a corner, did not escape their search. And the books of all the Sibyls were deposited in the capitol of ancient Rome. Those of the CumŠan Sibyl, however, were hidden and not made known to many, because she proclaimed more especially and distinctly things that were to happen in Italy, while the others became known to all. But those that were written by the ErythrŠan Sibyl have the name that

{p. 267}

was given her from the place; while the other books are without inscription to mark who is the author of each, but are without distinction (of authorship).

Now Firmianus,[1] being an esteemed philosopher and a priest of the aforementioned capitol, having looked unto the Christ, our eternal Light, set down in his own works the things spoken of by the Sibyls concerning the ineffable glory, and ably exposed the senselessness of Hellenic error. His forcible exposition is in the Italian tongue, but the Sibylline verses were published in the Greek language. And that this may not appear incredible, I will produce the testimony of the man before mentioned,[2] which is after this manner:

"Inasmuch as the Sibylline Oracles which are found in our city not only, as being very plentiful, are held in low esteem by those of the Greeks who are cognizant of them (for it is things which are rare that are held in honor), but also since not all of the verses keep to the precision of the meter, their credit is lower. But this is the fault not of the prophetess, but of the shorthand writers who could not keep up with the rush of the Sibyl's words, or who were uneducated; for her remembrance of the things she had spoken ceased with the spell of inspiration. Which fact Plato also had in view when he said that (the prophets) treat correctly many and great matters while they know nothing, of the things of which they speak."

[1. Reference to Firmianus Lactantius, contemporary with Diocletian and Constantine (cir. A. D. 284-325), noted for his numerous citations from the Sibylline Oracles. See the Index to this volume.

2. This reference seems to be to the Firmianus Lactantius just mentioned, but the passage cited is not found in the writings of that author; it is rather a free reproduction of the concluding portion of the thirty-seventh chapter of Justin Martyr's Hortatory Address to the Greeks. The reader will find this entire chapter on pp. 272, 273, of this Appendix.]

{p. 268}

We shall, accordingly, from those oracles which were brought to Rome by the ambassadors (of Tarquin), produce, as much as possible. Now, concerning the God who is without beginning one declared these things:

One God, who rules alone, immense, unborn.
But God alone is one, highest of all,
Who made the heaven and sun and stars and moon,
Fruit-bearing earth and billows of the sea.
He only is God, Maker uncontrolled;
He fixed the pattern of the human form,
And did the nature of all mortals mix
Himself, the generator of (all) life.

This (the Sibyl) has said either on the ground that being joined together (husband and wife) become one flesh, or with the thought that out of the four elements which are opposite to each other God fashioned both the world and man.

{p. 269}


ONE of the fullest accounts of the Sibyls which we possess is that which is found in the writings of Firmianus Lactantius (Divine Institutes, book i, chap. vi; Migne, L. P., vol. vi, 140-147). The author of the foregoing "Anonymous Preface" probably derived his account of the Sibyls from this Latin father, who flourished about the close of the third century of our era, and who refers to Varro as his authority. This passage seems also to have been the principal source of information for later writers, and we here furnish the reader with a translation from the Latin text of Migne:

"Marcus, Varro, than whom no one more learned ever lived, neither among the Greeks, nor even among the Latins, in books on sacred subjects which he wrote to Caius CŠsar, the chief pontiff, when he was speaking of the Quindecemviri,[1] says that the Sibylline books were not the work of one Sibyl, but were called by one name, Sibylline, since all female prophets were called Sibyls by the ancients, either from the name of the one at Delphi, or from their announcing the counsels of the gods. For in the Ăolic manner of speaking they call the gods sious ({Greek siou's}), not theous ({Greek ­eou's}) and counsel is not boule ({Greek boulh'}), but bule ({Greek bulh'}); and so Sibyl is pronounced as siobule ({Greek siobulh'}). But the Sibyls were ten in number, and all these he enumerated under authors who had written of each one. And first there was the Persian of whom mention is made by Nicanor, who wrote the history of Alexander of Macedon; the second was the Libyan, whom Euripides mentions in the prologue of the Lamia; the third was the Delphian, of whom Chrysippus speaks in that book which he composed on divination; the fourth was the Cimmerian in Italy, whom NŠvius in his books of the Punic War and Piso in his annals names, the fifth was the ErythrŠan, whom Apollodorus of ErythrŠa affirms to have been his own countrywoman and to have prophesied to the Greeks who were moving against Ilium both that Troy

[1. The Quindecemviri were a college, or board of fifteen priests, to whom the care of the Sibylline books was intrusted at Rome.]

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would be destroyed and that Homer would write falsehoods; the sixth was the Samian, of whom Eratosthenes writes that he had found something written in the ancient annals of the Samians; the seventh was the CumŠan, by name Amalthea, who is by others called Demophile or Herophile. She brought nine books to King Tarquinius Priscus, and asked three hundred pieces of gold for them, but the king spurned the greatness of the price and laughed at the insanity of the woman. She thereupon in sight of the king burned three of them, and for the rest asked the same price; but Tarquinius all the more thought the woman was insane. But when again, having destroyed three more, she persisted in the same price, the king was moved, and bought what was left for three hundred pieces of gold., Afterward their number was increased, the capitol being rebuilt, for they were collected out of all the cities both of Italy and Greece, and especially of ErythrŠa, and brought to Rome in the name of whatever Sibyl they chanced to be. The eighth Sibyl was the Hellespontine, born in the Trojan country, in the village of Marpessus, near the town of Gergitha. Heraclides of Pontus writes that she lived in the times of Solon and Cyrus. The ninth was the Phrygian, who prophesied at Ancyra; the tenth was the Tiburtine, by name Albunea, who is worshiped at Tibur as a goddess, near the banks of the river Anio, in which stream her image is said to have been found, holding a book in her hand. Her oracular responses the Senate transferred into the capitol."

So far Lactantius appears to quote substantially from Varro, and then he adds, as if contributing further information, the following:

Of all these Sibyls the songs are both made public and held in use except those of the Cumman, whose books are kept secret by the Romans; neither do they hold it lawful for them to be inspected by anyone except the Quindecemviri. And there are single books of each which, because they are inscribed by the name of a Sibyl, are believed to be the work of one; and there are also confused ones, nor is it possible to discern and assign to each its own except that of the ErythrŠan, who both inserted her own true name in her song and foretold that she would go by the name of the ErythrŠan, although she was born in Babylon. . . . All these Sibyls proclaim one God, but especially the ErythrŠan, who is held among the others to be more distinguished

[1. Dionysius Halicarnasseus also records this story of Tarquin and the Sibyl, and adds that, having delivered over the books, she disappeared from among men.--Antiq. Rom., iv, 62.]

{p. 271}

and noble, since indeed Fenestella, a most careful writer, speaking of the Quindecemviri says that upon the restoration of the capitol the consul Caius Curio proposed to the Senate to send ambassadors to ErythrŠ, who should search for the songs of the Sibyl and bring them to Rome. And so Publius Gabinius, Marcus Otacilius, and Lucius Valerius were sent, and they brought to Rome about a thousand verses written down by private persons."

{p. 272}


THE following account of the Sibyl and her oracles constitutes the entire thirty-seventh chapter of a treatise entitled a Hortatory Address to the Greeks ({Greek Lo'gos parainetiko`s pro`s E`'llhnas}), usually published among the works of Justin Martyr. It appears in Migne's Greek Patrology, vol. vii 308, 309. The author of the "Anonymous Preface" cites the substance of the closing portion and seems to have regarded it as a testimony of Firmianus Lactantius. Its real authorship is uncertain.

You may very easily learn the true religion, in some part at least, from the ancient Sibyl, who teaches you through her oracles by a certain powerful inspiration things which seem to be near to the teaching of the prophets. They say that she was of Babylonian origin, being the daughter of Berosus, who wrote the Chaldean history; and when she had crossed over (I know not how) into the parts of Campania she uttered her oracles there in a city called CumŠ, six miles distant from BaiŠ, where the hot springs of Campania are to be found. Being in that city, we saw also a certain place, in which was shown a very great basilica made out of one stone, a very great affair, and worthy of all admiration. There they, who received it as a tradition from their forefathers, say that the Sibyl announced her oracles. And in the middle of the basilica they showed us three reservoirs made out of one stone, in which when they were filled with water they said she bathed, and having put on her garment again, she was wont to go into the innermost room of the basilica, which is made out of the one stone, and sitting in the middle of the room on a lofty platform and on a throne, she thus proclaimed her oracles. Of this Sibyl as a prophetess many other writers have also made mention, and Plato also in his PhŠdrus. And Plato, when he read her oracles, seems to me to have regarded the reciters of oracles as divinely inspired. For he saw that the things which had been spoken of old by her were actually fulfilled; and therefore in the dialogue with Meno [99], expressing admiration and eulogy of the prophets for their sayings, he has thus written: "We might truly name as divine those whom we call

{p. 273}

prophets. Not least should we say that they are divine and profoundly inspired and possessed of God when they truly speak of many and great matters, knowing nothing of the things of which they speak; "clearly and obviously referring to the oracles of the Sibyl. For she was unlike the poets, who after the writing of their poems have power to correct and polish, especially the accuracy of the meters, but at the time of her inspiration she was filled with the matters of her prophecy, and when the spell of inspiration ceased her memory of the things spoken also ceased. This accordingly is the reason why all the meters of the verses of the Sibyl have not been preserved. For we ourselves, being in the city, learned from the guides who showed us the places in which she uttered her oracles that there was also a vessel made of bronze in which they said her remains were preserved. And besides all other things which they narrated, they also told us this, as having heard it from their forefathers, that they who received the oracles at that time, being without education, often utterly missed the accuracy of the meters, and this they said was the reason for the want of meter in some of the verses, the prophetess after the ceasing of her possession and her inspiration having no remembrance of what she had said, and the writers having failed for want of education to preserve the accuracy of the meters. Therefore it is evident that Plato said this about the reciters of oracles in reference to the oracles of the Sibyl; for he thus said: "When they truly speak of many and great matters, knowing nothing of the things of which they speak."[1]

[1. Plato, Meno, 99.]

{p. 274}


THE acrostic in book viii, 284-330 (Greek text, 217-250), is of a nature to attract special attention and interest. Not a few of the earliest published monographs touching the Greek Sibylline verses gave the text of this acrostic with explanatory observations upon it. Augustine in the eighteenth book of his de Civitate Dei (chap. xxiii) cites the first twenty-seven lines in a Latin translation which aims to retain the acrostic form of the Greek text. He further observes that "the verses are twenty-seven, which is the cube of three. For three times three are nine, and nine itself, if tripled, so as to rise from the superficial square to the cube, comes to twenty-seven. But if you join the initial letters of the five Greek words ({Greek I?hsou~s Xristo's đeou~ ui'o`s Swth'r}}) which mean, 'Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Saviour,' they will make the word {Greek i?x­u's}, that is, fish, in which word Christ is mystically understood, because he was able to live, that is, to exist, without sin in the abyss of this mortality as in the depth of waters."

The following version of the twenty-seven lines spoken of above is taken from Marcus Dods's translation of Augustine's de Civitate Dei in the "Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers." The reader will notice that the name of Christ is written in the lengthened Greek form {Greek Xreisto's}.

{Greek I} Judgment shall moisten the earth with the sweat of its standard,
{Greek H} Ever enduring, behold the king shall come through the ages,
{Greek S} Sent to be here in the flesh, and judge at the last of the world.
{Greek O} O God, the believing and faithless alike shall behold thee
{Greek U} Uplifted with saints, when at last the ages are ended,
{Greek S} Sisted before him are souls in the flesh for his judgment

{p. 275}

{Greek X} Hid in thick vapors, the while desolate lieth the earth,
{Greek R} Rejected by men are the idols and long-hidden treasures;
{Greek E} Earth is consumed by the fire, and it searcheth the ocean and heaven;
{Greek I} Issuing forth, it destroyeth the terrible portals of hell.
{Greek S} Saints in their body and soul freedom and light shall inherit
{Greek T} Those who are guilty shall burn in fire and brimstone forever.
{Greek O} Occult actions revealing, each one shall publish his secrets
{Greek S} Secrets of every man's heart God shall reveal in the light.

{Greek đ} Then shall be weeping and wailing, yea, and gnashing of teeth;
{Greek E} Eclipsed is the sun, and silenced the stars in their chorus.
{Greek O} Over and gone is the splendor of moonlight, melted the heaven.
{Greek U} Uplifted by him are the valleys, and cast down the mountains.

{Greek U} Utterly gone among men are distinctions of lofty and lowly.
{Greek I} Into the plains rush the hills, the skies and oceans are mingled.
{Greek O} O, what an end of all things! earth broken in pieces shall perish;
{Greek S} Swelling together at once shall the waters and flames flow in rivers.

{Greek S} Sounding, the archangel's trumpet shall peal down from heaven,
{Greek W} Over the wicked who groan in their guilt and their manifold sorrows.
{Greek T} Trembling, the earth shall be opened, revealing chaos and hell.
{Greek H} Every king before God shall stand in that day to be judged.
{Greek R} Rivers of fire and brimstone shall fall from the heavens.

The following version of the same twenty-seven lines are from the Christian Review, vol. xiii, 1848, p. 99.

{Greek I} Judgment impends. Lo! the earth reeks with sweat;
{Greek H} He, the destined King of future ages, comes;
{Greek S} Soon he descends--the Judge in human form.
{Greek O} On speeds the God--his friends and foes behold him.
{Greek U} Vengeance he wears, enthroned with his holy ones.
{Greek S} See how the dead assume their ancient forms.

{Greek X} Choked with thorny hedges lies the waste, dreary world
{Greek R} Ruined are the idol gods; they scorn their heaps of gold.
{Greek E} Even land and sea and sky shall raging fire consume.
{Greek I} Its penetrating flames shall burst the gates of hell.
{Greek S} Shining in light behold the saints immortal.
{Greek T} Turn to the guilty, burning in endless flames.
{Greek O} O'er hidden deeds of darkness no veil shall be spread.
{Greek S} Sinners to their God will reveal their secret thoughts.

{p. 276}

{Greek đ} There will be a bitter wailing; there they gnash with their teeth.
{Greek E} Ebon clouds veil the sun; the stars their chorus cease;
{Greek O} O'er our heads the heavens roll not,--the lunar splendors fade.
{Greek U} Underneath the mountains lie; the valleys touch the sky.

{Greek U} Unknown the heights or depths of man,--since all shall prostrate lie.
{Greek I} In the ocean's dark gulf sink the mountains and the plains.
{Greek O} Order casts away her empire; creation ends in chaos.
{Greek S} Swollen rivers and leaping fountains are consumed in the flames.

{Greek S} Shrill sounds the trumpet; its blast rends the sky.
{Greek W} O, fearful are the groanings, the sorrows of the doomed.
{Greek T} Tartarean chaotic depths the gaping earth reveals.
{Greek H} Earth's vaunted monarchs shall stand before the Lord.
{Greek R} Rivers of sulphur roll along and flames descend the sky.

The following version from the Christian Remembrancer, vol. xlii, 1861, p. 287, accords with the order of initial English letters of the words, JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, THE SAVIOUR, THE CROSS:

Judgment at hand, the earth shall sweat with fear
Eternal King, the Judge shall come on high;
Shall doom all flesh; shall bid the world appear
Unveiled before his throne. Him every eye
Shall, just or unjust, see in majesty.

Consummate time shall view the saints assemble,
His own assessors; and the souls of men
Round the great judgment seat shall wail and tremble
In fear of sentence. And the green earth then
Shall turn to desert; they that see that day
To moles and bats their gods shall cast away.

Sea, earth, and heaven, and hell's dread gates shall burn;
Obedient to their call, the dead return;
Nor shall the Judge unfitting doom discern;

Of chains and darkness to each wicked soul;
For them that have done good, the starry pole.

Gnashing of teeth, and woe and fierce despair
Of such as hear the righteous Judge declare
Deeds long forgot, which that last day shall bare.

{p. 277}

Then, when each darkened breast he brings to sight,
Heaven's stars shall fall; and day be turned to night;
Effaced the sun-ray, and the moon's pale light.

Surely the valleys he on high shall raise;
All hills shall cease, all mountains turn to plain;
Vessel shall no more pass the watery ways;
In the dread lightning parching earth shall blaze,
Ogygian rivers seek to flow in vain;
Unutterable woe the trumpet blast,
Re-echoing through the ether, shall forecast.

Then Tartarus shall wrap the world in gloom,
High chiefs and princes shall receive their doom,
Eternal fire and brimstone for their tomb.

Crown of the world, sweet Wood, salvation's horn,
Rearing its beauty, shall for man be born;
O Wood, that saints adore, and sinners scorn!
So from twelve fountains shall its light be poured;
Staff of the Shepherd, a victorious sword.

{p. 278}


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