Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Sibylline Oracles of the Pseudepigrapha, Part 2

Seven Generations of the World – Sibylline Oracles 1.1-323

by Phillip J. Long
July 27, 2016

I dealt with the introductory material for the first two Sibylline Oracles in a previous post (books 1-3). The first 323 lines of Book One of the Sibylline Oracles are a Jewish summary of biblical history from through the “seventh generation.” This section is dated from 30 B.C. to A. D. 250, possibly originating from Phrygia based on the reference to the Ark in 1.196-198.

Sibyl by Francesco Ubertini,
c. 1525
This Jewish section of the collection periodizes history after the fall into seven generation. In lines 1-37 the writer describes the wonders of the pre-fall world. Adam and Eve are wondrously beautiful when created and placed in the garden. They speak wisdom to one another and had no evil thoughts at all. Lines 38-64 are an interpretation of the story of the Fall in Genesis 3. Rather than blaming sin on Adam (as in Romans 5:12-21), It is the woman who is the first betrayer, having persuaded Adam to sin (cf. 2 Enoch 31). Genesis 3:14 is interpreted as literal enmity between snakes and humans. There is no messianic imagery at all in this retelling of the story.

  • The First Generation (65-86). The first generation of humans was noble, but they went to Hades anyway because they were polluted by sin and made war.
  • The Second Generation (87-103). This generation is inventive and skillful, described as “watchers” because of their sleepless minds (not as fallen angels, as in 1 Enoch). They too died and went to Tartarus and are “guarded by unbreakable bonds, to make retribution, to Gehenna of terrible, raging, undying fire.”
  • The Third Generation (104-108). This generation was “overbearing and terrible men” and the period is marked by “wars, slaughters, and battles destroyed these continually, men of proud heart.”
  • The Fourth Generation (109-119). This generation “shed much blood” and neither respected God nor man. Some were killed in war and went to the netherworld, others God took from the world in his wrath.
  • The Fifth Generation (120-282). The fifth generation was “far inferior” men, insolent and crooked, even more so than the giants. Noah is command to prepare for the flood (125-136) and he preaches to his generation (147-198). There is a riddle in lines 137-146 which promises to give the name of God, nine letters with four syllables. These clues are reminiscent of Rev. 13:18 and the “number of the beast,” and probably just as impossible to figure out! This sermon lists the sins of the generation and describes them as evil-hearted and fickle. He is jeered for this preaching (171-172), therefore he enters the ark with his family and other creatures God wished to save (199-216). The flood begins (217-261) and the ark lands on Ararat in Phrygia as opposed to Armenia (262-283).
  • The Sixth Generation (283-306). This generation is described a noble and blessed one, righteous and hard working. During this generation, “the earth will rejoice, sprouting with many spontaneous fruits, overladen with offspring. Those who give nourishment will be ageless, always” (lines 297-299). They too enter Hades, but they are blessed as the go since “Sabaoth gave a noble mind” (304).
  • The Seventh Generation (307-323). The seventh generation is the generation of the Titans (cf., Hesiod, Theogony, 687–735). The Lord makes war against them and shuts them from the world.

As Collins suggests, the main interest of this section of the Oracle is the schematization of history into a series of “generations.” Along with the Christian interpolations, history passes through ten generations, five before the flood and five after. The world is destroyed by water in the fifth generation and fire in the tenth. This is not exactly a modern dispensational timeline, but there is a long history of creating a series of periods through which humanity passes before the final judgment.

Although there are clear signs of Christian redaction in the first two books, it is important to observe an apocalyptic theme which connects the flood and a future apocalyptic destruction (or re-creation) of the world. Similar imagery appears in Revelation; 1 Peter 3:19-22; 3:11-13.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Christian Interpolation – Sibylline Oracle, Book 1.324-400

Phillip J. Long
July 28, 2016

The last section of the first Sibylline Oracle was inserted by a Christian. The section is a clear description of Jesus Christ, “the son of the most high, immortal God” (1.331). The goal is to add a prediction of the events of the life of Jesus into this oracle-prophecy.

Depiction of a Sibyl by
Domenichino, c. 1616-17
Since the book is missing the eighth and ninth generations, it is hard to know if this was the most appropriate place to insert these Christological predictions. As with the riddle on God’s name earlier in the book (lines 137-146), we are given a short riddle on the name and number of the son of God’s name (lines 327-329). “I will state explicitly the entire number for you. For eight units, and equal number of tens in addition to these, and eight hundreds will reveal the name.” This adds up to 888, the number of the name Iēsous.

Lines 334-335 allude to the wise men, “Priests will bring gifts to him, bringing forward gold, myrrh, and incense.” Lines 336-339 refer to John the Baptist, “But when a certain voice will come through the desert land bringing tidings to mortals, and will cry out to all to make the paths straight and cast away evils from the heart” and his death by Herod, “ a man with barbarous mind, enslaved to dances will cut out this voice.”

The Jews will stumble against this coming son of God, but Gentiles will be gathered to him (lines 346-347). Jesus’ ministry and miracles are summarized (347-361) and the writer blames the Jews for the crucifixion with a string of anti-Semitic invectives (lines 360-371).

Then indeed Israel, with abominable lips and poisonous spittings, will give this man blows. For food they will give him gall and for drink unmixed vinegar, impiously, smitten in breast and heart with an evil craze, not seeing with their eyes, more blind than blind rats, more terrible than poisonous creeping beasts, shackled with heavy sleep.

Later in the interpolation the writer blames the fall of Jerusalem as a judgment for killing Jesus: “Then when the Hebrews reap the bad harvest, a Roman king will ravage much gold and silver… since they committed an evil deed.”

After three days the Son of God will raise from the “house of Adonis” (i.e., Hades) and return to heaven on the clouds (376-382). The Christian church is described as a “new shoot” named after him (Christians) sprouting for the nations lead by wise leaders but with a cessation of prophets (lines 383-386). The section ends with a dire prediction of the destruction of the Jews at the hands of the Romans because they have committed an evil deed in rejecting the son of God (lines 387-400).

There is little here that is unique, although obvious forgery of a Sibylline article by a Christian in order to support orthodox Christian theology is significant. Several items are worthy of some attention. First, in the retelling of the story of Jesus, John the Baptist is still important enough to have his career and death summarized. Even in the New Testament there are some hints of John’s lingering importance, this Christian interpolation indicates John’s life and death were still part of the Gospel story.

Second, the section describing Jesus’s miracles tracks with the Synoptic Gospels (healings and exorcisms, walking in water feeding the 5000). There are no non-biblical miracles mentioned, and there are small details included (John is killed by someone addicted to dance, twelve baskets after the feeding miracle). The details seem to be drawn from all four Gospels. This is an obvious attempt to wedge the Gospel story into an existing “ancient” prophecy, but it is remarkable there are no allusions to non-canonical stories. For example, the only reference to the birth of Jesus is the visit of the Magi, indicating a familiarity with Matthew (or a similar tradition). Yet there is no virgin birth, canonical or non-, and there is no mention of popular stories about Jesus as a child.

Third, the Jews are blamed for the crucifixion and they are now feeling the “raging wrath of the Most High” (362) and they will “will weep for each other on receiving the wrath of the great” (399). This reflects an unfortunate anti-Jewish theology which will result in a great deal of persecutions throughout the Christian era.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Tenth Generation – Sibylline Oracles, Book 2.1-55

by Phillip J. Long
July 29, 2016

After a short five line introduction, we read the fate of the tenth generation. Because of the Christian interpolation, the eighth and ninth generation are lost, and perhaps the beginning of the description of the tenth. Lines 6-39 describe a number of “apocalyptic signs” such as thunder, lightning, frenzied wild animals and other prodigies (blood from heaven and general strange events).

Sib.Or. 2.15-24 Then indeed the tenth generation of men will also appear after these things, when the earth-shaking lightning-giver will break the glory of idols and shake the people of seven-hilled Rome. Great wealth will perish, burned in a great fire by the flame of Hephaestus. Then there will be bloody precipitation from heaven … but the entire world of innumerable men will kill each other in madness. In the tumult God will impose famines and pestilence and thunderbolts on men who adjudicate without justice.

David Aune has a lengthy excursus on prodigies, “unnatural or extraordinary occurrence or phenomenon understood as a sign warning of divine anger” in Roman culture. See, for example, Thucydides 1.23.3, a list of disasters that affected the Athenians during the Peloponnesian war: earthquakes, eclipses, droughts, famines, and pestilence (Revelation 2:402; 2:416ff).

This list of apocalyptic events is drawn from the stock imagery of the Old Testament, especially Jeremiah and Ezekiel in describing the horror of the fall of Jerusalem (Jer 14:12; 21:9; Ezek 6:11; 12:16, 14:21; 1QpPsa 1-10 and Dio Cassius 69.1-2, describing the fall of Jerusalem after the Bar Kohkba Rebellion). In the midst of the judgment of the tenth generation, God will be a savior to the pious (27-28) and will show a great sign from heaven for “no small number of days” (34-38).

Entry into heaven is described as a “contests” which people should strive for rather than a crown of silver. The “holy Christ” will make awards to those who are worthy (45-46), especially the martyrs. Those who are virgins, perform justice live piously, love marriage and refrain from adultery will receive the reward of immortality.

The image of entry into heaven as a “contest” is found in 2 Tim. 4:7-8: Paul has “fight the good fight and finished the race,” and is looking forward to his “crown of righteousness” to be awarded him by the Lord, the righteous Judge. Like the author of this oracle, Paul sees this reward as connected to the consummation of the age.

* * * * * * * * * *

An Extract from Pseudo-Phocylides – Sibylline Oracles, Book 2.56-148

by Phillip J. Long
July 29, 2016

Phocylides was a sixth century B.C. poet who was, in the ancient world, well-known as an author of maxims and proverbs applicable to daily life (See P. W. Van Der Horst, “Pseudo-Phocylides” in OTP 2:565-582; ABD 5:347-348; “Pseudo-Phocylides and the New Testament,” ZNW 69 (1978) 187-202; “Pseudo-Phocylides Revisited.” JSP 3 (1988): 3-30).

In the first century B.C. it appears a diaspora Jew created 230 lines of poetry in the name of Phocylides in order to demonstrate to the gentiles that Judaism is a rational religion. The point was not to convert, but to create “sympathizers” among the gentiles (OTP 2:566). In the Sibylline Oracles, these lines are used as “criteria” for the judgment just described (Collins, “Sibylline Oracles,” in ABD 6:4). There is a “frame” at the end of this section returns to the idea of a context (lines 149-153). Since these lines will be covered in more detail in the section on Pseudo-Phocylides, suffice here to simply note the themes covered:
  • On Justice (56-77)
  • On Mercy (78-94)
  • On Moderation (95-108)
  • On Money (109-118)
  • On Honesty and Moderation (119-148)
The material following the Pseudo-Phocylides insertion returns to the theme of apocalyptic judgment and associated signs. Lines 154-173 give another series of prodigies which signal the last generation: children with grey temples from birth, famines, pestilence, war, changes of time, lamentations, and many tears. The time is near, we are told, when false prophets arise and do many signs (cf. Mt. 24:11, 24, Mk 13:22). Even Beliar will appear and do many signs, confusing even the holy and faithful men (Mt. 24:14, even the elect may be deceived by false Christs). Jesus was accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons. The Jews of the first century seem to have been looking closely at the signs performed by Jesus in order to determine if they were true (i.e. from God) or false (i.e satanically inspired.)

After the kingdoms of the world are judged (172-173) the Hebrews will rule over the world (174-186). The most high will “spread” over all men at that time. Elijah will come driving his chariot from heaven and display three signs (187-195). Then the fiery river of heaven will pour out on the earth and destroy nearly everything (196-213). Stars will fall from the sky (cf. Is. 34:4, Mk. 13:25, Mt. 24:29) and men will gnash their teeth (cf. Matt 8:12, 13:42, 50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30, Luke 13:28). The archangels will lead people into judgment (214-220).

The gates of Hades will then be broken and all the dead will be raised to life (221-251). Christ himself will come on a cloud of glory and sit on the right hand of the Glorious One to judge all of the dead. The dead will be divided into the wicked and the righteous (252-282); the wicked are punished (283-312) and the righteous are rewarded (313-338), all quite parallel to the eschatological judgment described in Matthew 25:31-46. In this parable-like conclusion to the Olivet Discourse, the punishment of the wicked is also described as a place a darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Unlike Matthew 25, people in the place of torment will request mercy from God in vain for “seven days of ages,” then they will come into repentance because of the intercession of the holy virgin. This last line is obviously a Christian idea, probably assigning a role to the “holy virgin” played by Ezra in 4 Ezra 7:101 (OTP 1:353, note a3; in much of the Ezra material, as the prophet witnesses some sinner tortured, he prays to the Lord for mercy on the sinner).

The righteous are rewarded with equality – there will be no more kings and leaders, no more rich and tyrants, “all will be on a par together” (324). Creation will also have an “equality” – there will be no more seasons. There will be no more marriage, death, sales or purchases, no sunset, no sunrise, etc. The righteous will enter into eternal life which is described as the Elysian plain and the Archerusian Lake (where Odysseus entered Hades).

* * * * * * * * * *

Sibylline Oracles, Book 3

by Phillip J. Long
August 2, 2016

Lines 1-96 are probably a conclusion to another book. Lines 97-349, 489-829 are the “main book,” with an “Oracles against the nations” section inserted in 350-488. The main section expects God to intervene during the reign of the seventh king of Egypt (lines 193, 318, 608). The mostly likely candidates for the seventh king are Philometor (186-164, 163-145 B.C.), Neos Philopater (145-144 B.C.) and Physcon / Euergetes II (170-164, 164-163, 144-117 B.C.; Collins, Athens, 85). As can be observed from the dates of these three kings, there are some co-regencies which complicate the chronology. Collins dates the book to 163-145 B.C. based on the prominence of Rome (which is more present after 175, the book is definitely written after the battle of Magnesia, 190 B.C.; Collins, OTP 1:355).

This view has been challenged, however, by Rieuwerd Buitenwerf. He points out the numbering of Ptolemaic kings did not exist in antiquity, they were identified by “title” (Buitenwerf, 126ff). The number seven is used three times in the context of the prediction of a seventh king, all figuratively according to Buitenwerf (Cf., Erich Gruen,Heritage and Hellenism, 277). The writer of the oracle can only be said to believe that Roman rule will end when an Asian king conquers Egypt, signaling the appointed time for God to intervene in history. Therefore, the historical seventh king in the Ptolemaic dynasty does not matter for dating the book. Although he accepts the number seven may have been chose as an ideal number, Collins disagrees that the seventh king has no bearing on the date. The prediction of God’s intervention when the seventh king reigns is meaningless if it is known there have been more than seven kings (Collins, Athens, 83-84, interacting with Erich Gruen).

Buitenwerf points out there is no hint of a Roman invasion of Palestine nor an end to the Ptolemy dynasty, therefore the book must be written some time before Actium, 31 B.C. He finds confirmation for this date in the paraphrase of Book 3 of the Sibylline Oracles by Alexander Polyhistor on the tower of Babel. His citation of lines 3.91-107 are preserved in Eusebius’ Chronica and Josephus’ Antiq. 1.118-119, although Josephus probably also used Polyhistor. Polyhistor began to write about 880 B.C. and died about 40 B.C.

Collins believes the main section of the book to be pro-Ptolemaic and therefore argues the book is the product of a diaspora Jew living in Egypt. This too has been challenged by Buitenwerf, calling the evidence for an Egyptian origin “extremely meager” (Buitenwerf, 131). He considers Collins’ evidence of a pro-Ptolemaic author as saying nothing of the sort and considers the topographical details as a reflection of “general education” (132). He argues for an Asian origin for the book based on the frequent mention of Asian locations and (more importantly), the prediction that an Asian king will invade Egypt.

Lines 367-380 predicted this Asian king will usher in a time of bliss for Egypt, then again in lines 601-623 an Asian king invades and God intervenes in the world. The prophetess identifies herself as the Erythraean Sibyl, a very famous Asian prophetess. He concludes the author was a Jewish inhabitant of the Roman province of Asia (133). Collins agrees the “oracles against the nations” need to be dated a bit later, likely before the battle of Actium in 31 B.C. (Compendia rerum Iudaicarum 368). These are “gentile oracles” included to bring book three up to date and add to the Sibylline flavor, but the main section of the book, in Collins opinion, is earlier.

The first section is different from the rest of the book and is to be dated at least after Actium (line 46 seems to refer to the second Triumvirate.) Lines 75-92 refer to Cleopatra. Lines 63-92 are the most difficult to date, and ought to be considered separately from the rest of the introduction since they refer to the coming of Beliar. This looks like a Christian interpolation. The identity of Beliar may be Simon Magus as an anti-messiah, who was from Samaria (Herod’s renamed Samaria “Sebaste” in honor of Augustus in 25 B.C.)

A second and more likely possibility is the phrase describing Beliar ek Sebasttenonmeans “from the line of Augustus,” implying that Beliar is Nero. This is in keeping with the Nero Myth and the common association of the return of Nero with an end-time villain. If the second option is accepted, then the date must be after A.D. 70 (when the Nero myth began to circulate), possibly later. The use of the Nero Myth in Revelation 13 is a bit controversial since most scholars date Revelation to the mid 90’s A.D. This would mean the Nero Myth was still common nearly 30 years after his death.

* * * * * * * * * *

Kingdoms of the World – Sibylline Oracles Book 3.1-294

by Phillip J. Long
August 5, 2016

As discussed in the introduction, Collins identified the first 96 lines as an introduction, possibly a fragment from another book. Lines 1-8 form an introduction by the Sibyl herself, explaining that she speaks as God bids her to speak. There follows a condemnation of idolatry which is clearly Egyptian in origin (worshiping snakes and sacrificing to cats, line 30; OTP 1:362, note d). When Rome rules over Egypt, it will become the greatest kingdom, but it will be destroyed by three men (the second triumvirate, lines 46-63; OTP 1:363, note i).

The Cumaean Sibyl
Lines 63-74 predict the coming of Nero, the Beliar from the line of the Sebastenoi. This Beliar will perform signs and raise the dead, but will eventually be destroyed when he threatens the most high God. After this the world will be in the hands of a woman (75-92). This seems to be Cleopatra, although if the previous paragraph mentions the line of theSebastenoi (Augustus), then this is either out of order historically or it refers to someone else.

The “main book” begins in line 97 with a historical survey of the world beginning with the tower of Babel in the tenth generation of men from the flood (97-109). A lengthy section discusses the Titans and their battles (110-161). God ultimately puts an end to the Titans and the cycles of the history of men began: Egypt, Persian, the Medes, the Ethiopians, Assyria-Babylon, then the Macedonians, Egypt again, then Rome.

These kingdoms seem out of order – Persia followed Babylon and the Ethiopians could not really be described as the same kind of kingdom as the others. Collins notes on OTP 1:365, note u if the kingdom of Cronos and a final eschatological kingdom is included, we have a typical list of ten kingdoms of the world. This list of kingdoms of the world is expanded in lines 162-195, climaxing in the kingdom of Macedonia. Macedonia will rule over a great territory and will cause many kings to fear.

The text seems to be against Hellenism as spread through the world by Alexander (cf. the anti-homosexuality statement in lines 185-186). This will continue until the seventh Greek king rules in Egypt (see the introduction for possibilities). The kingdoms of the world are finally judged in 196-217.

The remainder of the first section of the Third Sibylline concerns the history of Israel:

  • A description of the Jewish People (218-248). While Abram came from Ur of the Chaldeans, his people do not practice sorcery, etc. They do not rob, move boundaries, or drive off herds, etc. They always take care of the poor, the widow, and the orphan.
  • When they leave Egypt under the leadership of Moses, they follow the Lord to Sinai and are given the Law (249-264).
  • The people do not keep the law and the land becomes desolate for 70 years and the Temple will be destroyed (265-281).
  • A “good end and great glory” await the Jews when he lifts their weary knee and sends them a king to judge each man and raise a new temple (282-294).

Like Daniel, this survey of history affirms God’s sovereignty as he works through human history by raising up series of kingdoms. As the series of kingdoms culminates in Rome, the history narrows its focus to the restoration of Israel and the Temple.

* * * * * * * * * *

Oracles against the Nations – Sibylline Oracles Book 3.295-488

Phillip J. Long
August 5, 2016

This section seems to have been inserted into the third book from another source as it interrupts the flow of the apocalyptic section ending in 294.

  • Babylon is judged first because they destroyed the temple (303-313). Babylon will be “filled with blood” because they poured out the blood of good men and righteous men, whose blood even now cries out to high heaven.”
  • Egypt will be judged until the seventh generation (314-318).
  • Gog and Magog, between the Ethiopian rivers (319-323), “your dewy earth will drink black blood.”
  • Lybia, because they destroyed the house of the great immortal (324-340). Lybia and Ethiopia are among the followers of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38:5. Their land will be full of corpses, chasms and yawning pits.
  • Many cities will fall (341-349). The list includes nineteen cities in Asia Minor and Egypt.
  • Rome is condemned (350-380). Rome will fall in poverty and “become a street” (364). Rome will be liable to pay ten-thousand times so “what man would want to live in those days?” (371). Collins suspects line 357, “often drunken with your weddings with many suitors” is an allusion to the many weddings of Cleopatra, called “the mistress” in the oracle.
  • Macedonia will greatly afflict the world (381-388). Alexander the Great is described as from the “race of Cronos” and he will conquer even Babylon.
  • Alexander will go throughout the world conquering whomever he pleases (389-401). Lines 397-398 make reference to ten horns and another which will sprout out the side, similar to Dan. 7:7 and the various other “horn” prophecies in Dan. 8 and Rev. 13.

The remaining section is a collection of prophecies against cities in Greece and Asian Minor, beginning with Phrygia (402-413). Illium, Sparta, Cyprus, Ephesus, etc. are all mentioned in this section (414-488). The oracle also refers to Homer as “certain false writer, an old man, of falsified fatherland” (419-420), a writer who “he will especially embellish the helmeted men of war” (426).

* * * * * * * * * *

Prophecies of Disaster – Sibylline Book 3.489-544

by Phillip J. Long
August 6, 2016

This section (489-544) begins with a long prophecy of disaster against a variety of city states and peoples including the Phoenicians, Crete, and even Gog and Magog (513), but the main enemy judged in this section is Greece (520, 534, 537). In 544 there is reference to only a third of mankind surviving the judgment by fire of that day, not unlike several Revelation judgments in when a “third” is destroyed. The reference may be to Ezekiel 5:12, however, who used his hair as a prophecy to demonstrate that only a third of the nation would survive.

Sibyl by Ghirlandaio, 1485
The Greeks continue as the focus in 545-573. They will recognize God when the planned disaster falls upon them (555-557). Unlike the Greeks, the Jews do recognize God and are greatly praised in 573-600. They fully honor God in the temple, they properly sacrifice in a holy manner, the do not commit idolatry, they are “mindful of wedlock” and do not commit grotesque acts of immorality (pedophiles are mentioned in line 596). The Phoenicians, Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks are specifically mentioned in contrast to the Jews in this section (598).

Because of the great sin which is in the world God will judge all mortals with disaster, wars, famines, etc. (601-619). The Greeks, Macedonians and Egyptians will all be overthrown and their “handmade works” will be thrown on the fire. God will then transform the earth and cause great joy and prosperity for men (619-623).

The writer exhorts his readers to respond to God with great sacrifices in order to propitiate God (624-634). The writer describes a “signs of the end,” primarily political chaos and military conquests (635-651). The next brief section appears to be a reference to a messiah-like person (652-656). God will send a “king from the sun” who will stop war from happening on the earth by being obedient to the “noble teachings of God.” Collins mentions the common theme in Egyptian material that war will cease when Isis wills it. In the Potters Oracle, a king from the Sun is sent by Isis (OTP 1:376 note x3). The Sibylline Oracles seem to be taking an Egyptian messiah-figure and converting it to the Jewish idea that the Messiah will stop war when he comes.

An assault on the temple is predicted in 658-668. The Temple of the Great God will be attacked and destroyed and “abominable kings” will set their thrones around the city. A series of cosmological signs are given in 669-701. These physical signs of the end of the age are not as spectacular as in other apocalypses (even Revelation in the New Testament), but the serve to show even this Oracle predicts a time of natural chaos before the kingdom arrives.

Amid this chaos, the elect will be rescued by the Great God (702-731). The hand of the Holy One will be fighting for them and all the people of the earth will notice how much the Mighty One loves his chosen people. Playing on Ezekiel 39, the Oracle describes the massive bloodshed of the final battle in terms of how long it will take to collect all of the weapons of war (“seven lengths of annually recurring times,” i.e. seven months). The Greeks are advised to “desist from proud thoughts” and seek the “great-hearted Immortal” (732-740). If they serve the great God they will share in his things.

The time after the great day of God’s judgment is described in 741-761. It will be a time of prosperity and riches, God himself will institute a “common law” which the whole earth will follow so that his will is done by all “wretched mortals.” A brief exhortation to “shun unlawful worship” interrupts the description of the kingdom (762-766). This section includes a prohibition on unnatural sexual relations and the killing of infants. The description of the kingdom is resumed in 767-795. Much here is drawn from passages in Isaiah and expanded imaginatively. (Wolves and lambs eating together, lions eating husks at a manger, serpent and asps willsleep with babies, etc.) Signs of the end are listed in (796-808). These include signs in the stars and eclipses, drops of blood and gore on rocks, infantry and cavalry in the clouds.

The book ends with a “confession” from the Sibyl herself (809-829). This Jewish book attempts to put prophecies into the mouth of a pagan seer in order to show the universality of the Jewish hope for a messiah and a final judgment. She is the daughter of Circe and Gnostos (Circe is a witch in Odyssey 10.210, the identity of Gnostos is unknown. OTP 3:380 note g4 suggests an emendation to agnostos, meaning an “unknown” father) but now she is a prophetess of the great God, who put all of the future in her mind.