The Tenth Generation – Sibylline Oracles, Book 2.1-55

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).

Blood from HeavenThis 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 “contest” in 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.

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