A History of the World – Sibylline Oracles, Book 11

Collins dates this book to the “turn of the era” and considers it an example of Diaspora Judaism.  We are therefore back to the early part of the development of the format of the sibyl, but as Collins notes, this is very different than Sibylline 3 and 5 (OTP 1:432).

PythiaThis text is not particularly religions but is political propaganda, interested in Egyptian political movements. As such, there is no familiar eschatology at all in the book, but rather a history of the political relationship between Rome and Egypt. This book is valuable for setting the context of other Diaspora books, but has little to say for New Testament backgrounds.  Common features of the book include a ten-generation history of the world (line 14) and a series of oracles working through the kingdoms which ruled the world through those ten generations (Egypt, Persian, Media, India / Ethiopia, the Assyrians, Macedonia, then Rome).

There is remarkable is a summary of the Trojan War (123-163) and a reference to Virgil (164-171).  Alexander the Great receives a long poem 195-223, (“the one whose name begins with the first letter”).  The diadochi are described (223-243), with the final sections detailing the intrigue of Cleopatra (243-260) and eventually Julius Caesar (261-276).

The writer of the oracle predicts (or expresses some wishful thinking) that Egypt will fall (276-314) and be judged by God himself (311-314):

Therefore God himself, the imperishable prince who lives in the sky, will utterly destroy you and impel you to lamentation, and you will make amends for what you formerly did lawlessly. At last you will realize that the anger of God has come upon you.

There is no hint of Christian editing (no allusion to Jesus or a coming Kingdom, for example). In fact, the book ends with the words of the Sibyl who will be confirmed at Panopeia as a “true seer, chanter of oracles, though someone will call me a messenger with frenzied spirit.”

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