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406 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 


When speaking about the Jewish Sibylline Oracles it will not 
be necessary for me to enter on an examination of the origin, 
importance, and probable contents of the genuine Sibylline 
Oracles of antiquity. No doubt such an inquiry would be not 
only most profitable, but also highly interesting. The story 
goes that an unknown old woman came to King Tarquinius 
with nine books of divine oracles, which she offered him for sale 
at an enormous price. The king scornfully refused to pay the 
desired amount, whereupon she burnt three of the books, and 
demanded the same price for the remaining six. On the king 
again declining her offer with derision, she calmly burnt three 
more of the books, and desired the same sum for the three 
that remained. But now the king was struck by her collected 
and determined demeanour ; he began to consider the matter 
more seriously, and ended by giving her the full price for the 
remaining three books. This tale, and others of the same 
nature, were handed down to posterity in evidence of the 
great sacredness of the Sibylline Oracles, which were preserved 
and concealed in the Capitol. They were only consulted on 
special occasions, and by direct order of the Senate, till they 
were burnt with the Capitol in the year of Rome, 671. A 
Commission was afterwards sent to several places, famous for 
supposed Sibylline prophecies, in order to replace, as far as 
possible, the lost collection. The number of Sibylline Oracles 
which the Commissioners found to exist was enormous, but 
they selected only such as were in their opinion indisputably 
genuine. The mass of prophetical poems continued to in- 
crease, and reached astonishing dimensions. When Augustus 
became Pontifex Maximus, he had all oracles that were not 
authenticated destroyed ; the Sibylline Books were, however, 
spared, and occasionally consulted, till they were publicly 
burnt in the reign of Honorius. But the Roman oracles were 
not the only written oracles extant, nor is it certain that they 
were the oldest. The question whether the Roman oracles, 
in spite of the jealous anxiety with which they were kept 
secret, were not for all that partly or wholly known to the 
public ; the consideration of those few fragments of genuine 

The Jewish Sibylline Oracles. 407 

ancient oracles that have come down to us, and the results to 
which such an inquiry must lead, are topics which I am obliged 
to pass by. 

I have to give my attention to counterfeit fabrications, to 
such portions of that collection of spurious productions, which 
is known under the name of Xprja-fiot SifivWiaicoi Sibylline 
Oracles, as can with the greatest probability be traced back to 
Jewish authors. I have to limit my inquiry to the investigation 
of such questions as are best calculated to give a satisfactory 
idea of these Jewish oracles, of the probable age of some of 
them, of their contents, their origin, and of the kind of 
criticism which has to be applied to them. Those of my readers 
who would wish to gain an insight into the whole collection 
— comprising pieces of Heathenish, Jewish and Christian 
origin — I refer to an article on the Sibylline Books which 
appeared in the Edinburgh Revieic, in July, 1877 (vol. cxlvi). 
Out of the immense mass of literature on the subject, I shall 
confine myself to the following few references, which can be 
said to be of real moment in the investigation of the Jewish 
oracles, to which all other inquiries on the subject written 
since, be they of great or small compass, always return, to 
discuss them, to decide between their conflicting opinions, while 
the new suggestions are only of trifling importance. 

The modem criticism of the Oracles can be said to com- 
mence with Friedrich Bleek's treatise on their origin and com- 
position. 1 Exhaustive in every respect are the two editions and 
the bulky book of dissertations of Charles Alexandre (Paris, 
1841-56-59). Joseph Heinrich Friedlieb edited the Oracles in 
1852, with a German metric translation, a long introduction, 
and critical notes. Friedlieb's translation of the third book 
was reprinted with introductory remarks and notes, under 
the title of Alexandrinische Messiashojfnungen, by Dr. Z. Frankel, 
of Breslau, in his monthly magazine in 1859. Frankel, as 
well as Graetz, in the third volume of his History of the Jews, 
follow on the whole Friedlieb's views. But the opinions 
of Alexandre and Friedlieb found a severe critic in Pro- 
fessor Ewald, in his essay, TJeber Entstehung, Inhalt und Werth 
der SibyUinischen Bucher, 1858. He altogether differs from 
the views of Alexandre and Friedlieb, more particularly in 
reference to the part which is the principal subject of the 

1 tiber Entstehung und Zusammenstellung der uns in acht Buchern er- 
haltenen SibyUinischen Orakel, in the TheologUelus Zeitsehrift von 
Seldeiermacluir iind Be Wette, Berlin, 1819. I doubt whether a copy of this 
important treatise exists in any of the large libraries in England. See Tlie 
Jewish Messiah : a Critical History of the Messianic Idea among the Jews, 
etc. By James Drummond, London, 1877, page 11, note 2. 

408 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

present inquiry, namely, the third book. In 1857 there 
appeared in Jena a little work under the title of Die Judische 
Apokalyptik in ihrer geschichtlicher EnhcicUung, etc., by Dr. A. 
Hilgenfeld, in which the poem under consideration is sub- 
jected to a searching investigation. Hilgenfeld's and Ewald's 
notions on the third book are essentially the same ; they only 
differ in some points of minor importance. It is remarkable 
that Ewald does not make any mention of Hilgenfeld's in- 
quiry, although Hilgenfeld's preface is dated January, 1857 r 
and Ewald's essay was not produced before September, 
1858. And lastly, I have to mention a dissertation on the 
Jewish Sibylline Oracles, and a treatise on the fourth book 
by Dr. Benno Wilhelm Badt. 1 No subsequent inquiries 
have materially increased our knowledge of the Jewish Sibyl- 
line books. 

After this cursory sketch of its critical literature, I return 
to the subject itself. I called the Oracles spurious ; meaning 
by the word that they are not the Oracles, nor part of the 
Oracles of the Capitol, neither of those alleged to have been 
purchased by Tarquinius, nor of the later collection which was 
deposited there after its restoration. The authors of the 
older parts of our body of poems may have interwoven some 
ancient genuine Sibylline productions, as current in antiquity, 
in their works ; but if so, they did it only very sparingly. 
The oracles which we have are without exception imitations, 
none of them is a remnant of the emanations from such a 
source as was recognised in antiquity as truly Sibyllic. This, 
of course, denies them all authority as real prophecies. But 
in the same manner we should refuse credence to the genuine 
ancient oracles. This, however, was not the case with the 
first teachers of Christianity. There can be no doubt that 
most of them accepted the Sibylline Oracles as authoritative, 
and considered them as having emanated from real prophetic 
inspiration. Paul, the Apostle, must perhaps be cited as the 
oldest among them. He is quoted by Clemens Alexandrinus 
as exhorting the heathens to consult the writings of the Sibyl 
for the belief in one God, and for the predictions of future 
events by her. Alexandre presumes that Clemens must have 
quoted some apocryphal Pauline book, although he admits 
that it is neither absurd nor impossible to assume that Paul 
should have quoted the Sibyl. The same author treats 
exhaustively 2 of the credit the oracles enjoyed with the 

1 De Oraculis Sibyllinis a Judeeis Compositix, Pars I. Dissertatio Inaugu- 

ralis philologica quam defendet Benno Guilelnms Badt. Breslau, 1869. 

Ursprung, Inhalt und Text des vierten Buches der Sibyllischen Orakel von 
B. Badt. Breslau, 1878. 3 Vol. II. Excurs. IV., p. 254, »qq. 

The Jewish Sibylline Oracles. 409 

fathers of the Christian Church, and even with later 
Christian writers. People continued in the Middle Ages to 
imitate the oracles, and to prophesy without scruple on 
comparatively modern historical events. Great Britain has 
in this way been particularly taken notice of by Sibyls of 
that class, whose productions were then ascribed to some 
renowned author quite after the classical style of literary 
forgery. Thus, an oracle which was most probably composed 
by some German or Italian towards the end of the twelfth 
century, was fathered on the venerable Bede, who lived at the 
beginning of the eighth century. Bladud, Hudibras, and the 
hero of so many fables, Cadwalldr, the last king of the 
Britons, had special attention paid to them by some such 
Sibyl. Of the latter it is particularly related that he consulted, 
among other prophecies, also those of the Sibyl. Nay, a 
meddlesome prophet had something to say even about the 
Wars of the Roses, and himself took the side of the Yorkists. 1 
Such fabrications, however unimportant in themselves, show 
of what lasting influence the impulse was, as given by those 
Sibylline authors of old. The belief in their authority was 
shared by many well informed writers even of later ages. I 
shall give two examples of English authors who tenaciously 
clung to that belief. The first whom I think it worth while to 
mention, because I have not found his name alluded to in this 
connection by any author on the subject, is Roger Bacon. 2 
He implicitly believed in the prophetic power of the Sibyls, 
relying on the authority of Augustine and Isidore, and " all 
the saints." He is quite sure that they promulgated Divine 
oracles, and concludes a fortiori that if such frail women 
were thus inspired, how much more was this possible for 
philosophers. The second example is important as a specimen 
of learned men of a much later period, who attached credence 
to the Oracles even after the belief in their genuineness 
had already been seriously shaken. William Whiston edited, 
in 1715, a Vindication of the Sibylline Oracles, to tohich are 
added the genuine Sibylline Oracles themselves, etc. In this 
work Whiston admits that most of the Sibylline Books are 
fictitious ; but some of them, namely, those which he reprints, 
he holds to be not only remnants of the ancient oracles, but 
also to contain really Divine revelation. He says, 3 " It is not 
reasonable for this age to recede from the ancient opinion in 
this matter, without any new and good evidence to the 
contrary ; but they ought still to allow the Sibylline Oracles 

1 Alexandre, Vol. II., p. 298. 

2 Opus maim, II., cap. viii., p. 39, compare p. 169. Opus Tertium, pp. 79 
and 81. => P. 82. 

410 The Jewish Quarterly Review, 

to have been Divinely inspired It appears, therefore, 

that though God gave positive laws, or an institution of 
religious worship only to the Jews, and intrusted them only 
with those Divine oracles that related to the same, yet that 
he did not wholly confine Divine inspiration to that nation ; 
but supported the law and religion of nature, and the right 
worship of himself as the one and true God, among the 
heathens also, all along by these oracles till the light of the 
Christian revelation was spread over the world." 

It is needless to state that no Jewish author ever attached 
any importance to these oracles. Josephus, 1 in speaking of 
the tower of Babel, cites the words from the third Book, 
which I shall have to discuss afterwards. He says, "the 
Sibyl also " mentions the tower. That he drew from a heathen 
source, but not from the poem itself is clear, for the " God " 
of the poem is, in his quotation, "the Gods." That Philo 
ever mentioned them is doubtful. In the works of his 
which we possess no mention of them is made. 2 

After these preliminary remarks, I proceed to consider 
that part of the collection, of which two things are certain : 
first, that it is the most ancient of all these oracles; 
and, secondly, that it was composed by a Jew. There is 
some difference of opinion as to the constituent parts of the 
whole poem. Two fragments, namely, have been preserved 
by Theophilus of Antioch in his Book to Autolycus, under 
the name of " the Sibyl." According to Hilgenteld, Ewald 
and others, they are a part of the same poem as the greater 
portion of the third Book. But, according to Alexandre, they 
exhibit proofs of having been composed, not by a Jewish, but 
by a Christian author. I shall cite a few verses from the first 
fragment, in order to give a specimen of its contents, and also 
to illustrate, by means of them, some of the arguments brought 
forward by Alexandre for assigning them to a Christian 
author. The fragment commences : " O mortal men, made of 
flesh, mere nothings, how are you so full of self-importance, 
not considering that your life must end ? Neither do you 
tremble at, nor fear God, who governs you ; the supreme Lord, 
who knows, sees, and is aware of all things; who is the 
Creator who preserves all, who sent his sweet spirit into every 
one, and made it the governor of all men. There is one God, 
the only God. He is very great, unbegotten, omnipotent, 
invisible. He sees everything, but cannot be seen by any 
mortal. For what flesh can behold with his eyes the celestial, 
true, and immortal Being, who lives in Heaven, since men, 

1 Antiq., I. iv. 3. ' See Friedlieb's Introduction, p. 9. 

The Jewish Sibylline Oracles. 411 

who are born mortals, made of bones, veins, and flesh, cannot 
even bear to look at the beams of the sun. Worship him, the 
only God, the governor of the world, who alone exists 
from everlasting to everlasting. He exists from himself, is 
unbegotten. He governs all things at all times." 

It is evident that in these verses, as translated here, there 
is nothing that could not have been written by a Jew ; nay, 
the whole tenor of the piece points to a Jew as its author. 
Alexandre, however, sees in the words : " Who sent his sweet 
spirit into every one, and made it the governor of all men," a 
sign that it must have been composed by a Christian. He 
prints the word Ilvevfia, Spirit, with a capital letter ; and 
asserts that what is called here the sweet Spirit is nothing 
else but the X0705, the " Word " of the New Testament, and 
is equivalent to the Son. He maintains that the expressions 
used are taken from the first chapter of John, but that the 
author of our fragment confused the Spirit with the Word or 
the Son ; and adds, that it was an error, common in the first 
ages of the Church, to confuse these two persons. " Verum, 
hanc duarum personarum, saltern sermone tenus, confu- 
sionem primis ecclesise temporibus vulgatam fuisse, cerium 
est." And he considers the words, " Who sent his sweet Spirit 
into every one, and made it the governor of all men," only a 
reproduction of the sentence in John i. 9 : " That was the 
light which lighteth every man that comes into the world." 
Gfrbreri proves from Philo's writings that the word irvevfia 
was well known to Hellenistic Jewish authors, and is equiva- 
lent to voi)?, Intellect. This is true enough. But really we 
need not confine ourselves to this technical meaning of the 
word irvev[ia in order to understand this passage. Our author 
did nothing but reproduce the words of Genesis, "And he 
breathed in his nostrils the breath of life, or the spirit of life," 
taking them in the same sense as they are understood 
by many Jewish commentators, among others by Nachmanides 
and Mendelssohn. 

Alexandre finds also evidences of a Christian authorship in 
the following expressions (ver. 23) : " You walk in pride and 
madness, leaving the straight way ; you wander through rocky 
and thorny paths. O vain men ! Cease to wander in darkness, 
in a black and obscure night. Leave the darkness of the night 
and enter into light. Behold, he is manifest to all, and does 
not deceive. Come, and do not pursue this thick darkness ; 
behold the pleasant light of the sun shining gloriously." 
Alexandre avers that the light mentioned here cannot mean 

1 Philo und die Alcxandrini.ichc Tlieosvphie , II., p. 124. 

412 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

anything else but the light of Christianity. "Well, to the 
unprejudiced mind it is obvious that " he " in this passage 
refers to God. The poet admonishes the Gentiles to forsake 
their dark superstitions for the light of truth, and to turn to 
God, whose light shines bright and is a guide to all men. 

Besides these large fragments, there are two small ones, one 
of which was preserved by Lactantius, and the other by 
Theophilus. Both belong most probably to our section. The 
one of them argues : " If it were true that gods were born to 
continue alive and to be immortal, there would be in the end 
more gods than human beings, and no standing-room would 
be left for the mortals." A heathen, if he were only orthodox 
enough or frivolous enough, could easily have met this argu- 
ment. We know, namely, the myth according to which 
Saturn devoured some of his children. We see, therefore, 
that the notion of immortality does not exclude the possibility 
of being eaten when young. This expedient could thus be 
resorted to by the older and more hungry gods, whenever 
such an over-population of gods should threaten to become in 
the least troublesome. This would not be a survival of the 
fittest, but of those endowed with the best appetites. How- 
ever, to speak seriously, the objection must certainly have 
sounded most awkwardly on the ears of a faithful pagan of 
those days. Now it is true that a Christian could have made 
use of such words on other occasions. Yet he would hardly 
have employed them in an address to the heathens, and thus 
have provided his opponents with a cue for retorting on him. 1 
Nor would a Christian have said to them, that he is a God 
who cannot be seen by any mortal. He would not have called 
him invisible, unbegotten, nor would he have used the ex- 
pression which we find in the second large fragment, 2 that a 
God cannot possibly be created from the loins of man or 
woman. All these expressions show to demonstration that 
the author of these fragments was a Jew. The fact that in 
the second fragment the folly is shown of worshipping 
serpents, dogs, cats and birds, and images of stone, or heaps of 
stone, shows clearly that the author lived in Egypt, where 
such forms of idolatry were most rampant. 

These fragments were, according to Ewald and others, part 
and parcel of that celebrated Sibylline Oracle which com- 
mences with the 97th verse of the third Book. It is, as said 
before, the most ancient portion of the whole collection, and is 
unmistakeably of Jewish origin. The two large fragments 
were quoted by Theophilus as belonging to "the Sibyl." 

1 See Badt, p. 17. * v. 40, Alexandre— Zweites Fragm., 1, 2 Friedlieb. 

The Jewish Sibylline Oracles. 413 

Besides these two pieces, Theophilus also cites two other short 
passages, one of which we find in the third Book. Now 
Theophilus speaks all along only of one Sibyl ; all the verses 
quoted by him must therefore have occurred in the same piece. 
Lactantius mentions part of the prooemium (this is the title 
our fragments bear in the editions), as belonging to the 
Erythraean Sibyl, but he quotes also another passage, which 
we find in the third Book. We know that he ascribed the 
body of our poem to the Erythraean Sibyl. It is evident that 
the fragments and the bulk of the third Book were to him 
also one whole poem. We may, therefore, unhesitatingly 
assume that the poem, as continued in the greater part of 
the third Book, commenced with the address to the Gentiles, 
preserved by Theophilus. 

Between this latter fragment and its continuation, as we 
find it in Book iii., v. 97, there must have been some verses 
which are lost. According to Ewald, a rather large passage 
is missing. Let us read the last words of the prooemium 
and its continuation in the third Book, and then consider 
what it was that may have filled up the existing 
gap. The end of the fragment is : " To him who has the 
power of life, and of incorruptible and eternal light, and who 
can give to men joys exceeding all the sweetness of honey, to 
him alone bend the neck, and follow the way of eternal 
righteousness. But you have forsaken all these; you have 
drunk a cupful of the unmixed wine of God's vengeance, 
which is very strong and thick, by your madness and folly. 
Neither are you willing to become sober and sound in your 
minds to know the true God and King, whose providence is 
over all things. Wherefore the burning of a fervent fire 
shall seize on you, and you shall burn in flames continually 
for ever ; and be ashamed of your unprofitable false images 
But they who worship the true and eternal God shall inherit 
life. They shall inhabit the flourishing garden of Paradise 
and there feast on the sweet bread which comes from the 
starry skies." Thus the fragment ends, and Book iii., v. 97, 
proceeds : — " But when the threats of the great God are 
accomplished, with which he once threatened the men who 
built the tower in the country of Assyria, all spoke the 
same speech, and they wished to ascend to the starry heavens. 
Then the immortal God sent violent storms, and when the 
wind had overthrown the great tower which excited mutual 
contention among them, therefore men gave to that city the 
name of Babylon." 

Ewald contends that the Sibyl was obliged, after the power- 
ful exhortation to the heathens, to enter on a narrative about 

414 The Jetmh Quarterly Review. 

the creation of the world and of mankind. She prohably 
also mentioned the Flood. Then she went on to speak of the 
wickedness of the human race, which grew constantly, and 
(thus the Sibyl prophesied) will go on growing till the time 
of the Messiah. This led her to mention the threat of the 
Messianic judgment, and to foretell a subsequent completion 
of the empire of that nation, which now already was the 
bearer of the true religion. And at this point she continues : 
" But when the threats of the great God will be accom- 
plished, which were once threatened to men, who built the 
tower in the country of Assyria." 

No doubt, a passage exhibiting this flow of ideas, in the 
regularity of their sequence as suggested by Ewald, would be 
splendid indeed, if only we possessed it. But it is lost, if ever 
it did exist. It is true that there is nothing in Theophilus' 
fragments that could be called threatenings ; therefore 
something about threats nmst have preceded the open- 
ing verses. But it is doubtful whether we must assume the 
loss of such an elaborate composition as Ewald speaks of. 
And what does Ewald mean, when he says that the Sibyl 
prophesies the triumph of that religion which already now 
flourishes in some nation of the earth ? Now already ! 
When ? At what time must we imagine the Sibyl to utter 
her prophecies ? 

In my opinion some verses may have become lost between 
the so-called procemium and verse 97 of the third Book. The 
poem was certainly rather roughly handled by the com- 
piler of the Sibylline books and before his time. A portion 
of it was not taken up in the collection. The poem was 
lacerated, a piece thrust out, the best part of it tacked on to 
the first ninety-six verses of the third book, to which it does 
not belong. Thus, the only thing to be surprised at is that 
so much of it has been saved. Nevertheless it does not seem 
to me that the poem as a whole suffered so much as Ewald 

To prove this I must stop for a moment to consider the 
question already touched upon before, about the time at 
which the pretended Sibyl wishes us to believe that she pro- 
duced her vaticinations. Now it has been observed by more 
than one critic that our Sibyl plays her part remarkably well. 
She rarely forgets herself. She meets all questions that could 
arise as to her genuineness by her diction, by her tone, by the 
figures she employs, and by the direct information she im- 
parts. One of the objections to be anticipated from some 
sceptic or other would be what is her origin, and how is it 
that a Sibyl, whose sole object is the glorification of the 

The Jeicish Sibylline Oracles. 415 

Jewish nation, of its religious tenets and its Messianic hopes, 
should try to attain her object by speaking Greek to Greeks. 

Sensible of this incongruity, she obviates beforehand any 
such objection by concluding her prophecies with the follow- 
ing words (verses 808-811) : — " These things I prophesied con- 
cerning God's wrath upon men, when I was inspired with 
madness, and left the high walls of Babylon in Assyria, sent 
as a fire to Greece, to prophesy to men these divine enigmas." 
These words I consider to be the conclusion of the whole 
poem. By Babylon she means the Babylon of old. She 
professes to have been sent from Babylon to disclose the 
future to the Greeks. She pretends to have lived at the time 
when all people still spoke the same speech, that she wit- 
nessed the dispersion of the human race, on which occasion 
she herself left Babylon for Greece, sent to its inhabitants to 
lift the veil which conceals the future. She was called by 
some the Hebrew Sibyl, because of the contents of her pro- 
phecies, which only tend to the exaltation of the Hebrew race. 
But on account of the information she gives here of herself 
some called her the Babylonian, others the Chaldsean Sibyl. 
4nd now the reason is obvious why she commences her pre- 
dictions with the history of the tower of Babel. If this 
explanation is correct, the gap between the introductory 
address to the Gentiles, and the historical part cannot be very 

I do not ignore the difficulties of this explanation. I must 
assume that all the seventeen verses after verse 811 are later 
additions. It is true Bleek also rejected them, but he also rejects 
the passage which I consider as the conclusion of the whole 
poem. Others believe that only the last eleven verses are 
fictitious. Ewald, however, defends the whole passage, which 
runs as follows : — " These things I prophesy concerning God's 
wrath upon mortal men, when I was mad and left the high 
walls of Babylon in Assyria, sent as a fire to Greece, to pro- 
phesy to men these divine enigmas. And the people of 
Hellas say that I am from another country, from Erythrae, and 
call me shameless. Others call me the mad, the lying Sibyl, 
the daughter of Circe and Gnostos. But when all shall be 
fulfilled, then you will remember me, and nobody would call 
me, the prophetess of the great God, mad. He disclosed to 
me the past about my parents as well as generally, and God 
sent me to speak to mortals of the past and of the future. 
For when the world was deluged by the waters, only one good 
man was left in a house made of wood floating on the waters, 
with animals and birds, that the world might be filled again. 
Then I was his daughter-in-law, and of his blood. To him 

416 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

the former things were shown and the last ; therefore every- 
thing said by me is true." 

Ewald's words in explanation of this passage, which he 
assumes to be genuine, are as follows: "The poet desired, 
above all, to invent a suitable Sibyl, who could speak his 
words for him as they flowed from his heart. According 
to the vv. 812-815, he found two Sibyls of fame and autho- 
rity among the Greeks ; namely, the Erythraean, whose fame 
was of long standing, and another in Italy, whom, it is true, 
he does not call the Cumsean, but who is sufficiently desig- 
nated as belonging to Italy, by being called by him the 
daughter of Circe and Gnostos. He was evidently very well 
acquainted with the verses that were current under the names 
of such Sibyls, and he was obliged to follow their manner. 
But the Sibyl who speaks for him must stand high above 
these ; and this must be the case even if the Erythraean Sibyl 
had not already been called shameless by the Greeks, and the 
Italian one lying, as the poet thinks was done in his days." 

Now, it must be admitted, that if all these verses are genuine, 
we must assume that a large portion of the beginning of the 
historical part of our poem has disappeared. For although 
the first event mentioned in the Bible after the history of the 
deluge is the dispersion of men at the building of the tower, 
yet the Sibyl says that it was also her vocation to speak of 
things past. But I cannot acquiesce in Ewald's theory about 
the genuineness of that passage in which she calls herself 
Noah's daughter. Even that part of the epilogue in which 
she deprecates being confounded with the Erythraean Sibyl, 
or with the daughter of Circe and Gnostos, is more than 
suspicious. Not to speak of Bleek's objections, which Badt 
considers to have been f ully met by Hilgenfeld, I ask, how 
can we possibly believe that the author of v. 809 could imme- 
diately afterwards have written vv. 815-817 ? She says of 
herself, " When I was mad, olaTpou.avij<;." It seems here to 
be taken as a highly respectable attribute for a Sibyl. But a 
few verses after she says, "Many call me mad, fiatvofiivr}, 
but in time it will be recognised that I am not mad." Here 
mad is evidently taken in a bad sense, and uttered in one 
breath with tyevareipa, lying. If being oicrTpofiavi]'}, (furious, 
mad, a maniac) is such a great recommendation in one 
respectable Sibyl, why should it be a blame in others ? 
Or, on the other hand, if it is a disgrace for a Sibyl to be 
a maniac, why should she profess herself to be such ? For 
the word olaTpo/j.avij<; just as the more classical olarpoTrXTj^, 
literally, "stung by the gadfly," and fiaiv6fievo<;, mean the 
same thing, " mad." Therefore I maintain that the author of 

The Jetcish Sibylline Oracles. 417 

808-811 was not the same as the one who wrote the sub- 
sequent passage. 

The motive for making the addition was this. The author 
of our poem, who certainly followed the pattern of the older 
Sibylline poems, imitated some of the verses which were known 
as belonging to the Erythraean and to the Cumaean Sibyl. 
Our piece, when it was first produced, was called a Sibylline 
oracle. Some, as is evident from the passage in question, 
called it an oracle of the Erythrasan, others of the Cumaean 
Sibyl ; according to the esteem in which they held either 
prophetess. But in the confusion of Greek and Oriental 
legends, there were some who invented a Hebrew or Jewish 
Sibyl, according to the tenor of the poem; some assumed 
a Babylonian or Chaldasan Sibyl, from the informa- 
tion she gives of herself. These fables were further spun 
out, and the Queen of Saba, whom some called Nicaula, 1 
was credited with Sibylline qualities. This led some to call 
the Sibyl right out Saba, which again was altered into 
Sambethae. 2 But some one, probably a Christian, in the early 
times of Christianity, must have been shocked by the fact 
that such holy things, which he fully believed to be real 
predictions, should be ascribed to heathenish false pro- 
phetesses. He, therefore, in vindication of his prophetess, 
who professed to be of Babylon, added these verses : " May 
they call her the Erythraean, or the Cumaean, and not the 
Babylonian Sibyl ; there will be a time that they will acknow- 
ledge her as the prophetess of the great God." He dismissed 
both Sibyls with a compliment or two. The Erythraean he 
calls shameless, the other a lying maniac, quite forgetting, in 
his zeal, that being a maniac is a quality of which a true 
Sibyl ought to be proud, and which his own client ascribed 
to herself. 

That the last part, in which she calls herself a daughter- 
in-law of Noah, is spurious, is evident simply from the fact 
that Noah is said to have been the only man (tj? avijp 
fiovof) who was saved with animals and birds. The whole 
passage is very corrupt. Ewald tries to doctor it by altera- 
tions of the text and explanations. But certainly avrjp fiovo*} 
means only one man ; and this is in contradiction with the 
narrative of Genesis where there are four. Such a blunder 
could have been made by one of the authors of some of 
the other books, who sometimes betray a merely superficial 

1 Thus pom* "IDD 0)n&6ip'J Ced. Filipowski, r6xip!0, most probably from 
Josephus, Antiq. VIII. vi. 2. 

2 See Alexandre, II., p. 82, sqq. 

E E 

418 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

acquaintance with the Pentateuch; but not by the author 
of the third Book, who displays all through an intimate 
knowledge of the Bible. 

That the poet ascribes the destruction of the tower to the 
winds presents no difficulty. It is an essentially Jewish tra- 
dition : it is found in the Ritual of the German Jews, and in 
some other Jewish books. 1 

Our poet next gives a narrative of the fight of the Titans. 
He says that, ten generations after the Flood, Kronos, Titan 
and Iapetos reigned on earth They were the sons of 
Oui*anos and Gaia, of Heaven and Earth. This couple 
received these names because they were so extremely good. 
The sons ought to have reigned each over a third part of the 
earth ; but when their father died the sons fought for the 
supremacy. The struggle was particularly fierce between 
Kronos, and Titan ; but by the interference of Rhea, Gsea, 
Aphrodite, Demeter and Dione, a compact was entered into 
between Kronos and Titan, that Kronos should have the 
sovereignty for life, but that it should devolve on Titan after 
his demise. To prevent the kingship being withheld from 
Titan by Kronos' sons, the following measure was adopted : 
The Titans were watchful whenever Rhea gave birth to a 
child. Twice already they had destroyed Kronos' male issue ; 
but the third time Rhea was delivered of twins, Hera and 
Zeus. Hera was born first. When the Titans saw that a girl 
was born they went away satisfied, and Rhea contrived to 
save Zeus. She also managed to save Poseidon and Pluto. 
When the Titans saw that they had been deceived, Titan 
came with sixty sons and kept Kronos and Rhea in prison. 
But the latter's sons waged war with the Titans, and this 
was the first of all wars. 

The general opinion is that here the author closely followed 
the narrative of the fight of the Titans, as-found in Hesiod's 
Theogony, with the exception of such alterations as were 
demanded by the monotheistic view of the author. He, 
therefore, changed Hesiod's gods into human beings, made 
them dwell on earth, and remoulded the myth so as to make 
it appear to be a piece of ancient history. 

I myself do not think that our author took all this trouble. 
I am of opinion that he found these alterations ready to 
hand. Hilgenfeld says that he explained the myth after the 
Euhemeristic fashion; but I am convinced that all he did was 
to put the very words of Euhemeros into verse. 

1 In a piece recited on the Day of Atonement, beginning rD f'DK ; and 
in the DniDH ?JD s. v. 1?"!m. Evidently it was an old Midrasb, 

The Jewish Sibylline Oracles. 419 

There lived about the year 300 before the Christian 
era, a man called Euhemeros, most probably a native 
of Messana, in Sicily, who, induced by his protector, 
King Cassander of Macedonia, composed one of the most 
curious books that ever were written. He called it iepa 
avaypa<f>r) — Sacred History. In this book he started the 
theory that the gods were in reality human beings, who had 
been deified after their death. The geography, topography 
and archaeology, which he required to prove his propositions, 
he invented himself. He declared that on his travels he had 
read of the most important actions of Uranus, Kronos and 
Zeus, in an inscription on a golden column in the Temple 
of Zeus Triphylios, on the island of Panchsea, in the 
Southern Ocean. Now this island was not situated in the 
Southern Ocean ; the only place of its existence was in the 
fertile brains of Euhemeros. This Sacred History is lost ; 
but the quotations from this book, as given by some authors, 
together with the fragments of the Latin translation by the poet 
Ennius, sufficiently prove that Euhemeros' account of the strife 
with the Titans is essentially the same as that given by the 
Sibyllist. His very expressions often correspond to the letter 
with those in the Sibylline account. Uranus was, according to 
Euhemeros, a mighty king, who owed his name to his great 
knowledge of astronomy. It would only be repeating the 
Sibyl to give his version of the Titanic quarrels. Euhemeros 
was called a wicked atheist by his contemporaries and by 
some later authors. In the present age of comparative 
mythology his method is called shallow, unpoetical, and un- 
scientific. But, however easy it may be to sneer at his system, 
it was, nevertheless, a mighty effort in his days, and produced 
great consequences. 

When we consider the eagerness with which new theories 
are taken hold of by some people, who are dazzled by their 
novelty and their plausibility, we must not be surprised that 
the learned Jews of Alexandria, having become acquainted with 
the imposing mass of Greek myths, were only too glad to find 
a system ready at hand by means of which they could recon- 
cile them with their own monotheistic notions. I do not 
doubt but that they really believed the myths to be ancient 
history, which had been corrupted by the stupid, idol-ridden 
crowd. To them Euhemeros must have appeared in the light 
of a beneficent sage, and his system as the acme of wisdom. 
That his whole theory has been exploded is a fate that has 
been, and will be, met with by many systems which in their 
day were worshipped as oracles. 

After the narrative of the Titanic war, our Sibyl begins to 

E E 2 

420 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

prophesy in good earnest. She narrates how the word of the 
great God flew into her heart, and bade her prophesy to all 
mankind. The house of Solomon will reign over the horse- 
men of Phoenicia and Macedonia and the isles. A second 
nation will be the Hellenic- Macedonian power, and then the 
Romans will rule over many countries and terrify all kings. 
Their avarice and greed will cause much misery to mankind 
until the reign of the seventh king of Hellenic origin over 
Egypt. Then the people of God will be strong again, and be 
the guides of life to mortals. 

Here we have reached one of the moot points at issue 
between Alexandre and Ewald. If we reckon from Alexander 
the Great as the first king, the seventh will be Ptolemajus VI., 
Philometor. He was taken prisoner by Antiochus Epiphanes 
in 170, and died in 146. Now, if we assume with Alexandre 
that by " the seventh king " Philometor was meant, then 
our oracle must have been composed before 170, for after that 
time Philometor was neither the sole nor the undisputed pos- 
sessor of the throne. In that case a large portion of the 
third Book (vv. 295-488) cannot belong to our Sibyllisfc, 
because it contains allusions to events after Philometor's time. 
Alexandre, therefore, assigns that piece to a much later 
period. But if we assume, with Ewald and others, that the 
seventh king is Ptolemseus Physcon, then all those allusions 
may refer to contemporary facts, and the piece in question 
would be an integral part of our oracle, and the whole written 
during the latter years of Physcon, when he wielded undis- 
puted power. When comparing the arguments of Ewald 
and of Alexandre, it appears that Ewald, and before him 
Hilgenfeld, have proved their propositions, and the piece 
relegated by Alexandre to a later time has to be considered 
as a portion of our poem. It is curious that the author of 
the article in the Edinburgh Review, who follows Ewald's 
guidance all along, agrees on this point with Alexandre. He 
says that it seems quite impossible that a pretending prophet, 
writing at any period subsequent to the successful rising 
under Judas Maccabseus, of at least to the death of Simon in 
the year 150, could have given utterance, in the form of a pre- 
diction, to the high hopes which are embodied in these verses. 

But, first of all, Simon did not die in 156, but in 135 ; and, 
secondly, why could not such hopes be fostered by a poet 
living at the time of John Hyrcanus? But granted even that 
the poem dates from the early years of Simon, even in that 
case our author could have lived in the days of Physcon, for 
when Simon became High Priest, Philometor had been dead 
already for three years. 

The Jewish Sibylline Oracles. 421 

The Sibyl, speaking of the Jews, prophesies that misfortune 
will befall the pious men, who live about the temple of 
Solomon, who have their origin from Ur of the Chaldees. 
They do not turn themselves to the circuit of the sun, or of 
the moon, nor to monstrous phenomena on earth, nor to 
sorcerers, nor charmers, nor ventriloquism, nor Chaldrean 
astrology, nor to the stars. They practise justice and virtue 
without greed for money. They have just weights and 
measures. They do not rob each other, nor remove the land- 
marks of their neighbours. The rich does not grieve the 
poor nor oppress the widow, but rather assists them, giving 
them part of the harvest, in obedience to the sacred law of 
God. A description follows of their miraculous wanderings 
through the desert under Moses' leadership. God gave the 
law from Heaven, which they must faithfully observe. But 
they would have to leave their splendid temple and their 
country. Every land, every sea, will be full of them, 
but their own land will be empty of them. Their forti- 
fied hill, the temple of the great God, and the high walls, 
all will be cast to the earth, because of their sins and idolatry. 
They will be slighted by everyone for their customs. But 
happiness and great honour would return after seventy years 
of hardship. There is a royal clan whose family will not go 
down. It will reign in the course of time, and commence to 
build the temple of God. The poet alludes here to Zerubbabel, 
who was of the house of David. The kings of Persia, he con- 
tinues, will assist. God himself will give a holy dream in 
the night, and then the temple will be again as it was before. 
Our pretended Sibyl maintains her assumed part by feigning 
to be exhausted. She prays to God to relieve her, but God 
again orders her to prophesy to the whole earth. 

She first addresses Babylon, foretelling her utter ruin and 
destruction for having overthrown the temple. This passage 
is most poetical ; in it, however, the Sibyl, in her ecstasies, 
seems to forget for once the part she plays, and shows her true 
colours in verses 312, 313: "And thou shalt be filled with 
blood, as thou hast formerly spilt the blood of good and righteous 
men, which even now cries to Heaven." So difficult it is, even 
for ever so dexterous an imitator, to keep up a role throughout 
a work of about a thousand lines. 

The next vaticination is about Egypt (314-318), in which 
again the seventh generation of kings is mentioned. There- 
upon follow predictions about Gog and Magog, and the 
Libyans, and about the miseries of a great many cities. 
Passages, like the one that follows next, describing the great 
power and predicting the ultimate fall of Rome, chiefly in- 

422 The Jetoish Quarterly Review. 

duced many learned men to consider a great part of the poem 
as having been written at a later date. Home, they argue, 
had not risen yet to that power at the time of the poet of the 
other parts ; neither could he have known of any reverses the 
Romans had sustained, nor of the full prosperity of that nation. 
But if the poem was composed in the later days of Ptolemseus 
Physcon, after the fall of Corinth and Carthage, the poet could 
have justly described Rome as risen from earth to heaven. 
That he alludes to the ultimate fall of the virgin, the daughter 
of Rome, as he calls her — in imitation of the Biblical " virgin, 
daughter of Zion "—has its ground in the conviction of the 
Jewish author, that it was to be a king from the holy land 
who would dictate in the end to the nations of the earth. 

After this follow the remarkable words : — 
"Eorat Kai 2d/M><; afifios, iaelrai ^»}\o? a&rjXo? kcu 'Pco/xr) pvfii}, 
" Samos will become a heap of sand (amnios), Delos will dis- 
appear (adelos), Rome will be a village (rume)." I abstain, in 
going through the contents of our poem, from pointing out 
the places in Holy Writ to which the author refers ; but I 
must make an exception in this case. First, because I am 
not aware that it has been pointed out before that this play 
upon words is an imitation of Zephaniah ii. 4. There we find 
a prophecy about Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron : " For 
Gaza shall be forsaken and Ashkelon a desolate place ; they 
shall drive Ashdod out at noon, and Ekron shall be uprooted." 
About the first and the last cities the Hebrew text reads 
"ipjWl jnpJJl .... rpnn row TVT2 "O. The prophet is rather 
utilising the similarity of sound in rQTO mv and 1"npy 
"!pj?n than playing upon the words ; the expressions are placed 
at the beginning and end of the sentence, and thus avoid offend- 
ing good taste. In imitation of this our Sibyllist brings in 
his predictions about Samos, Delos, and Rome, in three con- 
secutive puns. 

And, secondly,if my surmise about an imitation of Zephaniah 
is correct, it would settle another point which is not without 
importance. For if the poet observed the play upon words 
in Zephaniah he must have read the Bible in Hebrew, for it is 
lost and quite unnoticeable in any translation. This circum- 
stance would at once raise our author above a large crowd 
of other Sibyllists and of Jewish Hellenistic writers — not, 
perhaps, excepting even Philo — whose knowledge of the Bible 
was only acquired from translations, because they were igno- 
rant of the Hebrew tongue. 

The author proceeds to depict the Messianic period. But 
that time will not come soon, other events will precede it. He 
alludes to Alexander of Macedon as a pretended descendant 

The Jewish Sibylline Oracles. 423 

of Jupiter, but in reality, he says, he is the offspring of slaves. 
He mentions the conquest of Macedon by the Romans ; and 
consequently cannot have written before 146. He pays special 
attention to the fate of the Seleucides in an obscure passage, 
which has been satisfactorily explained by Hilgenfeld and 
Ewald, as referring to Antiocnus Epiphanes, Alexander Balas, 
and Tryphon. The poet speaks of Troy, and calls Homer a 
lying writer, who certainly has much wit and eloquence, but 
borrowed from her, the Sibyl. After many predictions about 
Rome and various other heathen countries, the Sibyl was again 
exhausted, but God commanded her again to speak. This 
part is chiefly devoted to the glorification of the Jewish nation, 
the holy stock of righteous men, who will observe the counsels 
of the supreme God, and will honour his temple by offerings. 
They do not serve idols, but every morning, when they rise 
from their beds, they consecrate their hands with water before 
honouring God, and above all they will be mindful of holy 
wedlock. And after a description of the misfortunes and 
disturbances in nature, which will precede that happy con- 
summation, the Sibyl concludes with the words which I 
have discussed already, and which form, in my opinion, the 
natural conclusion of the whole poem. 

Having thus given an outline of the contents of the greater 
part of the third Book, I shall only add a few words about the 
other oracles which are presumably of Jewish origin. The 
first 96 verses were in my opinion not written by a Jew. A 
Jewish authorship can only be assumed by the most forced 
arguments, by a disputable explanation of the words ex 
Se^aarrjv&v, by assuming that the name Beliar (Belial), as a 
proper noun and applied to a kind of enemy of man, of an 
Anti-Christ, was a Jewish conception, 1 and the like. 

The fourth Book is most probably the work of a Jew, nor 
is there any ground to assume with Hilgenfeld, Ewald, and 
Delaunay, 2 that it was written by an Essene. When he speaks 
in depreciating words of a temple, he means, as is evident 
from the context, heathen temples. When he says : " Happy 
will be those men who will love the great God, praying before 
eating and drinking," he alludes to an absolutely Jewish rite, 
not one, which according to Ewald, points to an Essene. Nor 
is it a proof of either Christian or Essene authorship when 

1 Neither for the use of that word as a proper noun, nor for the whole con- 
ception, does any foundation exist in Jewish writings. Ewald's remark (p. 56), 
that there exists no Antichrist against the more lifeless Jewish Messiah, is 
very striking. 

* Moines et Sibylles dans l'antiquite' Judeo-G-recque. Paris, 1874. This 
author scents Essenism everywhere. 

424 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

he says : " They abrogate all temples and altars, the seats of 
dumb stones, soiled with the blood of animals" ; for here again 
he speaks only of idol worship. They are soiled by the blood 
of offerings, but the same thing in the temple of the Jews, 
which was already destroyed, would tend to the glory of God. 
And thus he adds immediately (line 30) ffkeyfrovai 8' evo? deov 
ek fieya kvBo<}. There is nothing strange in the fact of a 
man blaming in one case the very thing which, under other 
circumstances, he would praise. He is not indifferent to 
the destruction of the temple, which he calls the temple of 
God. And when he summons the Heathens to repent, to 
turn to God, and " to bathe their whole body in rivers," he 
simply alludes to the bath which Jewish law demands of every 
proselyte. " They do not murder, nor steal, nor covet another 
man's wife, nor do they commit unnatural vices. Other people 
do not imitate such piety and such manners, but sneer and 
laugh at them in their folly, and impute to them their evil 
doings. For the whole human race is incredulous, BuairurTov." 
Thus at least the passage is usually translated. But I think 
hvaTTurrov is to be taken in the less classical, passive meaning of 
untrustworthy, lying, in which sense the word is used by 
some later authors, and that the sentence is a reproduction of 
Psalm cxvi. 11, "all men are lying." The complaint about 
being laughed and sneered at, and having the evil doings of 
others imputed to them, is really quite in keeping with ex- 
periences of the Jews of all ages, and must certainly have 
emanated from a Jewish source. 

The fifth Book was also undoubtedly composed by a Jew. 
It breathes the most unbounded patriotism, and has peculiar 
beauties of its own. All alleged traces of a Christian author- 
ship of this book vanish one by one on closer inspection. And 
that passage which was thought to be the clearest evidence of 
the author's Christian persuasion, is nothing but the hope of 
a reappearance of Moses. The words are : " But an excellent 
man will again come from Heaven, the best of the Hebrews, 
whose hands approached the fruitful stick, who once stayed 
the sun, and spoke with beautiful speech and holy lips." The 
" fruitful wood " was explained as alluding to the cross. Ewald, 
however, 1 understands the words as expressing the hope of a 
reappearance of Moses ; but he gives no explanation. Badt 
gives only a confused explanation, because, like all com- 
mentators, he finds that mention is here made of Joshua, 
OT rjkiov iroTe (TTTjae, who caused the sun to stand still. Who 
else can be meant here if not Joshua ? The fact is that no 

1 P. 56, note 5. 

The Jewish Sibylline Oracles. 425 

mention whatever is made here of Joshua. But who else 
caused the sun to stand still, if not Joshua? Well, Moses 
himself, according to a very old Jewish tradition to be found 
in Midrash Tanchumab, and thence also in Bashi, to Exodus 
xvii. 18 : " His hands were steady until the going down of 
the sun. The Amalekites had calculated the hours by means 
of their astrology. But Moses caused sun and moon to stand 
still, and confused their hours, and it is this to which the 
prophet Habakkuk alludes, 1 when he says : — He (Moses under- 
stood) lifted up his hands on high. The sun and moon stood 
still." The Sibyllist thus speaks only of Moses, who by lifting 
his staff stayed the sun and thus defeated the Amalekites, all 
perfectly in accordance with ancient Jewish traditions. The 
whole book would deserve a more minute analysis, but space 
does not allow it. 

After all, on considering the Jewish Sibylline oracles, the 
chief interest centres in the poem of which I have given 
a fuller description, namely the third Book. The whole 
is pervaded with a spirit of the purest monotheism. The 
author's love for his country and his race, his unshaken 
attachment to Jerusalem, his profound veneration of the law 
of God, are evident in almost every line. The ultimate 
greatness of the Jewish nation, the glorious restoration of 
Jerusalem, and the acknowledgment by the whole world of 
the religious doctrines of the Jews are to him not matters of 
faith, but certainty. His diction abounds with expressions 
taken from the Hebrew prophets, in whose works, it is plain, 
he was well read. Gfrorer has proved that his philosophical 
and ethical views are those of the learned Alexandrian Jews 
of his age. As a poem, his work may rank among the best 
productions of all ages. A special affection for Hellas is 
apparent ; the author evidently endeavours to amalgamate the 
myths, the wisdom, and the poetry of Greece, with the history 
and lore of Israel. But, as Ewald truly says, Hellas gave him 
only the rough material, and the outer garment ; she furnished 
him only with her language and with a number of phrases, 
but it is Israel that supplied him with the spirit which ani- 
mates the whole. 

In his endeavour not to display his true colours, he only 
mentioned such Biblical precepts, the expediency and utility 
of which can be easily understood, the O^taeBJB, the ni2» 
tVfosiD. He excludes the D^pn, the nvyoBJ nvic, command- 
ments of obedience, ritualistic commandments. That he 
mentions offerings, which are certainly ritualistic, is accounted 

1 Ch. iii., end of verse 10 and beginning of verse 11. 

426 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

for by the fact that the idea of sacrifices was not foreign to 
the Greek mind. Such precepts as have an exclusively 
national importance are also omitted. Not even the Sabbath 
is mentioned. 

Our author bears in this respect a close resemblance to 
Pseudo-Phocylides, whose work must be named here, although 
it is not of a Sibylline character. For the compiler of our 
collection, when he was tinkering together the most hetero- 
geneous elements, thought good to insert in the undoubtedly 
Christian second Book ninety-three verses from the Pseudo- 
Phocylidean poem. 

This false Phocylides was in reality a Jew, the question 
about whom has been finally settled by the late Jacob 
Bernays. 1 But in one point our author stands high above 
Pseudo-Phocylides ; for the latter never openly and candidly 
condemns idolatry. In his endeavours to be taken for the 
ancient Phocylides, he is satisfied with keeping his aphorisms 
free from polytheistic colouring. Our Sibyllist, on the con- 
trary, fearlessly and vigorously denounces idolatry in all its 

That he chose to promulgate his thoughts and feelings 
under the disguise of a Sibyl, must be accounted for by the 
times and the surroundings of the author. The two centuries 
after Ptolemaeus Philadelphus were most fertile in the produc- 
tion of apocryphal books. But the growth of fictitious 
books was by no means confined to that period. When 
Bernays says that the profession of fabricating spurious books 
commenced with the attempts of Onomacritus, in the time of 
Pisistratus, and lasted till late in the Middle Ages, this is 
only to be understood of such books as were written in Greek. 
Generally speaking, however, what Bentley said is true, that 
the making of spurious books is almost as old as letters. 
But the period mentioned before was particularly prolific in 
that branch of workmanship. The i*ivalry and competition 
between the courts of Alexandria and Pergamus in enriching 
their libraries certainly gave a great impetus to that kind 
of activity, which was industriously pursued by people of all 
creeds. But it would be a mistake to apply the same hard 
and fast rule to all works of that kind, and to hold, for 
instance, Ovid guilty of fraud for his epistles of heroes and 
heroines, equally with downright forgers. 

The Jews of Alexandria also occupied themselves to a great 
extent with that kind of work. We must, therefore, not be 

1 Some of his opinions have been opposed, but not with sufficient argu- 

The Jewish Sibylline Oracles. 427 

surprised, however sad it may be, that there were Christian 
scholars who put the whole stigma attached to such fraudulent 
authorship upon the Jews. Valckenaer, in his learned essay- 
on the Jew Aristobulus, shows that this teacher of Ptolemseus 
was a great culprit in that line. But he lays more to his 
charge than he really committed ; and, says Valckenaer, he 
was so glad to find that a Jew, and not a Christian, was the 
author of those forgeries ; for, although his was a pious fraud, 
yet he much rather sees a lying Jew to be the cheat than a 
Christian. That he himself in his essay has to speak of 
religious forgeries committed by Christians is of no account, 
as it seems. Even the great Bockh, so well known also for 
his humanity, in one of his earlier writings 1 speaks, in con- 
nection with some verses falsely ascribed to the tragic poet, 
of the rather impious than pious fraud, which is ingrained 
in the nature of the Jews. And, curiously enough, a few 
lines before this tirade, on the very same page, he mentions 
the fictitious drama Clytemnestra, as written by a monk, and 
a few pages after, a Christian interpolation in an alleged 
letter of Plato. 

Now one should think that no work is more calculated 
to dispel such bias than the books of the Sibylline Oracles. 
The greater part of them was written by Christians, with 
the deliberate purpose of propagating Christianity by these 
means. We find that Alexandre endeavours to defend their 
authors, and that he finds the deception venial, because it 
was the literary fashion in those days for authors to pass 
their works off under some old celebrated name; and that 
the writers of the Sibylline poems never had any direct 
intention of fraud, but used this form only as the most con- 
venient one for circulating their views among the heathens. 
One would suppose that Alexandre would mete out equal 
justice to the Jewish Sibyllists. But no ! He gladly seizes an 
opportunity (p. 352) of falling foul of the Jews generally 
in a terrible onslaught on the author of the fifth book. 
That man is to him, if not a Jew, certainly of Jewish ex- 
traction, because he displays the true nature of a Jew, in 
his blindly sticking to the Old Testament; in his uncon- 
quered faithfulness to his country and his religion, which is 
rather fanatical attachment than sincere piety. He shows 
nothing of that sanctity which pervades the other books. 
He cannot have the advantage of the excuse of pious fraud. 
He either wrote from hatred to the Romans, or in order to 

1 Grtecece Tragoc&ice principum . . . iium e.a quce supersunt genuina 
omnia sint, etc. Heidelberg, 1808, p. 146. 

428 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

get money from Jews and Judaizing Christians for his praises 
of the Jews and his merciless invective against the Romans. 
I fear the fate of Balaam overtook the learned Alexandre 
when he was writing these word^. Even whilst writing, his 
intended condemnation, against his will, turned for the most 
part into a warm eulogy. It is worth noticing how blind 
fanaticism and mercenary motives, two very incongruous 
incentives indeed, are described here as acting on the same 
persons at the same time. 

Quite a new theory was started by Frankel. He sees in 
the Jewish Oracles, and in some other supposititious books 
written by Jews, an Alexandrian Hagada, which was totally 
different from the Hagada of Palestine. These poems were, 
according to Frankel, never intended for heathen, but 
exclusively for Jewish readers. This theory is, in my opinion, 
untenable. The rigorous exclusion of all ritualistic and all 
specially national Biblical precepts from these poems, shows 
clearly that they at least were intended to be read by non- 
Jews. Their authors, inspired by their faith in the glorious 
future of Israel, imbued with its sublime teachings, but tinged 
at the same time with the philosophical ideas of their age, 
and struck with the grandeur and beauty of the literature of 
Hellas, wished to bring these various elements into harmony, 
and to place the results before the eyes of the Gentiles 
with the most fascinating art at their command. They found 
that the system of writing books under borrowed names 
was almost openly practised, and they lacked the moral 
power of rising above the spirit of their age and their 
surroundings. They are certainly neither more nor less guilty 
than a host of other writers of their own time and of subse- 
quent ages ; but however venial their mode of proceeding may 
be, it can never be fully justified before the forum of truth 
and religion. Ewald holds that the use of the Sibyl was a 
poetical license, similar to the invocation of the Muses by a 
modern poet, with this difference, that a poet calling on the 
Muses, may relate that which they inspire him with in their 
name ; but that a Sibyl, according to the accepted usage, was 
always to speak of herself. Granted even this most lenient 
view of the matter, it ill accords with that veneration of 
the Holy Scriptures which we should expect from a Jewish 
scholar of those days, for him to assume, under whatever pre- 
text, the title of a prophet, and to pass off his composition as 
the word of God revealed to him. However much we may 
try to excuse these Jewish Sibyllists, it cannot be denied that 
they have cast a slur on the fair fame of the Jewish sages. 

The Jewish Sibylline Oracles. 429 

The learned Fabricius 1 is of opinion that none of the oracles 
were composed by Jews, that all of them were written by 
Christians. And what are the arguments he bases his opinion 
on? Let us hear his words. "Jews," he said, " never used to 
spread false prophecies among the heathens, but were in this 
respect most religiously careful ; and while they were pos- 
sessed of the true and Divine prophets at home, they were 
solicitous neither to add anything to them nor to take any- 
thing from them. There is scarce any mention made of, and 
never any value put upon the Sibylline books by the Jews. 
Josephus does, indeed, by the way, mention them, but that 
only once ; Philo not once. Nor, that I can possibly leam, 
have the Talmudic writers any x*egard for them. We never 
read that the heathens brought against the Jews the charge 
that they forged or interpolated the Sibylline verses, though 
we do read such an accusation against Christians." I wish I 
were able to conclude my essay with these words of Fabricius, 
who, in his estimation of the Jewish sages of old, is, on the 
whole, so correct. But I cannot do this. Confronted by the 
practices of these Egyptian Sibyllists I am obliged to gainsay 
Fabricius, and that it should be so is a circumstance which I 
cannot but call highly deplorable. 

S. A. Hirsoh. 

1 Bibliotheca Graeca, 1. 1, 133.