Apocrypha: Pseudo-Sibylline Oracles 1

milton s. terry



Announcement, 1-5. Creation of the earth and man, 6-47. First sin and penalty, 48-81. Condition of the first race, 82-107. The second race of men, 108-129. Third and fourth races, 130-148. The race of giants, 149-153. Call and preaching of Noah, 154-243. Entrance into the ark, and the flood, 244-281. Abatement of the waters, 282-319. Exit from the ark, 320-343. The sixth race and the Titans, 344-386. Prophecy of Christ, 387-468. Dispersion of the Hebrews, 469-485.



BEGINNING with the generation first
Of mortal men down to the very last
I’ll prophesy each thing: what erst has been,
And what is now, and what shall yet befall
5 The world through the impiety of men.
First now God urges on me to relate
Truly how into being came the world.
And thou, shrewd mortal, prudently make known,
Lest ever thou should’st my commands neglect,
10 The King most high, who brought into existence
The whole world, saying, “Let there be,” and there was.
For he the earth established, placing it
Round about Tartarus, and he himself

[1. This book appears to be one of the latest in composition of this entire collection of oracles, but it was placed first on account of its contents, which relate to the creation and the earliest races of mankind. It is evidently of Christian origin, and was written probably as late as the third century.

13. Tartartus, the prison of the Titans, is here conceived as encompassed by the earth and forming its interior. Hesiod (Theog., 720, ff) represents it as surrounded by a brazen fence and situated as far beneath the earth as earth is beneath the heaven; it would require nine days and nights, he says, for an anvil to fall from heaven to earth, and as many more for it to fall from earth to Tartarus. Comp. Homer, Il., viii, 13-16. Verg., Æn., vi, 577-581. It will be seen in line 127 and elsewhere that Gehenna is regarded as a part of Tartarus or identical with it, while Hades (line 106) comprehends the abode of all the dead.]

Gave the sweet light; he raised the heaven on high,
15 Spread out the gleaming sea, and crowned the sky
With an abundance of bright-shining stars,
And decked the earth with plants, and mingled sea
With rivers, and the air with zephyrs mixed
And watery clouds; and then, another race
20 Appointing, he gave fishes to the seas
And birds unto the winds, and to the woods
The beasts of shaggy neck, and snakes that crawl,
And all things which now on the earth appear.
These by his word he made, and every thing
25 Was speedily and with precision done;
For he was self-caused and from heaven looked down
And finished was the world exceeding well.
And then thereafter fashioned he again
A living product, copying a new man
30 From his own image, beautiful, divine,
And bade him in ambrosial garden dwell,
That labors beautiful might be his care.
But in that fertile field of Paradise
He longed for conversation, being alone,
35 And prayed that he might see another form
Such as he had. And forthwith, from man’s side
Taking a bone, God himself made fair Eve,
A wedded spouse, and in that Paradise
Gave her to dwell with him. And, when he gazed
40 Upon her, on a sudden filled with joy
Great admiration held his soul, he saw
A pattern so exact; and with wise words
Spontaneous flowing answered he in turn
For God had care for all things. For the mind
45 They darkened not with passion, nor concealed
Their nakedness, but with hearts far from evil


Even like wild beasts they walked with limbs exposed.
And afterwards delivering them commands
God showed them not to touch a certain tree;
50 But the dread serpent drew them off by guile
To go away unto the fate of death
And to gain knowledge of both good and evil.
But the wife then first traitress proved to God;
She gave, and urged the unknowing man to sin.
55 And he, persuaded by the woman’s words,
Forgot the immortal Maker utterly,
And treated plain commandments with neglect.
Therefore, instead of good, received they evil
According to their deed. And then the leaves
60 Of the sweet fig-tree piercing they made clothes
And put them on each other, and concealed
The sexual parts, because they were ashamed.
But on them the Immortal set his wrath
And cast them out of the immortal land.
65 For their abiding now in mortal land
Was brought to pass, since hearing they kept not
The word of the immortal mighty God.
And straightway they, upon the fruitful soil
Forthgoing, with their tears and groans were wet;
70 And to them then the immortal God himself
A word more excellent spoke: “Multiply,
Increase, work constantly upon the earth,
That with the sweat of labor ye may have
Sufficient food.” Thus he spoke; and he made
75 The author of deceit to press the ground
On belly and on side, a crawling snake,
Driving him out severely; and he sent
Dire enmity between them and the one

[48-52. Cited by Lact., Div. Inst., ii, 13. [L., 6, 325.]]


Is on the look-out to preserve his head,
80 But man his heel; for death is neighbor near
Of evil-plotting vipers and of men.
And then indeed the race was multiplied
As the Almighty himself gave command,
And there grew up one people on another
85 Innumerable. And houses they adorned
Of all kinds and made cities and their walls
Well and expertly; and to them was given
A day of long time for a life much-loved;
For they did not worn out with troubles die,
90 But as subdued by sleep; most happy men
Of great heart, whom the immortal Saviour loved,
The King, God. But they also did transgress,
Smitten with folly. For with impudence
They mocked their fathers and their mothers scorned;
95 Kinsmen they knew not, and they formed intrigues

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