The Cumaean Sibyl was the priestess presiding over the Apollonian oracle at a Greek colony named Cumae in today’s Naples, Italy. The word sibyl is Latin from the ancient Greek word sibylla, meaning “prophetess.” A famous pagan icon, she predicted the end-time judgment of Rome. Pseudo-Methodius’ prediction, whether the Great Monarch for Catholics or the Mahdi for Muslims, has its origin in the legendary sibylline books and possibly the original pagan oracles.[i] The Sibylline Oracles are a pseudepigraphal collection of utterances attributed to female visionaries called Sibyls.[ii] Although often altered by Christians and Jews, they are a collection of fourteen books and eight fragments, spanning from the second century BC to the early eighth century AD.[iii] The surviving texts include remnants of the old Roman Sibylline Books, attributed to the pagan prophetess known as the Sibyl. Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, a trusted academic source, identifies the extant oracles.
SIBYLLINE ORACLES.† A collection of oracles of Jewish and Christian origin that are part of the Pseudepigrapa. “Sibyl” (Gk. Sibylla) may have been the name of a specific legendary Greek prophetess, but it became an international term for a type of oracular literature usually focused on predictions of wide-scale disasters, political upheavals, and, sometimes, a golden age under a great world leader. A number of collections of Sibylline oracles from different parts of the Mediterranean world and the Near East existed. (emphasis added)[iv]
The oldest collection of Sibylline books was attributed to the Hellespontine Sibyl and was well-kept in the temple of Apollo at Gergis. From Gergis the collection passed to Erythrae, where it became famous as the oracles of the Erythraean Sibyl. It would appear to have been this very collection that found its way to the well-known Cumaean Sibyl and from Cumae to Rome to Syria and finally to the Great Seal of the United Sates of America, which is, according to occult scholar Manley P. Hall, the Cumaean Sibyl’s prophecy of the coming of Apollo/Osiris/Nimrod—whom we call Antichrist.[v] It is especially notable that the eastern division of the original Catholic Church, Islam, and most all of Freemasonic occultism share a similar belief in an end-time king who seems to set the world straight, ushering in a period of peace and prosperity. This is in accord with the first three and half years of the final seven in Daniel’s seventy-week prophecy.
Many ancient references to the Sibyl’s prophecies survive in various quotations. For example, Plato and Aristotle mentioned the original oracular poems, which in their original pagan forms seem buried under Jewish and Christian revisionism. Although many of the older books burned in a fire, the original pagan oracles were collected in 76 BC and an official edition was issued by the Roman Empire, an edition mentioned as late as AD 405. This fact makes it seem unlikely that the apologists writing to Romans would try such an obvious alteration. Recalling that Justin was a disciple of Irenaeus of Lyons (AD 175),[vi] who was mentored by Polycarp who learned from John, the “apostle Jesus loved” (John 21:20).[vii] John was the only one who did not run after Jesus’ arrest and subsequently composed his Gospel, the strongest statement of Jesus’ divinity, the Johannine epistles, exhorting virtue and confession of sin, and, Methodius’ alleged Revelation aside, the final inspired Apocalypse in the canon of Scripture. One cannot be taught in a better line of tradition as to the inspired author of Revelation’s original intention than Irenaeus and Justin, and, preterism aside, these early Christians all still awaited a future Antichrist and Jerusalem Temple. Irenaeus wrote:
But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom, that is, the rest, the hallowed seventh day; and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance, in which kingdom the Lord declared, that “many coming from the east and from the west should sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Matthew 8:11).[viii]
The early Christian Church actually took these oracles quite seriously and codified and even composed many of the extant manuscripts. During the formational period of the Church, the early apologists frequently cited the Sibyl in apologetic arguments. Justin Martyr (AD 150),[ix] Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch (AD 180), Clement of Alexandria (AD 200), Lactantius (AD 305), and Augustine (AD 400), all cited various versions of the prophecies often reinterpreting or “Christianizing” them. Constantine, the first Christian emperor, quoted a long passage of the Sibylline Oracles (Book 8) containing an acrostic in which the initials from a series of verses read: Jesus Christ Son of God Saviour Cross. Some oracles are decidedly Christian oriented. It doesn’t bode well for Rome.
Is the end of the world and the last day And judgment of the immortal God for them That are approved and chosen. And there shall Against the Romans first of all be wrath Implacable, and there, come a time. (Sibylline Book III: 120)
Some fragmentary verses that do not appear in the collections that survive are only known because they were quoted by a Church Father Justin Martyr (ca. 150) in his “Hortatory Address to the Greeks,” specifically mentioning the Cumaean Sibyl “having no remembrance of what she had said, after the possession and inspiration ceased.”[x] Even so, part of Justin’s apologetic was that the pagans, despite their embrace of idols, did know of the One True God. He wrote:
We must also mention what the ancient and exceedingly remote Sibyl, whom Plato and Aristophanes, and others besides, mention as a prophetess, taught you in her oracular verses concerning one only God. And she speaks thus:—
“There is one only unbegotten God,
Omnipotent, invisible, most high,
All-seeing, but Himself seen by no flesh.”
Then elsewhere thus:—
“But we have strayed from the Immortal’s ways,
And worship with a dull and senseless mind
Idols, the workmanship of our own hands,
And images and figures of dead men.”
And again somewhere else:—
“Blessed shall be those men upon the earth
Who shall love the great God before all else,
Blessing Him when they eat and when they drink;
Trusting it, this their piety alone.
Who shall abjure all shrines which they may see,
All altars and vain figures of dumb stones,
Worthless and stained with blood of animals,
And sacrifice of the four-footed tribes,
Beholding the great glory of One God.”
These are the Sibyl’s words.[xi]
Since Justin was arguing with Romans, it is hard to believe he simply altered the text to make his points. The original pagan collection was known to exist and was attested until the fifth century, so his opponents would have surely called him out. Justin leaves no doubt by ending his three citations with one remark, “These are the Sibyl’s words.”[xii] His basic argument is that, “Even your own prophetess told you there was one creator God and that your temples are full of useless idols, an idea that nicely parallels the Hebrew prophets (Isaiah 2:8, Jeremiah 50:2; Ezekiel 22:3). However, if they are, in fact, from the ancient Roman Sibylline, they truly are rather shocking coming from the heart of ancient polytheistic paganism. Alternate explanations suggest Justin was “cheating” by putting words in her mouth, including the possibility that he might have accessed versions altered by Jewish scribes or perhaps they reflect monotheism coming from the Judean sibyl (or Babylonian Saba) mentioned later in this series. It explains why so many scholars believe books 2 and 3 were heavily altered or even entirely composed by early Christians who simply ascribed their own apologetics to the Sibyl. Even so, if the prophetess truly was not in control of her words as described by Justin, there is no reason to believe the spirit realm truly cared about Rome’s imperial opinion, and stated the unvarnished truth of ultimate monotheism, in a Trinitarian sense, of an invisible Creator.
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Justin was likely citing an ancient Roman text. Considering the post Augustinian citations of the Roman Empire’s official edition of the Sibylline Oracles, it seems highly unlikely so many well-read Christian apologists would try to convince Roman citizens using obviously altered citations. Roman scholars had access to the Empire’s official edition until the fifth century and could easily call Justin—or even, much later, Augustine—out for altering it. We are not aware that any such rejoinders exist, but very little from antiquity is extant so, at best, it’s an argument from silence and carries little weight.
We find the character argument more compelling, Jesus taught that honesty was a virtue to be sought. Because the early Church esteemed honesty, it seems unlikely Justin or other serious followers of Jesus intentionally altered the citations to suit a particular point that could have been made with better documentation. These were learned men, schooled in the art of scholarly debate and discourse beyond that which most moderns attain. The sheer output of research and writing still existing from these men demands a strong work ethic at minimum. While such alterations certainly exist, it does not mean every apologist followed such an intellectually dishonest ethic.
While ancient historians do not always agree, there appear to be many Sibylline prophetesses and temples. Between four and twelve such temples appear to be active, simultaneously dispersed across the Roman Empire in major cities after Alexander conquered the known world and Hellenized it. Each temple paid a financial homage to Rome and likely served as an intelligence-gathering arm of the Sibyl. Of course, such information swapping amongst cults is expected.
Perhaps the Sibyl-cult developed and continued to grow in elite circles, especially amongst the wealthiest members of society, some for which money is no object and of whom such occult activity is well attested in the lurid histories of the sorcery-practicing emperors and, later, popes. Throughout the medieval period, belief in such occult traditions reigned. The Roman poet Virgil (70–19 BC) was lauded as a sorcerer of rare expertise.[xiii]
Such paganism hits home with moderns, given the New Testament Greek term translated “sorcery” is from the Greek pharmakeia or pharmakon, depending on the case and tense is where the English “pharmacy” was derived. A basic lexicon notes it is derived from the older word pharmakeuō, which meant explicitly “to administer drugs.”[xiv]However, there is widespread agreement that sorcery involved divination, spirit contact, deception, or curses (including poisoning), rather than the healing arts practiced by doctors like Luke, the esteemed historian of the Christian Church (Luke, Acts).
Lesser known than the Cumaean is the Judean Sibyl, a Jewess who in various incarnations prophesied from the Babylonian captivity into the post Christian era from Babylon and later, Jerusalem. According to the second-century Greek geographer, Pausanias:
Later than Demo there grew up among the Hebrews above Palestine a woman who gave oracles and was named Sabbe. They say that the father of Sabbe was Berosus, and her mother Erymanthe. But some call her a Babylonian Sibyl, others an Egyptian.[xv]
The Hebrew Sibyl was later known as the Sabbe of Palestine.[xvi] Reflecting its Roman antiquity, “Sabbe” could be derived from the Aramaic saba (“old”).[xvii] Interestingly, the Hebrew term pronounced the same transliterated as tsaba mean “host,” also denoting immortal armies (“host of heaven”). We believe these beings, some of which are fallen, have preserved this tradition to place their “man” in control. The Judean Sibyl was still highly regarded during the New Testament era, even by Jews and Christians.[xviii] For example, the Jewish Encyclopedia stated the Hebrew Sibyl “was regarded as a very ancient personage who perpetuated the wisdom of the past, and the traditions concerning her may consequently be compared with the Jewish legends of Enoch and of Asher;s daughter Serah.”[xix] Finally, the Sybil and/or Pseudo-Methodius might have based the “great monarch” on the Hebrew Bible type of Gideon. The last Roman emperor or Mahdi character is most likely a useful-fiction borrowed from several sources. Even so, the Judean Sibyl may reflect Jewish influence and could explain some of the quotations that seem monotheistic.
In A Plea for the Christians to Marcus Aurelius (AD 176), the Christian apologist Athenagoras of Athens quoted the Oracles verbatim, amongst many pagan references including Homer and Hesiod, and, stated several times that all these works should already be familiar to the Roman Emperor. Our point is not that he believed in pagan prophecy or deities; his purpose was to cross the cultural divide by reading the pagans’ valued books and to speak their language. Much like the apostle Paul’s citation of the Greek poet Epimenides (Acts 17:28), the early apologists operated in their own cultural milieu and wrote from a supernatural worldview, which often is alien to our modern scientific reductionistic thinking. The Jewish Encyclopedia explains the scholarly conundrum of restoring the pagan originals: “Christianity has not only preserved these poems, but has added to them, so that the sibylline utterances in their present form are a mixture of Jewish and Christian elements, imposing upon criticism the task of separating them.”[xx] To do such work, one must be able to handle Syriac, Greek, and Latin texts, making for a slow process, as not many contributors with ancient language proficiency are available. Even so, there appear to be several literary and character parallels to the popular Sibylline literature, which likely would have been known to a late-sixth-century pseudepigrapher in Damascus or nearby.
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As explained in our entry, The Last Roman Emperor Becomes the Muslim’s Mahdi, the Mahdi was crafted by Hadith compilers in the seventh and eighth century as a response to the widespread Christian belief in the Apocalypse falsely ascribed to third-century Church Father, Methodius. Many of its prophecies trace back to traditions from the Sibylline literature, which is a hodgepodge of Christian, Jewish, and pagan oracular poems but parallel Bible prophecy in many intriguing ways. Books 2 and 3 of the extant oracles are thought to be the most heavily Christianized but likely have dependence on the previous Jewish Babylonian revisions that would have been most available to the second-century Church. Many parallel the New Testament’s final book Revelation in its depiction of Rome as the Great Harlot who rides the Beast and meets destruction. We continue to watch the world gather together in response to Mahdism.
Freemasonic scholar Manley P. Hall described a Sibylline prophecy in the Great Seal of the United States (as explained in Zenith 2016) and now current academic research of medieval literature presents the case that the same Sibylline source inspired the last Roman emperor literary topos resulting in the Catholic monarch and Mahdi traditions via Sibylline paganism and could turn out to be from a very ancient pagan source. Hillary Clinton, whom we identified from her birth date after the Parsons/Hubbard ritual, as the most likely candidate for the Babalon working’s “whore of Babalon,” is the frontrunner as Democratic presidential candidate.[xxi] Are we perched at the Zenith? President Obama’s ambition to become UN secretary general has become public knowledge. While we label not, we are very intrigued by his bravado. More so, Vladamir Putin and Prelate Archbishop Kirilli have openly declared a twenty-first century crusade while remaining belligerently pro-Assad/anti-USA, and we cannot help but sense that it is leading to a time when the reptilian spirits will be gathering the world’s leaders (Revelation 16:14), and that the world is already perched upon the ultimate battle of biblical prophecy, Armageddon.
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[i] P. Alexander, The Oracle of Baalbek. The Tiburtine Sibyl in Greek Dress, (Washington, DC, 1967), 21.
[ii] Robert C. Kashow, “Sibylline Oracles,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015).
[iv] Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 947.
[v] Manly P. Hall, The Secret Destiny of America. Gaillard Hunt, The History of the Seal of the United States (Washington, D.C.,1909), Horn and Putnam, Petrus Romanus, 105–106.
[vi] Ireaneus of Lyons, “Early Christian Writings,” http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/irenaeus.html,, accessed February 22, 2016.
[vii] Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, III.3.
[viii] Irenaeus, Against Heresies Book V, Chapter 30, 4.
[ix] Justin Martyr, “Horatory Address to the Greeks” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus , http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01/Page_273.html.
[x] Justin Martyr, “Horatory Address to the Greeks”, http://biblehub.com/library/justin/justins_hortatory_address_to_the_greeks/chapter_xxxvii_of_the_sibyl.htm.
[xi] Justin Martyr, “Justin’s Hortatory Address to the Greeks,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. M. Dods, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 280.
[xiii]“The Wonderful History of Virgilius the Sorcerer of Rome” (London, D. Nutt, 1893), https://archive.org/details/wonderfulhistory00lond.
[xiv] Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).
[xv] Pausanias X 12.9.
[xvi] Rieuwerd Buitenwerf, Studia in Veteris Testamenti Pseudepigrapha, vol. 17, Book Iii of the Sibylline Oracles and Its Social Setting (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 121.
[xvii] “Sibyl” in Jewish Encyclopedia, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13629-sibyl, accessed February 20, 2016.
[xviii]A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Part 2, Volume 3 (Scribner, 1896), 273, https://books.google.com/books?id=piRNAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA273&lpg=PA273&dq=Pausanias+X+12.9&source=bl&ots=VKFzkCdxTT&sig=Zbu2rTAc0yeiBZvRG9x9fof7xsU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwju_9vf9evKAhXINiYKHVjOBrcQ6AEIITAC#v=onepage&q=Pausanias%20&f=false.
[xix] Richard Gottheil and Samuel Krauss, “Sibyl” in Jewish Encyclopedia.com, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13629-sibyl, accessed January 9, 2016.
[xxi] Putnam and Horn, On the Path of the Immortals.
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