Mike Aquilina

Oracles in Excelsis

Saturday December 27th 2008, 11:46 am

In the pre-Christmas mail came Oxford University Press’s remarkable new The Sibylline Oracles: With Introduction, Translation, and Commentary on the First and Second Books. It’s a stunning work of scholarship and translation. The Oracles are a compilation. Some are Jewish, some Christian, some Jewish-Christian. Some are pagan and were cited by both Jews and Christians as confirming various prophecies. The Oracles were cited by many of late antiquity’s leading lights — Josephus, Justin Marytr, Augustine.

BMCR was right to call this new volume “monumental.”

Here’s a seasonal Oracle, from the new translation by J.L. Lightfoot:

When the … manless maid the Logos give a name,
Then from the east a star in fullest day
That brightly shines shall from the heavens beam
Announcing a great sign fo rmortal men.
Then great God’s son will come to humankind,

Clothed in flesh, in human form on earth…

He will fulfil, and not throw down, God’s law,
Wearing a matching likeness, and will teach.
To him will holy men bring gifts of gold,
And myrrh and incense, for all this he will do.