Book X, Chapter
...It is not,
then, from Plato, but from your Chaldaean teachers you have learned to
elevate human vices to the ethereal and empyreal regions of the world
and to the celestial firmament, in order that your theurgists might be
able to obtain from your gods divine revelations; and yet you make
yourself superior to these divine revelations by your intellectual
life, which dispenses with these theurgic purifications as not needed
by a philosopher. But, by way of rewarding your teachers, you recommend
these arts to other men, who, not being philosophers, may be persuaded
to use what you acknowledge to be useless to yourself, who are capable
of higher things; so that those who cannot avail themselves of the
virtue of philosophy, which is too arduous for the multitude, may, at
your instigation, betake themselves to theurgists by whom they may be
purified, not, indeed, in the intellectual, but in the spiritual part
of the soul.
Now, as the persons who are unfit for philosophy form incomparably the
majority of mankind, more may be compelled to consult these secret and
illicit teachers of yours than frequent the Platonic schools. For these
most impure demons, pretending to be ethereal gods, whose herald and
messenger you have become, have promised that those who are purified by
theurgy in the spiritual part of their soul shall not indeed return to
the Father, but shall dwell among the ethereal gods above the aerial
But such fancies are not listened to by the multitudes of men whom
Christ came to set free from the tyranny of demons. For in Him they
have the most gracious cleansing, in which mind, spirit, and body alike
participate. For, in order that He might heal the whole man from the
plague of sin, He took without sin the whole human nature. Would that
you had known Him, and would that you had committed yourself for
healing to Him rather than to your own frail and infirm human virtue,
or to pernicious and curious arts! He would not have deceived you; for
Him your own oracles, on your own showing, acknowledged holy and
immortal. It is of Him, too, that the most famous poet speaks,
poetically indeed, since he applies it to the person of another, yet
truly, if you refer it to Christ, saying, "Under thine auspices, if any
traces of our crimes remain, they shall be obliterated, and earth freed
from its perpetual fear." By which he indicates that, by reason of the
infirmity which attaches to this life, the greatest progress in virtue
and righteousness leaves room for the existence, if not of crimes, yet
of the traces of crimes, which are obliterated only by that Saviour of
whom this verse speaks. For that he did not say this at the prompting
of his own fancy, Virgil tells us in almost the last verse of that 4th
Eclogue, when he says, "The last age predicted by the Cumaean sibyl has
now arrived;" whence it plainly appears that this had been dictated by
the Cumaean sibyl. But those theurgists, or rather demons, who assume
the appearance and form of gods, pollute rather than purify the human
spirit by false appearances and the delusive mockery of unsubstantial
Chapter XXIII: Of the Erythraean Sibyl, Who is Known to have Sung Many
Things about Christ More Plainly than the Other Sibyls
Some say the
Erythraean sibyl prophesied at this time. Now Varro declares there were
many sibyls, and not merely one. This sibyl of Erythrae certainly wrote
some things concerning Christ which are quite manifest, and we first
read them in the Latin tongue in verses of bad Latin, and unrhythmical,
through the unskillfulness, as we afterwards learned, of some
interpreter unknown to me. For Flaccianus, a very famous man, who was
also a proconsul, a man of most ready eloquence and much learning, when
we were speaking about Christ, produced a Greek manuscript, saying that
it was the prophecies of the Erythraean sibyl, in which he pointed out
a certain passage which had the initial letters of the lines so
arranged that these words could be read in them: 'Ihsous Xristos Qeou
uios spthr, which means, "Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Saviour."
And these verses, of which the initial letters yield that meaning,
contain what follows as translated by some one into Latin in good
I Judgment shall
moisten the earth with the sweat of its standard,
H Ever enduring, behold the King shall come through the ages,
S Sent to be here in the flesh, and Judge at the last of the world.
O O God, the believing and faithless alike shall behold Thee
U Uplifted with saints, when at last the ages are ended.
S Seated before Him are souls in the flesh for His judgment.
C Hid in thick vapors, the while desolate lieth the earth.
P Rejected by men are the idols and long hidden treasures;
E Earth is consumed by the fire, and it searcheth the ocean and heaven;
I Issuing forth, it destroyeth the terrible portals of hell.
S Saints in their body and soul freedom and light shall inherit:
T Those who are guilty shall burn in fire and brimstone for ever.
O Occult actions revealing, each one shall publish his secrets;
S Secrets of every man's heart God shall reveal in the light.
Q Then shall be weeping and wailing, yea, and gnashing of teeth;
E Eclipsed is the sun, and silenced the stars in their chorus.
O Over and gone is the splendor of moonlight, melted the heaven,
G Uplifted by Him are the valleys, and east down the mountains.
O Utterly gone among men are distinctions of lofty and lowly.
I Into the plains rush the hills, the skies and oceans are mingled.
O Oh, what an end of all things! earth broken in pieces shall perish;
S Swelling together at once shall the waters and flames flow in rivers.
S Sounding the archangel's trumpet shall peal down from heaven,
W Over the wicked who groan in their guilt and their manifold sorrows.
T Trembling, the earth shall be opened, revealing chaos and hell.
H Every king before God shall stand in that day to be judged.
P Rivers of fire and brimstone shall fall from the heavens.
In these Latin
verses the meaning of the Greek is correctly given, although not in the
exact order of the lines as connected with the initial letters; for in
three of them, the fifth, eighteenth, and nineteenth, where the Greek
letter G occurs, Latin words could not be found beginning with the
corresponding letter, and yielding a suitable meaning. So that, if we
note down together the initial letters of all the lines in our Latin
translation except those three in which we retain the letter T in the
proper place, they will express in five Greek words this meaning,
"Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Saviour." And the verses are
twenty-seven, which is the cube of three. For three times three are
nine; and nine itself, if tripled, so as to rise from the superficial
square to the cube, comes to twenty-seven. But if you join the initial
letters of these five Greek words, 'Ihsous cristos Qeou uios swthr,
which mean, "Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Saviour," they will make
the word ikdus, that is, "fish," in which word Christ is mystically
understood, because He was able to live, that is, to exist, without sin
in the abyss of this mortality as in the depth of waters."
But this sibyl, whether she is the Erythraean, or, as some rather
believe, the Cumaean, in her whole poem, of which this is a very small
portion, not only has nothing that can relate to the worship of the
false or reigned gods, but rather speaks against them and their
worshippers in such a way that we might even think she ought to be
reckoned among those who belong to the city of God. Lactantius also
inserted in his work the prophecies about Christ of a certain sibyl, he
does not say which. But I have thought fit to combine in a single
extract, which may seem long, what he has set down in many short
quotations. She says,
shall come into the injurious hands of the unbelieving, and they will
give God buffets with profane hands, and with impure mouth will spit
out envenomed spittle; but He will with simplicity yield His holy back
to stripes. And He will hold His peace when struck with the fist, that
no one may find out what word, or whence, He comes to speak to hell;
and He shall be crowned with a crown of thorns. And they gave Him gall
for meat, and vinegar for His thirst: they will spread this table of
inhospitality. For thou thyself, being foolish, hast not understood thy
God, deluding the minds of mortals, but hast both crowned Him with
thorns and mingled for Him bitter gall. But the veil of the temple
shall be rent; and at midday it shall be darker than night for three
hours. And He shall die the death, taking sleep for three days; and
then returning from hell, He first shall come to the light, the
beginning of the resurrection being shown to the recalled.
use of these sibylline testimonies, introducing them bit by bit in the
course of his discussion as the things he intended to prove seemed to
require, and we have set them down in one connected series,
uninterrupted by comment, only taking care to mark them by capitals, if
only the transcribers do not neglect to preserve them hereafter. Some
writers, indeed, say that the Erythraean sibyl was not in the time of
Romulus, but of the Trojan war.