Ancient Literature

Today’s Reading from the Ancient World

Today’s ancient reading comes from the Sibylline Oracles, a collection of ecstatic prophecies that were common in the ancient world. This particular text comes from the first book and touches on a number of elements found in the Hebrew Bible and the NT. Enjoy!

Beginning from the first generation of articulate men
down to the very last, I will prophesy all in turn,

such tings as were before, as are, and as will come upon

the world through the impiety of men.

5 First God bids me tell truly how the world

came to be. But you, devious mortal, so that you may never neglect my commands,

attentively make known the most high king. It was he who created

the whole world, saying, “let it come to be” and it came to be.

For he established the earth, draping it around with

10 Tartarus, and he himself gave sweet light.

He elevated heaven, and stretched out the gleaming sea,

and he crowned the vault of heaven amply with bright-shining stars

and decorated the earth with plants. He mixed the sea

with rivers, pouring them in, and with the air he mingled fragrances,

15 and dewy clouds. He placed another species,

fish, in the seas, and gave birds to the winds;

to the woods, also, shaggy wild beasts, and creeping

serpents to the earth; and all things which now are seen.

He himself made these things with a word, and all came to be,

20 swiftly and truly. For he is self-begotten

looking down from heaven. Under him the world has been brought to


Translation is John Collins’ taken from James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Volume One: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009), 335.

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