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Sextus Julius Africanus was a Christian traveller and historian of the late 2nd and early 3rd century AD. He is important chiefly because of his influence on Eusebius, on all the later writers of Church history among the Fathers, and on the whole Greek school of chroniclers.

His name indicates that he was an African. Suidas calls him "a Libyan philosopher", while Gelzer considers him of Roman descent[1] Julius called himself a native of Jerusalem – which some scholars consider his birthplace[2] – and lived at the neigbouring Emmaus. His chronicle indicate his familiarity with the topography of Palestine.[3]

Little of his life is known and all dates are uncertain. One tradition places him under the Emperor Gordianus III (238–244), others mentions him under Severus Alexander (222–235). He appears to have known Abgar VIII, the Christian King of Edessa (176–213).

He may have served under Septimius Severus against the Osrhoenians in 195. He went on an embassy to the emperor Severus Alexander to ask for the restoration of Emmaus, which had fallen into ruins. His mission succeeded, and Emmaus was henceforward known as Nicopolis.

Julius travelled to Greece and Rome and went to Alexandria to study, attracted by the fame of its catechetical school, possibly about the year 215.[4] He knew Greek (in which language he wrote), Latin, and Hebrew. He was at one time a soldier and had been a pagan; he wrote all his works as a Christian.

Whether Julius Africanus was a layman or a cleric remains controversial. Tillemont argued from Julius' addressing the priest Origen as "dear brother" that Julius must have been a priest himself[5] but Gelzer points out that such an argument is inconclusive.[6] Statements calling him a bishop only appear in the fourth century.

Writings

He wrote a history of the world (Chronographiai, in five books) from Creation to the year AD 221, covering, according to his computation, 5723 years. He calculated the period between Creation and Jesus as 5500 years, placing the Incarnation on the first day of AM 5501 (our modern March 25 1 BC), according to Venance Grumel, La Chronologie (1958). This method of reckoning led to several Creation eras being used in the Greek Eastern Mediterranean, which all placed Creation within one decade of 5500 BC.

The history, which had an apologetic aim, is no longer extant, but copious extracts from it are to be found in the Chronicon of Eusebius, who used it extensively in compiling the early episcopal lists. There are also fragments in George Syncellus, Cedrenus and the Chronicon Paschale. Eusebius (Church History i. 7; vi. 31) gives some extracts from his letter to one Aristides, reconciling the apparent discrepancy between Matthew and Luke in the genealogy of Christ by a reference to the Jewish law of Levirate marriage, which compelled a man to marry the widow of his deceased brother, if the latter died without issue. His terse and pertinent letter to Origen impugning the authority of the part of the Book of Daniel that tells the story of Susanna, and Origen's wordy and uncritical answer, are both extant.

The ascription to Africanus of an encyclopaedic work entitled Kestoi (Κεστοί "embroidered"), treating of agriculture, natural history, military science, etc., has been disputed on account of its secular and often credulous character. August Neander suggested that it was written by Africanus before he had devoted himself to religious subjects. A fragment of the Kestoi was found in the Oxyrhynchus papyri. According to the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, the Kestoi "appears to have been intended as a sort of encyclopedia of the material sciences with the cognate mathematical and technical branches, but to have contained a large proportion of merely curious, trifling, or miraculous matters, on which account the authorship of Julius has been questioned. Among the parts published are sections on agriculture, liturgiology, tactics, and medicine (including veterinary practise)."

Notes

  1. ^ Gelzer, Sextus Julius Africanus und die Byzantinische Chronographie, Leipzig 1898, p. 4f.
  2. ^ Martin Wallraff (ed.), Iulius Africanus: Chronographiae. The Extant Fragments, reviewed by Hagith Sivan (Bryn Mawr Classical Review)
  3. ^ Gelzer, p. 10.
  4. ^ Gelzer, p. 11.
  5. ^ Louis-Sébastien Le Nain de Tillemont, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire ecclésiastique, III, Paris, 1693, 254
  6. ^ Gelzer, p. 9.

References

  • H. Gelzer, Sextus Julius Africanus und die Byzantinische Chronographie. Leipzig, 1898. Online at the Internet Archive. Accessed 8 December 2009.
  • M. Wallraff, L. Mecella (hg), Die Kestoi des Julius Africanus und ihre Überlieferung (Berlin und New York, de Gruyter, 2009), 395 S. (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur, 165).
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SEXTUS JULIUS AFRICANUS, a Christian traveller and historian of the 3rd century, was probably born in Libya, and may have served under Septimius Severus against the Osrhoenians in A.D. 195. Little is known of his personal history, except that he lived at Emmaus, and that he went on an embassy to the emperor Heliogabalus to ask for the restoration of the town, which had fallen into ruins. His mission succeeded, and Emmaus was henceforward known as Nicopolis. Dionysius bar-Salibi makes him a bishop, but probably he was not even a presbyter. He wrote a history of the world (Chronografiai, in five books) from the creation to the year A.D. 221, a period, according to his computation, of 5723 years. He calculated the period between the creation and the birth of Christ as 5499 years, and ante-dated the latter event by three years. This method of reckoning became known as the Alexandrian era, and was adopted by almost all the eastern churches. The history, which had an apologetic aim, is no longer extant, but copious extracts from it are to be found in the Chronicon of Eusebius, who used it extensively in compiling the early episcopal lists. There are also fragments in Syncellus, Cedrenus and the Paschale Chronicon. Eusebius (Hist. Ecc. i. 7, cf. vi. 31) gives some extracts from his letter to one Aristides, reconciling the apparent discrepancy between Matthew and Luke in the genealogy of Christ by a reference to the Jewish law, which compelled a man to marry the widow of his deceased brother, if the latter died without issue. His terse and pertinent letter to Origen, impugning the authority of the apocryphal book of Susanna, and Origen's wordy and uncritical answer, are both extant. The ascription to Africanus of an encyclopaedic work entitled Kestoi (embroidered girdles), treating of agriculture, natural history, military science, &c., has been needlessly disputed on account of its secular and often credulous character. Neander suggests that it was written by Africanus before he had devoted himself to religious subjects. For a new fragment of this work see Oxyrhynchus Papyri (Grenfell and Hunt), iii. 36 ff.

Authorities

- Edition in M. J. Routh, Rd. Sac. ii. 219-509; translation in Ante-Nicene Fathers (S. D. F. Salmond) vi. 125-140. See H. Gelzer, Sex. Jul. Africanus und die byzant. Chronographie, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1880-1885); G. Kruger, Early Christian Literature, 248-253; A. Harnack, Altchristl. Litt. Gesch. i. 507, ii. 70.


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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

His Knowledge of Languages.

Byzantine chronographer, noted for his surprisingly lucid interpretations of some Biblical questions; flourished in the first half of the third century of the common era. Suidas (s.v. Ἀφρικανός) says that Africanus was a Libyan philosopher; and this statement is supported by Julius' works, which, although written in Greek, betray their author's knowledge of Latin, indicating, therefore, that he was a native of Latin North Africa. He was, it seems, the son of Christian parents and, doubtless, the scion of a noble family. This assumption explains the fact that he took part in the expedition of Septimius Severus against Osrhoene in 195. He was a friend of Abgar VIII. of Edessa; and he found much material for his works in the archives of that city. These relations with the Orient explain his knowledge of Syriac, which he shows, for example, in the fourth chapter of his Κεστοί, where he gives the Syrian name of a fish. He may also have become personally acquainted with the condition of the Jews in Babylon; for he says in the Susanna Epistle that the Jews were living under their own jurisdiction in the Exile. His works in Biblical criticism indicate that he knew Hebrew also. Toward the end of his life he was presbyter, or, according to others, bishop, of Emmaus (Nicopolis) in Palestine, and as such headed an embassy to Rome in behalf of that city. He was a contemporary and friend of Origen, and lived under the emperors Heliogabalus and Alexander Severus.

All the works of Africanus, which are of course especially important for Christianity, are also highly interesting for Judaism. These works include:


(1)

a chronography in five books, in virtue of which he is not only the founder of Church history and the predecessor of Eusebius, but also the source and pattern for the Byzantine chronographers, who frequently make extracts from this work, thereby preserving considerable fragments. He divides the history of the world into seven epochal weeks, similar to the Jewish work "Lepto Genesis" (Jubilees), treating within these divisions the earliest history of the human race, then Jewish history, and, finally, the latter synchronistically with general history. He places Moses 1,020 years before the first Olympiad, a date probably derived from Justus of Tiberias, from whose lost history much has been preserved by Africanus; and it is to this source that are to be traced various statements of facts found in Africanus' history and parallel to those given by Josephus. In connection with the Biblical stories Africanus relates many legends whose origin may in part be found in the Apocalypses and the Midrashim.

His Works.

(2) Κεστοί (= "Embroidery"), a figurative name given to a large work said to have included twenty-four (according to others, fourteen and nineteen) books, and dedicated to Alexander Severus. The two books that have been preserved deal chiefly with matters pertaining to warfare, the whole work having been devoted to similar subjects. Here also are found important data relating to Jewish history; e.g., that the Pharisees, i.e., the Jews engaged in war with Titus, destroyed a division of the Roman army by poisoning the wine the soldiers drank (Κεστοί, § 3). This work, filled with pagan views and gross superstitions, was formerly ascribed to a pagan author; but recent criticism assigns it to Africanus.


(3) A letter to Origen relative to the Susanna Epistle appended in the Septuagint to the Book of Daniel. The penetration that Africanus displays in proving this letter to be a forgery has earned for him the reputation of a sound Bible critic.


(4) A letter to Aristides on the discrepancies in the genealogy of Jesus. In this letter also Africanus shows that he is well versed in Jewish history.


(5) He may also have written a commentary on Daniel's weeks of years.

Bibliography: Fragments from Africanus have been collected in Galland. Bibliotheca Veterum Patrum, ii., Venice, 1781; Routh, Reliquiœ Sacrœ', 2d ed., ii.; Migne, Patrologia Grœca, x. et seq.: Veterum Mathematicorum Opera ed. M. Thevenot, Paris. 1693; Fabricius-Harles, Bibliotheca Grœca, iv. 240-245; H. Gelzer, S. Julius Africanus, Leipsie, 1880-85; Harnack, Gesch. der Altchristlichen Litteratur, i. 507, ii. 70 et seq.

This article needs to be merged with Julius Africanus (Catholic Encyclopedia).
This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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