Rieuwerd Buitenwerf

Winner Dissertation Prize 2003

Book III of the Sibylline Oracles and its Social Setting

Supervisors: Prof. dr H.J. de Jonge, Dr H. W. Hollander
Nomination: Leiden University, Faculty of Theology

Report by the selection committee

The Sibylline Oracles are an extensive collection of antique and mediaeval prophesies written in a Homeric-Greek idiom and style. They are attributed to Sibylle, a heathen prophetess, but in reality the largest part of this literature is of Christian origin. It has been supposed for a long time, however, that Book III is an exception by having an antique-Jewish origin. A meticulous philological and text critical examination of this not easily accessible text enabled dr Buitenwerf to conclude that it must have been written as a literary entity by a Jewish author in a Greek town in Anatolia between 80 and 40 B.C. The author of Book III, fully embedded in the Greek way of thinking, declared his solidarity with the Greeks against the Romans, but integrated the antique tradition of prophesy under the name of the ‘heathen’ Sibylle in his own monotheistic beliefs. The original conclusion of Dr Buitenwerf that this author saw no difference between the Greek and the Jewish culture, makes it possible to understand that in Hellenistic Judaism the Jewish God was presented as a matter of course as the God of everyone. This study shows great specialist depth while at the same time the necessary attention is paid to the broader cultural historical significance of this discovery.