Uncovering Jewish Creativity in Book III of the Sibylline Oracles

Gender, Intertextuality, and Politics


Author: Ashley Bacchi
In Uncovering Jewish Creativity in Book III of the Sibylline oracles, Ashley L. Bacchi reclaims the importance of the Sibyl as a female voice of prophecy and reveals new layers of intertextual references that address political, cultural, and religious dialogue in second-century Ptolemaic Egypt. This investigation stands apart from prior examinations by reorienting the discussion around the desirability of the pseudonym to an issue of gender. It questions the impact of identifying the author’s message with a female prophetic figure and challenges the previous identification of paraphrased Greek oracles and their function within the text. Verses previously seen as anomalous are transferred from the role of Greek subterfuge of Jewish identity to offering nuanced support of monotheistic themes.

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Ashley L. Bacchi, Ph.D., is Visiting Assistant Professor of Jewish History and Ancient Mediterranean Religions at Starr King School for the Ministry of the Graduate Theological Union.

 1 Methodology: Deconstructing Binaries and a Hermeneutic of Suspicion
 2 Dating and Provenance of Book III
 3 Second Century BCE Political Context
 4 Conclusion

1 Hellenistic Complexities and Cultural Hybridity
 1 A Retrospective: (De)constructing the Hellenistic Period
 2 Setting the Stage: Defining Boundaries amidst Debates
 3 The Changing Shape of Hellenistic Religious Discourse: Crisis of Belief?
 4 The Hellenistic Saddle Period: an Expansion of Religious Linguistic Discourse
 5 Hellenistic Education: Establishing Authorship and Readership
 6 Two Styles: Sibyllist and Sibyllists
 7 Conclusion

2 Why the Sibyl? Reclaiming a Female Voice of Prophecy
 1 The Archaic Greek Sibyl: a Unique Model?
 2 Different Branches of a Fluid Sibylline Genre
 3 Universal History as Marker of Innovation in Book III
 4 Why the Sibyl? Context for a Female Voice
 5 Conclusion

3 Establishing Prophetic Authority and Challenging Gender Norms
 1 A Credible and Illustrious Genealogy
 2 The Authority of Noah
 3 Enoch, Etiologies of Sin and Reconstructing a World View
 4 An Issue of Greed Not Sexuality: Male-Same-Sex Prohibitions
 5 Jewish Prophetic Models: Challenging Gender Norms
 6 Conclusion

4 The Sibyl in the Muses’ Bird Cage
 1 Intertextuality and Ergänzungsspiel
 2 The Sibyl and Odysseus
 3 Reinterpreting the Sibyl’s Description of Homer
 4 The Sibyl’s Homer and the Homeric Hymn to Apollo
 5 Homer in Art and Cult
 6 Grammatical Subversion
 7 Conclusion

5 The Sibylline Titan Account as Multi-Layered Commentary
 1 Traditional Reception of the Sibylline Titan Account
 2 Hesiod, Callimachus, Genesis, and Jubilees
 3 Euhemerus and Lactantius
 4 Callimachus’s Hymn to Zeus
 5 Depiction Variants, Resonance, and Allusions
 6 Conclusion


Appendix 1: Content Overview of Book III

Appendix 2: Apotheosis of Homer Marble Relief
Index of Primary Sources
Index of People, Places and Subjects
An interdisciplinary work in Jewish Studies and Classics, this book is for all interested in the pseudepigrapha, gender discourse, the Hellenistic Mediterranean, and ancient intertextuality and political commentary.