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Grad Student Seminar: The Sibylline Oracles: A Case Study in Ancient and Modern Anti-Judaism – Jewish Studies

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Grad Student Seminar: The Sibylline Oracles: A Case Study in Ancient and Modern Anti-Judaism

April 13, 2022 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm


This seminar is organized by the Center’s Graduate Student Network for Carolina graduate students only.

This is an in-person event only.

12 noon, Pettigrew hall seminar room at the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies.


Seminar: “The Sibylline Oracles: A Case Study in Ancient and Modern Anti-Judaism”

This seminar examines ancient and modern deployments of anti-Judaism as they relate to the Sibylline Oracles, a collection of pseudepigraphic prophecies written in Greek hexameters over centuries by Jews and Christians, voiced by a “pagan” woman prophet—a sibyl. Dating from the Hellenistic era through Late Antiquity, the Sibylline Oracles integrate ethical and theological instruction with prophecies of doom, weaving together texts that become biblical with Homer, Hesiod, and Greek mythology, among other literary sources. The seminar argues that the Sibylline Oracles have suffered from anti-Jewish readings, both ancient and modern, and thus they also are a productive site for examining the ways that ancient anti-Judaism can feed into modern anti-Judaism. I take the readings of Adolf von Harnack as the primary example of modern scholarly anti-Jewish readings of the Sibylline Oracles, but I also argue that the questions raised by his work linger in contemporary scholarship on Jewish pseudepigraphic texts

preserved by Christians. I then turn to ancient Christian anti-Judaism within the Sibylline Oracles themselves, arguing that there are significant resemblances between the ideologies of these texts and readings such as Harnack’s.


Dr. Olivia Stewart Lester is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Loyola University Chicago. She is also a Centre for the Study of the Bible Fellow at Oriel College, University of Oxford. Her research focuses on prophecy in Hellenistic Judaism, early Christianity, and the larger ancient Mediterranean. Her first book is entitled Prophetic Rivalry, Gender, and Economics: A Study in Revelation and Sibylline Oracles 4­–5 (Mohr Siebeck, 2018). She is currently working on a monograph on the Sibylline Oracles. Related to this book project, her recent publications and ongoing research examine the relationship between the Sibylline Oracles and pseudepigraphy, apocalyptic historiography, Jewish and Christian iconography, and ancient and modern anti-Judaism.


April 13, 2022
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Event Category:


carolina center for jewish studies