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Julius Africanus, Sextus


Father of Christian chronography; b. Roman colony, Jerusalem, c. 160; d. c. 240. Destined for a military career, he accompanied the Emperor Septimius Severus on his campaigns in Osrhoene in 195 and was in close contact with the royal house at Edessa. He also attended lectures by the Christian teacher Heraclas in Alexandria and was influenced by the Stromata of clement of alexandria. About 220 he became prefect of Emmaus-Nicopolis, a subdivision of Palestine, and in 224 the Emmaus colony sent him to plead its case before the Emperor.

At Rome, Alexander Severus gave him the task of organizing the public library housed in the Pantheon. It seems that he was spiritual adviser to the Empress-Mother, Mamaea. Later tradition has it that he became a bishop, but it is unlikely that he was even a priest. With his friend origen, he corresponded about scriptural questions.

His main extant works are the Chronicles and the Kestoi. There are also two letters. The Chronicles appeared in 221 and provide a chronological list of sacred and profane events from creation to a.d. 220. This first Christian "history of the world" became a main source for eusebius of caesarea and subsequent historians. The work comprised five books, of which only fragments remain. Computing 5,500 years between creation and the birth of Christ, Julius expressed his belief that the Second Coming would take place in the year 6000, thus giving a chiliastic turn to the work. His use of sources was scarcely critical.

The Kestoi (i.e., "embroideries") is an encyclopedic miscellany in 24 books, of which large fragments are extant. It is dedicated to the Emperor Alexander Severus, and its subject matter ranges from medicine, science, and agriculture to magic and war. This work was written after the Chronicles and contains a strange mixture of Christianity and superstition.

One of the two letters is addressed to Origen and deals with the authenticity of the story of Susanna (Dn 13.164); it exhibits a sounder critical sense, and the entire text is extant. There are only fragments of the second letter. It was addressed to aristides, and in it Julius attempts to harmonize the Mathaean and Lucan genealogies of Christ.

Bibliography: m. j. routh, ed., Reliquiae Sacrae, 5 v. (2d ed. Oxford 184648) 2:238309, chronicles. b. p. grenfell and a. s. hunt, eds., The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, 3 v. (London 1903) 3641, Kestoi. É. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 8.2:192125. j. quasten, Patrology (Westminster MD 1950) 2: 138140. h. gelzer, Sextus Julius Africanus und die byzantinische Chronographie, 2 v. (Leipzig 188098). w. reichardt, ed., TU 34.3 (1909), letters. w. a. oldfather and a. s. pease, American Journal of Philology 39 (1918) 405406, Kestoi. f. granger, Journal of Theological Studies 34 (1933) 157161, Library; 35 (1934) 361368, Western Text. e. h. blakeney, Theology 29 (1934) 164169, Letter to Origen.

[p. w. lawler]

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