Sextus Julius Africanus

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For the first century orator, see Julius Africanus. For others with this name, see Africanus.

Sextus Julius Africanus (c. 160 c. 240) was a Christian traveler and historian of the late second and early third centuries. He is important chiefly because of his influence on Eusebius, on all the later writers of Church history among the Church Fathers, and on the whole Greek school of chroniclers.

Christianity is a Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament. Most Christians get baptized, celebrate the Lord's Supper, pray the Lord's Prayer and other prayers, have clergy, and attend group worship services.

Historian person who studies and writes about the past

A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past, and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is concerned with events preceding written history, the individual is a historian of prehistory. Some historians are recognized by publications or training and experience. "Historian" became a professional occupation in the late nineteenth century as research universities were emerging in Germany and elsewhere.

Eusebius Greek church historian

Eusebius of Caesarea, also known as Eusebius Pamphili, was a historian of Christianity, exegete, and Christian polemicist. He became the bishop of Caesarea Maritima about 314 AD. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon and is regarded as an extremely learned Christian of his time. He wrote Demonstrations of the Gospel, Preparations for the Gospel, and On Discrepancies between the Gospels, studies of the Biblical text. As "Father of Church History", he produced the Ecclesiastical History, On the Life of Pamphilus, the Chronicle and On the Martyrs.



The Suidas claims Africanus was 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 neighbouring Emmaus. His chronicle indicates his familiarity with the topography of historic Judea. [3]

<i>Suda</i> literary work

The Suda or Souda is a large 10th-century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Soudas (Σούδας) or Souidas (Σουίδας). It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often derived from medieval Christian compilers. The derivation is probably from the Byzantine Greek word souda, meaning "fortress" or "stronghold", with the alternate name, Suidas, stemming from an error made by Eustathius, who mistook the title for the author's name.

Ancient Libya region west of the Nile Valley

The Latin name Libya referred to the region west of the Nile generally corresponding to the Atlantic Mountains according to Diodorus. Its people were ancestors of the modern Libyan. They occupied the area for thousands of years before the beginning of human records in ancient Egypt. Climate changes affected the locations of the settlements.

Jerusalem City in the Middle East

Jerusalem is a city in the Middle East, located on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim Jerusalem as their capital, as Israel maintains its primary governmental institutions there and the State of Palestine ultimately foresees it as its seat of power; however, neither claim is widely recognized internationally.

Little of Africanus's life is known and all dates are uncertain. One tradition places him under the Emperor Gordianus III (238244), others mentions him under Severus Alexander (222235). He appears to have known Abgar VIII.(176213).

Severus Alexander Roman Emperor

Severus Alexander was Roman Emperor from 222 to 235 and the last emperor of the Severan dynasty. He succeeded his cousin Elagabalus upon the latter's assassination in 222. His own assassination marked the epoch event for the Crisis of the Third Century—nearly 50 years of civil wars, foreign invasion, and collapse of the monetary economy, though this last part is now disputed.

Abgar VIII of Edessa, also known as Abgar the Great or Abgar bar Ma'nu, was an Arab king of Osroene from 177-212 CE.

Africanus 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.

Septimius Severus Emperor of Ancient Rome

Septimius Severus, also known as Severus, was Roman emperor from 193 to 211. He was born in Leptis Magna in the Roman province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the cursus honorum—the customary succession of offices—under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of Emperor Pertinax in 193 during the Year of the Five Emperors.

Emmaus Nicopolis human settlement

Emmaus Nicopolis was the Roman name for one of the towns associated with the Emmaus of the New Testament, where Jesus is said to have appeared after his death and resurrection. Emmaus was the seat of the Roman Emmaus Nicopolis was the name of the city from the 3rd century CE until the conquest of Palestine by the Muslim forces of the Rashidun Caliphate in 639. In the modern age, the site was the location of the Palestinian Arab village of Imwas, near the Latrun junction, between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, before its destruction in 1967. The site today is inside Canada Park, a place maintained by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, although the archaeological site has been cared for by a resident French Catholic community since 1993.

Africanus traveled 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 Africanus was a layman or a cleric remains controversial. Louis-Sébastien Le Nain de Tillemont argued from Africanus's 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]

Louis-Sébastien Le Nain de Tillemont was a French ecclesiastical historian.

Origen 3rd-century Christian scholar from Alexandria

Origen of Alexandria, also known as Origen Adamantius, was an early Christian scholar, ascetic, and theologian who was born and spent the first half of his career in Alexandria. He was a prolific writer who wrote roughly 2,000 treatises in multiple branches of theology, including textual criticism, biblical exegesis and biblical hermeneutics, homiletics, and spirituality. He was one of the most influential figures in early Christian theology, apologetics, and asceticism. He has been described as "the greatest genius the early church ever produced".


Africanus wrote Chronographiai, a history of the world in five volumes. The work covers the period from Creation to the year AD 221. 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). [7] (Note that this dating implies that the birth of Jesus was in December, nine months later.) 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.[ citation needed ]

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 gives some extracts from his letter to one Aristides, [8] 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. [9]

The ascription to Africanus of an encyclopaedic work entitled Kestoi (Κέστοι "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. [10] 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)."

Prophetic exegesis

Only fragments of his religious writings have been preserved. One fragment deals with eschatology.

Prophecy of Daniel 8

After referring to the standard interpretation of the 'ram' and the 'he-goat', as symbolizing Persia and Greece, Africanus suggested that the 2300 days might be taken form months, totaling about 185 years which he applied to the time from the Capture of Jerusalem to the 20 year of Artaxerxes. He seems to be the only one who developed this interpretation. [11]

The 70th week

Africanus begins the seventy weeks Daniel 9 with the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, in Olympiad 83, year 4, (444 B.C.) and ends the period in Olympiad 202, year 2, (31 A.D.) or 475 solar years inclusive, which would be equivalent to 490 uncorrected lunar years. [12]

Verification of Moses

This work does not survive except in fragments, chiefly those preserved by Eusebius and Georgius Syncellus. In turn Africanus preserves fragments of the work of Polemon of Athens' Greek History.

[...] Polemo, for instance, in the first book of his Greek History, says: In the time of Apis, king of Argos, son of Phoroneus, a division of the army of the Egyptians left Egypt, and settled in the Palestine called Syrian, not far from Arabia: these are evidently those who were with Moses. [13] [14]


  1. Gelzer 1898, pp. 4f.
  2. Martin Wallraff (ed.), Iulius Africanus: Chronographiae. The Extant Fragments, reviewed by Hagith Sivan (Bryn Mawr Classical Review)
  3. Gelzer 1898, p. 10.
  4. Gelzer 1898, p. 11.
  5. Louis-Sébastien Le Nain de Tillemont, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire ecclésiastique, III, Paris, 1693, 254
  6. Gelzer 1898, p. 9.
  7. Vernance Grumel; Paul Lemerle (1958). La chronologie. Traité d'études byzantines. Paris: Presses universitaires de France. "...the number of 5500 years as the period up to the advent of the Word of salvation, that was announced to the world in the time of the sway of the Cæsars" (Africanus, Chronology 1).
  8. Chisholm 1911 cites: Hist. Ecc. i. 7; vi. 31
  9. Chisholm 1911.
  10. Chisholm 1911 cites: Grenfell and Hunt, iii. 36 ff.
  11. Froom 1950, p. 280.
  12. Froom 1950, pp. 279–281.
  13. Colavito, Jason. "The Chronography: Sextus Julius Africanus after 221 CE trans. in the Ante-Nicene Christian Library 1869". Jason Colavito. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  14. Grotius, Hugo; John CLARKE (Dean of Salisbury.) (1809). The Truth of the Christian Religion ... Corrected and illustrated with notes by Mr. Le Clerc. To which is added, a seventh book, concerning this question, What Christian church we ought to join ourselves to? By the said Mr. Le Clerc. The ninth edition, with additions. Particularly one whole book of Mr. Le Clerc's against indifference of what religion a man is of. Done into English by John Clarke. p. 64. Polemon, &c.] He seems to have lived in the Time of Ptolemy Epiphanes ; concerning which, see that very useful Book of the famous Gerrard Vossius , of the Greek Historians. Africanus says, the Greek Histories were wrote by him; which is the same Book Athenæus calls, ???. His Words are these: "In the Reign of Apis, king of Argos the Son of Phoroneus, Part of the Egyptian Army went out of Egypt, and dwelt in Syria called Palestine, not far from Arabia. As Africanus preserved the Place of Polemon , so Eusebius in his Chronology preserved that of Africanus. (p. 64 at Google Books)

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