Africanus, Julius (called by Suidas Sextus Julius), was an intimate friend of Origen, an eminent Christian chronographer, and flourished about the year 220. Having been attracted by the fame of Heraclas, a celebrated philosopher, and pupil of Origen, he came to Alexandria to study with him, but he seems to have lived chiefly at Nicopolis (the ancient Emmaus), in Palestine, and to have exerted himself for its restoration; for which purpose, in 220, he made a visit to Antoninus Heliogabalus, to obtain from him permission that the walls of the ruined city should be rebuilt. According to one writer (Hebedjesu, Cat. lib. Chald. 15, 18), he was bishop of Nicopolis. He died about 232. Africanus wrote a chronological work in five sections under the title of Pentabiblos — a sort of universal history, composed to prove the antiquity of true religion and the novelty of paganism. Fragments of this chronology are extant in the works of Eusebius, Syncellus, Malala, Theophanes, Cedrenus, and in the "Chronicon Paschale." The "Pentabiblos" commences with the creation, B.C. 5499, and closes with A.D. 221. The chronology of Africanus places the birth of Christ three years before the commencement of our era. But under the reign of Diocletian ten years were taken from the number which had elapsed, and thus the computation of the Churches of Alexandria and Antioch were reconciled. According to Fabricius (Bibl. Gr. ed. nova, 8:9), there exists at Paris a manuscript containing an abstract of the "Pentabiblos." Scaliger has borrowed, in his edition of Eusebius, the chronology of Africanus extant in "Geo. Syncelli Chronographia ab Adamo ad Dioclesianum, a Jac. Goar" (Gr. et Lat., Paris, 1652, fol.). Africanus wrote a learned letter to Origen, in which he disputes the authenticity of the apocryphal history of Susannah (Basle, Gr. and Lat. 1674, 4to). A great part of another letter of Africanus to Aristides, reconciling the disagreement between the genealogies of Christ in Matthew and Luke, is extant in Eusebius (bk. 6, ch. 31).
It is believed that Africanus was still a pagan when he wrote his work entitled Cestus (Κεστός, girdle of Venus), in which he treats of agriculture, medicine, physics, and especially the military art. Hebedjesu, in his catalogue of Chaldean works, mentions a commentary on the N.T. by Africanus, bishop of Emmaus. Finally, a translation of the work of Abdias of Babylon, entitled Historia certaminis apostolici, has been attributed to Africanus, but probably erroneously.
The fact of a man so learned and intelligent as the chronologer Africanus being a Christian, refutes the error of those who think that all Christians in the first centuries of our era were illiterate. The criticisms of Africanus upon the apocryphal books seem to attest that he did not receive the canonical writings of the New Testament without previous examination; and, from his manner of reconciling the different genealogies of Christ, it appears certain that he recognised the authenticity of the Gospels in which they occur. Cave, Hist. Lit. ann. 220; Lardner, Works, 2, 457.