Julius Africanus

Julius Africanus, an ecclesiastical writer who flourished In the beginning of the 3d century, was, according to Suidas (s.v. Africanus), a native of Libya, but resided generally at Emmaus (afterwards Nicopolis), in Palestine. The same writer calls him also Sextus. Little is known of his personal history. Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 6, 31) relates that he undertook a journey to Alexandria to listen to Heraclas, the teacher of the catechumens in that city, as also that he was sent by the inhabitants of Emmaus to ask of the emperor Heliogabalus the restoration of their city, which was granted (see Jerome, De vir. illstr. c. 63). He was a friend of Origen; and as, in letters addressed to him when the latter was already some fifty years old, he styles him "son," it is to be supposed that he was much advanced in years in 238, while the expression "colleague" seems to imply that he was also a priest. He was, according to Jerome, in the full vigor of life during the reign of Heliogabalus and Alexander Severus. We have no information concerning the precise date of his death; it occurred, in all probability, near the middle of the 3d century — some say about A.D. 232. He enjoyed great reputation for learning among the ancients. He is the author of the oldest Christian history of the world, the Chronographia, or De temporibus, which Eusebius considered very trustworthy: it extended from the creation to the third year of the reign of Heliogabalus (221). Unfortunately, the complete work is not in our possession; a portion, however, was preserved to us by copious extracts, which subsequent Church historians made from it, and these (fifty-six fragments) have been collected by Galland (Bibliotheca, vol. 2). Julius also wrote a letter to Origen concerning the authenticity of the history of Susannah and the Elders, and another to Aristides on the differences between the genealogies of Christ by Matthew and Luke. In this last letter, speaking against the opinion of a fraus pia having been perpetrated by the Church in order to prove the rights of Jesus as high priest and king, he says, "Far be it that such a thought should govern the Church of Christ as to invent a falsehood to glorify Christ." Eusebius, Photius, and Suidas ascribe to him also the authorship of another work in twenty-four books, a sort of compendium of information on medicine and natural philosophy. According to Suidas, it was a collection of empiric formulas for curing diseases by sorcery, etc. But, as this does not seem to agree with what we know of the general character of the man, Dupin thinks that there must be some mistake, and that there probably existed both a Julius Africanus and a Julius Sextus, who have been confounded one with the other. Finally, he has also been considered the author of several treatises — De trinitate, De circumcisione, De Attalo, De Pascha, De Sabbate — which are evidently not his, but belong to the Roman presbyter Novatian. See Möhler, Patrologie, 1, 577-580; Routh, Rel. Sacr. 2, 108 sq.; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 7, 155.

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