Sextus Julius Africanus (c.160 – c.240) was a Christian traveller and historian of the late 2nd and early 3rd century AD. He is important chiefly because of his influence on Eusebius, on all the later writers of Church history among the Fathers, and on the whole Greek school of chroniclers.
Suidas claims Julius was an "Libyan philosopher", while Gelzer considers him of Roman descent. Julius called himself a native of Jerusalem – which some scholars consider his birthplace – and lived at the neighbouring Emmaus. His chronicle indicate his familiarity with the topography of historic Palestine.
Little of Julius's life is known and all dates are uncertain. One tradition places him under the Emperor Gordianus III (238–244), others mentions him under Severus Alexander (222–235). He appears to have known Abgar VIII, the Christian King of Edessa (176–213).
Julius 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.
Julius traveled to Greece and Rome and went to Alexandria to study, attracted by the fame of its catechetical school, possibly about the year 215. 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 Julius Africanus was a layman or a cleric remains controversial. Tillemont argued from Julius' addressing the priest Origen as "dear brother" that Julius must have been a priest himself but Gelzer points out that such an argument is inconclusive. Statements calling him a bishop only appear in the fourth century.
Works by Julius Africanus
Originally printed in 1885, the ten-volume set, Ante-Nicene Fathers, brings together the work of early Christian thinkers. In particular, it brings together the writings of the early Church fathers prior to the fourth century Nicene Creed. These volumes are noteworthy for their inclusion of entire texts, and not simply fragments or excerpts from these great writings. The translations are fairly literal, providing both readers and scholars with a good approximation of the originals. This volume harmonizes various fragmentary material. It contains the work of different authors: St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, Pope Dionysius of Alexandria, Sextus Julius Africanus, St. Anatolius, Pope Peter of Alexandria, and others. These writings were heavily influential on the early Church, and for good reason, as they are inspirational and encouraging. These volumes also come with many useful notes, providing the reader with new levels of understanding. Overall, Ante-Nicene Fathers, or any part of it, is a welcome addition to one's reading list.
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