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Hystaspes [1]

( ῾Υστάσπης , also HYSTASPAS, i.e. Eydaspes), a prophetico-apocalyptic work among the early Christians, thought to contain predictions of Christ and the future of his kingdom, so called from a Persian savant (Magus), Hystaspes, under whose name it was circulated. As in the case of the Sibyllines (q.v.), the work in question seems to have been an attempt made by the early Church fathers to find in the religion and philosophical systems of the heathen predictions of and relations to the Christian religion. The first mention of these vaticinia Hystaspis we find in two passages of Justin (Apolog. 1, 20, cap. 21, p. 66 c, ed. Otho, i, p. 180, and cap. 44, p. 82 c, ed. Otho, p. 226). According to the first passage, the destruction of the world is predicted by Hystaspes as it is foretold by the Sibylla ( Καὶ Σίβυλλα Καὶ ῾Υστάσπις Γενήσεσθαι Τῶν Φθαρτῶν Ἀνάλωσιν Διὰ Πυρὸς Ἔφησαν ). In the second passage Justin asserts that the bad daemons, in their efforts to prevent man's knowing the truth, succeeded in establishing a law which forbids the reading of the Βίβλοι ῾Υστάσπου Σιβύλλης Τῶν Προφητῶν under penalty of death; but the Christians, notwithstanding this law, not only read the books themselves, but even incited the heathen to study them. More particular information in regard to their contents is given us by Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, 5, 6, § 43, ed. Potter, p. 761). But so varying have been the interpretations of this passage that it is difficult to determine definitely whether the book is of older origin than the first half of the 2nd century. To this opinion Wagenmann (in Herzog's Real-Encyklop.) inclines. The information which Clement furnishes us is:

1. There existed in the 2nd century a Βίβλος ῾Ελληνική , a work written in Greek, and circulated in Christian and heathen circles, entitled ῾Υστάσπης .

2. The Christians found in it, even more plainly than in the books of the Sibyllines, references to Christ and the future of his kingdom, and especially a reference to Christ's divine sonship, to the sufferings which awaited him and his followers, to the inexhaustible patience of the Christians, and the final return of Christ. The third and last of' the Church fathers who make mention of the Hystaspes is Lactantius. He speaks of it in three different passages (Instit. div. 7:cap. 15, cap. 18; Epitom. ii, 69). In the first passage Lactantius speaks of the Hystaspes in connection with the Sibyl, and in the two other passages he speaks of it in connection with the Sibyl and Hermes Trismegistus. According to the first passage, Hystaspes, like the Sibyl, predicts the extinction of the empire and name of Rome. According to the second passage (cap. 18), the troubles and warfares which shall precede the final day of the world have been prophesied of by the prophetae ex Dei spiritu; also by the vates ex instinctu dceimonum. For instance, Hystaspes is said to have predicted and described the iniquitas sceculli hujus extremi, how a separation of the just from the unjust shall take place, how the pious, amid cries and sobs, will stretch out their hands and implore the protection of Jupiter (inamloraturos fidem Jovis), and how Jupiter will look down upon the earth, hear the cry of men, and destroy the wicked.

With regard to the person of Hystaspes, who is said to be the author of the work containing these predictions, Justin and Clement of Alexandria have left us no information, and we depend, therefore, solely on Lactantius, according to whom he was an old king of the Medes, who flourished long before the Trojan war, and after whom was named the river Hystaspes. In all probability, Lactantius here thinks of the father of king Darius I, known to us from the writings of Herodotus, Xenophon, and other Greek authors, but to whom the prophetic talents of Hystaspes were entirely foreign. Ammianus Marcellinus (23, 6), who flourished in the 4th century of our era, Informs us that one Hystaspes had studied astronomy with the Brahmas of India, and had even informed the Magi of his ability to know the future. Agathias, the Byzantine historian of the 6th century, knows of a Hystaspes who was a contemporary with Zoroaster, but he does not dare to assert that this Hystaspes was the same as the one spoken of as the father of Darius I. (See Parsism).

In view of the uncertainty of the authorship, it is well-nigh impossible to determine fully the origin, contents, form, and tendency of the Vaticinia Hystaspis. We know not even whether it emanated from Jewish, Christian, or heathen writers, although all our present knowledge points to the last as its probable origin. That the author was a Gnostic, as Huetius thinks (Quaest. Alnet. 1, 3, ep. 21, p. 230), is possible, but cannot be definitely stated, nor at all proved; beyond this, the only answer left us to all questions that might be put is a Non Liquet. See Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 19, 660 sq.; Walch, De Hystaspe Ejusque Vaticiniis, in the Comment. Societ. Gotting. Hist. Et Phil. (1779), 2, 1-18; Fabricius, Biblioth. Grec. 1, 93 sq.; Lucke, Einleitung In D. Offenb. Joh. (2nd ed. 1848), p. 237; Reuss, Geschichte D. Heil. Schrisft. D. N.T. (4th edit. 1864), p. 270; Neander, Ch. Hist. 1, 176 sq. (J. H. W.)