Multiple sources

The ‘wooden house’ of Sibylline Oracles 8:198 and the appearance of the messiah

Sibylline Oracles 8:198 reads as follows: αἰφνίδιος δἑ βροτοὑς ξύλινος δόμος ἀμφικαλύψῃ.
In Charlesworth’s The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha vol. 1, J.J. Collins translates this verse as follows: Suddenly a wooden house will cover men round about. Collins does not comment on this verse, nor does C. Alexandre in his 1856 edition. Milton S. Terry (1899) interprets wooden house as a coffin. Below I will attempt to decode this enigmatic verse.

The basic meaning of the Greek noun δόμος is structure, erection, and understandably the preferred translation is house. However, in order not to exclude any kind of construction, I would suggest to use the basic meaning of δόμος, which is to say structure. I would further translate the verb ἀμφικαλύπτω as ‘to envelop’ instead of ‘to cover’: Suddenly a wooden structure will envelop men.

Also the first word of this verse (αἰφνίδιος – suddenly) is clarifying as it emphasizes the swiftness of the construction process. There is a specific wooden structure from this era that has been erected remarkably quickly. Josephus describes how Titus and his generals organized the construction of the wooden siege wall around Jerusalem as a competition between their legions and companies (The Jewish War V:502-503). In verse 509, Josephus concludes as follows: The whole was built in three days, such rapidity, over a work that might well have occupied months, being well-nigh incredible. (J. St. J. Thackeray, Loeb Classical Library 210).

The ‘wooden house’ verse does not stand on its own. Although also veiled , the following verses further indicate the war of the Jews against the Romans. Verses 203-204 refer to signs in sun and stars that accompanied the fall of Jerusalem. Verse 205 speaks of the devastation of ‘the land’, apparently the land of Israel, and of the survival of the moribund (cf. gospel of Matthew 27:51-53).
Slightly different translation choices, the suddenness of the construction process that parallels Josephus’s War V:509, and the verses thereafter describing the final phase of the war, make it all the more plausible that verse 198 is a reference to the construction of the wooden siege wall around Jerusalem in June 70 CE by the Romans.

Prior to these references to the war, verse 196 speaks of the messiah as ‘the sacred child, the destroyer of all’. It would seem, therefore, that the messiah made his appearance during the war between the Jews and the Romans.