1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Solomon, Odes of

25869721911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 25 — Solomon, Odes of

SOLOMON, ODES OF, a collection of 42 hymns, probably dating from the end of the 1st century, known to the early Christian Church (as is proved by the quotations and comments in the 3rd century gnostic book, Pistis Sophia, and a short extract in the Institutes of Lactantius). They were recovered by Dr Rendel Harris in 1908 from a 16th-century Syriac manuscript (containing also the Psalms of Solomon, see below) in his possession. The first, second, and part of the third odes are missing, but the first has been restored from the Pistis Sophia. Of their authorship nothing is known, “Solomon” being a recognized pseudonym. While there are thoughts and expressions which lend themselves to gnostic use, there is nothing in the odes which is of distinctively gnostic origin. Many of them, indeed, are unmistakably Christian, and the writer of the Pistis Sophia seems to have regarded them as almost if not quite canonical, a fact which secures at latest a 2nd-century origin. Dr Harris indeed would date several of them between A.D. 75 and 100. They contain few traces of the New Testament, and the words “gospel” and “church” are not found. Here and there a Johannine atmosphere is detected, though not sufficiently to justify the assumption that the author knew the writer of the Fourth Gospel. References to the life and teaching of Christ are rare, though the Virgin Birth is alluded to in Ode 19 in a passage marked by legendary embellishment, and the descent into Hades is spoken of in quite the apocryphal style in Ode 42. These odes are probably among the latest in the book. There are no clear allusions to baptism and none at all to the eucharistic celebration. One passage speaks of ministers (perhaps = deacons) who are entrusted with the water of life to hand to others; the word “priest” occurs once, at the beginning of Ode 20, “I am a priest of the Lord, and to Him I do priestly service, and to Him I offer the sacrifices of His thought,” The odes, which are perhaps the product of a school of writers, and were originally written in Greek, vary in execution and spiritual tone, but are generally characterized by a buoyant feeling of Christian joy. Harnack considers that they form a Jewish Grundschrift, with a number of Christian interpolations; only two are “purely Christian,” while several “colourless” ones are more likely Jewish. He finds in them a link between the piety and theology of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and that of the Johannine gospel and epistles.

See J. Rendel Harris, The Odes and Psalms of Solomon (1909); An Early Christian Psalter (1909); Joh. Flemming and A. Harnack, Ein jüdisch-christliches Psalmbuch aus dem ersten Jahrhundert (Leipzig, 1910); The Times (April 7, 1910); W. E. Barnes, in Journ. of Theol. Studies, xi. 615, and The Expositor (July 1910); F. Spitta, in Zeitschrift für N.T. Wissenschaft, xi. 193.