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Psalms of Solomon

First Century B.C.

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Raymond F. Surburg writes: "The Psalms are closely modeled after the pattern supplied by the canonical psalter. The first psalm announces the declaration of war, but is mainly concerned with the denunciation of hypocrites. The second portrays the siege of Jerusalem and admits that the hardships and punishments encountered were well deserved, but concludes with a description of the conqueror's death on the sands of Egypt. The third psalm is a poem of thanksgiving by the God-fearing. In the fourth we find a denunciation of hypocrites in language strongly reminiscent of that used by Christ against His enemies. Psalm 5 is a prayer for mercy to God. The sixth psalm is primarily occuped with a description of the blessedness of righteousness. In the seventh there is a prayer of Israel in a time of distress, asking God not to remove His tabernacle from their midst. The eighth psalm describes the siege of Jerusalem and denounces its sins. In the ninth, Israel as captive petitions Jehovah for forgiveness. The tenth psalm shows how the man who takes the chastening of the Lord is blessed. The next psalm speaks of the return of the captives. The 12th psalm is not unlike a stanza of Psalm 120 of the inspired psalter. The 13th has as its theme the blessedness of the righteous. The following one has a similar sentiment. The 15th begins with the assertion: 'When I was in trouble I called upon the Lord.' The 16th is experimental in the sense of the old Puritans. The first 16 psalms have no allusion to the Messiah, but discourse on the Messianic kingdom. Psalm 17 contains, however, what is believed to be one of the chief Messianic passages in the post-Biblical literature of Judaism. The main interest of Psalm 18 is its Christology. The Messiah is portrayed as of the seed of the House of David, who would come to overthrow the Romans after the downfall of the Hasmoneans. The rule of the Messiah is to be wise, holy, just, and spiritual." (Introduction to the Intertestamental Period, pp. 144-145)

Martin McNamara writes: "The position of the Psalms of Solomon on the question of the afterlife is not quite clear. Some scholars have seen references to the resurrection in some passages, e.g., PssSol. 3:16 (12), 15:15 (13), to which others add Pss Sol. 13:9, 14:2-3, 6. Ps. Sol. 3 says that the sinner falls and rises no more; he shall not be remembered when the righteous is visited. The Psalm thus ends: 'But they that fear the Lord shall rise to life eternal. And their life (shall be) in the light of the Lord, and shall come to an end no more. ' Unfortunately, we do not have sufficient context in this to warrant the conclusion that there is reference to the resurrection rather than eternal life without belief in a resurrection. Ps. Sol. 15 speaks of the reward of the righteous and the punishment which awaits the wicked. The psalm ends with the following words: 'And sinners shall perish for ever in the day of the Lord's judgment, when God visits the earth with his judgment. But they that fear the Lord shall find mercy therein, and shall live by the compassion of their God; but sinners shall perish for ever' (15:14 (12) f.) Once again, the statement is too general to warrant the conclusion that the reference is to resurrection." (Intertestamental Literature, pp. 185-186)

Leonhard Rost writes: "The early Christian lists of canonical books sometimes included the eighteen psalms ascribed to Solomon among the Apocrypha and other times included them among the Antilegomena. Until the seventeenth century, however, they were considered lost. Rediscovered by the Augsburg librarian David Hoeschel, they were first published by the Jesuit John Louis de la Cerda in 1626. Today we know of eight Greek manuscripts from the eleventh through the fifteenth centuries and three Syriac manuscripts, none of which are quite complete. The Hebrew original on which both versions are based is still missing. The Greek version is a direct translation; the Syriac, as K. G. Kuhn has shown, also drew on the Greek version, which derives in turn from the Hebrew text." (Judaism Outside the Hebrew Canon, p. 118)

Emil Schürer writes: "Despite Hilgenfeld's view to the contrary, it is almost universally allowed that the psalms were originally composed in Hebrew. And undoubtedly not without good reason. For the diction of the psalms is so decidedly Hebrew in its character that it is impossible to suppose that they were written originally in Greek. And for this reason it is no less certain that they were not written in Alexandria, but in Palestine. It may not be amiss to mention further the correspondence, to some extent a verbal one, between Psalm xi. and the fifth chapter of Baruch. If we are correct in supposing that the psalms were written originally in Hebrew, then the imitation must be regarded as being on the part of Baruch." (The Literature of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, pp. 21-22)

James C. VanderKam writes: "The date of the Psalms of Solomon cannot be determined precisely. The major clues come from Psalms 2, 8, and 17, which supply something of the historical setting against which at least these three poems were written. They speak of native leaders who were not legitimate rulers and whose time was characterized by massive corruption and evil. They are charged with violating the temple and cult. These appear to be the Hasmoneans. God raised up against them a foreign conqueror, who was welcomed to Jerusalem by some but who still had to take the city by force. He entered the temple but later met his death in Egypt, where his body was left unburied on the beach (see 2:26-27). The description fits Pompey's actions at Jerusalem and the way in which he met his end in 48 BCE. Psalm 2 (with 8 and 17) would then have been written after this event; perhaps the other poems were as well, but that is not certain. As nothing is said about the destruction of the temple, it is likely that the Psalms of Solomon were written before 70 CE. It has been claimed that the author of Baruch borrowed from the present work because Psalms of Solomon 11:2-5 and Baruch 5:5-8 are not closely parallel but the version in the Psalms of Solomon is more cohesive and tightly arranged. Moreover, some scholars think that Baruch 5:5-8 is an addition to that book. However, the direction of borrowing is hardly obvious, and it is as likely that both draw upon a common tradition." (An Introduction to Early Judaism, p. 129)

M. de Jonge writes: "This leads us to the question of the date. The PssSol do not describe historical events, but reflect them. They are clearly against the Hasmoneans, who did not discharge their priestly duties in a proper way (1:8; 8:11-13, 22) and usurped the high priesthood (8:11) as well as royal authority (17:5f). Psalm 8 clearly describes Pompey's entry into Jerusalem in 63 BC, together with the events leading up to and following it (verses 15-21; cp. 17:7-14). Ps. 2:1f mentions his capture of the city together with his pollution of the temple (so also 17:13f). Psalm 2 pictures him first and foremost as a proud and insolent sinner who does not observe the limits set to him as instrument of the Lord and disregards God's strength and judgement (cp. verses 23-37). The author of this psalm prays for deliverance and is shown how the insolent transgressor lies slain on the mountains of Egypt without anyone to bury him (2:26f). Although the language is traditional we may see here a reference to Pompey's death in Egypt in 48 BC." (Outside the Old Testament, pp. 160-161)

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