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Testament of Solomon

First to Third Century A.D.

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James Charlesworth writes (The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research, pp. 197-199):

The Testament of Solomon is extant in unedited Semitic manuscripts (viz. Bib. Nat. Fonds Syriaque 194, ff. 153a-156b; Vat. ar. 448, ff. 39r-54r; cf. G. Graf, Geschichte, p. 210) and in Greek. The latter was edited by C. C. McCown (The Testament of Solomon [Untersuch. z. N. T. 9] Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1922. Pp. 3*-120*), and translated into English from an earlier edition by F. C. Conybeare ("The Testament of Solomon," JQR 11 [1898] 1-45).

This pseudepigraphon is neither so late nor so early as some older scholars claimed. McCown (esp. pp. 105-08) argued persuasively for an early third-century A.D. date for the original compilation (so also J. B. Frey in DBSup 1, col. 456; K. Preisendanz in Pauly-Wissows n. B. Sup. 8 [1956] cols. 684-90, esp. col. 689; A.-M. Denis, no. 24, p. 67), which incorporates a first-century A.D. Jewish composition (McCown's siglum d). Scholars correctly do not follow Conybeare's contention (p. 12) that the original Jewish work is to be identified with the Solomonic incantations cited by Josephus near the end of the first century A.D. (Ant. 8.2, 5). Josephus does not appear to be referring to a particular text but to the numerous liquid traditions about Solomon's control over demons. McCown (pp. 38-43) argued that the original language is Greek (so also Preisendanz, col. 689; J. Petroff, no. 1367), except for a possible Semitic original in recension A in the list of decani (18:24-40 [H]). He suggested that the provenance, in ascending order of probability, is Galilean, Egyptian, or Asian; the section containing the list of decani, however, is Egyptian (p. 42). Frey (col. 456) proposed an Egyptian provenance for the entire work.

The pseudepigraphon is either a Jewish composition which was eventually reworked by a Christian (so Conybeare, pp. 11f.; Frey, col. 455; Ginzberg, Legende, vol. 6, p. 292; B. M. Metzger, no. 1365) or a Christian writing which incorporated some Jewish material (McCown, pp. 108f.). Clearly Christian passages are found in sections 54, 65, and 122 (cf. 71 and 104). These passages emphasize the cross and virgin birth.

The Testament of Solomon contains 130 sections, according to Conybeare's translation (26 chapters according to McCown's edition of the longest recension). The work is called a testament because Solomon writes the diatheken (130=26:8) in order that those who read it may pray and heed the last tihngs (tois eschatois). This exhortation mirrors Solomon's egregious error, his lust for a Shunammite girl and subsequent idolatry. Earlier (66=15:13) Solomon states that he wrote his testament before his death so that the children of Israel would know the powers and shapes of the demons, and the names of the angels who have power over them.

The pseudepigraphon recounts how Solomon is able to build the Temple by defeating demons and employing their skills by means of a ring and its seal given to him by the Archangel Michael. Solomon's greatness is acknowledged by a visit from the Queen of the South, who is a witch, and by a letter from the king of the Arabs. Solomon succeeds in building the Temple only to fall into idolatry through lust for a Shunammite girl.

If the Testament of Solomon is not late, as early scholars claimed, then it belongs in the Pseudepigrapha. In light of the emphasis upon demons and angels and the central concern for the Temple it will be interesting to see if there isa relation between this pseudepigraphon and the Qumranic Temple Scroll (cf. Y. Yadin, "The Temple Scroll," New Directions in Biblical Archaeology, eds. D. N. Freedman and J. C. Greenfield. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1971; pp. 156-66).

D. C. Duling writes: "The virgin, the reference to the Son of God, the temptation of Jesus, Jesus' rule over the demons, the crucifixion, and the name Emmanouel are clear. Moreover, there is the curious reference to the number 644. This number is connected with the name Emmanouel in manuscript P of 6:8, which states in response to Solomon's question about a thwarting angel that the one who thwarts Beelzeboul is 'the holy and precious name of the almighty God, the one called by the Hebrews by a row of numbers, of which the sum is 644, and among the Greeks it is Emmanouel.' [Italics mine.] Now 11:6 speaks of a suffering Emmanouel as one who thwarts the Lion-Shaped One, and adds, 'As he moves about he is conjured up by means of three letters.' The three letters used for the number 644 in manuscript P of 6:8, however, are Greek letters (chi, mu, delta). Moreover, manuscript P of 11:6 adds, "The 'Great Among Men' who is to suffer many things whose name is the formula 644, who is Emmanouel . . .' It is never explicitly stated, but the Greek letters of Emmanouel's name also add up to 644 (TSol 6:8, n. i)." (The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1, p. 955)

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