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The Apocryphal Old Testament Collection of the most important non-canonical Old Testament books designed for general use.

The Testament of Solomon - Introduction

The Testament, which is extant only in Greek, 1 G. Graf (Geschichte christ. arab. Literatur, I. (= Studi e Testi, 118; Vatican, 1944), p. 210) has, however, drawn attention to the existence of a Syriac MS in Paris (B.N. Fonds Syriaque 194; 16th cent.) and an Arabic MS in the Vatican (Vat. ar. 448; 17th cent.), both of which seem to contain texts of the Testament. relates how Solomon discovered that his building operations on the Temple were being frustrated by the demon Ornias: how in answer to prayer he was given authority, not only over Ornias but also over all the demons, to ‘confine’ them and use them as builders; and how, in the exercise of this authority, he summoned them before him one by one and set each a particular task until the Temple was completed. Ostensibly, the Testament is Solomon's warning to Israel against the dangers of apostasy, idolatry, and demon-worship, written shortly before his death and as a result of his own bitter experience (chaps. xv and xxvi). In fact, it is an essay in popular demonology and magic.

We are thus introduced by the Testament to that area of beliefs and practices which is probably best illustrated by the contents of the Hellenistic magical papyri. But we catch glimpses of it also in a variety of sources – for instance, in the incidental allusion in the Gospels, Acts, and Pauline Epistles to ‘the rudiments’ (or ‘elements’) of the world,’ 2 Gal. iv. 3; Col. ii. 8 . to ‘devils’ (or ‘demons’) as the cause of disease, 3 Matt. xii. 22 . and to the ‘casting out’ 4 Mark iii. 15, 22 . of them and cures 5 Luke ix. 42 . by ‘exorcists’. 6 Acts xix. 13 .

In view of the widespread acceptance of these ideas in the ancient world it is hardly surprising that Jews, who reflected on the accounts of the nature and extent of Solomon's wisdom recorded in 1 Kings iv. 29–34 and Wisd. vii. 17–22 , should assume that he knew as much about demons as he did about the other departments of nature, and that he had been given power to control them. Josephus, at all events, is a witness to this belief. In his description of Solomon he writes:

‘And God granted him knowledge of the art used against demons for the benefit and healing of men. He also composed incantations by which illnesses are relieved, and left behind forms of exorcisms with which those possessed by demons drive them out, never to return’. 7 Jos., Ant. VIII. ii. 5. (§ 45: Loeb Library translation).

And Josephus goes on to record how he himself had seen a certain Jew, named Eleazar, exorcise a demon in the presence of the Roman Emperor Vespasian and his retinue. Eleazar held under the possessed man's nose a ring ‘which had under its seal one of the roots prescribed by Solomon’, and then, as the man smelled it, Eleazar dragged the demon out through the man's nostrils. The man immediately fell to the ground. Eleazar then solemnly forbade the demon to re-enter the man, using the name of Solomon and pronouncing over him one of the Solomonic incantations. Josephus does not say explicitly in this passage that Solomon wrote down the ‘incantations’, and ‘forms of exorcism’ which he composed. But that he did so is a natural inference. At a later date, Origen certainly knew of exorcists who used ‘adjurations written by Solomon’. 8 Orig. Matt. comm. ser. 110.

But the Testament is very far from being a collection of Solomon's magic formulae. As a ‘testament’ it belongs to an established literary category – a category, moreover, which it seems was originated by Jews. Further, its main motif (that Solomon acquired power over the demons and used them to build the Temple) reappears in the Talmud. 9 T. B. Giṭṭin 68a–b. This means that the Testament's framework, at least, is firmly fixed within Judaism. On the other hand, despite many features in the body of the work that are unmistakeably Jewish (such as the name of the demon Asmodeus in chap. v and the phrase quoted at iii. 5 from Wisd. ix. 4 ), there are many more that are attributable to pagan, and particularly Gnostic, influence. A good illustration here is the summary in chap. xviii of ‘the thirty-six elements’: these are the well-known decani of the Zodiac circle, which are described, for example, by Celsus, 10 Orig. c. Cels. viii. 58. though in less detail than in the Testament. And there are, too, a number of distinctively Christian features. Thus, Christ's power over the demons is referred to several times. 11 xi. 6; xv. 10, 11; xvii. 4; xxii. 20. It is true that Christ is not mentioned by name, but the references to his Virgin Birth and Crucifixion are unmistakeable. 12 xii. 3; xv. 10; xxii. 20. Most interesting of all in this connection is the passage in chap. xi describing the ‘legion of demons’ subordinate to the ‘Lionbearer’, who is inhibited ‘by the name of him that endured after many sufferings at the hands of men, whose name is Emmanuel, who even now has enchained us and will come to plunge us from a cliff under the water’. This is a clear allusion to the story of the healing of the Gerasene demoniac as recorded in Mark v. 1–20 and Luke viii. 26–39 . 13 The parallel version in Matt. viii 28–34 does not mention the name ‘Legion’.

Fleck, the first editor of the Testament, regarded it as a Byzantine work of the Middle Ages. Bornemann dated it early in the 4th century on account of the resemblances between its demonology and the demonology of the Institutes of Lactantius. Conybeare suggested that an original Jewish document of uncertain date was worked over by a Christian, possibly as early as AD 100. Schürer simply described the Testament as ‘Christian’ and suggested no date.

In his edition of 1837 Fleck printed the text of a single 16th cent. Paris MS (B.N. Anciens fonds grecs, no. 38 – Colbert 4895). For his edition of 1922 McCown had access to no less than twelve additional MSS (all 15th or 16th cent.) which represent four different recensions (ABCD). As the basis of the Testament McCown postulated an initial Jewish tale, beginning with Solomon's birth and continuing with stories of his dealings with demons and his building of the Temple, roughly similar to what is now found in Recension D, though very far from identical with it. The Testament was an adaptation of this nucleus by a Greek Christian, who wrote, perhaps in Asia, perhaps in Egypt, but more probably in Galilee, somewhere between AD 200 and AD 250 – in any case the Testament must have been in existence by AD 400 at the latest, because it is quoted as ‘his (i.e. Solomon's) Testament’, in The Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila. 14 Cp. F. C. Conybeare. The Dialogues of Athanasius and Zacchaeus and of Timothy and Aquila (= Anecdota Oxoniensia, Classical Series, Part viii; Oxford, 1898 ), p. 70. Recension A differs little from the original, though it is obviously secondary at the beginning and shows signs of expansion at the end. Recension B, which is independent of A, fills out the details about individual demons and is also inclined to expand the Christian passages: it is to be dated in the fourth or the fifth century. Finally, perhaps as late as the twelfth or thirteenth century, came Recension C, a further recension of Recension B.

Fleck's Paris MS belongs to Recension B, and so both Bornemann's German translation and Conybeare's English translation follow this recension. The text in McCown's edition, however, is based mainly on Recension A; and it was this text that was adopted by Riessler for his German translation in 1927 . The text published by Delatte is that of the Paris MS B.N. 2011 (18th cent.): it is a similar, though substantially longer, version of the material in McCown's Recension D. Our own translation is based on McCown.

Notes:

1 G. Graf (Geschichte christ. arab. Literatur, I. (= Studi e Testi, 118; Vatican, 1944), p. 210) has, however, drawn attention to the existence of a Syriac MS in Paris (B.N. Fonds Syriaque 194; 16th cent.) and an Arabic MS in the Vatican (Vat. ar. 448; 17th cent.), both of which seem to contain texts of the Testament.

2 Gal. iv. 3; Col. ii. 8 .

3 Matt. xii. 22 .

4 Mark iii. 15, 22 .

5 Luke ix. 42 .

6 Acts xix. 13 .

7 Jos., Ant. VIII. ii. 5. (§ 45: Loeb Library translation).

8 Orig. Matt. comm. ser. 110.

9 T. B. Giṭṭin 68a–b.

10 Orig. c. Cels. viii. 58.

11 xi. 6; xv. 10, 11; xvii. 4; xxii. 20.

12 xii. 3; xv. 10; xxii. 20.

13 The parallel version in Matt. viii 28–34 does not mention the name ‘Legion’.

14 Cp. F. C. Conybeare. The Dialogues of Athanasius and Zacchaeus and of Timothy and Aquila (= Anecdota Oxoniensia, Classical Series, Part viii; Oxford, 1898 ), p. 70.

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