Testament of Solomon

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The Testament of Solomon is an Old Testament pseudepigraphical work, the authorship of which is ascribed to King Solomon. It describes how Solomon was enabled to build the Temple by commanding demons by means of a magical ring entrusted to him by the Archangel Michael.

[top]History


Despite the text's claim to have been a first-hand account of King Solomon's construction of the Temple of Jerusalem, its original publication dates sometime between the 1st and 5th centuries,[1] over a thousand years after King Solomon's death and the temple's completion.

The real author or authors of the text remain unknown. The text was originally written in Greek and contains numerous theological and magical themes ranging from Christianity and Judaism to Greek mythology and Astrology that hint at possibly a Christian writer with a Greek background.

[top]Content


The text reads like a self-help manual against demonic activity, with a moral to follow.

When a demon named Ornias harasses a young lad (who is favored by Solomon) by stealing half his pay and sucking out his vitality through the lad's thumb on his right hand, Solomon prays in the temple and receives from the archangel Michael a ring with the seal of God (in the shape of a Pentalpha having the name of God inscribed within) on it which will enable him to command the demons (c.f. Seal of Solomon). Solomon lends the ring to the lad who, by throwing the ring at the demon Ornias, stamps him with the seal and brings him under control. Then Solomon orders the demon Ornias to take the ring and similarly imprint the prince of demons who is Beelzeboul/Beelzebul.

With Beelzebul under his command Solomon now has the entire race of demons at his bidding to build the temple. Beelzebul reveals he was formerly the highest ranking angel in Heaven.

In Chapter 18 the demons of the 36 decans appear with names that sometimes seem to be conscious distortions of the traditional names for the decans and claim responsibility mostly for various ailments and pains. They provide the magical formulae by which they may be banished. For example, the thirty-third demon is Rhyx Phtheneoth who causes sore throat and tonsilitis and can be driven off by writing the word Leikourgos on ivy leaves and heaping them into a pile.

Solomon's final demon encounter involves sending a servant boy with his ring to take captive a wind demon who is harassing the land of Arabia. The boy is to hold a wineskin against the wind with the ring in front of it, and then tie up the bag when it is full. The boy succeeds in his task and returns with the wineskin. The imprisoned demon calls himself Ephippas and it is by his power that a corner stone, thought to be too large to lift, is raised into the entrance of the temple.

Then Ephippas and another demon from the Red Sea bring a miraculous column made of something purple (translation obscure) from out of the Red Sea. This Red Sea demon reveals himself as Amelouith who claimed to be the demon who supported the Egyptian magicians against Moses and who hardened Pharaoh's heart but had been caught with the Egyptian host when the sea returned and held down by this pillar until Ephippas came and together they could lift it.

There follows a short conclusion in which Solomon describes how he fell in love with a Shunammite woman and agreed to worship Rephan and Moloch.[2] Solomon agrees to sacrifice to them, but only sacrifices the blood of locust by simply crushing them with his hand. Immediately, the Spirit of God departs from him and he is made foolish and his name a joke to both humans and demons.

Along with the negative presentation she is given in the Bible, the Testament of Solomon presents the Queen of Sheba as a witch, indicating that the author had an awareness of Jewish tradition, which had argued the same.

Solomon concludes his text with a warning to mankind. He reminds mankind not to be like he was; to be both aware of the present and the future: To understand the consequences of your actions before you act.

[top]Judeo-Christian themes

The appearance of the archangel Michael is the first example of the Judeo-Christian theme surrounding the text.

Perhaps the most intriguing Judeo-Christian theme found inside the text was during King Solomon's encounter with the demon Ephippas. While working on the temple, Ephippas is asked by Solomon why he is frustrated. The demon replies that he is concerned over the only thing that can truly take away his powers and defeat him. It was going to be a man born of a virgin who will be crucified on a cross by the Romans prodded on by the Jews.[3] The "prediction" that Ephippas makes is actually one of the primary indicators that the text was written in the New Testament Era.

A possible reference to the powers of Solomon, and pehaps the Testament of Solomon, is found in Luke 11:29,31. Jesus says (NIV), "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign. The Queen of the South will rise in judgement with the men of this generation...for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here." It is generally accepted that this is in reference to Solomon's wisdom, but the supernatural qualities of the verses may suggest more.

The book is a crude formulation of conceptions regarding demonic power that were almost universal in the Jewish and the Christian world for many centuries. The belief that Solomon had power over demons is found as early as Josephus ("Ant." viii. 2, §, 5); the Book of Enoch shows the disposition to multiply demonic names; and the character of Asmodeus in the Testament is taken from the Book of Tobit. The demonological literature of the first thousand years of the common era is enormous. The author of the Testament was a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian: the demons, it is said, will rule the world till the Son of God, who is spoken of as born of a virgin, shall be hung on the cross. The date of the work can not be fixed precisely. Bornemann discovers a close resemblance between its demonological conceptions and those of the "Institutiones" of Lactantius (about the year 300), and it is probable that it belongs not far from that time.

[top]Greek mythology


The Testament of Solomon, along with its Judeo-Christian theme, infuses Greek and other mythological elements into its work.

The most obvious of Greek influence is Solomon's encounter with seven demons who are sisters. They introduce themselves to the King and describe their home amongst the stars and Mount Olympus. The seven demon-sisters represent the Pleides of Greek Mythology and as well as their astrological relationship.

Solomon also encounters a woman demon who has no limbs and a head with full of dishevelled hair. It is argued that she actually represents Medusa or a gorgon-like creature from Greek mythology.[4]

The demon Enepsigos recounts to King Solomon at one point during the temple's construction that he can take the shape of three different physical forms, one of which being the Greek mythological god of time, Kronos. Moreover, Epenpsigos is also represented as a triple-faced woman akin to Hecate, and is likewise astrologically associated with the sphere of the moon.

[top]Demons


Many of the demons in Solomon's encounters are of Greek, Jewish, Christian, Arabic, and other traditions. The Testament is a primary account of how religion, magic, and legends all are intertwined with each other particularly during the first to fifth century C.E. in and around the Mediterranean region.[citation needed] Most of the rest of the work contains Solomon's interviews with the demons, some of whom are quite grotesque, including one in the shape of a dog and another who has no head and sees through its breasts. Two demons associated strongly with sexuality appear amongst them - Asmodeus from the Book of Tobit, and a female demon named Obyzouth, identical to Lilith in all but name, including the strangling of newborn children. Most of the other demons are otherwise unknown by name from other works, even though this does not seem to be new lore but a bundling of various bits of demon-lore from mixed sources.[citation needed] The demon Abezethibou is said to have hardened pharaoh's heart, and not God.

[top]Bibliography and external links


  • Text
    • F. F. Fleck, Wissenschaftliche Reise durch das südliche Deutschland, Italien, Sicilien und Frankreick, II.iii (Leipzig, 1837), pp. 111–140. (Available in reprint in Patrologia Graeca, ed. J. P. Migne, 1315–1358, together with a Latin translation.)
    • o C. C. McCown, The Testament of Solomon, edited from manuscripts at Mount Athos, Bologna, Holkham Hall, Jerusalem, London, Milan, Paris and Vienna, with Introduction (Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, Heft 9; Leipsiz, 1922. (The standard critical edition.))
  • English Translations
    • "The Testament of Solomon", trans. F. C. Conybeare, Jewish Quarterly Review, October, 1898] (English translation.)
    • "Testament of Solomon", trans. D. C. Duling, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume 1 (Doubleday; New York, 1983). ISBN 0-385-09630-5
    • "The Testament of Solomon", trans. M. Whittaker, in The Apocryphal Old Testament, ed. H. F. D. Sparks (Clarendon Press; Oxford, 1984). ISBN 0-19-826166-7 (hbk) ISBN 0-19-826177-2 (pbk)
  • Commentary
    • James Harding and Loveday Alexander, "Dating the Testament of Solomon", May, 1999 (A discussion of the source manuscripts and possible dating.)
    • Amy Scerba, "The Testament of Solomon – circa 200 CE (Part of history of the character of Lilith.)
    • Commentary by M. R. James

    • "The Testament of Solomon", reprinted from the Guardian Church Newspaper, March 15, 1899, p.367
    • "Solomon and the Demons", extracted from Old Testament Legends (Longmans, Green and Co., 1913)
    • "Review of The Testament of Solomon from the Journal of Theological Studies, Vol.24, 1923, pp.467–68

[top]References

  1. ^ Conybeare, F.C. The Testament of Solomon, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, (Oct.,1898)p. 1
  2. ^ From Acts 7:43, a reference to Amos 5:25-27
  3. ^ Conybeare, F.C. The Testament of Solomon, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, (Oct.,1898)p. 43
  4. ^ Conybeare, F.C. The Testament of Solomon, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, (Oct.,1898)p. 30

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