Global Green University

The Psalms of Solomon


One of the apocryphal books, the Psalms of Solomon is a group of eighteen psalms (religious songs or poems) written in the first or second centuries BC that are not part of any current scriptural canon (they are, however, found in some copies of the Peshitta and the Septuagint). The 17th of the 18 psalms is similar to Psalm 72 which has traditionally been attributed to Solomon, and hence may be the reason that the Psalms of Solomon have their name. An alternate theory is that the psalms were so highly regarded that Solomon's name was attached to them to keep them from being ignored or forgotten. The Psalms of Solomon were referred to in early Christian writings, but lost to later generations until a Greek manuscript was rediscovered in the 17th century. There are currently eleven known 11th- to 16th-century manuscripts of a Greek translation from a lost Hebrew or Aramaic original, probably dating from the 1st or 2nd century BC. However, though now a collection, they were originally separate, written by different people in different periods. There exist also four Syriac manuscripts. The earliest historical evidence of "Eighteen Psalms of Solomon" is in the list at the beginning of the Codex Alexandrinus (fifth century). Politically, the Psalms of Solomon are anti-Hasmonean, and some psalms in the collection show a clear awareness of the Roman conquest of Jerusalem under Pompey in 63 BC, metaphorically treating him as a dragon who had been sent by God to punish the Hasmoneans. Some of the psalms are messianic, in the Jewish sense (clearly referring to a mortal that happens to be divinely assisted, much like Moses), but the majority are concerned less with the world at large, and more with individuals’ ethical behavior, expressing a belief that repentance for unintended sins will return them to God's favor. There have been attempts to link the text of the Psalms both to the Essenes of Qumran, who separated themselves from what they saw as a wicked world, and sometimes alternatively to the Pharisees in opposition to the Sadducees who generally supported the Maccabees. In this reading and commentary by Dr Daffern he explains the main theological and intellectual challenges in interpreting this important text.

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