Testament of Solomon
The Testament of Solomon is an Old Testament pseudepigraphical work ascribed to King Solomon of Jerusalem. It describes how Solomon was enabled to build his Temple by commanding demons by means of a magical ring entrusted to him by the Archangel Michael.
The issue of Jewish or Christian origin of the Testament is difficult to determine on account of the syncretistic nature of magic in general, but allusions in the book suggest a Christian composition or redaction. Though the Testament contains what might be termed Jewish elements, these are not sufficiently clear to determine with certainty a Jewish contribution to the work.
Scholarly opinion on when the Testament was written varies widely. There is no doubt that the Testament refers to traditional content which is extremely ancient, but dating the traditions referred to in the Testament is not the same as dating the Testament as a particular text, and one needs to keep this distinction in mind.
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 CE, 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 possibly hint at a Christian writer with a Greek background.
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 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) 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, 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 Achoneoth 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 cornerstone, 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 Remphan and Moloch. 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.
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, and to understand the consequences of your actions before you act.
Perhaps the most intriguing 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. The "prediction" is an indication that this story was circulated and modified by Christians, if one employs redaction criticism.
The most obvious Greek influence is Solomon's encounter with seven demons who are sisters. They introduce themselves to the King and describe their home among the stars and Mount Olympus. The seven demon-sisters represent the Pleiades of Greek mythology and their astrological relationship.
The demon Enepsigos recounts to King Solomon at one point during the temple's construction that he can take three different physical forms, one of which being the Greek Titan Kronos. Enepsigos is also represented as a triple-faced woman akin to Hecate and is likewise astrologically associated with the sphere of the moon.
Many of the demons in Solomon's encounters are of Greek, Jewish, Christian, Arabic, and other traditions. 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. The demon Abezethibou is said to have hardened pharaoh's heart, and not God.
- Conybeare, F.C. The Testament of Solomon, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, (Oct.,1898)p. 1
- From Acts 7:43, a reference to Amos 5:25-27
- Conybeare, F.C. The Testament of Solomon, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, (Oct.,1898)p. 43
- Conybeare, F.C. The Testament of Solomon, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, (Oct.,1898)p. 30
- 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.)
- 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; Leipzig, 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)
- 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