The Apocryphal Old Testament

By H. F. D. Sparks | Go to book overview
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THE TESTAMENT OF SOLOMON

INTRODUCTION

The Testament, which is extant only in Greek,1 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 to 'devils' (or 'demons') as the cause of disease,3 and to the 'casting out'4 of them and cures5 by 'exorcists?'.6

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:

____________________
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.

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