One of the delights which I discovered upon discovering the Septuagint was the Psalms of Solomon. While most, if not all, of canonical history has never accepted them as canonical, a text of the Psalms was found in the Codex Alexandrinus. (See also here) While some might find the study of the 2nd Temple Judaism a vile enterprise, or at the very least a waste of time, I find that the New Testament was not written in a vacuum, and that by shedding light upon the theological concepts found therein by using the literature which the writers, especially Paul, would have used, we can gain a richer insight into the communities which produced our own scared writings. Admittedly, this will not be concise, nor will it touch every strain of theology in this work.
The Psalms of Solomon is at times considered pseudepigraphical and others, on the outside of the deuterocanonicals. With a strong possibility of a Hebrew origin for most if not all of the Psalms, the current manuscripts are all in Greek. The original name is known to history, but it is thought that due to the nature of the Psalms, and the value which many placed on it, the name of Solomon was attached to it to keep it attached to Judaism. They were written over a half century before the birth of Christ, perhaps in Palestine, which was suffering under the rule of Rome and the priesthood of the Maccabees.
M. de Jonge writes:
“This leads us to the question of the date. The PssSol do not describe historical events, but reflect them. They are clearly against the Hasmoneans, who did not discharge their priestly duties in a proper way (1:8; 8:11-13, 22) and usurped the high priesthood (8:11) as well as royal authority (17:5f). Psalm 8 clearly describes Pompey’s entry into Jerusalem in 63 BC, together with the events leading up to and following it (verses 15-21; cp. 17:7-14). Ps. 2:1f mentions his capture of the city together with his pollution of the temple (so also 17:13f). Psalm 2 pictures him first and foremost as a proud and insolent sinner who does not observe the limits set to him as instrument of the Lord and disregards God’s strength and judgement (cp. verses 23-37). The author of this psalm prays for deliverance and is shown how the insolent transgressor lies slain on the mountains of Egypt without anyone to bury him (2:26f). Although the language is traditional we may see here a reference to Pompey’s death in Egypt in 48 BC.” (Outside the Old Testament, pp. 160-161)
It is in this light which we find a solid development in thought that Messiah would not only be heavenly, but the Son of David. This thought creates a tension between the author(s) of these psalms and those who would have currently been in power, the priestly Maccabees who promoted the idea of the Messiah ben Joseph (son of Joseph).
Early Christians adopted these Psalms, and the Odes, as valuable to their communities, although never canonical. (A Greek MSS of the Psalms can be found in Alexandrian Text.) It is evident, as we examine them in more detail, why. They provide, like other intertestamental works, a direct connection between the close of the Hebrew Scriptures and the world in which the Gospels were written – very much in the light of 2nd Temple Judaism. We can find vital links to Christian doctrine, showing progression in thought during these years, finally finding fruition in the doctrine of the New Testament.
We will examine the theology of the Psalms, specifically,
- Messianic Expectation
The Jewish Encyclopedia, Psalms of Solomon.