The Odes of Solomon are relatively recently found works dating from somewhere in the second to maybe the third century. They may have been Syrian in origin, one copy is found in a monastery of Syrians outside of Cairo. They are beautiful verses that speak of the spirit of the Lord as well as his love, grace, and wisdom. They have no stated author, they are attributed to Solomon because of their being found in proximity to the Psalms of Solomon.
They are demonstrably Christian writings:
And because I shall love Him that is the Son, I shall become a son
For he that is joined to Him that is immortal, will also himself become immortal; And he who has pleasure in the Living One, will become living. This is the Spirit of the Lord, which doth not lie, which teacheth the sons of men to know His ways. [Odes of Solomon 3:9-12]
In fact, Ode 10 appears to be the Lord himself speaking:
The Lord hath directed my mouth by His word: and He hath opened my heart by His light: and He hath caused to dwell in me His deathless life; And gave me that I might speak the fruit peace: To convert the souls of them who are willing to come to Him; and to lead captive a good captivity for freedom. [Odes of Solomon 10:1-3]
Because the Odes contain significant references to “knowledge” some classify them as Gnostic (from the Greek ‘gnosis’ or knowledge), but there doesn’t appear to be classic Gnostic doctrines taught like dualism (beneficent and malignant aspects of the same being), multiple supreme beings, or the weaving of multiple world religious themes into one special knowledge.
For knowledge He hath appointed as its way, hath widened it and extended it; and brought to all perfection; And set over it the traces of His light, and I walked therein from the beginning even to the end. [Odes of Solomon 7:15-16]
Because all of the odes end in Hallelujah, it has been suggested that they are hymns or liturgical responses. (There is an exception, of course, which is ode 1, but it is contemplated that the final verses of ode 1, as well as the entire ode 2 and part of ode 3, are missing.
And ye shall be found incorrupt in all ages to the name of your Father. Hallelujah. [Odes of Solomon 8:26]
So we have what many believe to be a second-century hymnal. This makes a lot of sense. The odes look a lot like the Psalms which are songs. And just like the psalms, the odes reflect the theology of the faith at that time.
Theology of the Odes of Solomon
As stated above, the odes have a traditional Christian feel. The son of God is the light of the world and the Messiah. Those that follow the son experience that light and salvation. The joy of the Lord, his grace, mercy, love, peace, righteousness, truth, knowledge, and wisdom are praised.
The odes reverberate with praise to the Lord for his light, salvation, and wondrous works. The first ode starts, “the Lord is on my head like a crown, and I shall not be without him.” They really read like the Psalms of the Old Testament modified to emphasize the Savior.
Distinctions in the Theology of the Odes
There are several theological points of note in the Odes of Solomon. Ode 19 has a unique reference to the Virgin birth being painless:
The Spirit opened the womb of the Virgin and she received conception and brought forth; and the Virgin became a Mother with many mercies; 7 And she travailed and brought forth a Son, without incurring pain; [Odes of Solomon 19:6-7]
Mariology is the study of Mary. Mariology has grown to the point where Mary was no longer human like the rest of us. Mariology doctrine states that as Mary was the mother of God, Mary was born without original sin, conceived the Christ child by the Holy Spirit, gave birth painlessly, ascended to heaven as Christ did (the Assumption), and became the mediator between man and Christ. In canonical books, only that Mary conceived Christ child by the Holy Spirit is clearly stated. But here in the Odes of Solomon, we have a reference to the painless birth of the Christ child.
As stated above some scholars have suggested that the Odes of Solomon are Gnostic in origin. This is because there are numerous references to the knowledge and wisdom of God which is very prevalent in Gnostic writings. But as stated above there is very little substantiation that Gnostic doctrines are promoted.
There is an allusion to universalism in Ode 6:
10 For it spread over the face of the whole earth, and filled everything: and all the thirsty upon earth were given to drink of it; [Odes of Solomon 6:10]
Universalism, the doctrine that all will be saved, was more common in early Christian communities than people think. Origen is perhaps the most famous writer in early Christianity to promote the concept, but he was far from being alone. That this reference is found in this Christian hymnal is significant.
The Deity of Christ and the Trinity
Ode 23 has what is close to a reference to the traditional Trinitarian formula:
And the name of the Father was on it and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, to rule for ever and ever. [Odes of Solomon 23:20]
However, it must always be remembered that having three names used together falls far short of saying that those names are coequal and of one substance for the same person. For example, if someone were to say, “the decree was in the name of Governor Franklin and of Senator Pierce and of Senator Tagunda,” no one would think that those were the same person. And, more to the point, there are other references in the odes that promote a theology that is far from modern Orthodox Christianity with its emphasis on the Trinity.
Of special interest is Odes 8:25 which speaks of the Savior’s need to be saved himself which makes him purely human. This verse presents an undeified Christ who needed salvation himself before he could gain salvation for others:
And they that are saved in Him that was saved [Odes of Solomon 8:25]
Here’s a verse that does not refer to a Savior as the omnipotent God. And ode 36 gives a fascinating perspective on the relationship between the father, the son, and the spirit:
3 The Spirit brought me forth before the face of the Lord: and, although a son of man, I was named the Illuminate, the Son of God: 4 While I praised amongst the praising ones, and great was I amongst the mighty ones. 5 For according to the greatness of the Most High, so He made me: and like His own newness He renewed me; and He anointed me from His own perfection: [Odes of Solomon 36:3-5]
This is a fascinating section. In Christian theology, there is only one who is called “the son of God”. There is only one who is “the light” or “Illuminate”. That is Jesus Christ. Yet this section clearly puts Jesus Christ as subordinate to the father. These verses say that he started out as “a” son of man, and that was named “the” son of God. These verses say that he was renewed, and anointed of God from his own perfection. This is not Orthodox Christian teaching of today. But it is just another example that shows that the orthodoxy of original, primitive Christianity and later early Christianity is different than that of today. There just was not the emphasis on the deity of Christ and the trinity that there is today.
Original, primitive Christianity existed thousands of years ago. To find out what those Christians believed we need to look at whatever documentation we can find from that era instead of reading some modern-day theologians’ interpretation.
The Odes of Solomon are another example of early Christianity where there were fundamental doctrinal differences with the Orthodox Christianity of today. In the odes of Solomon while we do see a reference to “ the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” in investigating their relationship we do not find the Trinity that was canonized centuries later and exists to this day.
Certainly, the Odes of Solomon are not canonical Scripture. There are not very many copies, and they are not as well studied as many of the ancient documents. Nevertheless, they can still give us valuable insight into early Christian culture and theology.
Further information on the Odes is available on the Gnosis website, at http://gnosis.org/library/odes.htm.
last updated 1/5/2022
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