I've been working on the Odes of Solomon for about a year now. The reference
in the Catholic Encyclopaedia is slightly misleading when it lumps the Psalms
of Solomon with the Odes of Solomon. The two are distinct. The problem seems
to lie with the encyclopaedia's heavy reliance on JR Harris as its source.
Harris' so called 'Manuscript H' contains both works. There are four
manuscripts of the Odes:
1. The 'Pistis Sophia'/'Codex Askewianus'/'Ms. C' in Coptic - containing five
of odes, two or three of which are complete; it has the only extant version of
the first ode.
2. 'Ms. H' in Syriac - containing odes 3 to 42, more or less.
3. 'Ms. N' in Syriac - containing odes 17 to 42, more or less.
4. The 'Bodmer Papyrus XI'/'Ms. G' in Greek - containing ode 11.
The evidence seems to suggest that the Odes were composed around the end of
the first century AD, perhaps in Syriac. Various scholars have labelled it as
Jewish or Qumranic, or as a Gnostic work. Some suggest it to be Christian, or
reworked by Christians from Jewish texts, or produced by a Jewish-Christian
community (perhaps Ebionite). The question about Gnostic content is a
difficult one to judge.
The texts themselves are not easy to translate and use a wealth of imagery
from various sources. There is beauty here but the overarching theological
framework is unclear.
A good source of information, and the texts (with English translation), is
'The Odes of Solomon' by JH Charlesworth. Although this work is not without
its own problems.
The Reverend Gareth Hughes,
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