Psalms of Extiction

Psalms of Solomon

One of the Pseudepigrapha, the Psalms of Solomon is a group of eighteen psalms (religious songs or poems) that are not part of any scriptural canon. They are distinct from, but may be modeled after or derived from the Book of Psalms of the Jewish and Christian Bibles, which are traditionally attributed to David rather than Solomon. The 17th of the 18 Psalms has a similarity to Psalm 72 from the Book of Psalms, which claims attribution to Solomon, and hence may be the reason that the Psalms of Solomon have their name. (An alternate view is that the psalms were so highly regarded that Solomon's name was attached to it to keep them from resting in the ash heaps of history.)

The Psalms of Solomon were referenced in Early Christian writings, but lost to modern scholars until a Greek manuscript was rediscovered in the 17th century. There are currently eight known 11th to 15th century manuscripts of a Greek translation from a lost Hebrew or Aramaic original, probably dating from the first or second century BCE. However, though now a collection, they were originally separate, written by different people in different periods.

Politically, the Psalms of Solomon are anti-Maccabee, and some psalms in the collection show a clear awareness of the Roman conquest of Jerusalem under Pompey in 63 BCE, metaphorically treating him as a dragon who had been sent by God to punish the Maccabees. Some of the psalms are messianic, in the Jewish sense (clearly referring to a mortal that happens to be divinely assisted, much like Moses), but the majority are concerned less with the world at large, and more with individual behaviour, expressing a belief that repentance for unintended sins will return them to God's favour.

There have been attempts to link the text both to the Essenes of Qumran, who separated themselves from what they saw as a wicked world, and alternately to the Pharisees in opposition to the Sadducees who generally supported the Maccabees.


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