I am currently working on a number of book projects. My first book, a commentary on the Psalms of Solomon, is the first major study of this ancient collection of poems documenting the Roman conquest of Jerusalem to appear in over a century. As such, it includes many new manuscript discoveries, including that Dead Sea Scrolls, and archaeological findings that were unavailable to pervious scholars.
My future projects include books on women in the Dead Sea Scrolls and a study of martyrdom in antiquity that will focus on an ancient text known as the Assumption of Moses (a.k.a. Testament of Moses) that was written in the late first century B.C.E. and the first century C.E. This text, I believe, presents a new view of martyrdom, originally intended to resist the Romans, that is also relevant for understanding contemporary events.
For additional information about my other publications on the Psalms of Solomon, Dead Sea Scrolls, Archaeology, and other topics, visit my c.v. page. You will also find many of my publications pertaining to the Dead Sea Scrolls listed on the Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls Website.
The collection of eighteen Greek poems that comprise the Psalms of Solomon recount one unknown Jewish community's response to a series of military attacks and political persecutions during the first century B.C.E. The authors of the Psalms use poetry to explain why God has allowed their devout community to suffer. No one, they believe, is completely innocent, thus they conclude that even the righteous have inadvertently sinned. God is, therefore, justified in punishing the entire nation because all have violated the Law. According to the writers, their community differs from other Jewish sinners in that God does not discipline them alike. They believe that God tests the righteous through punishment in order to see how they respond to such discipline. The pious are those who accept the Lord's rebuke, declare God to be just, and try to stop sinning. Such righteous suffering, moreover, atones for sin. The community of the Psalms concludes that although justice has been delayed, God will intervene in history and send a Davidic messiah to purge Jerusalem of all its Jewish and Gentile sinners before inaugurating an eternal reign of peace. Until this occurs, the writers urge the pious to cry to the Lord (Ps. Sol. 1:1), because he will show mercy to those who persistently call upon him (Ps. Sol. 2:36).
CHAPTER ONE: Psalm of Solomon 2...............................15
CHAPTER TWO: Psalm of Solomon 8...............................55
CHAPTER THREE: The Pre-Pompeian Psalms of Solomon......89
CHAPTER FOUR: Messianism in Psalm of Solomon 17.........129
CHAPTER FIVE: The Remaining Psalms of Solomon............181
CHAPTER SIX: Conclusion..........................................211
An Intertextual Study of the Psalms of Solomon: Pseudepigrapha. Studies in Bible and Early Christianity No. 49 (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2001). [Amazon.com listing]
Western Wall, Jerusalem. Pompey and his Roman Legions captured Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. This event is referred to in Psalms of Solomon 2 and 8.
"When the sinner [=Pompey] became proud he struck down fortified walls (of Jerusalem) with a battering-ram,
and you did not restrain him." (Psalm of Solomon 2:1).
The Psalms of Solomon also mention Pompey's assassination in Egypt. Pompey had fled to Egypt to escape Julius Caesar. Betrayed by his Egyptian supporters, he was decapitated with a sword shortly after his arrival in the region on September 28, 48 B.C.E Pompey's head and ring were sent to Caesar and his body was thrown on the Egyptian shore before a crowd of onlookers.
Nile River in Egypt.
"And I did not wait long until God showed me his insolence,
pierced, on the mountains of Egypt,
more than the least despised on land and sea;
His body, was carried about on the waves in great insolence,
and there was no one to bury [him],
for he had rejected him in dishonor." (Psalm of Solomon 2:26-27).
The description of Pompey's death in the Psalms of Solomon is nearly identical to other Roman accounts of his assassination. For Roman accounts of Pompey's death, see Appian, Roman History, 2.84-86; Dio Cassius, Roman History, 42.3-4; Julius Caesar, Civil Wars, 3.104; Cicero, De Divinatione, 2.9.22; Claudian, Against Eutropius, 1.480-84; Florus, Epitome, 2.13.52; Juvenal, Satire, 10.280-865; Lucan, Pharsalia, 8.485-870; Manilius, Astromica, 4.50-62; Martial, Epigrams, 3.46; Plutarch, Lives (Pompey), 77-79; Velleius Paterculus, Roman History, 2.52-53.
Prof. Atkinson's intertextual commentary is the first English study on the Psalms of Solomon in over a century, and the only work to benefit from complete access to the full corpus of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Even though it contains the earliest pre-Christian description of the Davidic messiah, scholars have unfortunately paid scant attention to the pseudepigraphical work known as the Psalms of Solomon. Atkinson's commentary remedies this neglect by providing a complete exegesis of the Psalms of Solomon, with an exhaustive review of literature about this text from its discovery until the present day.
Among the many insights in Atkinson's commentary is that the Psalms of Solomon was composed between 63 B.C.E. to 37 B.C.E. as a series of reflections upon the violence that accompanied the Roman dominance of Palestine. Faced with overwhelming foreign aggression, this unknown Jerusalem synagogue community used poetry as a vehicle to oppose the Romans and their Jewish allies. With the emergence of the Herod the Great, this sect changed its theology, and used scripture to fashion a militant Davidic Messiah, who was envisaged as a righteous counterpart to the very Jewish and Roman rulers he was to destroy.
In addition to a detailed commentary of the text, including many new insights based upon the newly-released Dead Sea Scrolls, Prof. Atkinson's commentary also contains the Greek text with the scriptural parallels used by the Psalms of Solomon's authors in adjacent columns. This intertextual commentary shows that the pious writers of these psalms not only searched scripture to make sense of their world, but also wrote poetic compositions that contain many previously overlooked references to historical events. Prof. Atkinson's commentary should be of interest to students, scholars, clergy, as well as anyone wishing to understand the Bible, Hellenistic Judaism, nascent Christianity, and the classical period in the Middle East.
Although written in Jerusalem in the latter part of the first century BCE by a group of Jews who were similar in many ways to the early Pharisees, the Psalms of Solomon was virtually unknown to western scholars until J. de la Cerda's publication of 1626. The most recent commentary on this important early Jewish hymnbook was in French in 1911, and the most recent English commentary was in 1891. Thus, Kenneth Atkinson's commentary on the Psalms of Solomon presents us with a recent commentary that can benefit by the enormous advances made by archaeologists. Also, extremely important for a commentary on this pseudepigraphon is the use of intertextuality. Thus, for instance, Atkinson shows how the psalmist's claim that the Messiah will smash the arrogance of sinners like a potter's jar and destroy unlawful nations with the word of his mouth (PsSol 17:23-24) is an exegetical expansion of earlier sacred traditions: specifically, that the Coming One will smash the nations like a potter's vessel (Ps 2:9) and strike the earth with the rod [Hebrew] or word [Greek LXX] of his mouth (Isa 11:4). Atkinson writes lucidly and his commentary is well researched. I recommend it strongly.
James H. Charlesworth
George L. Collord Professor of New
Testament Language and Literature and Director,
Princeton Dead Sea Scrolls Project,
Princeton Theological Seminary
"Intertextuality," the new yet old method for interpreting an ancient text provides the demonstrable context for understanding any piece of writing. With this technique, one can better hope to get inside the contextual thought world of a writer and understand what the literary allusions represent, the references that the author assumed and his readers certainly easily recognized. Without an intertextual strategy, that grounds our approach to a text in its own literary setting, we too easily misinterpret a text just from our own perspective, often with inappropriate results. This study, of the Psalms of Solomon, the first century B.C.E. text that describes the initial incursions of the Roman empire into Jerusalem, and that is the most detailed description of the expected Jewish Messiah before the Christian Scriptures, is a good example of this method thoroughly and consistently applied. The format lays out the relevant parallels and one has in full view the textual evidence for a close scrutiny of where the citation fits into the world of turn-of-the-era Judaism. The author's analysis of the texts and their contexts is thorough and insightful, with many new perceptions on this important document for understanding the history of the Roman invasions, and the Messianic expectations of the group responsible for this writing.
Robert B. Wright
Professor of Hebrew Bible
Department of Religion
Author of the forthcoming new Critical Edition of the Greek Text of the Psalms of Solomon, (published by Sheffield Academic Press, James H. Charlesworth, General Editor) and of The Manuscripts of the Psalms of Solomon, a CD-ROM of 350 Edited Color Photographs.
Understanding the Sitz im Leben of an Unknown Jewish Sect
Kenneth Atkinson, Temple University
The eighteen Psalms of Solomon, is a pseudepigraphic work written in the mid-to later first century B.C.E. A superficial survey of the composition shows it to consist of eighteen psalms written in imitation of the biblical psalter, and ascribed to King Solomon. The genre of these psalms ranges from lamentations, entreaties, and thanksgiving. The collection portrays a terrible calamity inflicted by an anonymous enemy upon Jerusalem. God decreed that Jerusalem would succumb to this foreign ruler because of its iniquities. Davidic usurpers, who controlled the Temple, were marked by God for special punishment, because of their excessive sins. Despite these calamities, the community of the psalmist managed to survive. The collection ends with the expectation of a Davidic Messiah, who would rule in Jerusalem, and punish both the Jewish and Gentile sinners.
The Psalms of Solomon was not known until its publication in 1626 by Juan Luis De La Cerda. Since De La Cerda's publication, scholars have sought to identify the numerous veiled allusions to historical personages scattered throughout the collection. In 1847, F. K. Movers first suggested that the background of most of these psalms was Pompey's invasion of Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. Julius Wellhausen, in his work Die Pharisäer und die Sadducäer expanded upon Mover's thesis, and proposed that the Psalms of Solomon represented Jewish Pharisaism at the time of Pompey's arrival. This theory was further expanded upon by a succession of writers in various critical editions of the psalms. In 1891, Ryle and James were so certain of the Pompeian dating and Pharisaic attribution of the Psalms of Solomon, that they titled their commentary on the collection, The Psalms of the Pharisees. This work, still the only English commentary on the Psalms of Solomon, continues to dominant contemporary scholarship.
In this presentation, I will propose that our present corpus of Psalms of Solomon is the product of a later redactor, who collected a number of psalms containing the theological reflections of a Jewish community to the changing political situation within Jerusalem. The earliest of these psalms date just prior to Pompey's arrival in 63 B.C.E., and the latest document Herod the Great's siege of Jerusalem in 37 B.C.E. The failure to recognize the role of the redactor, in compiling these psalms, has resulted in a general misdating of the collection that continues to obscure its relation to other contemporary texts. This misdating has persisted, largely because of the general scholarly reluctance to dispense with the theory that the Psalms of Solomon is the only surviving work composed by the Pharisees. Once the tenuous nature of the Pharisaical connection is recognized, then these psalms can properly function as a witness to the great diversity that existed in Palestinian Judaism, within Jerusalem, during the latter portion of the first century B.C.E.
Section One: General Observations
The Psalms of Solomon is believed to have been composed in Hebrew. Unfortunately, there are no extant Hebrew manuscripts, and the collection only survives in whole or in part, in eleven Greek and five Syriac manuscripts. None of these manuscripts is earlier than the tenth century, with the single exception of a six-verse Syriac fragment found in a marginal note in a 7th CE manuscript of the Hymns of Severus. The present arrangement of the Psalms of Solomon is the result of a later redactor. This redactor was likely responsible for the titles appended psalms two through eighteen. Many of these titles ascribe authorship to the biblical King Solomon. Solomon was likely chosen because of the reference in 1 Kings 4:32 [Heb. 5:12], where he is cited as a composer of proverbs and psalms. The redactor was also likely responsible for the first and last Psalms of Solomon, which provided the work with an introduction and conclusion. The lack of any title to the first Psalm of Solomon suggests that this psalm, closely modeled after Psalm of Solomon 8:1-13, was written to introduce the theme of the entire collection. This psalm, closely modeled after the second, introduced the present distress of the community. Psalm of Solomon 18, the final psalm, was likely appended to the collection to form its conclusion, as it consists of a pastiche of phrases and reflections from the preceding psalms. Here, the psalmist conveyed thanksgivings for God's righteousness judgments and protection during the preceding difficulties.
Unfortunately, our received Greek text is not the most desirable one, as several passages are nearly untranslatable, and the text has been subject to conjecture by both medieval scribes and modern editors. Robert Hann has conducted a syntactical analysis of the Greek text, and has demonstrated that the text is "translation Greek," characterized by translation errors from Hebrew and "semiticisms." The absence of any reference within the Greek text, or its appended headings, to the destruction of Jerusalem, suggests that the Psalms of Solomon was, translated, and redacted into Greek prior to 70 CE.
The felicities, within our present Greek version, have led some scholars to focus upon the Syriac translation as means of uncovering the original Hebrew Vorlage. The date of the Syriac translation is unknown, and it lacks the appended headings found in the Greek text. Joseph Trafton attempted to demonstrate that the Syriac translation, at least in many places, preserved readings more suggestive of a Hebrew Vorlage. The Syriac, however, bears the hallmarks of being a secondary translation from the Greek, and is in a number of instances an overly literal translation of the Greek text. The Syriac is also characterized by readings that are, in many places, attempts to smooth over the difficulties in the Greek text, and its word order is usually in agreement with the Greek. Therefore, this presentation will restrict itself to the Greek version, although significant Syriac variants will be considered when relevant. The date of the Syriac translation is unknown.
Ancient references to the Psalms of Solomon are quite sparse, and it is frequently uncertain whether writers are describing the Psalms of Solomon, or some other composition, such as the unrelated Odes of Solomon. The earliest clear historical testimony to the work is the listing of "Eighteen Psalms of Solomon" in the catalog at the beginning of the fifth century C.E. Codex Alexandrinus. Unfortunately, the pages that once contained the Psalms of Solomon are missing from this codex. At an unknown time, some of the Psalms of Solomon were included in the unrelated Odes of Solomon. This suggests that the collection was incorporated into the worship of Syriac speaking Christianity. This subsequent history of the collection will not be dealt with, as it does not assist in dating the psalms. Because neither the surviving manuscripts or and ancient witnesses provide any evidence for the original date of the Psalms of Solomon, scholars must seek to date the collection by the numerous veiled allusions to historical personages found within the text itself.
The location where the Psalms of Solomon was composed may provide a clue to the group behind the composition. There is a consensus that the Psalms of Solomon emanated from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is personified in the introductory psalm to the collection, and the historical events related in Psalms of Solomon 2, 8, and 17, all occur within the confines of the city. Psalm of Solomon 4 apparently refers to the corrupt leadership within the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, while Psalm of Solomon 11 speaks in anticipation of God's promises to Jerusalem. Additionally, the group responsible for these psalms is also to be situated within the confines of the city, since they suffered the effects of corrupt Jewish leadership, knew of the activities of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, and experienced first hand a siege of the city. The collection lacks any rural imagery, and the vices condemned by the psalmist have a particular urban perspective, largely focusing upon the contemporary political situation and events within Jerusalem.
Section Two: The Earliest Psalms of Solomon
In attempting to date the Psalms of Solomon, most scholars have excessively focused upon Psalms of Solomon 2, 8, and 17. These three psalms contain the greatest number of historical allusions. All document a siege of Jerusalem by a gentile invader. Psalm of Solomon 2 is famous for its vilification of this gentile figure as the "dragon." Psalm of Solomon 2 documented not only the capture of Jerusalem by this figure, but also his later murder in Egypt. This death of the foreign conqueror so closely matches the classical accounts of Pompey's murder in Egypt, in 48 B.C.E., that this particular Psalm of Solomon must refer to Pompey's siege of Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. Unfortunately, because this psalm is dated so easily, it is used as a basis for dating the entire collection.
Psalm of Solomon 8, although closely matching Psalm of Solomon 2, only described Pompey's arrival. Most of this psalm is a hymn of supplication for aid from God to deliver the author's community from the present Gentile invasion (8:23-34). The allusions within this psalm also matches Pompey's siege of Jerusalem. Since the psalmist was distressed at the recent arrival of Gentile forces in Jerusalem, Psalm of Solomon 8 must have been written shortly following Pompey's arrival in 63 B.C.E. Consequently, Psalm of Solomon 8 must predate Psalm of Solomon 2 by at least fifteen years. Although many recognize that the collection was redacted, the role of the redactor is ignored because the corpus is commonly believed to have been composed within a relatively short span of time. Therefore, no Psalm of Solomon is dated prior to Pompey's arrival in 63 B.C.E., and the latest psalms are placed in the period immediately following Pompey's death in 48 B.C.E.
The dating of Psalm of Solomon 8 to an earlier period, suggests that at least fifteen years passed between the writing of these two psalms. Because the Psalms of Solomon was likely composed by different writers, it is incorrect to force the collection into a historical and theological unity. Rather, whenever each individual psalm must be dated individually, in order to determine whether it actually refers to the same historical events or individuals as the other psalms. In the remainder of this presentation, I will briefly propose a few redatings for selected Psalms of Solomon, and conclude with a few brief comments concerning the sectarian background of the collection. This presentation is part of a much larger study in progress concerning the historical background and sectarian affiliation of the Psalms of Solomon. Unfortunately, time forbids a detailed comparison of this text with the Qumran material, or other contemporary documents.
Psalm of Solomon 4 is particularly difficult to date to Pompey's siege, as it contains no references to gentiles, nor any expectation of oncoming warfare within Jerusalem. This psalm only described the corrupt activity in the council, apparently the Sanhedrin, that directly affected the writer's community. The psalmist began with the following cry directed at this institutions' leader:
Why are you sitting in the council of the devout, you profaner?
When your heart is far removed from the Lord,
Provoking with transgressions the God of Israel. (4:1-2).
The writer described the sins of this leader as consisting of indiscriminately looking at every woman, swearing false contracts, and committing evil deeds in secret (4:3 5). This leader was also the first to exercise judgment against others (4:3). The writer pleaded, in verses 14-18, that God inflict this leader with the following calamities: insomnia, loss of earthly possessions, loss of family, and business failure. This evil man has been identified with various individuals from Alexander Jannaeus to Antipater. Because the collection of Psalms of Solomon appears to focus upon the Jewish leadership beginning with Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, either of these individuals is a likely candidate for the corrupt individual denounced in this psalm. Because Psalm of Solomon 4 does not contain any expectation of gentile intervention, it was likely composed sometime between Hyrcanus' assumption to the high priesthood in 67 B.C.E. and prior to Pompey's arrival in 63 B.C.E.
Psalm of Solomon 15 is similar to Psalm of Solomon 4, and also lacks any references to outside intervention. While the fourth Psalm of Solomon focused specifically upon the crimes of the Sanhedrin, this particular Psalm of Solomon reflected upon a recent persecution that the author's community had survived. The psalm begins:
When I was in distress I called upon the name of the Lord,
I hoped for the help of the God of Jacob, and was saved. (15:1)
In verses 2-4, the psalmist wrote that those who confess and sing to the Lord will also escape the "flame of fire and anger" that will be inflicted against the unrighteousness. In verses 6-9, he expected that his community will also escape the approaching famine and destruction. The text recorded, in verse 9, that the sinners will be overtaken by those experienced in war, while the righteous will be saved because they bear God's mark upon them. Because this psalm anticipated oncoming distress, it was likely composed slightly before Pompey's arrival, during the turbulent period from 67-63 B.C.E., when Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II fought for control of the high priesthood. Because this psalm does not refer to gentile intervention, it is possible that the author was describing the civil warfare that erupted between Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II, in part fueled by the ambitions of Antipater. If this is correct, then Psalm of Solomon 15 should be dated to the same general period as the fourth psalm, roughly from 67-63 B.C.E.
Only with Psalm of Solomon 7, do we begin to approach the Pompeian era. This psalm should also be placed among the earliest of the collection, as its author pleaded with God to: "Discipline us as you wish, but do not turn (us) over to the gentiles" (7:3). This psalmist also wrote: "While your name lives among us, we shall receive mercy and the gentile will not overcome us" (7:7). The author specify pleaded that God not allow the gentile's feet to trample upon the Jerusalem temple. Although the writer feared the possible consequences of a gentile invasion, the Romans had not yet arrived. Because Psalms of Solomon 2, 8, and 17 specifically condemn the Romans for entering Jerusalem and the Temple, this psalm must have been composed before Pompey's arrival. Therefore, Psalm of Solomon 7 should be dated to slightly before 63 B.C.E., when it was obvious that Roman intervention was imminent.
Section Three: Psalm of Solomon 17: A Herodian Text
Psalm of Solomon 17 depicts the writer's expectation of a Davidic messiah. This particular psalm is dated to the Pompeian period based upon its apparent similarities to Psalms of Solomon 2 and 8. Psalm of Solomon 17 begins, in verses 1 4, with a praise to God and the statement that the Lord had chosen David and his descendants to rule forever. In verses 5-6, the author documented the actions of sinners who had illegitimately usurped the Davidic throne, and replaced it with a non-Davidic monarchy. This passage reads as follows:
(5) You, Lord, did choose David as king over Israel,
And you did swear to him concerning his descendants forever,
That his kingdom should not fail before you.
But, because of our sins, sinners rose up against us,
They set upon us and drove us out, those to whom you did not promise,
They took possession with violence, and did not praise your honorable name.
(6) With pomp they set up a monarchy because of their arrogance,
They despoiled the throne of David in the arrogance of their fortune.
Clearly, the sinners depicted in these verses were the Hasmoneans, whose non-Davidic lineage was considered by the author to be a violation of God's eternal promise that only David's descendants would rule.
The common interpretation of Psalm of Solomon 17 correctly understands vss. 5-6 to refer to the beginning of the Hasmonean dynasty. In order to maintain a Pompeian dating, however, most scholars continue to resort to a fallacious translation of the tense shift in the subsequent three verses, 7-9a. Verses 7-8, correctly translated, using the Greek future tenses, actually depict the future punishment of the Hasmoneans, and reads as follows:
(7) But you, O God, will overthrow them and will remove their offspring from the earth,
when there rises up against them a man that is foreign to our race.
(8) According to their sins you will repay them,
O God, So that it may befall them according to their works."
Because Hebrew imperfect forms can indicate either past or future tenses, it has been suggested that these Greek future tenses in vss. 7-9a reflected an original past tense usage of the imperfect. There is no textual or linguistic evidence that objects to translating these Greek future tense forms at face value. Unfortunately, most English editions of this psalm translate these verses in the past tense, in order to match the past tense description of Pompey's actions contained in Psalms of Solomon 2 and 8.
What has further confused many interpreters of this psalm is its switch to the aorist tense, in verse 9b. Verse 9, translated as written, reads: "According to their dealings, God will not have mercy on them. He has found their offspring and has let none of their seed go free." The Syriac translator appeared to have paraphrased the Greek of this verse, as elsewhere throughout this psalm, in an effort to clarify the text, and rendered the three verbs in verse 9 by two 2nd person masculine singular imperfects and one imperative, to read: "Do not have mercy on them, O God; Visit their seed and do not leave even one of them." Therefore, the Syriac does not shed any significant light upon the interpretation of this passage. Johannes Tromp has demonstrated that the psalmist used the aorist in vs. 9b, meaning "to track down," to convey his expectation that God was about to punish these sinners. This verb was also used in 1 Maccabees 3:5 and Amos 9:1-3 to signify a preparatory search for an enemy, before chasing or killing him.
The psalmist in verse 9b by writing that "He has found their offspring and has let none of their seed go free" described a time when God had completed his search for the remaining illegitimate Hasmonean rulers, and was ready to exact the retribution for which the author prayed. If these tenses are correctly translated, then the historical scenario described in Psalm of Solomon. 17 does not fit the time of Pompey, who, upon removing Aristobulus II and his children to Rome, did not continue to hunt down Hasmonean descendants, but reinstated Hyrcanus II as high priest. Clearly, Pompey's actions indicated that he remained confident of continued Hasmonean support!
The psalmist anticipated that the Hasmonean line was to be exterminated by someone from their own midst, yet who was foreign to his race. The author clearly stated that this conqueror acted like a gentile, therefore implying that he was in fact Jewish! Historically, the only period that coincided with the psalmist's expectation of an imminent punishment upon the Hasmonean descendants, by a Jew who acted like a gentile, was the early Herodian period, when Herod the Great believed that the remaining Hasmoneans constituted a direct threat to his reign. If Herod was the protagonist of Psalm of Solomon 17, then the siege described must be the one inflicted against Jerusalem by Herod and the Roman general Sosius in 37 BCE.
Historically, the events recounted in vss. 11-20 best fits Herod's siege of Jerusalem in 37 B.C.E., rather than Pompey's earlier attack. The description of the present and future punishment of the Hasmoneans closely matches Herod's murder of the Hasmoneans: Antigonus II, Aristobulus III, and Hyrcanus II. Josephus records that much of the population supported each of these Hasmonean descendants as king. Consequently, Herod sought to eliminate these Hasmoneans, beginning with Antigonus, who was taken captive following the siege of Jerusalem.Herod bribed Antony to behead Antigonus in Antioch in 37 BCE. This event was most likely referred to in verses 8-9, which described the first of Herod's actions against the remaining Hasmoneans. Herod then killed the youthful high priest Aristobulus in his palace pool at Jericho in 36 B.C.E. In 30 BCE, following Antony's defeat at Actium, Herod then executed Hyrcanus II, before facing Octavian in his weakened state. Since the psalmist stated that the Hasmonean line had yet to be terminated, clearly Hyrcanus was still alive at the time of Psalm of Solomon 17's composition. This would then provide a terminus a quo of 37 BCE, the date of Antigonus' execution, and a terminus ad quem of 30 BCE, the year when Hyrcanus, the last significant male Hasmonean survivor, was executed, for the composition of Psalm of Solomon 17.
Section Four: Sectarian Conclusions
What can we surmise concerning the sectarian background of the Psalms of Solomon? The Psalms of Solomon has elicited considerable interest for its messianic expectation. Because the corpus is commonly dated to the Pompeian era, it is usually examined as a historical and theological unity. The concept of messianism is considered pervasive within the community of the psalmist, and is considered to have developed during the Pompeian period. This messianic expectation, however, only arose from the historical circumstances reflected in the 17th psalm. The first and eighteenth psalms were the product of the redactor, and provided the collection with an introduction and conclusion. When the 18th Psalm of Solomon is excluded, then only one psalm in the entire collection even attests to a Davidic messiah! The redating of Psalm of Solomon 17 to the Herodian period suggests that Davidic messianism was not an early concern for this community, but only a later theological development in reaction to Herod's reign. This messianic expectation is best understood in relationship to such contemporary Qumran texts as 4Q252, 4Q174, 4Q161, 4Q285, and 4Q246, all of which apparently contain violent messianic figures, likely of Davidic origin.
The Psalms of Solomon did not represent Judaism at large because of their belief in the resurrection, worship apart from the temple, and fasting. Fasting in particular suggests a community behind these psalms, since this practice would appear to violate the requirements for unintentional sins as enumerated in Leviticus 4. Rather, piety had become a substitute for sacrifice, so that sins were now cleansed through confession and penance. The psalmist's community apparently worshiped apart from the temple, within the "synagogues of the pious" (Pss. Solomon. 17:16), where they gave thanks to God (Pss. Solomon. 10:6). They were forced to flee from their worship communities during Herod's siege of Jerusalem, and became dispersed (Pss. Solomon. 17:16-18). The explicit communal identity throughout the Psalms of Solomon, and the reference to the "synagogues of the pious" suggest that the synagogue was the community from which these psalms emanated. Therefore, these psalms are likely a collection of theological reactions of a Jerusalem synagogue community to the turbulent political and religious changes during the latter portion of the first century BCE.
Because the Psalm of Solomon cannot readily conform to our understandings of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, or any other known Jewish group, it best to consider these psalms as the product of an unknown Jewish group residing within Jerusalem during the first century BCE-CE. There is virtually no evidence that supports maintaining the Pharisaical authorship of these psalms. Instead, the piety of the collection depicts a group in isolation from the temple community, that believed that they alone constituted the righteous. These psalms denounced as sinners virtually every individual and institution of the day, including the temple establishment, the Sanhedrin, the king, local judges, and the common people. It is likely that the community of the Psalms of Solomon even numbered the Pharisees among these sinners. Although we know relatively little about the Pharisees, or their Sadducean opponents, we now unfortunately know even less about them once we have dissociated the Psalms of Solomon from the Pharisees. These psalms should rather be viewed as a further witness to the theological diversity that existed within various Jewish sectarian groups residing in Jerusalem during this period.
The Assumption of Moses: A Commentary. (forthcoming).
The following abstract of my f presentation to the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in Nashville, 2000, describes my present research on this commentary.
Herod the Great as Antiochus Redivivus: Reading the Testament of Moses
as an anti-Herodian Composition
The date and literary integrity of the Testament of Moses has engendered considerable scholarly debate. In 1862, Ewald first recognized an allusion in 6:6 to the thirty-four years of Herod's reign, and dated the entire composition to the post Herodian era. His conclusion was challenged in 1897 when R. H. Charles first cast dispersions upon the text's literary integrity, for he observed that while chapters 5-6 of the Testament of Moses documented the Hasmonean and early Herodian periods, chapters 8-9 described Antiochus IV Epiphanes' persecution. Charles suggested that these latter two chapters were accidentally dislocated, and proposed that they be situated prior to chapters 5-6. In 1961 Licht proposed that chapters 6-7 were adaptations of an early Hasmonean apocalypse that was latter reworked into the Testament of Moses during the post-Herodian era, and suggested that in an earlier form of the document chapters 8-9 described Antiochus' persecution of the Jews.
In 1973 Nickelsburg presented the most influential defense of Licht's thesis, and postulated that the apparent vividness in chapters 8-9 suggested that they were composed by an eyewitness to Antiochus' persecutions. Because chapter 6 referred to Herod's reign, Nickelsburg advanced that this chapter, and perhaps chapter 7, was an interpolation, and that the Testament of Moses was originally composed during the Maccabean period. Since its publication, Nickelsburg's thesis has come to dominate contemporary scholarship on the Testament of Moses. This consensus was recently challenged by J. Tromp, who sought to maintain the text's literary integrity and defend Ewald's first century C. E. date for the entire composition. According to Tromp's thesis, chapters 8-9 are a compilation of legendary accounts, pertaining to the Antiochan persecution, that were used to enhance the Testament of Moses' apocalyptic scenario to depict Antiochus as a model for the enemy of the end of times.
This presentation will offer additional evidence in favor of viewing the Testament of Moses as a first century C. E. composition by proposing that chapters 8 9 contain material adapted from fictitious accounts of Antiochus' persecutions. The Testament of Moses used these earlier traditions to present Herod as the model of the enemy of the end of times, for in the mind of this work's author, Herod's actions mimicked Antiochus' persecutions. Parallels from Josephus' Antiquities and other texts will be cited to demonstrate that during the first century C. E. Herod the Great was viewed and portrayed as Antiochus IV Epiphanes redivivus. Troubled by the horrific events of the Herodian era, the Testament of Moses sought to comfort its readers by demonstrating that God had always been in control of history. This portrayal of Herod as Antiochus redivivus was particularly appropriate for those first century C. E. Jews who wished to use passive resistance, in the tradition of the Maccabees, to once again oppose the demonic forces now represented by the rise of Herod. This paper presents research that will be further developed in my forthcoming commentary on the Testament of Moses.