The Testament of Solomon
The Testament of Solomon is apocryphal, it is not accepted as part of the Scriptures by any Christian group. Testament is a Wisdom book intended for Christian audiences. While the Bible’s Wisdom books are all in the Old Testament – Ecclesiastes, Job, Sirach, and so on, this is written for Christian audiences. Specific miracles of Christ are described, “prophecies” of Christ are unusual specific, and one goal of the book is clearly to show that Solomon was a type of Christ in the role of Exorcist, which implies (an uncontroversial claim) that all Christians share in Christ’s office of Exorcist.
The Testament of Solomon is a witness to a pre-Augustinian stage of thought, in the first few centuries of the Church when the “balance” between Good and Evil was still a concept taken seriously by some Christian thinkers.
Some Conversations While Building the Temple
On the Surface, the Testament of Solomon is a deathbed recounting by Solomon of part of the building of the Temple, with a brief cameo by the Queen of Sheba, using the title given to her by Christ, “the Queen of the South”:
And among them also the queen of the South, being a witch, came in great concern and bowed low before me to the earth. And having heard my wisdom, she glorified the God of Israel, and she made formal trial of all my wisdom, of all love in which I instructed her, according to the wisdom imparted to me. And all the sons of Israel glorified God.
And the queen of the South saw all this, and marvelled, glorifying the God of Israel; and she beheld the Temple of the Lord being builded. And she gave a siklos1 of gold and one hundred myriads of silver and choice bronze, and she went into the Temple. And (she beheld) the altar of incense and the brazen supports of this altar, and the gems of the lamps flashing forth of different colors, and of the lamp-stand of stone, and of emerald, and hyacinth, and sapphire; and she beheld the vessels of gold, and silver, and bronze, and wood, and the folds of skins dyed red with madder. And she saw the bases of the pillars of the Temple of the Lord. All were of one gold …apart from the demons whom I condemned to labor. And there was peace in the circle of my kingdom and over all the earth.
Testament of Solomon: 109, 116
As in the Qur’an and the Second Targum of Esther, Solomon is able to force demons to participate in the construction of the Temple. But while such work is mentioned in passing or qualified in those works:
And for Solomon the wind: its morning course was a month’s journey and its evening course was a month’s journey. We made a font of copper flow for him, and some of the jinn who would work for him by the permission of his Lord, and if any of them swerved from Our command, We would make him taste the punishment of the Blaze. They built for him as many temples as he wished, and figures, basins like cisterns, and cauldrons fixed.
is the primary theme of the Testament of Solomon: in detail, the author of this work describes various demons and their contributions to the Temple.
According to the Testament of Solomon, beyond Good and Evil is the Glory of God, and evil spirits can be controlled by humans through hidden spirits to bring about this glory. Even the water from the Temple is supplied via the mediation of demons:
And I Solomon, when I heard this, glorified the God of heaven and earth. And I commanded them to fetch water in the Temple of God. And I furthermore prayed to the Lord God to cause the demons without, that hamper humanity, to be bound and made to approach the Temple of God. Some of these demons I condemned to do the heavy work of the construction of the Temple of God. Others I shut up in prisons. Others I ordered to wrestle with fire in (the making of) gold and silver, sitting down by lead and spoon. And to make ready places for the other demons in which they should be confined.
Testament of Solomon: 107
Not just that, but specific miracles of the Old Testament and New Testament are also implied to be the work of demons, controlled by the arch-exorcist, Christ:
And I said to him: “By what angel art thou frustrated?”
And he answered: “By the only-ruling God, that hath authority over me even to be heard. He that is to be born of a virgin and crucified by the Jews on a cross. Whom the angels and archangels worship. He doth frustrate me, and enfeeble me of my great strength, which has been given me by my father the devil.”
And I said to him: “What canst thou do?”
And he answered: “I am able to remove mountains, to overthrow the oaths of kings. I wither trees and make their leaves to fall off.”
And I said to him: “Canst thou raise this stone, and lay it for the beginning of this corner which exists in the fair plan of the Temple?”
And he said: “Not only raise this, O king; but also, with the help of the demon who presides over the Red Sea, I will bring up the pillar of air, and will stand it where thou wilt in Jerusalem.”
Testament of Solomon: 122
In this one verse are claimed demonic, proximate origins of multiple miracles and prophecies:
- The moving of mountains
- The overthrow of kings
- The withering of the fig tree
- The positioning of the cornerstone
- The pillar of smoke
The power to control demons and use evil for good comes through Christ, sometimes through a chain of intermediaries familiar to the Catholic imagination:
Now when I Solomon heard this, I entered the Temple of God, and prayed with all my soul, night and day, that the demon might be delivered into my hands, and that I might gain authority over him. And it came about through my prayer that grace was given to me from the Lord Sabaoth by Michael his archangel. [He brought me] a little ring, having a seal consisting of an engraved stone, and said to me: “Take, O Solomon, king, son of David, the gift which the Lord God has sent thee, the highest Sabaoth. With it thou shalt lock up all demons of the earth, male and female; and with their help thou shalt build up Jerusalem. [But] thou [must] wear this seal of God. And this engraving of the seal of the ring sent thee is a Pentalpha.”
Testament of Solomon: 5
and sometimes, in the case of especially powerful demons, by Christ Himself:
I said to him: “Tell me by what angel thou art frustrated.”
And he answered: “By the holy and precious name of the Almighty God, called by the Hebrews by a row of numbers, of which the sum is 644, and among the Greeks it is Emmanuel. And if one of the Romans adjure me by the great name of the power Eleéth, I disappear at once.”
I Solomon was astounded when I heard this; and I ordered him to saw up Theban marbles. And when he began to saw the marbles, the other demons cried out with a loud voice, howling because of their king Beelzeboul.
Testament of Solomon: 29-30
The Testament of Solomon can be thought of as an extension of the Book of Ecclesiastes ….
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
that removes – or at least dramatically recontextualizes – the command to follow the Law:
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.
In other words, a fundamentally Eastern philosophy that is wearing Christian garb. In The Way of Chuang Tzu, the Catholic monk Thomas Merton wrote that Ecclesiastes is the closest approximation of Daoism in the Scriptures. The Testament of Solomon is another step closer to that philosophy.
Testament of Solomon is also fascinating because of Saint Augustine’s philosophical rejection of its philosophy in Confessions. I don’t know if Augustine read Testament, but his wrestling with evil and its existence deal with the same themes and topics. Augustine resolved the issue by finding that evil is not a thing – evil does not exist as such – rather than some thing being evil, what we call evil are good things out of order. Thus, it makes no sense to use evil for good, because that is just using good out of order for good, which is nonsensical.
The Social Lives of Supernatural Beings
Last, as a work of angelology and demonology, Testament of Solomon provides an interesting insight into the social world of these creatures. They have children (as in Genesis):
And Solomon said to him: “Tell me, O demon, to what zodiacal sign thou art subject.”
And he answered: “To the Water-pourer. And those who are consumed with desire for the noble virgins upon earth . . . . . [there appears to be a lacuna here], these I strangle. But in case there is no disposition to sleep, I am changed into three forms. Whenever men come to be enamored of women, I metamorphose myself into a comely female; and I take hold of the men in their sleep, and play with them. And after a while I again take to my wings, and hie me to the heavenly regions. I also appear as a lion, and I am commanded by all the demons. I am offspring of the archangel Uriel, the power of God.”
Testament of Solomon: 10
sit in judicial sessions (as in Job), and engage in various forms of surveillance.
And when they were gone I ordered Ornias to be brought forward, and said to him: “Tell me how you know this;”
and he answered: “We demons ascend into the firmament of heaven, and fly about among the stars. And we hear the sentences which go forth upon the souls of men, and forthwith we come, and whether by force of influence, or by fire, or by sword, or by some accident, we veil our act of destruction; and if a man does not die by some untimely disaster or by violence, then we demons transform ourselves in such a way as to appear to men and be worshipped in our human nature.”
I therefore, having heard this, glorified the Lord God, and again I questioned the demon, saying: “Tell me how ye can ascend into heaven, being demons, and amidst the stars and holy angels intermingle.”
And he answered: “Just as things are fulfilled in heaven, so also on earth (are fulfilled) the types of all of them. For there are principalities, authorities, world-rulers, and we demons fly about in the air; and we hear the voices of the heavenly beings, and survey all the powers. And as having no ground (basis) on which to alight and rest, we lose strength and fall off like leaves from trees. And men seeing us imagine that the stars are falling from heaven. But it is not really so, O king; but we fall because of our weakness, and because we have nowhere anything to lay hold of; and so we fall down like lightnings in the depth of night and suddenly. And we set cities in flames and fire the fields. For the stars have firm foundations in the heavens like the sun and the moon.
Testament of Solomon: 113-114
Indeed, they probably do. The Testament of Solomon ends with the failure of Solomon’s spiritual war, as he has been ensnared by a demon, and the collapse of the United Kingdom of Israel approaches…
And I Solomon glorified God, and adorned the Temple of the Lord with all fair-seeming. And I was glad in spirit in my kingdom, and there was peace in my days. And I took wives of my own from every land, who were numberless. And I marched against the Jebusaeans, and there I saw Jebusaean, daughter of a man: and fell violently in love with her, and desired to take her to wife along with my other wives. And I said to their priests: “Give me the Sonmanites (i.e. Shunammite) to wife1.” But the priests of Moloch said to me: “If thou lovest this maiden, go in and worship our gods, the great god Raphan and the god called Moloch.” I therefore was in fear of the glory of God, and did not follow to worship. And I said to them: “I will not worship a strange god. What is this proposal, that ye compel me to do so much?” But they said: “. . . . .by our fathers.”
And when I answered that I would on no account worship strange gods, they told the maiden not to sleep with me until I complied and sacrificed to the gods. I then was moved, but crafty Eros brought and laid by her for me five grasshoppers, saying:
“Take these grasshoppers, and crush them together in the name of the god Moloch; and then will I sleep with you.”
And this I actually did. And at once the Spirit of God departed from me, and I became weak as well as foolish in my words. And after that I was obliged by her to build a temple of idols to Baal, and to Rapha, and to Moloch, and to the other idols.
I then, wretch that I am, followed her advice, and the glory of God quite departed from me; and my spirit was darkened, and I became the sport of idols and demons. Wherefore I wrote out this Testament, that ye who get possession of it may pity, and attend to the last things1, and not to the first. So that ye may find grace for ever and ever. Amen.
Testament of Solomon: 128-130
I read Testament of Solomon in the Audible Edition.