Odes and John: General Connections

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the relationship between the Odes of Solomon and Gospel of John.

Drawing on this reevaluation of methodology for determining literary relationships in early Christian writings, I now trace the relationship between the Odes of Solomon 6, 8, and 3 and Gospel of John. Especially important are the connections between Ode 3 and the Upper Room Discourses of John 14 and 15, where verbal and thematic connections suggest the Ode’s literary dependence on the Fourth Gospel.

In Ode 6, there are several clear linguistic connections to the Fourth Gospel. First, Ode 6.8 references the Temple in a manner reminiscent of the Jesus’ discourse with the Samaritan women in John 4.[1] Next, one encounters the especially Johannine expression “eternal life” (ζοή αιώνιος) in Ode 6.18.[2] Finally, there is a reference to “living water” in 6.18, the third parallel between this Ode and John 4.[3] While each of these three allusions standing alone would likely not suggest the literary connection of this Ode to John, the fact that multiple distinct allusions occur in the same Ode and come from the same narrative in John’s Gospel suggests something more than mere common milieu. While there is clearly more going on in this Ode than just reflection upon Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan Woman found in John 4, that narrative does seem to be influencing the language and theology of this particuar Ode. While the relationship between Ode 6 and John 4 is at least thematic parallelism,[4] the application of the methodological criteria of literary dependence (where attribution to John makes more sense than any other source) and exegetical motif (this Ode building on John 4) posit that the Odist knew and recast the language of John 4 in this passage.

Turning to Ode 8, one finds several references to John’s Gospel, though not from the same passage as in Ode 6. Numerous scholars have noted parallels between Ode 8.12-14 and John 10.14.[5] Ode 8.12-13 reads, “For I turn not my face from my own, / Because I know them. / And before they had existed, / I recognized them; / And imprinted a seal on their face.”[6] John 10.14 reads “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me….”[7] The common rejoinder to claims of literary connection between these two passages rests in the fact that they come from different contexts,[8] although the practice of transposing texts with one meaning and purpose into entirely different contexts is not unheard of in ancient literature.[9] Parallels have also been noted between Ode 8.9 and John 6.63,[10] Ode 8.19 and John 15.9f and/or 17.11f,[11] Ode 8.22 and John 15.9-10,[12] and assurance of answered prayer found in Ode 8.23 with John 17.9-11.[13] While these parallels do not neatly point to reliance upon a single Johannine passage, they nonetheless demonstrate the Odist’s consistent reliance upon Johannine theology and language, suggesting that Ode 8 also exhibits characteristics of literary dependence upon the Fourth Gospel. Thus, even a cursory look at Odes 6 and 8 demonstrates some level of literary connection exists between the Odes of Solomon and Fourth Gospel.

[1] Marie-Joseph Pierre, Les Odes de Salomon: Traduction, Introduction et notes par (Belique: Brepols, 1994), 71.

[2] ܛܘܒܝܗܘܢ ܗܟܝܠ ܠܡܫܡܫܢܗܝ ܕܗܘ ܡܫܬܝܐ ܃ ܝܗܒܘ ܚܝܠܐ ܘܢܘܗܪܐ ܠܥܝܢܝܗܢ ܗܠܠܘܝܐ  All Syriac texts are from the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon and James W. Bennett unless otherwise indicated. Lattke, Commentary, 43. This phrase occurs only a few times in the Odes, in 6.18; 9.4; 11.16; and 41.16.

[3] See especially John 4.10-11 (Ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῇ , Εἰ ᾔδεις τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ θεοῦ , καὶ τίς ἐστιν ὁ λέγων σοι , Δός μοι πιεῖν, σὺ ἂν ᾔτησας αὐτόν , καὶ ἔδωκεν ἄν σοι ὕδωρ ζῶν. Λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή, Κύριε , οὔτε ἄντλημα ἔχεις , καὶ τὸ φρέαρ ἐστὶν βαθύ · πόθεν οὖν ἔχεις τὸ ὕδωρ τὸ ζῶν;). Cross reference John 7.38; Revelation 7:17; 21:6; and 22:1, 17. Also, see Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Translation and Notes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 33 n24 on potential parallels between this passage and the Qumran Scrolls (IQH 8. 7, 16 and CD 19.34); Jubilees 24:19, 25; 1 Enoch 17:4; Ignatius’s Epistle to the Romans 7:2; and Didache 7:1-3.

[4] Charlesworth, Reflections, 237. There may also be reliance on another source, as Emerton argues (Emerton, “Notes,” 507-512).

[5] Lattke, Oden Salomos, 115. Charlesworth, Reflections, 238. Wilhelm Frankenberg, Das Verstandis der Oden Salomos (ZAW 21; Gießen: Topelman, 1911), 76. Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Translation and Notes, 44 n. 15.

[6] Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Translation and Notes, 42.

[7] Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός , καὶ γινώσκω τὰ ἐμά , καὶ γινώσκομαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἐμῶν.

[8] Charlesworth, Reflections, 238.

[9] Charles E. Hill, “’In These Very Words’: Methods and Standards of Literary Borrowing in the Second Century,” in The Early Text of the New Testament (ed.Charles E. Hill and Michael J. Kruger; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012),  261-81.

[10] Pierre, Las Odes, 78.

[11] Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Translation and Notes, 44 n. 18.

[12] Lattke, Commentary, 127.

[13] Ibid., 128.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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