Odes and John: Ode 3 and the Upper Room Discourses

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

In Ode 3, the relationship between the Odes of Solomon and Gospel of John becomes even clearer, as this ode is quite clearly a reflection on theme of the Love of Christ found in John’s Upper Room Discourses.[1] While the first lines of Ode 3 are missing, the eleven accessible verses claim no fewer than ten parallels with Johannine literature, six of which come from chapters 14 and 15 of the Gospel.[2] In line with the paradigm of “common milieu”, however, none of these parallels constitutes a direct quotation in either direction. As is standard for the Odes, nowhere does Ode 3 present material from the Gospel of John using a formulaic introduction. However, this lack a formulaic quotation does not undermine the stronger verbal and thematic similarities between this Ode and the Fourth Gospel.

Consider the following connections: Ode 3.2 reads, “And his members are with him, /And I am dependent on them; and he loves me” (ܘܗܕܡܘܗܝ ܠܘܬܗ ܐܢܘܢ ܃ ܀ ܘܒܗܘܢ ܬܠܐ ܐܢܐ ܘܡܚܒ ܠܝ)[3] and John 15:16 says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you…” (Οὐχ ὑμεῖς με ἐξελέξασθε , ἀλλ’ ἐγὼ ἐξελεξάμην ὑμᾶς…).[4] Both thus point toward the dependence of the believer on the love of God. Ode 3.3 seems to be reliant upon either 1 John 4:9-10 or John 14:21, as both underline how believers continuously love the Lord only through His love.[5] Ode 3.5 parallels John 14.2-3, where believers are said to have a place in the Father’s house.[6] Ode 3.8—“Indeed he who is joined to Him who is immortal, / Truly shall be immortal” (ܗܘ ܓܝܪ ܕܡܬܢܩܦ ܠܗܘ ܕܠܐ ܡܐܬ ܃ ܀ ܐܦ ܗܘ ܕܠܐ ܡܘܬܐ ܢܗܘܐ)[7]— represents perhaps the clearest structural continuity between this Ode and Gospel, which reads, “Because I live, you also will live” (ὅτι ἐγὼ ζῶ , καὶ ὑμεῖς ζήσεσθε.).[8] The language suggests some development, from the ἐγὼ ζῶ (I live, I will live) of John to the ܠܐ ܡܘܬܐ (lȃ mwtȃ: not dead, immortal) of the Odes. Yet the thought it similar, as even Charlesworth writes, “In both the Odes and John the Lord is the source of life, even eternal life, which is a present reality resulting from the indwelling of the believer in the Lord and also the Lord in the believer, [elsewhere in the Odes] symbolically represented by the drinking of life-giving water, and by the garland and vine with branches.”[9] Ode 3.9[10] most clearly parallels John 11.25, especially in the Greek, though Lattke notes that the passage also bears striking resemblance to John 14.19.[11] Ode 3.10, “This is the Spirit of the Lord, which is not false, / Which teaches the sons of men to know His ways.” (ܗܕܐ ܗܝ ܪܘܚܗ ܕܡܪܝܐ ܕܠܐ ܕܓܠܘܬܐ ܃ ܀ ܕܡܠܦܐ ܠܒܢܝܢܫܐ ܕܢܕܥܘܢ ܐܘܪܚܬܗ),[12] also incorporates the language of John 14.17 and 26, “…even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you….But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας , ὃ ὁ κόσμος οὐ δύναται λαβεῖν , ὅτι οὐ θεωρεῖ αὐτό , οὐδὲ γινώσκει αὐτό. Ὑμεῖς δὲ γινώσκετε αὐτό , ὅτι παρ’ ὑμῖν μένει , καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν ἔσται ….Ὁ δὲ παράκλητος , τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον , ὃ πέμψει ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου , ἐκεῖνος ὑμᾶς διδάξει πάντα , καὶ ὑπομνήσει ὑμᾶς πάντα ἃ εἶπον ὑμῖν).[13] This final instance adds yet another instance of parallelism demonstrating the thematic explication of the concept of Christ’s love.[14]

While there are no instances of direct quotation, the numerous examples of verbal parallelism and continuous co-option of terminology from the Upper Room Discourses suggest the literary dependence of Ode 3 on the Gospel of John. Again noting the difference of genre and language between these two sources, it is not surprising to see considerable flexibility when translating the theme of Christ’s love from prose to poetry, and Greek to Syriac. The connection between the Odes and Antiochene literature has already been discussed, but it is more than mere possibility that a Syrian Odist would have known and been able to access to some form of John’s Gospel in early second century Antioch. The purposes of this Ode are both theological and liturgical, demonstrating reliance upon Johannine theology and recasting that theology for a liturgical setting. Not only do the Odes of Solomon display thematic connections or a similarity of milieu with John’s Gospel, but Ode 3 stands as an example of recapitulation by exegetical motif, a hymn reflecting on the love of Christ as displayed in John 14 and 15. Thus, much like the example from Ephrem, while there exists no clear quotation of John by the Odist, the evidence available suggests that the contents of Ode 3 demonstrate literary dependence on the Gospel of John.

[1] Charlesworth, Reflections, 234. See also Eduard Massaux, The Influence of the Gospel of Matthew on Christian Literature before Irenaeus (trans. Neirynck; Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 210.

[2] McNeil, “odes,” 110-111.

[3] Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Translation and Notes, 19. See also Charlesworth, Critical, 234.

[4] ESV.

[5] John 14:21 Ὁ ἔχων τὰς ἐντολάς μου καὶ τηρῶν αὐτάς , ἐκεῖνός ἐστιν ὁ ἀγαπῶν με · ὁ δὲ ἀγαπῶν με , ἀγαπηθήσεται ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρός μου · καὶ ἐγὼ ἀγαπήσω αὐτόν , καὶ ἐμφανίσω αὐτῷ ἐμαυτόν . “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” ESV. ܠܐ ܓܝܪ ܝܕܥ ܗܘܝܬ ܠܡܪܗܡ ܠܡܪܝܐ ܃ ܀ ܐܠܘ ܗܘ ܠܐ ܪܚܡ ܗܘܐ ܠܝ ܂. “For I should not have known how to love the Lord, / If he had not continuously loved me.” Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Translation and Notes, 19, 20 n4. See also Robinson, Odes, 28 and 47 n3. Lattke, Commentary, 37.

[6] John 14:2-3 Ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ τοῦ πατρός μου μοναὶ πολλαί εἰσιν · εἰ δὲ μή , εἶπον ἂν ὑμῖν · Πορεύομαι ἑτοιμάσαι τόπον ὑμῖν. Καὶ ἐὰν πορευθῶ καὶ ἑτοιμάσω ὑμῖν τόπον, πάλιν ἔρχομαι καὶ παραλήψομαι ὑμᾶς πρὸς ἐμαυτόν · ἵνα ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγώ , καὶ ὑμεῖς ἦτε. “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” ESV. ܘܘܘܘ ܡܚܒ ܐܢܐ ܠܪܚܝܡܐ ܘܪܚܡܐ ܠܗ ܢܦܫܝ ܃ ܀ ܘܐܝܟܐ ܕܢܝܚܗ ܐܦ ܐܢܐ ܐܝܬܝ. “I love the Beloved and I myself love Him, / And where His rest is, there also am I.” Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Translation and Notes, 19, 20 n8. Pierre also notes that the discussion of “belonging” in Ode 3.6 parallels John 1.10 (Pierre, Las Odes, 62.).

[7] Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Translation and Notes, 19.

[8] See Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Translation and Notes, 20 n10.

[9] Charlesworth, Reflections, 235. Also noteworthy, Pierre suggests that the idea of union with God through the spirit found in Ode 3.8 parallels John 3. See Pierre, Las Odes, 63.

[10] ܘܗܘ ܡܨܛܒܐ ܃ ܀ ܚܝܐ ܢܗܘܐ. “And he who delights in the Life / Will become living.” Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Translation and Notes, 19.

[11] John 11:25 Εἶπεν αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς , Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀνάστασις καὶ ἡ ζωή · ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ , κἂν ἀποθάνῃ , ζήσεται. “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…” ESV. Lattke, Oden Salomos, 95. Charlesworth, Syriac Texts, 20 n12. Lattke, Commentary, 44.

[12] Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Translation and Notes, 19.

[13] John 14:17, 26. ESV.

[14] Lattke, Oden Salomos, 96. Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Translation and Notes, 20 n13. See also the Qumranic notion of amt rvch, especially of IQS 3.13-4.26.

One thought on “Odes and John: Ode 3 and the Upper Room Discourses

  1. Pingback: Odes and John: Ode 3 and the Upper Room Discourses — Pursuing Veritas | Talmidimblogging

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