“Give Us Grace to Hold You…”

Another prayer from The Oxford Book of Prayer, this time from Fr. Gilbert Shaw:

Lord, give us grace to hold you

when all is weariness and fear

and sin abounds within, without

when love itself is tested by the doubt…

that love is false, or dead within the soul,

when every act brings new confusion, new distress,

new opportunities, new misunderstandings,

and every thought new accusation.

Lord, give us grace that we may know

that in the darkness pressing round

it is the mist of sin that hides your face,

that you are there

and you do know we love you still

and our dependence and endurance in your will

is still our gift of love.

Bede Prays for Rescue

I’m reading through the “deliverance” section of The Oxford Book of Prayer this week and came across this prayer by the Venerable Bede. Join Bede and I in praying this for our world:

O God that art the only hope of the world,

The only refuge for unhappy men,

Abiding in the faithfulness of heaven.

Give me strong succor in this testing place.

O King, project thy man from utter ruin

Lest the weak faith surrender to the tyranny,

Facing innumerable blow alone.

Remember I am dust, and wind, and shadow,

And life as fleeting as the flower of grass.

But may the enteral mercy which hath shone

From time of old

Rescue they servant from the jaws of the lion.

Thou who didst come from on high in the cloak of flesh,

Strike down the dragon with that two-edged sword,

Whereby our mortal flesh can war with the winds

And beat down strongholds, with our Captain God.

~Venerable Bede

Odes and John: Bibliography

This post concludes the series examining the relationship between the Odes of Solomon and Gospel of John.

Bibliography

Adams, J.N., Mark Janse, and Simon Swain, Editors. Bilingualism in Ancient Society: Language Contact and the Written Word. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Attridge, Harold W. “Johannine Christianity.” Pages 125-143 in The Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 1: Origins to Constantine. Edited by Margaret M. Mitchell and Frances M. Young. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Bernhard, J. H. The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Introduction and Notes. Texts and Studies: Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literature 8, 3. Edited by J. Armitage Robinson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1912. Repr., Nendeln, Lischtenstein: Kraus Reprint Limited, 1967.

Brock, Sebastian. The Bible in the Syriac Tradition, Second Revised Edition. Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2006.

Brooke, George J. “Memory, Cultural Memory and Rewriting Scripture.” Pages 119-136 in Rewritten Bible After Fifty Years: Texts, Terms, or Techniques?: A Last Dialogue with Geza Vermes. Edited by Jozsef Zsengeller. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 166. Lieden: Brill, 2014.

Brownson, James. “The Odes of Solomon and the Johannine Tradition.” Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2 (1988): 49-69.

Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Edited by D. A. Carson. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1991.

Charlesworth, James H. Critical Reflections on the Odes of Solomon: Volume One: Literary Setting, Textual Studies, Gnosticism, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gospel of John. Edited by James H. Charlesworth and Lester L. Grabbe. Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha Supplement Series 22. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998.

–. “Odes of Solomon.” Pages 721-771 in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Volume 2: Expansions of the “Old Testament” and Legends, Wisdom and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms, and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic Works. Edited by James H. Charlesworth. New York: Doubleday, 1985.

–. The Earliest Christian Hymnbook: The Odes of Solomon. Eugene, OR: Cascade Publishers, 2009.

–. The Odes of Solomon. Edited by Robert Kraft. Society of Biblical Literature: Texts and Translations 13 and Society of Biblical Literature Pseudapigrapha Series 7. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1977.

–. The Odes of Solomon: Edited with Translation and Notes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973.

Charlesworth, James H., and R. Alan Culpepper. “The Odes of Solomon and the Gospel of John.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 35, 3 (1973): 298-322.

Corwin, Virginia. St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960.

De Bruin, C. C., ed. Diatessaron Leodiense. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1970.

De Jonge, Henk Jan. “The Use of the Old Testament in Scripture Readings in Early Christian Assemblies.” Pages 377-392 in The Scriptures of Israel in Jewish and Christian Tradition: Essay in Honour of Maarten J.J. Menken. Edited by Bart J. Koet, Steve Moyise, and Jospeh Verheyden. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 148. Boston: Brill, 2013.

Drijvers, Hans J. W. “Apocryphal Literature in the Cultural Milieu of Osrhoene.” Apocrypha 1 (1990): 231-247.

–. East of Antioch: Studies in Early Syriac Christianity. London: Variorum Reprints, 1984.

–. “The 19th Ode of Solomon: Its Interpretation and Place in Syrian Christianity.” Journal of Theological Studies 31, 2 (1980): 337-355.

–. “The Peshitta of Sapientia Salomonis.” Pages 15-30 in History and Religion in Late Antique Syria. Brookfield, V.T.: Variorum, 1994.

Ehrman, Bart D. The Apostolic Fathers, Volume I. Edited by Jeffrey Henderson. The Leob Classical Library 24. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.

English Standard Version Bible. New York: Crossway, 2010.

Emerton, J. A. “Notes on Some Passages in the Odes of Solomon.” Journal of Theological Studies 28 (1977): 507-519.

Frankenberg, Wilhelm. Das Verstandis der Oden Salomos. Zeitshrfit fur die alteestamentliche Wissenschaft 21. Gießen: Topelman, 1911.

Glover, Richard. “Patristic Quotations and Gospel Sources.” New Testament Studies 31 (1985): 235-51.

Grant, Robert M. “The Odes of Solomon and the Church of Antioch.” Journal of Biblical Literature 63, 4 (1944): 363-377.

Gregory, Andrew F. and Christopher Tuckett. “Reflections on Method: What constitutes the Use of the Writings that later formed the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers?” Pages 61-82 in The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers. Edited by Andrew F. Gregory and Christopher M. Tuckett. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Changing Shape of Church History. Saint Louis: Chalice Press, 2002.

Harnack, Adolph and John Flemming. Ein Jüdisch-Christliches Psalmbuch aus dem ersten Jahrhundert. Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1910.

Harris, J. Rendel. An Early Christian Psalter. London: James Nesbit, 2009.

Harvey, Susan Ashbrook. “Syria and Mesopotamia.” Pages 351-65 in The Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 1: Origins to Constantine. Edited by Margaret M. Mitchell and Frances M. Young. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Hengel, Martin. “Qumran and Early Christianity.” Pages 523-31 in Earliest Christian History: History, Literature, and Theology: Essay from the Tyndale Fellowship in Honor of Martin Hengel. Edited by Michael F. Bird and Jason Maston. Translated by Lars Kierspel. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012.

Hill, Charles E. “’In These Very Words’: Methods and Standards of Literary Borrowing in the Second Century.” Page 261-81 in The Early Text of the New Testament. Edited by Charles E. Hill and Michael J. Kruger. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Hill, J. Hamlyn. The Earliest Life of Christ Ever Compiled from the Four Gospels: Being the Diatessaron of Tatian: Literally Translated from the Arabic Version and containing the Four Gospels woven into One Story. Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2001.

Hughes, Julie. Scriptural Allusions and Exegesis in the Hodayot. Studies on the Texts of the Deserts of Judah, LIX. Edited by Florentino Garcia Martinez. Boston: Brill, 2006.

Kostenberger, Andreas J., and Michael J. Kruger. The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity. Wheaton: Crossway Publishers, 2010.

Kugel, James L. Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998.

Lattke, Michael. “Die Oden Salomos: Einleitungsfragen und Forschungsgeschichte.” Zeitschrift fur die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der Alteren Kirche 98 (2007): 277-307.

–. Oden Salomos. New York: Herder, 1995.

–. Odes of Solomon: A Commentary. Edited by Harold W. Attridge. Translated by Marianne Ehrhardt. Hermenia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009.

–. “The Apocryphal Odes of Solomon and New Testament Writings.” Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der Älteren Kirche 73, 3 (1982): 294-301.

Massaux, Eduard. The Influence of the Gospel of Matthew on Christian Literature before Irenaeus. Translated by Neirynck. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1990.

Marttila, Marko, Juha Pakkala, and Hanne von Weissenberg (Editors). Changes in Scripture: Rewriting and Interpreting Authoritative Traditions in the Second Temple Period. Berlin: DeGruyter, 2011.

McNeil, Brian. “The Odes of Solomon and the Scriptures.” Oriens Christianus 67, 1 (1983): 104-122.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.

Murray, Robert. Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition. Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2004

Newbold, William R. “Bardaisan and the Odes of Solomon.” Journal of Biblical Literature 30, 2 (1911): 161-204.

Novak, Michael Anthony. “The Odes of Solomon as Apocalyptic Literature.” Vigiliae Christianae 66, 5 (2012): 527-550.

Pierre, Marie-Joseph. Les Odes de Salomon: Traduction, Introduction et notes par. Belique: Brepols, 1994.

Prahlow, Jacob J. Discerning Witnesses: First and Second Century Textual Studies in Early Christian Authority. MA Thesis. Winston-Salem: Wake Forest University, 2014.

Robinson, J. A. The Odes of Solomon. Texts and Studies: Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literature, Series 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1912. Repr. Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint Limited, 1967.

Sanders, Jack T. “Nag Hammadi, Odes of Solomon, and NT Christological Hymns.” Pages 51-66 in Gnosticism and the Early Christian World: In Honor of James M. Robinson. Edited by James E. Goehring, et al. Sonoma, CA: Polebridge Press, 1990.

Schoedel, William R. Ignatius of Antioch: A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch. Edited by Helmut Koester. Hermenia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985

Stuhlhofer, Franz. “Der Ertrag von Bibelstellenregistern fur die Kanonsgeschichte.” Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche wissenschaft 100 (1988): 244-261.

Stroud, Robert C. “The Odes of Solomon: The Earliest in Collection of Christian Hymns.” The Hymn 31, 1 (1980): 269-275.

Trevett, Christine. “Approaching Matthew from the Second Century: The Under-Used Ignatius Correspondence.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 20 (1984): 59-67.

Wickes, Jeffrey. Hymns on Faith. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, forthcoming.

Williams, P.J. Early Syriac Translation Technique and the Textual Criticism of the Greek Gospels. Edited by D. C. Parker and D. G. K. Taylor. Texts and Studies: Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literatures Third Series. Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2004.

Odes and John: Conclusions

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

This study has sought to recast the relationship between the Odes of Solomon and Gospel of John by calling for the application of contextualized methodological criteria in a comparison of these two texts. Such a methodology was argued to incorporate considerations of literary citation, genre, linguistic differences, geography, and purposes in writing as important aspects of understanding possible instances of literary connection between ancient texts. Instead of affirming a “common milieu” connecting the Odes and Fourth Gospel, the application of this contextual methodology illustrates that signs of literary dependence exist between the Odes and John’s Gospel, especially Ode 3’s apparent use of an exegetical motif derived from the Upper Room Discourses of John 14 and 15.

While this study is by no means comprehensive, such a conclusion does suggest that perspectives which fail to recognize the literary connection between the Odes and Gospel must be reevaluated. Methodological precision will only further clarify scholarship intending to understand early Christian literary culture. Another implication of this study indicates that greater care must be taken in attempting to recognize exegetical motifs at work in early Christian writings, especially those which are liturgical or poetic in nature. Further, the insights of this study suggest further cross-specializational analysis among scholars of early Christianity, as the methods of those studying the Apostolic Fathers have proved useful in this study of the Odes. In this regard, it is somewhat puzzling that the Odes are largely not studied along with other early Christian writings from a similar period and provenance. Such a project may prove insightful in the future.

Continued investigation of the Odes of Solomon remains a field ripe with opportunity, especially through the application of contextually informed methodological principles for discerning the use of scriptural themes and language in early Christian literature. It is my hope that this paper may provide some starting point for discovering more fully the manner in which worship, scripture, and interpretation functioned in the early Christian Church.

A Prayer for Guidance

I’m currently praying through the Oxford Book of Prayer (edited by George Appleton) and came across this prayer for guidance this morning:

“In times of doubts and questionings, when our belief is perplexed by new learning, new teaching, new thought, when our faith is strained by creeds, by doctrines, by mysteries beyond our understanding, give us the faithfulness of learners and the courage of believers in you; give us boldness to examine and faith to trust all truth; patience and insight to master difficulties; stability to hold fast our tradition with enlightened interpretation to admit all fresh truth made known to us, and in times of trouble, to grasp new knowledge readily and to combine it loyally and honestly with the old; alike from stubborn rejection of new revelations, and from hasty assurance that we are wiser than our fathers. Save us and help us, we humbly ask you, O Lord.”

–Bishop George Ridding (1828-1904)

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.

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.

Odes and John: Determining Literary Dependence (Part 3)

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

Next, the implications of memory, especially cultural memory, must be further explored in thinking about early Christian writing and interpretation.[1] When considering instances of potential literary dependence, the chief question raised by consideration of memory is whether or not an author needs to have a text in front of them in order to be able to label their use of a text as literary dependence. Many Ignatian scholars, for instance, do not find it necessary to presume that the second century bishop of Antioch had immediate access to the sources he was citing in his letters.[2]

As an example, consider Ignatius’s Letter to Polycarp 2.2, where he writes “Be wise as a serpent in all things and always pure as the dove” (φροωιμος γνιοθ ως οφις εν απασιω και ακεραιος εις αει.).[3] While there is no marker of citation, this passage reads verbatim from Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Ἰδού, ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς ὡς πρόβατα ἐν μέσῳ λύκων · γίνεσθε οὖν φρόνιμοι ὡς οἱ ὄφεις , καὶ ἀκέραιοι ὡς αἱ περιστεραί.).[4] Ignatius and Matthew both wrote in prosaic Greek, suggesting that strong levels of verbal similarity should exist between these passages if Ignatius was relying upon Matthew. The slight modifications which Ignatius makes to this verse can easily be explained on the basis of his use of memory—he almost certainly did not carry a copy of the Gospel with him—and literary purposes, namely, this passages context of exhortation for Polycarp to avoid sinful things and seek eternal life. Thus, the application of contextual methodological criteria to Ignatius’s Letter to Polycarp and its relationship to the Gospel of Matthew indicates that in this instance he cited that Gospel, a conclusion which is widely affirmed by Ignatian scholars.[5]

The question for this study is how consistently this principle may be applied to the Odes. It is of course possible that the Odist had a non-canonical version of John in front of him as he wrote, or that he simply recalled the Gospel from another setting.[6] Such theories are increasingly speculative. Much more convincing is a methodology of literary dependence which takes into account the literary and theological contexts of first century Syria—including those of “rewritten Bible”[7]— and gives proper place to the modes of literary dependence which are less exact that contemporary Western academic preferences.

A final methodological point indicates that the purposes of a particular writing may impact the manner in which two texts are related. The Odes have long been posited as hymns for early Christian liturgical gatherings.[8] This being the case, they should be considered in light of other literature of similar period and purpose, where the modern distinction between writing and interpretation was not in place.[9] This is of critical importance when considering a document such as the Odes of Solomon, which appears to draw upon and recast numerous themes and frameworks of earlier writings. Especially important for properly understanding and interpreting literature of this type are “exegetical motifs.” In the words of James Kugel,

An exegetical motif is an explanation of a biblical verse (or phrase or word therein) that becomes the basis for some ancient writer’s expansion or other alteration of what Scripture actually says: in paraphrasing or summarizing Scripture, the ancient writer incorporates the exegetical motif in his retelling and in so doing adds some minor detail or otherwise deviates from mere repetition or restatement of the Bible.[10]

For writers employing exegetical motifs, while there is limited textual reference to a narrative or passage of scripture, the meaning evinced by these references plays an important role in the overall feel and meaning of text employing the motif. Additionally, there may be differences from an original source in the theology or meaning of the text employing an exegetical motif.[11]


[1] George J. Brooke, “Memory, Cultural Memory and Rewriting Scripture,” in Rewritten Bible after Fifty Years: Texts, Terms, or Techniques? A Last Dialogue with Geza Vermes (Supplements for the Study of Judaism 166; ed. Jozsef Zsengeller; Leiden: Brill, 2014), 119-136.

[2] William R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch: A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch (ed. Helmut Koester; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 5. Corwin, Ignatius, 3. Prahlow, Discerning, 75 n25. Christine Trevett, “Approaching Matthew from the Second Century: The Under-Used Ignatius Correspondence,” JSNT 20 (1984), 59-67. Trevett lists thirty-six possible allusions and quotations to Matthew in Ignatius’s corpus, the most clear being Ephesians 5:3 (Matt. 18:19-20), Ephesians 16:2 (Matt. 3:12), Ephesians 17:1 (Matt. 26:6-13), Magnesians 10:1 (Matt. 5:13), Trallians 11:1 (Matt. 15:13), Philadelphians 3:1 (Matt. 15:13), Smyrneans 1 (Matt. 3:15), Smyrneans 6 (Matt. 19:12), Polycarp 1:3 (form of Isaiah 53:4 found only in Matt. 8:17), and Polycarp 2:2 (Matt. 10:16).

[3] Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, Volume (The Leob Classical Library, LCL 24; ed. Jeffery Henderson; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), 312-3.

[4] All Biblical passages are from the English Standard Version Bible (New York: Crossway, 2014) unless otherwise indicated. All Greek citations are from the public domain Robinson-Pierpoint Byzantine Textform 2005 and are cross-referenced with the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition (ed. Kurt Aland et al; Westphalia: Deutsche BibelGesellschaft, 2011).

[5] Prahlow, Discerning, 75 n25. Scholars affirming this position include F. F. Bruce, Bruce Metzger, Eduoard Massaux, Raymond Brown, Virgina Corwin, Milton Brown, Derek Kruger, Allen Brent, Paul Foster, the Oxford committee on the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, Charles Thomas Brown, and W. D. Kohler.

[6] Brownson, “Odes,” 50. Brooke, “Memory,” 119-136.

[7] See Marko Marttila, Juha Pakkala, and Hanne von Weissenberg (eds), Changes in Scripture: Rewriting and Interpreting Authoritative Traditions in the Second Temple Period (Berlin: DeGruyter, 2011), especially pages 21-121.

[8] Charlesworth, Reflections, 21.

[9] Kugel, Traditions, 895.

[10] Ibid., 27.

[11] See also Julie Hughes’ distinction between verbal and interpretive parallels (Hughes, 52-54). In this model, exegetical motifs may display verbal similarities, interpretive similarities, or both.

Odes and John: Determining Literary Dependence (Part 2)

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

Developed by Bruce M. Metzger, the second important tool for ascertaining literary connections in ancient literature is that of attribution simplicity. This principle states that when the wording of any possible reference may be explained on the basis of a known source, attribution to that source remains preferable to claiming dependence on an unknown source or the “persistence of primitive tradition.”[1] Attribution simplicity does not constitute a hard and fast rule—instances of where a variant citation is used multiple times, for example, may be taken to suggest an unknown source—yet this criterion offers a way forward through the quandary of locating possible but non-extant sources.[2] These two tools suggest, first, that the lack of any direct ‘quotation’ between the Odes and John cannot indicate that the Odist did not know that Gospel, and second, that where multiple instances of strong verbal similarity exist, it remains methodologically preferable to attribute these parallels to literary dependence rather than  to a “common milieu” of tradition.

Considerations of genre are likewise important for constructing an adequate methodology, especially when comparing different types of literature. The Odes, by nature of their composition as liturgical verse, were crafted quite differently than prosaic pieces of Christian literature from the same time. While a parallel term such as “living water” might not be enough evidence to suggest, for example, that the prose of the Epistles of Ignatius relied upon the Gospel of John, in a poetic work such as the Odes—which must deal in composite and stylistic elements—that term may be the only possible way in which the Odist could reveal his reliance on that Gospel.[3]

Furthermore, the impact of linguistic difference cannot be neglected in determining literary dependence. Translation is never a one-for-one process, suggesting that instances of literary connection across linguistic boundaries may be masked by translation and interpretive differences. The likelihood that the Odes were written in Syriac while John was written in Greek reinforces the real possibility that something may have been literarily lost in translation.[4] Furthermore, geographical considerations are also important for crafting a contextual methodology of citation.[5] The application of geographical considerations to the study of the Odes suggests that if other Antiochene writings demonstrate awareness of John’s Gospel—which they do[6]—it becomes more likely that the Odist had access to the Fourth Gospel as well.


[1] Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 73 n47. Prahlow, Discerning, 8. Andreas J. Kostenberger and Michael J. Kruger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity (Wheaton: Crossway Publishers, 2010), 144.

[2] Ibid. Franz Stuhlhofer, “Der Ertrag von Bibelstellenregistern für die Kanonsgeschichte”, ZAT 100 (1988): 244-261. See also Richard Glover, “Patristic Quotations and Gospel Sources”, NTS 31 (1985): 235-51.

[3] Kugel, Traditions, 23-6. Charlesworth, Reflections, 233.

[4] Charlesworth, Reflections, 233. Also worth noting is J. T. Sanders’ attempt to problematize a Syriac-to-Greek thesis by noting several occasions where terms shift more than translation would indicate. See Sanders, “Nag Hammadi,” 56.

[5] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Changing Shape of Church History (Saint Louis: Chalice Press, 2002), 7-79.

[6] See the connections between the Odes, Matthew, the Apocalypse of John, 1 John, Ignatius of Antioch, Theophilus of Antioch, the Syrian Apostolic Constitutions, and Chrysostom’s homily noted above.

What I Read in 2019

I know that I’m a couple weeks late to the party with my list of what I read in 2019, but my reading list from this past year is below.  Before that, however, couple of notes.

First, you’ll see that there are many churchworld books included in this list, be they instructional-type books or commentaries. This is one benefit of my work in vocational ministry: I get to read deeply and widely on theological and scriptural topics.

Second, one of my goals for 2019 was to read more fiction, so I categorized those reading separately. In recent years, I had found myself reading only a couple works of fiction a year, so my 2019 reading in this area stands as a significant improvement, one that I hope to continue in 2020.

Third, note a couple of special categories: books followed by a [re-read] designation are books that I’d read before but re-read for whatever reason. Additionally, books followed by an * (and also hyperlinked) are what I view as the best-of-the-best, reading that really stood out. I won’t choose a “top book” or anything like that, but if I did, I would come from these selections.

Finally, as a big proponent of holding oneself accountable for goals, I note that I aimed to read 150 books in 2019. This list contains 165. And so, without further ado, what I read in 2019 (presented in chronological order by category): Continue reading