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.

Odes and John: Determining Literary Dependence (Part 1)

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

However, the perspective of “common milieu” is not without its problems, for affirmations of this relationship are often founded upon an inexact methodology of determining literary dependence. This approach often precludes the possibility of finding clear connections between pieces of literature by arguing that only direct quotations may demonstrate such dependence. To explain parallels between extant texts scholars often fall back on the least common denominator—often “oral tradition” but here “common milieu”—instead of taking into consideration how literary culture, geographical and linguistic factors, communal memory, and exegetical practice effect how existing pieces of literature were co-opted and employed ancient writers for their new compositions.[1] Unfortunately, many scholars have simply affirmed the “common milieu” of the Odes and John without considering the way in which this milieu would have functioned for both the Odist and Gospel writer.[2] An informed contextual methodology for the examination of the Odes of Solomon must move beyond mere affirmation of common milieu or terminology and recognize the manner in which literary citation, genre, linguistic difference, geography, memory, and literary purposes influence considerations of textual dependence.

Deciphering literary relationships, especially possible instances in early Christian texts, remains a complex task. Fortunately, those in Early Christian Studies have developed two important tools for discerning the existence and meaning of literary citation in extant texts: definitional clarity and attribution simplicity.[3] Definitional clarity involves the application of strictly defined terms in order to differentiate the varying ways in which ancient authors made use of the sources available to them. Typically this involves drawing distinctions between formal quotation, quotation, strong allusion, loose allusion, and reference, and determining the implications of these types of usage within a text.[4] While the existence of a single, well-marked “formal” quotation may sufficiently demonstrate the dependence of one text upon another, it is also possible that several strong allusions or multiple less-clear forms of citation may sufficiently indicate textual connections.[5] For example, the hymns of the fourth century poet Ephrem the Syrian often do not formally quote any written works, but nonetheless are commonly understood as literarily dependent upon Christian texts. To briefly demonstrate, consider Ephrem’s Hymn on Faith 7.4:

The sea saw him and shook.

Its waves crashing,

It lowered its back and carried him—

Better than a foal it bore him.

When he was sitting in the boat,

The shipmates supposed he was human.

When he descended and subdued the sea,

Those on board were astonished by him.

They did not investigate him at all,

They simply marveled at him:

They glorified and stood silent in awe.”[6]

Although here Ephrem does not explicitly quote any Biblical passages, in this hymn he quite clearly references the story of Christ walking on the water recorded in the gospels, especially when his concerns for poetic meter and theological meaning are taken into account. [7] However, if the type of reading often applied to the Odes of Solomon were applied to Ephrem’s hymn, then little more than a common milieu of stories about Jesus could be affirmed.


[1] Ibid., 71-4.

[2] Brownson, “Odes,” 51.

[3] As noted earlier, see Gregory and Tuckett, 61-82 and Prahlow, 1-16.

[4] Julie Hughes, Scriptural Allusions and Exegesis in the Hodayot (Studies on the Texts of the Deserts of Judah, LIX; ed. Florentino Garcia Martinez; Boston: Brill, 2006), 35-62. Gregory and Tuckett, 64-5. There are also the rightly noted problems of non-extant materials (since many early Christian writings are no longer extant, there may be quotations present from materials which are undetectable) and textual criticism (even when there is access to the modern form of the text, this does not necessarily indicate this form matches that which would have been known by an ancient author), which add even further complexity to this issue. Definitional clarity seeks to overcome these concerns by indicating that claims of literary dependence are only possible in the case of extant sources and by noting the assumption of relative textual stability. For a discussion of these issues, see Prahlow, Discerning Witnesses, 5.

[5] Ibid., 65.

[6] Jeffrey Wickes, Hymns on Faith (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, forthcoming), 56, especially n238.

[7] Matthew 14:22-36 and Mark 6:45-52. Cf. John 6:16-21. Ephrem almost certainly had access to the Syriac edition of the Diatessaron, which combined the Gospel accounts and negates any consideration of finding reliance on a specific account. For a possible reconstruction of Ephrem’s Diatessaron text of the account of Jesus walking on the water, see Diatessaron Leodiense (ed. C. C. De Bruin; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1970), 101. Also see J. Hamlyn Hill, 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), 77-78, especially 18.44-19.13.

Odes and John: Perspectives on Relationship

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

Much has been written concerning the connections between these two pieces of early Christian literature, beginning with Harris in the first publication on the Odes.[1] Since then, scholars have consistently noted that, “The Odes and John share numerous, striking, and often unique expressions.”[2] To outline some of the most common themes, references to Love, the rest of God, Life (including God as the source of life, eternal life, and Life in Christ), and the Holy Spirit run throughout both John’s Gospel and the Odes.[3] Most pervasive are discussions of the Word (λóγος, ܡܠܬܐ)—including an assumption of Word Christology—and the need for living water in order to receive eternal life.[4] Such parallels, thematic resonances, and shared elements are simply too ubiquitous to ignore. However, some of these themes are not limited to the Odes and Johannine literature—for example, the imagery of living water is paralleled in numerous other sources.[5] In no small part due to the complexity of properly attributing the source of such non-specific thematic parallels, scholars remain divided on the possibility of literary dependence between the Odes and the Fourth Gospel.[6]

Additionally, numerous textual affinities exist between the two writings. Charlesworth notes twenty-six strong potential parallels between the Odes and John, with another ninety-two less clear but still possible references.[7] Yet none of these uses appears to be a direct quotation in either direction.[8] That is, in no place do the Odes of Solomon present material from the Gospel of John using a formulaic introduction—“it is written”, the Syriac partical ܠܐܡ (lâm), or otherwise—nor is any passage a verbatim reference to the Gospel. The same is true in the opposite direction. This lack of direct quotation, or at least the implications of this fact, often leads scholars to conclude that there is “no demonstrable literary relationship” between the Odes and Fourth Gospel.[9] In the words of Brian McNeil, “None of these verbal parallels [between the Odes and Johannine literature] has by itself a probative character….”[10]

Because of these connections and concerns, scholars have taken five basic positions concerning the relationship between the Odes and Fourth Gospel[11]: John is reliant upon the Odes; the Odes display thematic dependence on John; the Odes exhibit literary dependence on John; both rely on a third source; and that both are independent but share a “common milieu.” Early specialists often suggested that the Odes preceded John and influenced the writing of the Gospel.[12] This was the view of Harnack, Grimme, and Bultmann, but is not widely held today because it places the composition of the Odes appreciably earlier than the Fourth Gospel, which cannot have been written much later than 100 CE.[13]

More popular recently are the perspectives on the Odes’ thematic or literary dependence on Gospel of John.[14] Those in favor of thematic dependence argue that the Odist knew John’s writings but did not directly use or quote them, instead recalling some of the Gospel’s characteristic themes in the creation of the Odes.[15] Those in favor of literary dependence posit that the Odist knew, used, and adapted the Fourth Gospel while crafting the Odes, [16] though he may not have had the final edition of the Gospel before him while writing. Some form of these perspectives is affirmed by J. A. Robinson and Brian McNeil,[17] despite Charlesworth’s adamant argument in 1998 that, “no critical evaluation” has confirmed this perspective.[18] As literary dependence is the perspective of this paper, I will present arguments for such a relationship in more detail below.

The fourth perspective on the relationship between the Odes and Gospel of John posits that both writings were influenced by a third source, most commonly thought to be an Essene source like the Dead Sea Scrolls.[19] Jack T. Sanders suggests that the Odes, Trimorphic Protennoia, and Fourth Gospel all come from the same context of non-rabbinic speculative Judaism of the Roman Diaspora period.[20] Martin Hengel, however, problematizes this view by noting that no specific evidence appears early enough to fit this hypothesis. Consequently, few scholars affirm this perspective.[21]

Much more prevalent are suggestions regarding the independence but shared milieu of the Odes of Solomon and Fourth Gospel. Adherents to this perspective argue that the Odes and John were composed entirely independently of each other, except for their common experience of the religious environment of Antiochene theology and popular culture.[22] As Charlesworth notes, for this perspective, “It is clear that the Odes and John contain numerous and impressive parallels, and that these neither suggest that the Odes depend on John nor the reverse. Both reflect the same milieu… and both were probably composed in the same community.”[23] This perspective has been affirmed by many of the more recent studies on the Odes of Solomon, including those of Grant, Massaux, Dodd, and Charlesworth.[24]


[1] Harris. See also Brownson, “Odes,” 49.

[2] Charlesworth and Culpepper, “Odes,” 300.

[3] Ibid., 300-3.

[4] Charlesworth, Reflections, 25. Harvey, “Syria,” 355. Charlesworth and Culpepper, “Odes,” 310-4. Robert C. Stroud, “The Odes of Solomon: The Earliest Collection of Christian Hymns,” The Hymn 31 (1980): 271.

[5] Kugel notes that Wisdom/Truth is portrayed as streams of water not only in John and Odes 6, 11, 12, and 30, but also in Sirach 25:25-7 and traditions concerning the Water at Mamra (Kugel, Traditions, 627-8). Thus, the possibility exists that these two works draw on another, third source.

[6] Charlesworth, Reflections, 25 Brownson, “Odes,” 49.

[7] Charlesworth, Reflections, 258-9.

[8] McNeil, “Odes,” 110. Robinson, Odes, 31; Brownson, “Odes,” 49.

[9] Brownson, “Odes,” 49.

[10] McNeil, “Odes,” 109.

[11] Charlesworth, Grant, and McNeil all outline only three positions, combining all perspectives on the Odes dependence on John and neglecting to account for the argument for a common shared source.

[12] Charlesworth, Reflections, 25. Grant, “Antioch,” 368.

[13] Charlesworth, Reflections, 252-7. The rejection of Harnack’s interpolation hypothesis, Grimme’s Hebrew hypothesis, and Bultman’s concept of Gnosticism have played a significant role in the downfall of this view. On the dating of John, see D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (The Pillar New Testament Commentary; ed. D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 82-7 and Harold Attridge, “Johannine Christianity,” in The Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 1: Origins to Constantine (ed. Margaret M. Mitchell and Frances M. Young; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 126.

[14] Charlesworth and Culpepper, “Odes,” 318. Grant, “Antioch,” 368. McNeil, “Odes,” 110.

[15] Robinson, Odes, 31. McNeil, “Odes,” 121-2.

[16] Brownson, “Odes,” 50.

[17] Robinson, Odes, 31. McNeil, “Odes,” 121-2.

[18] Charlesworth, Reflections, 251-2.

[19] Ibid., 192.

[20] Sanders, “Nag Hammadi,” 59.

[21] Martin Hengel, “Qumran and Early Christianity,” in Earliest Christian History: History, Literature, and Theology: Essay from the Tyndale Fellowship in Honor of Martin Hengel (ed. Michael F. Bird and Jason Maston; trans. Lars Kierspel; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012), 523-531.

[22] Grant, “Antioch,” 368. Brownson, “Odes,” 49-50. Charlesworth, Reflections, 255-6.

[23] Charlesworth, Reflections, 257.

[24] Ibid., 255-6.

Odes and John: Introduction to the Odes of Solomon

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

Following J. Rendel Harris’ publication of the Odes in 1909,[1] scholars came to the consensus that they represented an early hymnbook which had quite possibly influenced the Gospel of John.[2] For example, Adolph von Harnack believed that the Odes predated the Fourth Gospel and influenced its author.[3] For much of the 20th century it was assumed that the Odes were a “Gnostic” text, though this perspective has become increasingly rejected.[4] As for who composed the Odes, little can be said with any degree of certainty—the attribution to Solomon is clearly pseudonymous and accurate authorial attribution seems lost to time.[5] The consensus for the dating of the Odes offers more solid conclusions, as most contemporary scholars place their composition firmly between 100 and 125 CE.[6]

As for the language of original composition, though some posit theories of a Hebrew or Armenian formation, the linguistic and stylistic features of the Odes indicate their composition in either Greek or Syriac. [7] Unfortunately, scholars remain divided on the original language of writing. On the one hand, James Charlesworth concludes that “the Greek hypothesis is no longer tenable” and that the Odes were clearly composed in Syriac.[8] On the other hand, Michael Lattke argues that the Odes were originally composed in Greek and very quickly translated into Syriac, writing that “no cogent argument” has been offered for a Syriac original.[9] Compounding this problematic is the obfuscating style of Biblical allusions, which are too imprecise to clearly attribute to either the Syriac Peshitta or Greek Bible.[10] This study takes the position that the Odes of Solomon were composed in Syriac for the following reasons: the shared milieu of the Odist and certain Jewish interpreters,[11] the textual variants which may be best explained by an original Syriac manuscript, and the literary characteristics and word plays of the Odes which are evident only in Syriac.[12]

Numerous geographical locations have been suggested for the origin of the Odes, Alexandria, Ephesus, Edessa, and Antioch being the most common.[13] The parallels between the Odes and John’s Gospel make Ephesus or Western Syria appear likely.[14] Syria—either Edessa or Antioch—seems probable given the argument that the Odes were composed in Syriac.[15] Furthermore, the rapid bi-lingual transmission again suggests Antioch or Edessa, both of which would have been sufficiently Syrian and Greek to account for both a Syriac original and Greek translation of the Odes.[16] While there are unquestionable connections between the Odes and the Jewish Scriptures—most notably the numerous Psalm-like qualities of these hymns[17]—the most striking references to written sources involve those writings often connected to early Antioch.[18] There are numerous parallels to Matthew’s Gospel,[19] the Apocalypse of John,[20] and Pauline literature,[21] which—while not specifically suggesting Antioch—do suggest the Odist’s situation within a center which had access to a profusion of Christian literature. Further suggestive of Antioch is James Brownson’s argument that the Odes represent a successionist community which has split from the “orthodox” community of Antioch, a split which Brownson finds indicated in both 1 John and the Odes’ numerous “co-options” of Johannine literature.[22] Most convincing are the connections between the Odes and non-canonical Antiochene literature, such as the Epistles of Ignatius,[23] the Ad Autolycum of Theophilus,[24] the Syrian Apostolic Constitutions,[25] and—though significantly later—the “Prayer for the Catechumens” found in John Chrysostom’s “Second Homily on Second Corinthians.”[26] The conclusion best fitting this evidence, therefore, is that the Odes were composed in or around Antioch in Western Syria and experienced significant circulation in that region during the early second century.

Having surveyed the general contours and background of the Odes of Solomon and found that they are an early Christian hymnbook of unknown authorship written in Syriac between 100-125 CE in or around Antioch, we now turn to the relationship between the Odes of Solomon and the Gospel of John.


[1] J. Rendel Harris, An Early Christian Psalter (London: James Nesbit, 1909). For a survey on the early reception of the Odes, see Charlesworth, Reflections, 21.

[2] Charlesworth, Reflections, 21: “Harris contended that they were a hymnbook of the first-century church. J. H. Bernard claimed they were written in the last half of the first century.”

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

[4] Michael Lattke, “The Apocryphal Odes of Solomon and New Testament Writings,” ZNW 73, 3 (1982): 296. James H Charlesworth and R. Alan Culpepper, “The Odes of Solomon and the Gospel of John,” CBQ 35, 3 (1973): 299 n4. Han J. W. Drijver, “The 19th Ode of Solomon: Its Interpretation and Place in Syrian Christianity,” JTS 31, 2 (1980): 337-8.

[5] Michael Lattke, “Die Oden Salomos: Einleitungsfragen und Forschungsgeschichte,” ZNW 98 (2007): 283-5. Han J. W. Drijvers, “The Peshitta of Sapientia Salomonis,” History and Religion in Late Antique Syria (Brookfield, V.T.: Variorum, 1994), VI.16-17. Michael Lattke, Odes of Solomon: A Commentary (ed. Harold W. Attridge; trans. Marianne Ehrhardt; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009), 5. W. R. Newbold’s argument that Bardaisan stands behind the Odes is intriguing, but ultimately speculative; see William R. Newbold, “Bardaisan and the Odes of Solomon,” JBL 30, 2 (1911): 161-204.

[6] Charlesworth and Culpepper, “Odes,” 314. Robert Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition. (Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2004), 25. Grant, “Antioch”, 369. Lattke, Commentary, 10. Worth noting is Han Drijvers’ dating of the Odes to the “second half of the third century”; Hans J. W. Drijvers, “Apocryphal Literature in the Cultural Milieu of Osrhoene,” Apocrypha 1, 1 (1990): 245. For an excellent introduction to the history and textual tradition of the Odes of Solomon, see Lattke, Commentary, 1-26 and Lattke,“Die Oden Salomos”, 277-307.

[7] Murray, Symbols, 24. Charlesworth, Reflections, 133. J. A. Emerton, “Notes on Some Passages in the Odes of Solomon,” JTS 28 (1977): 512-9. The issue of bilingualism must at least be considered as a possibility for the author of the Odes, especially given the work’s rapid transmission in both Greek and Syriac. On the topic of bilingualism in the ancient world, see J.N. Adams, Mark Janse, and Simon Swain (eds.), Bilingualism in Ancient Society: Language Contact and the Written Word (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

[8] Charlesworth, Reflections, 133.

[9] Lattke, Commentary, 10-1: “The quotations in the Pistis Sophia and in Lactantius’s magnum opus are without doubt translated from the Greek. That, however, has not decided the question whether the original language was Greek.”

[10] Murray, Symbols, 24. Sebastian Brock, The Bible in the Syriac Tradition, Second Revised Edition (Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2006), 3-35. See also Brock’s Syriac Perspectives on Late Antiquity, ii-iv (London, 1984) and Studies in Syriac Christianity, x (London: Variorum, 1992). For some discussion on the relationship between Syriac texts and their interaction with Greek manuscript traditions, see P. J. Williams, Early Syriac Translation Technique and the Textual Criticism of the Greek Gospels (Texts and Studies: Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literatures Third Series; ed. D. C. Parker and D. G. K. Taylor; Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias Press, 2004), 1-22.

[11] Charleworth, Reflections, 133.

[12] Lattke, Commentary, 79. For a particularly striking word play, see Ode 6.7.

[13] Lattke, Commentary 11. Murray, Symbols, 25.

[14] Lattke, Commentary, 11. Charlesworth, Reflections, 23. In arguing for the Odes connection with Antioch and the Fourth Gospel, I am not arguing that the Fourth Gospel was composed and/or completed in Antioch, only that the Antiochene church would have had access to the Fourth Gospel by the end of the first century.

[15] Charlesworth, Reflections, 23. Drijvers, “Apocryphal Literature”, 236-7, 244-7. Grant, “Antioch,” 375-7. Grant postulates thus: “the Odes of Solomon, composed in Syriac at Edessa, were known to the bi-lingual Ignatius either there or at Antioch. Perhaps he obtained them from the Docetists, as Serapion was to obtain the Gospel of Peter. The Fourth Evangelist, who was perhaps the teacher of Ignatius, did not know the Odes, but was influenced by the spiritual atmosphere of the city. Afterwards he made public his Gospel at Ephesus.”

[16] Murray, Symbols, 24. Charlesworth and Culpepper, “Odes,” 320. Charlesworth, Reflections, 23.

[17] James H. Charlesworth, The Odes of Solomon (SBLTT 13 and SBLPS 7; ed. Robert Kraft; Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1977), 20 n5. Jack T. Sanders, “Nag Hammadi, Odes of Solomon, and NT Christological Hymns,” in Gnosticism and the Early Christian World: In Honor of James M. Robinson (ed. James E. Goehring et al; Sonoma, CA: Polebridge Press, 1990), 60. J. A. Robinson, The Odes of Solomon (Texts and Studies: Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literature, Third Series; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1912; repr. Nendeln/Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint Limited, 1967), 26-7. Brian McNeil, “The Odes of Solomon and the Scriptures,” OrChr 67,1 (1983): 104. James Kugel has also noted possible connections with Apocryphal and Deuterocanonical literature such as Sirach, Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Testament of Judah, and Testament of Issachar. James L. Kugel, Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 49, 133-4, 211-2. Also suggesting a Western Syrian provenance are parallels between the Odes and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

[18] Susan Ashbrook Harvey,“Syria and Mesopotamia,” in The Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 1: Origins to Constantine (ed. Margaret M. Mitchell and Frances M. Young; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 353-7.

[19] Ode 24.1 and Matthew 3.16; Ode 22.12 and Matthew 16.18; Ode 23.19 and Matthew 28.19. See Robinson, Odes, 27-8. McNeil, “Odes”, 116-7.

[20] Michael Anthony Novak, “The Odes of Solomon as Apocalyptic Literature,” VC 66:5 (2012): 527-550.

[21] Lattke, Apocryphal Odes, 299-300.

[22] James Brownson, “The Odes of Solomon and the Johannine Tradition,” JSP 2 (1988): 52. Brownson argues that the Odes represent the theological perspective of a group which has separated from the main Johannine community, as represented in 1 John. While this theory is fairly persuasive—providing a useful model for explaining the Johannine epistles, the extenuating circumstances of Ignatius of Antioch, and influence of Bardaisan—it is not my purpose here to investigate this claim, but only to note the connections of the Odes to the Antiochene community.

[23] Charlesworth, Reflections, 23. Grant, “Antioch,” 370-2. Prahlow, 80. Virginia Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960), 69-72. Possible references include Ode 38 in Trallians 6:2 and Ode 11 in Romans 7:2. This connection would likely one of milieu, although if the Odes were written closer to 100 CE, it is possible Ignatius would have used them in the Antiochene liturgy.

[24] Grant, “Antioch,” 372; See also J. R. Harris and A. Mingana, The Odes and the Psalms of Solomon ii (1921).

[25] Robinson, Odes, 63-4.

[26] Ibid., 63-4. See also Ode 8.

Odes of Solomon and Gospel of John: Common Milieu or Literary Dependence?

The Odes of Solomon are a collection of hymns generally veiled and relatively neglected by those studying early Christianity. Yet this “Earliest Christian Hymnbook” [1] contains numerous insights into how first and second century followers of Jesus conceived of such important matters as worship, scripture, and interpretation. Here, I investigate one of the many facets of this ancient Christian text, namely, the relationship between the Odes of Solomon and Gospel of John.

Comparison of these two texts is not without precedent. As far back as J. Rendel Harris’s original publication of the Odes in 1909, scholars have consistently noted that, “The Odes and John share numerous, striking, and often unique expressions.”[2] No less a figure than Adolph von Harnack believed that the Odes predated the Fourth Gospel and influenced its author.[3] More recent scholarship, such as the works of James H. Charlesworth and Robert M. Grant,[4] has suggested a relationship of “common milieu” between the Odes and John’s Gospel. Unfortunately, this methodology of milieu largely neglects the insights garnered by those studying other Christian writings of the post-Apostolic period, especially those findings which are useful for understanding instances of literary dependence.[5] To address this lacuna, there are two major emphases of this project: an examination of the methodology used by those studying the Odes of Solomon and consideration of the direct relationship between the Odes and John’s Gospel.[6] In accordance with this dual focus, I argue that by reevaluating the contextual methodology surrounding literary citation, genre, linguistic difference, geography, and purpose in writing, we may discover the telltale signs of literary dependence which exist between the Odes and John’s Gospel.

After considering the background of the Odes and the various perspectives which scholars such as Charlesworth and Michael Lattke have taken on these hymns’ relationship to the Gospel of John, this study turns to consideration of some problems with the methodological assumptions of contemporary scholarship on the Odes, offering a reevaluation of several important principles for understanding and determining literary dependence in the ancient world. Next, this project analyzes the relationship between Odes of Solomon and John’s Gospel, paying special attention to Ode 3’s connections with the Upper Room Discourses of John’s Gospel. In the end, the application of reassessed methodological criteria indicates that minimalist perspectives regarding the literary relationship between the Odes of Solomon and Gospel of John are no longer preferable.


[1] Term taken from James H. Charlesworth, The Earliest Christian Hymnbook: The Odes of Solomon (Eugene, OR: Cascade Publishers, 2009).

[2] J. Rendel Harris, An Early Christian Psalter (London: James Nesbit, 1909). For a survey on the early reception of the Odes, see James H. Charlesworth, Critical Reflections on the Odes of Solomon: Volume One: Literary Setting, Textual Studies, Gnosticism, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gospel of John (JSPSup 22; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1998), 21. James H. Charlesworth and R. Alan Culpepper, “The Odes of Solomon and the Gospel of John”, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 35, 3 (1973): 300.

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

[4] Charlesworth, Reflections, 255-7. Robert M. Grant, “The Odes of Solomon and the Church of Antioch,” JBL 63, 4 (1944): 368.

[5] For a discussion of such insights, see Andrew F. Gregory and Christopher Tuckett, “Reflections on Method: What constitutes the Use of the Writings that later formed the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers?,” in The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, (ed. Andrew F. Gregory and Christopher M. Tuckett; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 61-82, and Jacob J. Prahlow, Discerning Witnesses: First and Second Century Textual Studies in Early Christian Authority (Wake Forest University, 2014), 1-16.

[6] Of course, these emphases are closely connected, for without a contextualized methodology one cannot properly understand the relationship between the Odes and Fourth Gospel

Did God Command Genocide?

In Joshua 8:2, Yahweh seems to command the indiscriminate killing of the inhabitants of the city of Ai: “And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its livestock you shall take as plunder for yourselves. Lay an ambush against the city, behind it.” If this were said today, it would widely be regarded as a command to commit genocide.[1] The severity of the command seems validated by what Joshua records about the battle (vv. 24-25):

24 When Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and struck it down with the edge of the sword. 25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai.

This account—and others like it in the Old Testament[2]—are often viewed as problematic for contemporary Christians. How can a God of love command murder? How can the God who says “love your enemies” have ordered their destruction? These are, in my estimation, entirely legitimate questions worth wrestling with.

In what follows, I hope to breakdown some of the key aspects of thinking through the question of whether or not God commanded genocide and (some of) what that means for Christians today. Continue reading