The Testament of Solomon


by Richard J. Wayman

[Richard Wayman is a fourth-year undergraduate at St. Mary’s College in the University of St. Andrews.–JRD]

The Testament of Solomon (TSol) is not really a testament, but rather an example of magical literature, to which a number of features of the genre testament have been added.

The issue of Jewish or Christian origin is difficult to determine due to the syncretistic nature of magic in general, but allusions in the book suggest either Christian composition or redaction. The book contains what might be termed Jewish elements, but these are not sufficiently clear for us to postulate with certainty a Jewish work behind TSol. Most scholars argue for a date in the early third century A.D.

TSol is comprised of a haggadic folktale telling how Solomon used a magic ring to force the demons to help build the Temple, and a collection of ancient magical, medical, astrological, angelological and demonological lore. The book is intended as an ‘encyclopaedia of demonology’ and may well have been used as a manual for exorcisms.

The book stands in the developing tradition of Jewish speculation about Solomon’s magic powers, and shares a number of features with Jewish magical literature, including: the use of Solomon’s seal-ring, name, incantations, and similar adjurations and magical acts for controlling demons.

As per the Course Bibliography, plus:

Alexander, P. S., “Incantations and Books of Magic”, in Schurer, _HJP_, vol. III.1, 342-379.

Schafer, P., “Jewish Magic Literature in Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages”, _JJS_ 41 (1990), 75-91.

Sperber, D., “Some Rabbinic Themes in Magical Papyri”, _JSJ_ 16 (1983), 93-103.

(c) 1997
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

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