A glimpse at what early Christians believed...

Early Christian Hymns
The Odes of Solomon

The "Odes of Solomon" is the earliest known Christian book of hymns, psalms or odes. It probably dates from before 100 A.D. It has been reconstructed from manuscripts in the British Museum, John Rylands Library and Bibliothèque Bodmer. It contained 42 Odes. Two examples are given here from the excellent translation by John Charlesworth. The authors were probably Jewish-Christians and the originals were in Aramaic. This collection is called "The Odes of Solomon" because that is the name used in references to it in other ancient writings. but there is no immediate connection to the ancient King of Israel, Solomon. The Odes were probably chanted a capella, i.e., without instrumental accompaniment.

Ode 10

(Odist speaks)
1. The Lord has directed my mouth by His Word,
And has opened my heart by His Light.
2. And He has caused to dwell in me His immortal life,
And permitted me to proclaim the fruit of His peace.
3. To convert the lives of those who desire to come to Him,
And to capture a good captivity for freedom.
(Christ speaks)
4. I took courage and became strong and captured the world,
And it became mine for the glory of the Most High, and of God my Father.
5. And the Gentiles who had been dispersed were gathered together,³
But I was not defiled by my love (for them),
Because they had praised me in high places.
6. And the traces of light were set upon their heart,
And they walked according to my life and were saved,
And they became my people for ever and ever.

Ode 36

(Odist speaks)
1. I rested on the Spirit of the Lord,
And She¹ lifted me up to heaven;
2. And caused me to stand on my feet in the Lord's high place,
Before His perfection and glory,
Where I continued glorifying (Him) by the composition of His Odes!.

(Christ Speaks)
3. (The Spirit) brought me forth before the Lord's face.
And because I was the Son of Man,
I was named the Light, the Son of God;
4. Because I was the most glorified among the glorious ones,
And the greatest among the great ones.
5. For according to the greatness of the Most High, so She¹ made me;
And according to His newness He renewed me.
6. And He anointed me with His perfection;
And I became one of those who are near Him.
7. And my mouth was opened like a cloud of dew,
And my heart gushed forth (like) a gusher of righteousness.
8. And my approach was in peace,
And I was established in the Spirit of Providence.

excerpted from James H. Charlesworth (1977) The Odes of Solomon. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press.

There is the interesting counterpoint between the Odist as speaker and Christ as speaker. This reflects Christian interpretation of the Psalms.

¹ In English, the Holy Spirit is conventionally referred to as "He", because the Latin word for "Spirit" is spiritus (masc.). In Greek, "Spirit" is pneuma (neut.), leading to references as "It" (e.g., Romans 8:16, "The Spirit itself..."). In Hebrew/Aramaic, "Spirit" is ruach (fem.), leading to references as "She". Charlesworth discerns Trinitarian indications in the Odes, but the parallelism in Ode 36:5, "She made" ... "He renewed" more strongly reflects the general NT perspective on the Spirit as the power and mind of God.
² All the Odes appear to have ended with the word "Hallelujah" (Praise the Lord), not "Amen" (So let it be).
³ This expresses the Jewish concern about ritual pollution by contact with Gentiles (e.g., Gal. 2), showing Jewish authorship, but also an understanding that Jesus is the Messiah for all peoples.
! "His Odes," i.e., the "Odes of Solomon", clearly identifying the odist as the speaker.

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