Saturday, May 30, 2015

Why do you sleep, my soul?

ψάλλε καὶ γρηγόρησον ἐπὶ τὴν γρηγόρησιν αὐτοῦ,

ὅτι ἀγαθὸς ψαλμὸς τῷ θεῷ ἐξ ἀγαθῆς καρδίας. --- Psalms of Solomon 3:2

Serious study of Early Christianity, its earliest layers of history without the compulsion to find justification for subsequent confessional claims, renders almost immeasurable rewards. It offers us sobering perspective on later developments and imparts a sense of awe when it shows an obscure glimpse though a still opaque window at a world we will likely not comprehend in its totality. This largely due to a combination of limited and sometimes disparate evidence and as both Orthodoxy and Catholicism gradually congealed into their identities, much of the pre-existing context was lost.

Nevertheless, we have glimpses. We have windows with which to gain a haunting view into the spectres of Christianity's past.

The Psalms of Solomon, in a manner we are slowly (if not lethargically) coming to understand, provides such a glimpse. We can be thankful that the scholarly standard of the Greek text (the one oftentimes turned to for any work on this psalter) is readily available in the Biblia Graeca and Septuaginta. This is one of those rare occasions when the original text of an obscure book from the formative history of the canon is relatively accessible.

The passage above is most interesting in that it seems to be garbled Greek allusion to the idea of the egregori or Watchers of the Enochian corpus. Ward notes, and I am inclined to agree with him, that the autou at the end of the first half of the verse can be best explained if gregoresin was less than precise translation of the underlying Hebrew text (no longer extant) which would have been better translated with egregoros/egregori. An allusion to the Watchers seems to fit the over arching concept of the psalm up to this point. The sleeping soul is called upon to be ever awake in praise before God, an attribute commonly ascribed to the Watchers in contemporary literature of the Second Temple period.

We are reasonably sure that such literature underlies much of the New Testament; the ancient authors seem quite familiar with it and it certainly had a place at Qumran. The angelology and greater mythology conveyed by the Watchers/egregori saturates much of the air Early Christianity inhales and exhales - it has left its imprint upon our New Testament.

The Psalms of Solomon themselves seem to have been appropriated by Christianity early one before falling into disuse. Its presence in some manuscripts of the LXX and early use in Christianity should naturally lead us to questions which, as yet, haven't answers. As psalms, we would presume the text were intended for liturgical use. We can only speculate how a text with an allusion to the Watcher's myth (or the Enochian myth) would function liturgically and the nature of the liturgical cosmology behind its use. The text is, as stated, a dim view into a world that was lost as Christianity gradually took on aspects we would find ourselves more comfortable with today.

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