Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Baptism And Justification In The Odes Of Solomon

The Odes Of Solomon is more difficult to judge than other sources in some ways. It's a songbook, consisting of poetry, and poetic language is often less exact and more difficult to interpret. And the speaker in the odes sometimes seems to change, even within a single ode, and it's sometimes hard to tell who's doing the speaking. For reasons like those, we have to be more cautious than usual in interpreting the document accordingly.

There are other problems people have with the Odes, partly validly and partly not. There are references to the Holy Spirit in the feminine. But it is a work of poetry, and scripture sometimes applies feminine terminology to God. I wouldn't use the feminine language that's used in some portions of the Odes, but I don't think that language is sufficient grounds for dismissing the document in its entirety. And some people consider the Odes a Gnostic document, though it seems that a consensus of modern scholarship has rejected that conclusion. I agree with that consensus. The Odes doesn't seem like a Gnostic work to me. For a fuller discussion of the document and its material relevant to justification, see Brian Arnold, Justification In The Second Century (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2018), 104-53.

There are many references in the Odes to themes like grace, faith, and redemption. There's nothing about being justified through baptism. There's a lot, however, about themes like justification through faith and the substitutionary nature of Jesus' salvific work. For example:

"The Lord is my hope, I shall not be ashamed of Him. For according to His praise He made me, and according to His grace even so He gave to me. And according to His mercies He exalted me, and according to His great honor He lifted me up. And he caused me to ascend from the depths of Sheol, and from the mouth of death He drew me. And I humbled my enemies, and He justified me by His grace. For I believed in the Lord's Messiah, and considered that He is the Lord." (29)

"Grace has been revealed for your salvation. Believe and live and be saved." (34)

"But I was tranquil in the Lord's legion; more than shade was He to me, and more than foundation. And I was carried like a child by its mother; and He gave me milk, the dew of the Lord. And I was enriched by His favor, and rested in His perfection." (35)

"And he who is afraid shall trust in Him, and redemption shall be assured in Him. And His possessions are immortal life, and those who receive it are incorruptible." (40)

"Then I [Jesus] heard their voice, and placed their faith in my heart. And I placed my name upon their head, because they are free and they are mine." (42)

As I said earlier, you can consult Arnold's book for further details about these and other passages and how they relate to justification.

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