A possible non-Biblical source for Solomon?

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,743
Republika Srpska
I was reading Josephus' Antiquties of the Jews and in the eighth book he mentions that historians Menander and Dius translated Tyrian archives from Phoenician to Greek and Josephus then goes to quote these translations and they mention Solomon, king of Jerusalem. Now, as far as I know, these Tyrian sources are the only possible non-Biblical source that may date from the time of Solomon and that mention Solomon by name. However, after googling for a bit, I found that these historians Menander and Dius are only mentioned by Josephus. So, was Josephus really quoting some lost works and do these translations provide proof of Solomon's existence?
 
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Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,743
Republika Srpska
Relevant quotes:

Menander's translation:
“When Abibalus was dead his son Hiram received the Kingdom from him: who when he had lived fifty three years, reigned thirty four. He raised a bank in the large place, and dedicated the golden pillar which is in Jupiter’s temple. He also went and cut down materials of timber out of the mountain called Libanus, for the roof of temples: and when he had pulled down the ancient temples, he both built the temple of Hercules, and that of Astarte: and he first set up the temple of Hercules in the month Peritius, he also made an expedition against the Euchii [or Titii] who did not pay their tribute: and when he had subdued them to himself he returned. Under this King there was Abdemon, a very youth in age; who always conquered the difficult problems which Solomon King of Jerusalem commanded him to explain.”
Dius' translation:
"When Abibalus was dead, his son Hiram reigned. He raised the eastern parts of the city higher; and made the city it self larger. He also joined the temple of Jupiter, which before stood by it self, to the city, by raising a bank in the middle between them; and he adorned it with donations of gold. Moreover he went up to mount Libanus, and cut down materials of wood for the building of the temples.” He says also, that “Solomon, who was then King of Jerusalem, sent riddles to Hiram; and desired to receive the like from him: but that he who could not solve them should pay money to them that did solve them: and that Hiram accepted the conditions; and when he was not able to solve the riddles, [proposed by Solomon,] he paid a great deal of money for his fine. But that he afterward did solve the proposed riddles by means of Abdemon, a man of Tyre: and that Hiram proposed other riddles; which when Solomon could not solve, he paid back a great deal of money to Hiram.”
Both were quoted in Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, book VIII, Chapter 5, Paragraph 3
 
Nov 2016
1,263
Germany
Solomon, king of Jerusalem
One can assume that the stories about David and Solomon, no different from the reports about Abraham and Mose, are only edification and propaganda literature, albeit on a high narrative level. They are part of Deuteronomistic history (the books of Joshua, Judge, Samuel and Kings) and were written to illustrate the consequences of obedience and disobedience to the laws listed in Deuteronomy (5Mose) using David and Solomon as examples. Solomon, as he is portrayed in the Tanach, is a mythical figure and Jerusalem, according to archaeologists Finkelstein/Silberman, was only a village of 1000 inhabitants in the 10th century BCE. All information about Solomon is either fictitious or, if the myth about him has a true core, greatly exaggerated. The Kings Book claims that he had hundreds of wives and concubines. That would have been the entire population of Jerusalem. And how would a village chief finance this harem?
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,364
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Literary it could be a source, historically there is the problem that Josephus not rarely interpolated. Can we trust him about these two historians? There are arguments in favor as well.

Personally I give to Josephus a bit of credit regarding this mention of the work of other historians.

Today we know that in the age of the Babylonian captivity at Babylon there was a community of Jews [regarding their form of Judaism there is a debate in progress], we know that the Tradition predates the Greek version of the Tanakh [thanks to the letters from Elephantine] and we know that a "House of David" existed ...

It wouldn't be so surprising to realize that also Solomon existed.

But, I repeat, historically the point is questionable.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,364
Italy, Lago Maggiore
One can assume that the stories about David and Solomon, no different from the reports about Abraham and Mose, are only edification and propaganda literature, albeit on a high narrative level. They are part of Deuteronomistic history (the books of Joshua, Judge, Samuel and Kings) and were written to illustrate the consequences of obedience and disobedience to the laws listed in Deuteronomy (5Mose) using David and Solomon as examples. Solomon, as he is portrayed in the Tanach, is a mythical figure and Jerusalem, according to archaeologists Finkelstein/Silberman, was only a village of 1000 inhabitants in the 10th century BCE. All information about Solomon is either fictitious or, if the myth about him has a true core, greatly exaggerated. The Kings Book claims that he had hundreds of wives and concubines. That would have been the entire population of Jerusalem. And how would a village chief finance this harem?
If a Solomon existed in that age, he was probably a chieftain ruling over some less or more fortified settlements. It's just archaeology to make it really doubtful that his Temple was there in that far age. The details we read in the Tanakh are parts of the literary myth, like Solomon himself could be part of the myth ...
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,743
Republika Srpska
One can assume that the stories about David and Solomon, no different from the reports about Abraham and Mose, are only edification and propaganda literature, albeit on a high narrative level. They are part of Deuteronomistic history (the books of Joshua, Judge, Samuel and Kings) and were written to illustrate the consequences of obedience and disobedience to the laws listed in Deuteronomy (5Mose) using David and Solomon as examples. Solomon, as he is portrayed in the Tanach, is a mythical figure and Jerusalem, according to archaeologists Finkelstein/Silberman, was only a village of 1000 inhabitants in the 10th century BCE. All information about Solomon is either fictitious or, if the myth about him has a true core, greatly exaggerated. The Kings Book claims that he had hundreds of wives and concubines. That would have been the entire population of Jerusalem. And how would a village chief finance this harem?
I agree that it is very unlikely that Biblical portrayal of Solomon is true, but that does not neccessarily mean that Solomon was not a real person. There are these two possible non-Biblical sources that Josephus quotes that point to Solomon's existence. However, one thing really makes these possible sources a bit more doubtful: the content. I mean, would an ancient ruler really spend his time exchanging riddles with another ruler? Such stories are more likely to come from oral tradition. But who knows.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,364
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Then, about archaeology, there is the problem that also some archaeologists are "optimistic". Regarding the structures of the city of Solomon, for example, there has been the known case of the wall ...

Nat Geo: King Solomon's Wall Found—Proof of Bible Tale?

And about it ...
Israel Finkelstein, who was not involved in the excavation, agrees that it's possible King Solomon constructed the wall.

But Finkelstein cautioned against leaning too heavily on the Bible to interpret the findings.
 
Nov 2016
1,263
Germany
we know that a "House of David" existed ...
From one single inscription ("Tel Dan tablet"), what unfortunately says nothing about the value of the Biblical reports.

but that does not neccessarily mean that Solomon was not a real person.
As I said:

All information about Solomon is either fictitious or, if the myth about him has a true core, greatly exaggerated.
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,214
Welsh Marches
King David and King Solomon
Led merry, merry lives,
With many, many lady friends
And many, many wives.
But when old age crept over them
With many, many qualms,
King Solomon wrote the Proverbs
And King David wrote the psalms.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,364
Italy, Lago Maggiore
From one single inscription ("Tel Dan tablet"), what unfortunately says nothing about the value of the Biblical reports.



As I said:

All information about Solomon is either fictitious or, if the myth about him has a true core, greatly exaggerated.
I don't consider Sacred Scriptures [the Bible, the Koran, the Gita ...] or collections of traditions [like the Talmud and others] proper historical sources, simply because the purpouse of their authors wasn't to write accurate chronicle. And sure the personages in it have presented according to the literary construction wanted by who wrote and then composed the Tanakh [and later the Gospels].

Here I'm reasoning about a personage called Solomon who is known thanks to the Jewish Tradition. Did he exist for real? Josephus mentions non Biblical sources which seem to prove that he existed. But Josephus was quite used to interpolate when he had interest to do that ...