Sealing the Demons, Once and for All: The Ring of Solomon, the Cross of Christ, and the Power of Biblical Kingship

Ra'Anan Boustan, Michael Beshay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This paper traces the historical development of the tradition that King Solomon made use of a signet-ring to marshal the demons as a labor-force for the construction of the Jerusalem Temple and analyzes the shifting ritual uses to which this tradition was put.We argue that this tradition, which is most fully articulated in the Testament of Solomon, is a Christian innovation of the third and fourth centuries rather than a venerable Jewish tradition with roots in the Second Temple period. This branch of the Solomon tradition first emerged within the context of internal Christian debates of the third century concerning proper baptismal practice, where the power of baptism to provide protection from the demons was linked to debates concerning the efficacy of Solomon's act of sealing the demons in the temple. In the post-Constantinian period, the ring of Solomon was venerated by pilgrims to Jerusalem as a "relic" of Israelite kingship alongside the True Cross. Like certain strands of the Testament of Solomon literature, the pilgrimage practices performed at this potent site figure Christ's victory on the cross as the fulfillment-once and for all-of Solomon's only provisional mastery over the demons. In this context, Solomon's ring gave concrete expression to Christian claims on the Old Testament past, while also mediating between imperial and ecclesiastical power.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-129
Number of pages31
JournalArchiv fur Religionsgeschichte
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 13 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies


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