According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Embracing the Dark Side of Doubt & Uncertainty




Not many years ago I spent nearly a year held within the black landscapes of doubt and uncertainty. My soul was troubled unlike anything I had ever experienced before and it drove me towards shattering my past before I was allowed to reform/reframe my future. Most curiously was the journey itself in that I didn't mind being in this troubling stage of destruction. I knew it needed to be done. And it needed to be quite thorough. But nor did I go on a "binger" and freak out during this time. I still was a husband and a dad and worker and lay minister with community responsibilities. But underneath to the observing eye there were dark waters and warring storms crashing across my soul.

Worse still was this strong feeling of God's absence. How ironic I thought! How could that be? Because even though there was this deep sense of abandonment of God's Spirit still I knew God was there. Hearing my laments. Knowing the troubles demanding my soul. But perhaps this was Job's experience too. Or, the Psalmist David's. Or really, any of those prophets of the bible who needed to be stretched out and laid bare before God from all the beggardly conformities of this tempestuous life.

Shattered

And so I tarried in this dark land of shattered dreams, unknowing, and personal removal. What I was ,and where I was, before this occurred turned significantly afterwards to what, and where, I am now, today. It was unplanned. It was deeply surprising and unnerving. But it was also necessary. And it wasn't a place I wanted to leave or abandon while going through this dark, soul-searching time. Why? For some reason it dawned upon me that God needed to have His way with me during this time and that I shouldn't quit it lest it be undone or incomplete. And so I stayed and waited for a redemption to come in the days of my reforming.

I knew too that my God would never leave me. But as well that I must fundamentally leave my past to follow Him. And so, it was a spiritually dark time. Nearly oppressive in many ways. And without anyone who would or could help though I tried to speak of my travail several times to unhearing ears. Still, there was silence. From God. And from man. But as this darkness persisted through most of a year I began to hear the Spirit's words in my heart and my mind more plainly than I had ever heard Him before. More surprisingly was the movement of God's Spirit upon me to write of Him in fundamentally new ways that freed my soul to do the task laid out before me; and later would go on to bless many others seeking healing, inspiration, or reconstitution.


And lest you think this is a rare occurrence let me share a video below which gives but a small glimpse of the agony a believer can go through when pressed of God into a new service, a new change of living, a new burden. But know also we are never forsaken of God though it feels for a time we are. Mine lasted most of a year. Now that is a long time. And certainly it was troubling to my soul. Foundationally troubling. Here was were doubt and uncertainly lived. Lands I had previously embraced, but now in fundamentally new ways of acceptance (and joy). Even so, though I felt abandoned by God I knew God was with me as He is with all of us at all times though we feel it not at times in life. At least that was my experience knowing God's assurance never left me even though heaven's brass ceilings echoed my laments back only to myself with no one - not even the Divine - seemingly hearing.

But morning eventually came and when it did I then understood the value of God's silence. For it was in the wilderness of my despair that He ministered to me across a land of hard rocks and desert heats. Through anguishingly empty spaces and formidable obstacles I would encounter in my (unwanted) journey into the divine whose fire burned all that remained within me. And it was there that faith returned and grew strong again in the bad lands of evil and lostness. That a divine compass was re-ignited to guide me again. That nourishing manna was provided to heal the soul. And cold waters would flow from the fissures of the earth opening up in their time.


And so it was enough. And the long days of despair in wilderness living were left behind and in its place, as I looked back, were discovered scattered memorials to God's faithfulness supplying His grace and wisdom in the desert places of my soul though I saw it not at the time. And with it a new direction that might guide me through the end of my days. And perhaps guide a host of other penitents living out their own wretched miseries and afflictions like as I. At least this is my prayer of healing restoration to the ones who weep in the night seeking guidance upon their knees. Whose speak words of lament to questions, angers, or disappointments without answer heard only upon the blowing wind. But know this, there is a mighty wind of the Spirit who bears and hears all who blows across the desperate reaches of our soul.

R.E. Slater
July 20, 2016


Doubt is Real - I Pray This Blesses Someone in Jesus name
Artist: @ChristianRapz
Category: Christian Hip Hop





Not knowing but moving forward













The Agnosticism of Wonder






The Sibylline Oracles of the Pseudepigrapha


Introduction to the Sibylline Literature
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/19/introduction-to-the-sibylline-literature/

by Phillip J. Long
July 19, 2016

The genre of the Sibylline Oracle is well known in the ancient world. The Sibyl is always an elderly woman who delivers strange sayings as if from the gods. Ovid tells the story of a woman who asked Apollo to live as many years as there are sands on the seashore. The wish was granted, but she did not ask the god to keep her from aging, so she is forced to live as a shriveled old hag. Various cultures have versions of this story – the Jewish legend calls her Sabbe or Sambethe and made her a daughter of Noah (Collins, OTP 1:317-38)

Erythraean Sibyl, Michelangelo
There were many sibyls by the fourth century B.C., but by the first century B.C. the most important was the Roman Sibyl. Her sayings were kept in Rome and consulted in times of crisis. These books were destroyed in 83 B.C. when the temple of Jupiter was burned. When it was rebuilt in 76 B.C., sibylline books from all over the empire were brought to Rome to be housed at the temple. Roman sibylline texts were filled with omens and prodigies, so too the Jewish oracles.

When something strange happened, the Oracles were scoured to give potential meaning to the event. The books could function as propaganda since a king could confirm his action by pointing to an arcane sibylline line which “predicted” his birth or some other key event. The obscurity of these works made them easy to manipulate and fabricate (Cicero, De divinatione 2.54.110; Plutarch, De pythiis oraculis, 25, cited by Collins 1:320, note 38). Eventually Augustus destroyed thousands of Roman oracles because he considered them politically subversive (Collins, OTP 1:320, citing Suetonius,Augustus 31.1.

The collection of oracles titled Sibylline Oracles in most collections of the pseudepigrapha are Jewish or Christian creations which mimic the style of Roman oracles in order to provide some additional validity to Jewish (or Christian) worldviewsThese Sibylline Oracles are not single work from any one time. They range from Jewish works of the first century to late Christian theologies. To complicate matters, there are Christian interpolations into some of the Jewish oracles. This is a real problem for using this material: what is (early) Jewish as opposed to (later) Christian?

Sometimes this is obvious since the writer is clearly referring to Jesus Christ. For example, in the eighth oracle, lines 217-250 “an acrostic poem that spells out with the initials of each line the words Iēsous Christos Theou Huios Sōtēr Stauros, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, Cross.” As Collins points out, the first five of these letters spell Ichthus, “fish,” a famous Christian cryptogram (OTP 1:416).

Other times it is possible we may have a vague reference to a messianic figure or the messianic age which could be either Jewish or Christian. For example, in Oracle 3, some elements seem Jewish, such as lines 573-75, “There will again be a sacred race of pious men who attend to the counsels and intention of the Most High, who fully honor the temple of the great God.” But a few lines later there is a description of a restored kingdom which sounds like Christian descriptions of a millennium: “And then God will give great joy to men, for earth and trees and countless flocks of sheep will give to men the true fruit of wine, sweet honey and white milk and corn, which is best of all for mortals (3.-619-622).

Many times these “either/or” sections are not important (praise of God, for example), but in eschatological contexts it is very difficult to tell the Jewish from the Christian. This is the case because early Christian eschatology is very similar to Jewish eschatology since both developed out of the Hebrew Bible.


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Dating the Sibylline Oracles, Books 1-3
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/20/dating-the-sibylline-oracles-books-1-3/

by Phillip J. Long
July 20, 2016

Because the “books” of the Sibylline Oracles are from different periods it is necessary to briefly note the date and provenance for each. See this post for oracles 4-7this post for oracles 8-14.

Sibylline Oracles Books 1-2. The first two books of the Sibylline Oracles form a unit. Lines 1-323 are a Jewish oracle which begin to recount the “ten generations” of human history. The first seven periods are covered in this section, but lines 324-400 are clearly Christian. After a brief transition in 2.1-5, 2.6-33 finished the “ten generations” theme. The eighth and ninth generations are missing; Book 2 picks up with the tenth generation. SibOr 2.34-347 describes eschatological crisis and judgment. It is Jewish, but there are a number of lines which are Christian interpolations, especially in lines 45-264. The Jewish section of the book has been dated from 30 B.C. to A.D. 250 based on the dominance of Rome in the textThere is no reference to the fall of Jerusalem nor the Nero Myth (a frequent motif in later oracles.) Collins concludes that the Jewish sections date to pre-70, while the Christian interpolations date after 70, but no later than A.D. 150. There are numerous parallels between the second and eighth oraclesimplying some literary dependence (which, assuming oracle eight used the second, implies the second was written first.) The Jewish section probably comes from Phrygia based on the reference in 1.196-198 to the ark landing in that country.

Sibylline Oracles Book 3Lines 1-96 are probably a conclusion to another book. Lines 97-349, 489-829 are the “main book,” with an “Oracles against the nations” section inserted in 350-488. The main section expects God to intervene during the reign of the seventh king of Egypt (lines 193, 318, 608). The mostly likely candidates for the seventh king are Philometor (186-164, 163-145 B.C.), Neos Philopater (145-144 B.C.) and Physcon / Euergetes II (170-164, 164-163, 144-117 B.C.). Collins cites Valentin Nikiprowetzky, La Troisiéme Sibylle, (Paris: Mouton, 1970) as arguing the seventh king is Cleopatra VII (Athens, 85). As can be observed from the dates of these three kings, there are some co-regencies which complicate the chronology. Collins dates the book to 163-145 B.C. based on the prominence of Rome after 175 B.C. The book is definitely written after the battle of Magnesia, 190 B.C., (OTP 1:355).

This view has been challenged, however, by Rieuwerd Buitenwerf. He points out the numbering of Ptolemaic kings did not exist in antiquity. They were identified by “title.” The number seven is used three times in the context of the prediction of a seventh king, all figuratively according to Buitenwerf (cf. Erich Gruen, Heritage and Hellenism [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998], 277). The writer of the oracle can only be said to believe that Roman rule will end when an Asian king conquers Egypt, signaling the appointed time for God to intervene in history. Therefore, the historical seventh king in the Ptolemaic dynasty does not matter for dating the book. Although he accepts the number seven may have been chose as an ideal number, Collins disagrees that the seventh king has no bearing on the date. The prediction of God’s intervention when the seventh king reigns is meaningless if it is known there have been more than seven kings (Collins,Athens, 83-84, interacting with Erich Gruen).

Buitenwerf points out there is no hint of a Roman invasion of Palestine nor an end to the Ptolemy dynasty, therefore the book must be written some time before Actium, 31 B.C. He finds confirmation for this date in the paraphrase of Book 3 of the Sibylline Oracles by Alexander Polyhistor on the tower of Babel. His citation of lines 3.91-107 are preserved in Eusebius’ Chronica and Josephus’ Antiq. 1.118-119, although Josephus probably also used Polyhistor. Polyhistor began to write about 880 B.C. and died about 40 B.C.

Collins believes the main section of the book to be pro-Ptolemaic and therefore argues the book is the product of a diaspora Jew living in Egypt. This too has been challenged by Buitenwerf, calling the evidence for an Egyptian origin “extremely meager” (Buitenwerf, 131). He considers Collins’ evidence of a pro-Ptolemaic author as saying nothing of the sort and considers the topographical details as a reflection of “general education” (Buitenwerf, 132). He argues for an Asian origin for the book based on the frequent mention of Asian locations and (more importantly), the prediction that an Asian king will invade Egypt. Lines 367-380 predicted this Asian king will usher in a time of bliss for Egypt, then again in lines 601-623 an Asian king invades and God intervenes in the world. The prophetess identifies herself as the Erythraean Sibyl, a very famous Asian prophetess. He concludes the author was a Jewish inhabitant of the Roman province of Asia. Collins agrees the “oracles against the nations” need to be dated a bit later, likely before the battle of Actium in 31 B.C., but the main section of the book, in Collins opinion, is earlier (Compendia rerum Iudaicarum 368-369). These are “gentile oracles” included to bring book three up to date and add to the sibylline flavor.

The first section is different from the rest of the book and is to be dated at least after Actium (line 46 seems to refer to the second Triumvirate.) Lines 75-92 refer to Cleopatra. Lines 63-92 are the most difficult to date, and ought to be considered separately from the rest of the introduction since they refer to the coming of Beliar. This looks like a Christian interpolation. The identity of Beliar may be Simon Magus as an anti-messiah, who was from Samaria (Herod’s renamed Samaria “Sebaste” in honor of Augustus in 25 B.C.)

A second and more likely possibility is the phrase describing Beliar ek Sebasttenon means “from the line of Augustus,” making Beliar Nero. This is in keeping with the Nero Myth and the common association of the return of Nero with an end-time villain. If the second option is accepted, then the date must be after A.D. 70 (when the Nero myth began to circulate), possibly laterThe use of the Nero Myth in Revelation 13 is a bit controversial since most scholars date Revelation to the mid 90’s A.D. This would mean the Nero Myth was still common knowledge nearly 30 years after his death.


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Dating the Sibylline Oracles, Books 4-7
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/21/dating-the-sibylline-oracles-books-4-7/

by Phillip J. Long
July 21, 2016

Because the “books” of the Sibylline Oracles are from different periods it is necessary to briefly note the date and provenance for each. See this post for oracles 1-3this post for oracles 8-14.

Sibylline Oracles Book 4. Collins describes this book as a “political oracle from the Hellenistic age updated by a Jew in the late first century A.D.” (OTP 1:381. In Compendia rerum Iudaicarum 363, Collins says lines 49-401 are “substantially older”, probably the oldest in the Sibylline Oracles. It has been re-worked at a later date to include Rome and a prediction of the downfall of Rome). The earliest layer is quite early since there are no clear references to historical events after the time of Alexander the Great nor to the rise of Rome. It seems anti-Macedonian since Alexander does not bring in the golden age. The redaction “updates” the text sometime after A.D. 80. For example, line 116 refers to the destruction of the temple; lines 119-124, 138-139 refer to the Nero Myth, and 130-135 refer to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius (A.D. 79). Collins speculates the text was used in a Jewish baptizing context, such as the Ebionites or Elcasaites due to the emphasis on baptism as a requirement for salvation and a rejection of temple worship (line 383).

Sibylline Oracles Book 5This book cannot be dated earlier than 70 because of the numerous references to the Nero Myth in all but the very first section, but not much later than 80. The first section has favorable comments about Hadrian, which Collins uses to argue for a date for the first section prior to the Bar Kokhba rebellion of 132 (OTP 1:391). There are a number of references to destroying pagan temples, possibly a reference to the Jewish Diaspora revolt of A.D. 115. That the book originated in Egypt is clear from line 53 (the Sibyl is a friend of Isis) and the interest in Cleopatra found throughout the book. Collins comments that despite the similarities to Sibylline 3, the eschatological perspective is quite different.

Sibylline Oracles Book 6. This short 28 line text is clearly a Christian “hymn to Christ” (OTP 1:406). There is no Jewish or pagan elements to the book, and very little to help date it either. The latest date is fixed since it is used by Lactantius about A.D. 300, but an earlier date is impossible to determine. Since the book has an interest in baptism and the Jordan River, some suggest an Ebionite origin, but Collins dismisses this as unlikely (OTP 1:406).

Sibylline Oracles Book 7Collins describes the seventh books as “disorderly” and “loosely structured” (OTP 1:408). It appears to be entirely Christian, any Jewish elements are not distinctly so. The book is also used by Lactantius; a date in the second century is commonly given for the bookThe origin of the book is also difficult to trace, Collins suggests Syria because of a slight interest in the region and in the baptism of Christ (OTP 1:408).


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Dating the Sibylline Oracles, Books 8-14
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/22/dating-the-sibylline-oracles-books-8-14/

by Phillip J. Long
July 22, 2016

Because the “books” of the Sibylline Oracles are from different periods it is necessary to briefly note the date and provenance for each. See this post for oracles 1-3this post for oracles 4-7.

Sibylline Oracles Book 8The eighth oracle is a composite of two works. The first half of the book (lines 1-216) has been described as entirely Christian (Geffcken) or Jewish (Rzach), although it is probably best to see the section as a Christian redaction of a primarily Jewish work, probably under the influence of the book of Revelation (OTP 1:415-416). The first half can be dated during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (d. 180) since line 148 appears to predict Nero’s return in the reign of Aurelius (year 948 of Rome.) The second half of the book (217-500) appears Christian, possibly relying on the Christian section of Sibylline Oracles 2 (OTP 1:416). Lactantius used the second half of the book extensively, but there is nothing in the section to help fix a date prior to A.D. 300.

Sibylline Oracles Book 11-12. The last four of the sibylline books form a unit since they are a continuous outline of history. The later books appear to have appended to bring the outline of history “up-to-date.” Book eleven may end at the death of Cleopatra, although this is a challenged point (Compendia rerum Iudaicarum, 375-376, OTP 1:431-432). A date of the “turn of the era” is the best, but there is no doubt in Collins mind the book comes from Egypt because of the prominence of Cleopatra. If books 11 and 12 form a continuous unit, then the date needs to be pushed back to the third century since the book ends with Alexander Severeus (A.D. 218-235).

Sibylline Oracles Book 13. The beginning of this book appears lost since the history resumes with Gordianus (A.D. 240-244). Since it ends without mentioned the death of Odenath of Palmyra, the book is to be dated “with confidence” to A.D. 265 (Odenath took the title “king” when Valerian I was captured, Collins OTP1:458, note d2). Like the previous two books, it was likely written from Alexandria, Egypt. The book has very little theological content, making a decision on Jewish / Christian authorship impossible.

Sibylline Oracles Book 14. This last oracle is described by Collins as a reductio ad absurdum for the whole sibylline genre. He cites Geffcken’s assessment: the writer was “a Phantast . . . an ignoramus who knew nothing except names of people, countries and cities, and arbitrarily mixes them . . .” (OTP 459; Note 7 references Boussett in Real-Encyclopedia who assumes the work is Christian without arguing the case).

The book probably comes from the seventh century, written by an Alexandrian Jew with no hint of Christian redactions. W. Scott thought the book referred to the Arab conquest of Egypt, placing the date in the seventh century (W. Scott, “The Last Sibylline Oracle” Classical Quarterly 9 (1915), 144-166; 207-228, 10 (1916) 7-16).

Sibylline Fragments. Collins lists eight fragments of oracles which are found in Theophilus Ad Autolcycum 2.36 (fragment 1, 3) and 2.3 (fragment 2). Lactantius has fragments 4-7 and fragment 8 is referenced in Constantine’s “Speech to the Saints” The authenticity of the Theophilus fragments has been doubted. Geffcken thought Theophilus forged them himself (OTP 1:467).


[End of Sybilline Oracles]



Phillip J. Long - Discussion of 3 Enoch

What is 3 Enoch?
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/12/what-is-3-enoch/

by Phillip J. Long
July 12, 2016

While the book is attributed to the rabbi Ishmael, who died before the Bar Kokhba revolt, Alexander dates the book to the fifth or sixth century A.D. (Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 223). Odeberg thought the earliest stratum of the text dated to the first century, although the main body of the text was third century. Christopher Rowland described 3 Enoch is described as “a solitary example of the extravagant Enochic speculation preserved in the Jewish tradition” (DDD, 303) As Alexander summarizes: “3 Enoch contains some very old traditions and stands in direct line with developments which had already begun in the Maccabean era, a date for its final redaction in the fifth or sixth century A.D. cannot be far from the truth” (“3 Enoch,” 228). Milik dated the book very late, to the ninth or tenth century. This date is based his belief 3 Enoch was dependent on 2 Enoch, which he dated to the same period. For a bibliography on 3 Enoch, see Andrei A. Orlov, From Apocalypticism to Merkabah Mysticism: Studies in the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 59-63.

The importance of 3 Enoch is for the study of Jewish mysticism, especially merkabah mysticism. Merkabah mysticism is based on the throne vision of Ezekiel 1-3. A mystic is “caught up” into heaven and receives a vision of the wonders of heaven, the throne of God and the chariot of his glory. The visions are usually filled with fantastic descriptions of angelic beings. This is a very difficult area of study because sources are esoteric and often limited because the visions were secret. The Talmud considered these so esoteric they were not to be discussed (P. Alexander, “Third Enoch” in ABD 2:523).

3 Enoch may be important for the background to the Jewish mysticism in the Colossian heresy. Fred Francis argued the Colossian church was influenced by the merkabah mysticism of early Judaism. This mystical form of Judaism stressed visions (especially visions of the throne room of God.) Because of the obvious connection to the descriptions of the false teachers in the letter, this view has gained a great deal of attention of late.

A second possible New Testament connection to merkabah mysticism is Paul’s vision in 2 Corinthians 12:1-7. In this text Paul describes being “caught up to the third heaven,” language quite familiar to the reader of the Enoch literature. He says he entered paradise and learned secrets he cannot relate. There are any number of problems interpreting the section in 2 Corinthians (for example, when was this vision? What was the point of the vision for his ministry? Was Paul the subject of the vision himself? Is “I knew a man” an ambiguous self-reference?) Merkabah visionary experiences may provide some context for Paul’s experience, but it will be difficult to argue Paul’s vision is the same as the later merkabah visionaries.

The book of Revelation contains elements of merkabah mysticism in chapter 4-5, but there are a number of differences which set the Apocalypse apart from the later mystical texts especially with regard to the throne of God itself. But as David Aune points out, 2 Corinthians 12 and Revelation 4 are the only reports of these sorts of visions in all of early Christianity or Judaism (Aune, Revelation 1-5:14, 276-279). In Revelation, John is caught up into heaven, but he does not pass through stages or layers of heaven. He sees a variety of angelic / heavenly beings, although they are not described in the detail found in 3 Enoch or other any other intertestamental text. It is possible we can think of Revelation 4-5 as an “early”merkabah vision, while 3 Enoch represents a more fully developed form with the stock elements greatly expanded.


Bibliography:

3 Enoch: Alexander, P. S. “3 Enoch” in OTP 1:223-254; “The Historical Setting of the Hebrew Book of Enoch,” JJS 28 (1977) 156-180. Christopher Rowland, “Enoch” in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible. (in K. V. D. Toorn, B. Becking, and P. W. Horst, P., eds. 2nd rev. ed.; Leiden: Brill, 1999).

Merkabah Mysticism: G. G. Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition (New York, 1960); David Flusser, “Scholem’s Recent Book on Merkabah Literature,”`JJS 11 (1961). Ithamar Gruenwald, Apocalyptic and Merkavah Mysticism (AGJU 14; Leiden: Brill, 1980).

Colossians and Merkabah mysticism: Fred Francis, “Humility and Angel Worship in Col 2:18,” pages 163-195 in Conflict at Colossae (F. O. Francis and W. A. Meeks, eds.; Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1975). F. F. Bruce argued the heresy is non-traditional Judaism, likely influenced by merkabah mysticism. F. F. Bruce, “The Colossian Heresy,” BibSac 141 (1984):195-208; H. Wayne House, “Heresies in the Colossian Church” BibSac 149 (1992) 45-59; Clint Arnold, The Colossian Syncretism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1996) 95-100.

Paul and Merkabah mysticism: “There are definite links from the language and ideas of these Jewish texts from Second Temples times and the testimony of Paul to and the Tannaitic and Amoraic Merkabah (and later Hekhalot) traditions….” James D. Tabor, “Heaven, Ascent To” in ABD 3:91-94; Brad H. Young, “The Ascension Motif of 2 Corinthians 12 in Jewish, Christian and Gnostic Texts” GTJ 9:1 (Spr 88) 73-103; J. Bowker, “‘Merkabah’ Visions and the Visions of Paul,” JSS 16 (1971): 157-173; P. Schäfer, “New Testament and Hekhalot Literature: The Journey into Heaven in Paul and in Merkavah Mysticism,” JJS 35 (1984): 19-35.


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Who is the Angel Metatron?
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/13/who-is-the-angel-metatron/

by Phillip J. Long
July 13, 2016

3 Enoch explains how the Rabbi Ishmael journeyed into heaven and saw God’s throne and chariot guided by the archangel Metatron. The general form is a report of a vision and an explanation of elements of the vision by Metatron. Since this angelic being is not mentioned by name in the Hebrew Bible, so it is important to understand who Metatron was in the post-biblical traditions.

Metatron becomes one of the greatest angels in the Jewish mystical literature, as close to a “son of God” as one gets in this literature. He is “God’s vizier and plenipotentiary” and is sometimes called a “little Yahweh” (R. S. Anderson, “Son of God” in ISBE Revised, 4:572; cf., Hengel, Son of God, 46). 3 Enoch 25:1 says Metatron’s name is “ʾOpanniʾel YHWH.” Because of his righteousness, Metatron is “installed as God’s vice regent and is given authority over all the angels” (3 Enoch 4:3-5 and 10:3-6; Grindheim, 146).

In 3 Enoch 12:5, Metatron is called the prince of the ophanim (אוֹפַנִּימ), a kind of angelic being based on Ezek 1:15. The Hebrew word אוֹפַן refers to a wheel and Anderson points out that although 4QŠirŠabb uses ophanim for literal wheels, but the word refers to a “class of angels in 1En 61:10; 71:7; 2En 29:3” (OTP 1:279, note g).

3 Enoch 12:5 Why is his name called ʾOpanniʾel? Because he is appointed to tend the ophanim, and the ophanim are entrusted to his keeping. Every day he stands over them and tends them and beautifies them: he praises and arranges their running; he polishes their platforms; he adorns their compartments; he makes their turnings smooth, and cleans their seats. Early and late, day and night, he tends them, so as to increase their beauty, to magnify their majesty, and to make them swift in the praise of their Creator. (Anderson, OTP1:279–280.

Metatron is far more spectacular than the angels in Exekiel 2. He has “He has sixteen faces, four on each side, and 100 wings on each side. He has 8,766 eyes, corresponding to the number of hours in a year, 2,191 on each side” (25:2). Like God, Metatron has seventy names (3 Enoch 45D:5), he rules the angels in God’s name (10:5) and represents God’s authority when he judges. Metatron “assigned greatness, royalty, rank, sovereignty, glory, praise, diadem, crown, and honor to all the princes of kingdoms, when I sat in the heavenly court” (16:1).

Since 3 Enoch describes Metatron in such exalted terms, some popular writers have tried to see this angelic being as a Jesus-like figure who sits on God’s throne and rules on behalf of God. As Sigurd Grindheim states clearly, “Metatron is not portrayed with an authority of his own that matches the authority of God. He does not act as God acts, but he is consistently on the receiving end of God’s actions” (147). In fact, Grindheim points out that 3 Enoch warns against making too much of Metatron’s power: When ʾAher sees Metatron on the throne, he declares “there are indeed two powers in heaven” (16:3). A divine voice censures ʾAher and he is not allowed to return to God and Metatron himself is punished with “sixty lashes of fire.” Metatron is therefore not an object of worship and according to 3 Enoch, those who think he might worthy of worship are in serious danger.

Metatron is a very powerful angel in this literature, but he is not divine and certainly not to be worshiped as God. There is no reason to think this being actually exists and even less reason to seek out hidden, mystical knowledge based on these texts in 3 Enoch.

Bibliography: Sigurd Grindheim, God’s Equal: What Can We Know about Jesus’ Self-Understanding? (LNTS 446; London: T&T Clark, 2011).


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Angelic Beings in 3 Enoch
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/14/angelic-beings-in-3-enoch/

by Phillip J. Long
July 14, 2016

The book has a higher view of the man Enoch than the previous Enoch pseudepigrapha. We learn in chapter 4 the angel Metatron is actually Enoch himself, having been elevated by God himself to the level of an angel (6:1-2). Enoch is described as the “choicest of all” and worth all of the rest of humans in righteousness. He is brought up to heaven in the Shekinah glory of God and brought into the divine presence itself (chapter 7). He is blessed with 1,365,000 blessings, his body is enlarged and he is given 72 wings, each wing is large enough to cover the whole world, and he is given 365,000 eyes each like the Great Light (the sun, chapter 9). The number 365 repeats throughout the book in a variety of forms (hundreds, thousands, etc.)

This is based on Enoch’s age when taken into heaven, and probably reflects the 365-day calendar theme from the early Enoch literature. Enoch is given a throne in glory at the door of the seventh palace and the Lord commanded that all should obey him (chapter 10). Enoch was given a name (“little Yahweh”), a robe and a crown (chapter 12-13). This crown is inscribed with “the letters by which heaven was created.”

All of the angels worshiped him, and their names are listed in 14:4 along with their responsibility in the order of creation. He is finally transformed into fire (chapter 15). In Chapter 16 Metatron is dethroned, but this is likely a secondary addition since it is entirely out of place in the context of the glorification of Enoch. (OTP 1:268, note a).

In chapters 17-40 there is a detailed listing of the names and responsibilities of the angels and other personnel in heaven. This material goes far beyond the biblical teaching on angels. There is a mind-boggling level of complexity for the hierarchy of the angelic beings! The seven honored princes of heaven are listed as Michael, Gabriel, Šatqiʾel, Šaḥaqiʾel, Baradiʾel, Baraqiʾel, and Sidriʾel; each are attended by 496,000 myriads of ministering angels. In addition to these are several princes in charge of “special angels.” These are all described like the angelic beings in the Hebrew Bible, majestic and powerful and unimaginably huge: The height of ʾOpanniʾel’s body is “a journey of 2,500 years.”

  • The princes of the “wheels” (the throne-chariot from Ezekiel), Rikbiʾel YHWH, “the great and terrible Prince.”
  • The prince of the holy creatures (the four-faced creatures from Ezekiel), Ḥayliʾel YHWH. The holy creatures are described in chapter 21 and they are far more amazing than Ezekiel 1. Each of their four wings covers the whole world, that their faces are crowned with 2000 crowns, each like a rainbow.
  • The prince of the cherubim, Kerubiʾel YHWH. This angel is described in terms similar to the angelic being in Daniel 10.
  • The prince of the ophanim, ʾOpanniʾel YHWH. This angel has 16 faces, and has 8,766 eyes, corresponding to the number of hours in a year.
  • The prince of the seraphim, Śerapiʾel. This creature wears a crown with the name “Prince of Peace.”
  • The heavenly archivist, Radweriʾel YHWH. This being has a sealed scroll box containing heavenly records.

Chapters 29-40 describe the Watchers and other angelic beings in a “heavenly law court.” These scenes contain the typical rivers of fire, thundering voices and earthquakes. Like the overly fantastic sizes of the angels, the numbers of the angels in this section are innumerable: 496,000 myriads of camps of angels with 496,000 angels in each camp (someone else can do the math!) There are seven rivers of fire 365,000 parasangs long (about 1,360,802 miles each), and they are 248,000 myriads of parasangs deep.

All of these overwhelming descriptions overwhelm the reader with the unimaginable greatness of heaven and the heavenly creatures. Although much of the imagery is drawn from the Hebrew Bible (especially Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1-3, and Daniel 10), the book multiplies these descriptions to infinity and beyond.


* * * * * * * * *


3 Enoch and the Cosmic Secrets
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/18/3-enoch-and-the-cosmic-secrets/

by Phillip J. Long
July 18, 2016

The final section of 3 Enoch contains several heavenly features in a somewhat random order. Metatron reveals these “secrets of the cosmos.”


  • Chapter 41 describes the letters by which the world was created. These letters are not identified in this section, but in chapter 44 the letters of the Torah are specifically mentioned so it is not unlikely the letters that created the universe are the Hebrew letters of the Torah.
  • Chapter 42 describes the raqia’, the firmament of Genesis 1 and the power of the name of God, who is an everlasting rock and everlasting fire.
  • Chapter 43 describes a storehouse of souls of the righteous. Some of these souls have returned and others have not yet been created.
  • Chapter 44 describes the wicked in Sheol and lists the angels in charge of the place as well as the souls of the patriarchs who pray before the Holy One. Souls are brought “to punish them with fire in Gehinnom, with rods of burning coal” (v. 3). There is a hint at purgatory in this section, since these tortured souls “are tainted until purified of their iniquity by fire.”
  • Chapter 45 describes the “curtain of the Omnipresent One.” On this curtain are printed each generation of the world, which are listed from Adam until the time of the Messiah. There appear to be two messiahs here, one who is the son of Joseph and one who is the son of David (verse 5). There are a number of potential rabbinical sources for the “nebulous figure” of the first messiah, son of Joseph, as a forerunner of the Davidic messiah (OTP 1:298 note t).
  • Chapter 46 describes the “the spirits of the stars” which live in the raqia’. The section specifically quotes Psalm 147:4 (God counts and names all of the stars) and Psalm 19:1 (the heavens declare the glory of God), and there are allusions to several other texts from the Hebrew Bible.
  • Chapter 47 describes the ministering angels who are punished by the fiery coals whenever they “do not recite the song at the right time or in a proper and fitting manner.”

Chapter 48A is the most eschatological section in the book. This chapter describes the right hand of God which created the 955 heavens. This right hand is “banished behind him” because of the destruction of the Temple. When it weeps five rivers flow out of it and split the earth in five ways, five times. When the Lord reveals his arm to the world, Israel will be saved from the Gentiles (verses 9-10). This re-gathering of Israel is described as a banquet and even the gentiles will share in this eschatological with Israel and the Messiah. This final eschatological statement may also allude to the banquet on Zion in Isaiah 25:6-8, but this is not as clear as Isaiah 66:20.

3 Enoch concludes by drawing together Isa 52:10, Deut 32:12 and Zech 14:9 to show the Lord will rule over the whole world, both Jew and Gentile. If the 3 Enoch is the product of a ninth century Christian monk, it is strange that Israel would have first place in the kingdom since by this point Israel has been theologically replaced by the Church as God’s people and eschatology such as this played down or allegorized. This eschatological conclusion seems to imply an early tradition present in 3 Enoch, although it is impossible to know how old this tradition is.


[End of 3 Enoch]



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

R.E. Slater - Radical Reflections on God, Faith, and the Bible




I hear too many Christians say that God's Spirit has left this world. I hear too many Christians looking forward to Jesus's coming in militaristic power and authoritarian judgment. But the doctrine of insistence says God has never left this world. That His Spirit has doubled-down in His death on the Cross. That His resurrection was not so simply b-a-c-k to heaven but into the very sub-structures of this world and into humanity's desperate plights. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit in this world is now more evident than ever despite what we preferred to see of its evils and atrocities. There is a global resistance to evil even as evil continues it's strife against mankind. The doctrine of insistence says God's Spirit and presence will persist against evil and that He will be all that He is becoming. Even so Lord, become all that you must be in our midst.

R.E. Slater
July 17, 2016

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The emerging God is the evolving God. God's manifestations unfold in human
understanding through time, marking territory along the way. This is highly
noticeable in the biblical text, which can be referred to as an evolving story,
where the Creator speaks, the Crucified and Risen One takes center stage, and
then the Spirit signs us towards a destiny with God, which will someday be
fully realized.

- Reflections for the Week of July 18 by Living Spirituality


I can fully agree with the above reflection in the process sense and in the evolving (non-inerrant) bible sense.

Both God Himself, along with our understanding of God, is evolving through time and history - as would be natural as societies develop and God's experience evolves in relation to mankind's societal evolution.

As examples, when reading Israel's tribal laws from Leviticus or the Deuteronmic legal code it feels like we're reading Sharia (Islamic) law more concerned with cultural/community purity than love or compassion. But when Jesus comes along many, many generations later to reinterpret these sections the religious crowd doesn't like it. Nor did Paul who persecuted Christians for years before coming to the Jesus view of scriptures.

What this means is that we are allowed as we grow older to change our minds and attitudes from those early Sunday school days of youth and instruction as we gain maturity and wisdom. That it's not enough to "know" the Bible from a religious sense but to understand it from a contemporary  (Jesus) perspective. That our understanding of the bible changes with societies and their evolvement with one another.

As another contemporary example, to accept evolution should be more helpful than it present is to Christians too easily upset in their faith and traditions when considering this science (sic, cf. Christian anti-science proponents such as Ken Hamm et al).

Or, to understand that biblical passages do fall in the literary genre of narrative story telling should be a helpful observation rather than the need to legalistically codify biblical passages into strict doctrines of belief (the genre of biblical myths and legends versus literalistic interpretation).

By these examples we can see that a faith maturity requires energy and work and sometimes, if not many times, failure, doubt, uncertainty, disappointment, suffering, and intense struggle. Without these blessings-in-disguise God and His Word will never make sense to us. Nor can we evolve and mature in our religious thinking as contemporary witnesses to God's majesty and glory. Rather, we miss God completely within our traditions requiring a Jesus-figure to come along and point out to us that "there is another way of hearing and understanding God."

R.E. Slater
July 18, 2016

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“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way
through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that
democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

- Issac Asimov


I've said before and will say again, "Ignorance, though blissful, is always illusionary." 

Especially in a Christian culture more willing to believe what it believes than to critically examine those beliefs perpetuating ignorance and myth.

Harsh? Yes.

True? Yes as well.

And don't suppose apology is the answer to critical thinking. It isn't. It is a defensive response to rebutting proper criticism in order to comfort the supporters wishing to continue in errant beliefs. 

Thus the dissonance of the world with the church and the church's banal belief it is always being persecuted for its beliefs.

Or for falsely believing God's Spirit is abandoning the world as He prepares it for judgment when in fact He is abandoning the church for its harshness and uncompassionate religious zeal.

So to listen to church folk trying to reinforce their religious beliefs is quite problematic in a scientific era which rightly questions staid church doctrine.

The truth is you won't lose your God or your faith by critiquing either.

In fact, quite the contrary.

Both God and faith will be enriched and expanded in the discovery of conflict and abandonment of unbiblical church doctrine more commonly described as folk religion or religious dogma than it is good doctrine.

R.E. Slater
July 19, 2016







Horror Begets Horror. Let us Stop Building with these Horrific Tools.




The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered
there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered.

But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery,
a blanket of silence spread.

When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out "stop!"
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible.

When sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer heard.

The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.

- Bertolt Brecht, Selected Poems




Observation

The Christian must be dedicated to loving all men including their enemies. A currency built on love, mercy, and forgiveness cannot be wrong. A state policy built upon peace cannot be wrong. An attitude of acceptance, of worthiness, of embracing whatever color or tribe or nationality cannot be wrong. Let us not wait for Jesus to come but for Jesus to become in our lives, communities, and state policies using whatever degraded political-economic-social system we live in to God's cruciformed glory. Let the black rain become our summer's mourning dews.

R.E. Slater
July 17, 2016
"If It's Sunday I'm Preaching Peace!"








Saturday, July 16, 2016

21 Books (& Interviews) for the 21st Century Theologian




21 Books for the 21st Century Theologian
https://homebrewedchristianity.com/2016/07/15/21-books-for-the-21st-century-theologian/

July 15, 2016

It’s Christmas in July for theology nerds!

Below are the 21 books PLUS links to an interview with each author:

  • On the Mystery: Discerning Divinity in Process by Catherine Keller [interview] [book]
  • Did God Kill Jesus?: Searching for Love in History’s Most Famous Execution by Tony Jones [interview] [book]
  • The Divine Magician: The Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith by Peter Rollins [interview] [book]
  • Triune Atonement: Christ’s Healing for Sinners, Victims, and the Whole Creation by Andrew Sung Park [interview] [book]
  • The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology by Amos Yong [interview] [book]
  • Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks by Walter Brueggemann [interview] [book]
  • Christ and the Cosmos: A Reformulation of Trinitarian Doctrine by Keith Ward [interview] [book]
  • We Have Been Believers: An African American Systematic Theology by James Evans [interview] [book]
  • Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil by Emilie Townes [interview] [book]
  • The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence by Thomas Jay Oord [interview] [book]
  • Hoping Against Hope: Confessions of a Postmodern Pilgrim by John Caputo [interview] [book]
  • Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God by Elizabeth Johnson [interview] [book]
  • Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love by Grace Ji-Sun Kim [interview] [book]
  • Jesus’ Abba: The God Who Has Not Failed by John Cobb [interview] [book]
  • God the Revealed: Christology by Michael Welker [interview] [book]
  • The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, and Faith by Philip Clayton [interview] [book]
  • Theology and the End of Doctrine by Christine Helmer [interview] [book]
  • The Homebrewed Christianity Guide To Jesus: Lord, Liar, Lunatic… or Awesome? by Tripp Fuller [interview] [book]


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Phillip J. Long - Discussion of 2 Enoch


Resources for 2 Enoch (Slavonic)
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/07/resources-for-2-enoch-slavonic/

by Phillip J. Long
July 7, 2016

I am happy that Jim Davila has been posting links to my Enoch series on his PaleoJudaica blog. He also included a few links to older posts on PaleoJudaica that might be of interest.

I failed to mention in my introductory post that 2 Enoch was only known in Slovonic until recently. In No longer ‘Slavonic’ only: 2 Enoch attested in Coptic from Nubia, Jim reports on the re-discovery of fragments of 2 Enoch in Coptic. The fragments of 2 Enoch chapters 36-42 were found in 1972. Joost Hagan published his paper in New Perspectives on 2 Enoch: No Longer Slavonic Only (Andrei Orlov, Gabriele Boccaccini, eds.; Leiden: Brill, 2012). If Brill wants to send me a copy, I’d be glad to review this book!

2 Enoch: ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US is a report from The fifth Enoch Seminar held in Naples in 2009. Interesting note: “Even so, very few scholars know Slavonic. Of the sixty delegates of this year’s Enoch Seminar, only eight were specialists in this language.”

OLD CHURCH SLAVONIC WATCH: The “Other” Lost Scriptures: Beyond the Dead Sea Scrolls, Slavonic texts break all the rules (Philip Jenkins, Aleteia). here Jim takes some issue with Jenkins’s claim that “The shorter, older version takes us back to a work written by an Alexandrian Jew somewhere around the 1st century AD—roughly the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” As he rightly objects, “he Greek text went through a long period of transmission in the Byzantine period, then it was translated into Old Church Slavonic and again underwent a long period of transmission before the surviving late medieval manuscripts were produced.”

Jim also had a short note on Grant Macaskill, The Slavonic Texts of 2 Enoch (Leiden, Brill, 2013). According to the Brill catalog, “The book also includes an introductory discussion of the manuscripts and the problems associated with text-critical work on them, and a translation of the neglected manuscript B, with notes on the significance of its readings for the reconstruction of an ur-text.”

I should also mention Andrei Orlov’s collection of resources for Slavonic Enoch.


* * * * * * * * *
What is 2 Enoch?
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/05/what-is-2-enoch/

by Phillip J. Long
July 5, 2016

“In every respect 2 Enoch remains an enigma” (OTP 1:97). Dates for 2 Enoch range from pre-Christian to early medieval. Józef Milik thought the book was the work of a Christian monk dated the book to the ninth or tenth century A.D. based on a neologism which describes Enoch’s copying of 360 manuscripts from the Angel Vreveil (Uriel? chapter 23). Milik reconstructs a Greek term which accounts for a mistake by the Slavonic translator. This term is found no earlier than the early ninth century, therefore the author is a Greek monk from that century (Milik, 111-112). On the other hand, Anderson suggests elements of the book go back to the turn of the era, perhaps written by the Theraputae described by Philo (although they seem to have revered Moses rather than Enoch, OTP, 1:96). It is hard to know if the book came from Jewish or Christian circles, it is “hardly in the mainstream of either” (OTP, 1:95).

Christfried Böttrich has argued for a three-stage composition of the book: A Jewish core, dated prior to A.D. 70 and deeply mystical; a Christian redaction interested in typological equivalents, and a final Byzantine redaction which was mainly interested in chronology (Böttrich, 40).

John Collins considers 2 Enoch to be a Jewish document dating to no later than the first century A.D. on the basis of the book’s interest in sacrifice. Since it was written in Greek and has allusions to Egyptian mythology as well as some affinity with Philo of Alexandria, an Egyptian provenance is likely (Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, Third Edition, 302-3).

The most compelling evidence for a Jewish origin of at least chapters 68-73 is the date of Enoch’s final translation into heaven – the sixth day of Tsivan, the beginning of the festival of the first fruit. Anderson states there are a number of places in the apocalyptic literature when early historical events are linked to this festival. It would be nearly impossible for a medieval Slav creating this text to have known about such a practice (Anderson, OTP 196, note c). It is possible, however, a Slavic monk took the date from another source because it was so common. On the whole, Anderson’s point is well made even though buried in a footnote.

Since the publication of Anderson’s translation, which includes both the shorter and longer recension side by side, there have been a number of studies on 2 Enoch including translations into Greek, English, Spanish and French. Of main interest are the Melchizedek traditions found in the book since it is quite different from both Jewish (Qumran) and Christian traditions (including a virgin birth probably based on Matthew 2 and Luke 2, but with several quite a bizarre departures!)

---

Bibliography: Christfried Böttrich, “Recent Studies in the Slavonic Book of Enoch” Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 9 (1991): 35-42; Józef Milik,Enoch, The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4 (London: Oxford, 1976).


* * * * * * * * *


Enoch’s Journey through the Heavens – 2 Enoch 1-22
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/06/enochs-journey-through-the-heavens-2-enoch-1-22/

by Phillip J. Long
July 6, 2016

The book begins with Enoch’s vision soon after he fathered Methuselah. He is caught up into heaven by glorious angelic beings (chapter 1). He then instructs his sons to walk before the Lord by praying and giving generous gifts to the Lord (2:2). In chapters 3-6 Enoch describes his trip through the first heaven where he sees the angels who govern the stars and the various storehouses of heaven. In chapter 7 he is brought to the second heaven where he saw prisoners hanging in darkness, awaiting judgment. This “hanging prisoner” theme will be used by later apocalypses for images of Sheol, Hades, etc. (Apoc. of Ezra 4, Vision of Ezra 19-22).

Paul was caught up into the Third Heaven (2 Cor 12)

The third heaven contains Paradise which is described as an ideal and beautiful place prepared for the righteous (chapter 8-9). The righteous are defined as those who are just, who clothe the naked, feed the hungry, lift up the fallen, and help the injured and the orphans and worship the Lord only. This list of “virtues” is not unlike Matthew 25:40 in which Jesus describes the “sheep” are those who have done these things to the “least of my brothers.” In chapter 10 Enoch is carried to the north where he witnesses all manner of torture and “cruel darkness.” This place is prepared for those who did not glorify God and practiced sin (which are listed in verse 4-5 in detail.) This too is not unlike the fate of the “goats” in Matthew 25:41-46 as they go to the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Enoch ascends to the fourth heaven where he sees the paths of the sun and moon (chapter 11-17). This is a rather difficult section which is similar to the Astronomical Book of 1 Enoch. The section argues for a 364 and a quarter-day year (14:1) and attempts to precisely define each of the 12 months (16:2).

The fifth heaven contains an innumerable army lead by Grigori, the Greek word for “watchers” (chapter 18). The whole army is downcast since these are the angels which turned from the Lord along with the prince Satanail. The angels descended to Mt. Hermon where they intermarried with the daughters of men and defiled the earth. Enoch recommends they repent, pray to the Lord and perform a liturgy in order appease the Lord’s wrath.

The sixth heaven contains seven groups of angels who are glorious, but all identical (chapter 19). There are angels which worship God and record the deeds of mEnoch In this scene there are seven phoenixes (a hint for an Egyptian provenance; cf., SibOr 8:139-159, 2 Baruch 6), seven cherubim, and seven “six-winged beings” singing in unison.

In the seventh heaven Enoch sees the fiery armies of archangels and a wide variety of angelic beings (chapter 20). Enoch is so frightened the angelic guides must pick him up and strengthen him. They show him the throne of the Lord at a great distance (it is in the tenth heaven). He moves to the very edge of the seventh heaven here he sees the seraphim. The angel guides depart and are replaced by Gabriel, the archangel (chapter 21). With Gabriel he sees the eighth heaven, which contains the zodiac.

Enoch is then brought by Michael into the presence of the Lord in the tenth heaven (chapter 22). The Lord is described as “so very marvelous, and supremely awesome and supremely frightening.” Michael strengthens Enoch and asks the Lord to allow Enoch to stay before the throne of God forever. The Lord has Michael “extract Enoch from his earthly clothes,” which seems to be removing his soul, since after he is anointed with oil he had become like the glorious ones but without any physical difference.


* * * * * * * * *


Enoch and the Mysteries of God – 2 Enoch 23-37
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/07/enoch-and-the-mysteries-of-god-2-enoch-23-37/

by Phillip J. Long
July 7, 2016

After he becomes like the angels, Enoch is instructed by Vrevoil, the swiftest of the archangels who records all the Lord’s deeds. After being instructed for 30 days and 30 nights, Enoch records this instruction in 366 books (22:10-23:6; Recension A has 360 books). After writing the books, Enoch is invited to sit next to the Lord with Gabriel.

God proceeds to explain “mysteries” of creation and the fall to Enoch:

  • Chapter 24 – God created visible from invisible.
  • Chapter 26 – An invisible thing (Adiol) descends and God commands it to disintegrate. A great light comes from this creature; the great light becomes the “great age” of creation. God established his throne in this creation.
  • Chapter 27-28 – God creates water and land from the light and darkness. Seven circles are established for seven stars. This is the first day of the creation week.
  • Chapter 29 – On Monday (the second day) God fashions rock from the fiery substance of heavEnoch On this day Satanail falls, he was hurled out of heaven and is now flying around in the air above the bottomless pit.
  • Chapter 30 – On Tuesday (the third day) God commands the earth to create trees and grasses; God laid out paradise as a gardEnoch On Wednesday (the fourth day) God establishes the stars, sun and moon in the various circles of the heavens. On Thursday he commands the seas to bring forth fish and birds. On Friday God creates Man out of seven components with seven properties. Man was assigned to the earth as a second angel, to reign as a king. He was named Adam and given free will to either love God or hate him (30:15).
  • Chapter 31 – Adam is given a single task but the devil entered paradise and corrupted Eve. This devil did not speak to Adam, therefore it is on account of Eve the Lord curses mankind. This is obviously at odds with Romans 5:12-21 where Adam is blamed for death and sin, Eve is not mentioned.
  • Chapter 32 – Adam is removed from the garden after his transgression (after only five and a half hours!)
  • Chapter 33 – Enoch is told there will be 7000 years of human existence, with an eighth thousand with not days, months, or years (probably an eternal state.) Presumably there will be one thousand for each of the days of creation. The idea of seven creational days = 7000 years of human history crosses over into Christianity via the Epistle of Barnabas but is not found in the Bible.
  • Chapter 34 – The judgment of the flood on the sinner who accepted a different yoke than the Lord’s yoke. The sins listed here are fornication and sodomy.
  • Chapter 35 – God promises to allow one righteous man from Enoch’s line to survive the flood for the purpose of passing along the words of Enoch.
  • Chapter 36 – Enoch is commanded to live for thirty days on the earth for the purpose of passing on the wisdom he has learned during his heavenly journeys.
  • Chapter 36 – Enoch is returned to earth by one of the senior angels.

While this section claims to survey human history from creation to the flood, the point is to exhort the reader to a moral in the light of imminent judgment. Creation is the basis for morality, sin is not the normal state, nor is sin the fault of Adam (Eve is to blame; Satan is to blame; but not Adam). While God will surely judge the sinner, he offers salvation for the one committed to following his commands. These commands make up the bulk of the rest of the book. There are some obvious differences from the biblical text with respect to salvation history in 2 Enoch, primarily in Adam’s culpability for the fall. Even in Genesis Adam is held ultimately responsible; Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:24 make clear it was through Adam sin entered the world. To shift the blame to the woman exalts Adam.


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2 Enoch and the Sermon on the Mount – 2 Enoch 38-63
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/08/2-enoch-and-the-sermon-on-the-mount-2-enoch-38-63/

by Phillip J. Long
July 8, 2016

When Enoch returns to his family in chapter 38 he begins to instruct them in what he has learned while in heaven. Enoch He mourns for his children who have not seen the face of the Lord (chapter 39) and then urges them to pay close attention because all which he is about to say he learned directly from the Lord (40:1). He recounts heavenly wonders (the storehouses of the winds, etc.) and describes to them the horrors of hell (chapter 40, 42:1-2). He describes the wonders of Paradise in a series of “happy is he . . .” formulas akin to the Beatitudes found in the Sermon on the Mount (41:3-14). Of note among these beatitudes the admonishment to “sow the right seed” (cf. Matt 13:1-9) and clothing the naked and feeding the hungry (Matt 25:34-39).

People can have more or less honor than others, chapter 43 has a list of the things which may bring honor to a person in this life. The best of all of these is the one who fears God – “he will be the most glorious in that age” (Chapter 43). Chapter 44 instructs the reader on how to speak without insult, since this too will be judged on the “great day of judgment.” God requires a pure heart rather than sacrifice, pure gifts rather than bribery (Chapter 45-46). This will all be judged when the Lord sends out a “great light” which will judge without favoritism. This is often thought to be a Christian interpolation, OTP 172, note c. If it is, it is not a very obvious one and is present in manuscripts of both recensions. It may simply refer to the final judgment without detailing who the judge will be. Enoch hands over the books he created in heaven with a special emphasis on the 364-day year once again (chapter 47-48).

Enoch forbids his children to swear oaths, but rather they should say “Yes Yes” or “No, No” (Chapter 49). This is obviously similar to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:34-37. As in the Gospels, the emphasis in 2 Enoch is on telling the truth in the first place. This is the most obvious of several links to the Sermon on the Mount in this section of 2 Enoch. There are significant differences as well. In chapter 53 Enoch warns his children not to rely on the fact their father is in heaven (“do no say, “our father is in heaven”) while the Lord’s Prayer begins by addressing God directly as father. Likely Jesus is working through the same common stock of rabbinical ethical teachings in the Sermon on the Mount which the author of 2 Enoch has in mind. It is also possible 2 Enoch is influenced by Matthew. The difference is the increased internalization of the commands of God found in Matthew 5-7. Murder is bad, but hatred and anger are worse. Adultery is bad, but lust is worse. This “internalized ethic” is missing from 2 Enoch.

  • Beatitudes (2 Enoch 41:3-14, Matt 5:1-11)
  • Murder (2 Enoch 60, Matt 5:21-26)
  • Oath Making (2 Enoch 49, Matt 5:34-37)
  • Vengeance (2 Enoch 50, Matt 5:38-48)
  • Treasures in Heaven/Alms (2 Enoch 51, Matt 6:1-4; 19-24)
  • Praising God (2 Enoch 52, Matt 6:5-13)

In chapters 54-57 Enoch announces he is about to return to heaven, so Methuselah asks for a blessing from his father. Enoch asks that all of the children be brought to him so that he may bless them all. This blessing reviews much of the previous material, exhorting his family toward proper ethical conduct using the beatitude form (chapters 58-63). There are a number of parallels to Jesus in this section as well. For example, 2 Enoch 61:1 has a version of the “golden rule” (cf. Matt 7:12). In 61:2 Enoch states there are “many shelters prepared for people, good ones for the good and bad ones for the bad,” which is roughly parallel to John 14:1-2. The obvious difference is that Jesus refers only to his own disciples, while Enoch refers to houses for all the dead, and far more for the wicked dead than the righteous. 2 Enoch 63 describes the doing of good to the poor without complaint. If one does this good deed, God will reward him. This idea is possibly in the background when Jesus responds to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:21 (and parallels).

If Christfried Böttrich is correct and there is a “Jewish core” in 2 Enoch which pre-dates the fall of Jerusalem, it may then be fair to ask why so much of this material is like the Sermon on the Mount. If the parallels were “Christian,” then one would think they would be closer to Jesus’ teaching than they are. As they appear in 2 Enoch, the various topics and beatitude forms are close enough to make us recall Jesus’ teaching, but not close enough to suggest direct dependence. It is probably the case that Jesus and the author of 2 Enoch both reflect the ethical teaching of the pre-A.D. 70 period. Philip Sigal argues that Jesus had an anonymous impact on the rabbinic halakah (Philip Sigal, The Halakah of Jesus of Nazareth According to the Gospel of Matthew [Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1986]))

It is well beyond the evidence to argue these parallels in 2 Enoch are drawn from Jesus’ teaching via rabbinic material, but it is possible to observe the topics and methods of ethical teaching in this section of 2 Enoch roughly parallel the topics and themes of the Sermon on the Mount. Another aspect which muddies the argument is the status of the Sermon on the Mount as an actual “teaching setting” of Jesus. While it is certain Jesus taught the material in Matthew 5-7, it is also fairly certain Matthew has arranged the material in the way it now appear. It is possible Matthew and 2 Enoch reflect a tradition of rabbinic debates on these topics. Matthew is following a distinctly Christian one (something like Q, perhaps), while 2 Enoch follows a more Jewish collection.


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Enoch and the Birth of Melchizedek – 2 Enoch 64-73
https://readingacts.com/2016/07/11/enoch-and-the-birth-of-melchizedek-2-enoch-64-73/

by Phillip J. Long
July 11, 2016

In Chapter 64 Enoch once again is about to go up into heaven, this time as 2000 people watch. Enoch is described in this chapter as “glorified before the face of the Lord for all eternity” and the one the Lord chose in preference to all the people of the earth. OTP 190 note c comments this is such high praise it would not have pleased either Jew of Christian. The manuscript evidence show a high degree of “embarrassment” over this glowing endorsement of Enoch!

As with the previous moments when Enoch was about to go into heaven, he instructs the gathered people rather than ascend into heaven (chapters 65-67). Like the previous sections, Enoch exhorts his audience to good works based on the creation of the universe. In 66:6 there is an “affliction list” – walk before the Lord in longsuffering, meekness, affliction, distress, faithfulness, truth, hope, weakness, derision, assaults, temptations, deprivations, and nakedness. This list is not unlike Romans 8:35 and Paul’s own list of afflictions in 2 Cor. 4:8 and 11:16-29. The righteous ought not to expect an easy life even when they seek the Lord.

Chapters 69-73 contain a version of the flood narrative beginning with Enoch’s translation into heaven (68:1-4) and the response by his son Methusalem. This section reads quite differently than the rest of the book; Enoch is no longer the subject, Methusalem and later Melchizedek, Nir and Noah are the main characters. There is less ethical exhortation and more prose narrative than anywhere else in the book. This section is therefore probably from another source.

Enoch and his brothers construct an altar on the spot where Enoch ascended and sacrificed “in front of the face of the Lord.” (68:5-7). Chapter 69 describes Methusalem’s sacrifices. After the people bring the animals to sacrifice, Methusalem’s face glows radiantly and prays aloud to the Lord, asking him to accept the sacrifice.

As he prays, the altar is shaken and the knife leaps into his hand. From that time on he is honored as a prophet. Methusalem remained at the altar of the Lord for ten years, during which time not a single person “turned away from vanity” (chapter 71). Methusalem’s son Lamekh has two sons, Nir and Noe. After Methusalem is given a disturbing vision of the coming flood, Nir is made a priest. Methusalem dies and people continue to turn away from the Lord. The devil, we are told, came to rule a third time (70:24-25).

Nir’s wife Sopanim becomes pregnant in her old age, having been sterile (chapter 71). This is described as a “virgin” birth. While this story has elements similar to Matthew 2 and Luke 2, the differences are fantastic and legendary. She is embarrassed by this pregnancy and hides herself until the child is due. When Nir discovers she is pregnant he rebukes her and intends to send her away because she has disgraced him, but instead she falls dead at his feet. Noe discovers this and tells Nir that the Lord has “covered up our scandal.” They bury the Sopanim in a black shroud in a secret grave.

The child, however, was not dead and came out of the dead mother as a fully developed child. This terrifies Nir and Noe, but since the child is “glorious in appearance” they realize the Lord is renewing the priesthood in their bloodline. They name the child Melkisedek. We are told that Melkisedek will be the head of “thirteen priests who existed before” and later there will be another Melkisedek who will be the head over twelve priests as an archpriest. Melkisedek is only with Nir for forty days, then the Lord instructs Michael to go and take the boy up to heaven. The Lord calls him “my child Melkisedek” (72:1-2). The child is to be placed in Paradise forever. Nir is so grieved by the loss of his son. He also dies leaving no more priests in the world, allowing the world to become even more evil. Noe is therefore instructed to build the ark in chapter 73.

This strange miraculous birth story for Melkisedek is part of an interest in the King of Salem first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 14:18. Psalm 110:4 describes the king / messiah as a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. This text is cited twice in Hebrews 5:6-10 and 7:1-17 and applied to Jesus. The writer of Hebrews is likely tapping into a common image of a true priesthood which runs outside of the line of the Levites and Aaron. In the case of 2 Enoch, the “legendary” elements of Melchizedek’s story pre-date the flood. This could be used to argue for an early date for this section as well, since the Melchizedek legend was popular in the first century. It is possible a medieval writer created a pre-flood Melchizedek birth story, but it is more likely 2 Enoch is reflecting a first century or earlier tradition.

Melchizedek was an important figure for the Qumran community, 11QMelch is a poorly preserved but an important fragment in which the character Melchizedek is tied to Old Testament texts on the Jubilee and describes him as returning to proclaim liberty, probably based on Is. 61:1 (line 6). There are no real parallels between this Melchizedek legend and anything in the first century, implying this section is to be dated rather late.

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[res: observation: Note the parallels in the bible between Melchizedek and Jesus Christ regarding the Priesthood of God. This would be a fruitful study.]


~ END of 2 ENOCH ~