February 4, 1988
"Some Observations about Paul and Intermediaries"
"Although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth as indeed
there are many 'gods' and many 'lords' yet for us there is one God, the
Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and One Lord
Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." (1
With this quotation from Paul begins Larry Hurtado's new book, One God,
One Lord which is soon to be published by Fortress. In it Hurtado
suggests that the central issue that separated Judaism from Christianity
was the identity of the Lord. Many different varieties of Judaism were
impressed enough with one or another of God's emanations or angels to
suggest that they participated in God's divinity. Indeed Exodus 23:20
itself suggests that God places his name YHWH or LORD in one of his
angels who is not to be forsaken. Philo, for reasons having to do with
Hellenistic philosophy, was willing to suggest that the Logos was a
deutros theos. And into this category of phenomena fell the newly
founded Christian movement, because they identified Jesus who died on
the cross with the divine figure in heaven described in Daniel 7:9-13,
the same figure that was assumed to be enthroned in Psalm 110:1 and
Psalm 80 and various other psalms describing divine enthronement.
For Hurtado, the issue which separates Christianity from the other kinds
of "two powers" sectarians is that they offered prayer to this second
divinity and hence became party to persecution by the rabbinic majority:
"We may have indirect evidence of this suggestion in the apostle Paul.
Paul's persecution of Jewish Christians (Gal 1:13-14; 1 Cor 15:9) prior
to his conversion experience was occasioned partly by the reverence that
they gave to Jesus. Paul describes his change of heart as brought about
because God 'was pleased to reveal his Son to (or in) me' (Gal 1:16)
which suggests that the experience forced Paul to embrace a view of
Jesus' relationship to God that he, as one 'so extremely zealous . . .
for the traditions of (his) fathers,' had been unable to accept
I think that Hurtado has probably exaggerated the dating of the
opposition, Rabbinic Judaism to Early Christianity. It is
anachronistic to talk about the rabbis in the first century. But the
issue is clearly outlined by Hurtado. Is worshipping the second power
the central defining characteristic of newly formed Christianity from
the point of view of Judaism? Is that what the varieties of Judaism saw
new and dangerous to Christianity?
His answer is yes and it is deeply involved with the mystical traditions
of the second power in heaven which is to be found all over the
pseudopigraphical and other sectarian literature of the first few
By reading Donald Juel's book, Messianic Exegesis as well, one sees the
extent to which Paul was influenced by these considerations. The basic
pattern seems to have been a catena of Daniel 7 and Psalm 110, brought
together by many means, perhaps Psalm 2, 16, 52 or 80, which discusses
the enthronement or give language reminiscent of the son of man in
Daniel. Peter's argument in Acts: 2:32 that whosoever calls upon the
name of the Lord will be saved, a quotation from Joel, depends on having
identified Jesus as the Lord. It is already a sophisticated
reunderstanding of those biblical passages, by the time you get to
Although Paul does not himself use the passage from Daniel 7:9-13, nor
ever refers to the Christ as the Son of man, he uses the term Lord to
describe Christ's divinity frequently and with great signification.
These are as obvious as Romans 1:2-4 and Philippians 2, which however do
not use Psalm 110 either to prove Christ's exaltation. But its clear
that in these passages he uses the term, Lord, and that term signifies
divinity for him.
However, Paul gives us unambiguous evidence in Philippians 2 that kyrios
was used as an appellation for Jesus with awareness that the term was
used for God. He quotes Isaiah 45:23, "the name that is above every
name" knowing that this refers to God himself in the text. There is no
natural presupposition for these exegetical moves in Judaism. The
general method of using scripture is in place, of course. But the only
thing that explains how these scriptures could be seen in relationship
to each other is the experience of the earliest Christian believes that
Jesus had indeed survived death and ironically warranted the title which
the Romans had given him at his crucifixion. By this identification
Jesus became the Christ and the second figure enthroned in heaven, in
Psalm 110 assumed to be David's heir, in Daniel 7:9-13 assumed to be
the Son of man. This is the basic hypothesis.
My book, Two Powers in Heaven, started with the idea that the texts of
Merkabah mysticism were in too bad shape to be studied scientifically.
Instead I decided to look at rabbinic literature about mystical
experience. That led naturally to the warning against two powers in
heaven which Aher gives the faithful strangely enough, since he is a
heretic. What I tried to show was that in back of the rabbinic
traditions about two powers in heaven was a halakhic, exegetical,
sociological or theological issue about the status of angelic mediators
in first century Judaism. Anyway, I think I'll skip talking about Two
Powers in Heaven and only use that as a footnote as to why I'm
interested in Hurtado's book and Juel's book, which is another book, I
think, that went at the material in a more chronological way.
Since I was interested in the rabbinic text, I needed more material to
date the rabbinic text. My basic argument was this: from looking at
rabbinic evidence from Two Powers in Heaven I was able to get a relative
textual history as to how this tradition developed. But it would be
very difficult for rabbinic evidence alone to reach an unqualified date.
So then I went to extra-rabbinic evidence to find parallels or closely
related issues that would help me date the rabbinic tradition, and did
so. That gives the book a kind of funny quality of looking at rabbinic
evidence since it goes forward in time, backward and all kinds of ways.
Somebody else picked up on the material. His name is Yarl Huson. His
book is The Name of God and the Angel of the Lord. This goes through
the material strictly chronologically and spends a good deal of time
talking about Samaritanism. He claims that Samaritanism is the location
in which the gnostic demiurge develops and I'll let you read his book to
find out since it's somewhat off the topic for tonight. But one thing
that he was able to do, which I was not able to do, was to show why
Exodus 15:3 and Exodus 20:2 are connected by the rabbis to heresy within
two powers in heaven. I was unable to show why rabbis use those
passages. It turns out that the only people that use those passages are
the Samaritans. By the way, Exodus 15:3 comes from the Song of Miriam
at the song at the sea and it says "The Lord is the man of war, the Lord
is his name". And the rabbis take that to mean that God appeared as a
young man at Sinai. Exodus 20:2 is the first of the Ten Commandments in
which He says "I am the Lord thy God'' and they take that to mean God
existed as an old man, but you must not get the idea that these are two
different gods. They are the same God. I wanted to try to show that
that was the kind of thing Christianity was involved in, but I couldn't
show that Christianity used those passages. Indeed they don't, except
occasionally in the Church fathers. But the Samaritans used them often
and frequently and described the younger lord as the angel Kavala, who
is a principal angelic mediator for Samaritans.
At any rate, I feel that these books have taken my dissertation a lot
farther and in a lot of interesting and new directions. The way that I
saw to develop the dissertation had to do with the dating of the
rabbinic materials on the one hand and on the other hand with a certain
aspect of gnosticism, how the gnostic demiurge developed. But a lot has
happened since the year that it came out.
Within the Christian community that Paul describes, the exalted Christ
had already begun to play a significant role as the object of religious
devotion, even as an object of cultic veneration. The churches sang
"hymns" honoring and celebrating Christ. They baptized converts "in the
name of Jesus." Very likely early Christians of Paul's day had
liturgies and rituals in which they called upon Jesus, confessing him as
"Lord" (Romans 10:9-9-10; 1 Cor. 12:3). In all of this they reflected
the heavenly and eschatological veneration of Jesus anticipated in
Philippians 2:9-11 but also Revelation 5:1-14.
What I'll like to maintain for tonight is that this kind of material
suggests a very lively, internal, religious kind of consciousness. We
could call this mystic or the kind of consciousness that converts have.
Now I know it is contentious to call Paul a convert when he himself uses
the term rarely and only to describe someone who needed repentance to
enter the Christian community. Paul uses two terms for conversion. He
uses metanoia and epistrepsein. He uses them rarely. My hypothesis
would be that he uses them rarely because they are Greek words used to
translate the Hebrew word, forshutha, from the root "shu," which which
means to return, to repent. And when it come to his own experience,
which is the primary example he uses to describe spiritual experience,
it did not involve repentance. He is after all a Pharisee, a very good
one based on his own feelings. He is not a Gentile sinner as he calls
some of his other congregants. As Krister Stendahal has made so clear,
Paul had a robust conscience...So there was no need for Paul to call
himself a repentant sinner.
But Paul's resemblance to contemporary converts with his ecstatic
experience, with his interest in apocalyptic and mystical aspects of
evangelical religion, is too important to be ignored, even though Paul
himself seemingly deliberately avoided the vocabulary.
Although Luke describes Paul's conversion as a prophetic mission and
Paul uses prophetic language to describe his task, prophecy clearly does
not apply to the conversions of all whom he evangelized. Paul never
directly calls himself a prophet and the language of prophecy does not
become a standard for conversion in Christianity. In describing a
believer's change in status, Paul uses a variety of terms, which Beverly
Gaventa has admirably detailed. Interestingly, the terms for rebirth,
which so often are applied by today's "born-again" Christians, are
rarely used by Paul, though John uses this vocabulary sparingly. As
Professor Gaventa's book, From Darkness to Light, shows, the vocabulary
of light and darkness is more often used by Paul to describe his change
from where he was, to his having accepted Christ as Lord.
Instead, when it comes to the internal state which Paul wants to talk
about in accepting Christ as Lord, Paul sometimes uses a term which
seems to suggest conversions in contemporary life as well the
transformation from one state to another. These terms, clearly stated
in Romans 12:2 for instance, imply not just a renewal, as Gaventa and
Koenig so cogently argue, but something much more: "Do not be conformed
to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." They
suggest a mystical reformulation and immortalization process, which was
discussed in contemporary Jewish apocalypticism and pagan spirituality.
And that transformation is what Paul means when he discusses conversion.
We shall see that this important metaphor is both part of Paul's
description of his own experience and those of his converts. To
understand what Paul means by conversion, Paul must be seen as one of
the early mystical-apocalyptic adepts for divine transformation in
In Jewish mysticism and pagan spirituality transformation is a term
which suggests what happens when a human encounters a gracious divinity.
In this respect, Paul gives us wonderful and until now nearly unnoted
evidence of the experience of Jewish mysticism in the first few
centuries. His language for Christian conversion comes from his
experience of the divine and is reapplied to what we now call
conversion. The same is true in Philippians 3:7-11: "But whatever gain
I had, I counted as loss, because of the surpassing worth of knowing
Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all
things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be
found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but
that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that
depends on faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection,
and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that if
possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."
Here, the contrast between his former life and present one implies a
contrast between law and faith, the attainment of resurrection from the
dead, becoming like Christ in His death or what he says becoming
metamorphisized with Him in His death. The language Paul uses is not
merely that of analogy or imitation; it is that of transformation,
metamorphosis, from one state of being to another, in which he has
become the same substance as Christ through his death.
In 1 Corinthians 15:37-42, Paul uses the metaphor of a planted and
growing seed to describe resurrection, possibly even interpreting Jesus'
parables of growth in a new way: "What you sow does not come to life
unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a
bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it
a body as He has chosen . . . So with the resurrection of the dead.
What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable." In 1
Corinthians 15:51 Paul explicitly says that the dead shall be changed
putting on a new body as if it were new clothes, words normally
associated with baptism but clearly associated with spiritual
transformation as well.
The same term, transformation, can be used to describe Paul's own
conversion, where he is transformed into the body of Christ (Phil 3:11).
This is one important vocabulary Paul can use to describe his
conversion, linking it with an identification with Christ and later the
final judgement. Paul's conversion is a radical change in his life and
the source of his sense that he has been saved. So Paul is consciously
using his own experience to express the power of the Holy Spirit in the
life of all and to exemplify a new attitude towards the keeping of law.
This experience is the beginning of a process of redemption which will
envelop the whole world apocalyptically.
In the classical world, the closest analogy to Paul's experience
phenomenologically is also termed a metamorphosis. Although separated
from Paul in culture and by century, and obstensibly from a fictional
account of a transformation, the Golden Ass of Apuleius, describes an
explicit metamorphosis of the novelistic hero Lucius from an ass back to
his natural form as a young man. While the story seems like fantasy,
not just fiction, the moral is real and religious. Scholars have
rightly pointed out that the story actually discusses a religious
conversion, albeit in very popular and naive terms.
The analogy with religious conversion must be seen in context. The main
character of the novel, Lucius, is led by his reprobate lifestyle into a
careless dabbling with magic. As a result, he finds himself
accidentally transformed into an ass. Each of his adventures surpasses
the previous ones in depravity (and at the same time seduces the
reader's attention with its blatant sex and violence). While seeking
escape on the beach at Cenchreae, the same place where Paul stopped on
his way to Jerusalem, Lucius prays for deliverance to the moons. In
response to the prayer, the goddess Isis intervenes and tells him how to
regain his natural form. As a result, he becomes an initiate into more
and more secret rites of the goddess, who gives him not just deliverance
from his earthly journeys and eventual postmortem salvation: " . . .
you will as a dweller in the Elysian fields constantly adore me whom you
now see, shining in the darkness of Archeron, reigning in the recesses
of Styx, and you will find me gracious towards you (11.6). The reader,
seduced by the sex and violence of the narrative, just as Lucius himself
is seduced into magically altered form, undergoes the salvation with
him, though certain of the rites are too secret to describe openly.
Lucius' metamorphosis (the Latin verb is most often "reformare" (to
reform bodily, as well as morally), is a symbol of leaving behind his
previous life, a life of vanity, enslaved by sex, magic and chance, to a
new, pure, moral life destined for divine purposes and guided by the
goddess Isis. Lucius' reformation involves many experiences of
unclothing and reclothing, both literal and symbolic, just as baptism
does, a celestial journey within the ritual of the mystery rites, and
the overcoming of mortality to be assured of semi-divine status,
together with a significant advancement in his moral development. All
of this imagery is characteristic of Christian conversion as well, where
the rite of baptism itself formalizes the change of status.
Now, this is not news. Lots of people have pointed this out. The
obvious problem with the analogy of Paul and Lucius is that Apuleius
lived a century after Paul. So it's very hard to see it as the
beginning of Paul. What I'm suggesting is that the phenomena is real.
The date of putting these experiences back into the time of Paul can be
assured by not looking into the classical world but into the Jewish
apocalyptic and mystical world of the first century. So the problem has
been the dates.
The most complete parallels are a century after Paul to be sure, so
there can be no question of direct borrowing. But the point here is
that the term transformation was available to the ancient world to
designate the experience that we might call conversion, but they call
transformation because it involved the gaining of immortality and
changing one's form. Like Paul, Lucius' transformation is affected by
the intervention of a deity, whom he meets face-to-face and who changes
his life radically. Now how do I intend to show that apocalyptic and
pseudopigraphical Judaism also shows this pattern and phenomena? Well
here, I would again refer to larger works, such as Two Powers in Heaven
and other larger works in which the apocalyptic and pseudographical
material is gone over in more detail. Let me go over it schematically.
It's impractical here to resume all of the interesting detailed work
being done on apocalyptic and merkabah mysticism or to relationship to
Christianity and Paul's writing, but I cam summarize it. In the Bible,
God was sometimes described in human form. In other places, like Exodus
23:21, an angel is mentioned who has the form of a man and who carries
with him or represents "the name of God" somehow. The human figure on
the divine throne described in different ways in Ezekiel 1, Daniel 7,
and Exodus 24 among other places was blended into a consistent picture
of a principal mediator figure who, like the angel of the Lord in Exodus
23, embodied, personified or carried the name of God, YHWH, the
tetragrammaton. We shall see that this figure, greatly elaborated by
Jewish tradition, becomes a central metaphor for the Christ in
Christianity. To see how, we must trace its tradition in Judaism.
Several Jewish traditions discuss the eikon or image of God as Adam's
prelapsarian appearance, an especially glorious and splendid form which
humanity lost when Adam sinned, since humanity is described as made in
"the image and form of God" in Genesis 1:26. The same "image and form
of God" is thereafter associated with God's human appearance in the
Bible or the description of the principal angel of God who carries God's
name. The latter figure certainly describes "the son of man" which is
not a proper name, at least at first, but is based upon the vision in
Daniel 7:13 in which an Ancient of Days appoints a human figure ("one
like a son of man") to execute justice in the destruction of the evil
ones. This human figure, I would suggest, is best understood as an
angel, simply because angels are what we mean when we talk about human
figures in heaven. Later on in Daniel, resurrection is promised both
for the faithful dead and for the most heinous villains, who will be
resurrected so that they may be sentenced to perdition eternally.
Hamaskilim, or "those who are wise", apparently the elite of the
apocalyptic group, will then shine as the stars in heaven (Daniel 12:2).
This scripture essentially states that the leaders will be transformed
into angels, since the stars were identified with angels in biblical
Chief angelic mediators appear all over Jewish tradition of the first
several centuries. I will only mention some. The chief angelic
mediator, which we may call by a number of terms God's vice-regent, His
Vizir, his regent, archangel or other term expressing his status as
principal angel is easily distinguished from the plethora of divine
creatures, for the principle angel is not only head of the heavenly
hosts but sometimes participates in God's own being or divinity and
usually carries His name. Again because of Exodus 23:20.
Thereafter in Exodus 33:18-23, Moses asks to see the Glory of God. In
answer, God makes "his goodness" pass in front of him but He cautions,
"You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live . . . Behold,
there is a place by me where you shall stand upon the rock, and I will
cover you with my hand until I have passed by, then I will take away my
hand and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen." Yahweh
Himself, the angel of God, and his Glory are melded together in a
peculiar way, which suggested to the readers of the first few centuries
a deep secret of God's manifestations to humanity.
In the Hellenistic world many new interpretations of this passage grew
up. Foremost among the various names given to this angel in various
Jewish sects and conventicles is Yahoel of the first century apocalyptic
work, The Apocalypse of Abraham. The name Yahoel illustrates one
interpretation of carrying the divine name, because Yahoel has the name
of the tetragrammaton with an angelic ending on it. And he is described
as the one "…in whom God's ineffable name dwells" so it is quite clear
that this is an interpretation of Exodus 23. Other titles for this
figure included Melchizedek, Metatron, Adroil, Eremiel and pre-eminently
"the son of man". For instance Melchizedek appears at Qumran in the
document called 11QMelch, where he is identified with the "Elohim" of
Psalm 82:1. Metraton in Jewish tradition, though it is a later term, is
often called YHWH hakaton or as we would say YHWH junior and sits on a
throne equal to God's in 3 Enoch 10:1. Typically, the name of the angel
varies from tradition to tradition. In one place Michael is God's
mediator. Eremial appears in the Apocalypse of Zephaniah 6:1-15, where
he is mistaken for God. In The Ascension of Isaiah 7:2-4 an angel
appears whose name may not be spoken aloud.
Alongside these traditions probably lies a more exciting notion in some
exciting notion in some apocalyptic-mystic groups that certain heroes
can be transformed into angels. Amazingly, some patriarches are exalted
into angelic status. In the Testament of Abraham 11 (Recension A), Adam
is pictured with a terrifying appearance and adorned with glory upon a
golden throne, glory being another name for this mediator figure. In
chapters 12-13 Abel is similarly glorified because he is the first
martyr, acting as judge over creation until the final judgement. In the
Prayer of Joseph, found in Origen's Commentary on John 2:31 (with a
further "God and a ruling spirit", and claims to be the "firstborn of
every living thing," "the first minister before the face of God," "the
archangel of the power of the Lord and the chief captain among the sons
Enoch and Moses, however, are the most important non-Christian figures
of divinization or angelic transformation. For instance, Philo
describes Moses as divine, based upon the word God used of him in Exodus
4:16 and 7:1. Thus Sirach 45:1-5 compares Moses to God in the Hebrew or
"equal in glory to the holy ones", in the Greek version of the text.
Philo and the Samaritans also expressed Moses' pre-eminence in Jewish
tradition by granting him a kind of deification. In the Testament of
Moses, Moses is described as the mediator or arbiter of his covenant"
(1:14). In 11:16-19, Moses is celebrated as "that sacred spirit, worthy
of the Lord . . . the lord of the word . . . the divine prophet
throughout the earth, the most perfect teacher in the world," the
"advocate" and great messenger." Indeed, Wayne Meeks concluded that
"Moses was the most important figure in all Hellenistic Jewish
Philo can speak of Moses as made into a divinity in several places. In
exegeting Moses' receiving the Ten Commandments, Philo envisions an
ascent, not merely up the mountain but to the heavens, describing
possibly a mystical identification between this manifestation of God and
Moses by suggesting in his Life of Moses and Questions and Answers on
Exodus that Moses attained to a divine nature through contact with the
The Septuagint translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek and identifies the
figure on the throne in Ezekiel 1:26 with the form of a man. This term
has a philosophical history starting in Plato's Parmenides 130C, where
eidos means the idea of man. Because of Plato's fortunate use of
language, Hellenistic Jews like Philo could reunderstand the term "form
of man," describing man's resemblance to God in Genesis 1:26 and also
occurring in biblical theophanies like Ezekiel 1:26 as referring to the
Platonic eidos or idea of man, which inevitably meant the unchanging
immortal idea of man which survived death. For Hellenistic Jews like
Philo, the figure of a man on the divine throne described in Genesis,
Exodus, Ezekiel, and the Psalms (and which I think formed the basis of
the "Son of man" speculation) was also understood as the ideal or
immortal man. His immortality and glorious appearance was something
Adam had in the garden and lost when he sinned. Paul as we know, uses
all these traditions to good advantage.
Another tradition we could trace is the Kavod tradition. Let me mention
the fragment of the tragedy Moses written by Ezekiel the Tragedian.
There in second century B.C. or earlier, Moses is depicted as seeing a
vision of the throne of God with a figure seated upon it. The figure on
the throne is called a "venerable man" which is a double entendre in
Greek, since phos can mean either light or man depending on the gender
of the noun.
The surviving text of Ezekiel the Tragedian also hints at a
transformation of an earthly hero into a divine figure which he relates
that the venerable man (phos gennaios) handed Moses his scepter and
summoned him to sit upon the throne, placing a diadem on his head.
Thereafter the stars bow down to him and parade for his inspection.
Since stars and angels are identified throughout the biblical period,
there can be no doubt that Moses here is depicted as the leader of the
angels and hence above the angels. This enthronement scene with a human
figure being exalted as a monarch or divinity in heaven resembles the
enthronement of the "Son of man"; the enthronement helps us understand
some of the traditions which later appear in Jewish mysticism and may
have informed Paul's theology and mystical ascent in 2 Corinthians.
But the one apocalyptic mediator who clearly predates Paul is Enoch,
portrayed in Enochic literature now known to be widespread in Judaism
through the Dead Sea Scrolls. Enoch is a primeval hero of the Bible
whose death is not mentioned. Instead, Genesis 5:18-24 twice relates
that Enoch walked with God and then disappeared, for "God took him."
1 Enoch is the first of many books based on the terse biblical report.
There, in chapter 14 Enoch begins his journey to heaven to intercede for
the fallen angels. In 1 Enoch 90, in the vision of the white cow, each
believer is mystically transformed into white cows, which in turn,
appears to symbolize the messiah: "And I Enoch saw that a snow-white
cow was born, with huge horns; all the beasts of the field and all the
birds of the sky feared him and made petition to him all the time. I
went on seeing until all their kindred were transformed, and became
snow-white cows; and the first among them became something, and that
something became a great beast with huge horns on its head." Thus,
symbolically, if not actually, the believers come to share the being of
the messiah. The messiah not only saves but serves as the model for
transformation of believers. 1 Enoch is part of the ancient materialm
and is not suspicious like the Parables of Enoch which might be
pre-Christian and might not be.
In the Parables of Enoch, Enoch performs various messianic functions.
He is righteous and knows divine secrets. He is victorious over the
mighty of the earth, whereupon he judges the wicked. He is probably the
same figure as the one described as "The Chosen or Elect One" and the
"messiah", since virtually identical functions are attributed to all
three figures, sitting on the throne, judging "in the name of the Lord
of Spirits" and a number of other things. At the end of his life, he
re-ascends to his enthroned status.
The Parables of Enoch contain several references to angelic
transformation. In Chapter 39, Enoch ascends to heaven, where he is
overcome with the splendor and glory of the throneroom, while reciting
hymns and blessings, as do the merkabah mystics all through the Middle
Ages. His face changes on account of the vision. Evidently, this
reflects the experience of the prophecy that those who are wise shall
shine as the stars (Daniel 11:2) because 1 Enoch 62:15 states that the
elect shall shine as stars and be clothed with garments of glory.
More importantly, in one fragment, The Parables of Enoch 70-71, Enoch is
mystically transformed into the "son of man" on the throne: "My whole
body mollified and my spirit transformed" (1 Enoch 71:1). This is an
extraordinarily important event, as it underlines the importance of
mystic transformation between the adept and the angelic vice-regent of
God, giving us a plausible explanation of how the Daniel sectarians
expected to be transformed into stars. The theme of cosmic
transformation will be the most significant aspect of the Jewish
mystical tradition for merkah mysticism and I'm suggesting that it is
also important for Christology. Evidently these ascents are meant to be
a living foretaste of the reward awaiting the righteous dead. The
living ascent in Enoch 37 may double the ascent of Enoch 70-71, or it
may refer to the ascent which Enoch made at the end of his life.
Whatever the intention of the author, the relationship to Paul's
experience is extremely important. Like Enoch, Paul claims to have
gazed on the Glory , whom Paul identifies as the Christ. Like Enoch,
Paul understands that he has been transformed into a more divine state,
which will be fully realized upon his death or the apocalyptic end,
whichever comes first. Like Enoch, Paul claims that his vision and
transformation is somehow a mystical transformation and he is thereafter
The Parables may be later; so they are not good evidence. However,
Enoch 90 is undoubtly pre-Christian and it uses the same terminology of
transformation. Morton Smith claims to have made a discovery which will
anchor these experiences firmly in the first century. In 4QMa of the
Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran, Morton Smith sees evidence to
translate this passage: "[El Elyon have found me a seat among] those
perfect forever,/ a mighty throne in the congregation of the gods./ None
of the kings of the east shall sit in it/ and the nobles shall not [come
near it.]/ No Edomite shall be like me in glory. / And none shall be
exalted save me, more shall come against me./ For I have taken my seat
in the [congregation] in the heavens,/ and none [find fault with me.]/ I
shall be reckoned with gods/ and established in the holy congregation."
Now this is a previously published passage and no one knows why this has
the transformation in it. One reason is because in the first line, "El
Elyon gave me a seat among" is restored by Smith and the last three
words are "those perfect forever". However, it does say "For I have
taken my seat in the congregation of the heavens". Anyway, here
transformation is affected through a number of things including a change
of clothing as in 2 Enoch and various other places. And I can go
through a number of other things that describe this transformation but I
think you know them. The point is not that they don't exist but how
early did they exist in Judaism. They are in 2 Corinthians 5, they are
in 2 Enoch 22, they are in the ascension of Isaiah and a number of other
places. So there is no problem about this transformation experience
both within apocalyptic Judaism as well as in the 2 century parts of the
The point here is that just as Juel shows that you cannot explain the
particular biblical catinas of verses which are central to Christianity
without pausting some ascension experience or something experienced as
the resurrection of Christ by the believers it just can't be
intellectual gameplaying. This is because there is no Jewish
justification for bringing Daniel 7:9 together with Psalm 110. Rather
it is the early experiences of the Christians that does so and makes it
obvious and you can't understand it without understanding that this was
the experience of the early Christian believers. So I would maintain
that you cannot understand Christian worship of the Lord without some
kind of angelic experience. At least this is what Paul is saying.
Other Jews, maybe Peter and James, became Christians while completing
their Judaism and not having a special experience in Christ. Their
Judaism was legal Judaism. It did not involve change in any way, shape
or form. Paul was different. He was a convert in the modern sense of
the word, because he claims that everyon,e not just Gentiles, must be
transformed through this special experience in Christ. In so doing he
tells us something of the earliest christology of Christianity but more
importantly for me is that he shows us a lot about Jewish apocalypcism
in the first century.
See also the ensuing Discussion with Alan Segal.
For related materials,
consult other PSCO presentations and discussions on the topic for
the 1987-1988 seminar,
"Principalities and Powers:
Demons and Angels in the World of Late Antiquity".