Anthropomorphism of the Earthly Temple: Idols of Terah’s Family

Andrei Orlov
Kelly Chair in Theology and Professor of Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity at Marquette University. View Entries

Anthropomorphism of the Earthly Temple: Idols of Terah’s Family

Various scholars have noted the peculiar cultic routines and concerns that permeate the story of Abraham in the Slavonic Apocalypse of Abraham, a writing that often depicts this hero of the faith preparing sacrifices, delivering praise to the deity, and entering the heavenly throne room.1 All these events are surrounded by distinctive sacerdotal markers that point to the paramount significance of cultic traditions within the text. Indeed, the intensity of the sacerdotal instructions given by Abraham’s celestial guide Yahoel and the enthusiastic participation of the patriarch in the cultic routines both hint at the importance of priestly praxis for the work’s overall conceptual framework. It also appears that the visionary mold of the Apocalypse of Abraham, as in many other Jewish accounts e.g., 1 Enoch 14 and Testament of Levi 8, is affected by its sacerdotal framework. In this framework the entrance of a seer into the celestial realm reveals the cultic dimension and is envisioned as a visit to the heavenly Temple. 2 The priestly traditions play an especially important role in the second part of the work, which can be viewed as a manual for celestial priestly praxis. Nonetheless, they are not absent in the first, haggadic, section of the apocalypse, which concerns the idolatrous practices of Abraham’s father.

Indeed, priestly concerns permeate not only the second apocalyptic section of the work, the patriarch’s transition into the heavenly realm, but the fabric of the entire pseudepigraphon.3 It has also been previously noted that besides Yahoel, whom the text envisions as the heavenly high priest par excellence, the Apocalypse of Abraham offers an extensive roster of priestly characters, including “fallen” priests culpable for perverting true worship and polluting the heavenly and terrestrial shrines. Thus, Daniel Harlow observes that besides the two “positive” priestly servants represented by the high priest Yahoel and his priestly apprentice Abraham, the apocalypse also offers a gallery of negative priestly figures, which include the “idolatrous priests” – Terah and Nahor.4

The story of these fallen priests occupies the first chapters of the Apocalypse of Abraham, and they deal with Abraham’s early years in the house of his father Terah. The plot of this section revolves around the family business of manufacturing idolatrous divine statues. Terah and his sons are portrayed as craftsmen carving religious figures out of wood, stone, gold, silver, brass and iron. The zeal with which the family pursues its idolatrous craft suggests that Terah’s household is involved in more than just another family business, one of producing religious handiwork.

Although the sacerdotal status of Abraham’s family remains clouded in obscure imagery, the Slavonic apocalypse’s authors seem to present them as cultic celebrants whose “house” serves as a metaphor for the sanctuary polluted by idolatrous worship. From the very first lines of the apocalypse, the reader learns that Abraham and Terah are involved in sacrificial rituals in temples.5 Moreover, the practices are reminiscent of the priestly routines in Jerusalem’s temple. Alexander Kulik has noted that the description of the sacrificial service of Terah’s family, which is found in the first chapter of the Apocalypse of Abraham, “… precisely follows the order of the Second Temple daily morning tamid service as it is described in the Mishna: first, priests cast lots (Yoma 2, 1-4; Tamid 1, 1-2; cf. also Luke 1:9), then they sacrifice in front of the sanctuary (Tamid 1-5), finishing their service inside (Tamid 6) ….”6 The haggadic section of the text, which narrates Terah’s and Abraham’s interactions with the “statues,” culminates in the destruction of the infamous “house” of worship along with its idols in a fire sent by God.

It is possible that the Apocalypse of Abraham, which was written in the first centuries of the Common Era7 when Jewish communities were facing a wide array of challenges – not least the loss of the temple – was herein drawing on metaphors familiar to Jews from the Book of Ezekiel, which construes idolatry as the main reason for the destruction of Solomon’s temple. Similar to that prophetic account, the hero of the Slavonic apocalypse is then allowed to behold the true place of worship – the heavenly Temple with its divine throne. Yet despite the fact that Ezekiel significantly shapes the Abrahamic pseudepigraphon,8 there is a profound conceptual difference between the two visionary accounts. While in Ezekiel the idolatrous statues of the destroyed temple are contrasted with the true form of the deity enthroned on the divine Chariot, the Apocalypse of Abraham denies its hero a vision of the anthropomorphic glory of God. When in the second part of the apocalypse Abraham travels to the upper heaven to behold God’s throne, which evokes memories of the classic Ezekielean description, he does not see any divine figure on the Chariot. Scholars have noted that while preserving some features of Ezekiel’s angelology, the authors of the Slavonic apocalypse appear to be carefully avoiding the anthropomorphic description of the divine Kavod, substituting it with a reference to the divine Voice.9

While the anti-corporeal tendencies discernable in the second, apocalyptic part of the work have often been noted in previous studies, no sufficient explanation has been offered of how the first, haggadic part of the pseudepigraphon (chs. 1-8), which depicts the patriarch as a fighter against the human-like, idolatrous statues of his father Terah, fits into the anti-anthropomorphic agenda of the Slavonic apocalypse. Also, a sufficient explanation of how it fits into the sacerdotal paradigm of the pseudepigraphon as a whole has not been offered.

This haggadic portion of the apocalypse may, in fact, play a pivotal role in the overall anti-anthropomorphic conceptual vision of the pseudepigraphon. It hardly seems coincidental that arguments against divine body traditions were couched in a story about Abraham, the patriarch known in Jewish pseudepigraphical and rabbinic sources for his distinctive stand against idolatrous figures. For example, the Testament of Abraham, another major Abrahamic pseudepigraphon, also denies the possibility that God has a human-like form. Philip Munoa notes, “the Testament of Abraham studiously avoids physical description of God when describing Abraham’s heavenly ascent and tours of heaven explicitly identifying God with invisible….”10 Munoa further argues that the Testament of Abraham clearly exhibits anti-anthropomorphic tendencies in highlighting God’s invisibility,11 repeatedly emphasizing his unseen (ἀόρατος) nature.12 Consider another example: the Book of Jubilees gives Abraham’s story a distinctly iconoclastic thrust. Thus, the Abrahamic pseudepigrapha offer an ideal literary setting for polemics against traditions of divine corporeality.13

Notice also that the features of the idolatrous, anthropomorphic figures manufactured by Terah are strikingly reminiscent of the corporeal portrayals of the deity found in Ezekiel and other biblical and pseudepigraphical accounts. In view of this, one can once again detect ongoing polemics with the divine body traditions.14 The first portion of the text serves thus as the negative reaffirmation of incorporeal priestly theology of the Slavonic apocalypse. The purpose of this chapter, therefore, is to explore the anti-anthropomorphic sacerdotal settings found in the first, haggadic portion of the pseudepigraphon.

Abraham the Iconoclast: The Background of the Imagery

As has been previously noted, the first eight chapters of the Apocalypse of Abraham take the form of a midrashic exposition dealing with the early years of Abraham’s life. This portion of the text depicts the young protagonist as a reluctant witness of the idolatrous practices of his immediate family. Such haggadic elaboration of Abraham’s story is not entirely novel, created from scratch by the authors of the pseudepigraphon. Rather, it is an important link in the chain of a long-standing interpretive tradition attested already in the Book of Jubilees and further developed by other pseudepigraphical and rabbinic sources.

Although the Genesis account of the early years of Abraham does not elaborate his struggles with idolatry in his father’s house,15 the story found in the Book of Jubilees provides a rather lengthy narration of such activities. Jubilees 11:16-12:14 portrays the child Abram fiercely resisting the problematic religious practices of his relatives:

… The child [Abram] began to realize the errors of the earth – that everyone was going astray after the statues and after impurity. His father taught him (the art of) writing. When he was two weeks of years [= 14 years], he separated from his father in order not to worship idols with him. He began to pray to the creator of all that would save him from the errors of mankind and that it might not fall to his share to go astray after impurity and wickedness….During the sixth week, in its seventh year, Abram said to his father Terah: “My father.” He said: “Yes, my son?” He said: “What help and advantage do we get from these idols before which you worship and prostrate yourself? For there is no spirit in them because they are dumb. They are in error of the mind. Do not worship them. Worship the God of heaven who makes the rain and dew fall on earth and makes everything on earth. He created everything by his word; and all life (comes) from his presence. Why do you worship those things that have no spirit in them? For they are made by hands and you carry them on your shoulders. You receive no help from them, but instead they are a great shame for those who make them and an error of the mind for those who worship them. Do not worship them.” Then he said to him: “I, too, know (this), my son. What shall I do with the people who have ordered me to serve in their presence? If I tell them what is right, they will kill me because they themselves are attached to them so that they worship and praise them. Be quiet, my son, so that they do not kill you.” When he told these things to his two brothers and they became angry at him, he remained silent….
In the sixtieth year of Abram’s life (which was the fourth week in its forth year), Abram got up at night and burned the temple of the idols. He burned everything in the temple but no one knew (about it). They got up at night and wanted to save their gods from the fire. Haran dashed in to save them, but the fire raged over him. He was burned in the fire and died in Ur of the Chaldeans before his father Terah. They buried him in Ur of the Chaldeans….16

As one can see, the text depicts the young hero involved in extensive disputations with his father in an attempt to persuade Terah to abandon his abominable practices of manufacturing and serving idols. Although Abram’s arguments seem to convince his father, they anger his two brothers. The account ends with Abram setting fire to the temple of idols, an event which leads to the death of Haran, who perishes in flames while attempting to save the statues. Although Jubilees provides a less elaborate account of the story vis-à-vis the one found in the Apocalypse of Abraham, it attests to a formative initial core of the story that would be expanded or altered by subsequent pseudepigraphical and rabbinic developments.17

One of the prominent lines of interpretation here is that Abraham finds the true God through his meditation on natural phenomena. As one can see already in Jubilees, the young hero of the faith tries to persuade his father not to worship idols by explaining that it is “the God of heaven who makes the rain and dew fall on earth and makes everything on earth.” This method of persuasion will become a prominent trend in the subsequent Abrahamic accounts. In these later stories the patriarch often offers lengthy arguments against idolatry in which the futility of idols is illustrated by the fact that even natural elements are liable to decay. This same motif occurs in the Apocalypse of Abraham 7: the patriarch attempts to persuade his father Terah to abandon idolatry by delivering a lengthy address about the impermanence of natural elements. Several early Jewish sources, including Philo and Josephus,18 also attest to the tradition that Abraham discovered the true faith by contemplating nature, including meditation on the celestial bodies.19 Hence we read in Josephus (Jewish Antiquities 1.154-156):

… He [Abraham] was a man of ready intelligence on all matters, persuasive with his hearers, and not mistaken in his inferences. Hence he began to have more lofty conceptions of virtue than the rest of mankind, and determined to reform and change the ideas universally current concerning God. He was thus the first boldly to declare that God, the creator of the universe, is one, and that, if any other being contributed aught to man’s welfare, each did so by His command and not in virtue of its own inherent power. This he inferred from the changes to which land and sea are subject, from the course of sun and moon, and from all the celestial phenomena; for, he argued, were these bodies endowed with power, they would have provided for their own regularity, but, since they lacked this last, it was manifest that even these services in which they cooperate for our greater benefit they render not in virtue of their own authority, but through the might of their commanding sovereign, to whom alone it is right to render our homage and thanksgiving….”20

Likewise Philo, in De Abrahamo 15, tells about the importance of the young hero’s contemplation of the planets as a part of his discovery of the true God:

… For the Chaldeans were especially active in the elaboration of astrology and ascribed everything to the movements of the stars. They supposed that the course of the phenomena of the world is guided by influences contained in numbers and numerical proportions. Thus they glorified visible existence, leaving out of consideration the intelligible and invisible. But while exploring numerical order as applied to the revolution of the sun, moon and other planets and fixed stars, and the changes of the yearly seasons and the interdependence of phenomena in heaven and on earth, they concluded that the world itself was God, thus profanely likening the created to the Creator. In this creed Abraham had been reared and for a long time remained a Chaldean. Then opening the soul’s eye as though after profound sleep, and beginning to see the pure beam instead of the deep darkness, he followed the ray and discerned what he had not beheld before, a charioteer and pilot presiding over the world and directing in safety his own work and of all such parts of it as are worthy of the divine care.21

An analysis of later testimonies to the motif of Abraham’s fight with idolatry demonstrates that this story was reshaped by its interpreters, who oftentimes would even introduce new characters into the account by merging it with other protological biblical events. These characters are either endowed with novel roles or take on functions that were previously assigned to Terah or members of his family.

For example, in later accounts Nimrod often takes the place of Terah. These traditions depict the evil king as the idolater par excellence, sometimes associating him with that most conspicuous symbol of idolatry – the Tower of Babel. In these accounts Abraham is often engaged in disputes with Nimrod, trying to persuade the evil ruler to abandon idolatry. The patterns of argumentation used in dialogues between two characters are reminiscent of the discussions between Abraham and Terah in earlier pseudepigraphical accounts. To give an example, Genesis Rabbah 38.13 attests to the following exchange between Abraham and Nimrod:

Thereupon he [who?] seized him [Abraham?] and delivered him [Abraham] to Nimrod. “Let us worship the fire!” he [Nimrod] proposed. “Let us rather worship water, which extinguishes the fire,” replied he. “Then let us worship water!” “Let us rather worship the clouds which bear the water.” “Then let us worship the cloud!’ “Let us rather worship the winds which disperse the clouds.” “Then let us worship the wind!” “Let us rather worship human beings, who withstand the wind.” “You are just bandying words,” he exclaimed; “we will worship naught but the fire. Behold, I will cast you into it, and let your God whom you adore come and save you from it.”22

The first part of this passage is reminiscent of some details found in chapter 7 of the Apocalypse of Abraham (one of the concluding chapters of hagaddic section wherein Abraham discusses the futility of idolatry with his father Terah, as mentioned above). He illustrates this by water and fire, which, however enduring they may be, are still not eternal. Apocalypse of Abraham 7:1-10 reads:

This I say: Fire is the noblest [element] in the image [of the world], since even the things which are [otherwise] unsubdued are subdued in it, and since] it mocks with its flames the things which perish easily. But I would not call it a god either, since it is subjugated to water. Water is indeed nobler, since it overcomes fire and soaks the earth.

In Genesis Rabbah 38, however, it is Nimrod who poses as Abraham’s main disputant on this topic. Their dispute thus forms a novel interpretive framework that has reworked and developed early traditions.

Likewise, the motif of the fiery annihilation of Terah’s household and idols, which looms large in Jubilees and the Apocalypse of Abraham, receives further elaboration and reshaping in later pseudepigraphical and rabbinic accounts. Not only do Terah, Haran and their idols endure fiery challenges, Abraham himself is depicted as being tested by the fiery trials23 of Nimrod or by the infamous builders of the Tower of Babel, who attempt to kill the patriarch by throwing him into the furnace.24 Yet, unlike the other members of Terah’s household who, in Jubilees and the Apocalypse of Abraham, meet their final demise in the fire, the patriarch miraculously escapes that fate. One of the early, formative accounts25 that develops this theme is a passage found in the Biblical Antiquities of Pseudo-Philo. In 6:1-18 the story tells of Abraham’s refusal to participate in building of the Tower of Babel:

Then all those who had been separated while inhabiting the earth afterwards gathered and dwelled together. Setting out from the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylon. They dwelled there and said to each other, “Behold, it will come about that we will be scattered from each other and in later times we will be fighting each other. Therefore, come now, let us build for ourselves a tower whose top will reach the heavens, and we will make for ourselves a name and a glory upon the earth.” …They each took their own bricks, aside from twelve men who refused to take them. These are their names: Abram, Nahor, Lot, Ruge, Tenute, Zaba, Armodat, Jobab, Esar, Abimahel, Saba, Aufin….When seven days had passed, the people assembled and spoke to their leader, “Deliver to us the men who refused to join in our plan, and we will burn them in fire.” The leaders sent men to bring them, but they found no one except Abram alone.…They took him and built a furnace and lit it with fire. They threw the bricks into the furnace to be fired. Then the leader Joktan, dismayed, took Abram and threw him with the bricks into the fiery furnace. But God stirred up a great earthquake, and burning fire leaped forth out of the furnace into flames and sparks of flame, and it burned up all those standing around in front of the furnace. All those who were consumed in that day were 83,500. But there was not even the slightest injury to Abram from the burning of the fire. Abram arose out of the furnace, and the fiery furnace collapsed.26

It is no coincidence that the authors of this account attempted to combine the early story about the builders of the idolatrous tower with Abraham’s story, by having the paradigmatic opponent of idolatry listed among those who refused to participate in the construction of the Tower of Babel. The novelty of this narrative notwithstanding, though, the reader can detect with little difficulty the subtle connections it has with earlier pseudepigraphical accounts.

One of the notable symbols here is that of fire – the symbol that plays such a pivotal role both in Jubilees and the Apocalypse of Abraham. In these early accounts, the idols and their makers must face a fiery furnace, often perishing in its flames. In Pseudo-Philo this is extended to the opponent of idolatry, Abraham himself, who must now pass through a fiery ordeal, a crucial challenge that tests his faith and the power of his God. Another important transition is the move from local to universal; the manufacturing of idols in the protological time transcends the boundaries of Terah’s household and is extended to all the people of the earth.

Such interpretive developments are not coincidental. They substitute Abraham’s father with an evil king and invoke the imagery of the Tower of Babel. One can see a paradigm shift: Abraham’s mission to oppose idols now leaves the framework of his personal story and receives a new ideological and, one might say, international significance. To resist idolatry is now to resist idolatrous nations and their leaders. Although in Pseudo-Philo’s account Joktan throws the patriarch into the fire,27 in later rabbinic accounts this treacherous task will routinely be performed by Nimrod.28 These rabbinic accounts tell of Nimrod putting Terah’s household through various tortures, with only Abraham surviving. Some scholars see in the imagery of these fiery tests, performed by the evil king, a subtle allusion to the story of Nebuchadnezzar29 found in the Book of Daniel. In that classic story, the evil foreign ruler tests the faith of three Jewish youths by throwing them into the fiery furnace.30 Although in earlier accounts the parallel between Nimrod and Nebuchadnezzar is rather veiled, in some later rabbinic versions this connection becomes clearer. This parallel is found in a number of midrashic passages, including Genesis Rabbah 34:9 and Genesis Rabbah 44:13,31 where the patriarch’s escape from fire is explicitly compared to the deliverance of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.32

Later rabbinic materials testify to the intense development of the tradition of Nimrod’s fiery tests. Thus, the already mentioned Genesis Rabbah 38:13 provides the following lengthy account of Abraham’s descend into fire:33

And Haran died in the presence of his father Terah (xi, 28). R. Hiyya said: Terah was a manufacturer of idols. He once went away somewhere and left Abraham to sell them in his place. A man came and wished to buy one. “How old are you?” Abraham asked him. “Fifty years,” was the reply. “Woe to such a man!” he exclaimed, “you are fifty years old and worship a day-old object!” At this he became ashamed and departed. On the other occasion a woman came with a plateful of flour and requested him, “Take this and offer it to them.” So he took a stick, broke them, and put the stick in the hand of the largest. When his father returned he demanded, “What have you done to them?” “I cannot conceal it from you,” he rejoined. “A woman came with a plateful of fine meal and requested me to offer it to them. One claimed, ‘I must eat first,’ while another claimed, ‘I must eat first.’ Therefore the largest arose, took the stick, and broke them.” “Why do you make sport of me,” he cried out; “have they then any knowledge!” “Should not your ears listen to what your mouth is saying,” he retorted. Thereupon he seized him and delivered him to Nimrod. “Let us worship the fire!” he [Nimrod] proposed. “Let us rather worship water, which extinguishes the fire,” replied he. “Then let us worship water!” “Let us rather worship the clouds which bear the water.” “Then let us worship the cloud!’ “Let us rather worship the winds which disperse the clouds.” “Then let us worship the wind!” “Let us rather worship human beings, who withstand the wind.” “You are just bandying words,” he exclaimed; “we will worship nought but the fire. Behold, I will cast you into it, and let your God whom you adore come and save you from it.” Now Haran was standing there undecided. If Abram is victorious, [thought he], I will say that I am of Abram’s belief, while if Nimrod is victorious I will say that I am on Nimrod’s side. When Abram descended into the fiery furnace and was saved, he [Nimrod] asked him, “Of whose belief are you?” “Of Abram’s,” he replied. Thereupon he seized and cast him into fire; his inwards were scorched and he died in his father’s presence. Hence it is written, and Haran died in the presence of (cal pene) his father Terah.”34

The account contains some familiar motifs known from early pseudepigraphical narratives, including the Apocalypse of Abraham, where the young protagonist is sent by his father to sell manufactured idols. Yet, the midrash also brings forward a set of new developments. Haran is the novel feature here, in comparison with the account found in Pseudo-Philo. He becomes a spectator of the dispute between Nimrod and Abraham. His reluctance and unbelief serve as a foil to the faith and strength of Abraham. Eventually both characters are thrown into the furnace, but unlike his brother Haran is not able to survive. It is noteworthy that the motif of Haran’s death overshadows the entire account, forming an inclusio around the section.

The authors of the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan are also cognizant of the patriarch’s fiery ordeal and provide a very similar story to the account found in Bereshit Rabbah 38.35 Here too Haran awaits the result of the match between Abraham and Nimrod and is then destroyed by fire. The difference between the targumic and midrashic account is that while in Midrash Rabbah Haran is destroyed by God, or more precisely the fire sent from heaven, in Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan he is destroyed by man – king Nimrod, who throws him into the furnace. It should be noted that the story of Nimrod testing Abraham be fire is a quite popular topos in rabbinic literature. Later variants of the story found in chapters 7-15 of Sefer ha-Yashar36 and chapters 33-35 of Chronicles of Jerahmeel show the dramatic expansion of the story.

It is time to return to the Slavonic apocalypse. The rendering of the story found in the Apocalypse of Abraham appears to constitute one of the early attempts to elaborate extensively on the account of Abraham’s fight with idolatry. The uniqueness of this lengthy narrative in comparison with the versions preserved in other pseudepigraphical and rabbinic materials is that the many peculiar details of the Slavonic text, such as the references to the enigmatic names of various idols manufactured by Terah and their elaborate portrayals, appear to be preserved only here. Yet, behind the enigmatic details one can see a persistent ideological tendency. Readers attuned to the theological reluctance to endorse traditions of the divine form in the second, apocalyptic section of the pseudepigraphon can also detect traces of the same anti-anthropomorphic tendency in the first section of the pseudepigraphon. There, in distinctive depictions of the idols Bar-Eshath, Mar-Umath, and other human-like figures, whose features are reminiscent of the familiar attributes of the anthropomorphic portrayals of the Deity in the Book of Ezekiel and some other biblical and pseudepigraphical accounts, one can discern subtle polemics with the divine body traditions.

Bar-Eshath, the Son of Fire

One of the striking features of the text is the author(s)’ extensive elaboration of idolatrous figures who appear as independent characters in fierce rivalry with the human heroes of the story. In depictions of these idols, some of which become known to the readers by their proper names, one can detect subtle allusions to the imagery prominent in the divine body traditions. The story involving one such idol, Bar-Eshath (Slav. Варисать), appears to stand at the center of the haggadic account of Abraham’s fight against idolatry. It may well constitute one of the most important polemical interactions with the divine body traditions that are found in the first part of the Apocalypse of Abraham. The story of this enigmatic figure begins in chapter five when Terah orders his son to gather wooden splinters left from the manufacturing of idols in order to cook a meal. In the pile of wooden chips Abram discovers a small figure whose forehead is decorated with the name Bar-Eshath.37 Since he already doubts the power of idols, his curiosity is piqued, and he decides to test the supernatural abilities of the wooden statue by putting Bar-Eshath near the “heart of the fire.” While leaving the idol near the heat. Abram wryly orders him to confine the flames and, in case of emergency, to “blow on the fire to make it flare up.”38

Yet the powers of the wooden idol fail to overcome the flames, as it is not able to survive the fire. Upon his return the future patriarch discovers the idol fallen, with his feet enveloped in the fire and terribly burned. Abram then sees the demise of the idolatrous statue as the flames turn Bar-Eshath into a pile of dust.

Several details in this ironic account of the destroyed anthropomorphic figure that fails the test of the blazing furnace seem to point not only to a stance against idolatry but also to subtle polemics with the divine body ideologies. The first important detail is that the graphic portrayal of the burning of the human-like statue recalls to memory familiar depictions found in the biblical theophanic accounts. In this respect it is intriguing that the authors of the Slavonic apocalypse portray the statue of a deity with his feet enveloped in fire. In Apocalypse of Abraham 5:9, Abram conveys that when he returned he “found Bar-Eshath fallen backwards, his feet enveloped in fire (нозѣ его обятѣ огнемь)39 and terribly burned.”40 This detail evokes an important theophanic feature often found in several visionary accounts, where the anthropomorphic figure of the Deity is depicted with fiery feet or a fiery lower body.

For example, in the paradigmatic vision recounted in Ezekiel 1, where the seer beholds the anthropomorphic Kavod, he describes the fiery nature of the lower body of the Deity. Ezekiel 1:27 reads:

I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and I saw that from what appeared to be his waist down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him….

A similar depiction can be also found in Ezekiel 8:2; there the prophet again encounters the celestial anthropomorphic manifestation with a fiery lower body:

I looked, and there was a figure that looked like a human being; below what appeared to be its loins it was fire, and above the loins it was like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming amber.

Another important testimony to this prominent motif can be found in the first chapter of the Book of Revelation, a text which is possibly contemporaneous with the Apocalypse of Abraham and which in many aspects shares the theophanic paradigm of the Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Daniel.41 Revelation 1:15 reads:

His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, and his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters….42

It is apparent that the tradition found in the Book of Revelation is related to the one found in the Apocalypse of Abraham since it refers to the feet of the Deity – or, more precisely, Christ, who is divinized in Revelation – as “refined as in a furnace,” a feature that might implicitly point to the theophanic traditions of the fiery test, which will be explored in detail later.

For now, we will focus on another significant detail in the aforementioned passage in Revelation, which might also be linked to the conceptual developments found in the Apocalypse of Abraham. This feature concerns the title of the anthropomorphic divine manifestation with fiery feet, a figure who is referred to as “like a son of man” (o[moion ui`o.n avnqrw,pou) in 1:13. This enigmatic designation deserves special attention. It is no secret that the Son of Man figure represents an important conceptual locus in Second Temple anthropomorphic ideologies. The title, which is well known from Daniel, the Similitudes of Enoch, 4 Ezra and New Testament materials, often labeled a luminous, anthropomorphic manifestation of a supra-human entity, especially the Messiah. Although the exact relation of the Son of Man to the Deity varies, and is debated, one can at least say that the Son of Man is not far off from the Deity in most of these works. It is possible that this title invokes subtle allusions to the name of the wooden idol of the Slavonic apocalypse.

One should recall that the Apocalypse of Abraham 5:5 mentions that the idol the patriarch discovered among the wooden chips in the house of his father was labeled on his forehead as “god Bar-Eshath.”43 Scholars have proposed a Semitic background for this enigmatic name, tracing it to the Aramaic expression בר אשת(א) – “the son of fire.” This connection was first noticed by Louis Ginzberg44 and recently was supported and investigated in depth by Alexander Kulik. Kulik links the origin of the title בר אשת to Mesopotamian traditions about the deities of fire, noting that their names were rendered in Greek in several ways, including the word φως.45

Kulik’s reference to the Greek term φως is intriguing. The term was often used in Jewish theophanic traditions to designate the glorious manifestations of the Deity and his anthropomorphic “icons,” including the luminous protoplast46 who often depicted in such accounts as the celestial Anthropos. These traditions often play on the ambiguity of the term which, depending on accent, can designate either “a man” (φώς) or “light” (φῶς), pointing to both the luminous and the anthropomorphic nature of the divine body.47 It seems that the authors of the Apocalypse of Abraham might also be cognizant of this correlation of man/light when in Apocalypse of Abraham 23:10 they choose to label the protoplast as the light of men (свѣть чл[о]в[ѣ]чь).48 The play on φως terminology might again be manifested in this enigmatic expression from the Slavonic apocalypse, whose Semitic original many scholars have argued underwent a Greek stage of transmission. In view of these peculiar terminological correlations, might the name Bar-Eshath (the “Son of Fire”) in the Apocalypse of Abraham play on the ambiguous meaning of φως? If so, how does one explain this hypothetical correspondence within its original Semitic framework? In previous studies some scholars of Jewish theophanic traditions propose the possibility of a Semitic pun on איש\אש (fire/man),49 one that might already be manifested in Ezekiel 8:2.50 The Ezekelian terminology apparently intensifies the connections between the fiery and anthropomorphic characteristics of the divine extent. In view of these links, it is possible that, by naming the anthropomorphic idol as “the Son of Fire,” (בר אשת) the authors of the Slavonic apocalypse sought an interplay with another prominent Aramaic designation, “the Son of Man” (בר אנש). Our ongoing research will demonstrate that the authors of the Slavonic apocalypse were familiar with Adamic lore,51 the mediatorial stream where the correlations between light/man or fire/man were first developed. In view of these developments the possibility of the pun on words “fire” and “man” in the title of Bar-Eshath cannot be excluded.

Testing by the Fire

It is time to return to the motif of the fiery test that turned our wooden idol into a pile of dust. Apocalypse of Abraham 7:2 reminds its readers that fire “mocks with its flames the things which perish easily.”52 It appears that the early biblical and extra-biblical testimonies to this tradition of the fiery test hint that this motif may have originated within anthropomorphic currents. From them one learns that the divine body traditions have their own use of the fiery testing: its purpose is to underline the distinction between true and false representations of the Deity, where the divine form’s endurance against the element of fire testifies to its authenticity. This theological conviction that the celestial bodies are somehow not consumed by fire and may even be composed of the fiery substance can be found in several places in the Apocalypse of Abraham where the fiery imagery is often employed in portrayals of divine and angelic manifestations.53

Moreover, it appears that the authors of the Slavonic apocalypse believe that fire represents the substance that surrounds the very presence of God.54 Here the authors of the Apocalypse of Abraham are drawing on an established visionary tradition manifested in several biblical accounts, including Exodus’ theophany of the burning bush. There Moses encounters a bush that burns but is not consumed, a manifestation of the divine. The motif of the celestial form embraced by fire also brings to mind the aforementioned account found in the first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, where the seer beholds the Deity enveloped by fire or perhaps even composed of it.

It is also intriguing that in some Second Temple apocalyptic materials a corporeal representation of the Divine endures a test of a blazing furnace very similar to the one that destroys the wooden “body” of Bar-Eshath in the Apocalypse of Abraham. A distinctive example of such a tradition is Daniel 3, a composition well known for its promulgation of anthropomorphic ideologies. There one can find an elaborate account depicting the appearance of a divine corporeal manifestation in a blazing furnace. In Daniel the story of the fiery test finds its place, as it does in the Apocalypse of Abraham, in the midst of debates about the essence of true and false (that is, idolatrous) representations of the Deity. There, Nebuchadnezzar gives orders to put into the furnace of the blazing fire three Israelite youths – Shadrach, Mashach and Abednego, who refused to worship the king’s golden idol. While in the furnace, these three men are rescued by the divine manifestation,55 which miraculously appears in the midst of fire. Commentators of this tradition have noted that the Aramaic text preserves the mystery of the divine presence in the furnace and does not reveal the identity of the divine manifestation. However, the authors of the Greek version of Daniel 3 fill the exegetical lacunae by recounting the story of the angel of the Lord descending into the furnace in order to rescue the three faithful Jews.56 It is clear that this divine “body” unharmed by the fiery test is polemically juxtaposed in the text with the idolatrous “image” of the king and appears to be understood as a “statue” superior to the idol created by Nebuchadnezzar.

The fiery test of the human bodies of Shadrach, Mashach and Abednego, who endure the deadly flames along with the divine form, is also noteworthy. The imagery of the blazing furnace in Daniel 3 appears to represent an important theophanic locus wherein human bodies are able to encounter the divine in the midst of fire. Choon Leong Seow underlines this important theophanic aspect of the passage when he remarks that “the Jews do not only survive the ordeal, they even encounter divine presence in the fire ordeal.”57 He further notes:

… the narrator does not say that the four individuals are walking in the furnace, but that they are walking amid the fire…the story is that they are with a divine being in the midst of the fire. They encounter divine presence in the middle of the fire. Here, as often in the Old Testament, fire is associated with the presence of God. On Mount Sinai, the presence of God was accompanied by, perhaps even made manifest by, the appearance of fire (Exod. 19:16, 19; 20:18, 21) and in Israel’s hymnody fire is often associated with the manifestation of God (e.g., Pss. 18:8-16; 77:17-20)….58

In this respect Daniel 3 appears to represent a link in a long-lasting development within the divine body traditions in which several distinguished individuals, such as the patriarch Enoch or the prophet Moses, are depicted as enduring the fiery test of an encounter with the divine substance, dangerous though it may be as it emits light and fire. In the course of this deadly encounter these human exemplars often undergo a radical transformation, acquiring for themselves fiery luminous bodies or “faces.”59 The traditions thus envision these figures as representations of the Deity, even as closely associated with the divine Kavod itself.

The authors of the Slavonic apocalypse appear to be cognizant of these theophanic currents when in the story of Bar-Eshath they choose fire as the testing ground for the authenticity of the anthropomorphic figure representing a deity. The Danielic background of the fiery test’s motif 60 seems also to be implicitly reaffirmed in the final destiny of Terah (or, in Jubilees, Haran) who in Apocalypse of Abraham 8 perishes in the fire along with his household and idols.61 These members of Abraham’s family, unlike Shadrach, Mashach and Abednego, share the same destiny as idolatrous anthropomorphic figures which God also turns into piles of ashes.

It has already been noted that, despite the apparent anti-anthropomorphic thrust of the pseudepigraphon, the symbolism of fire, so prominent in the biblical theophanies, was not completely abandoned by the authors of the Apocalypse of Abraham, who repeatedly choose to portray the divine presence through the imagery of the Voice coming in a stream of fire. Here one can see the formative influence of the Deuteronomic tradition with its preference for a vocal, rather than corporeal, manifestation of the Deity.

Nevertheless, the symbolism of fire does not remain entirely unambiguous in the Slavonic apocalypse, and it is possible that there one encounters subtle polemics even against this theophanic element prominent in the divine body ideologies. Thus, although the Apocalypse of Abraham also reaffirms the language of fire in its theophanic depiction of the divine Voice, in the patriarch’s speech about the hierarchy of natural elements found in chapter 7 the fire occupies the lowest grade, being easily “subdued” by water, the next element in the hierarchy. 62

Mar-Umath, the One Who Is “Heavier than Stone”

Our study has suggested that the authors of the Slavonic apocalypse appear to be involved in polemics with the divine body traditions by consciously deconstructing theophanic imagery and even technical vocabulary distinctive to the classic anthropomorphic developments. Further support for this hypothesis can be found in the peculiar conceptual elaborations involving another problematic figure of the story – a statue of the stone idol Mar-Umath.

Although the idols produced by Terah are said to be made of gold, silver, copper, iron, wood, stone and other unanimated materials, the authors of the text refer to them as the “bodies” (Slav. тѣла). In view of our previous research pointing to the possibility of polemics with the divine body traditions, this use of “corporeal” terminology does not appear coincidental. It is also intriguing that the context where this corporeal terminology is applied in the apocalypse implicitly invokes the account of creation, an important biblical locus that advances an anthropomorphic priestly ideology. This creational topos shaped by the corporeal motifs also appears to be polemically refashioned by the authors of the Slavonic apocalypse. In this new polemical framework, Abraham’s father Terah now assumes the place of God and poses as a “creator” of the idolatrous “bodies,” a role reminiscent of the archetypical position of the Deity who once shaped the body of the first human after the likeness of his own image. Thus in Apocalypse of Abraham 6:2-3 the following can be found:

And I [Abraham] said, “How can the creation of the body (створенiе тѣла) (of the idols) made by him (Terah) be his helper? Or would he have subordinated his body (тѣло) to his soul, his soul to his spirit, then his spirit – to folly and ignorance?”63

It is remarkable that the text tells about the “creation of the body” (створенiе тѣла) of the idols, thus applying human-like terminology to the inanimate objects. More intriguing is that the bodies of the idols, similar to the Genesis account, are placed in an unambiguous connection to the corporeality (тѣло) of their master and creator – the craftsman Terah. As is common in the divine body traditions, the passage also makes an explicit terminological connection between the body of the Master and its replica. The terminological choice involving the word “creation” (створенiе) likewise does not seem coincidental; rather, it serves as an important pointer to the prototypical biblical counterpart. In Apocalypse of Abraham 6:7, this term is used again in relation to the idol Mar-Umath.64

It has already been noted that, like the account of Bar-Eshath, the story of the stone idol Mar-Umath appears to represent another important nexus in the text where polemical interactions with the divine body traditions unfold in the midst of already familiar imagery. In Apocalypse of Abraham 1:3-4 the following description of this stone idol is found:

I, Abraham, having entered their temple for the service, found a god named Mar-Umath, carved out of stone, fallen at the feet of an iron god, Nakhon. And it came to pass, that when I saw this, my heart was troubled. And I fell to thinking, because I, Abraham, was unable to return him to his place all by my self, since he was heavier (тяжекъ) than a great stone.65

It is possible that the description of Mar-Umath in this passage evokes the technical terminology of the Kavod paradigm. This terminological link with the divine body traditions pertains to the designation of Mar-Umath as “being heavier than a great stone.” The Slavonic term used here for the word “heavy,” – тяжекъ, appears to be an allusion to the technical terminology reserved for the designation of the divine Glory (Kavod) in Ezekelien and priestly materials. There the quality of “heaviness” serves as one of the meanings of the Hebrew word Kavod.66 It appears that the authors of the Slavonic apocalypse know this facet of the term’s meaning and even use it interchangeably for Kavod in another passage found in the Apocalypse of Abraham.

Ryszard Rubinkiewicz has argued that the Slavonic term for “heaviness”67 (Slav. тягота) found in another passage, Apocalypse of Abraham 14:13, serves as a technical term for rendering the Hebrew Kavod. That passage reads: “… Since God gave him [Azazel] the heaviness (тяготоу) and the will against those who answer him ….”68 Rubinkiewicz notes that the original text most likely had כבוד, which has the sense of “gravity” but also of “glory,” and the meaning of the verse would be: “the Eternal One…to him he gave the glory and power.” According to Rubinkiewicz, this ambiguity lays at the basis of the Slavonic translation of the verse.69

If the term “heaviness” is indeed associated in the mind of the Apocalypse of Abraham’s authors with the Kavod terminology, it is intriguing that this notion was used solely in the description of the negative protagonists of the text – the stone idol Mar-Umath and the fallen angel Azazel. Such usage might again point to the polemical stance of the authors of the pseudepigraphon against the Kavod tradition with its peculiar theophanic imagery.

A Likeness of a Craftsman’s Work”

Another important facet of the anti-anthropomorphic thrust of the Slavonic apocalypse pertains to its polemical appropriation of the “likeness” language which often permeates the conceptual core of corporeal theophanic traditions. One will recall that in the paradigmatic theophanic priestly template reflected in the Book of Ezekiel and the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, the language of “likeness” comes to the fore. The authors of the Book of Ezekiel repeatedly strive to describe their vision of the divine and angelic phenomena through the language of “likeness.” The same tendency is discernable in Genesis 1, where the Deity creates humans in the likeness of his image.

The formulae of “likeness” also looms large in the Apocalypse of Abraham, but the text’s authors use it in a distinctively polemical way. Thus in chapter 25 of the apocalypse, God offers to the seer a vision of the future temple polluted by an idol of jealousy, an appearance that is conveyed through the language of likeness:

I saw there the likeness of the idol of jealousy (подобие идола ревнования), as a likeness (подобие) of a craftsman’s [work] such as my father made, and its statue was of shining copper, and a man before it, and he was worshiping it; and [there was] an altar opposite it and youth were slaughtered on it before the idol. And I said to him, “What is this idol, and what is the altar, and who are those being sacrificed, and who is the sacrificer, and what is the beautiful temple which I see, art and beauty if your glory that lies beneath your throne?” And he said: “Hear Abraham! This temple and altar and the beautiful things which you have seen are my image of the sanctification of the name of my glory (святительства имени славы моея), where every prayer of men will dwell, and the gathering of kings and prophets, and the sacrifice which shall establish to be made for me among my people coming from your progeny. And the statue you saw is my anger, because the people who will come to me out of you will make me angry. And the man you saw slaughtering is he who angers me. And the sacrifice is the murder of those who are for me a testimony of the close of judgment in the end of the creation (Apoc. Ab. 25:1-6).70

In this pivotal passage earlier motifs are explicitly invoked, ones that readers of the apocalypse encountered in the first section of the pseudepigraphon that dealt with the idolatrous practices of Abraham’s father. The statues similar to those made in the house of Terah (“a likeness [подобие] of a craftsman’s [work] such as my father made”) are now installed in God’s Temple. This idolatrous practice of worshiping the statue of shining copper, labeled in the story as “a likeness (подобие) of a craftsman’s work,” seems to cautiously invoke the language of “likeness” known from the priestly theophanic paradigm exemplified in Genesis 1:26 and Ezekiel 1. This reference to “craftsman” invokes again the story of Terah and his creation of the idols. The tendency to label the idolatrous figures as “bodies,” already detectable in the early chapters, is again reaffirmed here. The idolatrous practices are then contrasted to true worship, which is described in the now familiar language of aurality: the divine Name denies that the Deity can possess a body. Thus the future eschatological temple71 is portrayed as a dwelling place, not for the idolatrous shining statue, but for “the image of the sanctification of the name.” 72 It is apparent that the authors try to re-interpret the technical terminology of the divine Glory tradition by merging it with formulae borrowed from the ideology of the divine Name. There is also no doubt that the authors’ attitude to the anthropomorphic ideology remains polemical, which is unabashedly shown in labeling the shining statue as the idol of jealousy.

Divine Body Traditions and Anti-Corporeal Polemics

Our previous analysis has already demonstrated that the Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Daniel have exercised considerable influence on the Apocalypse of Abraham. In the view of these paramount connections, it is important to explore in depth how the Slavonic apocalypse polemically appropriates these biblical texts.

For this we must now return to the story of the infamous idol Bar-Eshath. We have previously explored this narrative, arguing that it represents a polemical variation on the divine body traditions. In the following section of our study we will continue to probe the polemical features of the Bar-Eshath account by focusing on the symbolic dimension of his story, as reflected in chapter six of the Slavonic apocalypse. There the story of the “fall” of the wooden idol is poetically retold again, this time in mythological language reminiscent of depictions in Ezekiel and Daniel, two central biblical writings where the ideology of the divine body comes to its most emphatic, developed articulation.

The Biblical Background of the Tale of the Fallen Tree

The Apocalypse of Abraham 6:10-17 offers the following poetic tale about the origin and the final destiny of the wooden statue, conveyed through primordial mythological imagery:

… But Bar-Eshath, your god, before he was made has been rooted in the ground. Being great and wondrous (великъ сы и дивен), with branches, flowers and [various] beauties (похвалами). And you cut him with an ax, and with your skill the god was made. And behold, he has dried up, and his sap (тукота его) is gone. He fell from the heights to the ground, and he went from greatness to insignificance, and his appearance has faded. [Now] he himself has been burned up by the fire, and he turned into ashes and is not more….73

This description of the wondrous tree found in the Slavonic apocalypse appears to draw on the biblical arboreal metaphors reflected in Ezekiel 3174 and Daniel 4.75 It is no happenstance that the Slavonic apocalypse’s authors bring into play these two theophanic accounts.76 As has been already noted in our investigation these two biblical texts, permeated with corporeal imagery, exercise a formative influence on the theophanic and angelological imagery found in various parts of the Apocalypse of Abraham. To better understand its appropriation in the pseudepigraphon we must explore the ideological background of the arboreal portrayals in Ezekiel and Daniel.

As noted above, the Apocalypse of Abraham draws on a cluster of motifs from the Book of Ezekiel, while at the same time reshaping them by eliminating their anthropomorphic details.77 The authors’ peculiar use of the Ezekelien Chariot imagery in Abraham’s vision of the upper heaven has been investigated in detail in previous studies.78 Although the anthropomorphic thrust of Ezekiel understandably comes to its fore in the account of the vision of the divine Chariot where the seer beholds the human-like Kavod, other parts of the book also contain implicit and explicit reaffirmations of the corporeal ideology of the priestly tradition. It is noteworthy for our investigation that the corporeal ideology of both Ezekiel and the priestly source is shaped by the tenets of the Adamic tradition and its technical terminology.79 One of the examples of these corporeal developments involving Adamic imagery might be in Ezekiel 31, wherein one finds a portrayal of a wondrous tree that at first flourishes in the Garden of God and then is doomed by the Deity and destroyed by foreigners.

As with any profound religious symbol, this arboreal metaphor can be understood in a number of ways. This passage was often interpreted as a reference to the destruction of nations or their arrogant rulers. There is, however, another, more individualistic reading of the story, one that alludes to an Adamic tale. The peculiar reference to the location of the wondrous tree in the Garden of Eden (עדן) and its expulsion from this ideal place exhibits parallels with the story of the protoplast, who at one time also enjoyed exalted status in the Garden but was later expelled by the Deity from his heavenly abode. Like the mysterious trees in the Ezekielien and Danielic accounts, the protoplast once possessed a gigantic and wondrous statue. Several passages found in Philo, as well as several pseudepigraphical accounts (not least among them Apocalypse of Abraham 23:4-6), describe the protoplast’s body as great in height, terrible in breadth and incomparable in aspect.80 This great body of the first human was also said to be luminous in nature and clothed with a “garment of glory,” per some Jewish traditions.81

Yet according to the Adamic traditions, the original condition of the protoplast’s body was dramatically changed after the Fall when he lost his great beauty, stature, and luminosity. In view of these parallels to the Adamic developments, scholars have argued that in Ezekiel 31 and Daniel 4 one might have the symbolic rendering of the protoplast story. The metaphor of the fallen tree forewarns of the demise of the original condition of humanity.82

The memory of the protoplast story as a metaphor for the Fall of the exalted, “divine humanity” has a pronounced place in the conceptual framework of the Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Daniel, furthering their corporeal ideologies. Previous studies have noted that the divine body traditions often juxtapose antithetically the exaltation and the demotion of mediatorial figures, thereby simultaneously promoting and limiting the divinization of humanity.83 The demise of the wondrous trees fits well into this dialectical interplay of reaffirming and deconstructing various corporeal ideologies.84

These conceptual developments bring us back to the arboreal imagery in chapter six of the Apocalypse of Abraham. In the already mentioned passage Apocalypse of Abraham 6:10-11, the authors seem cautiously to invoke the aforementioned biblical accounts when Bar-Eshath is compared with the wondrous tree. All three accounts emphasize the beauty of the prototypical tree. All three accounts recount the tree’s eventual demise using the imagery of a fall from a great height to the ground. 85

In highlighting similarities between biblical and pseudepigraphic accounts of the great tree, it is also important to compare the distinctive purposes that arboreal imagery plays in Ezekiel and Daniel on one hand and the Apocalypse of Abraham on the other. While the imagery in Ezekiel and Daniel is employed to advance the ideology of divine corporeality, in the Slavonic apocalypse it unambiguously rejects traditions of divine corporeality. One detail in particular illuminates the ideological divide. In the biblical stories the symbolic tree-statue of exalted humanity is diminished by the will of the Creator,86 and both of the biblical trees are cut by celestial beings – in Ezekiel by God and in Daniel by the heavenly envoy. In contrast, in the Apocalypse of Abraham, the tree is cut down not by the Deity but by Abraham’s idolatrous father Terah. Throughout the narrative Terah is portrayed as a “creator” of his idols in a manner ironically reminiscent of God’s role in the biblical account of creation.87 In Apoc. Ab. 4:3 Abraham tells Terah that he is a god to his idols since he made them. Here again, like the accounts found in Ezekiel and Daniel, the subtle presence of Adamic motifs can be discerned. Yet, unlike the prophetic books where the Adamic currents reaffirm the possibility of a human-like body of the Deity, who fashions his beloved creatures in his own image, in the Slavonic apocalypse these currents work against such a possibility.

The Demoted Cherub

The arboreal hymn of the demise of Bar-Eshath in Apocalypse of Abraham 6:10-17, which defines him as a god, brings us to another important passage, Ezekiel 28:1-19. This passage contains two oracles about an enigmatic celestial figure, an anointed Cherub (כרוב ממשח), whom the text defines as the prince of Tyre and who, like Bar-Eshath, appears to be envisioned as a demoted idol.88

It is noteworthy that, like the wooden idol, the main character of this Ezekelian passage is also repeatedly described in ironic fashion as a “god.” Furthermore, it is intriguing that both the hymn from the Slavonic apocalypse and the account from Ezekiel 28 describe their “idols,” so to speak, as wondrous creatures decorated with “beauties.” Although the Slavonic text does not elaborate on the nature of Bar-Eshath’s beauties (Slav. похвалы),89 the passage from Ezekiel describes the Cherub as “the model of perfection” (חותם תכנית), “perfect in beauty” (וכליל יפי), and embellished with precious stones. It appears that in both accounts references to the characters’ beauties serve to indicate their exalted status.90

Scholars have observed that the attribution of these beauties invokes the memory of another important representation of the Deity – the supreme angel Metatron – who according to the Sefer Hekhalot was also “enhanced” with various “beauties” in the form of precious stones.91 In this context the reference to the protagonist of the Merkabah tradition does not seem out of place, given that he himself might also be viewed as a conceptual nexus reflecting both the dynamics of exaltation and demotion of humanity. In this capacity he could be envisioned as a sort of idol who serves as a source of confusion for Elisha b. Abuyah, who according to b. Hag. 15a takes Metatron as the second deity in heaven that leads him to the heretical conclusion about two “powers” in heaven. The passage from the Hagigah then depicts the demotion of the dangerous idol: Metatron is punished in front of angels with sixty fiery lashes in order to prevent future confusions between the Deity and his angelic replica.

Returning to the similarities between the stories of the anointed Cherub and Bar-Eshath, it should be noted that both of them seem to contain traces of a corporeal ideology in their symbolic rendering of the Adamic story, that is, the exaltation and fall of the protoplast.92 Thus in Ezekiel the Cherub, similar to Bar-Eshath, falls from “the heights to the ground,” being cast out as a profane thing from the mountain of God.

It is noteworthy that both texts, like the protoplast traditions, envision the process of demotion as the loss of the original condition of the characters. Ezekiel 28 hints that the Cherub was originally installed like the divine Kavod on the holy mountain in the midst of fire: “you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.” The story continues with the exalted figure expelled from the exalted place by its guardians: “I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from the midst of the stones of fire.” According to the text, when the cherub was expelled from his original lofty abode he was “cast to the ground” and “exposed” before the spectators’ gaze. In light of the possible Adamic background for the Ezekielean oracles, demotion to the lower realm and exposure to the gazing public can be understood as references to the loss of the original luminous garment of the protoplast after the Fall.

A similar tradition about the loss of the shining attire of the protoplast seems present in the Slavonic apocalypse, which describes the “fall” of Bar-Eshath as the “fading” of his primordial condition. Apocalypse of Abraham 6:14-15 reads: “He fell from heights to the ground, and he went from greatness to insignificance, and his appearance has faded….”93

It is also intriguing that in both stories the characters share the same final destiny: their “bodies” turn into ashes by fire. As has been previously noted, in Ezekiel the demoted Cherub is clearly envisioned as an idolatrous statue destroyed by fire. Further, it is pointed out that the “cremation of the king of Tyre resembles the burning of a statue and the scattering of its ashes on the ground or in the underworld. If the king of Tyre is identified as a cherub, represented as a statue, and punished for claiming to be a god, then the burning of this statue can be seen as the rite of disposal of the impurity of idolatry.”94

The divine body traditions – especially their use of fire as a test that adjudicates between false and true representations of the Deity – appear to be present in both the Apocalypse of Abraham and in the Ezekelian oracles. Thus, the anointed Cherub is first depicted as passing the fiery test (“in the midst of the stones of fire you walked”) and then failing it (“I brought forth fire from the midst of you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes”).

The Divine Face

There is no doubt that the symbolism of various Adamic currents permeates the story of Bar-Eshath. In this respect it is especially interesting to examine the aforementioned passage from Apocalypse of Abraham 6, where one finds some peculiar details accompanying the “fall” of the wooden idol. The text says that Bar-Eshath fell from the heights to the ground and that his condition was changed “from greatness to smallness” (оть велiиства прiиде в малость).95 Although in the course of narration the wooden statue literally fell to the ground, it appears that the reference to the idol’s fall has an additional symbolic dimension. The account of the infamous idol’s “fall” once again apparently alludes to the story of the protoplast. Another important Slavonic pseudepigraphon can further clarify the Adamic aspect of the terminology in Apocalypse of Abraham 6:15. In 2 Enoch the two conditions of Adam’s corporeality – one original before the Fall, and the other fallen after the transgression – are conveyed through these same notions, greatness and smallness.

In the longer recension of 2 Enoch 30:10, the Lord reveals to the seventh antediluvian hero the mystery of the two conditions or “natures” of Adam, one original and the other fallen. It is striking that these conditions are rendered in the text through the familiar formulae of “greatness and smallness”:

… From visible and invisible substances I created man.
From both his natures come both death and life.
And (as my) image he knows the word like (no) other creature.
But even at his greatest he is small,
and again at his smallest he is great.96

Both recensions of the Slavonic text further invoke this terminology in 2 Enoch 44:1: “the Lord with his own two hands created mankind; in a facsimile of his own face, both small and great (мала и велика),97 the Lord created [them].”98

It is intriguing that both the Apocalypse of Abraham and 2 Enoch use identical Slavonic terminology in their description of Bar-Eshath and Adam, respectively. This unambiguously points to the Adamic “flavor” of the story of the wooden idol. The description of the fall of Bar-Eshath as the transition “from greatness to smallness” in Apocalypse of Abraham 6:14 further reinforces this connection with Adamic developments, in that it recalls the tradition about the diminution of the protoplast’s statue after his transgression in Eden in 2 Enoch.99

Apocalypse of Abraham 6:15 depicts Bar-Eshath as the one whose “face” (Slav. лицо) has faded: “He fell from the heights to the ground, and he went from greatness to insignificance, and the appearance of his face (взор лица его)100 has faded.”101 The notion of Bar-Eshath’s fading face is striking. It invokes once more conceptual developments found in 2 Enoch, which widely operates within the imagery of divine and human “faces” and views panim not simply as a part of human or divine bodies but as a reference to their entire corporealities. The “fading of the face” in this context seems related to the adverse fate of the original body of the first human(s), which literally “faded” when their luminosity was lost as a result of the transgression in Eden. These lexical affinities demonstrate that the authors of the Apocalypse of Abraham were cognizant of the divine Face terminology and its prominent role in the divine body traditions.

In conclusion of this chapter of our study we must note that the elaboration of the story of Abraham’s struggle against idols found in the Apocalypse of Abraham provides unique insight into the complex world of the Jewish sacerdotal debates in the early centuries of the Common Era. It was a time when Jewish pseudepigraphical accounts attempted to offer their explanation for the loss of the terrestrial sanctuary by invoking the familiar imagery of idolatry found in prophetic accounts. At the same time these Jewish works often tried to embrace other theological alternatives for preserving and perpetuating traditional priestly practices.102 One option was to view the celestial sanctuary as represented by the divine Chariot.

Of course the concept of the heavenly Temple as the locus of liturgical and mystical experience was not an entirely novel development. Rather, it was the legacy of the complex theological climate of the Second Temple period, a time when various priestly groups competed for the primacy and authority of the priestly legacy by looking for various alternative practices, including the option of the otherworldly, celestial priesthood. This contention-ridden sacerdotal environment created a veritable gallery of ideal priestly figures, including Michael, Enoch, Melchizedek, and Levi, who were depicted as distinguished servants of celestial sanctuaries. In this respect the story of the young Abraham who travels from the destroyed terrestrial sanctuary polluted by the idols of his father to the heavenly Temple is not an invention of the authors of the Apocalypse of Abraham. It rather represents one of the links in an established literary and mystical tradition, attested already in the early sections of 1 Enoch as the seventh antediluvian patriarch ascends to the heavenly Temple to behold the divine Kavod.103

However, the difference here is that, while embracing the liturgical and sacerdotal significance of the journey to the heavenly sanctuary, the authors of the Slavonic apocalypse at the very same time display a pronounced reluctance. Specifically, they seem to demur at embracing the visual discipline of the Enochic paradigm and its anthropomorphic tenets. Instead, another, aural practice unfolds, involving revelation of the divine Voice and veneration of the divine Name. We should now proceed to a close investigation of this alternative apocalyptic worldview.

1 See Harlow, “Idolatry and Alterity: Israel and the Nations in the Apocalypse of Abraham,” 302–30.

2 In this respect Martha Himmelfarb observes that “the heaven of the Apocalypse of Abraham is clearly a temple. Abraham sacrifices in order to ascend to heaven, then ascends by means of the sacrifice, and joins in the heavenly liturgy to protect himself during the ascent .… The depiction of heaven as a temple confirms the importance of the earthly temple. The prominence of the heavenly liturgy lends importance to the liturgy of words on earth, which at the time of the apocalypse provided a substitute for sacrifice, a substitute that in the apocalypse’s view was to be temporary.” Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven, 66.

3 Thus, for example, Daniel Harlow views the whole structure of the work as the composition which includes five sacerdotal steps or “movements”: “Abraham’s separation from false worship (chaps. 1-8); his preparation for true worship (chaps. 9-14); his ascent for true worship (chaps. 15-18); his vision of false worship (19:1-29:13); and his vision of true worship restored (29:14-31:12).” Harlow, “Idolatry and Alterity: Israel and the Nations in the Apocalypse of Abraham,” 305-306.

4 Harlow, “Idolatry and Alterity: Israel and the Nations in the Apocalypse of Abraham,” 306.

5 Apoc. Ab. 1:2-3: “…at the time when my lot came up, when I had finished the services of my father Terah’s sacrifice to his gods of wood, stone, gold, silver, brass and iron, I, Abraham, having entered their temple for the service….” A. Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha: Toward the Original of the Apocalypse of Abraham (TCS, 3; Atlanta: Scholars, 2004) 9.

6 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 86.

7 On the date and provenance of the Apocalypse of Abraham, see: G. H. Box and J.I. Landsman, The Apocalypse of Abraham. Edited, with a Translation from the Slavonic Text and Notes (TED, 1.10; London, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1918) xv-xix; B. Philonenko-Sayar and M. Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes (Semitica, 31; Paris: Librairie Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1981) 34-35; R. Rubinkiewicz, “Apocalypse of Abraham,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (ed. J.H. Charlesworth; New York: Doubleday, 1985 [1983]) 1.681–705 at 683; idem, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham en vieux slave, 70-73; A. Kulik, “К датировке ‘Откровения Авраама,’” In Memoriam of Ja. S. Lur’e (eds. N.M. Botvinnik and Je.I. Vaneeva; St. Petersburg: Feniks, 1997) 189–95; idem, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 2–3.

8 Scholars previously noted that the seer’s vision of the divine throne found in the Apocalypse of Abraham “draws heavily on Ezekiel and stands directly in the tradition of Merkabah speculation.” J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) 183. See also Gruenwald, Apocalyptic and Merkavah Mysticism, 55-57; Rowland, The Open Heaven, 86-87.

9 Rowland, The Open Heaven, 87.

10 P. Munoa in Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism. A Collage of Working Definitions (forthcoming).

11 Here the constraints on the visual representation of the deity are even more demanding than in the Apocalypse of Abraham, since the authors of the Testament of Abraham render the deity completely invisible, lacking even the slightest visible representation.

12 Munoa illustrates these tendencies by referring to the passage from chapter 16 where the following tradition about the invisibility of God can be found: “When Death heard, he shuddered and trembled, overcome by great cowardice; and he came with great fear and stood before the unseen Father, shuddering, moaning and trembling, awaiting the Master’s demand. Then the unseen God said to Death ….” (T. Abr. 16:3-4). P. Munoa, Four Powers in Heaven: The Interpretation of Daniel 7 in the Testament of Abraham (JSPSS, 28; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998) 141.

13 Mary Dean-Otting also notices the theophanic peculiarities of the Apocalypse of Abraham and its similarity with the Testament of Abraham. She observes that in the Slavonic Apocalypse “the role of Deity is somehow a combination of the Testament of Levi (where Deity is revealed in a throne-vision) and the Testament of Abraham (where Deity controls the action and speaks, albeit only once, directly with Abraham, but remains behind the scenes). It appears that the trend toward removing Deity altogether from an appearance in a heavenly journey was already established at the time of the writing of the Apocalypse of Abraham; however, a need to reveal God was also strong, and thus a kind of compromise is accomplished in the depiction of Deity as a voice emerging from the fire surrounding the divine throne.” M. Dean-Otting, Heavenly Journeys: A Study of the Motif in Hellenistic Jewish Literature (JU, 8; Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1984) 253-254.

14 For the discussion of the divine body traditions in biblical, pseudepigraphical, and rabbinic materials see A. Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition (TSAJ, 107; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2005) 143-146; 211-252; idem, “‘Without Measure and Without Analogy’: The Tradition of the Divine Body in 2 (Slavonic) Enoch,” in A. Orlov, From Apocalypticism to Merkabah Mysticism: Studies in the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha (JSJSS, 114; Leiden: Brill, 2007) 149-174.

15 Joshua 24:2 provides a brief statement about the idolatry of Terah’s household: “Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors – Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor – lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods’” (NRSV).

16 VanderKam, The Book of Jubilees, 2.67-70.

17 It should be noted that the subtle allusions to the traditions of the divine form might already be hinted at in the account found in Jubilees, which attempts to depict Terah as the priestly figure serving in the “presence of the statues.” One of the intriguing parallels here is that, similar to the living creatures (the Hayyot) that are predestined to carry on their shoulders the divine, anthropomorphic form in the classic Ezekelien account, Terah too carries the idolatrous statues on his shoulders.

18 See also Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions I.32: “From the first this same man, being an astrologer, was able, from the account and order of the stars, to recognize the Creator, while all others were in error, and understood that all things are regulated by His providence….” T. Smith, “Recognitions of Clement,” inAnte-Nicene Christian Library: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325 (eds. A. Roberts and J. Donaldson; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1867) 3:136-485 at 3:165.

19 See L. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews (7 vols.; Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1998) 5.210, n. 16. Louis Ginzberg discerns six versions of this tradition that later played a prominent role in the rabbinic materials. In his opinion the oldest form can be found in Genesis Rabbah 38:13, “where we are told that Abraham, by observing how one element subdues another, becomes convinced of the error of worshipping the elements.” Yet, it seems that this tradition is already present in the Apocalypse of Abraham and maybe even in Jubilees.

20 Josephus (10 vols.; LCL; trs. H. S. J. Thackeray and R. Markus; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926–65) 4.77-79.

21 Colson and Whitaker, Philo, 6.39-41.

22 Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 1.311.

23 One of early hints to Abraham’s fiery test might be contained in the passage from Judith 8. Judith 8:25-27 reads: “In spite of everything let us give thanks to the Lord our God, who is putting us to the test as he did our ancestors. Remember what he did with Abraham, and how he tested Isaac, and what happened to Jacob in Syrian Mesopotamia, while he was tending the sheep of Laban, his mother’s brother. For he has not tried us with fire, as he did them, to search their hearts, nor has he taken vengeance on us; but the Lord scourges those who are close to him in order to admonish them” (NRSV).

24 Scholars previously suggested that “the legend of Abraham in [a?] furnace is based on the interpretation of the place-name Ur (Gen 15:7) as ‘fire.’” Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Genesis (tr. M. Maher, M.S.C.; ArBib, 1B; Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1992) 51, n. 17. Geza Vermes observes that “by interpreting אור as ‘fire,’ ancient commentators of Genesis 15:7 (‘I am the Lord who brought you out of אור of the Chaldees’) created a legend out of a pun.” G. Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism. Haggadic Studies (SPB, 4; Leiden: Brill, 1973) 88. Cf. Pirke de R. Eliezer 26: “The second trial was when he [Abraham] was put into prison for ten years – three years in Kithi, seven years in Budri. After ten years they sent and brought him forth and cast him into the furnace of fire, and the King of Glory put forth His right hand and delivered him from the furnace of fire, as it is said, ‘And he said to him, I am the Lord who brought thee out of the furnace of the Chaldees’ (Gen. 15:7). Another verse (says), ‘Thou art the Lord the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of the furnace of the Chaldees’ (Neh. 9:7).” Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer (ed. G. Friedlander; London: Bloch, 1916) 188.

25 Augustine in De Civitate XVI. 15 also shows the familiarity with the traditions of fiery tests of Abraham when he says that the patriarch was delivered from the fire of the Chaldeans.

26 H. Jacobson, A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, with Latin Text and English Translation (2 vols.; AGAJU, 31; Leiden: Brill, 1996) 1.97-100.

27 Although Nimrod is also mentioned in Pseudo-Philo.

28 Sometimes in rabbinic accounts Nimrod poses under the name of Amraphel. Cf., for example, Pesikta Rabbati 33:4: “Of course you may not know what I did to all who engaged with the three Patriarchs – to Amraphel who first engaged with Abraham by casting him into a fiery furnace.” Braude, Pesikta Rabbati, 2.637.

29 In Vermes’ opinion the influence of Nebuchadnezzar’s typology is especially strong in the tradition found in the Book of Yashar because there “like Nebuchadnezzar, Nimrod is forced to recognize for a time the God of Israel.” Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism, 90.

30 The already mentioned interpretation of אור as “fire” in Gen 15:7 seems to have also helped to secure the link between Abraham’s rescue from the fire of the Chaldeans and the deliverance of the three Jewish youths in Daniel. Vermes points to this connection in Gen. Rab. 44:13: “R. Liezer b. Jacob said: Michael descended and rescued Abraham from the fiery furnace. The Rabbis said: The Holy One, blessed be He, rescued him; thus it is written, ‘I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees.’ And when did Michael descend? In the case of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah,1.369. Vermes observes that “…the exegetical association between Genesis 15:7 and Daniel 3 is not mere hypothesis, as Genesis Rabbah 44:13 demonstrates….” Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism, 90.

31 Cf. also Song of Songs Rabbah 1:56: “R. Eliezer said: While the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, was still at His table in the firmament, Michael the great prince had already descended and delivered our father Abraham from the fiery furnace. The Rabbis, however, say that God Himself came down and delivered him, as it says, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees (Gen. XV, 7). And when did Michael come down? In the time of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 9.78; Song of Songs Rabbah 2:16 “Stay ye me with dainties: with many fires – with the fire of Abraham, and of Moriah, and of the bush, with the fire of Elijah and of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 9.104.

32 Gen. Rab. 34:9: “…And the Lord smelled the sweet savour. He smelled the savour of the Patriarch Abraham ascending from the fiery furnace; He smelled the savour of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah ascending from the fiery furnace.” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 1.273; Gen. Rab. 44:13: “… Michael descended and rescued Abraham from the fiery furnace….. And when did Michael descend? In the case of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah 1.369.

33 Other passages in Midrash Rabbah also reveal the knowledge of the story of the fiery test of Abraham. Exodus Rabbah 23:4: “He delivered Abraham from the fiery furnace and from the kings….” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 3.281. Leviticus Rabbah 36:4 reads: “R. Berekiah and R. Levi in the name of R. Samuel b. Nahman said: Abraham was saved from the fiery furnace only for the sake of Jacob. This is like the case of a man who was standing for trial before a governor and sentence was passed upon him by the governor to be burned. The governor looked into his horoscope and saw that the man was destined to beget a daughter who would be married to the king, so he said: ‘He deserves to be saved for the sake of the daughter whom he is destined to beget.’ It was so with Abraham. He had been sentenced by Nimrod to be burned, but the Holy One, blessed be He, foresaw that Jacob was destined to spring from him, so he said: ‘He deserves to be saved for the sake of Jacob.” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 4.461. Song of Songs Rabbah 8:8: “R. Berekiah interpreted the verse as applying to our father Abraham. We have a little sister (ahot): this is Abraham, as it says, Abraham was one (ehad) and he inherited the land (Ezek. XXXIII, 24); he, as it were, stitched together (iha) all mankind in the presence of the Holy One, blessed be He. Bar Kappara said: Like a man who stitches up a rent little: while he was still a child, he occupied himself with religious observances and good deeds. And she hath no breast; though as yet he was under no obligation to perform religious duties and good deeds. What shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for: the day when the wicked Nimrod sentenced him to be thrown into the fiery furnace.” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 9.311. See also Avot de R. Nathan 33:2: “Ten trials were inflicted upon Abraham, our father, before the Holy One, blessed be He, and in all of them he came out whole. These are they: two in the passage, ‘Go forth’; two in connection with his two sons; two in connection with his two wives; one with the kings; one in the covenant between the pieces; one in the furnace of the Chaldeans; one in connection with circumcision.” J. Neusner, The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan. Analytical Translation and Explanation (Atlanta: Scholars, 1986) 197. Eliyyahu Zuta, 25 reads: “When Nimrod came and found him there, he asked: Are you Abraham the son of Terah? Abraham replied: Yes. Nimrod asked: Do you not know that I am lord of all things? Sun and moon, stars and planets, and human beings go forth only at my command. And now you have destroyed my divinity, the only thing that I revere….Then Nimrod summoned Terah, Abraham’s father, and said: You know what is to be the sentence of this one who has burned my divinities? His sentence must be death by fire. At once Nimrod seized Abraham and put him in prison. Then his servants spent ten years building the furnace in which Abraham was to be burned and hauling and bringing wood for furnace. When they finally took him out to burn him in the fiery furnace, at once the Holy One came down to deliver him.” Tanna Debe Eliyyahu: The Lore of the School of Elijah (trs. W.G. Braude and I.J. Kapstein; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1981) 485-486.

34 Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 1.310-311. Several talmudic passages are also cognizant about this tradition. Thus, b. Eruvin 53a reads; “One holds that his name was Nimrod and why was he called Amraphel? Because he ordered our father Abraham to be cast into a burning furnace.” Epstein, Soncino Hebrew-English Talmud. Eruvin 53a. Another passage from the Babylonian Talmud found in b. Pesahim 118a also tells about the patriarch’s test in the fiery furnace: “[For] when the wicked Nimrod cast our father Abraham into the fiery furnace, Gabriel said to the Holy One, blessed be He: ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Let me go down, cool [it], and deliver that righteous man from the fiery furnace.’ Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to him: “I am unique in My world, and he is unique in his world: it is fitting for Him who is unique to deliver him who is unique. But because the Holy One, blessed be He, does not withhold the [merited] reward of any creature, he said to him, ‘Thou shalt be privileged to deliver three of his descendants.’” Epstein, Soncino Hebrew-English Talmud. Pesahim 118a.

35 The form of the story found in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan 11:28 reads: “It came to pass, when Nimrod cast Abram into the furnace of fire because he would not worship his idol, the fire had no power to burn him. Then Haran was undecided, and he said: “If Nimrod triumphs, I will be on his side; but if Abram triumphs, I will be on his side.” And when all the people who were there saw that the fire had no power over Abram, they said to themselves: “Is not Haran the brother of Abram full of divination and sorcery? It is he who uttered charms over the fire so that it would not burn his brother.” Immediately fire fell from the heavens on high and consumed him; and Haran died in the sight of Terah his father, being burned in the land of his birth in the furnace of fire which the Chaldeans had made for Abram his brother.”
Maher, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Genesis, 51. Cf. also Tg. Ps.-J. 14:1: “In the day of Amraphel – he is Nimrod who ordered Abram to be thrown into the fire….” Ibid., 55. Targum Neofiti also knows the tradition of the death of Haran in the fire of the Chaldeans; Targ. Neof. 11:28: “And Haran died during the lifetime of Terah his father in the land of his birth, in the furnace of fire of the Chaldeans.” Targum Neofiti 1: Genesis (tr. M. McNamara, M.S.C.; ArBib, 1A; Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1992) 85. Cf. also Targum Rishon of Esther 5:14: “…Into the fire you cannot cast him [Mordecai], for his ancestor Abraham was saved from it.” The Two Targums of Esther (ed. B. Grossfeld; ArBib, 18; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991) 67.

36 For the detailed analysis of this lightly account, see Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism. Haggadic Studies, 68-90.

37 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 12.

38 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 12-13.

39 Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 46.

40 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 13.

41 It should be noted that the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation refer to fiery feet of not only divine but also angelic manifestations: Dan 10:5-6: “I looked up and saw a man clothed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the roar of a multitude.” Rev 10:1: “And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire….”

42 This tradition is then reaffirmed in Rev 2:18 “These are the words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze….”

43 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 12.

44 L. Ginzberg, “Abraham, Apocalypse of,” Jewish Encyclopedia (ed. I. Singer; 10 vols. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1901-1906) 1.91-92.

45 A. Kulik, “The Gods of Nahor: A Note on the Pantheon of the Apocalypse of Abraham,” JJS 54 (2003) 228-232; idem, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 63.

46 The word “protoplast” (from Gk. πρῶτος – “first” and πλάσσω – “to mold”) is a term which designates an original condition, a form or a “mold” of humanity before the Fall in the Garden of Eden.

47 On the φως traditions see G. Quispel, “Ezekiel 1:26 in Jewish Mysticism and Gnosis,” VC 34 (1980) 1–13 at 6-7; J. Fossum, The Name of God and the Angel of the Lord: Samaritan and Jewish Mediation Concepts and the Origin of Gnosticism (WUNT, 36; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1985) 280; idem, The Image of the Invisible God: Essays on the Influence of Jewish Mysticism on Early Christology (NTOA, 30; Freiburg: Universitätsverlag Freiburg Schweiz; Göttingen: Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht, 1995) 16-17; S. N. Bunta, Moses, Adam and the Glory of the Lord in Ezekiel the Tragedian: On the Roots of a Merkabah Text (Ph.D. diss.; Marquette University, 2005) 92ff.

48 Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 88.

49 Bunta, Moses, Adam and the Glory of the Lord in Ezekiel the Tragedian, 111-112.

50 For the discussion of the terminological interplay איש\אש in Ezek 8:2, see Bunta, Moses, Adam and the Glory of the Lord in Ezekiel the Tragedian, 111.

51 One such development is the repeated portrayal of Terah fashioning idols in the manner similar to the Genesis’ depictions of the Deity fashioning the protoplast.

52 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 15.

53 See Apoc. Ab. 18:2; 18:3; 18:12; 19:4; 19:6.

54 See Apoc. Ab. 8:1; 18:2.

55 Dan 3:25: דמה לבר אלהין (“like a son of the gods”).

56 C.L. Seow, Daniel (Westminster Bible Companion; Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, 2003) 59.

57 Seow, Daniel, 60.

58 Seow, Daniel, 59, emphasis mine.

59 2 Enoch 22 serves as an early attestation to this tradition. We can find a detailed description of this process in another “Enochic” text, Sefer Hekhalot, which describes the transformation of Enoch-Metatron, the Prince of the Divine Presence, into the fiery representation that serves as a replica of the divine corporeality: “R. Ishmael said: The angel Metatron, Prince of the Divine Presence, the glory of highest heaven, said to me: When the Holy One, blessed be he, took me to serve the throne of glory, the wheels of the chariot and all needs of the Shekhinah, at once my flesh turned to flame, my sinews to blazing fire, my bones to juniper coals, my eyelashes to lightning flashes, my eyeballs to fiery torches, the hairs of my head to hot flames, all my limbs to wings of burning fire, and the substance of my body to blazing fire.” 3 Enoch 15:1. P. Alexander, “3 (Hebrew Apocalypse of) Enoch,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (ed. J. H. Charlesworth; 2 vols.; New York: Doubleday, 1983-1985) 1.223–315 at 1.267.

60 Another proof that the fiery test in the apocalyptic account of Abraham’s fight against idols might be informed by the Danielic traditions can be supported by the pseudepigraphical and rabbinic testimonies attested in the already mentioned Biblical Antiquities of Pseudo-Philo 6:5-18; Genesis Rabbah 38:13; Tanna debe Eliahu 2:25; Seder Eliahu Rabba 33. Here, similar to Bar-Eshath and Daniel, the patriarch himself undergoes the fiery test which he, unlike the wooden idol, successfully passes. The Zohar III.57a connects Abraham’s fiery test with the testing of Shadrach, Mashach and Abednego, using their Hebrew names – Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah: “R. Hizkiah quoted in this connection the verse: ‘Therefore thus saith the Lord to the house of Jacob who redeemed Abraham’ (Isa. XXIX, 22). ‘We might think’, he said, ‘that the words “to the house of Jacob” are misplaced, but really the verse is to be taken as it stands. For when Abram was cast into the furnace of the Chaldeans the angels said before God: How shall this one be delivered, seeing that he has no merit of his ancestors to rely upon? God replied: He shall be delivered for the sake of his sons. But, they said, Ishmael will issue from him? There is Isaac who will stretch forth his neck on the altar. But Esau will issue from him? There is Jacob who is the complete throne and all his sons who are perfect before me. They said: Assuredly through this merit Abraham shall be delivered. Hence it is written: ‘Jacob who redeemed Abraham.’ The verse continues: ‘Jacob shall not now be ashamed…but when he seeth his children the work of my hands,’ etc. The reference here in ‘his children’ is to Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who cast themselves into the fiery furnace. We have learnt that when they were bound in order to be cast into the fire, each of them lifted up his voice and quoted a verse of Scripture in the presence of all the princes and rulers. Hananiah said: ‘The Lord is on my side, I will not fear what man can do to me,’ etc. (Ps. CXVIII, 6). Mishael said: ‘Therefore fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the Lord’, etc. (Jer. XXX, 10). When those present heard the name of Jacob they all laughed in scorn. Azariah said: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is one’ (Deut. VI, 4). At that moment God assembled His court and said to them: For the sake of which of those verses shall I deliver them? They replied: ‘They shall know that thou alone whose name is the Lord art most high over all the earth’ (Ps. LXXXVII). God then turned to His Throne and said: With which of these verses shall I deliver them? The Throne replied: With the one at which they all laughed: as Jacob stood by Abraham in the furnace, so let him stand by these. Hence it is written in connection with them, ‘Not now shall Jacob be ashamed.’ Now why were these delivered? Because they prayed to God and unified His name in the fitting manner. The two sons of Aaron brought strange fire on the altar and did not unify God’s name in the fitting manner, and therefore they were burnt.” Sperling and Simon, The Zohar, 5.35-36. Cf. also b. Avodah Zarah, 3a: “Let Nimrod come and testify that Abraham did not [consent to] worship idols; let Laban come and testify that Jacob could not be suspected of theft”; 9: “let Potiphar’s wife testify that Joseph was above suspicion of immorality; let Nebuchadnezzar come and testify that Hanania, Mishael and Azariah did not bow down to an image.” Epstein, Soncino Hebrew-English Talmud. Avodah Zarah 3a.

61 Apoc. Ab. 8:6 “… when the sound of thunder came forth and burned him and his house and everything in the house, down to the ground [to a distance of] forty cubits.” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 16. Jub. 12:14 “… Haran dashed in to save them, but the fire raged over him. He was burned in the fire and died in Ur of the Chaldeans before his father Terah. They buried him in Ur of the Chaldeans.” VanderKam, The Book of Jubilees, 2.70.

62 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 15.

63 Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham en vieux slave, 114.

64 See also 6:18: “Today I shall create (сътворю) another one ….” Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham en vieux slave, 116.

65 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 9.

66 The term כבוד can be also translated as “substance,” “body,” “mass,” “power,” “might,” “honor,” “glory,” “splendor.” In its meaning “glory,” כבוד usually refers to God, his sanctuary, his city, or sacred paraphernalia. The Priestly tradition uses the term in connection with God’s appearances in the tabernacle. P and Ezekiel describe כבוד as a blazing fire surrounded by radiance and a great cloud. M. Weinfeld, “כבוד,” in: Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (eds. G.J. Botterweck et al.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974) 7.22–38.

67 The Slavonic noun “тягота” (Apoc. Ab. 14:13) is derived from the same root as the adjective “тяжекъ” (Apoc. Ab. 1:4).

68 Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham en vieux slave, 150.

69 Rubinkiewicz points to the presence of the formulae in Lk 4:6 “I will give you all their authority and splendor ….”

70 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 29, emphasis mine. Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 92.

71 Himmelfarb underlines the importance of the temple in eschatology of the text. She notes that “… in this vision of history the temple plays a central role.” Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven, 65.

72 Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 92.

73 Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 48; Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 14.

74 Ezek 31:2-14 reads: “Mortal, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his hordes: Whom are you like in your greatness? Consider Assyria, a cedar of Lebanon, with fair branches and forest shade, and of great height, its top among the clouds. The waters nourished it, the deep made it grow tall, making its rivers flow around the place it was planted, sending forth its streams to all the trees of the field. So it towered high above all the trees of the field; its boughs grew large and its branches long, from abundant water in its shoots. All the birds of the air made their nests in its boughs; under its branches all the animals of the field gave birth to their young; and in its shade all great nations lived. It was beautiful in its greatness, in the length of its branches; for its roots went down to abundant water. The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it, nor the fir trees equal its boughs; the plane trees were as nothing compared with its branches; no tree in the garden of God was like it in beauty. I made it beautiful with its mass of branches, the envy of all the trees of Eden that were in the garden of God. Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because it towered high and set its top among the clouds, and its heart was proud of its height, I gave it into the hand of the prince of the nations; he has dealt with it as its wickedness deserves. I have cast it out. Foreigners from the most terrible of the nations have cut it down and left it. On the mountains and in all the valleys its branches have fallen, and its boughs lie broken in all the watercourses of the land; and all the peoples of the earth went away from its shade and left it. On its fallen trunk settle all the birds of the air, and among its boughs lodge all the wild animals. All this is in order that no trees by the waters may grow to lofty height or set their tops among the clouds, and that no trees that drink water may reach up to them in height. For all of them are handed over to death, to the world below; along with all mortals, with those who go down to the Pit” [NRSV].

75 Dan 4:10-17 reads: “Upon my bed this is what I saw; there was a tree at the center of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew great and strong, its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the ends of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful, its fruit abundant, and it provided food for all. The animals of the field found shade under it, the birds of the air nested in its branches, and from it all living beings were fed. I continued looking, in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and there was a holy watcher, coming down from heaven. He cried aloud and said: ‘Cut down the tree and chop off its branches, strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from beneath it and the birds from its branches. But leave its stump and roots in the ground, with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field. Let him be bathed with the dew of heaven, and let his lot be with the animals of the field in the grass of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a human, and let the mind of an animal be given to him. And let seven times pass over him. The sentence is rendered by decree of the watchers, the decision is given by order of the holy ones, in order that all who live may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdom of mortals; he gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of human beings’ ” [NRSV].

76 Alexander Kulik (Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 72) also points to the similarities with Isa 44:14-20: “He cuts down cedars or chooses a holm tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it can be used as fuel. Part of it he takes and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Then he makes a god and worships it, makes it a carved image and bows down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he roasts meat, eats it and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, ‘Ah, I am warm, I can feel the fire!’ The rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, bows down to it and worships it; he prays to it and says, ‘Save me, for you are my god!’ They do not know, nor do they comprehend; for their eyes are shut, so that they cannot see, and their minds as well, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, ‘Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals, I roasted meat and have eaten. Now shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’ He feeds on ashes; a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot save himself or say, ‘Is not this thing in my right hand a fraud?’” [NRSV].

77 On the author’s use of the Ezekelian traditions, see: Rubinkewicz, “Apocalypse of Abraham,” 1.685. R. Rubinkiewicz in his monograph provides a helpful outline of the usage of Ezekielean traditions in Apocalypse of Abraham. He notes that “among the prophetic books, the book of Ezekiel plays for our author the same role as Genesis in the Pentateuch. The vision of the divine throne (Apoc. Ab. 18) is inspired by Ezek 1 and 10. Abraham sees the four living creatures (Apoc. Ab. 18:5-11) depicted in Ezek 1 and 10. He also sees the wheels of fire decorated with eyes all around (Apoc. Ab. 18:3), the throne (Apoc. Ab. 18:3; Ezek 1:26), the chariot (Apoc. Ab. 18:12 and Ezek 10:6); he hears the Voice of God (Apoc. Ab. 19:1 and Ezek 1:28). When the cloud of fire raises up, he can hear ‘the voice like the roaring sea’ (Apoc. Ab. 18:1; Ezek 1:24). There is no doubt that the author of the Apocalypse of Abraham takes the texts of Ezek 1 and 10 as sources of inspiration.” Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham en vieux slave, 87.

78 Rowland, “The Visions of God in Apocalyptic Literature,” 137-154; idem, The Open Heaven, 86-87.

79 In recent years scholars have become increasingly aware of the formative value of the Adamic traditions in the shaping of the corporeal ideologies about the anthropomorphic body of the Deity. Already in the Book of Ezekiel the imagery of the human-like Kavod is connected with the prototypical developments reflected in the Genesis account, wherein humanity is said to be created in the image of God.

80 Several early Jewish sources attest to the lore about the enormous body of Adam which the protoplast possessed before his transgression in Eden. Thus, Philo in QG 1.32 mentions a tradition according to which the first humans received at their creation bodies of vast size reaching a gigantic height: “… [the first humans] …were provided with a very great body and the magnitude of a giant….” Philo, Questions and Answers on Genesis (tr. R. Marcus; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1949) 19. Moreover, in some pseudepigraphic accounts the body of the protoplast is portrayed, not simply as gigantic, but even as comparable with the dimensions of the divine corporeality. Thus, in several pseudepigraphic materials the depictions of Adam’s statue are often linked to the imagery of the enthroned Deity’s anthropomorphic substance, known from the priestly and Ezekelian sources as God’s Kavod. The pseudepigraphical and rabbinic sources also refer to the luminosity of the original body of the protoplast, which, like the divine body, emits light.

81 Thus, the Targums attest to the prelapsarian luminosity of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The biblical background for such traditions includes the passage from Gen 3:21, where “the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skin and clothed them.” The Targumic traditions, both Palestinian and Babylonian, read “garments of glory” instead of “garments of skin.” For example, in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Gen 3:21, the following tradition can be found: “And the Lord God made garments of glory for Adam and for his wife from the skin which the serpent had cast off (to be worn) on the skin of their (garments of) fingernails of which they had been stripped, and he clothed them.” Maher, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Genesis, 29. Targum Neofiti on Gen 3:21 displays a similar tradition: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of glory, for the skin of their flesh, and he clothed them.” McNamara, Targum Neofiti 1: Genesis, 62-63; A. Díez Macho, Neophiti 1: Targum Palestinense MS de la Biblioteca Vaticana (Madrid-Barcelona: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1968) 1.19. The Fragmentary Targum on Gen 3:21 also uses the imagery of glorious garments: “And He made: And the memra of the Lord God created for Adam and his wife precious garments [for] the skin of their flesh, and He clothed them.” M.I. Klein, The Fragment-Targums of the Pentateuch According to Their Extant Sources (2 vols.; AnBib, 76; Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1980) I.46; II.7. Targum Onqelos on Gen 3:21 reads: “And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of honor for the skin of their flesh, and He clothed them.” The Targum Onqelos to Genesis (tr. B. Grossfeld; ArBib, 6; Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1988) 46; The Bible in Aramaic Based on Old Manuscripts and Printed Texts (ed. A. Sperber; 5 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 1959-73) I.5.

82 See, for example, C. Fletcher-Louis, All the Glory of Adam. Liturgical Anthropology in the Dead Sea Scrolls (STDJ, 42; Leiden: Brill, 2002) 101-103; S.N. Bunta, “The Mēsu-Tree and the Animal Inside: Theomorphism and Theriomorphism in Daniel 4,” in: The Theophaneia School: Jewish Roots of Eastern Christian Mysticism (Scrinium, III; eds. B. Lourié and A. Orlov; St. Petersburg: Byzantinorossica, 2007) 364-384.

83 D. Arbel, “‘Seal of Resemblance, Full of Wisdom, and Perfect in Beauty’: The Enoch/Metatron Narrative of 3 Enoch and Ezekiel 28,” HTR 98 (2005) 121-42.

84 Another example of such dialectical interplay of reaffirmation and deconstruction can be found in Ezek 28:1-19, where one can find the symbolic depiction of judgment against the prince of Tyre. This account also appears to be informed by the Adamic traditions. As will be shown later, Ezek 28 contributes to the background for the imagery found in the Apoc. Ab. since in both texts the idolatrous statues are destroyed by fire.

85 The Apocalypse of Abraham’s concept of the cosmic tree as the building material for the divine figure, which is found in the arboreal hymn, appears reminiscent of traditions beyond those of Ezek 31 and Dan 4. Take, for example, various Mesopotamian traditions about a cosmic tree known as the Mēsu-Tree. Some scholars have argued that the tradition about the wondrous tree reflected in Ezekiel 31 draws on the Mesopotamian traditions about the Mēsu-Tree, a cosmic plant envisioned as the building material for divine statues. The traditions about the mythological tree are documented in several sources, including the Book of Erra, a Mesopotamian work dated between the eleventh and the eighth century B.C.E. The Book of Erra 1:150-156 reads:
“Where is the mēsu tree, the flesh of the gods, the ornament of the king of the uni[verse]?
That pure tree, that august youngster suited to supremacy,
Whose roots reached as deep down as the bottom of the underwor[ld]: a hundred double hours through the vast sea waters;
Whose top reached as high as the sky of [Anum]?
Where is the glittering zaginduru stone which I make choose….
Where is Ninildu, the great woodcarver of my godhead,
Who carries the golden axe, who knows his own….” [ L. Cagni, The Poem of Erra (SANE, 1/3; Malibu: Undena, 1977) 32]
This passage vividly demonstrates a link between Mesopotamian and Hebrew cosmic-tree stories. Therefore, the Mesopotamian “matrix” of the traditions about the gigantic tree as the building material for divine statues carries forward, not just in Ezekiel, but also in the Slavonic apocalypse. The “flesh” of the tree in Apoc. Ab. serves as the building material for the idolatrous statue of Bar-Eshath. Indeed, the respective passages in Apoc. Ab. and Book of Erra share several strikingly similar features, including the motif of a craftsman carving the wooden statues of a godhead with his axe. On the Mesopotamian traditions about the Mēsu-Tree and their connection with Ezek 31 and Dan 4, see A. Berlejung, “Geheimnis und Ereignis: Zur Funktion und Aufgabe der Kultbilder in Mesopotamien,” JBT 13 (1998) 110-111; Bunta, “The Mēsu-Tree and the Animal Inside: Theomorphism and Theriomorphism in Daniel 4,” 364-384; G. Conti, “Incantation de l’eau bénite et de l’encensoir et textes connexes,” MARI 8 (1997) 270-71; M.B. Dick, “The Mesopotamian Cult Stature: A Sacramental Encounter with Divinity,” in: Cult Image and Divine Representation in the Ancient Near East (ed. N.H. Walls; ASOR, 10; Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2005) 59-60.

86 The motif of the Deity demoting or diminishing the original gigantic statue of the protoplast is a dialectical device of re-affirmation widespread in the pseudepigraphical and rabbinic materials. It is connected to the divine body traditions. Cf. J. Fossum, “The Adorable Adam of the Mystics and the Rebuttals of the Rabbis,” in: Geschichte-Tradition-Reflexion. Festschrift für Martin Hengel zum 70. Geburtstag (3 vols.; eds. H. Cancik, H. Lichtenberger and P. Schäfer; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1996) 1.529-30.

87 Thus, for example, Apoc. Ab. 6:2 tells about Terah’s “creation” of the bodies of the idols.

88 Ezek 28:1-19 reads: “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord God: Because your heart is proud, and you have said, “I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,” yet you are but a man, and no god, though you consider yourself as wise as a god – you are indeed wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you; by your wisdom and your understanding you have gotten wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; by your great wisdom in trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth – therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you consider yourself as wise as a god, therefore, behold, I will bring strangers upon you, the most terrible of the nations; and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom and defile your splendor. They shall thrust you down into the Pit, and you shall die the death of the slain in the heart of the seas. Will you still say, “I am a god,” in the presence of those who slay you, though you are but a man, and no god, in the hands of those who wound you? You shall die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of foreigners; for I have spoken, says the Lord God. Moreover the word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord God: You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, topaz, and jasper, chrysolite, beryl, and onyx, sapphire, carbuncle, and emerald; and wrought in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. With an anointed guardian cherub I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.
In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from the midst of the stones of fire.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought forth fire from the midst of you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you.
All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more forever.’ ”

89 This Slavonic word can be literally translated as “praises.” For the discussion of the translation of Slavonic “похвала” as “beauty,” see Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 73, n. 6.

90 Thus, Daphna Arbel observes that “the bejeweled garb covered with precious stones that adorns the primal figure further highlights his state of exaltation.” Arbel, “‘Seal of Resemblance, Full of Wisdom, and Perfect in Beauty,’” 131.

91 Arbel, “‘Seal of Resemblance, Full of Wisdom, and Perfect in Beauty,’” 131.

92 On the Adamic background of Ezek 28, see J. Barr, “‘Thou Art the Cherub’: Ezekiel 28.14 and the Postexilic Understanding of Genesis 2–3,” in: Priests, Prophets and Scribes. Essays on the Formation and Heritage of Second Temple Judaism in Honour of Joseph Blenkinsopp (eds. E. Ulrich, J.W. Wright, R.P. Caroll, P. R. Davies; JSOTSS, 149; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992) 213–223; N.C. Habel, “Ezekiel 28 and the Fall of the First Man,” CTM 38 (1967) 516–524; K. Jeppesen, “You Are a Cherub, but No God!” SJOT 1 (1991) 83–94; D. Launderville, O.S.B., “Ezekiel’s Cherub: A Promising Symbol or a Dangerous Idol?” CBQ 65 (2004) 165–183; O. Loretz, “Der Sturz des Fürsten von Tyrus (Ez 28,1–19),” UF 8 (1976) 455–458; H.G. May, “The King in the Garden of Eden: A Study of Ezekiel 28:12–19,” in: Israel’s Prophetic Heritage: Essays in Honor of James Muilenburg (eds. B. Anderson and W. Harrelson; New York: Harper, 1962) 166–176; J.E. Miller, “The Maelaek of Tyre (Ezekiel 28, 11–19),” ZAW 105 (1994) 497–501; A.J. Williams, “The Mythological Background of Ezekiel 28:12–19?” BTB 6 (1976) 49–61; K. Yaron, “The Dirge over the King of Tyre,” ASTI 3 (1964) 28–57.

93 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 14.

94 Launderville, “Ezekiel’s Cherub: A Promising Symbol or a Dangerous Idol,” 173-174.

95 Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham en vieux slave, 116.

96 F. Andersen, “2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (ed. J.H. Charlesworth;. 2 vols.; New York: Doubleday, 1983-1985) 1.91–221 at 1.152.

97 M. I. Sokolov, “Materialy i zametki po starinnoj slavjanskoj literature. Vypusk tretij. VII. Slavjanskaja Kniga Enoha Pravednogo. Teksty, latinskij perevod i izsledovanie. Posmertnyj trud avtora prigotovil k izdaniju M. Speranskij,” Chtenija v Obshchestve Istorii i Drevnostej Rossijskih 4 (1910) 1.44; 1.96.

98 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.170.

99 Cf. 2 Enoch 30:10.

100 Kulik traces this Slavonic expression to the Hebrew expression דמות פניו. See Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 14, n. 30; 72-73.

101 Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham en vieux slave, 116; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 48.

102 On this issue see R. Elior, The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism (Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2004).

103 For a discussion of this tradition, see Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition, 70-76.

Andrei Orlov
Kelly Chair in Theology and Professor of Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity at Marquette University.