Corporealism of the Demonic Temple: the Kavod of Azazel
Our previous chapters on heavenly and earthly sanctuaries hinted at a peculiar parallelism between the heavenly and earthly temples, which are often depicted as mirroring each other. Scholars have noted that such perspectives are based on the broader conceptual tendency that “envisions the universe as a horizontal duality in which the heavenly and earthly realms mirror one another. According to this perspective, there is a direct parallelism between the existence and actions of heavenly beings and those of their human counterparts on earth.”1 In this worldview the earthy sanctuaries, their sacerdotal content, and even their cultic servants, are considered predestined to be faithful imitators of their celestial counterparts. In this particular perspective even the etiology of these cultic rituals and settings is intimately connected with their origination after the patterns of heavenly prototypes. Further, the authenticity and effectiveness of the earthly cultic establishments are then tested on their faithful correspondence to the ultimate heavenly patterns according to which they were initially formed. As one scholar rightly observes, “the goal of history … is that the cultus will be ‘on earth as in heaven.’” Indeed, as we already saw, visionaries are often depicted as either beholding or traveling to heavenly sanctuaries, especially in times when the earthly shrines become physically destroyed or polluted and thus no longer able to fulfill their cultic responsibilities.
It is true that the main thrust of the spatial symmetry found in apocalyptic literature is often expressed through the formula “on earth as in heaven.” Yet it is not the human, earthly abode alone that betrays such spatial correspondence. The demonic underworld also strives to imitate heaven for its own, nefarious purposes. Scholars have noticed, for example, that in some Qumran documents the parallelism between the heavenly and earthly realms “is situated within an all-encompassing vertical duality between the forces of good (God, the beneficent angels, and the ‘sons of light’) on the one hand and the evil powers (Belial, the wicked spirits, and the ‘sons of darkness’) on the other.”2 In fact, demonic creatures try to mirror not only the features of angelic characters but even the attributes of God himself.
Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings provide a plethora of illustrations of this strange and perplexing heavenly-infernal parallelism. One important example of this paradoxical relationship is found in the Apocalypse of Abraham. The antagonist of the story, the fallen angel Azazel, is portrayed as possessing his own “glory” or kavod, the attribute that is reserved almost exclusively for the depiction of the Deity in apocalyptic accounts. And this is no isolated incident. Rather, Azazel’s possessesion of his own counterfeit kavod is part of the broader ideological tendency of the apocalypse to unveil the paradoxical symmetry of the good and evil realms. The most striking example of this symmetry is found in chapter 23 where Abraham is spirited back to the beginning of time to watch the demon’s corruption of Adam and Eve.
As noted before, chapter 14 of the Apocalypse of Abraham unveils an enigmatic tradition about the unusual power given to the fallen angel Azazel. In the text, Abraham’s guide, the angel Yahoel, warns him that God endowed his chief eschatological opponent with a special will and with “heaviness” against those who answer him. The reference to the mysterious “heaviness” given to the demon has puzzled students of the Slavonic apocalypse for a long time. Scholars has previously suggested that the Slavonic term for “heaviness” (тягота) in this passage from Apoc. Ab. 14:13 might serve as a technical term to translate the Hebrew word kavod.3
Given the formative influence the Book of Ezekiel exercises on the Apocalypse of Abraham, it would be no great surprise were the authors of the pseudepigraphon acquainted with the technical Kavod terminology. After all, it plays a central role in Ezekiel. Yet, if so, applying this theophanic imagery to such a notorious character is all the more puzzling. Elsewhere in Jewish biblical and pseudepigraphic traditions the Kavod symbolism represents a unique attribute reserved almost exclusively for God and his angels. Could this strange tradition about the glory of Azazel suggest that the authors of the Slavonic apocalypse sought to envision the fallen angel as a kind of negative counterpart of the Deity? Does Azazel enjoy his own “exalted” attributes that mimic divine attributes?
A closer look reveals that this antithetical symmetry is not confined to the description of the fallen angel. It also represents one of the main ideological tendencies of the pseudepigraphon. Several scholars have noted this peculiarity of the apocalypse’s theological universe, this mirroring of the good and evil realms. The sheer volume of such antithetical symmetry permeating the fabric of the Apocalypse of Abraham is one of the most controversial and puzzling features of the text.4 These dualistic currents are present mostly in the second, apocalyptic portion of the text where Abraham receives an enigmatic revelation from the Deity about the unusual powers given to Azazel.
Scholars have explained this in various ways. Reflecting on these conceptual developments, Michael Stone draws attention to the traditions found in chapters 20, 22, and 29, where the reference to Azazel’s rule, which he exercises jointly with God over the world, coincides “with the idea that God granted him authority over the wicked.”5 Stone suggests that “these ideas are clearly dualistic in nature.”6 John Collins explores another cluster of peculiar depictions repeatedly found in the second part of the Apocalypse, in which humankind is divided into two parts, half on the right and half on the left — representing, respectively, the chosen people and the Gentiles. These portions of humanity are labeled in the text as the lot of God and the lot of Azazel. Collins argues that “the symmetrical division suggests a dualistic view of the world.”7 He further observes, “the nature and extent of this dualism constitute the most controversial problem in the Apocalypse of Abraham.”8
Ryszard Rubinkiewicz, while denying the presence of “absolute” or “ontological”9 dualism in the Apocalypse of Abraham, admits that the pseudepigraphon exhibits some dualistic tendencies in its ethical, spatial and temporal dimensions.10 In contrast to Rubinkiewicz’s opinion, George Herbert Box sees in these spatial and temporal dimensions the main signs of the “radical dualism” of the apocalypse. He maintains that “the radical dualism of the Book comes out not only in the sharp division of mankind into two hosts, which stands for Jewry and heathendom respectively, but also in the clearly defined contradistinction of two ages, the present Age of ungodliness and the future Age of righteousness….”11
Another distinguished student of the text, Marc Philonenko, analyzes the symmetrical nature of the positions of Yahoel and Azazel.12 He notes the peculiarity of the interaction between these two spirits, one good and one malevolent. He observes that their battle does not occur directly, but rather through a medium of a human being, Abraham. Abraham is depicted in the pseudepigraphon as the place where the battle between two spiritual forces unfolds.13 Philonenko sees in this internalization a particular mold of dualism that is also present in Qumran materials,14 including the Instruction on the Two Spirits (1QS 3:13 – 4:26), where the Prince of Lights and the Angel of Darkness are fighting in the heart of man.15
What, then, are we to make of this antithetical symmetry between the divine and demonic realms, the worlds of God and of Azazel? The varied and intriguing suggestions offered by scholars deserve further investigation. This chapter of our study will explore the dualistic symmetrical patterns found in the Slavonic pseudepigraphon, concentrating mainly on the peculiar theophanic and sacerdotal imagery surrounding the figure of Azazel.
The Inheritance of Azazel
The tradition that in the eschaton humanity will be divided into two lots, the blessed and the reprobate, is found in the second part of the Apocalypse of Abraham. This has captivated the imagination of scholars for a long time. In these fascinating descriptions, students of the peudepigraphon have often tried to discern possible connections with the dualistic developments found in Qumran materials, where the imagery of the two eschatological lots played a significant role. Indeed, in the Dead Sea Scrolls one can find a broad appropriation of the imagery of the two portions of humanity that often are depicted in striking opposition to each other in a final decisive battle. The peculiar symbolism of the eschatological parties often takes the form of dualistic counterparts; these groups are repeatedly described in the Dead Sea Scrolls using various metaphoric dichotomies — darkness and light, good and evil, election and rejection. This dualistic “mirroring” is underscored by the leaders of the eschatological “lots,” whose particular names often reflect, or even polemically deconstruct, the names of their respective eschatological rivals: Melchizedek and Melchirešac, the Angel of Lights and the Prince of Darkness.
The imagery of the eschatological lots is also manifested in the Apocalypse of Abraham. Graphic depictions of the two lots are dispersed throughout the second, apocalyptic, part of the pseudepigraphon. These portrayals are reminiscent not only of the eschatological terminology found in the Qumran materials,16 but also of the imagery of sacrificial lots prominent in the Yom Kippur ritual, an ordinance described in detail in biblical and rabbinic accounts. Indeed, the word “lot” (Slav. часть) in the Slavonic text appears to be connected to the Hebrew גורל, a term prominent in cultic descriptions found in biblical and rabbinic accounts,17 as well as in the eschatological developments attested in the Qumran materials.18
The Apocalypse of Abraham shares other similarities with the Qumran materials. At Qumran, the lots are linked to fallen angelic figures or translated heroes (like Belial or Melchizedek). In the Apocalypse of Abraham the portions of humanity are now tied to the main characters of the story – the fallen angel Azazel19 and the translated patriarch Abraham.20 It is also noteworthy that in the Apocalypse of Abraham, similar to the Qumran materials,21 the positive lot is at times designated as the lot of the Deity – “my [God’s] lot”:
And the Eternal Mighty One said to me, “Abraham, Abraham!” And I said, “Here am I!” And he said, “Look from on high at the stars which are beneath you and count them for me and tell me their number!” And I said, “Would I be able? For I am [but] a man.” And he said to me, “As the number of the stars and their host, so shall I make your seed into a company of nations, set apart for me in my lot with Azazel.”22
Suffice it to say, the similarities between the Apocalypse of Abraham and Qumran materials have been well noted. Their differences, however, have received less attention. Yet there are noticeable differences in the descriptions of the eschatological lots and their respective leaders, and it is quite possible that the dualistic imagery of the eschatological portions might receive an even more radical form in the Slavonic apocalypse than in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Indeed, it seems that the Slavonic pseudepigraphon transfers to Azazel and his lot attributes that are reserved solely for the positive portion of humanity in Qumran materials. One such notion includes the concept of “inheritance,” a term that plays an important role both in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the Slavonic apocalypse.
The passage found in chapter 14 of the pseudepigraphon unveils the following enigmatic tradition about the special “inheritance” given to the fallen angel Azazel:23
Since your inheritance (достояние твое) are those who are with you, with men born with the stars and clouds. And their portion is you (ихъже часть еси ты).24
The striking feature of this account is that in Apoc. Ab. 14:6 the concept of the eschatological “lot” or “portion” (Slav. часть)25 of Azazel is used interchangeably with the notion of “inheritance” (Slav. достояние). This terminological connection is intriguing since the two notions, “inheritance” and “lot,” are also used interchangeably in the Qumran passages that deal with the “lot” imagery. Thus, for example, 11Q13 speaks about “inheritance” referring to Melchizedek’s lot, which will be victorious in the eschatological battle:
… and from the inheritance of Melchizedek, fo[r…] … and they are the inherita[nce of Melchize]dek, who will make them return. And the d[ay of aton]ement is the e[nd of] the tenth [ju]bilee in which atonement shall be made for all the sons of [light and] for the men [of] the lot of Mel[chi]zedek.26
In 1QS 3:13–4:26, in the fragment also known as the Instruction on the Two Spirits, the imagery of inheritance is tied to the concept of the lot of the righteous:
… they walk in wisdom or in folly. In agreement with man’s inheritance in the truth, he shall be righteous and so abhor injustice; and according to his share in the lot of injustice, he shall act wickedly in it, and so abhor the truth.27
In 1QS 11:7-8 and CD 13:11-12 this concept of inheritance is once again connected with participation in the lot of light, also labeled in 1QS as “the lot of the holy ones”: 28
To those whom God has selected he has given them as everlasting possession; and he has given them an inheritance in the lot of the holy ones. (1QS 11:7-8)29
And everyone who joins his congregation, he should examine, concerning his actions, his intelligence, his strength, his courage and his wealth; and they shall inscribe him in his place according to his inheritance in the lot of light. (CD-A 13:11-12).30
In these last two texts, the phrase “inheritance in the lot” (Heb. (נחלתו בגורל seems to imply that “inheritance” is the act of participation in one of the eschatological lots.31 The same idea seems to be at work in the aforementioned passage from Apoc. Ab. 14:6, where “inheritance” is understood as participation in the lot of Azazel.
Yet despite the similarities, one striking difference is discernable: while in the Qumran materials the “inheritance” appears to be connected with the divine lot, in the Apocalypse of Abraham it is unambiguously tied to the lot of Azazel. This transference of the notion of inheritance to the lot of Azazel is striking. It brings the dualistic ideology of the Jewish pseudepigraphon to an entirely new conceptual level vis-à-vis the dualistic developments found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This more pronounced dualism also influences the portrait of Azazel. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, Azazel is just one character in a gallery of eschatological opponents, but here he is the adversary par excellence. Lester Grabbe suggests that the Apocalypse of Abraham refers to the arch-demon complex under the name of Azazel.32 In his opinion, in the Slavonic apocalypse “Azazel is no longer just a leader among the fallen angels but the leader of the demons. Figures originally separate have now fallen together while the various names have become only different aliases of the one devil.”33
The consolidation of myths about varied eschatological opponents into one infernal antagonist advances the dualistic thrust of the Slavonic apocalypse. It also secures Azazel’s place as the archnemesis not only of Yahoel and Abraham, but of God himself.
The Theophany of Azazel
The second section of the Apocalypse of Abraham begins with a series of strange portrayals depicting the striking appearance and the spectacular offices of Yahoel, Abraham’s angelic guide. More ambiguous yet, however, are the enigmatic descriptions of Azazel. For unknown reasons – but perhaps precisely because the arch-demon provides a significant conceptual clue to understanding the theological framework of the text – the authors of the pseudepigraphon appear very reluctant to unveil the exact status of their mysterious antihero. Instead, they offer to their readers a complex web of cryptic traditions and obscure imagery.
Despite the haze of concealment that envelops the profile of Azazel, the various details of the story provide glimmers of his cosmic significance. The very first lines of chapter 13, which introduce Azazel to the audience, hint that he has special authority. His bold descent on Abraham’s sacrifices is probably not coincidental. Likely, the authors want to signal to their readers that Azazel is not merely an abandoned, demoted creature, but rather an object of worship, veneration, and sacrificial devotion, who even possesses an exalted status that mimics the authority and position of the Deity.
Studies have shown conceptual links between Azazel and Abraham, as well as between Azazel and Yahoel.34 Yet despite the significance of these comparative studies, scholars have often neglected another parallelism found in the text – that is, the antithetical symmetry in the roles and attributes between God and Azazel. The initial sign of this dualistism is the depictions of the previously mentioned eschatological lots, where the portion of Azazel is explicitly compared with the lot of the Almighty. Yet this juxtaposition between the fallen angel and the Deity could, in theory, have relatively pedestrian implications. In these two portions of humanity one might see a merely functional distinction that does not intend to mirror the status of God with that of Azazel; rather it could simply hint at the demon’s temporary role as the eschatological opponent. A closer analysis of the text, however, reveals that the comparisons between God and Azazel have much broader conceptual ramifications that transcend a merely functional level. The depictions of both characters include striking, and strikingly similar, theophanic imagery. An important feature in this respect is the peculiar imagery related to their epiphanies, both of which unfold in fiery realms.
Recall that in the apocalypse the theophanic manifestations of the Deity are repeatedly portrayed as appearing in the midst of flames. Therefore, it is no small matter that the presence of Azazel is also conveyed through similar imagery. Fire is often envisioned as the substance that tests the authenticity and lasting status of things. Apocalypse of Abraham 7:2 relates, “the fire mocks with its flames the things that perish easily.”35 Both animate and inanimate characters of the story, including the infamous idols and their blasphemous makers, are depicted in the text as undergoing fiery probes – ominous tests often leading to a fatal catastrophe. It is by means of fire, for example, that the young Abraham “tests” the wooden statue of his father, the idol Bar-Eshath, and the flames turn it into a pile of ashes. The craftsmen of the idolatrous figures themselves are not exempted from trials by fire. The first, haggadic, section of the text concludes with a scene in which the workshop of Terah is set ablaze as a judgment by God. Later, in the second, apocalyptic, section of the work, the patriarch Abraham himself undergoes multiple fiery tests as he progresses into the upper heaven. There is significance in who survives and who perishes in these fiery tests.
Scholars have noted that in the Apocalypse of Abraham, as in several other apocalyptic texts like Dan 3 and Ezek 28, fire serves as the ultimate test for distinguishing inauthentic and idolatrous representations of the Deity from the true counterparts. In accordance with this belief, the true God is portrayed time and again in the text as situated in a stream of fire. For example, in chapter eight, where Abraham responds to the divine call in the courtyard of Terah’s house, the divine presence is depicted as “the voice of the Mighty One” in a stream of fire.36 This self-disclosure of God in the midst of flame becomes a standard description adopted by the authors of the apocalypse to convey manifestations of the Deity.37
In view of this distinctive theophanic imagery, it is highly significant that some eschatological manifestations of Azazel are likewise depicted with fiery imagery. Although in chapter 13 the patriarch sees Azazel in the form of an unclean bird, the apocalypse makes clear that this appearance does not reflect his true appearance. Now, Azazel’s proper domain is subterranean,38 and this is striking because the belly of the earth is understood in our text as a furnace. Both God and Azazel dwell in fire.
Hence, in Yahoel’s speech found in chapter 14, he designates the arch-demon’s abode as the furnace of the earth.39 Moreover, Azazel himself is portrayed as the “burning coal” or the “firebrand” of this inferno.40 This depiction of Azazel glowing in the furnace of his own domain is intriguing. It is reminiscent of the fiery nature of the divine abode that, in the Apocalypse of Abraham, is portrayed as the upper furnace. The fiery nature of the heaven is underlined multiple times in the text. It is notable that the seer’s progress into the domain of the Deity is portrayed as his movement into the fiery realm. In Apoc. Ab. 15:3 Abraham and Yahoel cross the border into the heavenly realm, and this is portrayed as an entrance into fire: “…and he carried me up to the edge of the fiery flame. And we ascended like great winds to the heaven which was fixed on the expanses.”41
Then, in chapter 17, the readers again encounter this terrifying presence, this celestial furnace as the flames envelop the visionary and his celestial guide on their progress to God’s abode: “And while he was still speaking, behold, a fire was coming toward us round about, and a sound was in the fire like a sound of many waters, like a sound of the sea in its uproar” (Apoc. Ab. 17:1).42 In 18:1, upon his entrance into the celestial Holy of Holies, the visionary again passes another fiery threshold: “…while I was still reciting the song, the edge of the fire which was on the expanse rose up on high.”43
The fiery apotheosis reaches its pinnacle in chapter 18 when Abraham sees God’s heavenly throne room. There, in the most concealed of theophanic locations, the seer beholds the very seat of the Deity fashioned from the substance of fire: “And as the fire rose up, soaring higher, I saw under the fire a throne [made] of fire and the many-eyed Wheels” (Apoc. Ab. 18:3).44 Yet, even at its climax, the fiery picture of the divine presence paradoxically parallels the fiery nature of Azazel’s subterranean abode.
This striking imagery brings us back to the Azazel tradition found in Apoc. Ab. 14:5 where, according to some scholars, the demonic presence is fashioned as the fire of Hell.45 Similar to the Deity who is depicted as the fire of heaven enthroned on the seat of flames, the demon is portrayed as the fire of the underworld. In this respect it is also noteworthy that, similar to the divine Voice, which comes admixed with fire, Azazel’s aural expression is also conveyed through similar fiery symbolism. To give an example, Apoc. Ab. 31:5 speaks about “the fire of Azazel’s tongue”:
And those who followed after the idols and after their murders will rot in the womb of the Evil One—the belly of Azazel, and they will be burned by the fire of Azazel’s tongue (палими огнемъ языка Азазилова).46
It is also interesting that, like the fire of God that destroys the idols and idolaters alike in its flames,47 the fire issuing from Azazel has power to destroy those who “follow after the idols.” Though it is not entirely clear, it may be that the fire of Azazel is, on a different level, the fire of God. In Apoc. Ab. 31:3, the Deity says that he has destined those who “mocked” him “to be food for the fire of hell, and ceaseless soaring in the air of the underground depths.”48
The Kavod of Azazel
The previous exploration indicates that in the Slavonic apocalypse Azazel possesses theophanic attributes that mimic those of God. The impressive cluster of enigmatic themes reaches its paradoxical climax in chapter 23, when Abraham receives a vision of Azazel corrupting the protoplasts at the beginning of time. Yet before examining this puzzling scene, something must be said about the peculiar arrangement of the patriarch’s vision. In the vision Abraham gazes into the abyss of hell from the heights of heaven, near God’s throne itself. This setting provides further support for the dualistic framework of the text.
In the beginning of this mysterious vision, the Deity orders the seer to look beneath his feet and “contemplate the creation.” The apocalypse then portrays Abraham looking beneath the expanse at his feet and beholding what the text calls the “likeness of heaven.”49 This reference to the “likeness of heaven” (Slav. подобие неба)50 has baffled many scholars 51 because the authors situate a vision of the corrupted domain belonging to Azazel under the category of the “resemblance of heaven”:
And I looked beneath the expanse at my feet and I saw the likeness of heaven (подобие неба) and what was therein. And [I saw] there the earth and its fruits, and its moving ones, and its spiritual ones, and its host of men and their spiritual impieties, and their justifications, <and the pursuits of their works,> and the abyss and its torment, and its lower depths, and the perdition which is in it. And I saw there the sea and its island<s>, and its animals and its fishes, and Leviathan and his domain, and his lair, and his dens, and the world which lies upon him, and his motions and the destruction of the world because of him. (Apoc. Ab. 21:2-4)52
As it stands, this is already a confusing account. Yet the most puzzling disclosure about the “likeness of heaven” comes further along in chapter 23, when the visionary beholds Azazel’s appearance under the paradisal tree. Apocalypse of Abraham 23:4-11 unveils the following enigma that draws on peculiar protological imagery:
And I looked at the picture, and my eyes ran to the side of the garden of Eden. And I saw there a man very great in height and terrible in breadth, incomparable in aspect, entwined (съплетшася) with a woman who was also equal to the man in aspect and size. And they were standing under a tree of Eden, and the fruit of the tree was like the appearance of a bunch of grapes of the vine. And behind the tree was standing, as it were, a serpent in form, but having hands and feet like a man, and wings on its shoulders: six on the right side and six on the left. And he was holding in his hands the grapes of the tree and feeding the two whom I saw entwined with each other. And I said, “Who are these two entwined (съплетшася) with each other, or who is this between them, or what is the fruit which they are eating, Mighty Eternal One?” And he said, “This is the reason of men, this is Adam, and this is their desire on earth, this is Eve. And he who is in between them is the Impiety of their pursuits for destruction, Azazel himself.”53
In this vision Abraham beholds Azazel’s manifestation in the lower realm, and the demon’s presence is placed in the midst of the protoplasts. The depiction also makes the tree in the Garden of Eden the abode of Azazel. Both are intriguing images, to be sure.
Now, no doubt this tree is the infamous Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – the symbol of the corruption of the first human couple.54 The peculiar features of the scene, and the reference to the “grapes of vine” as the fruit of the tree, bring to memory a cluster of familiar motifs in Jewish lore. While some features of the scene look familiar, others are not. One novel detail is particularly perplexing. Azazel is placed between the intertwined protoplasts under the tree.
This image has long puzzled students of the Slavonic apocalypse. Although the imagery of the intertwined protoplasts is known from Jewish and Christian lore about the serpentine Eve,55 the depiction found in the Apocalypse of Abraham unveils new and bizarre symbolism. Some scholars have suggested an erotic dimension in this portrayal, arguing that the demon and the intertwined protoplasts form here a sort of ménage à trois.56 This raises not a few questions as to its theological significance.
Is it possible that in this scene one might have not merely a scandalous illustration of the protological corruption of the first humans, but also the disclosure of one of the most controversial epiphanies of Azazel? If it is indeed possible, then the erotic imagery of the conjugal union might be laden with theophanic significance. And, it might be noted, such significance would be in line with other biblical and pseudepigraphic accounts. Moreover, if the epiphanic angle is indeed present in the protological scene, the arboreal imagery would also contribute to this theological dimension. In this respect, the peculiar details of Azazel’s position between the protoplasts under the tree might invoke the memory of a peculiar theophanic trend related to the other prominent tree in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life.
In Jewish lore the Tree of Life often has theophanic significance. It is described as the very special dwelling place of God, and God is depicted as resting on the cherub beneath the Tree of Life. These traditions are found in a number of apocalyptic and mystical accounts. Thus, for example, the Greek version57 of Life of Adam and Eve 22:3-4 connects the theophany of the Deity with the Tree of Life: “As God entered [the Garden,] the plants of Adam’s portion flowered but all mine were bereft of flowers. And the throne of God was fixed where the Tree of Life was.” 58 A similar tradition is found in 2 Enoch 8:3-4, where the Tree of Life again is described as the abode of God:
And in the midst (of them was) the tree of life, at that place where the Lord takes a rest when he goes into paradise. And that tree is indescribable for pleasantness and fine fragrance, and more beautiful than any (other) created thing that exists. And from every direction it has an appearance which is gold-looking and crimson, and with the form of fire. And it covers the whole of Paradise (2 Enoch 8:3-4, the longer recension).59
The tradition of the Divinity dwelling on the cherub under the Tree of Life was not forgotten in later Jewish mysticism where God’s very presence, his Shekhinah, is portrayed as resting on a cherub beneath the Tree of Life. 3 Enoch 5:1 unveils the following tradition:
R. Ishmael said: Metatron, Prince of the Divine Presence, said to me: From the day that the Holy One, blessed be he, banished the first man from the garden of Eden, the Shekhinah resided on a cherub beneath the tree of life.60
A striking feature of this account is that here, like in the classic Ezekelian accounts, the cherubic creature represents the “angelic furniture” that functions as the seat of the Deity.
It is also intriguing that in the later Jewish mysticism the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil receives similar epiphanic re-interpretation. It has its own cherubic servants and its own symmetry between heaven and earth. For example, the Zohar I.237a unveils the following tradition about the symmetry of the upper and lower cherubim, explicitly associating the former with the Tree of Sin and Corruption:
Adam was punished for his sin, and brought death upon himself and all the world, and caused that tree in regard to which he sinned to be driven out along with him and his descendants for ever. It says further that God “placed the cherubim on the east of the garden of Eden”; these were the lower cherubim, for as there are cherubim above, so there are cherubim below, and he spread this tree over them.61
This passage is striking since it echoes the Tree of Knowledge found in the Slavonic apocalypse, which provided the shadow for the protological couple holding in their midst the presence of Azazel. It is noteworthy that in the passage from the Zohar the Tree of Knowledge is now unambiguously associated with the angelic servants, designated as the “lower cherubim.” Keeping in mind this cryptic tradition about cherubim, it is now time to return to the protological scene found in the Slavonic apocalypse.
Subtle allusions to cherubic imagery may well be present in Azazel’s epiphany in Apoc. Ab. 23:4-11, where he is depicted under the Tree of Knowledge in the midst of the protoplasts. It is of course odd that Azazel is found in the connubial union of the intertwined couple. It should be noted that the imagery of the intertwined primordial couple holding the presence of Azazel is quite unique in the Adamic lore. Yet it invokes the memory of another important theophanic tradition when God’s presence is portrayed through the imagery of the intertwined cherubic pair in the Holy of Holies.
The treatise Yoma of the Babylonian Talmud contains two passages that offer striking, if not scandalous, descriptions of the intertwisted cherubim in the Holy of Holies. For example, b. Yoma 54a reads:
R. Kattina said: Whenever Israel came up to the Festival, the curtain would be removed for them and the Cherubim were shown to them, whose bodies were intertwisted with one another, and they would be thus addressed: Look! You are beloved before God as the love between man and woman.62
Here the erotic union of cherubim holds, in some sense, the presence of the Deity. One might see in this description later rabbinic innovations which are far distant, or maybe even completely divorced, from the early biblical tradition of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies. Nevertheless, scholars have noted that even early biblical accounts hint at the ambiguous “proximity” of the famous cherubic pair. Rachel Elior notes that in some biblical materials “descriptions of them usually imply a posture characterized by reciprocity or contact: ‘they faced each other,’63 or also ‘their wings touched each other’64 or were even joined65 together.”66 While the early traditions about the cherubim found “both in the Bible and elsewhere, imply varying degrees of proximity and contact – later tradition was more explicit, clearly indicating the identity of the cherubim as a mythical symbolization of reproduction67 and fertility, expressed in the form of intertwined male and female.”68
In b. Yoma 54b the tradition of the intertwisted cherubim is repeated again:
Resh Lakish said: When the heathens entered the Temple and saw the Cherubim whose bodies were intertwisted with one another, they carried them out and said: These Israelites, whose blessing is a blessing, and whose curse is a curse, occupy themselves with such things! And immediately they despised them, as it is said: All that honored her, despised her, because they have seen her nakedness.69
Elior argues that the description of the intertwined cherubim found in the Talmud suggests “a cultic, mystical representation of myths of hieros gamos, the sacred union or heavenly matrimony….”70 It is also apparent that this imagery of the cherubic union has sacerdotal and theophanic significance as it expresses in itself the manifestation of the divine presence – the feature especially evident in b. Yoma 54a, with its motifs of the removal of the curtain and the revelation of the cherubim on Yom Kippur. It is therefore clear that the tradition of the intertwined cherubim is envisioned here as a theophanic symbol.
In view of these developments, it seems that the Apocalypse of Abraham has taken hold of this cultic theme of the conjugal union and inverted it, applying it to Azazel rather than God. It is also possible that the erotic embrace of the protological couple holding Azazel in their midst serves as a negative counterpart of the cherubic couple holding the divine presence in the Holy of Holies. On this understanding Adam and Eve are understood as the “lower cherubim” overshadowed by the Tree of Knowledge, the Adamic tradition explicitly articulated in the Zohar 1.237, and maybe already hinted at in the Apocalypse of Abraham.
Also fascinating is that the mysterious shape of Azazel itself evokes the union of the cherubic couple, as his form combines some attributes of the two cherubim joined together.71 The passage says that the demon has twelve wings – six on the right side of his body and six on the left side:72 “And behind the tree was standing, as it were, a serpent in form, but having hands and feet like a man, and wings on its shoulders: six on the right side and six on the left.”73 It is noteworthy that earlier in the text, when Abraham sees the “Living Creatures of the Cherubim” in the heavenly throne room, he reports that each of them has six wings: “And under the throne [I saw] four singing fiery Living Creatures…and each one had six wings: from their shoulders, <and from their sides,> and from their loins” (Apoc. Ab. 18:3-6).74
All these passages and images are odd and difficult to interpret. Hence, there must be some tentativeness in discerning their meaning. Still, in view of the aforementioned sacerdotal and theophanic traditions, it is quite possible that Azazel in Apoc. Ab. 23 attempts to mimic the divine presence represented by the cherubic couple in the Holy of Holies by offering his own, now corrupted and demonic, version of the sacred union.75 Recalling that Azazel appears to have his own kavod given to him by God,76 he possibly intends to fashion his own presence in an antithetical symmetry of the divine theophany that takes place between two intertwined angelic creatures.
In conclusion, one should note that although the epiphany of Azazel demonstrates some allusions to the divine theophany in respect of its fiery nature, at the same time the demonic manifestation is surrounded with the corporeal markers which undoubtedly have a negative overtone in the aniconic ideology of the author(s) of the Slavonic apocalypse. Azazel’s body entwined with the human couple puts in great relief the divine incorporeality. It cannot be excluded that through the paradoxical epiphany of Azazel the authors engage in polemics with the corporeal ideology of the Kavod tradition.
Some have argued that the figure of Azazel is not connected with the theme of idolatry. Take for example Martha Himmelfarb. She contends that “the relationship between the two causes of evil—the figure of Azazel and the sin of idolatry— is not fully worked out: Azazel is entirely absent from the story of Abraham’s rejection of idolatry.”77 Yet despite this absence, the theme of Azazel’s corruption of Adam and Eve seems to become an important vehicle of polemics against idolatry in the second, apocalyptic, part of the text. Our research indicates that Abraham’s vision of the corrupted protoplasts with Azazel in their midst represents a crucial point in the authors’ polemical stance against anthropomorphic idols. Further, the corporeality of Azazel is tied through subtle allusions to two corrupted temples – the temple of Terah, where idols were installed, and the Jewish temple in chapter 25, where the statue of shining copper was standing.
1 Angel, Otherworldly and Eschatological Priesthood in the Dead Sea Scrolls, 83.
2 Angel, Otherworldly and Eschatological Priesthood in the Dead Sea Scrolls, 83. See also, J. Maier, “Religious Beliefs, Qumran Sect,” in: Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2 vols.; eds. L.H. Schiffman and J.C. VanderKam; New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) 2.754.
3 Apoc. Ab. 14:13 reads, “…Since God gave him [Azazel] the heaviness (тяготоу) and the will against those who answer him….” Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham en vieux slave, 150.
4 Cf. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination, 229.
5 Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period: Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran Sectarian Writings, Philo, Josephus (ed. M.E. Stone; CRINT, 2.2; Assen: Van Gorcum, 1984) 418.
6 Stone, Jewish Writings, 418. Stone makes a further connection between the dualistic tendencies found in Apoc. Ab. and the traditions from the Qumran documents. He observes that “the idea of joint rule of Azazel and God in this world resembles the doctrine of the Rule of Community, according to which there are two powers God appointed to rule in the world (cf. 1QS 2:20-1).” Stone, Jewish Writings, 418. It should be noted that the connections between the dualism of the Slavonic apocalypse and the Palestinian dualistic traditions have been recognized by several scholars. Already George Herbert Box, long before the discovery of the DSS, argued that the dualistic features of the Apocalypse of Abraham are reminiscent of the “Essene” dualistic ideology. Thus, Box suggested that “the book is essentially Jewish, and there are features in it which suggest Essene origin; such are its strong predestinarian doctrine, its dualistic conceptions, and its ascetic tendencies.” Box and Landsman, The Apocalypse of Abraham, xxi.
7 Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination, 229.
8 Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination, 229.
9 “In the Apocalypse of Abraham there is no ontological dualism. The created world is good before the eyes of God (22:2). There is no other God in the universe, than ‘the one whom’ Abraham ‘searched for’ and ‘who has loved’ him (19:3). There is evil in the world, but it is not inevitable. God has full control over the world and he does not permit the body of the just to remain in the hand of Azazel (13:10). Azazel is wrong if he thinks he can scorn justice and disperse the secret of heaven (14:4). He will be banished in the desert forever (14:5).” Rubinkiewicz, “The Apocalypse of Abraham,” 1.684.
10 He observes that “… dans l’Apocalypse d’Abraham il n’y a pas trace d’un dualisme absolu… Mais le monde révèle un certain dualisme. D’abord on découvre un dualisme spatial. Il y a la terre et l’Eden, la mer et les eaux supérieures, les hommes situés à gauche et les hommes situés à droite dans le tableau (XXI, 3-7). Il y a aussi un dualisme temporel: celui qui oppose le monde present (XXXII, 2) et le monde de la justice (XXIX, 18); le jour et les ténèbres (XVII, 22s.), l’humanité d’avant Abraham et l’humanité d’après Abraham (XXIV-XXV). L’humanité postérieure à Abraham est elle-même divisée entre le people de Dieu et les nations (XXII, 4-5; XXIV, 1). Il existe encore un dualisme éthique: on trouve des justes, mais aussi des méchants (XVII, 22; XXIII, 12); l’homme a le désir du mal (XXIII, 13), mais aussi celui des œuvres justes (XXVII, 9)….” R. Rubinkiewicz, “La vision de l’histoire dans l’Apocalypse d’Abraham,” in: ANRW 2.19.1 (1979) 137–151 at 149.
11 Box and Landsman, The Apocalypse of Abraham, xxvi.
12 Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 31.
13 Philonenko also draws attention to the expression found in Apoc. Ab. 14:6: “Since your inheritance are [should this be “is,” not “are”?] those who are with you, with men born with the stars and clouds. And their portion is you, and they come into being through your being.” Philonenko sees in this expression a connection with the astrological lore found in some Qumran horoscopes, which expresses the idea that the human beings from the time of their birth belong either to the “lot” of light or to the “lot” of darkness. Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 32. Philonenko also sees also the dualistic opposition between the “age of justice” (въ вѣцѣ праведнемь) and the “age of corruption” (во тлѣннѣ вѣцѣ). In his opinion all these instances represent remarkable expressions of a dualistic ideology.
14 On dualism in Qumran see J. H. Charlesworth, “A Critical Comparison of the Dualism in 1QS 3:13–4:26 and the ‘Dualism’ Contained in the Gospel of John,” NTS 15 (1968/69) 389–418; Dualism in Qumran (ed. G. Heravits; LSTS, 76; London: T&T Clark International, 2010); J. Duhaime, “L’instruction sur les deux esprits et les interpolations dualistes à Qumrân (1QS III,13-IV,26),” RB 84 (1977) 566–94; idem, “La rédaction de 1QM XIII et l’évolution du dualisme à Qumrân,” RB 84 (1977) 210–38; idem, “Dualistic reworking in the Scrolls from Qumran,” CBQ 49 (1987) 32–56; idem, “Le dualisme de Qumrân et la literature de sagesse vétérotestamentaire,” ET 19 (1988) 401–22; A. Dupont-Sommer, “Le problème des infl uences étrangères sur la secte juive de Qumrân,” RHPR 35 (1955) 75–94; H. W. Huppenbauer, Der Mensch zwischen zwei Welten. Der Dualismus der Texte von Qumran (Höhle I) und der Damaskusfragmente. Ein Beitrag zur Vorgeschichte des Evangeliums (AThANT, 34, Zürich: Zwingli Verlag, 1959); M. Philonenko, “La doctrine qoumrânienne des deux esprits: ses origines iraniennes, et ses prolongements dans le judaïsme essénien et le christianisme antique,” in: Apocalyptique Iranienne et Dualisme Qoumrânien (eds. M. Philonenko et al., Paris: Adrien Maisonneuve, 1995) 163–211; P. von der Osten-Sacken, Gott und Belial. Traditionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zum Dualismus in den Texten aus Qumran (SUNT, 6, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1969); H. Wildberger, “Der dualismus in der Qumranschriften,” Asiatische Studien 8 (1954) 163–77; D. Winston, “The Iranian component in the Bible, Apocrypha, and Qumran: a review of the evidence,” HR 5 (1966) 183–216.
15 Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 32.
16 Thus, for example, Marc Philonenko notes that the word “lot” (Slav. часть) appears to be connected to the Hebrew גורל, a term attested multiple times in the Qumran materials. Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 33. On the two lots, see also B. Philonenko-Sayar and M. Philonenko, Die Apokalypse Abrahams (JSHRZ, 5.5; Gütersloh: Mohn, 1982) 413–460 at 418; Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham en vieux slave, 54.
17 For the גורלterminology see Lev 16:8-10.
18 See for example, 1QS גורל בליעל (the lot of Belial); גורל קדושים (the lot of the holy ones); 1QM גורל בני חושך (the lot of the sons of darkness); גורל חושך (the lot of darkness); 11Q13 צדק [כי] גורל מל [י] אנש(the men of the lot of Melchizedek).
19 Apoc. Ab. 13:7: “… And he said to him, “Reproach is on you, Azazel! Since Abraham’s portion (часть Аврамля) is in heaven, and yours is on earth.…” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 20; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 66.
20 Apoc. Ab. 10:15: “Stand up, Abraham, go boldly, be very joyful and rejoice! And I am with you, since an honorable portion (часть вѣчная) has been prepared for you by the Eternal One.” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 18; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 60.
21 This identification of the positive lot with the lot of God is also present in the Qumran materials. Cf. 1QM 13:5-6: “For they are the lot of darkness but the lot of God is for [everlast]ing light.” The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (2 vols.; eds. F. García Martínez and E. Tigchelaar; Leiden: Brill, 1997) 135.
22 Apoc. Ab. 20:1-5. Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 25.
23 On the Azazel traditions, see J. Blair, De-Demonising the Old Testament: An Investigation of Azazel, Lilith, Deber, Qeteb and Reshef in the Hebrew Bible (FAT, 2.37; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2009) 55-63; J. De Roo, “Was the Goat for Azazel Destined for the Wrath of God?” Bib 81 (2000) 233-241; W. Fauth, “Auf den Spuren des biblischen Azazel (Lev 16): Einige Residuen der Gestalt oder des Namens in jüdisch-aramäischen, griechischen, koptischen, äthiopischen, syrischen und mandäischen Texten,” ZAW 110 (1998) 514-534; E.L. Feinberg, “The Scapegoat of Leviticus Sixteen,” BSac 115 (1958) 320-31; M. Görg, “Beobachtungen zum sogenannten Azazel-Ritus,” BN 33 (1986) 10-16; Grabbe, “The Scapegoat Tradition: A Study in Early Jewish Interpretation,” 165-79; Helm, “Azazel in Early Jewish Literature,” 217-226; B. Janowski, Sühne als Heilgeschehen: Studien zur Suhnetheologie der Priesterchrift und der Wurzel KPR im Alten Orient und im Alten Testment (WMANT, 55; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1982); idem, “Azazel,” in: Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (eds. K. van der Toorn et al.; Leiden: Brill, 1995) 240-248. B. Jurgens, Heiligkeit und Versöhnung: Leviticus 16 in seinem Literarischen Kontext (New York: Herder, 2001); H.M. Kümmel, “Ersatzkönig und Sündenbock,” ZAW 80 (1986) 289-318; R.D. Levy, The Symbolism of the Azazel Goat (Bethesda: International Scholars Publication, 1998); O. Loretz, Leberschau, Sündenbock, Asasel in Ugarit und Israel: Leberschau und Jahwestatue in Psalm 27, Leberschau in Psalm 74 (UBL, 3; Altenberge: CIS-Verlag, 1985); J. Maclean, “Barabbas, the Scapegoat Ritual, and the Development of the Passion Narrative,” HTR 100 (2007) 309-334; J. Milgrom, Studies in Cultic Theology and Terminology (SJLA, 36; Leiden: Brill, 1983); C. Molenberg, “A Study of the Roles of Shemihaza and Asael in 1 Enoch 6-11,” JSJ 35 (1984) 136-146; D. Rudman, “A Note on the Azazel-goat Ritual,” ZAW 116 (2004) 396-401; W.H. Shea, “Azazel in the Pseudepigrapha,” JATS 13 (2002) 1-9; Stökl Ben Ezra, “Yom Kippur in the Apocalyptic Imagery and the Roots of Jesus’ High Priesthood,” 349-366; idem, “The Biblical Yom Kippur, the Jewish Fast of the Day of Atonement and the Church Fathers,” 493-502; idem, The Impact of Yom Kippur on Early Christianity: The Day of Atonement from Second Temple Judaism to the Fifth Century; A. Strobel, “Das jerusalemische Sündenbock-Ritual. Topographische und landeskundliche Überlegungen zur Überlieferungsgeschichte von Lev. 16, 10.21f.,” ZDPV 103 (1987) 141-68; H. Tawil, “cAzazel the Prince of the Steepe: A Comparative Study,” ZAW 92 (1980) 43-59; M. Weinfeld, “Social and Cultic Institutions in the Priestly Source against Their ANE Background,” Proceedings of the Eighth World Congress of Jewish Studies (Jerusalem, 1983) 95-129; D.P. Wright, The Disposal of Impurity: Elimination Rites in the Bible and in Hittite and Mesopotamian Literature (SBLDS, 101; Atlanta: Scholars, 1987).
24 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 21; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 68.
25 Although here and in Apoc. Ab. 10:15 the Slavonic word часть is used for designation of the “lots,” Apoc. Ab. 20:5 and Apoc. Ab. 29:21 uses the Slavonic word жребий for their designation of the “lot.” Cf. Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 82 and 102.
26 The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, 1207-1209.
27 The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, 75-79.
28 In 1QM 14:9 the terminology of inheritance is invoked again. There the remnant predestined to survive is called “the rem[nant of your inheritance] during the empire of Belial.” The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, 137.
29 The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, 97.
30 The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, 573.
31 The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, 572.
32 Grabbe, “The Scapegoat tradition: A Study in Early Jewish Interpretation,” 158.
33 Grabbe, “The Scapegoat tradition: A Study in Early Jewish Interpretation,” 158.
34 See Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 31; Harlow, “Idolatry and Alterity: Israel and the Nations in the Apocalypse of Abraham,” 310, 315.
35 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 15.
36 Apoc. Ab. 8:1: “The voice (глас) of the Mighty One came down from heaven in a stream of fire, saying and calling, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ ” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 16; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 54.
37 See, for example, Apoc. Ab. 18:2: “And I heard a voice (глас) like the roaring of the sea, and it did not cease because of the fire.” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 24; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 76.
38 Box reflects on the peculiarities of Azazel’s true abode, noting that “over against Jaoel stands Azazel, who here appears as the arch-fiend, and as active upon the earth (chap. xiii), though his real domain is in Hades, where he reigns as lord (chap. xxxi.).” Box and Landsman, The Apocalypse of Abraham, xxvi.
39 Some time ago Box noticed the fiery nature of the demonological imagery found in the Slavonic apocalypse, wherein Azazel is portrayed as the fire of Hell. Box reflects on this fiery theophany of Azazel, arguing that “…in fact, according to the peculiar representation of our Apocalypse, Azazel is himself the fire of Hell (cf. chap. xiv. ‘Be thou the burning coal of the furnace of the earth,’ and chap. xxxi. ‘burnt with the fire of Azazel’s tongue’).” Box and Landsman, The Apocalypse of Abraham, xxvi.
40 See Apoc. Ab. 14:5 “Say to him, ‘May you be the fire brand of the furnace of the earth! (главънею пещи земныя).’” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 21; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 68.
41 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 22.
42 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 22.
43 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 23.
44 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 24. See also Apoc. Ab. 18:13: “And above the Wheels there was the throne which I had seen. And it was covered with fire and the fire encircled it round about, and an indescribable light surrounded the fiery people.” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 24.
45 Box and Landsman, The Apocalypse of Abraham, xxvi.
46 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 35; Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham en vieux slave. Introduction, texte critique traduction et commentaire, 202.
47 Cf. Apoc. Ab. 31:2-3: “And I shall burn with fire those who mocked them ruling over them in this age and I shall commit those who have covered me with mockery to the reproach of the coming age.” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 35.
48 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 35.
49 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 26.
50 Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 84.
51 See, e.g., Horace Lunt’s comment in Rubinkiewicz, “The Apocalypse of Abraham,” 1.699.
52 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 26.
53 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 27; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 88.
54 Himmelfarb’s research stresses the importance of protology and especially Adam’s story for the conceptual framework of the Slavonic apocalypse. She observes that “for the Apocalypse of Abraham, as for 4 Ezra, the destruction of the temple is intimately connected to larger questions of God’s expectations of humanity and human failure from the beginning of history. It is no accident that the sin of Adam figures prominently in both works, as it does also in 3 Baruch, another response to the destruction of the temple.” Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven, 66.
55 On these traditions in Jewish and Christian literature, see S. Minov, “‘Serpentine’ Eve in Syriac Christian Literature of Late Antiquity,” in: With Letters of Light: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Early Jewish Apocalypticism, Magic and Mysticism (Ekstasis, 2; eds. D. Arbel and A. Orlov; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2010) 92-114.
56 Thus, for example, reflecting on the imagery found in Apoc. Ab. 23:4-11, Daniel Harlow suggests that “the three of them appear in a ménage à trois, the man and woman entwined in an erotic embrace, the fallen angel in serpentine guise feeding them grapes….” Harlow, “Idolatry and Alterity: Israel and the Nations in the Apocalypse of Abraham,” 320.
57 On various versions of the Life of Adam and Eve, see M.E. Stone, A History of the Literature of Adam and Eve (EJL, 3; Atlanta: Scholars, 1992); M. de Jonge and J. Tromp, The Life of Adam and Eve (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997).
58 A Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve. Second Revised Edition, 62E. The Armenian and Georgian versions of LAE 22:4 also support this tradition: “He set up his throne clos[e] to the Tree of Life” (Armenian); “and thrones were set up near the Tree of Life” (Georgian). A Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve. Second Revised Edition, 62E.
59 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.114.
60 Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 1.259.
61 Sperling and Simon, The Zohar, 2.355.
62 Epstein, Soncino Hebrew-English Talmud. Yoma 54a.
63 Exod 37:9.
64 1 Kings 6:27; Ezek 1:9.
65 2 Chr 3:12.
66 Elior, The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism, 67.
67 In later Jewish mysticism the imagery of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies was interpreted as the conjugal union between male and female. Thus, in Zohar III.59b the following tradition can be found: “R. Simeon was on the point of going to visit R. Pinchas ben Jair, along with his son R. Eleazar. When he saw them he exclaimed: A song of ascents; Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity (Ps. CXXXIII, 1). The expression ‘in unity,’ he said, refers to the Cherubim. When their faces were turned to one another, it was well with the world – ‘how good and how pleasant,’ but when the male turned his face from the female, it was ill with the world. Now, too, I see that you are come because the male is not abiding with the female. If you have come only for this, return, because I see that on this day face will once more be turned to face.” The Zohar, 5.41. Another passage from the Zohar III.59a also tells about the conjugal union of the cherubim: “Then the priest used to hear their voice in the sanctuary, and he put the incense in its place with all devotion in order that all might be blessed. R. Jose said: The word ‘equity’ (mesharim, lit. equities) in the above quoted verse indicates that the Cherubim were male and female. R. Isaac said: From this we learn that where there is no union of male and female men are not worthy to behold the divine presence.” The Zohar, 5.41.
68 Elior, The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism, 67.
69 Epstein, Soncino Hebrew-English Talmud. Yoma 54b. Zohar III.67a, which describes the actions of the high priest on Yom Kippur, also attests the same tradition when it portrays the “wrestle” of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies who are “beating their wings together.” The passage then describes the high priest entering the Holy of Holies, bringing the incense that “pacifies” or “reconciles” the “wrestling” of the angelic creatures. Cf. The Zohar, 5.60. See also The Zohar I.231a: “Now at sunset, the Cherubim which stood in that place used to strike their wings together and spread them out, and when the sound of the beating of their wings was heard above, those angels who chanted hymns in the night began to sing, in order that the glory of God might ascend from below on high. The striking of the Cherubim’s wings itself intoned the psalm, ‘Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord…lift up your hands to the sanctuary, etc.’ (Ps. CXXXIII). This was the signal for the heavenly angels to commence.” The Zohar, 2.340.
70 Elior, The Three Temples, 158. In relation to this union of the angelic creatures in the Holy of Holies, Elior further notices that “the grammatical relationship between the Hebrew words for the Holy of Holies – kodesh hakodashim – and for betrothal – kidushin – suggests an ancient common ground of heavenly and earthly union.” Elior, The Three Temples, 158.
71 Like the “Living Creatures of the Cherubim,” Azazel is portrayed as a composite being who combines zoomorphic and human features – the body of a serpent with the hands and feet like a man.
72 Cf. Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 13: “Sammael was the great prince in heaven; the Hayyot had four wings and the Seraphim had six wings, and Sammael had twelve wings….” Friedlander, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, 92. See also Georgian LAE 12:1 “My [Satan’s] wings were more numerous than those of the Cherubim, and I concealed myself under them.” A Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve. Second Revised Edition, 15-15E.
73 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 27.
74 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 24.
75 This imagery of Azazel positioned between Adam and Eve might also serve as a profound anthropological symbol signifying the division of the protoplast. Azazel might be envisioned here as the primordial knife separating androgynous proto-humanity and dividing it on the male and female sides.
76 In this respect it is intriguing that several versions of the Primary Adam Books attest a tradition about the “glory” of Satan that the antagonist had even before his demotion. Latin LAE 12:1 “…since on account of you I was expelled and alienated from my glory, which I had in heaven in the midst of the angels.” Armenian LAE 12:1 “…because of you I went forth from my dwelling; and because of you I was alienated from the throne of the Cherubim who, having spread out a shelter, used to enclose me….” Georgian LAE 12:1: “through you that I fell from my dwellings; (it was) by you that I was alienated from my own throne.” A Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve. Second Revised Edition, 15-15E.
77 Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven, 66.