And the impure bird spoke to me and said, "What are you doing, Abraham, on
the holy heights, where no one eats or drinks, nor is there upon them food of
men? But these will all be consumed by fire and they will burn you up. Leave
the man who is with you and flee! Since if you ascend to the height, they will
Apocalypse of Abraham
Chapters 15-18 of the Apocalypse of Abraham discuss the patriarch’s journey from the earthly realm to the divine abode, where the seer is predestined to encounter God’s presence. Abraham’s ascent, however, is marked by grave obstacles in the form of fiery tests that pose danger to his life. The atmosphere of the patriarch’s imminent demise looms large in light of earlier events of the story, when Abraham’s father, Terah, and his brother, Nahor, died in fire sent by God. Furthermore, immediately before the patriarch’s ascension, the main antagonist of the story, the fallen angel Azazel, warns the seer that he will also perish in heavenly fire. Yet despite Azazel’s predictions, Abraham safely traverses the fiery thresholds with the help of his angelic guide, Yahoel.
The conceptual background of Abraham’s fiery tests has puzzled students of the Apocalypse. It has been noticed that Abraham’s fiery ordeals echo the tests of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were rescued from a fiery furnace by an otherworldly helper. The Danielic story also became an important blueprint for Jewish and Christian martyrdoms in which martyrs, like the protagonist of the Apocalypse of Abraham, also endure ascent and theophany by passing through flames. Despite these parallels, the Apocalypse of Abraham has rarely been studied in light of Jewish and Christian martyrological traditions. This study attempts to fill this lacuna by closely exploring Abraham’s fiery trials and their possible ties to ordeals of Jewish and Christian martyrs.
I. Fiery Trials in Jewish Lore
Daniel 3 sets the pattern for future fiery tests of Jewish and Christian martyrs and, accordingly, serves as an important conceptual background for the fiery trials in the Apocalypse of Abraham. Several important motifs in the Danielic story became influential precedents not only for the tribulations of Abraham’s family in various Jewish accounts, but also for Jewish and Christian martyrdoms in which exemplars of faith are tested by their evil executors. In light of this, it is not coincidental that some see Dan 3 as a story of martyrdom.1 A question, however, remains: Can accounts in which protagonists survive their persecution be considered martyrdom? Norman Porteous entertains such a possibility. Comparing Jewish martyrdoms with Dan 3, Porteous argues that
the martyr story takes two forms. Either the martyr is faithful unto death and the reward is reserved for another world or a miracle takes place and the martyr’s faith is visibly justified. To the former type belongs the story of the martyrdom of the seven heroic brothers and their mother who are all put to a most painful death and are supported in their agony by the hope of a blessed resurrection (2 Macc 7). To the latter type belongs the present story in which faith is justified by manifest miracle. It is quite likely that there is no essential difference in ultimate meaning between these two types of story. They may merely represent two different ways of saying that God will honour the loyalty of his servants. Indeed the link between the two types of story seems to be provided by the magnificent “but if not” of v. 18. The martyr must stand firm whether a miracle takes place or not.2
Notably, the story of the three Israelite youths reveals several structural elements that reappear in Jewish and Christian martyrological accounts. These accounts mimic the main narrative steps of the Danielic story: its initial accusations, ultimatums, attempts to persuade, counter-arguments, temporary delays and reprieves, final refusals, descents into the furnace, theophanies during the fiery test, miraculous escapes, help of an otherworldly being, and the fiery demise of antagonists or collaborators. All these elements will later secure the role of Dan 3 as a crucial blueprint for subsequent Jewish and Christian martyrdoms in which the suffering of the righteous was understood as an opportunity for God’s vision.3
In this respect the Danielic account manifests an important link that connects martyrdom with theophany, attesting to a succession of the adept’s demise and exaltation, an element which is at times pivotal in various Jewish and Christian martyrological accounts.4 Echoes of Dan 3 are already discernable in the earliest Jewish accounts of martyrological literature devoted to the Antiochian crisis. Although an optimistic story of the three rescued Israelites “did not materialize for those under the reign of Antiochus who chose to follow the youths’ example, deliverance for them was simply postponed to an eschatological future time.”5 According to Paul Middleton, “the theology of the second and fourth books of Maccabees, as well as much intertestamental literature, anticipates future vindication of those who die for the Law."6 While providing an archetype for Jewish martyrs, Dan 3 was also influential for Christian martyrologies. We can detect, for example, formative influences of the Danielic story already on early Christian accounts, including the Martyrdom of Polycarp. It also shaped the ideology of Christian martyrological literature in general. Indeed, Dennis Tucker notes that Dan 3, and the book as a whole, was formative in shaping a Christian theology of martyrdom with the three youths in Dan 3 functioning as a “pattern” (ύπόδειγμα) for the faithful.7
Another influential feature of the Danielic account was its cultic dimension. The fiery trials of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego unfold in the midst of sacerdotal debates about proper and improper sacrifices, false and genuine piety, and idolatrous and true manifestations of the deity. Often in such debates the sacerdotal practices and rituals of one religious tradition were tested and deconstructed by other systems of belief and religious practices. Such tension was important to authors of Jewish and Christian martyrological accounts, precisely because resistance to the foreign sacerdotal and sacrificial system constituted the very heart of the conflict. In Dan 3, for instance, the protagonists of the story make an important choice by refusing to succumb to false piety by declining to worship the king’s golden statue. The story of the fiery test therefore is strategically told (as it will be later in the Apocalypse of Abraham and many other accounts) in the midst of debates about true and false representations of the deity.
Another important conceptual marker linking Dan 3 to the Apocalypse of Abraham is the presence of a heavenly figure who protects the faithful during their fiery trials. Recall how in Dan 3 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were rescued by an otherworldly being who miraculously appeared in the midst of fire.8 Commentators have noted that the Aramaic text preserves the mystique of the otherworldly visitor by not revealing his exact identity. On the other hand, Greek translators of Daniel 3 specify that it is the Angel of the Lord who rescues the three faithful Jews.9 The fact that the Israelite youths and their otherworldly rescuer are unharmed by the fiery test is polemically juxtaposed with the idolatrous statue of the king; they appear to be understood as forms superior to the idol created by Nebuchadnezzar. In this respect the imagery of the blazing crematory in Dan 3 represents an important theophanic locus where tested and transformed human beings are able to encounter the divine manifestation in the fire. This portentous opportunity — both for the metamorphosis and vision in the midst of deadly flames — is repeated in Jewish and Christian martyrological accounts, where suffering is understood as a chance for transformation, ascent, and theophany. With respect to the use of Dan 3 and other Jewish accounts of fiery trials in the martyrdom literature, some note that the story “became a widely used narrative and ideological foundation in the literature of martyrdom. The narrative genre of martyrology resonates in other parts of the story: the saint puts an end to the worship of false gods in his family. He is brought before the regime, and a public debate or investigation of his heresy ensues. He is sentenced to death but is unharmed by the fire or the lions. This is one of the most prevalent patterns in the stories of the tortured Christian saints."10
Other studies emphasize the theophanic and transformational proclivities of the Danielic story. Choon Leong Seow, for example, rightly observes that the three Israelite youths “do not only survive the ordeal, they even encounter divine presence in the fire ordeal.”11 He goes on to say:
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., Ps 18:8-16; 77:17-20).12
The furnace of perdition and death is thus miraculously transformed into the theophanic furnace. Again and again one encounters this inexplicable metamorphosis in Jewish and Christian martyrdoms. By linking the fatal fiery ordeal with the memory of biblical and extra-biblical theophanies, Dan 3 executes an important paradigm shift in a long-lasting theophanic development within Jewish traditions, thus creating a novel revelatory framework which some scholars designate as “traumatic mysteries.”13 Of course, even classic biblical and pseudepigraphical encounters with divine and angelic beings are laden with profound crises for the human adepts who dare to approach the otherworldly subjects. Yet what is different in the martyrdom theophanies, and often missing in early theophanic patterns, is the presence of an otherworldly antagonist, represented by Satan, Azazel, and other demonic characters, who acts through the physical bodies of the martyrs’ persecutors — rulers, priests, soldiers, governors, and judges. Such an antagonist, already present in Dan 3 in the form of the evil king, is also found in later Jewish and Christian martyrological accounts.
Abraham’s Fiery Trials
The theme of the adept’s fiery test received further development in Jewish legends about the patriarch Abraham, especially in rabbinic lore.14 In these sources Abraham is often depicted as a fighter against idolatry whose faith is repeatedly tested in flames by various unjust rulers.
The origins of the patriarch’s fiery ordeal motif is shrouded in mystery.15 An early hint regarding Abraham’s fiery test may be present already in Jud 8:25-27:
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.
Though some scholars see here a reference to Abraham’s trials in the furnace,16 this cannot be established with certainty, since it also could refer to the wood/fire of the Akedah, or to the fiery sacrifices of the patriarch in Gen 15, or even to the fire of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Another early witness that might attest to the early existence of a tradition of Abraham’s fiery trials is a testimony preserved in Eusebius’ Praeparatio Evangelica 9.20.1 and attributed to Philo the Epic Poet, an author who flourished in the second century B.C.E. Eusebius cites the following fragment of Philo: “For this one [Abraham] who left the splendid enclosure of the awesome race, the praiseworthy One [God] with a thundering sound prevented (from carrying out) the immolation.”17 According to James Kugel, scholars traditionally interpret the immolation motif in this passage “as a reference to God’s stopping of the sacrifice of Isaac, or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.”18 Despite these common interpretations, however, Kugel suggests that “it may well be that the ‘immolation’ in question was the burning of Abraham in a fiery furnace. If so, then this motif would arguably go back to the second century B.C.E.”19
The earliest surviving account in which the theme of Abraham’s fiery trial appears with certainty, and already in full-blown narrative complexity, is a lengthy passage found in the Biblical Antiquities of Pseudo-Philo.20 LAB 6:1-18 runs as follows:
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 said to each other, "Let us take bricks and let each of us write our names on the bricks and burn them with fire; and what will be burned will serve as mortar and brick." 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. The people of that land seized them and brought them to their chiefs …. Joktan, who was the chief of the leaders, answered, "… a period of seven days will be given them, and if they repent their evil plans and are willing to contribute bricks with you, they may live. If not, let it be done, let them be burned then in accord with your judgment." … 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 the fire." The leaders sent men to bring them, but they found no one except Abram alone…. They took Abram and brought him to their leaders…. 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. And Abram was saved and went off to the eleven men who had been hiding in the mountains, and he told them everything that had happened to him. They went down with him from the mountains, rejoicing in the name of the Lord. No one who met them frightened them that day. They named that place after the name of Abram and in the language of the Chaldeans "Deli," which means "God."21
Pseudo-Philo’s account demonstrates conceptual and structural complexities indicating that the theme of fiery trials for Abraham and his household was already quite popular in early Jewish lore prior to LAB. Indeed, students of this account often point to another important earlier witness to the fiery trials of Abraham’s family found in Jubilees 12, where one finds the following description of the fiery ordeal of Abraham’s brother, Haran:
In the sixtieth year of Abram’s life (which was the fourth week in its fourth 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.22
Already in Jubilees one notices a number of important details that are later present in Abraham’s story in Pseudo-Philo, the Apocalypse of Abraham, and rabbinic materials. Yet, in comparison with Jubilees’ witness, which tells about Haran’s death, Pseudo-Philo’s passage reveals an important paradigm shift by extending the fiery ordeal to Abraham himself, presenting him with a crucial challenge that tests both Abraham’s faith and the power of his God.
From Jubilees 12, we learn that Haran “was burned in the fire and died in Ur of the Chaldeans.” Already here “fire” and “Ur” are conspicuously connected. Such a link will reappear in the later accounts. As a result, some suggest that “the legend of Abraham in a furnace is based on the interpretation of the place-name Ur (Gen 15:7) as ‘fire.’”23 Geza Vermes claims that “by interpreting rw) as ‘fire,’ ancient commentators of Genesis 15:7 (‘I am the Lord who brought you out of rw) of the Chaldeans’) created a legend out of a pun.”24 Still, Vermes rightly notes that the haggadah of Abraham in the fiery furnace does not originate merely from a verbal pun, but from the reinterpretation of one scriptural account by another.25 This scriptural passage is, of course, the story about the three Israelite youths in Dan 3.
Several scholars have noticed that Pseudo-Philo’s testimony was profoundly shaped by the tradition of the fiery trials found in the third chapter of the Book of Daniel. Vermes argues that the exegetical association with Dan 3 is further substantiated by Genesis Rabbah and other rabbinic accounts. In this respect, the Danielic allusions help to establish the chronological boundaries for the origins of the Abrahamic tradition. In view of Dan 3 as a possible source of the fiery trials tradition, Vermes stresses that "from the point of view of dating, the terminus a quo for the legend of the fiery furnace is the Book of Daniel, and the terminus ad quem, Pseudo-Philo, i.e., roughly the period between 150 BC and 50 AD.”26 John Collins has also discerned the conceptual ties between Abraham’s trials in Pseudo-Philo and the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,27 noting that "the tradition that Abraham was saved out of a fiery furnace (which involves a Hebrew wordplay on Ur, his place of origin in the Bible) is later than Daniel and may be influenced by it."28
LAB 6 as a Martyrological Account
It is important for our study that the first extant narrative attesting to the story of Abraham’s fiery tests exhibits the features of a martyrological account.29 This association has been noted by many. Thus, Howard Jacobson draws attention to the motif of the time extension that the antagonist of the story gives to Abraham. He notes that “the theme of an ‘extension of time’ which the tyrant grants the Jew (or Christian) to enable him to decide whether or not he will rebel against God in some fashion or other is regular in martyrologies.”30 Jacobson suggests that LAB‘s account falls into the martyr-tale pattern in a number of other features, including attempts to persuade, counter-arguments, temporary delay and reprieve, and final refusal.31 Recall that these elements are especially prominent in Dan 3. In this respect, Pseudo-Philo’s passage further develops martyrological proclivities of the Danielic story, shepherding its martyrological features into the framework of Abrahamic lore. James Kugel has also pointed out the distinct martyrological thrust in the motif of Abraham’s fiery trials, even suggesting that the roots of such martyrological tradition are traceable to the time of Roman persecution. The fact "that Abraham in this new motif became a martyr willing to surrender his very life for his beliefs may also suggest a post-Jubilees dating: the theme of Jewish martyrdom became particularly characteristic of midrashic creation from the period of the Roman persecution."32
The Theme of Idolatry
Similar to Dan 3, where the fiery trial unfolds in the midst of polemics involving idolatry, Pseudo-Philo envisions Abraham’s ordeals as a distinct stand against idols. Noting this theme, scholars have entertained the possibility that the infamous biblical tower in Pseudo-Philo’s passage might be representative of an idol.33 If so, it is no coincidence that our account juxtaposes the story about the builders of the idolatrous structure with Abraham’s spiritual career, thereby listing this paradigmatic biblical opponent of idolatry among those who refused to participate in the infamous international project.
Another important feature of the account is the presence of an unjust leader who conducts fiery tests against the patriarch; this is similar to the royal opponent in Daniel. Although in Pseudo-Philo the antagonist’s role is played by the mysterious Joktan, in later rabbinic accounts this treacherous task is attributed to Nimrod.34 One can discern in the imagery of the unjust rulers who put Abraham in the fiery oven a subtle allusion to Daniel’s depiction35 of Nebuchadnezzar.36 Despite the fact that earlier accounts obscure the parallel between Nimrod and Nebuchadnezzar, later rabbinic versions make the connection more lucid and explicit.
The story of Abraham’s fiery test was not forgotten by early Christian exegetes. The tradition was often invoked in an attempt to reconcile the chronology of Abraham’s life. Thus, Augustine in De civitate Dei XVI.15 seems to have knowledge of this motif when he writes: “the seventy-five years of Abraham when he departed out of Haran are reckoned from the year in which he was delivered from the fire of the Chaldeans."37 Jerome, in his Hebrew Questions on Genesis 11-12, (ca. 392 C.E.), provides even more details concerning the patriarch’s test in flames:
And Aran died before his father in the land in which he was born in the territory of the Chaldeans. In place of what we read as in the territory of the Chaldeans, in the Hebrew it has in ur Chesdim, that is, "in the fire of the Chaldeans." Moreover the Hebrews, taking the opportunity afforded by this verse, hand on a story of this sort to the effect that Abraham was put into the fire because he refused to worship fire, which the Chaldeans honour; and that he escaped through God’s help, and fled from the fire of idolatry. What is written [in the Septuagint] in the following verses, that Thara with his offspring “went out from the territory of the Chaldeans” stands in place of what is contained in the Hebrew, from the fire of the Chaldeans. And they maintain that this refers to what is said in this verse: Aran died before the face of Thara his father in the land of his birth in the fire of the Chaldeans; that is, because, he refused to worship fire he was consumed by fire. Then afterwards the Lord spoke to Abraham: I am the One Who led you out of the fire of the Chaldeans … and Thara with his sons went out from the fire of Chaldeans, and that Abram, when surrounded by the Babylonian fire because he refused to worship it, was set free by God’s help.38
One can see that, like their Jewish counterparts, Christian exegetes are also familiar with the connection between “fire” and “Ur.”
Some Samaritan materials that are based on early traditions also demonstrate familiarity with the story of the patriarch’s martyrdom in the hands of the evil king. For example, Asatir 5:25-28 reads:
And Nimrod commanded that each man should return to his place. And after that Abraham was born with mighty glory. And Nimrod took him and threw him into the fire because he has said "The world has a God." And when Haran was wroth with Abraham and said he was a wizard the fire came out and consumed him “and Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in Ur Kasdim.” After seven years he (Nimrod) died.39
The theme of Abraham’s fiery trials then receives wide circulation in various rabbinic corpora. For our study it is important that in these later accounts, the martyrological dimension of the fiery exams often comes to the fore.40 Thus, the authors of various Palestinian targums are cognizant of the patriarch’s fiery ordeal. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to Gen 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.41
This passage attempts to advance a controversial profile of Haran, linking him to practices of divination and sorcery. Such a tendency is reminiscent of some details found in the first, haggadic portion of the Apocalypse of Abraham, where members of Terah’s household are involved in various divinatory routines.
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to Gen 14:1 continues the theme of the patriarch’s fiery test by underlying Nimrod’s role as the chief antagonist: “in the day of Amraphel – he is Nimrod who ordered Abram to be thrown into the fire….”42 Further references to the fiery ordeals can also be found in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to Gen 15:743 and Gen 16:5.44
Another Palestinian targumic composition, Targum Neofiti, is cognizant of Haran’s demise and Abraham’s survival of the Chaldean fire. From Targum Neofiti to Gen 11:28-31 we learn that “Haran died during the lifetime of Terah his father in the land of his birth, in the furnace of fire of the Chaldeans…. And Terah took Abram his son and Lot, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and went forth with them from the furnace of the fire of the Chaldeans, to go to the land of Canaan; and they arrived at Haran and dwelt there.”45 Targum Neofiti to Gen 15:7 further continues the theme of fiery tribulations by telling that the deity rescued Abraham out of the Chaldean furnace.46
Some other targumic compositions are also cognizant of the fiery trials story. For example, Targum Rishon of Esther 5:14 mentions that “…into the fire you cannot cast him [Mordecai], for his ancestor Abraham was saved from it.”47 Targum of Second Chronicles 28:3, furthermore, provides an interesting list of various biblical characters who endured the tests in flames:
It was he who offered up incense in the valley of Bar Hinnom and made his sons pass through the fire. Of them, however, the Memra of the Lord rescued Hezekiah, because it had been revealed before the Lord, that from him three righteous men were destined to come forth, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who were determined to hand over their bodies to be thrown into the midst of the furnace of burning fire for the sake of the great and glorious Name, and they were rescued from the fire. First of all, Abraham was rescued from the burning of the furnace of fire of the Chaldeans, into which Nimrod had cast him because he would not serve his idols. Secondly, Tamar was rescued from the burning of the fire of Judah’s tribunal when he had said: “Take her out and let her be burned!” Thirdly, Hezekiah, the son of Jotham, was rescued from the burning of the fire when his father threw him into the valley of Bar Hinnom, on the altars of Topheth. Fourthly, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were rescued from the furnace of burning fire of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. Fifthly, Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the chief priest, was rescued when the wicked Nebuchadnezzar threw him into the furnace of burning fire along with Ahab, the son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah, the son of Measeiah, the prophets of falsehood: they were burned in the fire, but Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, was rescued because of his merits.48
Abraham’s test is mentioned here alongside the fiery ordeal of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, and the repeated affirmation of the Danielic motifs leaves the impression that the composers of the passage interpreted it as a formative blueprint.
We also encounter Abraham’s fiery trials in the Talmudic corpora. A passage from b. Eruvin 53a, while explaining Nimrod’s name as Amraphel, posits that the evil ruler is called by this name because “he ordered our father Abraham to be cast into a burning furnace.”49 Another passage from b. Pesahim 118a inserts into the familiar story a new otherworldly protagonist, the archangel Gabriel, who volunteers to go down and cool Abraham’s 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.”50
Such angelic actions are reminiscent of the Greek rendering of Dan 3, where the Angel of the Lord cools the oven of Nebuchadnezzar with dew. It is no coincidence that the tradition of the three Israelites youths and their future fiery tests is openly invoked here. Thus, this passage serves not only as an exegesis of Abraham’s fiery trial but as a novel interpretation of the Danielic story, resolving the puzzle of their otherworldly rescuer.
Authors of various rabbinic midrashic compositions also demonstrate familiarity with the aforementioned motifs. Genesis Rabbah 38:13 provides the following lengthy account of Abraham’s descent into fire:
And Haran died in the presence of his father Terah. 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 naught 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.51
This account seems to represent another milestone in the development of the fiery trials tradition. It evokes the memory of some ideas found in the haggadic portion of the Apocalypse of Abraham, where the young protagonist is also sent by his father to sell manufactured idols.52 It also depicts an interesting dispute between Abraham and Nimrod, recalling Abraham’s address to Terah in the Apocalypse of Abraham. 53 The midrash, however, also brings forward a set of new developments. Haran is here portrayed as a spectator of the dispute between Nimrod and Abraham. His reluctance and unbelief is in stark contrast 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. Notably, Haran’s death overshadows the entire account, forming an inclusio around the section.
Other passages in Genesis Rabbah also betray the knowledge of the story of Abraham’s fiery test while interpreting its details in light of the Danielic blueprint. Take Gen. Rab. 34:9: “…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.”54 This passage clearly envisions the tests of both Abraham and the Danielic youths as sacrifices. Gen. Rab. 44:13 also makes a connection between the ordeal of three Israelite youths and Abraham’s fiery tests: “… Michael descended and rescued Abraham from the fiery furnace….. And when did Michael descend? In the case of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.”55 Instead of Gabriel, Michael is depicted here as the otherworldly rescuer for both the Danielic martyrs and Abraham. Similar ties to Dan 3 are found in the 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 15:7). And when did Michael come down? In the time of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.”56 Lev. Rab. 36:4 adds a new twist to the familiar story by connecting Abraham’s tests with Jacob:
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.”57
Avot de R. Nathan A 33 adds yet another exegetical insight by listing the patriarch’s fiery ordeals among the ten landmarks of Abraham’s spiritual journey:
With ten trials was Abraham our father tried before the Holy One, blessed be He, and in all of them he was found steadfast, to wit: twice, when ordered to move on; twice, in connection with his two sons; twice, in connection with his two wives; once, on the occasion of his war with the kings; once, at the (covenant) between the pieces; once, in Ur of the Chaldees; and once, at the covenant of circumcision.58
Later variants of the narrative found in Sefer ha-Yashar and the Book of Zohar serve as witnesses to the popularity of the fiery trials motif. These demonstrate a dramatic expansion of the familiar story, especially as reflected in the Book of Yashar, combining details found in various rabbinic passages into coherent compositions. Yet despite their extensive additions and reworkings, these versions still reveal the basic elements of the original story. Apropos the reworkings found in the Book of Yashar, Geza Vermes notes that "the bulk of this Yashar story of Abraham’s ordeal, and also of the death of Haran in the flames, is common tradition in rabbinic literature."59 These later versions still maintain close ties with their conceptual blueprint – the Book of Daniel.60
II. Fiery Trials in Early Christian Martyrdoms
Although the Apocalypse of Abraham’s ties with the Jewish traditions of the fiery trials have often been acknowledged, a possible connection with early Christian martyrdom accounts, in which the faithful were tested in flames, is regularly neglected by scholars. A comparative analysis, however, reveals some striking similarities between such accounts and the Apocalypse of Abraham. One such features is the tradition of the adepts’ ascent and vision during their fiery trials. Taking into account composition dates of these early Christian martyrdoms, some of which are contemporaneous with the Apocalypse, these early stories of Christian martyrs will now be closely examined.
Acts of Paul
The Acts of Paul, a composition usually dated by scholars before 200 C.E.,61 tells about the fiery tribulation of the Christian proto-martyr Thecla.62 Her ordeal brings to mind some details found in Dan 3, as well as the accounts of Abraham’s own fiery tribulation.63 Acta Pauli 3:21-22 portrays the following failed execution of the female proto-martyr:
And the Governor was affected greatly, and (on the one hand) he flogged Paul and cast him outside of the city, but (on the other hand), he condemned Thecla to be burned. And immediately the Governor rose up, departing into the theater, and all the crowd went out by necessity to the public spectacle. But Thecla was as a lamb in a desert looking around for the shepherd, so she sought for Paul. And having looked into the crowd, she saw the Lord sitting as Paul, and she said, “As if I am not enduring, Paul gazes upon me.” And she held fast to him, gazing intently, but he went away into the heavens. And the young ones and virgins brought wood and hay, in order that Thecla might be burned. But as she was brought in, naked, the Governor wept and marveled at the power in her. But the executioners spread the wood and commanded her to go up upon the pyre. But Thecla, making the sign of a cross, went upon the wood. But they set it on fire from underneath. Even though a great fire was shining, it did not touch her. For God who has compassion caused an underground roaring, and a cloud from above full of water and hail, and all of the contents were poured out, so that many were at risk and died, and the fire was extinguished and Thecla was saved.64
Several details of Thecla’s miraculous escape are also present in Dan 3, especially in its Greek renderings. The first notable feature is the quenching of fire by water sent from a heavenly being. In the Greek rendering of Dan 3, the Angel of the Lord cools the oven of Nebuchadnezzar with dew.
A second parallel is the death of the antagonistic spectators, a feature present in the Aramaic version of Dan 3 and reiterated by various later versions. This theme is also found in Abrahamic accounts of the fiery trials. As we recall, Pseudo-Philo reports that 83,500 bystanders were killed. Yet, in contrast to Danielic and Abrahamic accounts, Thecla’s spectators are killed not by fire, but water.
The third shared feature is the resistance of the adept’s body to the element of fire. Focusing on the phrase “fire did not touch her” (ούχ ἥψατο αὐτῆς τὸ πῠρ), Stephen Davis argues that Thecla “remains completely impervious to the threatening elements around her."65
A fourth similarity is the timing of Thecla’s vision, which occurs immediately before the fiery ordeal. This vision takes the form of theophany: the female proto-martyr beholds the deity (“the Lord”) in the form of Paul. Such theophanic visions recur in conjunction with the fiery trials in other early Christian martyrdoms and in the Apocalypse of Abraham.
A reference to “a noise beneath the earth” initiated by the deity in order to save Thecla is also noteworthy, since in Pseudo-Philo the deity saves Abraham from the furnace by stirring up a great earthquake.
Finally, another pivotal feature is how fire becomes a protective enclosure that saves the martyr during future tribulations.66 This motif constitutes a curious parallel to the Martyrdom of Polycarp, where fire functions as a protective layer that saves the martyr from death.67 In short, what normally kills becomes the means of preservation.
Martyrdom of Polycarp
The Martyrdom of Polycarp is traditionally viewed as the oldest Christian document fully devoted to martyrdom.68 Proposals of its date range from the end of the second century C.E.69 to the middle of the third century C.E.70 The account of Polycarp’s martyrdom reveals a curious constellation of familiar motifs already known to us from our previous exploration of Dan 3 and the Jewish renderings of Abraham’s fiery tests. In the climax of the story, bishop Polycarp is tested by fire and his body miraculously survives the flames. Despite the fact that, unlike his Jewish counterparts, Polycarp is eventually killed by his persecutors, the part of the account pertaining to the fiery ordeal (chapters 11-16) is especially relevant for our investigation. Consider the following excerpts taken from Martyrdom of Polycarp 11-16:
The governor said: “I have wild animals, and I shall expose you to them if you do not change your mind.” And he answered: “Go and call for them! Repentance from a better state to one that is worse is impossible for us. But it is good to change from what is wicked to righteousness.” And he said again to him: “Since you are not afraid of the animals, then I shall have you consumed by fire-unless you change your mind.” But Polycarp answered: “The fire you threaten me with burns merely for a time and is soon extinguished. It is clear you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment and of the judgement that is to come, which awaits the impious. Why then do you hesitate? Come, do what you will.”
… Next they decided to shout out altogether that Polycarp should be burnt alive. For the vision he had seen regarding his pillow had to be fulfilled, when he saw it burning while he was at prayer and turned and said to his faithful companions: “I am to be burnt alive.” All of this happened with great speed, more quickly than it takes to tell the story: the mob swiftly collected logs and brushwood from workshops and baths, and the Jews (as is their custom) zealously helped them with this. When the fire was prepared, Polycarp took off all his clothing, loosed his belt and even tried to take off his own sandals, although he had never had to do this before: for all the Christians were always eager to be the first to touch his flesh. Even before his martyrdom he had been adorned in every way by reason of the goodness of his life. Straightway then he was attached to the equipment that had been prepared for the fire. When they were on the point of nailing him to it, he said: “Leave me thus. For he who has given me the strength to endure the flames will grant me to remain without flinching in the fire even without the firmness you will give me by using nails.” He had uttered his Amen and finished his prayer, and the men in charge of the fire started to light it. A great flame blazed up and those of us to whom it was given to see beheld a miracle. And we have been preserved to recount the story to others. For the flames, bellying out like a ship’s sail in the wind, formed into the shape of a vault and thus surrounded the martyr’s body as with a wall. And he was within it not as burning flesh but rather as bread being baked, or like gold and silver being purified in a smelting-furnace. And from it we perceived such a delightful fragrance as though it were smoking incense or some other costly perfume. At last when these vicious men realized that his body could not be consumed by the fire they ordered a confector to go up and plunge a dagger into the body. When he did this there came out such a quantity of blood that the flames were extinguished, and even the crowd marveled that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect. And one of the elect indeed was the most venerable martyr Polycarp, who was in our day a teacher in the apostolic and prophetic tradition and a bishop of the Catholic Church in Smyrna. Every word that he uttered from his mouth was indeed fulfilled and shall be fulfilled.71
One important feature of this narration are the multiple allusions to the Danielic blueprint, seeping through several peculiar details of the account. The influence of Dan 3 has not gone unnoticed by scholarship. Van Henten, for example, points out that in both stories the fiery ordeals represent punishment for refusing to show loyalty to the ruler and state religion. He also notices that the similarities between the two accounts are especially striking when compared with the Greek versions of Dan 3. Like Daniel’s companions in the Greek versions (Dan 3:24-27 LXX/Th) in Mart. Pol. 14.1-2, Polycarp invokes the Lord in a final prayer which starts with a doxology.72 Another important correspondence is that Polycarp and the Danielic youths are compared to a burnt offering.73 Thus, according to the Martyrdom of Polycarp 14 “they did not nail him down then, but simply bound him; and as he put his hands behind his back, he was bound like a noble ram chosen for an oblation from a great flock, a holocaust prepared and made acceptable to God.”74 The sacrificial motifs are further developed in Polycarp’s prayer, when the martyr utters the following words: "May I be received this day among them before your face as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as you, the God of truth who cannot deceive, have prepared, revealed, and fulfilled beforehand."75 According to Van Henten,76 the cultic terminology of this phrase is strongly reminiscent of Dan 3:39-40 (LXX): “may we be accepted, as though it were with whole burnt offering of rams and bulls and with tens of thousands of fat lambs; thus let our sacrifice come before you today.”77 By weaving a cluster of phrases from the Prayer of Azariah into the account of Polycarp’s execution, the author of the Martyrdom of Polycarp was likely comparing the fate of Polycarp to Daniel’s companions.78 The purpose of this analogy, in Van Henten’s opinion, does not concern the deity’s invocation to rescue the Jewish people, as in the Greek versions of Daniel 3. In line with some other early Christian interpretations of Daniel 3 and 6, the deliverance is individual and posthumous. Van Henten suggests that the analogy underlines Polycarp’s post-mortem vindication by the resurrection of body and soul (14.2). It implies that Polycarp won a vindication similar to that of the righteous Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who were miraculously rescued because of their perfect obedience to God. The analogy is strengthened by details and phrases in chapter 15, depicting Polycarp’s body as unable to be burned, which is reminiscent of the rescue of the three Israelite youths in Dan 3. Mart. Pol. 14.2 emphasizes the martyr’s wish to be received by God "this day,” signifying that Polycarp’s resurrection will occur immediately after his death rather than at the end of time.79 Furthermore, the Greek versions of Dan 3:50 speak about "a moist breeze"80 made inside the furnace by the Angel of the Lord. Van Henten notes81 that the description of Polycarp’s miracle in the fire refers to a furnace as well as to wind.82
Another important aspect of Polycarp’s story is the tradition of the adept’s transformation into a celestial being. Some have suggested that the Martyrdom of Polycarp seems to affirm such a metamorphosis by postulating that the martyrs are "no longer human but already angels."83 In this regard the prominence of the ascent traditions in the Martyrdom of Polycarp also warrants close attention. Candida Moss argues that “the notion of immediate ascension to heaven is further illustrated in a famous speech in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, in which the protagonist asks that he be given a share in the cup of Christ and be received that day in heaven.”84 Mart. Pol. 14 records the following prayer of the Christian martyr:
O Lord, omnipotent God and Father of your beloved and blessed child Christ Jesus, through whom we have received our knowledge of you, the God of the angels, the powers, and of all creation, and of all the family of the good who live in your sight: I bless you because you have thought me worthy of this day and this hour, to have a share among the number of the martyrs in the cup of your Christ, for the resurrection unto eternal life of both the soul and the body in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. May I be received this day among them before your face as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as you, the God of truth who cannot deceive, have prepared, revealed, and fulfilled beforehand. Hence I praise you, I bless you, and I glorify you above all things, through that eternal and celestial high priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved child, through whom is glory to you with him and the Holy Spirit now and for all ages to come. Amen.85
After examining this prayer, Moss concludes:
Polycarp’s request draws upon the biblical image of the cup of wrath imbibed by Christ in the Gospels. This image associates the death of Polycarp and other martyrs with that of Christ. But he further asks to be received into God’s presence that very day. The mechanics of this reception suggest that he will be received into God ‘s presence as a sacrifice, presuming that just as the scent of the burnt offering rose to God, so also Polycarp would ascend to be received by God.86
Moss’ insights about the sacrificial language of the adept’s ascent in the Martyrdom of Polycarp are relevant to this study.87 Elsewhere Moss reiterates this thesis, noting that “in recounting the martyr’s admission into heaven, a number of images are employed. In the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the martyr is drawn into God’s presence in the manner of a burnt offering.”88
The constellation of motifs (fiery trial, ascent, and sacrifice) found in the Martyrdom of Polycarp are especially germane for our study of the Apocalypse of Abraham since the story of Abraham’s fiery trials also includes a strong sacrificial dimension. This is particularly noticeable in Azazel’s warning about the patriarch’s imminent demise in fire during his ascent to heaven, which can be found in Apoc. Ab. 13:4-5:
And the impure bird spoke to me and said, “What are you doing, Abraham, on the holy heights, where no one eats or drinks, nor is there upon them food of men? But these will all be consumed by fire and they will burn you up. Leave the man who is with you and flee! Since if you ascend to the height, they will destroy you.”89
Comparable to the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the motif of a fiery trial coincides with those of the adept’s ascent and his role as a sacrifice.
Finally, another relevant feature is Martyrdom of Polycarp’s emphasis on the contrast between the fire of martyrdom and the fire of hell.90 The same contrast between two types flames — demonic and divine — is found in the Apocalypse of Abraham, where the flames of Abraham’s trials is contrasted with the fire of Azazel’s hell.91
Martyrdom of Pionius
In the Martyrdom of Pionius, a text likely written shortly after this martyr was executed in Smyrna (ca. 250 C.E.), following Decius’ edict,92 we again encounter the imagery of a fiery test, along with the martyr’s body resisting the fire. Scholars have pointed out some connections between the fiery tests of Pionius and Polycarp. Thus, Moss suggests that "the first text that can confidently be said to have known the Martyrdom of Polycarp is the Martyrdom of Pionius, a third-century martyr act from Smyrna with literary and thematic connections to the Martyrdom of Polycarp.”93 Pionius’ connection to Polycarp is accentuated by the date of his death, which takes place “on the anniversary of the blessed martyr Polycarp” (Mart. Pion. 2.1).94 Moss also points out that in a further assimilation to the death of Polycarp, the date of Pionius’ arrest is twice referred to as the “great sabbath” (Mart. Pion. 2.1; 3.6; cf. Mart. Pol. 8.1).95 We will now explore Pionius’ martyrdom more closely. Mart. Pion. 21-22 reads:
After they brought the firewood and piled up the logs in a circle, Pionius shut his eyes so that the crowd thought that he was dead. But he was praying in secret, and when he came to the end of his prayer he opened his eyes. The flames were just beginning to rise as he pronounced his last Amen with a joyful countenance and said: "Lord, receive my soul." Then peacefully and painlessly as though belching he breathed his last and gave his soul in trust to the Father, who has promised to protect all blood and every spirit that has been unjustly condemned. Such was the innocent, blameless, and incorruptible life which blessed Pionius brought to an end, with his mind ever fixed on almighty God and on Jesus Christ our Lord the mediator between God and man of such an end was he deemed worthy. After his victory in the great combat he passed through the narrow gate into the broad, great light. Indeed his crown was made manifest through his body. For after the fire had been extinguished, those of us who were present saw his body like that of an athlete in full array at the height of his powers. His ears were not distorted; his hair lay in order on the surface of his head; and his beard was full as though with the first blossom of hair. His face shone once again wondrous grace! — so that the Christians were all the more confirmed in the faith, and those who had lost the faith returned dismayed and with fearful consciences.96
Here, as in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, we have a reference to the adept’s prayer, which coincides with his tests in flames. The most important detail of the martyrdom, however, is the description of the adept’s body after the fiery ordeal. We learn that Pionius "passed through the narrow gate into the broad, great light made manifest through his body." After the fire had been extinguished, Pionius’ body was “like that of an athlete in full array at the height of his powers.” The narration specifically mentions that “his ears were not distorted; his hair lay in order on the surface of his head; and his beard was full as though with the first blossom of hair.” These details seem to underline the resistance of the adept’s body to flames. Another important detail of the story is a reference to the shining face of the martyr after the fiery ordeal. The text mentions that Pionius’ “face shone once again wondrous grace.” In light of other Christological allusions, this detail might postulate the adept’s transformation in the course of the trial, since it brings to memory the shining face of Jesus during his transfiguration.
The Martyrdom of Montanus and Lucius
In the Martyrdom of Montanus and Lucius, a Christian account probably written in the middle of the third century C.E.,97 we again encounter the motif of a fiery trial. It is important to note that, unlike previously explored martyrdoms, this account explicitly connects its protagonist’s situation with the deliverance of Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael.98 From the third and fourth chapter of this martyrdom, we learn the following testimony of Montanus and Lucius:
At any rate, imprisoned under the authority of the local magistrates, we got the news of our sentence from the soldiers: the governor had threatened us the day before with fire. Indeed, as we later ascertained, he intended to burn us alive. But the Lord alone can rescue his servants from fire, and in his hand are the words and the heart of the king: he it was who averted from us the insane savagery of the governor. Earnestly devoting ourselves to constant prayer with all our faith, we obtained directly what we had asked for: no sooner had the flame been lit to devour our bodies when it went out again; the fire of the overheated ovens was lulled by the Lord’s dew. And it was not difficult for those of faith to believe that modern marvels could equal those of old, in view of the Lord’s promise through the spirit, for he who caused that deed of glory in favour of the three youths was also victorious in us. The governor, then, seeing that he had been thwarted in his design by the Lord, ordered us to be put into prison. The soldiers took us there, and we were not terrified by the foul darkness of the place. In fact, the dismal prison soon began to shine with the light of the Spirit, and the ardour of our faith clothed us with the brilliance of day to protect us against the ugly shadows and the pitch-black veil of night. And thus we climbed this high tower of torment as though we were climbing up to heaven.99
Like the Martyrdom of Polycarp this story brings to mind some details found in the Greek versions of Dan 3. A reference to “the fire of the overheated ovens lulled by the Lord’s dew” evokes the Prayer of Azariah; it is therefore not surprising that our author openly mentions the three Israelite youths shortly thereafter. These Danielic connections were previously noticed by scholars. Tucker, for example, observed that the martyrdom not only mentions the three youths of Dan 3, but also refers to the overheated ovens and the Lord’s dew, thereby connecting the two scenes.100 Tucker further suggests that, “similar to Hippolytus and Origen, the writer of this account appears to collapse history, understanding the identity of the three youths and the identity of those in prison under Valerian to be nearly identical.”101
Crucial for our study are the allusions to the adepts’ glorification and their ascent in the aftermath of the fiery trial. Both ideas are found at the end of the aforementioned passage and rendered by the following enigmatic formulae: “the ardor of our faith clothed us with the brilliance of day” and “we climbed this high tower of torment as though we were climbing up to heaven.”
The theme of the heavenly ascent is then unfolded in greater detail in chapter 7, where Victor encounters "the Lord from heaven" in the form of a luminous child who, while answering the adept’s question about the location of heaven, promises him the “sign of Jacob."102 The “sign of Jacob” evokes memory of Jacob’s ladder, and such symbolism is often used in the apocalyptic literature as the metaphor for ascension. Here, it might also serve as a reference to a possibility of the adept’s ascent.
With regard to the possible presence of ascent traditions in this account, Candida Moss notes that in Christian martyrdoms, "the flight of the soul to heaven is sometimes cast in almost naturalistic terms. In a vision in the Martyrdom of Montanus and Lucius, the Lord from heaven instructs the presbyter Victor: ‘The spirit hastens to its God and the soul, now near her sufferings, has sought her proper place.’”103
The themes of the adept’s metamorphosis and glorification may further be hinted at in the identification of the day of martyrdom as the day of resurrection. Thus, Outi Lehtipuu draws attention to the fact that "in the Martyrdom of Montanus and Lucius the narrator identifies the day of martyrdom as the day of resurrection."104 We learn from chapter 17 of this martyrdom that “the third day after that interval was endured not as a day of martyrdom but of resurrection.”105
The Martyrdom of Fructuosus and Companions
In the Martyrdom of Fructuosus and Companions, usually dated before 400 C.E.,106 one can find again the motif of the preservation of the saint’s body in a furnace. This tradition, similar to other martyrdoms, openly relies on the Jewish blueprint. While describing the death of Fructuosus and his deacons in the fire, the author compares these Christian martyrs to the three Danielic youths in the furnace of the pagan king.107 The Martyrdom of Fructuosus and Companions 4-7 reads:
Fructuosus the bishop was now at the portal of the amphitheater, and the time was drawing near for him to attain not the final penalty but rather the unfading crown. Even though the staff officers whose names have been mentioned above were standing by, Fructuosus spoke so that they as well as all the brethren could hear, with the inspiration and the words of the Holy Spirit: “You will not long be lacking a shepherd, nor can the love and promises of the Lord fail you either here or in the hereafter. For what you look upon now seems but the weakness of a single hour.” Thus then did he console the brethren; they then entered on the way of salvation, worthy in their martyrdom and happy to reap the fruit of the holy Scriptures according to the promises. They were like Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, so that the divine Trinity was visible also in them. For to each at his post in the flames the Father was present, the Son gave his aid, and the Holy Spirit walked in the midst of the fire. When the bands that tied their hands were burnt through, recalling the Lord’s prayer and their usual custom, they knelt down in joy assured of the resurrection, and stretching out their arms in memory of the Lord’s cross, they prayed to the Lord until together they gave up their souls…. After this the usual miracles of the Lord were not lacking. Babylas and Mygdonius, two of our brethren in the household of the governor Aemilianus, saw the heavens open, and this they also revealed to Aemilianus’ daughter, their mistress according to the flesh: there was the saintly bishop Fructuosus together with his deacons rising crowned up to heaven, with the stakes to which they had been bound still intact. They summoned Aemilianus and said: “Come and see how those whom you have condemned to death today have been restored to heaven and to their hopes.” But when Aemilianus came, he was not worthy to behold them. … Fructuosus also appeared to Aemilianus, who had condemned him to death, together with his deacons in robes of glory.108
Commenting on this account, Van Henten says that "the death by burning of Fructuosus and his deacons Augurius and Eulogius is compared with the punishment of Daniel’s companions. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are present with them in the fire and Fructuosus starts a prayer as Azariah did in the Greek versions of Daniel 3, being certain of the resurrection and making the form of the Cross with his arms as a sign of victory (Mart. Fruct. 4.2-3)."109
According to Tucker, the story of the three youths serves here as a cipher for understanding the present event.110 To this end, the Martyrdom of Bishop Fructuosus merges the story of Ananias, Azarias, and Misael with elements that are explicitly Christian, namely, the Trinity and the Lord’s Prayer.111 Yet the Danielic archetype is still visible through these Christian reworkings. Indeed, the Martyrdom of Bishop Fructuosus reveals how Dan 3 was considered to be an important text addressing questions of loyalty and disloyalty to the state. As such, Dan 3 is analogous to the experiences of early Christians, in many ways creating a narrative base for the retelling of martyrdom stories.112
Like previous accounts of Christian martyrs, this text again reveals the motif of the adept’s ascent. Aware of this, Greenberg notes that “the individual’s placement in heaven is mentioned in 5.2, when two surviving brethren addressing the prefect after the deaths of the martyrs tell him that those whom you have condemned to death today have been restored to heaven and to their hopes.”113 Candida Moss provides additional testimony to this:
Bishop Fructuosus, martyred under Decius, is similarly eager to arrive in heaven …. The vision of the heavenly ascent of the bishop, flanked by two deacons, recalls the crucifixion of Jesus. That they wear crowns indicates that their martyrdom is complete and they have been received into heaven. The immediacy of their ascent is again confirmed by the language used by the martyrdom’s chief actors. The two visionaries, emboldened by what they had seen, berate Aemilianus the Roman prefect for his actions and invite him to behold the vision, saying, “Come and see how those whom you have condemned to death today have been restored to heaven and to their hopes” (Mart. Fruct. 5.2).114
Moss goes on to say that this “invitation is likely an allusion to bodily transfigurement and resurrection, but the point remains the same. As with the other martyrs we have examined, Fructuosus and his companions ascend to heaven on the day of their martyrdom.”115 These insights naturally bring us to the theme of the adept’s transformation in this martyrdom. Indeed, the possibility of the protagonist’s metamorphosis looms large in this account. Thus, in Mart. Fruct. 7.1, the main hero appeared to the prefect in a glorious robe.116 The glory language coincides with the symbolism of gold. Similar to the Martyrdom of Polycarp, Mart. Fruct. 7 likens the martyr’s test in fire to the perfection of gold: "Ah, blessed martyrs, who were tested in the fire like precious gold."117
III. Fiery Trials of Abraham in the Apocalypse of Abraham
Our study so far has shown that the tradition of the fiery trials, rooted in the biblical story of Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, had a rich and multifaceted afterlife in both Jewish and Christian martyrological accounts. Often in the course of such fiery ordeals their adepts experienced ascent and theophany. This fact opens up the possibility that Abraham’s ordeals in the Apocalypse of Abraham, where the patriarch’s fiery trials coincide with his ascent and theophany, might also reveal a similar martyrological dimension. In order to explore this conceptual aspect, previously ignored by students of this text, we now direct attention to the fiery trials traditions in the Apocalypse of Abraham.
Although Abraham’s fiery tests unfold in the so-called “apocalyptic” chapters of the text, which deal with the patriarch’s ascent and theophany, this theme is rooted in the first haggadic portion of the pseudepigraphon, which portrays the idolatrous practices of Abraham’s family. There one finds several episodes dealing with the fiery tests of idolaters and their infamous idols, often leading to their fatal demise. Previously, I argued that these fiery ordeals and the later tests of the patriarch in flames during his ascent to the heavenly Holy of Holies are interconnected.118 In order to better understand the motif of Abraham’s own fiery ordeals, we turn now to these accounts.
The Fiery Ordeal of Bar Eshath
Comparable to Pseudo-Philo and rabbinic accounts, the Apocalypse of Abraham closely links fiery tests to the rejection of idolatry. The hero’s contest against idols plays an especially prominent role in the first, haggadic part of the apocalypse. A striking feature of this portion of the text is the detailed descriptions of idols, portrayed as independent characters who rival the human heroes of the story. In the course of the narration, some of these idols become known by their proper names. The story involving one such idol, Bar-Eshath (Slav. Варисать), is closely related to the fiery test motif and may constitute one of the most important cruxes of this theme. The story of this enigmatic character begins in chapter five, where Terah orders Abraham to gather wooden splinters left from the manufacturing of idols in order to prepare a meal. In the pile of wooden chips, Abraham discovers a small figure whose forehead is decorated with the name Bar-Eshath.119 Since Abraham 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.” Leaving the idol near the heat, Abraham ironically orders him to confine the flames and, in case of emergency, to “blow on the fire to make it flare up.”120
According to the story, however, the wooden idol failed to control the flames. Upon his return, Abraham discovers the statue fallen with his feet enveloped in the fire and terribly burned. Abraham then sees the destruction of the statue as the flames turn Bar-Eshath into a pile of dust. The important feature of the idol’s fiery demise is its theophanic imagery, a peculiar conceptual dimension recalling previously explored fiery trials of Jewish and Christian martyrs which are also overlaid with theophanic symbolism.
I previously argued that the depiction of Bar-Eshath’s demise is intentionally fashioned with theophanic symbolism; this is reminiscent of the classical depiction of the divine Kavod in biblical and pseudepigraphical accounts. In essence, it represents a theophany, although a mocked one. This tendency is important due to the connections between the fiery ordeals and theophanies frequently found in martyrological accounts, where the martyr’s endurance in the flames often coincides with his or her theophanic experience. Often in such tests, a martyr embodies a theophany by manifesting a celestial form in the midst of flames. Although in the haggadic portion of the Apocalypse of Abraham this tendency is presented in its polemical dimension, such a conceptual development, in which the fiery ordeal entails a theophany, should be explored more closely.
It is crucial that the authors of the Slavonic apocalypse portray Bar-Eshath with his feet enveloped in fire. In Apoc. Abr. 5:9, Abraham conveys that when he returned, he “found Bar-Eshath fallen backwards, his feet enveloped in fire [нозѣ его обятѣ огнемь]121 and terribly burned.”122 This detail evokes an important theophanic feature found in several visionary accounts in which 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. Ezek 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 is found in Ezek 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.
Additional testimony for this motif occurs in the first chapter of the Book of Revelation, a text possibly contemporaneous with the Apocalypse of Abraham and which in many aspects shares the theophanic paradigm of Ezekiel and Daniel.123 Rev 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….124
It is apparent that the tradition found in the Book of Revelation is related to the one found in the Apocalypse of Abraham, given that it refers to the feet of the deity, or, more precisely, Christ, who is divinized in Revelation as “refined as in a furnace.” One substantial difference between the aforementioned theophanic accounts and Bar-Eshath’s portrayal is that, unlike God’s or a martyr’s form, the idol’s body is not impervious to the fiery substance. Notably, even polemical depictions of the idol’s demise, overlaid with irony, still reveal a connection between the fiery test and theophany, thus underlying the visionary potential of the fiery ordeals.
The annihilation of the wooden idol raises the question of how important this episode is for understanding Abraham’s fiery trials later in the apocalypse. It sets the stage for the future fiery ordeals, which all of the story’s protagonists will undergo: Terah and Nahor during the demise of their idolatrous house of worship, and Yahoel and Abraham during their ascent to heaven. Some of the characters will survive these ordeals, other will perish. Apoc. Ab. 7:2 reminds its readers that fire “mocks with its flames the things which perish easily.”125 The purpose of this statement is to underline the distinction between true and false representations of the deity and the adepts who become otherworldly manifestations impervious to fire, in which the celestial form’s endurance against fire testifies to its authenticity. The theological conviction that heavenly bodies are somehow unconsumed by fire — and may even be composed of fiery substance — can be found in several places in the Apocalypse of Abraham.126 Moreover, it appears that the authors of the Slavonic apocalypse believe that fire represents the divine substance surrounding the very presence of God.127 Here the authors of the Apocalypse of Abraham are obviously drawing on an established visionary tradition manifested in several biblical theophanies.
Fiery Annihilation of Terah’s Household
Despite its ironic nature, the Bar-Eshath episode still reveals its close ties to the conceptual pattern traced to Daniel 3. As we remember, although some characters of Daniel’s account survive the furnace, others are doomed to perish in it. A Danielic echo such as this, albeit polemical, is also found in the final destiny of Terah and Nahor, who in the story are predestined to die in the flames along with their idols.128 These members of Abraham’s family, unlike Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, are not able to survive the blazing furnace that turns their bodies into ashes. Apoc. Ab. 8:1-6 reads:
And as I was thinking about these things, here is what happened to my father Terah in the courtyard of his house: The voice of the Mighty One came down from heaven in a stream of fire, saying and calling, “Abraham, Abraham!” And I said, “Here am I!” And he said, “In the wisdom of your heart you are searching for the God of gods and the Creator. I am he! Leave Terah your father, and leave the house, so that you too are not slain for the sins of your father’s house!” And I went out. And it came to pass as I was going out, that I had not even gotten as far as going beyond the doors of the courtyard 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.129
The destruction of Terah’s house is later reaffirmed in Apoc. Ab. 26:3, where the deity inquires: "Why did your father Terah not listen to your voice and abandon the demonic idolatry until he perished, and all his house with him?”130
As noted previously, the fiery demise of various members of Abraham’s immediate family represented a constant feature in many rabbinic stories about the patriarch’s trials. Although the testimony found in Pseudo-Philo does not mention the fiery death of any of Abraham’s relatives, this tradition is much earlier than Pseudo-Philo’s testimony; it is found, for instance, in the Book of Jubilees, where Haran is burned in fire before his father’s eyes.131
The fiery demise of Haran, who in Gen 11:28 is described as the one who "died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans," is interpreted here as the "fire of the Chaldeans."132 Concerning this tradition James Kugel observes that, "if ‘ur here means ‘flame’ or ‘fire’ then the implication is that Haran, Abraham’s brother, perished in some sort of conflagration before the family left their homeland."133
The fiery ordeal of the Terah household brings us again to an important feature found in Dan 3 and other accounts: namely, a peculiar contrast between the fate of the protagonist who survives the flames, and the fate of his opponents, usually represented by the unjust ruler’s servants, who are doomed to perish in the flames.134 This motif stresses the difference between the perishable bodies of the idolaters and the endurance of the adept’s body in the fire. In the stories of Abraham’s fiery trials, the Danielic motif of perishing opponents is now extended to the members of Abraham’s immediate family — Haran, Nahor, and Terah. Although in the Danielic account of the three Israelite youths the opponents’ demise coincides with the miraculous escape of the protagonists, in the Apocalypse of Abraham these elements of the archetypal plot are confined to different parts of the pseudepigraphon.
Another important conceptual nexus of the fiery trial traditions, now closely tied to Abraham’s own ordeals, is the patriarch’s encounter with his demonic adversary. In Apoc. Ab. 13, while offering his animal sacrifices to God, Abraham meets his nemesis, the fallen angel Azazel. The demon attempts to discourage the patriarch from ascending into the celestial realm, warning him that he will be destroyed there by fire like his sacrificial animals. Apoc. Ab. 13:4-5 offers the following description of the encounter:
And the impure bird spoke to me and said, “What are you doing, Abraham, on the holy heights, where no one eats or drinks, nor is there upon them food of men? But these will all be consumed by fire and they will burn you up. Leave the man who is with you and flee! Since if you ascend to the height, they will destroy you.”135
Several details of this enigmatic episode are important. First, Azazel’s comparison between Abraham’s sacrifices and his upcoming demise suggests that the passage interprets the upcoming fiery ordeal as a sacrifice. It is intriguing that in some rabbinic passages dealing with the fiery trials of Abraham at the hands of Nimrod, the patriarch himself is likened to a sacrificial animal being thrown into a furnace. As we remember, in Eliyahu Rabbah 27 the following binding ritual can be found: “At once his servants bound Abraham hand and foot and laid him on the ground. Then they piled up wood on all sides of him, but at some distance away, a pile of wood five hundred cubits long to the west, and five hundred cubits long to the east. Nimrod’s men then went around and around setting the wood on fire.”136 The tying not only recalls the binding of the fallen angels Asael and Ashmodeus in early Jewish demonological accounts, but also that of sacrificial animals. Rabbinic traditions also speak about the sweet savor of Abraham’s fiery trials, once again confirming their sacrificial nature.
Attempts to fashion Abraham’s fiery ordeal as a sacrifice brings to mind the aforementioned Christian stories in which the fiery demise of a martyr is understood as a sacrificial offering, pointing back to the cultic and martyrological dimension of the Apocalypse of Abraham.
Another important detail of Azazel’s episode is the juxtaposition of the patriarch’s fiery trial with the motif of heavenly ascent. Thus, Azazel specifically informs his opponent, the patriarch Abraham, that “if you ascend to the height, they will destroy you.” This conceptual constellation underlines the liminal nature of the fiery trials, often occurring, as in the Apocalypse and other pseudepigraphical accounts, on the borderlines of realms during the ascent or descent of the hero. In the martyrdom accounts, such liminality is emphasized by the martyr’s transition from this life to the next. In our investigation of Christian martyrdoms, crossing the thresholds of mortality and immortality frequently coincides with the adept’s ascent.
Azazel’s cryptic warning remains one of the most enigmatic portions of the text. In attempting to solve this riddle, it is helpful to recall that the motif of a seer’s fiery encounter is significant for authors of the pseudepigraphon, who envision fire as a theophanic substance surrounding the very presence of the deity. Later in the text, for instance, Abraham’s transition to the divine realm is described as entering into the fire.137
Furthermore, the symbolism of the divine furnace is mirrored in the dualistic framework of the Apocalypse of Abraham in the imagery of the furnace of Azazel. 138 Thus, in Yahoel’s speech found in chapter 14, which reveals the true location of the chief antagonist, the arch-demon’s abode is designated as a furnace of the earth. Moreover, Azazel himself is depicted as the “burning coal” or the “firebrand” of this infernal kiln. In this respect it is important that the warning about the dangers of the heavenly furnace comes from the antagonist, who himself dwells underground in fiery theophanic abode.
To conclude this section, we should again highlight the significance of the antagonist’s warning for clarifying Abraham’s fiery trials as a martyrdom event. It turns a safe and steady ascent to the abode of the deity, as it is often portrayed in early Jewish apocalypses, into an imminent threat. This antagonistic framework is typical for martyrological accounts, where the hostile antagonists, represented by otherworldly and earthly characters, often play a major role in the adepts’ trials. More specifically, positing the otherworldly antagonist immediately prior to the adept’s ascent recalls the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas, where the seer beholds a bronze ladder reaching all the way to the heavens. At the foot of the ladder of ascent, the seer sees a dragon of enormous size who is prepared to attack those who climb up and tries to prevent them from doing so. Here, the antagonist’s purpose is not to destroy the adept but rather to intimidate and discourage her from ascent. This is analogous to Azazel’s address to Abraham in our Apocalypse in which the antagonist attempts to discourage the seer from his journey to the divine presence.
The antagonist’s address is also noteworthy because it introduces an element of negotiation found in Jewish and Christian martyrological stories but absent from conventional apocalyptic accounts of ascent and vision. This brings the Apocalypse even closer to the martyrological template. By way of reminder, in Dan 3, Pseudo-Philo, and rabbinic lore, the role of the negotiating antagonist is often fulfilled by evil rulers. In the stories of Christian martyrs, Jewish or Roman authorities often take on this role by urging martyrs to abandon their faith. In the Apocalypse of Abraham, Azazel assumes this archetypical role of the antagonistic delegate who attempts to conduct negotiation with the fiery trial’s recipient.
Earlier we mentioned how the fiery nature of the divine abode is paralleled by Azazel’s furnace.139 Like the fiery nature of the heavenly realm, the antagonist’s domain is also depicted as the theophanic kiln. While some humans are predestined to be transformed in the upper fire of the divine throne room, others are doomed to perish in the lower furnace of Azazel. Furthermore, in our apocalypse the deity himself designates some human beings as “food” for another, demonic, furnace: namely, “the fire of hell.” Thus, for example, according to Apoc. Ab. 31:3-5 the deity utters the following:
Since I have destined them to be food for the fire of hell, and ceaseless soaring in the air of the underground depths, the contents of a worm’s belly. For those who do justice, who have chosen my will and clearly kept my commandments, will see them. And they will rejoice with joy at the destruction of the abandoned. 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.
Interestingly, this passage identifies the fiery tongue of Azazel with the fire of hell, i. e., the very reality by which the sinners will be destroyed.
Two types of fire, one serving as a vehicle of immortality and the other as a tool of destruction, evoke the imagery of certain Christian martyrological accounts which contrast the transforming fire of the martyrs’ ordeal (that turns them into immortal beings) with the final fire of judgment (that destroys). Moreover, the former fiery ordeal is often understood as an escape from the latter. By enduring fiery trials in this life, the protagonists of the martyrological accounts escape the final judgment. This is clear in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, where readers learn that Christian martyrs “in one hour [buy] themselves an exemption from the eternal fire … [and] the fire applied by their inhuman torturers was cooled: for they kept before their eyes the knowledge that they were escaping that eternal fire never to be extinguished.”140 Arik Greenberg points out that in this passage
a comparison is made between the fires of perdition and those of the executioner’s pyre. It is said that “they despised the tortures of this world, in one hour buying themselves an exemption from the eternal fire….They were escaping that eternal fire never to be extinguished” (2:3). Interestingly, the converse of the immortality earned by Polycarp is torment by eternal fire. Those who bear witness to Christ unto death earn exemption from the consequences of their former sins which otherwise would have condemned them to the eternal fires.141
In Mart. Pol. 11 the correspondence between two types of fire is again repeated. The passage presents a conversation between Polycarp and his tormentors, who, like Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham, attempt to intimidate the bishop with the threat of fiery punishment:
And he said again to him: “Since you are not afraid of the animals, then I shall have you consumed by fire —unless you change your mind.” But Polycarp answered: “The fire you threaten me which burns merely for a time and is soon extinguished. It is clear you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment and of the judgement that is to come, which awaits the impious. Why then do you hesitate? Come, do what you will.”142
The bishop, however, reminds his oppressors about the everlasting flames that await them after their earthly life. This is similar to the thirteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, which mentions both Azazel’s intimidation and Yahoel’s speech about the demon’s fiery prison.
Martyrdom of Pionius, a text influenced by the Martyrdom of Polycarp, attests to a similar parallelism between two fires, one temporary and one eternal. In chapter 7, Pionius tells his persecutors that it is far worse to burn after death than to be burned alive in this life.143
Fiery Trials of Abraham as the Martyrological Crisis
It is time for a more detailed analysis of the patriarch’s own fiery trials. It is not by chance that such ordeals unfold in the chapters dealing with the ascent of the patriarch and his celestial guide, Yahoel. Thus, chapter 17 depicts the beginning of the celestial journey of Abraham and Yahoel as their entrance into fire.144 Apoc. Ab. 17:1 reports the seer’s approach to the heavenly furnace while holding the hand of his angelic helper:
And the angel took me with his right hand and set me on the right wing of the pigeon and he himself sat on the left wing of the turtledove, since they both were neither slaughtered nor divided. And he carried me up to the edge of the fiery flame.145
As we remember, Pseudo-Philo does not specifically refer to an angelic figure who assists the protagonist during his trials. And yet here the patriarch enters into the furnace firmly grasping the hand of his otherworldly helper Yahoel, who will not abandon his apprentice until he enters the celestial throne room. Such angelic assistance brings to mind the story of the three Israelite youths who also safely walked in fire along with their otherworldly protector. The Greek version of Dan 3, which defines the otherworldly protector as the Angel of the Lord,146 is even closer to the development found in the Apocalypse of Abraham, since there, Yahoel is fashioned as the Angel of the Divine Name, and his function and attributes evoke other biblical traditions about the Angel of the Lord.
In Christian martyrological accounts, Christ or the Trinity appears to be fulfilling the role of the otherworldly protector and guide. In other words, these accounts reinterpret the identity of the otherworldly protector of Dan 3, envisioning him as either Christ147 or the Trinity.148 This interpretation is found, for example, in Mart. Fruct. 4: "they were like Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, so that the divine Trinity was visible also in them. For to each at his post in the flames the Father was present, the Son gave his aid, and the Holy Spirit walked in the midst of the fire."149
Returning to Abraham’s fiery trials in the Apocalypse, we should note that the fire is understood as a boundary separating the heavenly realm from the abode of mortals. And since in his ascent the patriarch immediately reaches the divine throne room without a lengthy journey through the heavens, passing through fire also serves as a distinct marker of his entrance into the divine realm. In this respect, it is noteworthy that the depictions of the fire that envelops the seer and his otherworldly helper are laden with distinctive theophanic details known to us from Ezek 1 and other biblical and extra-biblical theophanies. Such details are clearly discernable, for example, in Apoc. Ab. 17:1: “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.”150 This description points to a juxtaposition of fire and water, the symbolic constellation often found in biblical theophanic accounts.
An important feature of Abraham’s fiery ascent which provides a link with the aforementioned martyrological accounts is the motif of enveloping fire, a fire that comes “round about.” This is strikingly similar to Polycarp’s martyrdom, in which the adept is portrayed as being enveloped in a fiery vault during his test: “A great flame blazed up and those of us to whom it was given to see beheld a miracle. And we have been preserved to recount the story to others. For the flames, bellying out like a ship’s sail in the wind, formed into the shape of a vault and thus surrounded the martyr’s body as with a wall. And he was within it not as burning flesh but rather as bread being baked, or like gold and silver being purified in a smelting furnace.”151 This may point to the fact that the adept’s body here is envisioned as a theophany.
The Adept’s Preparatory Fast before the Fiery Ordeal
Also important is the motif of the patriarch’s fast, which precedes his fiery trials. Such praxis is again reminiscent of some Christian martyrdoms, including the Martyrdom of Pionius152 and the Martyrdom of Fructuosus, which tell about the martyrs’ fasts preceding their fiery ordeals.153 The Apocalypse of Abraham provides an interesting detail about fasting, which may be an attempt to link this ascetic experience to the fiery ordeals. According to this account, the deity specifically instructs him to abstain from food that issues from the fire.154
Adept’s Prayer before or during the Fiery Trial
Another shared feature that is present both in the Apocalypse of Abraham and Christian martyrological accounts is the adept’s prayer preceding the fiery trial. As we remember, in the Martyrdom of Polycarp the bishop prays in preparation of and immediately before the fiery trial. From Mart. Pol. 7 we learn the following:
At any rate Polycarp immediately ordered food and drink to be set before them, as much as they wished, even at this hour, and only requested that they might grant him an hour to pray undisturbed. When they consented, he stood up and began to pray facing the east, and so full was he of God’s grace that he was unable to stop for two hours, to the amazement of those who heard him, and many were sorry that they had come out to arrest such a godlike old man.155
In Mart. Pol. 14, already bound for the holocaust, the martyr again offers a long prayer, and only after finishes do the executers in charge of the fire start to light it.156 Scholars have noted how these prayer practices, along with their miraculous outcomes, are reminiscent of the prayers of Azariah and his companions in the Greek versions of Dan 3.157 According to Van Henten, "the spectacular aftermath of Polycarp’s prayer as described in Chapter 15 … echoes the Greek version of Daniel 3."158
Furthermore, the practice of prayer is also mentioned in the proleptic rehearsal of the fiery trial which Polycarp beholds in a vision: “three days before he was captured he fell into a trance while at prayer: he saw his pillow being consumed by fire. He turned and said to his companions: ‘I am to be burnt alive.’”159
Another Christian martyr, bishop Fructuosus, also prays before his fiery trial. From Mart. Fruct. 1 we learn that, while in prison, Fructuosus “prayed constantly, and there were Christians with him, comforting him and begging him to remember them.”160 Moreover, in Mart. Fruct. 4, Bishop Fructuosus and his companions, like Azariah and his friends in the Greek renderings of Dan 3, raised their prayers in the furnace:
When the bands that tied their hands were burnt through, recalling the Lord’s prayer and their usual custom, they knelt down in joy assured of the resurrection, and stretching out their arms in memory of the Lord’s cross, they prayed to the Lord until together they gave up their souls.161
The Martyrdom of Montanus and Lucius attests to the same motif of adepts’ prayer in the fiery furnace, which in this case miraculously saves the adepts from flames: "Earnestly devoting ourselves to constant prayer with all our faith, we obtained directly what we had asked for: no sooner had the flame been lit to devour our bodies when it went out again; the fire of the overheated ovens was lulled by the Lord’s dew."162 The reference to the “Lord’s dew,” which extinguishes the martyr’s furnace, closely resembles the Greek versions of Dan 3.
In chapter 22 of the Martyrdom of Pionius, the protagonist prays while his persecutors are busily preparing the wood for his furnace and when he is in the flames: “After they brought the firewood and piled up the logs in a circle, Pionius shut his eyes so that the crowd thought that he was dead. But he was praying in secret, and when he came to the end of his prayer he opened his eyes. The flames were just beginning to rise as he pronounced his last Amen with a joyful countenance and said: ‘Lord, receive my soul.’”163
As we can see, the praxis of prayer was an important element of the Christian martyrological accounts. And while Pseudo-Philo’s account does not specifically mention any prayer routines of the patriarch, the motif is present in the seventh chapter of the Apocalypse of Abraham. There, the patriarch offers the following prayer in the midst of his fiery trial:
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. And the angel bowed with me and worshiped. And I wanted to fall face down to the earth. And the place of elevation on which we both stood <sometimes was on high,> sometimes rolled down. And he said, “Only worship, Abraham, and recite the song which I taught you.” Since there was no earth to fall to, I only bowed down and recited the song which he had taught me. And he said, “Recite without ceasing.” And I recited, and he himself recited the song: “O, Eternal, Mighty, Holy El, God Autocrat, Self-Begotten, Incorruptible, Immaculate, Unbegotten, Spotless, Immortal, Self-Created, Self-Illuminated, Without Mother, Without Father, Without Genealogy, High, Fiery, <Wise>, Lover Of Men, <Favorable,> Generous, Bountiful, Jealous Over Me, Patient, Most Merciful, Eli that is, my God, Eternal, Mighty, Holy Sabaoth, Most Glorious El, El, El, El, Yahoel. You are he whom my soul has loved, the Guardian, Eternal, Fiery, Shining, <Light-Formed>, Thunder-Voiced, Lightning-Looking, Many-Eyed, receiving the entreaties of those who honor you <and turning away from the entreaties of those who besiege you by the siege of their provocation, releases those who are in the midst of the impious, those who are confused among the unrighteous of the inhabited world in the corruptible life, renewing the life of the righteous>. You make the light shine before the morning light upon your creation <from your face in order to bring the day on the earth>. And in <your> heavenly dwellings there is an inexhaustible other light of an inexpressible splendor from the lights of your face. Accept my prayer, <and let it be sweet to you,> and also the sacrifice which you yourself made to yourself through me who searched for you. Receive me favorably and show to me, and teach me, and make known to your servant as you have promised me.”164
It is important to note that this song was initially conveyed to the adept by his angelic instructor, who encouraged the patriarch to recite “the song which he taught him.” This feature underlines the protective role of this invocation, a feature usually unnoticed in previous studies. The shielding function of the song is further hinted at by certain features of the prayer, for example, by labeling the deity as a “guardian” (Slav. хранитель).165 The protective prayer given by the angel thus develops the tradition of the fiery trials to a new conceptual level, linking the angelic guardian to the adept’s prayer routines.
Martyrological Crisis and Ascent’s Topology
Our study has suggested that Abraham’s fiery trials are envisioned as an antagonistic event, evoking the memory of Jewish and Christian martyrological accounts. Often in such a dramatic crux of an adept’s earthly life, his or her perception is dramatically altered, opening the door for ascent and a visionary experience. In short, a martyr sees and experiences reality in a way different from ordinary human faculties. In the Apocalypse of Abraham, this change is signaled by the novel way in which the seer perceives space and time while progressing through the heavenly furnace.
Thus, in the Apocalypse of Abraham 17:3, the visionary suddenly reports unusual changes affecting the spatial features of his surroundings. When Abraham tries to prostrate himself, he suddenly notices that the surface escapes his knees: “And I wanted to fall face down to the earth. And the place of elevation on which we both stood sometimes was on high, sometimes rolled down.”166 A couple of verses later, in 17:5, the visionary reflects again on his unusual spatial situation: “Since there was no earth to fall to, I only bowed down and recited the song which he had taught me.”167 Suddenly, there is no ground beneath Abraham’s feet.
Martyrological Crisis and the Adept’s Ascent
The majority of Jewish and Christian renderings of Abraham’s fiery trials, including Pseudo-Philo’s testimony, do not contain any reports about the patriarch’s ascent or his vision in conjunction with these ordeals. This does not, however, exclude the possibility that the authors were aware of this tradition. Thus, for example, a passing reference to Abraham’s ascent can be discerned in chapter 18 of Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities: “And he said to him (Balaam), ‘Was it not concerning this people that I spoke to Abraham in a vision, saying, Your seed will be like the stars of the heaven, when I lifted him above the firmament and showed him the arrangements of all the stars?’”168 This passage speaks about both the ascent and the vision of the patriarch, even though these experiences are not mentioned in Biblical Antiquities 6 where we find the story of Abraham’s fiery trials.
In contrast, the Christian martyrologia and the Apocalypse of Abraham depict the adept’s vision and ascent practices as unfolding in the midst of his fiery ordeals. This becomes another significant characteristic that unifies the Apocalypse of Abraham with Christian accounts. This tendency of martyrological accounts to appropriate Jewish and Christian ascent and vision traditions has been noticed by scholars.169
In respect to these developments, Candida Moss notes that the notion of immediate ascension to heaven is underscored, for example, in a speech in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, in which Polycarp asks that he be given a share in the cup of Christ and be received that day in heaven.170 A similar motif is found also in the Martyrdom of Bishop Fructuosus, which describes the heavenly ascent of the bishop flanked by two deacons.171 Other Christian martyrdoms speak about martyrs’ ascensions using well-known biblical allegories. Thus, for example, Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas 4:3 contains the following allegory that hints at the protagonist’s ascent:
I saw a ladder of tremendous height made of bronze, reaching all the way to the heavens, but it was so narrow that only one person could climb up at a time. To the sides of the ladder were attached all sorts of metal weapons: there were swords, spears, hooks, daggers, and spikes; so that if anyone tried to climb up carelessly or without paying attention, he would be mangled and his flesh would adhere to the weapons.172
Reflecting on this allegory, April DeConick makes the following observation: "Perpetua has visions of climbing up a ladder to heaven, where she, as one of Christ’s new children, is given milk to drink by the Lord. But this is not Jacob’s innocuous ladder. This ladder is laden with metal implements to rip through the skin of anyone who climbs it."173 Here the adept’s ascent coincides with trials that rip her physical body and, like Abraham’s ordeals, transform it into a celestial form. The counterpart to this is not only the metamorphosis of Christian martyrs passing through the flames, but also Abraham’s ascension; his movement upwards is viewed not as the peaceful progress of a visionary, but rather as a martyrological crisis.
Martyrological Crisis and Theophany
In the Apocalypse of Abraham, the protagonist’s fiery ordeals are closely linked to his visionary praxis and his experience of God’s theophany. In Apoc. Ab. 18:1-13, the adept reports his encounter with the divine Chariot in the midst of his fiery test:
And while I was still reciting the song, the edge of the fire which was on the expanse rose up on high. And I heard a voice like the roaring of the sea, and it did not cease because of the fire. And as the fire rose up, soaring higher, I saw under the fire a throne [made] of fire and the many-eyed Wheels, and they are reciting the song. And under the throne [I saw] four singing fiery Living Creatures…. 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.174
The peculiar setting of this theophany recalls the aforementioned martyrological accounts, where Christian adepts behold the vision of the divine Chariot during their trials. Scholars have shown that the earliest Christian martyrological testimonies take the form of theophanic encounters. Thus, Philip Munoa reminds us that these early testimonies were frequently fashioned as Merkavah visions, reminiscent of Jewish biblical and extra-biblical theophanic accounts. He notes that the vision of Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles,175 Revelation, and the Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas all illustrate how vision and martyrological crisis went hand in hand in the ordeals of the Christian adepts: “in these passages it is the beleaguered, suffering followers of Jesus, facing martyrdom, who were granted visions of the heavenly throne room and its occupants.”176 Munoa reminds us that the biblical theophanic blueprints, including one found in Dan 7, often served as the framework for these visions and were adapted to fit the circumstances of each visionary.177
Martyrological Crisis and the Adept’s Metamorphosis
We have already seen how in the course of fiery tests, the adept’s garments of skin often undergo a glorious metamorphosis which turns him or her into a celestial being. Thus, Polycarp’s and Fructuosus’ earthly bodies are transformed and glorified in the flames of their trials. Although the Apocalypse of Abraham does not convey a clear depiction of Abraham’s transformation during his testing period, the possibility is hinted at earlier in the story when Yahoel pronounces that Azazel’s celestial garment is now transferred to its new owner — Abraham. This angelic announcement about the patriarch’s changing ontology evokes the memory of some early martyrological accounts in which the martyr’s future glorification is conveyed through a proleptic event preceding his final metamorphosis. The tradition of such an anticipating event is already documented in the earliest Christian martyrological account, the vision of Stephen, where the face of the martyr became “like an angel,” pointing proleptically to the martyr’s future glorification.
It is also instructive that the reception of the heavenly form is often described as the fiery ordeal. One of the most spectacular specimens of such a fiery metamorphosis is the transformation of the seventh antediluvian patriarch into the supreme angel Metatron in 3 Enoch 15:
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 the needs of the Shekinah, 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.178
It is not coincidental that this fiery metamorphosis coincides with Enoch’s promotion to the highest angelic rank. In Jewish accounts angels are often described as being made from fire, which explains why the transformed bodies of Jewish and Christian martyrs, who acquire angelic status, become impervious to flames. This link between the adept’s angelic status and his form’s resistance to fire appears to be assumed in the aforementioned martyrological accounts. Noting the martyr’s transformation in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, Greenberg observes that
the reward for perseverance is described as angelic metamorphosis: “and with the eyes of the soul they looked up to those good things that are saved up for those who have persevered, which neither the ear has heard not the eye seen, nor has it entered into the heart of man: but to them the Lord revealed it seeing they were no longer men but angels.” … Those who persevere are given the reward; this is unseen by normal perception. Ultimately, the transformation of human to angel is a way to describe the form of Personal Immortality gained by the martyr.179
In the Apocalypse of Abraham, passing through the flames may also serve as a metaphor for angelification. The seer’s encounter with fire is clearly significant for the authors of our apocalypse, who often portray fire as the substance of the heavenly forms.
Fiery Ordeal as Sacrifice
We have already noticed that many Jewish and Christian accounts of fiery trials are permeated with the symbolism of sacrifice. For instance, the Martyrdom of Polycarp informs its readers that, while the bishop was still in the middle of the fiery furnace, its spectators perceived "an overwhelming sweet smell, like the smell of frankincense or another of the costly aromatic herbs." According to Van Henten, "a pleasing odor indicates a welcome sacrifice, as passages in the Hebrew Bible suggest (e.g. Exod 29:18, 25; Lev 2:2).”180 The same author reminds us that rabbinic renderings of the fiery trials similarly refer to a pleasant smell coming from the furnaces containing Abraham and Daniel’s companions. We see this in Gen. Rab. 34:9: “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.”181 This confirms the fact that the fiery tests were often envisioned in Jewish and Christian materials as sacrificial incidents.
Another important detail that intimates a sacrificial dimension is the peculiar ritual of binding the martyrs, which is reminiscent of tying animals before offering them as sacrifices. This connection between binding and sacrifice might already be present in Dan 3 when the adepts are tied before their placement into the furnace. The text says that Nebuchadnezzar “ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire.” In later accounts of the fiery trials, binding will become even more evocative of sacrificial practice. In the Martyrdom of Polycarp 14 the bound protagonist is explicitly compared to a sacrificial ram: “he was bound like a noble ram chosen for an oblation from a great flock, a holocaust prepared and made acceptable to God.”182 Commenting on this passage Elizabeth Castelli notes that the public spectacle of Polycarp’s death is explicitly characterized as a sacrifice by its narrator.183 Drawing on this account, scholars suggest that early Christian martyrdoms were envisioned as public sacrifices. Deliberating on this motif in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, Robin Darling Young argues that “martyrdom was being shaped … into a highly public sacrificial liturgy. Those Christians who seemed to be God’s choice for martyrdom trained for this sacrifice.”184
Martyrs often acknowledge their role as a sacrifice, similar to Polycarp, who uttered the following words: "May I be received this day among them before your face as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as you, the God of truth who cannot deceive, have prepared, revealed, and fulfilled beforehand."185 Van Henten points out that “the cultic terminology of Martyrdom of Polycarp 14 is strongly reminiscent of Dan 3:39-40.”186 The understanding of martyrdom as sacrifice is summarized by Origen in his Exhort. Mart. 30:
For just as those who served the altar according to the Law of Moses thought they were ministering forgiveness of sins to the people by the blood of goats and bulls [Heb 9:13, 10:4; Ps 50:13], so also the souls of those who have been beheaded for their witness to Jesus [Rev 20:4, 6:9] do not serve the heavenly altar in vain and minister forgiveness of sins to those who pray. At the same time we also know that just as the High Priest Jesus the Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice [cf. Heb 5:1, 7:27, 8:3, 10:12], so also the priests of whom He is High Priest offer themselves as a sacrifice. This is why they are seen near the altar as near their own place. Moreover, blameless priests served the Godhead by offering blameless sacrifices, while those who were blemished and offered blemished sacrifices and whom Moses described in Leviticus were separated from the altar [Lev 21:17-21]. And who else is the blameless priest offering a blameless sacrifice than the person who holds fast his confession and fulfills every requirement the account of martyrdom demands?187
Castelli suggests that in this passage “the purity of the priests and the wholeness and holiness of their offerings translate into the pure and undefiled character of the Christian martyr’s sacrifice.”188 She further notes that more than a century before Origen’s exhortation, similar ideas about martyrdom as a sacrifice were expressed by Ignatius of Antioch, who wanted to be “a sacrifice to God through these instruments of torture and execution.”189
In some Jewish accounts of Abraham’s fiery trials, the patriarch is also bound as a sacrificial offering before his placement in the furnace. In one such passage, found in Eliyahu Rabbah 27, Abraham is tied as a sacrificial animal, by foot and hand, and is thrown into a furnace:
Nimrod said, “Nevertheless I will rather worship the god of fire, for behold, I am going to cast you into the midst of fire – let the god of whom you speak [of?] come and deliver you from fire.” At once his servants bound Abraham hand and foot and laid him on the ground. Then they piled up wood on all sides of him.190
In the Book of Yashar we encounter a similar scene, in which the king’s servants bind the hands and feet of Abraham and his brother with linen cords before casting them both into the furnace. Such depictions of the patriarch bound hand and foot recall other Jewish accounts where human and otherworldly characters are portrayed as sacrificial animals. The most memorable account, of course, is the binding of Isaac before his attempted sacrifice.191 Another example is Asael’s binding in the Book of the Watchers. Some scholars have argued that this leader of the Watchers was understood in the Enochic lore as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the fallen angels.192
In light of these traditions of sacrificial bindings, it is possible that in some Jewish materials, Abraham was envisioned as a cultic offering. This sacrificial dimension is present in the Apocalypse of Abraham. Elsewhere I have argued that in this text the patriarch is understood as the immolated goat of the Yom Kippur ritual.193 One significant aspect of the immolated goat ritual was the destruction of the animal’s body by fire.194 The goat used during the atoning rite is thus reinterpreted in the Apocalypse of Abraham as the fiery trials of the patriarch.195
Another important detail that might point to Abraham’s role as sacrifice is the enigmatic phrase uttered by Yahoel at the very beginning of the angel’s encounter with Abraham in chapter 11. There, the great angel tells the young hero of faith that he will be visible until the sacrifice, and will be invisible after it: “Come with me and I shall go with you, visible until the sacrifice, but after the sacrifice invisible forever.”196 This statement is not related to the animal sacrifices of the patriarch, since Yahoel remains visible after Abraham offered these sacrifices. The angel disappears only after the patriarch and Yahoel enter into the heavenly Holy of Holies – the event that seems, once again, to affirm Abraham’s role as the sacrificial offering. Finally, one last detail suggesting this role is situated in Abraham’s prayer uttered during his ascent into the heavenly Holy of Holies, wherein he offers himself as the sacrifice chosen by the deity:
Accept my prayer, and also the sacrifice which you yourself made to yourself through me who searched for you (прими молитву мою и такоже и жертву юже себе сам створи мною взискающим тебе).197
In the subsequent verse, the patriarch’s self-definition as a sacrifice is also noteworthy. Here, the patriarch asks the deity to “receive” him favorably. The formula used, as we’ve already noted, is likely related to the patriarch’s role as the purification offering.198
The Apocalypse of Abraham, a text written soon after the destruction of the Second Temple, presents Abraham not merely as a visionary who peacefully travels to the heavenly abode of the deity, but as an adept who undergoes dangerous fiery trials on his way to the divine presence. The embellishment of the familiar apocalyptic journey appears not to be coincidental, as it points to a changing social landscape in which adherents of Jewish and Christian religions face imminent persecution from the Roman authorities. In this respect an insertion of the fiery trials motif into the fabric of the apocalyptic story itself appears to be purposeful, since some scholars trace the origin of this motif to the period of the Roman persecution, thereby seeing it as a martyrological incident.199
The recognition of the martyrological dimension present in the Apocalypse of Abraham has several conceptual ramifications. First, it reaffirms a possible date of the text in the second century C.E. after the destruction of the temple and in the midst of the Roman persecution. In previous studies the tentative date of the pseudepigraphon was often postulated on the basis of the sacerdotal traditions present in our text. Yet, the juxtaposition of the ascent to the heavenly sanctuary with the theme of the fiery trials, which is reminiscent of early Christian martyrdoms, provides additional support to the old theory about the text’s possible date in the second century C.E.
It also provides a bridge to the social practices of martyrdom, which unfold in Jewish and Christian communities in the second century C.E., and in which the apocalyptic traditions of ascent and vision received a novel afterlife. Unlike Pseudo-Philo or later rabbinic accounts of Abraham’s fiery trials, the Apocalypse of Abraham explicitly and unambiguously connects the patriarch’s fiery ordeals to his ascent and vision of the deity. These associations reveal a close similarity to Jewish and Christian martyrological stories in which the adepts are transformed through their fiery trials.
In light of these connections, the Apocalypse of Abraham should be understood as a new chapter in the history of Jewish apocalypticism. Here the prominent legacy of ancient and contemporary martyrs is extended to one of the most important exemplars of Jewish faith in a manner which identifies him not only as a visionary but also as the protological martyr.
1 N. W. Porteous, Daniel. A Commentary (OTL; Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1965) 55.
2 Porteous, Daniel. A Commentary, 55.
3 M. Dulaey, “Les trois hébreux dans la fournaise (Dn 3) dans l’interprétation symbolique de l’église ancienne,” RSR 71 (1997) 33–59; P. B. Munoa, “Jesus, the Merkavah, and Martyrdom in Early Christian Tradition,” JBL 121 (2002) 303–25; D. Tucker, “The Early Wirkungsgeschichte of Daniel 3: Representative Examples,” JTI 6 (2012) 295–306.
4 Another important biblical specimen in which martyrdom coincides with theophany is the Book of Job, where the suffering of a righteous person culminates in the vision of God.
5 P. Middleton, Radical Martyrdom and Cosmic Conflict in Early Christianity (LNTS, 307; London: T&T Clark, 2006) 107.
6 Middleton, Radical Martyrdom and Cosmic Conflict in Early Christianity, 107.
7 Tucker, “The Early Wirkungsgeschichte of Daniel 3,” 297-298. Tucker discerns the echoes of Dan 3 in another early account devoted to the martyrdom, namely, Origin’s Exhortation to Martyrdom. Tucker notes that “in his exhortation, Origen makes a number of critical hermeneutical moves in his appropriation of Dan 3. In Mattathias’ speech in 1 Macc 2:59, the story of the three youths appears within a larger list of faithful ancestors who had been delivered by God. In Exhortation to Martyrdom, Origen has made the connection between Dan 3 and martyrdom all the more specific. Prior to the section read above, Origen recounts the story of 2 Macc 7, and then provides a lengthy discourse on the chalice as a symbol of martyrdom and Jesus’ comments in the Garden about the chalice passing from before him. He concludes that Jesus was not avoiding martyrdom but only wanting that perfect form that would bring universal good to all people. Having discussed both the Maccabean account and the Garden scene in the Gospels, and the instructive nature of each for understanding martyrdom, Origen shifts to the story of the three youths. In so doing, Origen collapses history in some sense, refusing to differentiate between the affairs articulated in Dan 3 and those currently being experienced by Ambrose and Protoctetus.” Tucker, “The Early Wirkungsgeschichte of Daniel 3,” 298-299.
8 Dan 3:25: “like a son of the gods.” With regard to the identity of this character, Collins observes that “the story assumes that the furnace was large enough to permit movement and the appearance of the fourth is like a divine being: ‘Divine being’ rendered literally would be ‘a son of a god,’ that is, in Semitic idiom, a member of the class ‘gods.’ Such a polytheistic designation is quite appropriate on the lips of Nebuchadnezzar…. This designation is obviously rooted in Near Eastern polytheistic mythology. In Jewish and Christian tradition, the ‘sons of God’ are treated as angels; thus Dan 3:28 attributes the deliverance of the youths to an angel in the furnace. Christian tradition typically identified the ‘son of God’ here as Christ.” J. J. Collins, Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993) 190.
9 C. L. Seow, Daniel (Westminster Bible Companion; Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003) 59; Bucur, Scripture Re-envisioned, 248ff.
10 E. Yassif, The Hebrew Folktale. History, Genre. Meaning (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999) 83-84.
11 Seow, Daniel, 60.
12 Seow, Daniel, 59.
13 See A. DeConick, "Traumatic Mysteries: Modes of Mysticism among the Early Christians," in: "Suddenly, Christ": Studies in Jewish and Christian Traditions in Honor of Alexander Golitzin (ed. by A. A. Orlov; SVC; Leiden: Brill, 2019) (forthcoming).
14 On Abraham’s fiery trials traditions, see W. Adler, “Abraham and the Burning of the Temple of Idols,” JQR 77 (1986-1987) 95-117; G. N. Bonwetsch, Die Apokalypse Abrahams: Das Testament der vierzig Martyrer (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1897) 41-55; G. H. Box and J. I. Landsman, The Apocalypse of Abraham (London: The Macmillan Company, 1919) 88-96; B. G. Bucur, “Christophanic Exegesis and the Problem of Symbolization: Daniel 3 (The Fiery Furnace) As a Test Case,” JTI 10 (2016) 227–44; idem, Scripture Re-envisioned, 248-254; L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (7 vols.; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1909–38) 1.198-201; 5.212-213; J. Gutmann, “Abraham in the Fire of the Chaldeans: A Jewish Legend in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Art,” FS 7 (1973) 342-52; M. Kister, “Observations on Aspects of Exegesis, Tradition, and Theology in Midrash, Pseudepigrapha, and Other Jewish Writings,” in: Tracing the Threads: Studies in the Vitality of Jewish Pseudepigrapha (ed. J. C. Reeves; EJL, 6; Atlanta: Scholars, 1994) 1-34; J. L. Kugel, The Bible As It Was: A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997) 143ff.; idem, Traditions of the Bible, 268-270; S. L. Lowin, The Making of a Forefather: Abraham in Islamic and Jewish Exegetical Narratives (IHC, 65; Leiden: Brill, 2006); E. Spicehandler, “Shāhin’s Influence on Bābāi ben Lotf: The Abraham-Nimrod Legend,” in: Irano-Judaica II (eds. S. Shaked and A. Netzer; Jerusalem: Ben Zvi Institute, 1990) 158-65 at 162; G. Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism. Haggadic Studies (SPB, 4; Leiden: Brill, 1973) 85-90.
15 Menachem Kister notes that “we cannot state with certainty when the tradition of the martyrology of Abraham begins. It may be quite early.” Kister, “Observations on Aspects of Exegesis,” 25.
16 Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham (eds. J. A. Tvedtnes et al.; Provo: FARMS, 2001) 5, note 2.
17 Holladay, Fragments, 2.235.
18 Kugel, Traditions of the Bible, 268.
19 Kugel, Traditions of the Bible, 268. On the possibility of such an interpretation, see also Holladay, Fragments, 2.258; Tvedtnes et al., Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham, 6, note 3.
20 LAB’s date is a debated issue. Deliberating about various possibilities, Howard Jacobson states that there has been a general consensus which postulates the date of LAB between 50 C.E. and 150 C.E. In recent years, however, scholars favor the earlier date, although support for the post-70 period still remains. Jacobson himself advocates for the post-70 date, after the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple, by arguing that “the general tone of LAB suggests a time of catastrophe and gloom. It is not impossible that the work postdates not only the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, but the failure of the Bar-Cochba revolt as well.” H. Jacobson, A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, with Latin Text and English Translation (2 vols.; AGAJU, 31; Leiden: Brill, 1996) 1.208.
21 Jacobson, A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, 1.97-100. Chronicles of Jerahmeel 29 contains a Hebrew retroversion of this account. On this late account, see M. Gaster, The Chronicles of Jerahmeel (OTF, 4; London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1899) 60-63.
22 VanderKam, Jubilees, 2.67-70.
23 Maher, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Genesis, 51, n. 17.
24 Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism, 88.
25 Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism, 88-89.
26 Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism, 90.
27 Indeed, several structural and narrative elements in Pseudo-Philo are reminiscent of details found in Daniel 3. These include the following: an evil earthly leader and his erected idol; a tower/idol that reaches heaven; the leader issues an order to find apostates; the protagonist is brought by complicit people; the evil leader throws the protagonist into the fire; the fiery demise of bystanders; the protagonist is rescued by the deity, unharmed by the fire.
28 Collins, Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, 186. Craig Evans also sees Dan 3 behind Abraham’s fiery trials. He notes that “these exegeses also follow the lead of the famous story in Daniel. The allusion to fire in Genesis 11 suggested comparison with the furnace of fire in Daniel 3, the furnace into which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast. These three men, who refused to worship the golden image erected by Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, were spared by God and ‘came out from the fire’ (Dan 3:26). Their reason for being cast into the fire gave interpreters of Genesis 11 the reason why Abraham had been cast into the fire of the Chaldeans. Even the fantastic claim in Pseudo-Philo’s version, that 83,500 men were killed by the flames of the furnace, probably owes its inspiration to Dan 3:22, which says the intense heat of the furnace killed the men who threw the three Israelites into the fire. C. A. Evans, “Abraham in the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Man of Faith and Failure,” in: The Bible at Qumran: Text, Shape, and Interpretation (ed. P. W. Flint; Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2001) 149–58 at 154.
29 On Abraham’s martyrdom in rabbinic lore, see A. Gross, Spirituality and Law: Courting Martyrdom in Christianity and Judaism (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2005) 33ff.
30 Jacobson, A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, 2.359.
31 Jacobson, A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, 2.359.
32 Kugel, Traditions of the Bible, 269. In connection with the motif of the patriarch’s fiery trials, Abraham Gross notes that “we cannot rule out the possibility that this story represents peripheral Jewish circles who had radical attitudes to martyrdom.” Gross, Spirituality and Law: Courting Martyrdom in Christianity and Judaism, 34.
33 M. Wadsworth, “Making and Interpreting Scripture,” in: Ways of Reading the Bible (Sussex: Harvester Press, 1981) 7-22 at 11; F. J. Murphy, “Retelling the Bible: Idolatry in Pseudo-Philo,” JBL 107 (1988) 275-87 at 276. Others disagree with this opinion. On this, see Jacobson, A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, 1.355-356. Jacobson argues that “both in the Bible and in LAB (also Josephus AJ 1.113-15) the very erection of such a tower—or at least the thoughts that inspire it—is seen as a hybristic act of rebellion against God—and so must be punished. But neither idolatry per se nor the idea of storming the heaven plays a role in LAB.” Jacobson, A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, 2.356.
34 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.” Pesikta Rabbati (ed. W. Braude; 2 vols.; YJS, 18; New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1968) 2.637.
35 The previously mentioned interpretation of rw) as “fire” in Gen 15:7 strengthens 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 asserts 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.
36 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.
37 M. Dods, “St. Augustine’s City of God,” in: A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. First Series. Vol. 2 (ed. P. Schaff; New York: Christian Literature Company, 1887) 1-511 at 320.
38 C. T. R. Hayward, Saint Jerome’s Hebrew Questions on Genesis (Oxford Early Christian Studies; Oxford: Clarendon, 1995) 43-44.
39 M. Gaster, The Asatir: The Samaritan Book of the “Secrets of Moses” Together with the Pitron or Samaritan Commentary and the Samaritan story of the Death of Moses (OTF, 26; London: The Royal Asiatic Society, 1927) 246. On these traditions, see also Kister, “Observations on Aspects of Exegesis,” 25.
40 Reflecting on the development of the fiery trials traditions in rabbinic literature, Menachem Kister notes the martyrological aspects of some specimens of this story, arguing that “forms and themes of this tradition vary from version to version and from period to period (Abraham as setting fire to the shrine of the idols, Abraham as a martyr). It is these shifting themes that gave life to the legend and made it so popular in Jewish sources.” Kister, “Observations on Aspects of Exegesis,” 7. Kister further notes that “included at times in these descriptions are reflections of other biblical stories, such as the rescue of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah from the fire, for which the midrash explicitly employs Abraham as a prototype.” Kister, “Observations on Aspects of Exegesis,” 25.
41 Maher, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Genesis, 51.
42 Ibid., 55.
43 “He said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you out of the fiery furnace of the Chaldeans to give you this land to inherit.’” Maher, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Genesis, 60.
44 “Sarai said to Abram, … ‘we will not need the children of Hagar, the daughter of Pharaoh, the son of Nimrod, who threw you into the furnace of fire.’” Maher, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Genesis, 62.
45 Targum Neofiti 1: Genesis (ed. M. McNamara; ArBib, 1A; Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1992) 85-86.
46 McNamara, Targum Neofiti 1: Genesis, 95. Cf. also Targum Neofiti to Gen 16:5: “And Sarai said to Abram … ‘we will not need the son of Hagar the Egyptian, who belongs to the children of the sons of the people who gave you into the furnace of fire of the Chaldeans.’” McNamara, Targum Neofiti 1: Genesis, 98-99.
47 The Two Targums of Esther (ed. B. Grossfeld; ArBib, 18; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991) 67.
48 Targums of Ruth and Chronicles (eds. D. R. G. Beattie and J. S. Mclvor; ArBib, 19; Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1994) 212.
49 Epstein, The Babylonian Talmud. Eruvin, 53a.
50 Epstein, The Babylonian Talmud. Pesahim, 118a. On this tradition, see Bucur, Scripture Re-envisioned, 249.
51 Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 1.310-311.
52 Eliyahu Rabbah 27 elaborates this theme in even greater detail: “How did Abraham come in this world to merit a life with no distress, with no inclination to evil – a life, indeed, such as God bestows upon the righteous only in the world-to-come? Because for the sake of Heaven he was willing to give up his life in the fire of the Chaldees…. Keep in mind that the household of Abraham’s father, idolaters all, used to make idols and go out to sell them in the marketplace…. He [Nimrod] sent men to fetch Abraham and had him appear before him. Nimrod then said to him, ‘Son of Terah, make a beautiful god for me, one which will be uniquely mine.’ So Abraham went back to his father’s house and said, ‘Make a beautiful idol for Nimrod.’ When Terah’s household got the idol finished, they put a cincture around it and painted it a variety of colors. [After Abraham brought the image to Nimrod, he said to him, ‘You are a king, and yet you are so lacking in a king’s wisdom as to worship this thing which my father’s household has just turned out!’] Thereupon Nimrod had Abraham taken out [to be consumed] in a fiery furnace. In tribute to Abraham’s righteousness, however, the day turned cloudy, and presently rain came down so hard that Nimrod’s men could not get the fire started. Next, as Nimrod sat [in his throne room], surrounded by the entire generation that was to be dispersed [for its transgressions], Abraham was brought in and put in their midst. He approached Nimrod and again voiced his contempt of the king’s idol. ‘If not this idol, whom shall I worship?’ Nimrod asked. Abraham replied, ‘The God of gods, the Lord of lords, Him whose kingdom endures in heaven and earth and in uppermost heaven of heavens.’ Nimrod said, ‘Nevertheless I will rather worship the god of fire, for behold, I am going to cast you into the midst of fire – let the god of whom you speak [of?] come and deliver you from fire.’ At once his servants bound Abraham hand and foot and laid him on the ground. Then they piled up wood on all sides of him, [but at some distance away], a pile of wood five hundred cubits long to the west, and a five hundred cubits long to the east. Nimrod’s men then went around and around setting the wood on fire…. At once the compassion of the Holy One welled up, and the holiness of His great name came down from the upper heaven of heavens, from the place of His glory, His grandeur, and His beauty and delivered our father Abraham from the taunts and the jeers and from the fiery furnace, as is said, I am the Lord that brought thee out of the fire of the Chaldees (Gen 15:7).” 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) 62-63.
53 Eliyyahu Zuta, 25 preserves the remnants of a similar tradition of disputation between the patriarch and the evil king: “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.” Braude and Kapstein, Tanna Debe Eliyyahu, 485-486.
54 Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 1.273.
55 Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah 1.369. See also Exod. Rab. 23:4: “He delivered Abraham from the fiery furnace and from the kings.” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 3.281.
56 Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 9.78. See also 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.
57 Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 4.461. A similar motif is developed in 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 33:24); 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.
58 J. Goldin, The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan (YJS, 10; New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1955) 132. Pirke de R. Eliezer 26 continues the theme of Abraham’s trials: “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).” Friedlander, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, 188.
59` Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism, 85.
60 The story of Abraham’s fiery trial has received new afterlife in the Islamic tradition, where it also became closely linked to the theme of idolatry. From Qur’an 21.51-71 we learn the following rendering of the story: “Long ago We bestowed right judgement on Abraham and We knew him well. He said to his father and his people, ‘What are these images to which you are so devoted?’ They replied, ‘We found our fathers worshipping them.’ He said, ‘You and your fathers have clearly gone astray.’ They asked, ‘Have you brought us the truth or are you just playing about?’ He said, ‘Listen! Your true Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, He who created them, and I am a witness to this. By God I shall certainly plot against your idols as soon as you have turned your backs!’ He broke them all into pieces, but left the biggest one for them to return to. They said, ‘Who has done this to our gods? How wicked he must be!’ Some said, ‘We heard a youth called Abraham talking about them.’ They said, ‘Bring him before the eyes of the people, so that they may witness [his trial].’ They asked, ‘Was it you, Abraham, who did this to our gods?’ He said, ‘No, it was done by the biggest of them– this one. Ask them, if they can talk.’ They turned to one another, saying, ‘It is you who are in the wrong,’ but then they lapsed again and said, ‘You know very well these gods cannot speak.’ Abraham said, ‘How can you worship what can neither benefit nor harm you, instead of God? Shame on you and on the things you worship instead of God. Have you no sense?’ They said, ‘Burn him and avenge your gods, if you are going to do the right thing.’ But We said, ‘Fire, be cool and safe for Abraham.’ They planned to harm him, but We made them suffer the greatest loss.” Qur’an (tr. M. A. S. Abdel Haleem; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) 205-206. For other Muslim versions of the story, see C. Bakhos, The Family of Abraham: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Interpretations (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014) 96ff.; Lowin, The Making of a Forefather: Abraham in Islamic and Jewish Exegetical Narratives; Spicehandler, “Shāhin’s Influence on Bābāi ben Lotf: The Abraham-Nimrod Legend,” 162.
61 Tertullian’s De Baptismo, written between 196 and 206 C.E., mentions the Acta Pauli and provides the terminus ante quem. Terminus post quem is a debated issue. On the date of the Acts of Paul, see New Testament Apocrypha (trs. A. Higgins et. al.; eds. E. Hennecke and W. Schneemelcher; 2 vols.; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963–1966) 2.235; J. N. Bremmer, “Magic, Martyrdom and Women’s Liberation in the Acts of Paul and Thecla,” in: The Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla (ed. J. N. Bremmer; Kampen: Kok Pharos, 2000) 36–59 at 57; idem, “The Five Major Apocryphal Acts: Authors, Place, Time and Readership,” in: The Apocryphal Acts of Thomas (Leuven: Peeters, 2001) 153; J. W. Barrier, The Acts of Paul and Thecla: A Critical Introduction and Commentary (WUNT, 2.270; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009) 23.
62 Stephen Davis argues that “Thecla’s perseverance amidst the fire earned her early acclaim as a ‘proto-martyr’ of the Christian church.” S. Davis, The Cult of Saint Thecla: A Tradition of Women’s Piety in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001) 156.
63 I am thankful to Jennifer Henery for bringing my attention to these traditions.
64 Barrier, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, 121-124.
65 Davis, The Cult of Saint Thecla, 26.
66 Cf. Acts of Paul 4:9: “And there was a cloud of fire (νεφέλη πυρός) around her, so that neither the beasts could touch her, nor could they see her naked.” Barrier, Acts of Paul and Thecla, 160-161.
67 Cf. Mart. Pol. 15: “For the flames, bellying out like a ship’s sail in the wind, formed into the shape of a vault and thus surrounded the martyr’s body as with a wall.” H. Musurillo, The Acts of the Christian Martyrs. Introduction, Texts, and Translations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972) 15.
68 J. W. van Henten, “Martyrs, Martyrdom, and Martyr Literature,” in: Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome (ed. M. Gagarin; 7 vols; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) 1.365.
69 Herbert Anthony Musurillo notes that “it would seem correct to infer that Polycarp’s martyrdom at the age of 86 would have taken place close to the last quarter of the second century, but the precise date has been widely controverted.” Musurillo, The Acts of the Christian Martyrs, xiii.
70 Candida Moss argues that “there are historical, literary, and conceptual reasons which suggest that the Martyrdom of Polycarp was composed sometime after the events described in it, potentially as late as the middle of the third century.” C. R. Moss, Ancient Christian Martyrdom. Diverse Practices, Theologies, and Traditions (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library; New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012) 62.
71 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 11-15.
72 J. W. Van Henten, “Daniel 3 and 6 in Early Christian Literature,” in: The Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception I-II (eds. J. J. Collins and P. W. Flint; 2 vols.; VetTSup, 83; Leiden: Brill, 2001) 1.149-69 at 1.156-158.
73 Van Henten, “Daniel 3 and 6 in Early Christian Literature,” 156-158.
74 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 13. In Dan 3 the adepts of the fiery ordeal are also bound before their placement in the furnace: “He ordered the furnace heated up seven times more than was customary, and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. So the men were bound, still wearing their tunics, their trousers, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the furnace of blazing fire.”
75 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 13.
76 Van Henten, “Daniel 3 and 6 in Early Christian Literature,” 156-158.
77 A New English Translation of the Septuagint (tr. A. Pietersma and B. G. Wright; New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) 1001.
78 Van Henten, “Daniel 3 and 6 in Early Christian Literature,” 156-158. Van Henten notes that “in Dan 3 an angel moves the fire in the furnace upward so that Daniel’s companions at the furnace’s bottom can even enjoy a cool morning breeze (Dan 3:46–50 in the Greek versions). The description of Polycarp’s miracle in the fire refers to a furnace as well as to wind. The fire does not affect the martyr’s body, in the same way that Daniel’s companions’ bodies were not affected. The fire surrounds Polycarp like a vault or a sail bellying out. The wind may be an indirect reference to God’s interference.” J. W. van Henten and F. Avemarie, Martyrdom and Noble Death: Selected Texts from Graeco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian Antiquity (New York: Routledge, 2002) 115.
79 Van Henten, “Daniel 3 and 6 in Early Christian Literature,” 156-158.
80 Pietersma and Wright, New English Translation of the Septuagint, 1001.
81 Van Henten, Martyrdom and Noble Death, 114-115.
82 “for the flames, bellying out like a ship’s sail in the wind.”
83 Mart. Pol. 2.3. See also Mart. Pol. 14.2.
84 C. R. Moss, The Other Christs: Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) 127.
85 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 13-15.
86 Moss, The Other Christs, 127. Moss notes that “like Jesus, Christian martyrs were believed to ascend directly to heaven at the moment of their death, their martyrdom serving as their passport to the throne of God. The extent to which the rapidity of the ascension of martyrs to heaven is part of an imitatio Christi hinges upon contemporary notions about resurrection as it was more generally construed.” Moss, The Other Christs, 118.
87 Bruce Chilton also suggests that “the Martyrdom of Polycarp glorifies the martyr as a complete sacrifice.” B. Chilton, Abraham’s Curse: Child Sacrifice in the Legacies of the West (New York: Doubleday, 2008) 109.
88 Moss, The Other Christs: Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom, 129
89 A. Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha: Toward the Original of the Apocalypse of Abraham (TCS, 3; Atlanta: Scholars, 2004) 20.
90 N. T. Wright notes that Mart. Pol. compares “the short-lived fire they face at the stake with the fire of hell which is everlasting, never to be quenched.” N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003) 487.
91 Cf. Apoc. Ab. 14:5, which reads: “May you be the fire brand of the furnace of the earth! Go, Azazel, into the untrodden parts of the earth.”
92 On the dating of the Martyrdom of Pionius, see R. Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians: In the Mediterranean World from the Second Century AD to the Conversion of Constantine (London: Penguin, 2006) 460; L. Robert, Le Martyre de Pionios Prêtre de Smyrne (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1994) 2-9.
93 Moss, Ancient Christian Martyrdom, 73. For an in-depth discussion of the literary dependence of Mart. Pion. upon Mart. Pol., see J. M. Kozlowski, “Pionius Polycarpi Imitator: References to Martyrium Polycarpi in Martyrium Pionii,” Science et Esprit 67 (2015) 417–434.
94 Moss, Ancient Christian Martyrdom, 73.
95 Moss, Ancient Christian Martyrdom, 73.
96 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 165.
97 Musurillo suggests that “the date would in all likelihood be in the spring of the year 259, either 24 February, with the Roman martyrology, or 23 May, following the kalendarium Carthaginiense.” Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, xxxv.
98 Van Henten, “Daniel 3 and 6 in Early Christian Literature,” 158.
99 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 215-217.
100 Tucker, “The Early Wirkungsgeschichte of Daniel 3,” 299-300.
101 Tucker, “The Early Wirkungsgeschichte of Daniel 3,” 299-300.
102 Mart. Mont. Luc. 7 reads: “‘I saw a child enter the prison here,’ he said, ‘whose face shone with a brilliance beyond description …. Now this was the Lord from heaven, and Victor asked him where heaven was. ‘It is beyond the world,’ said the child. ‘Show it to me,’ said Victor. He said to Victor: ‘Where then would your faith be?’ Victor, out of human weakness, said to him: ‘I cannot hold fast to your charge. Give me a sign that I can tell them.’ To this the Lord replied, ‘Give them the sign of Jacob.’” Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 219.
103 Moss, The Other Christs, 130.
104 O. Lehtipuu, Debates Over the Resurrection of the Dead: Constructing Early Christian Identity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) 170.
105 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 231.
106 Musurillo notes that, “known to Augustine and Prudentius at least in substance, the acta surely existed before 400, and were perhaps composed shortly after the peace of the Church.” Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, xxxii.
107 Greenberg notes that “the names of the three men in the fiery furnace from the Book of Daniel (1:6–7; 3:13–26) are invoked here, in the Latin forms of their names, to remind the reader of the power of faith in God and obedience unto death.” L. A. Greenberg, “My Share of God’s Reward”: Exploring the Roles and Formulations of the Afterlife in Early Christian Martyrdom (SBL, 121; New York: Peter Lang, 2009) 180.
108 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 181-185.
109 Van Henten, “Daniel 3 and 6 in Early Christian Literature,” 158. Greenberg notes that “during the death scene, after their bonds are burned away by the fire, ‘they knelt down in joy assured of the resurrection, and stretching out their arms in memory of the Lord’s cross, they prayed to the Lord until together they gave up their souls’ (4.3).” Greenberg, My Share of God’s Reward, 180.
110 Tucker, “The Early Wirkungsgeschichte of Daniel 3,” 300-301.
111 Tucker, “The Early Wirkungsgeschichte of Daniel 3,” 300-301.
112 Tucker, “The Early Wirkungsgeschichte of Daniel 3,” 300-301.
113 Greenberg, My Share of God’s Reward, 180.
114 Moss, The Other Christs: Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom, 128.
115 Moss, The Other Christs: Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom, 128.
116 “Fructuosus also appeared to Aemilianus, who had condemned him to death, together with his deacons in robes of glory. And he scolded and mocked him, saying that it was of no use for him to believe vainly that, stripped of their bodies, they would remain in the earth, now that he could see them in glory.” Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 185.
117 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 185. Cf. Mart. Pol. 15: “And he was within it not as burning flesh but rather as bread being baked, or like gold and silver being purified in a smelting-furnace.” Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 15.
118 A. A. Orlov, Heavenly Priesthood in the Apocalypse of Abraham (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013) 11-44.
119 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 12.
120 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 12-13.
121 B. Philonenko-Sayar and M. Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes (Semitica, 31; Paris: Librairie Adrien-Maisonneuve, 1981) 46.
122 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 13.
123 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. Cf. 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.”
124 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.”
125 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 15.
126 See Apoc. Ab. 18:2; 18:3; 18:12; 19:4; 19:6.
127 See Apoc. Ab. 8:1; 18:2.
128 Concerning the circulation of this motif in Byzantine chorographical accounts, see Adler, “Abraham and the Burning of the Temple of Idols,” 95-117.
129 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 16.
130 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 30.
131 VanderKam, Jubilees, 2.67-70. On this tradition, see J. van Ruiten, Abraham in the Book of Jubilees: The Rewriting of Genesis 11:26-25:10 in the Book of Jubilees 11:14-23:8 (JSJSS, 161; Leiden: Brill, 2012) 32. Another interesting version of the fiery demise of Terah’s household is found in the Palaeia Historica 26:1-9: “Concerning Abraham: In those days, [a man] was born [by the name] of Abraham. He was given the name by his father and was taught astronomy. He used to seek for God the creator of heaven and earth and the stars, the sun and the moon, but he was unable to find knowledge of him. Now his father was an idolater. When Abraham saw the gods of [his] father, he said [to] himself, ‘Why is my father, who builds homes for gods and invents new ones, unable to explain to me about the creator of heaven and earth, as well as the sun, moon and stars?’ While turning these questions over in his mind, he was in deep reflection. Then one day he rose up early in the morning and set fire to the building where the gods of his father were housed; and the building, together with the gods, went up in flames. Terah, who was his brother and the father of Lot, got up and retrieved his so-called gods. He was consumed in the flames, he together with his gods.” W. Adler, “Palaea Historica,” in: Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (eds. R. Bauckham et al.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013) 609-610.
132 Kugel notes that the Targum Neophiti to Gen. 11:28 apparently preserves an echo of this tradition: “And his father Terah was still alive when Haran died in the land of his birth, in the fiery furnace of the Chaldeans.” Kugel, Traditions of the Bible, 268.
133 Kugel, Traditions of the Bible, 267. Kugel rightly differentiates the fiery trials of Abraham from the ordeals of his immediate family, noting that “the motif ‘Haran Perished in the Furnace’ is quite separate from ‘Abraham Saved from Fire’; although the two depend on the same pun (Ur =fire). Which came first? The very fact that ‘Haran Perished in the Furnace’ is found in an ancient work like Jubilees, whereas nary a hint of ‘Abraham Saved from Fire’ is found in that text, nor in Ben Sira or the Wisdom of Solomon, might suggest that the latter motif is more recent. Whatever the date of these motifs’ earliest attestations, it seems likely that ‘Abraham Saved from Fire’ developed out of ‘Haran Perished in the Furnace’ rather than vice versa. The original purpose of ‘Haran Perished in the Furnace’ was to clarify the troubling biblical assertion cited earlier, ‘Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans’ (Gen 11:28). Interpreters certainly must have found it strange that Haran should live to adulthood and yet die before his father. Stranger still was the fact that the Bible tells us nothing of the circumstances in which this (apparently unnatural) death occurred. Given this void, the otherwise gratuitous pun, Ur = fire, seemed to offer one valuable piece of information: it supplied at least a hint about how Haran died-he perished in a fire. This was enough to allow interpreters to fill in the remaining details, connecting this ‘fire of the Chaldeans’ to Abraham’s zealous campaign against idolatry.” Kugel, Traditions of the Bible, 268-269.
134 Recall Dan 3: “because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace was so overheated, the raging flames killed the men who lifted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.”
135 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 20.
136 Braude and Kapstein, Tanna Debe Eliyyahu, 62-63.
137 Cf. Apoc. Ab. 15:3: “And he carried me up to the edge of the fiery flame.” Apoc. Ab. 17:1: “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.” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 22.
138 A. Orlov, Dark Mirrors: Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology (Albany: SUNY, 2011) 18-19.
139 Orlov, Dark Mirrors, 18-19.
140 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 3-5.
141 Greenberg, My Share of God’s Reward, 153.
142 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 11.
143 “Pionius said: ‘Would that I were able to persuade you to become Christians.’ The men laughed aloud at him. ‘You have not such power that we should be burnt alive,’ they said. ‘It is far worse,’ said Pionius, ‘to burn after death.’” Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 145.
144 Here the fire appears to embody a special substance that reshapes the seer’s mortal body.
145 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 22.
146 Greek versions of Dan 3:49-50 read: Old Greek: “But an angel of the Lord came down into the furnace to be with Azarias and his companions and shook the flame of the fire out of the furnace and made the inside of the furnace as if a moist breeze were whistling through. And the fire did not touch them at all and caused them no pain or distress.” Theod.: “But the angel of the Lord came down into the furnace to be with Azarias and his companions and shook the flame of the fire out of the furnace and made the inside of the furnace as though a moist breeze were whistling through. And the fire did not touch them at all and caused them no pain or distress.” Pietersma and Wright, New English Translation of the Septuagint, 1001.
147 Bucur points out that "early Christian writers, from Irenaeus to Romanos the Melodist and from Tertullian to Prudentius, consistently identified Christ, the Logos, as the heavenly agent … who entered the furnace and saved the three youths." Bucur, Scripture Re-envisioned, 250.
148 On this, see Bucur, Scripture Re-envisioned, 256-258.
149 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 181. See also the Martyrdom of Montanus and Lucius 3: “Indeed, as we later ascertained, he intended to burn us alive. But the Lord alone can rescue his servants from fire, and in his hand are the words and the heart of the king: he it was who averted from us the insane savagery of the governor … the fire of the overheated ovens was lulled by the Lord’s dew.” Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 215-217.
150 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 22.
151 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 15. In ATh 34 a cloud of fire forms around Thecla “so that neither could the beasts touch her nor could she be seen naked.” It appears that fire plays a protective role here like in the Apocalypse of Abraham and the Martyrdom of Polycarp.
152 Mart. Pion. 2: “Now Pionius knew on the day before Polycarp’s anniversary that they were all to be seized on that day. Being together with Sabina and Asclepiades and fasting, as he realized that they were to be taken on the following day.” Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 137.
153 Mart. Fruct.: “Many out of brotherly affection offered him a cup of drugged wine to drink, but he said: ‘It is not yet the time for breaking the fast.’ For it was still in the fourth hour, and in gaol they duly observed the stational fast on Wednesdays.” Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 179.
154 Thus, Apoc. Ab. 9:7 reports the following command: “But for forty days abstain from every food which issues from fire, and from the drinking of wine, and from anointing [yourself] with oil.” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 17.
155 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 7.
156 Mart. Pol. 14-15 reads: “They did not nail him down then, but simply bound him; and as he put his hands behind his back, he was bound like a noble ram chosen for an oblation from a great flock, a holocaust prepared and made acceptable to God. Looking up to heaven, he said: ‘O Lord, omnipotent God and Father of your beloved and blessed child Christ Jesus.’ … He had uttered his Amen and finished his prayer, and the men in charge of the fire started to light it. A great flame blazed up and those of us to whom it was given to see beheld a miracle.” Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 13-15.
157 Although the original Aramaic text of Dan 3 does not mention the adepts’ prayer, the Greek versions of Dan 3 speak in detail about the Israelite youths’ prayer routines before or during the fiery ordeal. It begins with the portrayal of the protagonists “singing hymns to God and blessing the Lord” in the flames of furnace. Greek versions of Dan 3:24 read: Theod. “So, therefore, Ananias and Azarias and Misael prayed and sang hymns to the Lord.” Old Greek: “And they were walking around in the middle of the flames, singing hymns to God and blessing the Lord.” Pietersma and Wright, New English Translation of the Septuagint, 999. Greek versions of Dan 3:51: Theod. “Then the three as though from one mouth were singing hymns and glorifying and blessing God.” Old Greek: “Now, the three resuming, as though from one mouth, were singing hymns and glorifying and blessing and exalting God.” Pietersma and Wright, New English Translation of the Septuagint, 1001.
158 Van Henten and Avemaria, Martyrdom and Noble Death, 115.
159 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 7. Another description of this episode is found in Mart. Pol. 12, where the fiery ordeal also coincides with the prayer: “For the vision he had seen regarding his pillow had to be fulfilled, when he saw it burning while he was at prayer and turned and said to his faithful companions: ‘I am to be burnt alive.’“ Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 13.
160 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 177.
161 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 181-183.
162 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 215-217.
163 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 165.
164 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 22-23.
165 Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. 74.
166 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 22.
167 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 22.
168 Jacobson, A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum,118. On this tradition, see Kugel, Traditions of the Bible, 262.
169 James VanderKam and William Adler point out that “one form in which millennialist apocalypticism expressed itself in Egypt, as in Asia Minor and North Africa, was the ideology of martyrdom.” J. C. VanderKam and W. Adler, The Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage in Early Christianity (CRINT, 3.4; Assen: Van Gorcum; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996) 168.
170 Moss, The Other Christs: Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom, 127.
171 Moss, The Other Christs: Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom, 128.
172 Musurillo, The Acts of the Christian Martyrs, 111.
173 DeConick, "Traumatic Mysteries: Modes of Mysticism among the Early Christians," (forthcoming).
174 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 23-24.
175 Analyzing Stephen’s vision recorded in Acts 7, Philip Munoa argues that “the author of Acts appears to have used Dan 7 when describing Stephen’s martyrdom. Like Daniel, Stephen is described as a captive visionary, having been seized by a hostile crowd of Jews who have him under their control (Acts 6:8-12). Stephen’s words according to Acts 7:56, ‘I see the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God,’ go on to imply that, like Daniel, he sees both God on his throne, recalling Daniel’s ‘Ancient of Days,’ who was seated on a throne, and the ‘one like a son of man,’ who was in the presence of the enthroned ‘Ancient of Days’ (Dan 7:9-13). Acts 7 is in this way an implicit Merkavah vision.” Munoa, “Jesus, the Merkavah, and Martyrdom in Early Christian Tradition,” 305-306.
176 Munoa, “Jesus, the Merkavah, and Martyrdom in Early Christian Tradition,” 323-324.
177 Munoa, “Jesus, the Merkavah, and Martyrdom in Early Christian Tradition,” 323-324.
178 Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 1.267. On this motif, see also T. L. Putthoff, Ontological Aspects of Early Jewish Anthropology: The Malleable Self and the Presence of God (BRLJ, 53; Leiden: Brill, 2016) 191.
179 Greenberg, My Share of God’s Reward, 153-154.
180 Van Henten and Avemaria, Martyrdom and Noble Death, 116.
181 Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 1.273.
182 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 13. In Dan 3 the protagonists are also bound before their placement in the crematory.
183 E. Castelli, Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004) 53.
184 R. D. Young, Procession before the World. Martyrdom as Public Liturgy in Early Christianity (The Père Marquette Lecture in Theology 2001; Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2001) 24.
185 Musurillo, The Acts of Christian Martyrs, 13.
186 Van Henten, “Reception of Dan 3 and 6,” 157.
187 Origen: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer, and Selected Works (tr. R. Greer; New York: Paulist Press, 1979) 62.
188 Castelli, Martyrdom and Memory, 53.
189 Castelli, Martyrdom and Memory, 53.
190 Braude and Kapstein, Tanna Debe Eliyyahu, 62-63.
191 On this motif, see Kugel, Traditions of the Bible, 322; W. J. Van Bekkum, “The Aqedah and Its Interpretations in Midrash and Piyyut,” in: The Sacrifice of Isaac: The Aqedah (Genesis 22) and Its Interpretations (eds. E. Noort and E. Tigchelaar; TBN, 4; Leiden: Brill, 2002) 91; M. Harl, “La ‘ligature’ d’Isaac (Gen. 22, 9) dans la Septante et chez les Pères grecs,” in: Hellenica et Judaica: Homage à Valentin Nikiprowetzky (eds. A. Caquot, M. Hadas-Lebel, and J. Riaud; Leuven-Paris: Peeters, 1986) 457-472.
192 Milik, The Books of Enoch, 313.
193 A. A. Orlov, The Atoning Dyad: The Two Goats of Yom Kippur in the Apocalypse of Abraham (SJS, 8; Leiden: Brill, 2016) 148-153.
194 Cf. Lev 16:27; 11Q19 col. xxvi 3-9; m. Yoma 6:7. Regarding this rite, Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra notes that “the carcasses of the bull and the sacrificial goat, whose blood was sprinkled in the holy of holies, are then burned by an adjutant at a special holy place outside the temple.” D. Stökl Ben Ezra, The Impact of Yom Kippur on Early Christianity: The Day of Atonement from Second Temple Judaism to the Fifth Century (WUNT, 1.163; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003) 32.
195 Orlov, The Atoning Dyad, 148.
196 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 19.
197 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 23; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 76.
198 See Apoc. Ab. 17:21: “Receive me favorably.” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 23.
199 Kugel, Traditions of the Bible, 269.