Mysteries of the Throne Room

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

Mysteries of the Throne Room

In the Apocalypse of Abraham the seer receives an enigmatic vision encompassing the span of the entire creation from its protological beginnings to its eschatological end. The partiarch’s vision occupies a substantial part of the pseudepigraphon stretching from chapter 19 to the end of the apocalypse. It includes the vision of the several “levels” of created order – including the structure of the celestial realm, the earth and the underworld. This portentous revelation begins in chapter 19 where the Deity’s voice orders the seer to behold the heavenly “levels,”1 situated under his feet, while opening earthly and subterranean realms to the gaze of the visionary.2

It appears that Abraham’s vision encompass two distinctive dimensions – one spatial and another temporal. Although it is difficult sometimes to separate the contents of these two dimensions it is possible that the first part of the disclosure occupying chapters 19-23 emphasize “vertical” spatial aspect of the vision – when the seer gazes from highest point of creation to its lowest level, while remaining chapters staring with chapter 24 emphasize the “horizontal” temporal aspect – when the content of the vision unfolds from the protological to the eschatological points. The initial verses of chapter 24 underlines this transitional switching point between the spatial and temporal aspects of the disclosure. Thus in Apoc. Ab. 24:1-5 both protological and eschatological markers are invoked when the Deity promises to the hero of the faith to tell him “what and how it will be in the last days” and the visionary sees “what had been in the world before.”3

Background of Abraham’s Vision

In order to fully comprehend the scope of the patriarch’s vision we now must recall some of the traditions narrated earlier in the text. As we remember the apocalyptic portion of the Slavonic apocalypse begins with the Deity ordering the hero to prepare sacrifices. It is important that this command for sacrifices coincides in the text with the promise of vision and the revelation of secrets. Thus in Apoc. Ab. 9:5-9 the Deity promises “to set ages” before the patriarch:

Go, take for me a heifer in her third year, and a she-goat in her third year, and ram in his third year, and a turtledove, and a pigeon, and set out for me a pure sacrifice. And in this sacrifice I shall set before you the ages and make you know secrets …. And there shall I show you the ages: things built and firmed, made and renewed by my word.4

It has been previously noticed that the order of the sacrifices offered by Abraham is reminiscent of the account found in Genesis 15 “with an allusion to Gen 22 insofar as the sacrifices in located on a high mountain.”5 These sacrifices of the patriarch appear to play an important part in his transition to the heavenly realm where he later will receive the vision of history and its climatic end. Some sacrificial items even play an unusual technical role in his ascent serving as psychopomps for the seer and his celestial guide Yahoel.6

But what are the exegetical roots of this paramount connection between the sacrifices of the hero and his visions? Already in the biblical account found in Gen 15 it is hinted that Abraham’s sacrifice is coincided with the visionary experience in the “dream”: “As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him” (v. 12); “then a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces” (v. 17).

In this respect George Herbert Box in his study underlines the initial “visionary” background of the biblical account noting that “the apocalyptic part of the book is based upon the story of Abraham’s sacrifices and trance, as described in Gen. xv.”7

Some early extra-biblical Jewish accounts elaborate the patriarch’s trance as a vision. Thus, authors of Jewish pseudepigraphical writings appear to be cognizant of the revelatory context associated with the patriarch’s sacrifices in Gen 15. The author of 2 Baruch 4:2-4 affirms the visionary thrust of the biblical account by saying that God showed Abraham some protological events including the creation of paradise at night between the pieces of the slain animals:

And the Lord said to me: … On the palms of my hands I have carved you? It is not this building that is in your midst now; it is that which will be revealed, with me, that already prepared from the moment that I decided to create Paradise. And I showed it to Adam before he sinned …. All these things I showed to my servant Abraham in the night between the portions of the victims. And again I showed it also to Moses on Mount Sinai….8

The interesting feature of this account is its sacerdotal dimension since the patriarch’s visionary experience is mentioned here in the context of the disclosure of the idea of the true sanctuary. The tradition of the revelation of the pattern (תבנית) of the temple to Moses and David is well known from biblical accounts. Here in 2 Baruch Abraham along with Adam enlisted in the chain of distinguished seers to whom the temple was revealed. It affirms the sacerdotal thrust of Abraham’s vision between the pieces which in the Apocalypse of Abraham receives such an extensive and profound elaboration.

Another Jewish pseudepigraphical account, 4 Ezra 3:15, again affirms of the reception of the divine mysteries by the hero of the faith during his night vision:

And when they were committing iniquity before you, you chose for yourself one of them, whose name was Abraham; and you loved him and to him only you revealed the end of the times, secretly by night.9

This emphasis on eschatological dimension of the disclosures is intriguing here since in the Apocalypse of Abraham the seer too sees the end of everything.10

Pseudo-Philo’s Jewish Antiquities 23:6-7 also appear to deal with eschatological subjects as it provides a vivid description of the grim eschatological destiny of the wicked through the reference to the specific fiery “place” of punishment – the symbolism which might represent a veiled reference to Gehenna:

And I said to him, “Take for me a three-year-old calf and a three-year-old she-goat and a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a dove.” He took them as I commanded him. I cast upon him a deep sleep and encompassed him with fear and <set> before him the place of fire wherein will be expiated the deeds of those commit iniquity against me, and I showed him the torches of fire by which the righteous ones who have believed in me will be enlightened…”11

Targumic and rabbinic interpretations of Genesis account further unfold the hidden revelatory thrust of the patriarch’s dream, bringing some traditions found in the pseudepigrapha on a new symbolic and conceptual level. Thus, Trg. Neof. on Gen 15:17 elaborates the vision of Gehenna, a revelation received by the hero of faith between the parts of the sacrificial animals:

And behold the sun set and there was darkness, and behold Abram looked while seats were being arranged and thrones were erected. And behold, Gehenna which is like a furnace, like an oven surrounded by sparks of fire into the midst of which the wicked fall, because the wicked rebelled against the Law in their lives in this world. But the just, because they observed it, have been rescued from the affliction. All was thus shown to Abram when he passed between these parts.12

The important feature of this description pertinent to our study is that according to the targumic interpretation Abraham sees both “thrones” and “Gehenna” – a peculiar constellation of the revelatory subjects which will play such a portentous role in the paradoxical dualistic framework of the Apocalypse of Abraham, where the patriarch beholds a vision of Gehenna while standing next to the divine throne. As in the Slavonic apocalypse it reaffirms the spatial, vertical axis of the vision of the patriarch who is able to see the highest and lowest points of creation. The horizontal, temporal axis also seems to be invoked in Neofiti. Thus, in this Targum, as in the Apocalypse of Abraham the Deity shows to Abraham the destiny of the wicked and the righteous in the eschatological age.

The already familiar cluster of the distinctive visionary motifs, including the revelation of Gehenna and fiery annihilation of the wicked appear also in another Palestinian Targum, the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Gen 15:17:

When the sun had set and it was dark, behold, Abram saw Gehenna sending up smoke and coals of fire, and sending forth sparks of fire with which to judge the wicked. And behold it passed between these parts.13

In the Fragmentary Targum on Gen 15:17 the patriarch again sees the vision of Gehenna and the upcoming eschatological judgment of the wicked and salvation of the righteous:

And it was: And the sun was about to set, and there was a darkness; and Abram watched as seats were arranged and thrones were set up, and there was Gehenna which was prepared for the wicked in the world to come, like a furnace surrounded by sparks of fire and a flame of fire, into which [all] the wicked fell because they rebelled against the Torah during their lives; but the righteous will be saved, because they observed it [even when] under oppression; all of this was shown to Abraham when he passed between these pieces.14

The theme of the arrangements of the seats and thrones here invokes the memory of peculiar symbolism found in Daniel 7 and hints to the peculiar settings often associated with the imagery of the divine court at the time of the eschatological judgment.

It is also noteworthy that all three aforementioned Palestinian Targumim attest also to the patriarch’s vision of the “four kingdoms” rising against people of Israel, the feature which is reminiscent of Abraham’s vision of the entire history in the Slavonic apocalypse:

When the sun was about to set, a deep sleep was cast upon Abram, and behold four kingdoms were rising to enslave his children: “Dread” – that is Babylon; “Dark” – that is Media; “Great” – that is Greece; “Fell” – that is Edom, which is destined to fall and for which there will be no rising; from there the people of the house of Israel will come up. (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Gen 15:12).15

Yet, unlike in the Slavonic apocalypse where the seer beholds visions of the history and the end after his bodily ascent into heaven, here the patriarch sees his disclosures in a dream. Still, the reinterpretation of biblical story found in the targumic accounts betrays several important conceptual connections with the apocalyptic elaborations of Abraham’s vision found in the pseudepigraphical writings including the Apocalypse of Abraham. While in Genesis 15 the patriarch receives aural revelation from God about the upcoming events, in the Targums, like in the Slavonic apocalypse, the visionary aspect of the revelation is emphasized as the patriarch is now able to behold these historical or eschatological realities.

Mysteries of the Pargod

We already noticed in the course of our investigation the fact that some aforementioned pseudepigraphical and rabbinic accounts attempt to emphasize the sacerdotal thrust of Abraham’s vision. It seems to be not a deliberate and unusual exegetical move since even the original biblical account tries to put emphasis on the sacerdotal settings by telling its readers that the patriarch’s trance occurred during his sacrificial practice. Subsequent pseudepigraphical and rabbinic elaborations of the story preserve this initial cultic emphasis by insisting that patriarch’s vision occurred while passing the pieces of the sacrificial animals. In the Apocalypse of Abraham the sacerdotal elaboration of Abraham’s trance comes on a new, one might say, cosmic level which now envisions the patriarch’s visionary experience as an eschatological reenactment of the central sacerdotal rite of the Jewish religious tradition, the Yom Kippur ordinance. Our previous investigation already explored some of the details of this complex sacerdotal setting including Abraham’s participation in the Scapegoat ritual. We have been able to see that another important aspect of this rite, namely, entrancing a human celebrant into the realm of the divine presence, has not been forgotten by the authors of the Slavonic apocalypse. In this respect it is not coincidental that the scapegoat rite has occurred right before seer’s entrance in the heaven which understood in our text as the temple.

As we are already able to see that in our text the symbolism of the heavenly Temple is shrouded in the paradoxical and often puzzling metaphors which attempt to bring the traditional Ezekelian imagery on a new conceptual level through its radical reformulation with the language of the aural paradigm. It leads to formation of the novel symbolic features which will become so important for the later Jewish mysticism.

Many features of the heavenly sanctuary’s depictions therefore appear to anticipate the future peculiar cultic traits prominent in the Merkabah and Hekhalot traditions, the esoteric lore where the sacerdotal concerns were not only not forgotten but further extensively elaborated. Thus, these traditions often strive to endow their angelic and human protagonists with the high priestly credentials depicting them as the cultic servants in the heavenly sanctuary. Furthermore, like in the Apocalypse of Abraham, these later Jewish traits are permeated with the stories of the sacerdotal initiations in which the angelic guides reveal to human visionaries mysteries of the heavenly worship, preparing them for the service in the celestial sanctuary. Moreover, some of emblematic sacerdotal symbols associated with both the terrestrial and the heavenly sanctuaries themselves become a focus of intense attention and elaboration. Thus, in one of the prominent Hekhalot accounts, the heavenly priest Metatron reveal to his human apprentice R. Ishmael several peculiar features of the heavenly Temple – including the marvelous curtain Pargod – a portentous celestial boundary, which like the veil in the terrestrial sanctuary intends to separate the holy abode of the Deity from the profane realm of the rest of creation. In 3 Enoch this cosmic curtain serves as the medium of revelation by unfolding before the eyes of the seer the whole picture of the human history. It is possible that this tradition of the revelatory instrument represented by the boundary between various realms is already present in its rudimentary form in the Apocalypse of Abraham. We should now proceed to the close investigation of this imagery.

It already has been noted that the peculiar arrangement of the patriarch’s acquisition of revelations in the heavenly throne room is reminiscent of the vision of the Pargod,16 an enigmatic entity which in later Jewish mystical accounts is often depicted as the mystical textile which miraculously reflects the history of all creation. In this respect some perceptive students of the Slavonic apocalypse previously commented on the fact that the unique way in which Abraham receives the vision of the ages is reminiscent of disclosures often revealed to the Hekhalot mystics on the celestial curtain and by the apocalyptic seers on the heavenly tablets.17

Thus, already Gershom Sholem in his seminal work Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism drew attention to a connection between the vision of the end time given to Abraham in the Apocalypse of Abraham and the revelation of Pargod which Metatron discloses to R. Ishmael in Sefer Hekhalot,18 seeing the imagery found in the Slavonic apocalypse as a crucial formative step which anticipated these later Jewish mystical developments. He writes,

Among the most important objects which Metatron describes to Rabbi Ishmael is the cosmic veil or curtain before the throne, which conceals the glory of God from the host of angels. The idea of such a veil appears to be very old; references to it are to be found already in Aggadic passages from the second century. The existence of veils in the resplendent sphere of the aeons is also mentioned in a Coptic writing belonging to the Gnostic school, the Pistis Sophia. Now, this cosmic curtain, as it is described in the Book of Enoch, contains the images of all things which since the day of creation have their pre-existing reality, as it were, in the heavenly sphere. All generations and all their lives and actions are woven into this curtain; he who sees it penetrates at the same time into the secret of Messianic redemption, for like the course of history, the final struggle and the deeds of the Messiah are already pre-existently real and visible. As we have seen, this combination of knowledge relating to the Merkabah and the Hekhalot with a vision of the Messianic end – the inclusion, that is to say, of apocalyptic and eschatological knowledge – is very old. It dominates the Apocalypse of Abraham and the Book of Enoch no less than the various Hekhalot tracts four or eight centuries later.19

Indeed, in 3 Enoch 4520 the translated seventh antediluvian hero reveals to R. Ishmael the heavenly entity on which this visionary like Abraham is able to see the whole span of the human history.21 3 Enoch 45:1-6 reads:

R. Ishmael said: Metatron said to me: Come and I will show you the curtain of the Omnipresent One, which is spread before the Holy One,22 blessed be he, and on which are printed all the generations of the world and all their deeds, whether done or to be done, till the last generation. I went and he showed them to me with his fingers, like father teaching his son the letters of the Torah; and I saw: Each generation and its potentiates; Each generation and its heads; Each generation and its shepherds; Each generation and its keepers…… And I saw: Adam and his generation, their deeds and their thoughts… The Messiah the son of Joseph and his generation, and all that they will do to the gentiles….23

It is curious that the mystical screen of 3 Enoch, like the medium of revelation in the Apocalypse of Abraham, unveils the order of events from the generation of the protological couple until the generation of the Messiah. It is also noteworthy that the vision of the curtain Pargod in 3 Enoch, similar to the developments found in the Slavonic apocalypse, is surrounded with the plethora of the distinctive sacerdotal motifs. Both texts underscore that the recipients of the unique revelation are high priestly figures. The cultic credentials of the main angelic character of the Sefer Hekhalot, Enoch-Metatron, are well known from early Enochic and rabbinic materials.24 It also appears that the angelic protagonist of 3 Enoch and his human apprentice, R. Ishmael, similar to Yahoel and Abraham in the Slavonic apocalypse, are interconnected with each other through the set of the peculiar visionary and sacerdotal motifs that underline the cultic pedigree of the human seer. 25 In this respect it is not coincidental that the recipient of the Pargod’s vision in the Sefer Hekhalot is the tanna who is attested in b. Ber. 7a as a high priest.26 Rachel Elior indicates that in Hekhalot Rabbati, this rabbinic authority is portrayed in terms similar to those used in the Talmud, as a priest burning an offering on the altar.27

Further, it is not coincidental that in 3 Enoch, as in the Apocalypse of Abraham, the revelation of the Pargod occurs in the course of the sacerdotal instruction and more precisely during the reenactment of some Yom Kippur settings when the angelic guide endowed with the priestly credentials leads the human seer into the celestial Holy of Holies. As one can see, both accounts are permeated with the dynamics of sacerdotal instruction and initiation where the revelation of the celestial curtain plays a pivotal role.

Before we proceed to the analysis of the Pargod traditions in the Apocalypse of Abraham, a short excursus into early Jewish Pargod traditions is needed. Although the aforementioned attestations to the Pargod traditions are found in later rabbinic and Hekhalot accounts, scholars previously argued that their early roots are possibly traceable to the imagery of the heavenly tablets found in Mesopotamian and early Enochic materials. Several Second Temple Jewish materials report that these media of revelation, as in later Pargod tradition, are able to communicate to the seer a disclosure of the “ages.” Thus, for example, according to 4Q180 1.1-3 “all ages” are engraved on the heavenly tablets:

Interpretation concerning the ages which God has made: An age to conclude [all that there is] and all that will be. Before creating them he determined [their] operations [according to the precise sequence of the ages,] one age after another age. And this is engraved on the [heavenly] tablets [for the sons of men,] [for] /[a]ll/ the ages of their dominion.28

Moreover as in the aforementioned tradition found in 3 Enoch where the seer is able to see a record of every act of each generation, “whether done or to be done,” the heavenly tablets also able to reveal the record of every individual act. Thus, according to 1 Enoch 81:1-2, by looking at the heavenly tablets the seventh antediluvian hero is able to learn about every human action:

And he said to me: “O Enoch, look at the book of the tablets of heaven, and read what is written upon them, and learn every individual act.” And I looked at everything in the tablets of heaven, and I read everything which was written, and I noted everything.29

In 1 Enoch 93:2 and 106:19 the same visionary is depicted as acquiring the eschatological mysteries through the media of the heavenly tablets – an important subject of the disclosures in later rabbinic Pargod accounts:

And Enoch said: “Concerning the sons of righteousness and concerning the chosen of the world and concerning the plant of righteousness and uprightness I will speak these things to you and make (them) known to you, my children, I Enoch, according to that which appeared to me in the heavenly vision, and which I know from the words of the holy angels and understand from the tablets of heaven.” (1 Enoch 93:2)30
But after this there will be yet greater iniquity than that which was committed on the earth before. For I know the mysteries of the holy ones, for that Lord showed (them) to me and made (them) known to me, and I read (them) in the tablets of heaven. (1 Enoch 106:19). 31

These striking portrayals did not remained unnoticed by the perceptive students of the Pargod traditions. Thus, Hugo Odeberg has previously argued that the depictions of revelations on the heavenly tablets found in early Enochic writings are corresponding to the revelation of the Pargod.32 Recent illuminating studies of Daphna Arbel also highlight the formative importance of the heavenly tablets imagery for the development of the later Jewish mystical accounts about the celestial curtain. 33

Furthermore, the descriptions of the veil of the terrestrial temple found in Philo and Josephus might also attest possible early developments formative for later Pargod imagery. In these traditions the earthly counterpart of the celestial curtain, the veil guarding the terrestrial Holy of Holies, appears to be understood as the fabric that somehow mirrors the entire universe. This view appears to reflect Mesopotamian and biblical notions that the temple “was a microcosm of the entire heaven and earth.”34 Scholars trace the early roots of this idea to such biblical texts as Psalm 78:69 where the psalmist tells his audience that the Deity “designed Israel’s earthly temple to be comparable to the heaven and to the earth.”35

The tradition found in Josephus’s Jewish War attests this belief that the veil somehow represents the entire created order, being like “an image of the universe”:

Before these hung a veil of equal length, of Babylonian tapestry, with embroidery of blue and fine linen, of scarlet also and purple, wrought with marvelous skill. Nor was this mixture of materials without its mystic meaning: it typified the universe. For the scarlet seemed emblematic of fire, the fine linen of the earth, the blue of the air, and the purple of the sea; the comparison in two cases being suggested by their colour, and in that of the fine linen and purple by their origin, as the one is produced by the earth and the other by the sea. On this tapestry was portrayed a panorama of the heavens, the signs of the Zodiac excepted. (Jewish War V. 212–214)36

As we can see the account emphasizes the combination of the colors of the veil that in author’s view symbolize four elements of the universe – fire, earth, air, and water. In Josephus’ reflection on the curtains of the Tabernacle in his Jewish Antiquities one can find a similar portrayal which again alludes to the cardinal elements and corresponding to the colors:

The tapestries woven of four materials denote the natural elements: thus the fine linen appears to typify the earth, because from it springs up the flax, and the purple the sea, since it is incarnadined with the blood of fish; the air must be indicated by the blue, and the crimson will be the symbol of fire. (Ant. III. 183)37

Moreover the early roots of the curtain imagery as a representation of the universe might be reflected not only in the imagery of the paroket, but also in the symbolism of priestly garments. In this respect it is also noteworthy that both in Josephus and in Philo the robe of the celebrant is often paralleled with the veil of the temple, since the high priest is understood as the temple and his garments as the veil of this anthropomorphic sacred entity.38 It parallels later Hekhalot developments where the robe of the chief sacerdotal mediator, often represented by the angel Metatron, is put in correspondence to the curtain. In 3 Enoch 10 the heavenly veil is described in almost identical terms as Metatron’s robe in 3 Enoch 12, being depicted as decorated with “all kinds of lights”:

… R. Ishmael said: Metatron, the Prince of the Presence, said to me: All these things the Holy One, blessed be He, made for me: He made me a Throne, similar to the Throne of Glory. And He spread over me a curtain of splendour and brilliant appearance, of beauty, grace and mercy, similar to the curtain of the Throne of Glory; and on it were fixed all kinds of lights in the universe. (3 Enoch 10:1)39
He made me a garment of glory on which were fixed all kinds of lights, and He clad me in it And He made me a robe of honour on which were fixed all kinds of beauty, splendour, brilliance and majesty. . . . (3 Enoch 12:1-2)40

The early roots of these later Jewish correspondences can be traced to some Second Temple accounts. Thus, in the already mentioned passage from the Third Book of the Jewish Antiquities, Josephus’ portrayal of the veil mirrors his description of the sacerdotal garments of the celebrant:

The high-priest’s tunic likewise signifies the earth, being of linen, and its blue the arch of heaven, while it recalls the lightnings by its pomegranates, the thunder by the sound of its bells. His upper garment, too, denotes universal nature, which it pleased God to make of four elements; being further interwoven with gold in token, I imagine, of the all-pervading sunlight. The essen, again, he set in the midst of this garment, after the manner of the earth, which occupies the midmost place; and by girdle wherewith he encompassed it he signified the ocean, which holds the whole in its embrace. Sun and moon are indicated by the two sardonyxes wherewith he pinned the high-priest’s robe. As for the twelve stones, whether one would prefer to read in them the months or the constellations of like number, which the Greeks call the circle of the zodiac, he will not mistake the lawgiver’s intention. Furthermore, the head-dress appears to me to symbolize heaven, being blue; else it would not have borne upon it the name of God, blazoned upon the crown – a crown, moreover, of gold by reason of that sheen in which the Deity most delights. (Ant. III. 184–187).41

Robert Hayward brings attention to a very similar tendency in Philo by noticing that in De Spec. Leg. I. 95–96 the great Hellenistic exegete “remarks that the garments are a copy of the universe, an ‘icon’ of the all which the high priest wears, so … the whole cosmos may perform the liturgy with him.”42 Philo’s De Spec. Leg. I.84 affirms the same idea even more forcefully:

. . . The high priest is bidden to put on a similar dress when he enters the inner shrine to offer incense . . . it would seem to be a likeness and copy of the universe. This clearly shewn by its design. . . .43

In Life of Moses II.117–21, Philo offers more elaborate description of the high priestly garment:

Such was the vesture of the high priest. But I must not leave untold its meaning and that of its parts. We have in it as a whole and in parts a typical representation of the world and its particular parts. Let us begin with the full-length robe. This gown is all of violet, and is thus an image of the air; for the air is naturally black, and so to speak a robe reaching to the feet, since it stretches down from the region below the moon to the ends of the earth, and spreads out everywhere. And, therefore, the gown, too, spreads out from the breast to the feet round the whole body. At the ankles there stand out from it pomegranates and flower trimming and bells. The earth is represented by the flowers, for all that flowers and grows comes from the earth; the water by the pomegranates or flowing fruit, so aptly called from their flowing juice; while the bells represent the harmonious alliance of these two, since life cannot be produced by earth without water or by water without the substance of earth, but only by the union and combination of both. Their position testifies most clearly to this explanation. For, just as the pomegranates, the flower trimming and the bells are at the extremities of the long robe, so too what these symbolize, namely earth and water, occupy the lowest place in the universe, and in unison with the harmony of the All display their several powers at fixed resolutions of time and at their proper seasons. This proof that the three elements, earth, water and air, from which come and in which live all mortal and perishable forms of life, are symbolized by the long robe with the appendages at the ankles, is supported by observing that as the gown is one, the three said elements are of a single kind, since all below the moon is alike in its liability to change and alteration, and that, as the pomegranates and flower patterns are fastened to the gown, so too in a sense earth and water are suspended on the air, which acts as their support. (De Vit. Mos. II. 117–121)44

It is noteworthy that some parts of the garments of the chief cultic celebrant of the Jewish tradition symbolize not only the earthly realities but also other details of the cosmic order, including the zodiac and planets. Thus, according to Philo, the details of the ephod contain the symbolic references to the celestial bodies:

As for the ephod, consideration following what probability suggests will represent it as a symbol of heaven. For first the two circular emerald stones on the shoulder-pieces indicate, as some think, those heavenly bodies which rule the day and night, namely the sun and the moon, or, as may be said with a nearer approach to truth, the two hemispheres of the sky. For, just as the stones are equal to each other, so is the hemisphere above to that below the earth, and neither is so constituted as to increase and diminish as does the moon. A similar testimony is given by their colour, for the appearance of the whole heaven as presented to our sight is like the emerald. Six names, too, had to be engraved on each of the stones, since each of the hemispheres also divides the zodiac into two, and appropriates six of the signs. (De Vit. Mos. II. 122–123).45

In respect to this tradition Robert Hayward notes,

. . . the emeralds again feature as representing the hemispheres and the divided zodiac in Quis Heres 176; QE II.109. Set into the ephod is a breastplate, Hebrew hôšen. According to De Spec. Leg. I. 86, 94, both these items symbolize the heaven. The breastplate contained twelve precious stones in four rows of three. These are of different colors, and symbolize the circle of the zodiac, each group of three stones indicating the four seasons which recur according to stable principle. (De Vit. Mos. II. 124; De Spec. Leg. I.87)46

Moreover, like in aforementioned depictions from Josephus where the cosmic nature of the terrestrial veil is reflected in its colors symbolizing the four elements of the universe (air, water, fire and earth), Philo’s portrayal of the priestly robe also contains this allusion to the elements and colors of the created order:

Thus is the high priest arrayed when he sets forth to his holy duties, in order that when he enters to offer the ancestral prayers and sacrifices there may enter with him the whole universe, as signified in the types of it which he brings upon his person, the long robe a copy of the air, the pomegranate of water, the flower trimming of earth, the scarlet of fire, the ephod of heaven, the circular emeralds on the shoulder-tops with six engravings in each of the two hemispheres which they resemble in form, the twelve stones on the breast in four rows of threes of the zodiac. . . . he wears a vesture which represents the world. . . . (De Vit. Mos. II. 133–135)47

Although the descriptions found in Philo and Josephus are different in several details,48 they nevertheless share the common ideological tendency in which both the veil of the sanctuary as well as the garments of the highest cultic servant are understood as the reflection of the entire creation.

Wisdom of Solomon 18:24 seems to be reflecting the similar tradition by giving description of Aaron’s priestly robe as containing the depiction of the whole world and “the glories of the fathers”: “For upon his long robe the whole world was depicted, and the glories of the fathers were engraved on the four rows of stones, and thy majesty on the diadem upon his head.”

This projection of the entire creation on the sacerdotal fabric representing the veil of either cosmic or anthropomorphic sanctuary is intriguing as it might represent an important contribution to the concept of the heavenly curtain Pargod, which shows to apocalyptic or Hekhalot seers the entire universe. Yet, it should be noted, that while the early Jewish descriptions of the veil found in Josephus and Philo attempt to underline more abstract cosmological aspects, the later Pargod accounts puts their main emphasis on biblical history, trying to depict generations of famous characters of the protological and Israelite history.

Some early Christian traditions also appear to be cognizant of the Pargod’s imagery.49 Thus, scholars previously noted that in the temptation story found in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is depicted as a recipient of the peculiar disclosure on the cultic mountain when his eschatological opponent shows him the vision of all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. Here in Satan’s ability to show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor one might have a possible reference to a revelatory medium similar to the celestial curtain Pargod, the sacred veil of the divine Face, which in 3 Enoch 45 is described as an entity that “displays” all generations and all kingdoms simultaneously in the same time.

After this short excursus into early Pargod traditions it is time to return to the developments found in the Slavonic apocalypse. Before we proceed to a close analysis of the revelation given to the patriarch, several words must be said about enigmatic settings that surrounds this disclosure. Apoc. Ab. 21:1-2 reports about the Deity’s command which the visionary receives immediately before the disclosure was given to him:

And he said to me, “Look now beneath your feet at the expanse and contemplate the creation which was previously covered over. On this level there is the creation and those who inhabit it and the age that has been prepared to follow it.” And I looked beneath the expanse at my feet and I saw the likeness of heaven and what was therein.50

Here the Deity orders the seer look beneath his feet in order to receive a most recondite revelation. At first such arrangement of the vision appears to be strange and quite different from the customary appearances of the Pargod, the revelatory medium which in rabbinic accounts is usually situated in vertical and not horizontal dimension. Yet, it appears that in the Slavonic apocalypse the curtain of the celestial Holy of Holies, unlike the paroket of the earthly adytum is depicted not as vertical but as horizontal entity. The arrangement of vision underlines the fact that Abraham looks from the heavenly Holy of Holies down on the medium of the divine revelation which situated under his feet. It affirms a paradoxical spatial structure of the celestial sanctuary in which the upper Holy of Holies is separated from the lower realms by the horizontal boundary labeled in the Apocalypse of Abraham as “a spreading under one’s feet” – in Slavonic, простертие ножное.51 This tradition of the horizontal placement of the heavenly veil is not unique to the Slavonic apocalypse and can be found in other Jewish documents. Thus, for example, in some rabbinic traditions one of the heavens is sometimes understood as a veil that separates the celestial Holy of Holies from lower realms/heavens which often are envisioned there as the less sacred chambers of the heavenly Temple. Thus, George MacRae, in his in-depth investigation of the imagery of the heavenly veil,52 draws attention to a passage from the Babylonian Talmud in which the lowest heaven, Wilon (וילון),53 is understood as the cosmic veil.54 The passage from b. Hag. 12b reads:

R. Judah said: There are two firmaments, for it is said: Behold, unto the Lord thy God belongeth heaven, and the heaven of heavens. Resh Lakish said: [There are] seven, namely, Wilon, Rakia’, Shehakim, Zebul, Ma’on, Makon, ‘Araboth. Wilon serves no purpose except that it enters in the morning and goes forth in the evening and renews every day the work of creation, for it is said: That stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in. Rakia’ is that in which sun and moon, stars and constellations are set, for it is said: And God set them in the firmament [Rakia’] of the heaven.55

Here according to the rabbinic tradition the cosmic curtain, represented by the lowest of the seven firmaments,56 Wilon, draws in every morning, revealing the light of day to the world. In the evening the same cosmic veil draws out and hides the daylight.57 The important detail of the Wilon’s description is that this cosmic curtain appears to be understood as decorated with the constellations of stars and planets, including the sun and moon. It recalls aforementioned portrayals of the sacerdotal veils found in Philo and Josephus where both the actual curtain and its anthropomorphic replica, in the form of garments of the highest sacerdotal servant, are said to be decorated with symbols of the Zodiac and the astronomical bodies.

The biblical roots of Wilon’s imagery is usually traced to Isa 40:22, where the Deity is depicted as stretching heavens like a curtain: “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in. . . .”58

Another talmudic passage found in b. Ber. 58b also connects the imagery of the celestial veil with Wilon: “R. Huna the son of R. Joshua said: Wilon was torn asunder and rolled up, showing the brightness of Rakia.”59 For our investigation it is significant that in both talmudic passages the symbolism of Wilon is coincided with the imagery of firmament (רקיע). This connection is important in the light of the tradition found in the Apocalypse of Abraham where the seer beholds the mysteries of creation and human history by gazing on the firmament at his feet:

And he said to me, “Look now beneath your feet at the expanse (простертие) and contemplate the creation which was previously covered over. On this level there is the creation and those who inhabit it and the age that has been prepared to follow it.” And I looked beneath the expanse (простертие) at my feet and I saw the likeness of heaven and what was therein. (Apoc. Ab. 21:1-2)60

It is noteworthy that in the biblical materials the firmament or expanse (רקיע) is often understood as the diaphragm that separates upper waters from lower waters. From Gen 1:6 one learns that the Deity created a firmament (רקיע) in the midst of the waters in order to separate “the waters from the waters.” Some midrashic materials, similar to the Apocalypse of Abraham, also appear to envision the firmament’s separating function as the cosmic curtain by tracing the etiology of the sacerdotal veil to the division of upper and lower waters at the crucial point of creation. Thus, in Midrash Bereshit Rabbati on Exod 26:33 the veil of the terrestrial sanctuary is put in parallel to the firmament as the dividing line between upper and lower waters:

In the Tabernacle the veil divided between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, and in body the diaphragm divides the heart from the stomach, and in the world it is the firmament which divides between the upper waters from lower waters. . . .61

Numbers Rabbah 12:13 preserves the similar conceptual development:

. . . It is written, In the beginning God created the heaven, etc. (Gen. I, 1), and it is written, Who stretchest out the heaven like a curtain (Ps. CIV, 2), while of the Tabernacle it is written, And thou shalt make curtains of goat’s hair for a tent over the Tabernacle, etc. (Ex.XXVI, 7). It is written in connection with the second day, Let there be a firmament . . . and let it divide, etc. (Gen. I, 6), and of the Tabernacle it is written. The veil shall divide unto you (Ex. XXVI, 33). Of the third day we read, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together (Gen. I, 9). . . .62

The passage from the Book of Zohar underlines the sacerdotal significance of the firmament as the curtain by telling that it separates the more sacred realm from the less sacred:

Said R. Judah: “From this we learn that every division (of opinion) in which both sides act for the glory of heaven endures, since here we have a division which was for the sake of heaven. Through the firmament the heavens were established, as it is written, ‘and God called the firmament heaven,’ since this divides the more from the less holy, like the curtain in the Tabernacle.” (Zohar 1.33a)63

It appears that the aforementioned passages from Midrash Rabbah and the Zohar one can find a peculiar parallelism in which the dividing line between upper and lower waters is understood as the cosmic veil. This rabbinic understanding of the curtain as the cosmic diaphragm between more sacred upper regions and less sacred lower realms, a boundary represented either by lowest heaven or firmament appears to have quite early conceptual roots. George MacRae draws attention to some Nag Hammadi materials in which the cosmic veil is understood as the threshold that separates the divine Pleroma from the world of matter. This belief is accentuated, for example, in the Hypostasis of Archons 22 which tells that “. . . a veil exists between the world above and the realms that are below; and shadow came into being beneath the veil; and that shadow became matter; and that shadow was projected apart.”64 Here is like in the Jewish texts attesting to the Wilon imagery the veil is understood as the horizontal entity dividing the divine realm from its material “shadow.” Another passage from the Hypostasis of Archons 28 again envisions the cosmic veil as the dividing border between upper and lower abodes: “And Sophia and Zoe caught him up and gave him charge of the seventh heaven, below the veil between above and below.”65 In these heterodox Christian traditions, similar to the aforementioned rabbinic developments where the lowest firmament Wilon serves as the macrocosmic veil, the lowest region/aeon of the divine Fullness, Sophia, is often understood as the curtain separating the realm of the Pleroma from the realm of humans. Thus, another Nag Hammadi text, On the Origin of the World 4, informs its readers, “. . . she (Sophia) functioned as a veil dividing mankind from the things above. . . .”66

Now it is time to return to the Slavonic text. Horizontal spatial arrangement of the macrocosmic “veil” in the Apocalypse of Abraham, in the view of the sacerdotal conceptual thrust of the text, might have not only cosmological but also cultic significance. Such arrangement might suggest that lower realms portrayed in the patriarch’s vision can be understood as exterior chambers of the temple of the universe, which corresponds to the less sacred chambers of the terrestrial sanctuary known as devir and hekhal.67 Moreover it appears that in the Apocalypse of Abraham the courtyard of this cosmic temple might include not only the earthy realm but also the underworld.

As we recall from his exalted position in the celestial Holy of Holies, the patriarch beholds not only events of the earthly abode but also realities of subterranean realm when Abraham sees the Leviathan and its surroundings. If it is indeed the case, these developments might correspond to a tradition found in Josephus68 and rabbinic accounts,69 in which the heaven, earth and subterranean realm of the sea are understood respectively as corresponding to the Holy of Holies and less sacred chambers of the temple.70

Medium of Revelation

Several words must be said about the unusual ways in which the miraculous horizontal medium under the feet of the patriarch unveils its revelations. As we have already learned in this study, in later Jewish mysticism the Pargod is not only as one of the most curious revelatory subjects received by the visionaries but also, and more importantly, it is the most effective tool of the revelation – an instrument which allows the Deity or his vice-regent to unfold revealed subjects to a seer more expeditiously and effectively. It can be seen as a sort of celestial presentation devise with help of which the Deity or his appointee can quickly and masterfully make his point while initiating a human recipient into the content of the protological or eschatological mysteries or disclose other complex pivotal subjects including, for example, the revelation of the Torah. Thus, in the Alphabet of R. Aqiba the Pargod is attested as the medium of revelation which displayed to Moses a preview of the Torah.71 In Jewish mystical accounts the heavenly curtain is predestined to reveal to human seers the most esoteric secrets of the universe. Yet, it appears that not only humans but the Deity himself can benefit from such an effective instrument. Thus, the Pargod with its remarkable ability to reflect everything appears to be used occasionally by the Deity as a kind of a celestial iPad that helps the creator to oversee the totality of his creation simply by beholding its mystical embroidery. In this respect it is not coincidental that some later rabbinic accounts suggest that the embroidery in fact is present on the both sides of the curtain in such a way that not only the seer but also the Deity has access to the picture. Thus, in Pirke de R. Eliezer 4 the celestial veil seems to be envisioned as a tool which gives the Deity a unique opportunity to monitor the earthly realm:

He [God] has a scepter of fire in His hand and a veil is spread before Him, and His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, and the seven angels, which were created first, minister before Him within the veil, and this (veil) is called Pargod.72

As one can see, the Deity has an access to the revelation almost in the same manner as an apocalyptic visionary. The curtain thus provides the universal meeting point between the “reality” of the Deity and the seer.

In the Apocalypse of Abraham where the patriarch, like Metatron, is allowed to be present on God’s side of the curtain,73 the Deity is able to illustrate his points with the help of the portrayals appearing on the firmament. They serve as an important vehicle of disclosure which allows the Deity to unfold effectively his revelation to the seer often offering his own interpretations and explanations. The reality of the unique revelatory medium in the Apocalypse of Abraham thus endows the Deity with the role of an interpreting angel.

Another important conceptual point that brings the depictions found in the Apocalypse of Abraham very close to the Pargod tradition is that the visionary sees not just a revelation, but a revelation depicted on a physical medium. In this respect it is intriguing that the text repeatedly refers to the disclosures received by the seer as “pictures” or “portrayals” (Slav. образы). Thus, in Apoc. Ab. 21:7 the seer refers to his visions as portrayals: “And I saw there a great crowd of men, and women, and children, and half of them <on the right side of the portrayal (образа), and half of them> on the left side of the portrayal (образъства).”74 In Apoc. Ab. 22:1 a reader encounters this description again: “And I said, ‘Eternal Mighty One! What is this picture (образование) of creation?’ ”75

Moreover, in several other passages the Deity himself forces the seer to behold the “picture.” It looks like both the human and divine recipients are situated before the same screen that allows them to access the shared reality.76 The Deity interacting with the seer through the medium of the Pargod is reminiscent of the depictions found in Sefer Hekhalot where Enoch-Metatron’s revelation of the curtain to R. Ishmael is described as a father’s teaching of the letters of the Torah to his son: “I went and he [Enoch-Metatron] showed them [the generations] to me with his fingers, like a father teaching his son the letters of the Torah….”77

Furthermore, some descriptions found in the Slavonic apocalypse suggest that the unique revelatory medium allows the patriarch to behold several “events” simultaneously on one picture. Such spatial arrangement allows the seer to look in the different corners of the “screen” and see different revelations. Thus in Apoc. Ab. 23:7 the seer reports: “And I looked at the picture, and my eyes ran to the side of the garden of Eden.”78 Here, as in the Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer where the Deity is able to move his gaze from one part of the picture of creation to another, the seer is also able to see different “historical” events at the same time.

Other illustrations of the same unusual properties of the revelatory medium that allow an “operator” to navigate between different spatial parts of the “disclosure” can be found also in Apoc. Ab. 22:3-5, where the Deity himself while revealing subjects draws the visionary’s attention to the right and left portions of the depiction:

And I said, “O Lord! Mighty and Eternal! Who are the people in the picture on this side and on that?” And he said to me, “These who are on the left side are a multitude of tribes who were before and who are destined to be after you: some for judgment and justice, and others for revenge and perdition at the end of the age. Those on the right side of the picture are the people set apart for me of the people [that are] with Azazel. These are the ones I have destined to be born of you and to be called my people.”79

In the Slavonic apocalypse the “pictures” revealed by the Deity to the seer appear to represent not merely “still images” but rather “dynamic” realities, “swaying pictures” which are similar to the “movie clips” in which the seer is able to see the progression of the events:

And I looked and saw, and behold, the picture swayed, and a heathen people went out from its left side and they captured those who were on the right side: the men, women, and children. (Apoc. Ab. 27:1)80

Here the personages of the human history undergo historical and eschatological transitions, which are depicted as moving from the left portion of the “screen” to its right part.81 Such dynamic presentations are typical in the depiction of the Pargod’s revelations in Sefer Hekhalot, which has been often compared by scholars to “a motion picture film depicting the history of Israel.”82

Mystical Features of Patriarch’s Revelation

It is now time to examine more closely some mystical details of the revelation given to the patriarch during his vision in the throne room and their paradigmatic significance for development of the early Jewish mysticism.

One of the intriguing features of this disclosure is that from his most exalted position near the abode of the Living Creatures of the divine throne the patriarch receives an enigmatic vision of the creature of a quite different level – a monster called Leviathan.83 This paradoxical juxtaposition of the emblematic “animals” of two realms appears to be not coincidental as it provides important reaffirmation for a paradoxical correspondence between the lower and upper domains, the parallelism that is already hinted at in the double duties of Abraham’s celestial guide in chapter 10 of the Slavonic apocalypse. As we remember from our study, that chapter unveils the visionary’s initial encounter with his celestial guide, Yahoel. From Apocalypse of Abraham 10:9-10 one learns that the Deity appointed the great angel to rule not only over the Living Creatures of the divine throne but also over the Leviathans. Here, again we have an enigmatic juxtaposition of the iconic creatures of the upper and lower domains. It appears to be not coincidental that the beginning and the end of Abraham’s initiation into the heavenly mysteries are both marked by this constellation of peculiar traditions. 84

In view of these connections it is worthwhile to examine Abraham’s vision of the lower realm more closely. As we remember during his contemplation of the mysteries of creation, Abraham looks down at the expanse and beholds the lower domain resting on the Leviathan. The focal point of this puzzling disclosure is the Leviathan himself, 85 depicted in the vision as the cosmic foundation of the lower realm. References to the Leviathan’s “holding” and the idea that “the created world (universe) … lies upon him” are especially important.86 These depictions that portray the Leviathan as the “holder” and “the foundation” of the lower created order are intriguing. From the highest point of everything, the throne of the Deity, held by the efforts of the Living Creatures, the hero of the faith beholds another mysterious “holder”87 of cosmic dimensions in the lowest point of creation, the abyss. This curious correspondence between the upper and lower points of the universe with their respective “sustainers” or “holders” does not appear coincidental. Similar to the Hayyot, the Living Creatures that are predestined to sustain the upper foundation of the Deity’s throne, Leviathan, too, can be seen as the pivotal holder of the lower foundation.

In light of these correspondences, there seems to be no coincidence that earlier in the text, in the introduction of Yahoel’s duties, the Leviathans are mysteriously paired with the Hayyot, with a suggestion that the Leviathans might fulfill the same function in the lower realms as do the Hayyot in the upper realm. The parallelism between the Hayyot and the Leviathans in the Apocalypse of Abraham is also reinforced in the already mentioned terminology of “likeness,” when the seer beholds the realm of Leviathan as the “likeness of heaven.”

The positioning of the enigmatic conjecture of the realms of the Chariot and the realm of the Leviathan(s) at the starting and final points of the patriarch’s initiation into the heavenly secrets appears to be deliberate and might be of special significance to the writers or editors of the text. The conjecture appears to reveal some similarities with the Jewish understanding of esoteric subjects in some pseudepigraphical and rabbinic materials. This correspondence, therefore, should be explored more closely in the light of relevant pseudepigraphical and rabbinic sources.

Secrets of the Hayyot and Secrets of the Behemoth and Leviathan

It is possible that the juxtaposition of the Hayyot and the Leviathans amid the revelation of secrets is intended to identify two subjects of esoteric knowledge, one of which is tied to the vision of the Chariot and other to the vision of the creation. An important question arises, however: how unusual is this conjunction of the secrets of the realms of the Merkavah and the realm of the Leviathans in Jewish pseudepigraphical and rabbinic literature?

A well-known formative tradition in Mishnah Hagigah 2 outlines several fields of esoteric knowledge delimiting strict boundaries for their study. The mishnaic passage specifically mentions the Account of Creation and the Account of the Chariot, saying that “the forbidden degrees may not be expounded before three persons, nor the Story of Creation before two, nor the Chariot before one alone, unless he is a Sage that understands of his own knowledge.”88 These two important esoteric subjects, one tied to Ma’ase Merkavah and the other to Ma’ase Bereshit, will eventually form prominent interpretive traditions in later Jewish mystical speculations. It is intriguing that in later rabbinic materials the theme of the great primordial monsters, the Leviathan and Behemoth, became very important, and it was often developed in the course of Ma’ase Bereshit speculation. Further, the great monsters became an emblematic feature of the Account of Creation to the point that some rabbinic passages even speak, not about Ma’ase Merkavah and Ma’ase Bereshit, but about the secrets of the Chariot and the secrets of the monsters. One of the examples of this peculiar juxtaposition is Midrash Rabbah on the Song of Songs 1:28 where the revelation of the secrets of the Chariot is conflated with the revelation of the secrets of the Behemoth and Leviathan. The text reads: “For whence was Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite to know how to reveal to Israel the secrets of Behemoth and Leviathan, and whence was Ezekiel to know how to reveal to them the secrets of the Chariot. Hence it is written: The King hath brought me into his [secret] chambers.”89

In his analysis of the first part of this passage about the secrets of Leviathan and Behemoth, Michael Fishbane suggests, “we are not informed just what this disclosure consists of; but it undoubtedly involves the esoteric nature of these monsters as part of the work of creation, since this instruction90 is mentioned together with the fact that Ezekiel will reveal to them the secrets of the Chariot.”91 Fishbane argues convincingly that the lore about the great monsters often serves in the rabbinic materials as an important marker of the subject of the Ma’ase Bereshit that is often juxtaposed there with the subject of the Ma’ase Merkavah.92

Why then did the account of the great monsters play such a paradigmatic role within the account of creation? It appears that already in the first chapter of Genesis the importance of creating the great creatures of the sea is highlighted through the usage of the verb ברא, which is used only in relation to the entire creation in Genesis 1:1 and then to great creatures of the sea in v. 21 and to humans in v. 27.

The later Zoharic tradition underlines the importance of this usage by suggesting that creation of the great monsters paradoxically repeats the whole creation, functioning as a kind of a negative counterpart of the entire created order.93 Thus, in the Zohar II. 34b Rabbi Shimon says the following: “It is written; ‘In the beginning God created. . .’ and also ‘And God created the great dragons.’ This indicates that all the ten acts of Creation had their counterpart in these ten rivers,94 on each of which one of the dragons breathes heavily. . . . Verily, though the members of the Fellowship are students of the story of Creation, having knowledge of its wonders . . . yet even among them there are few who know how to interpret it in connection with the mystery of the great dragon.”95

Further, in some Zoharic materials, similar to the developments in the Apocalypse of Abraham, not only Leviathans but also the Hayyot serve as the conceptual marker for the account of creation, positing there is a symbolic sign for the account of the Chariot. Moreover, in these materials one can find a peculiar view very similar to the Apocalypse of Abraham, in which the monsters are envisioned as counterparts to the holding angels.96 Thus, for example, Zohar I.34b juxtaposes esoteric knowledge about the Hayyot and Leviathans in which the sea monsters are envisioned as the Living Creatures of the lower realm.97 Zohar II.48b again conflates tradition about the Hayyot with the tradition about the Leviathans. In this comparison, as in the Apocalypse of Abraham, the Leviathans are understood as the lower counterparts of the Hayyot.98

It should be noted that the speculations found in the Zohar, similar to the Apocalypse of Abraham, repeatedly include the symmetrical correspondence between the two realms situated above and beneath, which are marked by their respective emblematic creatures, the Hayyot and the Leviathans.

It might be tempting to view these later rabbinic testimonies about the Hayyot and the Leviathans as inventions that have little to do with the pseudepigraphical traditions about the great monsters. A close analysis of the early sources, however, demonstrates that already in some Second Temple materials esoteric knowledge about the Leviathans became juxtaposed with the secrets of the Chariot. These important developments should be explored in detail. We will begin our investigation of this early evidence by returning to the already mentioned tradition from Mishnah Hagigah. There one can find a cryptic warning on the study of esoteric subjects: “Whosoever gives his mind to four things it was better for him if he had not come into the world – what is above? what is beneath? what was beforetime? and what will be hereafter.”99

What this formula means has long been debated among scholars.100 Some argue that this mishnaic formulation of esoteric subjects encompasses two dimensions, first spatial, realms above and beneath, and second, temporal, which includes protological and eschatological markers (what was beforetime and what will be hereafter.) Others recognized in the formula only one spatial dimension, suggesting, for example, that the mishnaic expression might intend to describe the dimension of the divine body.101 The provenance of the formula was also debated in an attempt to trace the roots of the mishnaic tradition to biblical, pseudepigraphical or gnostic materials. It has been also suggested that mishnaic formulae might stem from Mesopotamian materials.102

It appears also that the mishnaic formula reflects some settings found in early Jewish visionary accounts. If so, the formula found in m. Hag. might serve as the crucial link between the early visionary traditions contemplating the subjects of the account of creation and the account of the Chariot and later rabbinic developments. Let us first turn our attention to some early Jewish apocalyptic accounts.

Scholars have previously noted that the mishnaic formula appears to be reminiscent of the description of esoteric subjects conveyed in a vision to Moses in the Exagoge of Ezekiel the Tragedian.103 Preserved in fragmentary form by several ancient sources,104 Exagoge 67–90 describes Moses’ vision on Mount Sinai. In his dream, the seer beholds a noble man seating on the great throne with a crown and a large scepter in his left hand. In the course of the vision the noble man vacates his exalted seat and instructs Moses to sit on it, transferring to him his crown. Then Moses is given a vision of the whole world: he has been enabled to see above the heaven and beneath the earth. Further, a multitude of stars fall before Moses’ knees as he counts them. The stars parade before the dreaming prophet like a battalion of men.105

After the son of Amram receives this revelation, his mysterious interpreter, Raguel, informed the seer that his vision of the whole earth — the world below and above the heavens — signifies that he will see what is, what has been and what shall be. Several scholars have previously suggested that the formula is closely connected to the rabbinic formulation from Mishnah Hagigah 2. It encompasses a distinctive spatial dimension, the world below and the world above, as well as a temporal dimension, “what is, what has been and what shall be.” It is interesting that the Exagoge is not unique in its attempt to connect Moses with enigmatic formulae. A later rabbinic tradition also ties Moses with the mishnaic formulation. Thus, in Exodus Rabbah 3:1 one can find the following utterance: “Moses did not do well in hiding his face, for had he not done so, God would have revealed to him what is above and what is below, what has happened and what will happen.”106

Let us return to the Exagoge. Scholars’ suggestion that the expression found there is reminiscent of the mishnaic formulation should be examined more closely in the context of the entire passage. The first thing that catches the eye here is that in the Exagoge the seer beholds the vision of the Chariot, represented by the divine throne with an anthropomorphic figure on it. Further, in the course of the vision the seer himself becomes enthroned on the Merkavah. Scholars have previously argued that the Exagoge’s passage represents a specimen of the Merkavah mysticism.107 It is significant that, similarly to the expression found in Mishnah Hagigah, the Exagoge formulation is also conveyed in the context of the Merkavah tradition.

Another noteworthy detail is that the Exagoge passage mentions that Moses had a vision of things not only above the heaven but also “beneath the earth.” This reference to the secrets of the underworld is intriguing and it is possible that the sentence following it that deals with the “stars” is somehow connected with mysteries of the underworld. As may be remembered, the text tells that Moses saw a multitude of stars falling before his knees as he counted them and parading before him like a battalion of men. It has been previously noted that the Exagoge passage might be influenced by the Enochic traditions and attempts to rewrite the Enochic motifs from the Mosaic perspective.108 In view of the Enochic connections, the imagery of the stars falling before Moses invokes the memory of the peculiar symbolism found in some Enochic writings where stars often signify the fallen Watchers. Moreover, in some Enochic texts, the Watchers imprisoned in the underworld or lower heavens are sometimes depicted as “falling down” before the seventh antediluvian hero during his visitation of the regions of their punishment. One of the specimens of this tradition is found in 2 Enoch where the fallen Watchers are depicted as bowing down before the patriarch Enoch.

This reference to the relevant Enochic developments and their connection with the enigmatic formulas found in the Exagoge and Mishnah Hagigah does not seem far-fetched, and it is possible that the early forms of the formula might have originated inside Enochic lore, which portrays the seventh antediluvian hero traveling through the upper and lower regions and receiving knowledge about the protological and eschatological events. Later Enochic traditions often connect the knowledge received by Enoch-Metatron to the formulations echoing the famous mishnaic expression. Thus, in chapter 10 of Sefer Hekhalot the Deity orders the Prince of Wisdom and the Prince of Understanding to instruct the visionary in “the wisdom of those above and of those below in the wisdom of this world and of the world to come.”109

In view of these connections, I have previously proposed110 that already in the early Enochic lore one can find a very similar designation of esoteric knowledge reminiscent of the formula from Mishnah Hagigah. Thus, in chapter 60111 of the Book of the Similitudes, which deals with an interesting constellation of the esoteric subjects, the interpreting angel reveals to the visionary a secret described as “first and last in heaven, in the heights, and under the dry ground” (1 Enoch 60:11).112 This remarkable saying is reminiscent of both the above-mentioned tradition from the Exagoge and the expression from Mishnah Hagigah. Similar to the Exagoge and the mishnaic formulation, it appears to encompass the temporal (“first and last”) and spatial (“in the height and under the dry ground”) dimensions. The reference to the first and last is especially noteworthy as it appears to be laden with protological and eschatological overtones.

It is even more intriguing that the formula found in the Similitudes 60:11 is situated in the narrative dealing with the revelation of two peculiar esoteric subjects already mentioned in our study, the Account of the Chariot (1 Enoch 60:1-6) and the Account of the Leviathan and the Behemoth (1 Enoch 60:7-10). In view of these peculiar correlations, we should explore chapter 60 more closely.

In 1 Enoch 60:1-6 the seer, like Moses in the Exagoge, describes his vision of the Deity sitting on the throne of his glory and his own transformation during this vision.113 This visionary Merkavah account is situated right before the tradition about two primordial monsters. The text then talks about the eschatological time when the two protological creatures will be separated from one another: a female monster Leviathan will dwell in the depths of the sea above the springs of the waters and a male monster Behemoth will occupy an immense desert named Dendayn.114

It is intriguing that the authors of the Book of the Similitudes, like the authors of the Apocalypse of Abraham and Midrash Rabbah on the Song of Songs attempt to conflate two esoteric subjects, the Merkavah vision and the vision of Leviathan and Behemoth. This constellation is then followed in the Enochic pseudepigraphon by the enigmatic expression about the secret described as “first and last in heaven, in the heights, and under the dry ground.”

It should be also noted that in 1 Enoch 60 the formula is surrounded with a rich, distinctive vocabulary that is applied not only to the disclosure of secrets but also their concealment. Thus, just before the formula is given in v. 11, in v. 10 an angel tells the seer that he will receive knowledge of the secret things, to the degree it is permitted. This dialectic of revelation and concealment is reminiscent of traditions in the Mishnah Hagigah with its aesthetics of concealment.115

It is time to return to the Slavonic apocalypse. Our study points to the possibility that understanding the mysteries found in the Apocalypse of Abraham might constitute a formative conceptual background for the later formulations of esoteric subjects found in m. Hag. and other rabbinic materials. It might point to a possible visionary background of the early formulations of esoteric subjects reflected in the passage from m. Hag. and might support some previous insights of the scholars who argued for the continuity between the early apocalyptic visionary accounts and later rabbinic mystical speculations about the Account of Creation and the Account of the Chariot.

In the view of the mishnaic formula that speaks about the mysteries encompassing “what is above? what is beneath? what was beforetime? and what will be hereafter” it is noteworthy that in the throne room the hero of the faith receives the revelation that exactly follows this pattern. Thus, in Apoc. Ab. the visionary sees what is above: the Chariot and angelic hosts (chs. 18 and 19); then what is beneath: earth and underworld (chs. 21-23). This “spatial” disclosure then follows chronological revelation. The beginning of this revelation of the temporal dimension starts in Apoc Ab. 24:4 where Abraham utters, “And I looked and saw there what had been in the world before.”116 Further, in ch. 24 he beholds what “was beforetime”: “And I saw, as it were, Adam, and Eve with him, and with them the Evil Adversary and Cain, who acted lawlessly because of the Adversary, and the murdered Abel, the perdition brought and given to him through the Lawless One.”117 Then this protological disclosure follows in chapters 27-31 with the eschatological revelation when the seer beholds “what will be hereafter” – the destruction of the temple, the exile, the advent of the false and true messiahs, judgment and salvation, punishment of heathens and the gathering of Israel. This peculiar unfolding of the esoteric subjects that follows the formulae from m. Hag. is intriguing.

It is also noteworthy that the mystery of creation and the mystery of the Chariot are surrounded in the Slavonic apocalypse by the peculiar cluster of the sacerdotal motifs and themes. It points to the possibility that this cluster of peculiar esoteric traditions about creation and the Chariot stemmed from the revelatory context that was given to the celebrant of the Yom Kippur ceremony when he was able to see not only the place of the divine presence but also a picture of the entire creation.


To conclude our study we must again draw our attention to the unique role that the Slavonic apocalypse plays in the history of early Jewish mysticism through its novel and radical reformulation of the central sacerdotal symbol of the Merkabah tradition — the heavenly Temple represented by the divine Chariot.118

A broad scholarly consensus now affirms the significance of the Apocalypse of Abraham for the history of early Jewish mystical developments. Moreover, many researchers see this enigmatic writing as a manifestation of an important religious paradigm shift, considering it to be a conceptual bridge119 between the worlds of Jewish apocalypticism and early Jewish mysticism.120 Indeed, as we saw in this study the Abrahamic pseudepigraphon opens before the eyes of its readers an impressive cluster of the unique motifs formative to the symbolic universe of early Jewish mysticism. The intensity and scope of this arcane lore is truly breathtaking, to the point that some scholars envision the Slavonic apocalypse as a sort of esoteric manual par excellence – which attempts, through the unfolding story of the famous hero of the faith, to describe the steps of initiation into a mystical praxis. Indeed, the portrayals of Abraham’s initiations appear to be laden with paramount formative significance for the esoteric patterns found in later rabbinic accounts. In this respect Gershom Scholem notes,

. . . in the Apocalypse of Abraham . . . Abraham is . . . the prototype of the novice who is initiated into the mystery, just as he appears at the end of the Sefer Yetsirah, the ‘Book of Creation.’ . . . In the Apocalypse we find him being initiated into the mysteries of the Merkabah, just as in the Sefer Yetsirah he is allowed to penetrate into the mysteries of its cosmogonical speculations. . . .121

Scholars’ emphasis on the role of the Apocalypse of Abraham as a compendium of mystical initiation formative to the development of early Jewish mysticism is significant, yet for our study it is also important to underline that this initiation takes the form of sacerdotal instruction when the seer becomes not merely a mystical adept but a high priestly figure. In this respect the Slavonic apocalypse can also be seen as an esoteric manual of sacerdotal initiation, when the practitioner is able to learn and then to re-enact the actions of the high priest in crucial liturgical ceremonies, including the rites of the central festival of the Jewish tradition, which is known to us as Yom Kippur.

This observation again brings our attention to a portentous detail that has so often been missed in the previous scholarly analysis of the formative mystical patterns found the Slavonic apocalypse: namely, the importance of priestly and liturgical dimensions for facilitation of the transition from apocalypticism to mysticism. This cultic dimension of the unique mystical mold became especially transparent in the central disclosure that was revealed to the hero of the Slavonic apocalypse, the vision of the celestial Chariot, the revelation where mystical and sacerdotal aspects appear to be closely tied together.

The ancient apocalyptic symbol of the great prophetic book receives here a novel dramatic reformulation both in its visionary and cultic aspects, leading the Merkabah tradition from its apocalyptic stage into a new mystical dimension.

It has already been emphasized in the course of our study that the Apocalypse of Abraham enhances the symbolism of the Chariot trend by adding to the traditional imagery of the visionary paradigm some new features borrowed from the aural paradigm of the Shem tradition. This conceptual reformulation of the classic visionary mold with novel aural imagery is laden with paramount significance for later Jewish mystical developments where the seers’ ascent to the Merkabah is often accompanied by theurgical practices. In this respect Abraham’s ascent to the Merkabah via his song anticipates the future appropriations of the theurgical means that will play a prominent role in later rabbinic and Hekhalot accounts.122 Here again the liturgy is closely intertwined with the mystical praxis, revealing the cultic backbone of the visionary experience.

Another important lesson that the Apocalypse of Abraham holds for the later Jewish mysticism is its emphasis on the sacerdotal dimension of the demonic realm. This development in itself constitutes a formative conceptual shift which endows the “other side” with forceful cultic significance. In this respect the Slavonic apocalypse develops some earlier traditions found in prophetic and apocalyptic writings like 1 Enoch, where the chief antagonist of the Enochic tradition, Asael, is envisioned as the cosmic scapegoat. The further eschatological reformulation of the scapegoat ritual found in the Slavonic apocalypse will play a formative role for the later Jewish mystical developments where the Yom Kippur rite is often understood as an allotment of a special portion of sacrifices to the demonic realm.

As has been shown, the Apocalypse of Abraham offers a complex mix of the Kavod and Shem conceptual developments where promulgation of the theology of the divine Name and the praxis of the divine Voice become linked with the theophanic imagery from the priestly source, Ezekiel, 1 En. and some other Second Temple accounts. The consequences of this polemical encounter between two important revelatory trends appear to have exercised lasting influence on both traditions. The developments found in the Slavonic apocalypse should not be interpreted simply as a rejection of anthropomorphic theism through the aural paradigm of the divine Name. Rather, they should be seen as an adaptation of Merkabah imagery into the framework of this aural paradigm that has led to the construction of a new symbolic universe in which two trends can coexist with each other. This synthesis is intriguing and might provide important insights for understanding the character of later Jewish mystical developments where the traditions about the divine Form and the divine Name appear to undergo creative conflation. The famous protagonist of the later Hekhalot and Shicur Qomah accounts, the supreme angel Metatron, is often depicted in these materials as the celestial choirmaster who instructs the Living Creatures on fitting ways of praising the Deity. These later mystical traditions also portray him as יהוה הקטן,123 the lesser manifestation of the divine Name, the office which is reminiscent of the role of Yahoel in the Apocalypse of Abraham.124

These later conceptual developments bring to mind Scholem’s hypothesis about the existence of two streams that in his opinion constitute the background of the Metatron figure: one connected with Yahoel’s figure and the other with the figure of the seventh antediluvian patriarch Enoch.125 The roles and offices of these two apocalyptic heroes, who can in many ways be seen as exemplars of the revelatory paradigms of the divine Form and the divine Voice, later became reconciled in the figure of the chief protagonist of the Merkabah lore. In view of these important developments attesting to the afterlife of the Shem and the Kavod trends in the later Hekhalot mysticism, the changes that take place in the Apocalypse of Abraham should not be underestimated. It is possible that the Slavonic apocalypse, in which the mystical praxis of the divine Name was unfolded amid the familiar Merkabah imagery, can be seen as an important conceptual nexus wherein the traditions of the divine Name become polemically engaged with the visionary Merkabah paradigm, thus anticipating the process of the gradual unification of both conceptual streams in the later Jewish mystical lore.

1 Cf. Apoc. Ab. 19:4 “And while he was still speaking, and behold, the levels opened, <and> there are the heavens under me.” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 25.

2 Cf. Apoc. Ap. 21:1-2: “And he said to me, ‘Look now beneath your feet at the expanse and contemplate the creation which was previously covered over. On this level there is the creation and those who inhabit it and the age that has been prepared to follow it.’ And I looked beneath the expanse at my feet and I saw the likeness of heaven and what was therein.” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 26.

3 “And he said to me, ‘Such is the near future of the nations of peoples which are set apart for you after you from your progeny, as you will see in the picture, what is destined to be with them. And I shall tell you what and how it will be in the last days. Look now at everything in the picture.’ And I looked and saw there what had been in the world before. And I saw, as it were, Adam, and Eve with him, and with them the Evil Adversary and Cain, who acted lawlessly because of the Adversary, and the murdered Abel, the perdition brought and given to him through the Lawless One.” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 28.

4 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 17.

5 Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 226.

6 “And he said to me, ‘Slaughter and cut all this, putting together the two halves, one against the other. But do not cut the birds. And give them [halves] to the two men whom I shall show you standing beside you, since they are the altar on the mountain, to offer sacrifice to the Eternal One. The turtledove and the pigeon you will give me, and I shall ascend (возиду) in order to show to you [the inhabited world] on the wings of two birds….’ And I did everything according to the angel’s command. And I give to the angels who had come to us the divided parts of the animals. And the angel took the two birds” (Apoc. Ab. 12:8-13:1). Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 19-20; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 64.

7 Box and Landsman, The Apocalypse of Abraham, xxiv.

8 A.F.J. Klijn, “2 (Syriac Apocalypse of) Baruch,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (ed. J. H. Charlesworth; New York: Doubleday, 1985 [1983]) 1.622.

9 B.M. Metzger, “The Fourth Book of Ezra,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (ed. J. H. Charlesworth; New York: Doubleday, 1985 [1983]) 1.528.

10 It is possible that the early Christian accounts might also cognizant of Abraham’s visions and revelation of the upcoming events to him. Thus, Louis Ginzberg suggests that some New Testament materials like the Gospel of John 8:56 and Acts 7:7 might also allude to the fact that the future course of Israel’s history was revealed to Abraham. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 5.228-229.

11 Jacobson, A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, 1. 129-130. In the same text – Pseudo-Philo’s Bib. Ant. 18:5 Abraham is raised “above the firmament” and is shown “the arrangements of all the stars”: “And I said to him, ‘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.’” Jacobson, A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, 1.118.

12 McNamara, Targum Neofiti 1: Genesis, 96-97.

13 Maher, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Genesis, 61. On Abraham’s vision between pieces see also Targum of Isaiah 43:12: “I declared to Abraham your father what was about to come; I delivered you from Egypt, as I swore to him between the pieces.” The Targum of Isaiah (ed. J.F. Stenning; Oxford: Clarendon, 1953) 146.

14 Klein, The Fragment-Targums of the Pentateuch According to Their Extant Sources, 2.13.

15 Maher, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Genesis, 60-61. Targum Neofiti on Gen 15:12: “… and behold Abram saw four kingdoms rising against him: dread: that is Babylon; darkness: that is Media; great: that is Greece; fell upon him: this is Edom, the wicked which will fall and will not rise again.” McNamara, Targum Neofiti 1: Genesis, 96. The Fragment Targum on Gen 15:12: “And it was: And the sun was about to set; and a deep, pleasant sleep fell upon Abram, and Abram saw the four kingdoms that were to rise up and enslave his children: A Great Dark Dread Descended Upon him: dread is Babylon; Dark is Media; Great is Greece; Descended upon him is the wicked Edom which is the forth kingdom that is destined to fall and will not have any revival forever.” Klein, The Fragment-Targums of the Pentateuch, 2.13.

16 On the Pargod traditions, see: Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 1.296; D. Arbel, Beholders of Divine Secrets: Mysticism and Myth in the Hekhalot and Merkavah Literature (Albany: SUNY Press, 2003) 39, 100; H. Bietenhard, Die himmlische Welt im Urchristentum und Spätjudentum (WUNT, 2; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1951) 73ff.; F.T. Fallon, The Enthronment of Sabaoth (NHMS, 10; Leiden: Brill, 1978) 55; D. Halperin, The Merkabah in Rabbinic Literature (New Haven, American Oriental Society, 1980) 169, note 99; O. Hofius, Der Vorhang vor dem Thron Gottes (WUNT, 14; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1972) 17ff.; G. MacRae, Some Elements of Jewish Apocalyptic and Mystical Tradition and Their Relation to Gnostic Literature (2 vols.; Ph.D. diss.; University of Cambridge, 1966) 1.49-78; C.R.A. Morray-Jones, A Transparent Illusion: The Dangerous Vision of Water in Hekhalot Mysticism: A Source-critical and Tradition-historical Inquiry (JSJSup, 59; Leiden: Brill, 2002) 164ff; Morray-Jones and Rowland, The Mystery of God, 372; Obederg, 3 Enoch, 141; S. Shaked, Dualism in Transformation: Varieties of Religion in Sasanian Iran (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1994) 5.

17 Cf. Stone, Jewish Writings, 417, n. 190. B. Philonenko-Sayar and M. Philonenko, “Apocalypse d’Abraham,” in: La Bible. Écrits intertestamentaires (eds. A. Dupont-Sommer et al.; La Bibliothèque de la Pléiade; Paris, 1987) 1691–1730, esp. 1720, n. 9.

18 For the Pargod traditions in rabbinic literature see also; b. Yoma 77a; b. Ber. 18b; b. Hag. 15a-b; b. Sanh. 89b; b. Sota 49a; Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 4,6; Zohar I.47a; II.149b-150a; Maseket Hekhalot 7.

19 Scholem, Major Trends, 72.

20 The disclosure of the curtain to R. Ishmael in 3 Enoch is not a unique rabbinic tradition. Other rabbinic materials also make reference to visionaries that were privileged to behold Pargod. According to the Babylonian Talmud and the Book of Zohar, the Protoplast was the first human being who received a peculiar vision of every generation and its leaders. Thus, b. Sanh. 38b reads: “And that is what Resh Lakish meant when he said: What is the meaning of the verse, This is the book of the generations of Adam? It is to intimate that the Holy One, blessed be He, showed him [Adam] every generation and its thinkers, every generation and its sages. When he came to the generation of Rabbi Akiba, he [Adam] rejoiced at his learning but was grieved at his death, and said: How weighty are Thy friends to me, O God.” Epstein, Soncino Hebrew-English Talmud. Sanhedrin 38b. In the Alphabet of R. Aqiba the famous tanna receives the revelation of the future sages of Israel on the curtain. Cf. A. Jellinek, Beth ha-Midrash (6 vols.; Jerusalem: Wahrmann, 1967) 3.44.

21 According to b. Sanh. 38b. the similar vision was given to Adam when to the first human was shown every generation with its learned man. Odeberg compares this tradition to the revelation of the Pargod to R. Ishmael. See Odeberg, 3 Enoch, 141.

22 It is intriguing that this reference to the Omnipresent Deity in the beginning of the narration might implicitly reaffirm that the curtain spread before Him will include everything in creation.

23 Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 1.296-299. Jewish mystical lore attempts to explicate how the omniscient historical and physical reality can be constantly present before the eyes of the creator. In Zohar 1.90b-91b this tradition takes the following form: “See now what R. Simeon has told us, in explanation of the verse ‘This is the book of the generations of Adam,’ that God showed Adam every generation and its students, etc. This does not simply mean that he saw through the spirit of prophecy that they were destined to come into the world, like one who in wisdom foresees the future, but it means that he literally saw with his eyes the form in which they were destined to exist in the world. He was able to do this because from the day on which the world was created all the souls which were destined to come to life among mankind were existing before God in that very form which they were destined to assume on earth (in the same way that the righteous after death are clothed in a form similar to that which they wore in this world), and so Adam saw them with his eyes. . . . When God showed Adam all future generations, he saw them all in the Garden of Eden in the form which they were destined to assume in this world. . . .” Sperling and Simon, The Zohar, 1.298-299. As we can see the revelation to Adam has very similar content that the revelation given to R. Ishmael in Sefer Hekhalot. The first human too sees each generation and “its students.”

24 On priestly role of Enoch-Metatron, see Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition, 113-20.

25 See, for example, Synopse §3: “Metatron replied, ‘He [R. Ishmael] is of the tribe of Levi, which presents the offering to his name. He is of the family of Aaron, whom the Holy One, blessed be He, chose to minister in his presence and on whose head he himself placed the priestly crown on Sinai.’ ” 3 Enoch 2:3. Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 1.257.

26 See also b. Ketub. 105b; b. Hul. 49a.

27 Elior, “From Earthly Temple to Heavenly Shrines,” 225.

28 García-Martínes and Tigchelaar, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, 1.371. It is intriguing that further in this passage similarly to the Apocalypse of Abraham the seer receives a revelation about Azazel and his angels.

29 Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.186. Cf. also 1 Enoch 103:1-2: “… I swear to you that I understand this mystery. And I have read the tablets of heaven and seen the writings of the holy ones, and I found written and engraved in it concerning them ….” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.240.

30 Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.223.

31 Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.247-48.

32 Odeberg, 3 Enoch, 141, 147.

33 See Arbel, Beholders of Divine Secrets: Mysticism and Myth in the Hekhalot and Merkavah Literature, 39, 100; idem, “Divine Secrets and Divination,” in Paradise Now: Essays on Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism (ed. A.D. DeConick; SBLSS, 11; Leiden: Brill, 2006) 355-79, esp. 372.

34 Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission, 31.

35 Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission, 32. See also J.D. Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988) 87-88; V.A. Hurowitz, I Have Built You an Exalted House (JSOTSS, 115; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992) 335-37.

36 Thackeray and Markus, Josephus, 3.265.

37 Thackeray and Markus, Josephus, 5.405.

38 Robert Hayward reflects on this parallelism between the temple and its distinguished celebrant who is also understood as the temple. He argues that “the cosmos itself may be viewed as a Temple … yet the cosmos, which is the macrocosm, finds its microcosm in human beings, who themselves may function as a Temple.” Hayward, Nonbiblical Handbook, 110-11. This idea appears to be reflected in one passage found in Philo’s De Somniis I.215: “For there are, as is evident, two temples of God: one of them this universe, in which there is also as High Priest His First-born, the divine Word, and the other the rational soul, whose Priest is the real Man; the outward and visible image of whom is he who offers the prayers and sacrifices handed down from our fathers, to whom it has been committed to wear the aforesaid tunic, which is a copy and replica of the whole heaven, the intention of this being that the universe may join with man in the holy rites and man with the universe.” Colson and Whitaker, Philo, 5.413.

39 Odeberg, 3 Enoch, 27-28.

40 Odeberg, 3 Enoch, 32.

41 Thackeray and Markus, Josephus, 5.405-7.

42 Hayward, Nonbiblical Handbook, 116. De Spec. Leg. I. 95–96 reads: “The order in which the parts [of the high priest’s garment] are arranged is also admirable. At the very top is what he calls the breastpiece in which are placed the stones, a copy of heaven because heaven also is at the top. Then under it the full length skirt, dark blue right through because the air also is black and occupies the second position below the heaven, and the flower-work and pomegranates at the extremities because to earth and water is allotted the lowest place in the universe. Such is the form in which the sacred vesture was designed, a copy of the universe, a piece of work of marvelous beauty to the eye and the mind.” Colson and Whitaker, Philo, 7.153-55.

43 Colson and Whitaker, Philo, 7.149.

44 Colson and Whitaker, Philo, 6.505-507.

45 Colson and Whitaker, Philo, 6.507-9.

46 Hayward, Nonbiblical Handbook, 115.

47 Colson and Whitaker, Philo, 6.513-15.

48 Thus, Hayward points out that while in Josephus “the blue robe signifies both earth (being made of linen, like the Temple and Tabernacle veils) and heaven, since it is blue in color,” in “Philo, however, this robe is symbolic of the air and of the regions below the moon (De Vit. Mos. II. 117 ff.). . . . The ephod, which Philo understood as representing heaven (De Vit. Mos. II. 122 ff.), [in Josephus] indicates the universe made up of four elements, its golden parts symbolizing sunlight.” Hayward, Nonbiblical Handbook, 150.

49 On this tradition see A. Orlov, “Satan and the Visionary: The Temptation Story in the Gospel of Matthew,” in: A. Orlov, Dark Mirrors: Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology (Albany: SUNY, 2011) 110.

50 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 26.

51 Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 84. The Slavonic term простертие can mean “spreading.” It is reminiscent of an already mentioned passage from 3 Enoch 45 where the heavenly curtain is spread before the Deity: “which is spread before the Holy One.” Other Slavonic term used for the description of the medium of revelation is образование or образ – an image, a picture.

52 MacRae makes an important distinction between two concepts of the celestial veil: one horizontal and the other vertical. In his opinion, “two types of veil emerge: the Wilon or curtain dividing heaven from earth (or noetic world from sense-perceptible), and the Pargod or curtain before the divine throne in heaven.” MacRae, Some Elements of Jewish Apocalyptic and Mystical Tradition and Their Relation to Gnostic Literature, 68.

53 The term is derived from Lat. velum. Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 1.269.

54 MacRae, Some Elements of Jewish Apocalyptic and Mystical Tradition and Their Relation to Gnostic Literature, 49.

55 Epstein, The Babylonian Talmud. Hagiga 12b.

56 Sometimes all the firmaments are understood as “curtains.” Thus, Zohar II.164b unveils the following tradition: “R. Hiya discoursed on the words: Who covers thyself with light as with a garment, who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain (yeri’ah) (Ps. CIV, 2). Said he: ‘These words have been interpreted as follows: When the Holy One was about to create the world He robed Himself in the primordial light and created the heavens. At first the light was at the right and the darkness at the left. What, then, did the Holy One do? He merged the one into the other and from them formed the heavens: shamaim (heavens) is composed of esh and mayim (fire and water, i.e. right and left). He brought them together and harmonized them, and when they were united as one, He stretched them out like a curtain, and formed them into the letter vau. From this letter the light spread, so that ‘curtain’ became ‘curtains,’ as it is written: ‘And thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains.’ Seven firmaments are stretched out and stored in the supernal treasure-house, as has been explained, and over them is one firmament which has no colour and no place in the world of cognition, and is outside the range of contemplation; but, though hidden, it diffuses light to all and speeds them each on its fitting orbit. Beyond that firmament knowledge cannot penetrate, and man must close his mouth and not seek to reflect upon it. He who does so reflect is turned backwards, for it passes our knowledge – The ten curtains of the Tabernacle symbolized the ten firmaments. . .” Sperling and Simon, The Zohar, 4.67-68. Cf. Zohar II.209a: “There are heavens and heavens; to wit, lower heavens with an earth beneath them, and upper heavens also having an earth beneath them. They constitute upper grades and lower grades, the two being counterparts of each other. The lower heavens are identical with the ten curtains, to which allusion is made in the words: ‘Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain’(Ps. CIV, 2)” Sperling and Simon, The Zohar 4.210.

57 Cf. MacRae, Some Elements of Jewish Apocalyptic and Mystical Tradition and Their Relation to Gnostic Literature, 50. In this regard Philip Alexander observes, “It would seem, then, that the first heaven is regarded as a sort of veil or curtain which either conceals the heavenly world from human eyes, or which, by being opened and shut, is the cause of daylight and darkness.” Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 269.

58 Hofius, Der Vorhang vor dem Thron Gottes, 21.

59 On similar traditions about Wilon in Midrash Konen and other rabbinic materials, see Hofius, Der Vorhang vor dem Thron Gottes, 20-21; MacRae, Some Elements of Jewish Apocalyptic and Mystical Tradition and Their Relation to Gnostic Literature, 50.

60 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 26; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 82-84.

61 Midrash Bereshit Rabbati (ed. H. Albeck; Jerusalem: Mekitse Nirdamim, 1940) 32.

62 Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 5.483.

63 Sperling and Simon, The Zohar, 1.124.

64 Nag Hammadi Codex II, 2-7 (2 vols.; eds. B. Layton et al.; NHS, 20; Leiden: Brill, 1989) 1.253

65 Nag Hammadi Codex II, 2-7, 1.255.

66 Nag Hammadi Codex II, 2-7, 2.31.

67 It appears to be not coincidental that in these lower “sacerdotal” chambers the patriarch also sees some cultic settings including the aforementioned theophany of Azazel.

68 Cf. Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities 3.180-181: “Thus, to take the tabernacle, thirty cubits long, by dividing this into three parts and giving up two of them to the priests, as a place approachable and open to all, Moses signifies the earth and the sea, since these are too are accessible to all; but third portion he reserved for God alone, because heaven also is inaccessible to men” (Thackeray and Markus, Josephus, 4.403).

69 Scholars note the parallelism between the realm of sea and sacerdotal realm of the courtyard in Numbers Rabbah 13:19 where the courtyard encompasses the Tabernacle as the sea encompasses the world: “His offering was one silver dish, etc. The dish was in allusion to the court which encompassed the Tabernacle as the sea encompasses the world.” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 6.546. On the similar tradition in Midrash Tadshe, see MacRae, Some Elements of Jewish Apocalyptic and Mystical Tradition and Their Relation to Gnostic Literature, 55.

70 MacRae, Some Elements of Jewish Apocalyptic and Mystical Tradition and Their Relation to Gnostic Literature, 55.

71 MacRae, Some Elements of Jewish Apocalyptic and Mystical Tradition and Their Relation to Gnostic Literature, 59.

72 Friedlander, Pirke de R. Eliezer, 23.

73 In this respect another important function of the Pargod should be mentioned, that is, its role not only in revelation but also in concealment of the Deity and its secrets. In some rabbinic materials the Pargod is associated with a theophanic cloud or a bright light emitted by the divine form which serves as the screen protecting the sovereignty of the Deity. Later rabbinic materials even associate the Pargod with hashmal: “That Unique Cherub, sitting on his throne of glory, has a pargod of colored hashmal, whose name is Ishael, and it is like light blue, and this is the pargod which surrounds the throne of glory on three sides except the West. . . .” J. Dan, “Unique Cherub” Circle: A School of Mystics and Esoterics in Medieval Germany (TSMEMJ, 15; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1999) 113. As Philip Alexander reminds us, another function of the Pargod is protective as “it shields the angels from the destructive glare of the divine Glory (Targum of Job 26:9; 3 Enoch 22B:6).” Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 1.296.

74 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 26; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 84.

75 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 26; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 86.

76 See Apoc. Ab. 23:1 “Look again at the picture (в образовании), who is the one who seduced Eve, and what is the fruit of the tree.” Apoc. Ab. 24:1-3: “. . . you will see in the picture, what is destined to be with them. And I shall tell you what and how it will be in the last days. Look now at everything in the picture (въ образование).” Apoc. Ab. 26:7: “Look at the picture (въ образование)!” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 27-30; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 86, 90, 94.

77 Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 1.296.

78 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 27.

79 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 26-27.

80 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 30.

81 The question, however, remains what kind of reality is reflected on the screen under the feet of the patriarch: does Abraham see the ideal projections of the protological and eschatological events and characters or their “real” souls present before the divinity. As we remember in the aforementioned passage from the Zohar 1.90a-91b, Adam sees the all generation with their actors. Reflecting on this Zoharic tradition Isaiah Tishby observes that “the Zohar makes it quite clear that what Adam saw was not a vision of the future, nor an inspired view of souls that existed only within the divine thought, but souls that actually existed at that particular time, and were going to continue to exist.” Tishby, Wisdom of the Zohar, 2.699-700.

82 MacRae, Some Elements of Jewish Apocalyptic and Mystical Tradition and Their Relation to Gnostic Literature, 68.

83 On the Leviathan traditions, see C.H. Gordon, “Leviathan: Symbol of Evil,” in: Biblical Motifs: Origins and Transformations (ed. A. Altmann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966) 1-9; J. Schirmann, “The Battle between Behemoth and Leviathan according to an Ancient Hebrew Piyyut,” in: ha-Aqademya ha-leummit ha-yisre’elit lemaddaim, Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Jerusalem: Academy, 1967) 327-55; M.A. Fishbane, The Exegetical Imagination: On Jewish Thought and Theology (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998) 41-55; idem, Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003) 273-285; M. Idel, “Leviathan and Its Consort: From Talmudic to Kabbalistic Myth,” in: Myths in Judaism: History, Thought, Literature (eds. I. Gruenwald and M. Idel; Jerusalem: Z. Shazar Center for Jewish History, 2004) 145-186 [Hebrew]; Whitney, Two Strange Beasts: Leviathan and Behemoth in Second Temple and Early Rabbinic Judaism; J. Yahalom and B. Laffer, “‘Mi lo Yirekha Melekh’: A Lost Siluk by Kalir for Rosh Hashanah,” in: Studies in Hebrew Poetry and Jewish Heritage: In Memory of Aaharon Mirsky (eds. E. Hazan and J. Yahalom; Ramat Gan, 2006) 127-158; A. Kulik “ ‘The Mysteries of Behemoth and Leviathan’ and the Celestial Bestiary of 3 Baruch,” Le Muséon 122 (2009) 291-329.

84 As one remembers in the ninth chapter of the Apocalypse of Abraham, right before the Hayyot and the Leviathans are mentioned, God promises to Abraham to reveal utmost secrets of the universe. Scholars previously noted that the peculiar terminological formulation of these mysteries betray the subtle similarities with early Jewish mystical conceptual developments. Thus, Alexander Kulik previously argued that the terminology of secrets used in here in Apoc. Ab. is reminiscent of the terminology found in the Hekhalot tradition. See Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 86-87.

85 Or maybe even a pair of Leviathans. Louis Ginzberg previously argued that Apoc. Ab. 21:4 which tells about the Leviathan and “its possession” might represent a mistranslation of a Hebrew phrase – “the Leviathan and his mate.” Ginzberg notes that “the Apocalypse of Abraham 10 speaks of Leviathans (i.e., the male and female monsters), which the archangel Jaoel holds in check; in another passage (21; the text is not quite clear) Leviathan and his possession are spoken of, where, perhaps, the Leviathan and his mate should be read. In case this apocalyptic work was originally composed in Hebrew, the present text can easily be explained as being due to the translator’s confusion of קניתו = קנעתו ‘his mate’ with קניתו = קנינו ‘his possession.’” Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, 5.45, n. 127. See also Whitney, Two Strange Beasts: Leviathan and Behemoth in Second Temple and Early Rabbinic Judaism, 51, n. 73.

86 Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 84.

87 It is intriguing that in the later Jewish mysticism the fin of Leviathan is compared with the role of the righteous as the pillar of the world. On this tradition, see Y. Liebes, Studies in the Zohar (Albany: SUNY, 1993) 16-17, 72.

88 Danby, Mishnah, 212-13.

89 Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 9.47-48.

90 In relation to this passage other scholars also suggested that “it is conceivable that just as there was a baraita devoted to the subject of Ma’aseh Merkavah, so some kind of compilation may have existed containing material relating to Behemoth and Leviathan.” I. Jacobs, The Midrashic Process: Tradition and Interpretation in Rabbinic Judaism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) 158.

91 Fishbane, Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking, 278.

92 Fishbane, Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking, 273-85.

93 For discussion of this feature, see Fishbane, Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking, 276.

94 It is intriguing that both Apoc. Ab. and the Zohar in their accounts of Leviathan operate with the imagery of overflowing rivers. Thus, Apoc. Ab. 21:4-6 reads: “And I saw there the sea and its island<s>, and its animals and its fishes, and Leviathan and his domain, and his lair, and his dens, and the world which lies upon him, and his motions and the destruction of the world because of him. I saw there the rivers and their overflows, and their circles. And I saw there the tree of Eden and its fruit<s>, and the spring, the river flowing from it, and its trees and their flowering, and I saw those who act righteously. And I saw in it their food and rest.” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 26. Zohar too connects the Leviathan’s account with the symbolism of overflowing rivers. Thus, Zohar II.34a-b reads: “Said R. Simeon further: ‘It is written: “And God created the great dragons (taninim) and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind” (Gen. 1, 2I). This verse’, he said, ‘we have already discussed, but the words “He created the great dragons” contain a yet more special and particular mystery: they refer to the Leviathan and his mate, which last was slain and is preserved by the Holy One for the regaling of the righteous (in the days of the Messiah). The great dragon reposes between nine rivers, the waters of which are turbulent; and there is a tenth river whose waters are calm, and into the depth of which the blessings of the waters of Paradise descend three times a year. Into this river the dragon enters, making there his habitation; and thence he sallies forth and swims down to the sea, and devours there fish of all kinds, and then returns again to the river. The nine swift rivers are banked by trees and fringed with flowers. The parent river issued from the Left Side and from it three drops fell into a certain channel, and each of the three was divided again into three, and every drop became a river. These are the nine rivers which flow through all the firmaments. And from the final moisture that remained when all the drops had issued forth yet another drop was formed, which issued gently, and of this drop was formed that tenth river, which flows calmly. Into this river also flows a drop from the blessings poured forth from the Right side by the “perennially flowing stream”, and it is greater than all the rest. When the four rivers which flow out of the Garden of Eden divide, the one called Pison flows into and is fused with the calm tenth river of which we have spoken.’” Sperling and Simon, The Zohar, 3.110. As one can see, the Book of Zohar tells about turbulent waters, while Apoc. Ap. tells about overflowing rivers. It is also intriguing that in Zohar similar to the Slavonic apocalypse that the imagery of river is then connected with the Garden.

95 Sperling and Simon, The Zohar, 3.111.

96 Thus, Zohar II.20a reads: “And He made this world corresponding to the world above, and everything which is above has its counterpart here below, and everything here below has its counterpart in the sea; and yet all constitute a unity. He created angels in the upper worlds, human beings in this world, and the Leviathan in the sea.” Sperling and Simon, The Zohar, 3.65.

97 Thus, Zohar I.34b reads: “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures. R. Eleazar said: ‘These are the lower waters, which brought forth species corresponding to those above, so that there was a lower order and a higher order.’ R. Hiya said: ‘It was the upper waters which brought forth a “living soul”, to wit, the soul of the first man, as it is written, “and the man became a living soul” (Gen. II, 7).’ And fowl to fly above the earth. These are the emissaries from the upper world which appear to men in visible shape. For there are others of whose existence man knows only by conjecture. These latter are referred to in the next verse in the words, “every winged fowl after its kind”. The words “after its kind” are used in connection with the latter and not with the former, because the latter never take the forms of another species, whereas the former do. Nevertheless, they do differ one from another. And god created the great sea monsters. These are the Leviathan and its female. And every living creature that creepeth. This is the soul of the creature which creeps to the four quarters of the globe, to wit, Lilith. Wherewith the waters swarmed, after its kind. It is the waters which nourish them. For when the wind blows from the South, the waters are released and flow to all sides, and ships pass to and fro, as it is written, “there go the ships, there is Leviathan whom thou hast formed to sport therein” (Ps. CIV, 26). Every winged fowl after its kind: this refers, as already said, to the angels, as in the verse, “for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter” (Eccl. X, 20),’ R. Jose said: ‘They all have six wings, and never change their shape; hence it is written of them, “to their kind”, i.e. that they are always angels. It is these who sweep through the world with six beats of their wings, who observe the actions of men and record them above; hence the Scripture says, “even in thy thought curse not the king, etc.” (Ibid.).’ R. Hizkiah said: ‘Just as it is written here, “living creature that creepeth”, so elsewhere (Ps. CIV, 20) it is written, “wherein creep all the beasts (haytho) of the field.” Just as here we interpret the word hayah of Lilith, so there we interpret the word haytho of the Hayyoth. For they all have sway when she has sway; they commence to chant at each of the three watches of the night and go on without cessation, and of them it is written, “Ye that are the Lord’s remembrances, take ye no rest” (Is. LXII, 6).’” Sperling and Simon, The Zohar, 1.128-129.

98 Zohar II.48b reads: “And he took off their Chariot wheels that they drove them heavily. R. Simeon discoursed on the verse: Now I beheld the Living Creatures (Hayoth), and behold one wheel upon the earth by the Living Creatures, with his four faces (Ezek. I, 15). ‘This verse’, he said, ‘we can explain as follows. The Holy One reveals His dominion and power in all things, a power which shall never be shaken. He manifested His power in the Patriarchs, and particularly in Jacob. Now Jacob is united with the Tree of Life, over which death has no dominion, since in it all life is contained, emanating from it unto all those who are in perfect union with it. For this reason Jacob did not really die. He died in a physical sense when “he gathered up his feet into the bed” (Gen. XLIX, 33), which bed is mysteriously called “the bed of Solomon” (S.S. III, 7), the bed of the “strange woman” whose “feet go down to death” (Prov. v, 5). But of all the Fathers the Holy One chose Jacob to be the center of perfection and fulfillment, as it is written: “Jacob whom I have chosen” (Isa. XLI, 8). Mark also this! All the supernal hosts with their cohorts and lightful Chariots of celestial speed are joined one to another, grade to grade, the lower to the higher, each to its counterpart; and above them all a holy “Living being” (Hayah) (cf. Ezek. I) is set, and all those myriads of armies move and rest according to its will and direction. This is that Living Creature to which all Hayoth are linked, as each is also to each, all moving and swimming in the sea, concerning which it is written: “This is the great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts” (Ps. CIV, 25). Now, when the wheels of the sea arise all the boats which sail thereon do heave and toss, and air and waters are mightily stirred so that a great storm arises; and the fishes that dwell in the depths of the sea are whirled about by the violence of the tempest, and are buffeted towards the four corners of the earth, some to the east, and some to the west, some to the north, and some to the south; and there they are caught by the nets of fishermen, as they reach the ocean’s shallower depths, where the sands of the shore slope down to meet the breakers of that sea. At that time the boats steer no course, either certain or uncharted, but only toss and heave in one place. At last a swift but subtle current arises amid the tumult of the stormy waters, and gradually their strife is stilled and peace descends upon the waves; then the boats steer a straight course for their bourne, and swerve not nor falter; concerning which it is written: “There go the ships; there is that Leviathan whom thou hast made to play therein” (Ibid. v, 26). And all the fishes of the sea gather to their places, and all the creatures rejoice over it and the Hayoth of the supernal fields, as it is written: “And all the beasts of the field play there” (Job XL, 20). Come and see! The likeness of that which is above is that which is below, and what is below is also in the sea, and the likeness of that which is above is that which is in the supernal sea, and what is below is also in the lower sea. As the higher sea has length and width and head and arms and hair and a body, so also the lower sea.’ Said R. Simeon: ‘How many Chariots there are whose wheels run speedily, carrying the framework upon them without delay! Yet here “God made him drive heavily”. We interpret these words of the heavenly Chariot, which was the guardian angel of Egypt, and which then was rendered imperfect.’” Sperling and Simon, Zohar, 3.147-149.

99 Danby, The Mishnah, 213.

100 See S. Löwenstamm, “On an Alleged Gnostic Element in Mishnah Hagigah ii.1,” in: Yehezkel Kaufmann Jubilee Volume: Studies in Bible and Jewish Religion (ed. M. Haran; Jerusalem: Magness Press, 1960) 112-21 [Hebrew]; H.F. Weiss, Untersuchungen zur Kosmologie des hellenistischen und palästinischen Judentums (TU, 97; Berlin: Akademie, 1966) 79–83; W.A. Meeks, The Prophet-King. Moses Traditions and the Johannine Christology (NovTSup, 14; Leiden: Brill, 1967) 208; G.A. Wewers, Geheimnis und Geheimhaltung im rabbinischen Judentum (Religionsgesch. Versuche und Vorarbeiten, 35; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1975) 46f.; Rowland, The Open Heaven, 75–76; P. van der Horst, “Moses’ Throne Vision in Ezekiel the Dramatist,” JJS 34 (1983) 28; Halperin, The Faces of the Chariot, 4, 252; A. Goshen-Gottstein, “One Does not Expound the Story of Creation: Why?” in: Proceedings of the Tenth World Congress of Jewish Studies, August 16–24, 1989 (Jerusalem: The World Union of Jewish Studies, 1990) Div. C, Hebrew Section, 61–68 [Hebrew]; G. Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990) 33; D.H. Aaron, Polemics and Mythology: A Commentary on Chapters 1 and 8 of “Bereshit Rabba” (Ph.D. diss., Brandeis University, 1992) 186-92; A. Goshen-Gottstein, “Four Entered Paradise Revisited,” HTR 88 (1995) 69-133 at 75f.; C. Fletcher-Louis, “4Q374: A Discourse on the Sinai Tradition: The Deification of Moses and Early Christology,” DSD 3 (1996) 236–52, at 246; M. Brettler, “Memory in Ancient Israel,” in: Memory and History in Christianity and Judaism (ed. M.A. Signer; Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 2001) 1-7 at 3; J. Schofer, “Spiritual Exercises in Rabbinic Culture,” AJS Review 27 (2003) 203-25 at 213; Morray-Jones and Rowland, The Mystery of God, 221-27.

101 Cf. Goshen-Gottstein, “One Does not Expound the Story of Creation: Why?” 61–68; Schofer, “Spiritual Exercises in Rabbinic Culture,” 213.

102 Cf. Löwenstamm, “On an Alleged Gnostic Element in Mishnah Hagigah ii.1.,” 112-21; Brettler, “Memory in Ancient Israel,” 3.

103 Meeks, The Prophet-King, 208. See also van der Horst, “Moses’ Throne Vision in Ezekiel the Dramatist,” 28; Fletcher-Louis, “4Q374: A Discourse on the Sinai Tradition: The Deification of Moses and Early Christology,” 246.

104 The Greek text of the passage was published in several editions, including: A.-M. Denis, Apocalypsis Henochi Graeca/Fragmenta pseudepigraphorum quae supersunt graeca (PVTG, 3; Leiden: Brill, 1970) 210; B. Snell, Tragicorum graecorum fragmenta I (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1971) 288-301; H. Jacobson, The Exagoge of Ezekiel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983) 54; C. Holladay, Fragments from Hellenistic Jewish Authors (3 vols.; Texts and Translations 30; Pseudepigrapha Series, 12; Chico, Calif.: Scholar Press, 1983) 2.362-66.

105 Exagoge 67–90 reads: “Moses: I had a vision of a great throne on the top of Mount Sinai and it reached till the folds of heaven. A noble man was sitting on it, with a crown and a large scepter in his left hand. He beckoned to me with his right hand, so I approached and stood before the throne. He gave me the scepter and instructed me to sit on the great throne. Then he gave me a royal crown and got up from the throne. I beheld the whole earth all around and saw beneath the earth and above the heavens. A multitude of stars fell before my knees and I counted them all. They paraded past me like a battalion of men. Then I awoke from my sleep in fear. Raguel: My friend, this is a good sign from God. May I live to see the day when these things are fulfilled. You will establish a great throne, become a judge and leader of men. As for your vision of the whole earth, the world below and that above the heavens – this signifies that you will see what is, what has been and what shall be.” Jacobson, The Exagoge of Ezekiel, 54–55.

106 Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 3.58.

107 van der Horst, “Moses’ Throne Vision in Ezekiel the Dramatist,” 21–22.

108 van der Horst, “Moses’ Throne Vision in Ezekiel the Dramatist,” 21–22; Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition, 262-68; K. Ruffatto, “Polemics with Enochic Traditions in the Exagoge of Ezekiel the Tragedian,” JSP 15 (2006) 195-210; idem, “Raguel as Interpreter of Moses’ Throne Vision: The Transcendent Identity of Raguel in the Exagoge of Ezekiel the Tragedian,” JSP 17 (2008) 121-39.

109 Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 1.264.

110 A. Orlov, “In the Mirror of the Divine Face,” in: A. Orlov, Selected Studies in the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha (SVTP, 23; Leiden: Brill, 2009) 165-82 at 173.

111 Chapter 60 of 1 Enoch represents a mixture of Enochic and Noachic traditions. Since Dillmann’s pioneering research, scholars have argued that this chapter represents a later interpolated “Noah apocalypse.” Cf. M. Black, The Book of Enoch or 1 Enoch (SVTP, 7; Leiden: Brill, 1985) 225. For a discussion of the composite nature of chapter 60 see F. García-Martínez, Qumran and Apocalyptic. Studies on Aramaic Texts from Qumran (STDJ, 9; Leiden: Brill, 1992) 31-33. An in-depth discussion of the editorial history of chapter 60 transcends boundaries of current investigation. It is important for our study that the final constellation of esoteric traditions in chapter 60 most likely took place before the composition of Mishnah Hagigah 2:1. On the date of the Book of the Similitudes before the second century ce see Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man: Revisiting of the Book of Parables (ed. G. Boccaccini; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007). In his conclusion to the volume Paolo Sacchi writes: “In sum, we may observe that those scholars who have directly addressed the problem of dating the Parables all agree on a date around the time of Herod. Other participants of the conference not addressing the problem directly nevertheless agree with this conclusion. . . .” Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man: Revisiting of the Book of Parables, 510.

112 Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.144.

113 The text says that the visionary saw “the Head of Days sitting on the throne of his glory, and the angels and the righteous were standing around him.” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.142.

114 Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.143-144.

115 On concealment in m. Hag., see Halperin, The Faces of the Chariot, 25.

116 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 28.

117 Apoc. Ab. 24:5. Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 28.

118 Thus, for example, Ithamar Gruenwald argues that the Apocalypse of Abraham “is unique in the significance that it bears . . . for the study of ancient Jewish mysticism in general.” Gruenwald, Apocalyptic and Merkavah Mysticism, 52. David Halperin also views the Apocalypse of Abraham as one of the most important evidences for understanding of the origins of the Merkabah tradition: “The Apocalypse of Abraham is in some ways the most uncertain and problematic of the texts with which we have to deal . . . and yet the Apocalypse of Abraham is so important for any study of the merkabah. . . .” Halperin, Faces of the Chariot, 103.

119 Thus, for example, Michael Stone notes that the Apocalypse of Abraham “is . . . particularly significant as providing a link between the apocalypses and the Merkabah mystical books.” Stone, Jewish Writings, 418. Similarly Mary Dean-Otting believes that “In the Apocalypse of Abraham is found a text which bridges the gap between the biblically-rooted, earlier heavenly journeys, such as 1 Enoch, Testament of Levi and 3 Baruch, and the later esoteric texts of the Hekhalot literature.” Dean-Otting, Heavenly Journeys, 255. Recently Alexander Kulik affirms these early insights, arguing that the Apocalypse of Abraham can be seen as “representative of a missing link between early apocalyptic and medieval Hekhalot traditions.” Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 1.

120 On the Jewish mystical traditions in the Apocalypse of Abraham, see: Box and Landsman, The Apocalypse of Abraham, xxix-xxx; Dean-Otting, Heavenly Journeys, 251-53; Gruenwald, Apocalyptic and Merkavah Mysticism, 55-56; Halperin, The Faces of the Chariot, 103ff.; Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 83ff.; Philonenko-Sayar and Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham, 28-33; Rowland, The Open Heaven, 86ff; Rubinkiewicz, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham en vieux slave, 76-83; Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 52, 57-61, 72; idem, Jewish Gnosticism, 23-24; idem, Kabbalah, 18; Stone, Jewish Writings, 383-441.

121 Scholem, Major Trends, 69.

122 Cf. Scholem, Major Trends, 68-69; Stone, Jewish Writings, 417.

123 On Metatron’s title יהוה הקטן, see Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition, 136-43.

124 John Collins notes that “in all, Jaoel bears striking resemblance to Metatron in Hekhalot literature. Metatron is ‘the little Yahweh’ (3 En. 12), whose name is like the name of God himself (b. Sanh. 38b).” Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination, 228.

125 The classic study by Gershom Scholem differentiates between two basic aspects of Metatron’s lore which, in his opinion, were combined in rabbinic and Hekhalot literature. These aspects include the Enochic lore and the lore connected with the exalted figures of Yahoel and Michael. Scholem writes that “one aspect identifies Metatron with Jahoel or Michael and knows nothing of his transfiguration from a human being into an angel. The talmudic passages concerned with Metatron are of this type. The other aspect identifies Metatron with the figure of Enoch as he is depicted in apocalyptic literature. . . . When the Book of Hekhaloth, or 3 Enoch, was composed, the two aspects had already become intertwined.” Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, 51.

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