Seeking to See Him at the Festival of Pascha: The Expectation of the Divine Glory in Early Christian Paschal Materials and Rabbinic Literature
Two of the most ancient Christian Paschal homilies, one by Melito of Sardes and the other of unknown origin, preserved under the names of Hippolytus of Rome or John Chrysostom, testify to the expectation of the divine glory during the Paschal night. Rabbinic materials such as the Targums Neofiti 1 and Pseudo-Jonathan attest to a similar expectation on the night of the festival of Pesach. The salvific power of this light seems to constitute the first reason for this Paschal expectation. Since further investigation identifies similar elements in the writings of Philo of Alexandria, the present study proposes what might be called a “two-branched trunk” theory: one might reasonably suppose that both the Christian and the Jewish-rabbinic expectations of the salvific glory of Pascha may constitute two different developments of a common matrix in the Second Temple festival of Passover. Major doctrinal and ritual shifts emerge in the Christian worship where Jesus Christ took the place of Yahweh or of his Word. From a mystical perspective, these materials and others such as the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and the Christian liturgies, reflect the existence of a form of mysticism that engages a whole community not solely an individual. For Jews and Christians, Pascha was therefore a communitarian form of mysticism. The liturgical celebration may be seen as the necessary step within which the mystical experience should find expression.
The present article argues that both the early rabbinic materials on Pesach and the early Christian Paschal homilies of Asia Minor testify to the expectation of the divine glory at the time of Pesach/Paschal Festival. The main rationale for this expectation consists in the salvific function of the divine Shekinah. Since the same expectation may also be encountered in some of the Jewish documents of the Second Temple Period ascribed to Philo, the present study suggests that the rabbinic and Christian expectations of the divine glory represent two different developments of a shared, corresponding feature in the Second Temple festival of Pesach. Observing these materials from a mystical perspective, it seems that all of them (and even others such as the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, or the Christian liturgies, for instance) reflect the existence of a form of mysticism that engages a whole community and not only an individual. Pascha was therefore a communitarian, not individual, form of mysticism, where the liturgical celebration represented the prescribed steps in which the mystical experience (or at least the training for it) should materialize.
1. Expecting the divine light at the Paschal Festivals of Asia Minor
As one can see through the course of this study, the foundational passage for Philo’s commentaries on Passover, as well as for the “rabbinic” Targums and early Christian Paschal homilies, is the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus. Its core narrative may be expressed as follows:
The Lord (הוהי) said to Moses and Aaron in the Land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. […] You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; […] It is the Passover (חספ) of the Lord (הוהי). For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night. […] I am the Lord (הוהי ינא). […] This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival (גח) to the Lord (הוהי).1
One can easily understand from this fragment the factual dimension of the paschal story: Yahweh lets Moses and Aaron know about his coming and asks them to further inform the people of Israel to be prepared for such a capital encounter with his God. They must keep aside a chosen lamb for a period of four days and slaughter it afterwards, in the twilight of the fourth day; Yahweh will come that night. A particular aspect that needs being underlined is the tension of a high, if not the highest possible, expectation of God’s coming or passing by; due perhaps to its central importance, all the Paschal festivals will preserve this tension of expectation.
Over the centuries, the Melitonean Peri Pascha together with the anonymous paschal homily entitled In sanctum Pascha probably represent the most ancient Christian paschal texts.2 For some scholars even 1 Peter and the Epistle of Barnabas appear to be good candidates.3 The two paschal homilies join the festival of Pascha with the descent of the heavenly Christ as glory (do/ca). Melito, the bishop of Sardes who lived at the end of the second century CE, was also the petitioner of an apology to the emperor Marcus Aurelius on behalf of his fellow Christians. The event took place between A.D. 169 and 177, though the associated book has been lost.4 In his well-known Peri Pascha, Melito’s only extant book, he utters:
[T]he temple below was precious, but it is worthless now because of the Christ above. The Jerusalem below was precious, but it is worthless now because of the Jerusalem above […] For it is not in one place (to/poj) nor in a little plot that the glory (do/ca) of God is established (literally enthroned, kaqi/drutai), but on all the ends of the inhabited earth his bounty overflows, and there the almighty God has made his dwelling (kateskh/nwken) through Christ Jesus.5
This fragment recalls the text of Revelation 21, which gives a picture of the heavenly Jerusalem descended on earth. The difference consists primarily in the fact that Christ’s divine descent as glory is not temporally situated at the end of time, but in a well-specified present time, “now” (nu=n – emphatically repeated in the previous lines), most likely referring to the paschal celebration, as the previous lines bare witness. It is noteworthy that Melito articulates his discourse on Pascha in following verses, at 46-7 [303-310], in terms and images related to the Incarnation.
In a different fragment, which is almost a quotation from the above-mentioned Haggadic passage, Melito also projects on the Paschal event, among others, the ideas of light and salvation:
It is he that delivered us from slavery to liberty, from darkness to light, from death to life, from tyranny to eternal royalty, and made us a new priesthood and an eternal people personal to him. He is the Pascha of our salvation.6
The other paschal document, In sanctum Pascha, starts with the following words:
Now is it the time when the light of Christ sheds its rays;7 the pure rays (fwsth=rej) of the pure Spirit rise and the heavenly treasures of divine glory (do/ca) are opened up. Night’s darkness and obscurity have been swallowed up, and the dense blackness dispersed in this light of day; crabbed death has been totally eclipsed. Life has been extended (e)fhplw/qh) to every creature and all things are diffused in brightness (fw=j). The dawn of dawn ascends over the earth (a)natolai\ a)natolw=n e)pe/xousi to\ pa=n)8 and he who was before the morning star and before the other stars, the mighty (me/gaj) Christ, immortal and mighty (polu/j), sheds light brighter than the sun on the universe.9
The document is an anonymous homily of Greek language and has survived over the centuries among the works of two widely known Christian saints, bishops, and theologians: John Chrysostom and Hippolytus of Rome. However, modern scholars have doubted these paternities, as noticeble even in the nineteenth century when the homily’s setting was among the Chrysostomian dubia. At the end of a period of certain confusion, when the scholars of the twentieth century proposed various new hypotheses,10 Pierre Nautin presumed that the homily might have been composed in the fourth century CE.11 On the contrary, Cantalamessa’s study, based on internal terminological and theological grounds, related the piece with Melito’s Peri Pascha. These grounds point to an author from Asia Minor toward the end of the second century. The mystical and Melitonean language, the binitarian theology, and the use of testimonia in scriptural exegesis, are all convergent factors indicating the period that Cantalamessa proposed.12 Nevertheless, while Gribomont, Stuiber, and Visonà acted with prudence in dating the homily, keeping open Nautin’s possibility of early fourth century,13 Daniélou, Grillmeier, Botte, Simonetti, Hall, and Richardson embraced Cantalamessa’s position; Kretschmar in his turn concluded that the homily is a document resonating with the beginning of the third century.14 Moreover, Blanchetière, Mara, and Mazza, in order to prove their theses on Ignatius of Antioch, Melito, the Gospel of Peter or Hippolytus of Rome, used the homily as a writing of the second century.15 Finally, in the most recent investigation, Gerlach maintained that IP should be associated with the Paschal tradition conveyed in third century Asia Minor.16
Ps-Hippolitus speaks more clearly about the descent of the divine light at the Paschal celebration time. In fact, as the homilist states in the opening phrase of the hymn, the Pascal night is the moment of Christ’s coming (e)pidhmi/a), when the border between heaven and earth is removed and the divine grace stored in heaven floods the whole of creation: “the heavenly treasures of the divine glory (do/ca) are opened up.”17 The light of the glory (do/ca) of Christ, which illumines the heavenly Jerusalem in the Apocalypse of John 21, is now spread over the entire cosmos: “…the blessed light of Christ sheds its rays […] the mighty Christ, immortal and mighty, sheds light brighter than the sun on the universe (to\ pa=n).”18
Pseudo-Hippolytus also uses interchangeably the languages about Incarnation and Pascha, and depicts the two moments as the descent of the divine glory.19 Expressed in the same glory-language, Pascha therefore does not seem to be a very different sort of event than that of Incarnation.
2. Rabbinic Expectations of the Divine Light at the Passover Night
One of the most ancient exemplars of the preserved rabbinic writings, the Targum of Codex Neofiti 1, makes obvious the expectation of the divine glory during the Paschal night. The passage of Exodus 12:23 (“For the Lord will pass through to strike down the Egyptians …”) changed into:
And the Glory of the Shekinah of the Lord (יייד איתניכש רקיא) will pass to blot out the Egyptians; and he will see the blood upon the lintel and upon the two doorposts and he will pass by, and the Memra (יייד הימימר) of the Lord will defend the door of the fathers of the children of Israel.20
Note how the text brings into the paschal play a new character, the Memra / Word (מימר) of Yahweh. It is also worth noting the change of Exodus 12:12-13 from the biblical “For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night; […] I am the Lord. […] when I see the blood, I will pass over you” to the targumic “I will pass in my Memra (מימר) through the land of Egypt this night of the Passover […] I in my Memra will defend you.”21 It appears that, for the targumic writer, the divine agent that is manifest or acting within the world is not Yahweh, but the Word of Yahweh, or Yahweh through his Word.
For the purpose of the present study it is emblematic that the targumic fragment corresponding to Exodus 12:42 identifies the Word / Memra with the Light of the first day of creation. The whole passage Exodus 12:42 is then illustrative in that it summarizes Yahweh’s manifestations in the world:
The first night: when the Lord was revealed over the world to create it. The world was without form and void, and darkness was spread over the face of the abyss and the Memra (יייד הירממ) of the Lord was the Light (ארוהנ), and it shone; and he called it the First Night. The second night: when the Lord was revealed to Abram […]. The third night: when the Lord was revealed against the Egyptians at midnight: his hand slew the first-born of the Egyptians and his right hand protected the first-born of Israel […]. The fourth night: When the world reaches its appointed time to be redeemed: the iron yokes shall be broken [cf. Isa 9:4; 10:27 etc. and Jer 28:2-14], and the generations of wickedness shall be blotted out, and Moses will go up from the desert <and the king Messiah [אחישמ אכלמ] from the midst of Rome.> […] and his Memra (רמימ) will lead between the two of them, and I and they will proceed together. This is the night of the Passover to the name of the Lord [cf. Ex 12:11]; it is a night reserved and set aside for the redemption of all Israel, throughout their generations.22
The passage thus depicts Yahweh’s economy, if one can use this Greek term expressing God’s manifestation in the world, a manifestation expressly guided by a soteriological goal. All the four manifestations of God in four different nights reflect a gradual illumination of creation accomplished in the final appearance of the Word, at the eschaton, when he will come in the company of Moses and Messiah. While the Word is identified at the beginning of the fragment with the light of the first day, at the end the Word reveals himself during a certain night of Passover that will coincide with the end of the world. As a consequence, it seems that the Targum Neofiti 1 preserves a special tradition in which the end of the actual world and the beginning of the eschatological one will come on a Paschal night. A Christian document of the second century, bearing the title Epistula Apostolorum, discloses in the seventeenth chapter the existence of a similar thought. Here, Christ reveals to his disciples that the coming of the Father will happen between Pascha and Pentecost.23
In a different manner, but yet emphasizing the same conception as that of Neofiti 1, the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan to the same Book of Exodus changes the fragment Exodus 12:11-12 from the biblical “and you shall eat it [the lamb] hurriedly. It is the Passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night” to the following:
And you shall eat in the haste of the Shekinah (תניכש) of the Lord of the world, because it is a mercy from before the Lord for you. On that night I will be revealed in the land of Egypt in the Shekinah (תניכש) of my Glory (ירקי), and with me there will be ninety thousand myriads of destroying angels.24
Again, the new import of the glory-language, if not a very ancient tradition, finds its place in the paschal discourse. Also, in 12:23, the glory (ארקי) is the agent which strikes the Egyptians, while the “Memra (ארמימ) of the Lord will protect the door and will not allow the Destroying Angel to enter and smite your houses.”25 However, the passage does not make clear whether it is the glory or the destroying angel that strikes the Egyptian first-born. Finally, Exodus 12:29 introduces a third destroying agent, the Word of Yahweh: “In the middle of the night of the fifteenth (of Nisan) the Memra (ארמימ) of the Lord slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt.”26 It is important to note that, because the Babilonian Targum does not manifest the presence of the glory-language in connection with the Passover night, it follows as a matter of consequence that the glory-language reflects only a Palestinian development.
Finally, the Haggadah for Pesach ends with a prayer that depicts the Passover as a passage from darkness to light and from servitude to salvation:
He has brought us from bondage to freedom, from sadness to joy, from mourning to festivity, from darkness to light, and from servitude to redemption.27
As a partial conclusion, one might therefore suppose that certain rabbinic writings associate the festival of Pesach with the expectation of a salvific theophany, be it that of Yahweh, that of his Word/Light, or that of his Shekinah.
3. The vision of salvific light in the Isaianic corpus and Psalms
From historical investigations on the origins of the Jewish festival of Pesach, the time when the theme of the divine light became part of the Passover symbolism remains uncertain. While historians still discuss the festival’s origins, whether nomadic, semi-nomadic, pastoral or agricultural, the concept of salvation from the Egyptian slavery appears to be a further Yahwist addition.28 T. Prosic generally views the light as “a sign of the act of creation” in opposition to the dark powers of the primordial chaos.29 Placed in the first month at the vernal equinox, Pascha implies all the positive symbolisms of the sun and the new harvest: from order and creation, to salvation and perfection.30 Nevertheless, the connection between the vision of the divine light and the idea of salvation was a very ancient belief in Israel, as some of the proto-Isaianic oracles prove. The concept goes back, therefore, at least to the eight century BC. A passage such as Isaiah 9:2-3 most likely is part of an oracle related to the Assyrian invasion between 734 and 732 BC when Tiglath-pileser III annexed three Samarian provinces to Assyria: the Way of the Sea, Trans-Jordan, and Galilee of the nations (i.e. Dor, Megiddo, and Gilead).31
The people who walked in darkness (חשך) have seen a great light (אור); those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light (אור) has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before (פנים = face) you.
It seems that the proto-Isaianic oracles unveil a large and democratic accessibility to the vision of the divine glory, which probably was the general expectation of all the people of Israel. The meaning of this democratic accessibility to the divine glory is rooted in its salvific power. Isa 9:2-3 therefore seems to be one of the first testimonies that reflect the fact that the oldest attested Jewish theological conception on the vision of God’s glory envisaged this event as incumbent of salvific power. Other passages with the same soteriological accent, either in the Isaianic texts or in Psalms seems to be of later, post-exilic development.
The prophet, in this passage, makes reference to a future time, when the people of Israel will be saved from the Assyrian oppression and will be elevated to the highest and happiest possible status: to be in the light (אור) of Yahweh and see his face (פנים). The well-known Jewish tradition that identifies God’s glory with his face can be encountered in this context, too. Furthermore, this salvation appears to be not only a social one, from the Assyrian oppression, but also divine, because Yahweh himself intervenes in the historical developments of the facts. Nevertheless, from a temporal perspective, as one sees a few verses further, the salvific status will not be just a temporary phenomenon but one extended without limit in the future. It will be a kingdom of Davidic descent, led by a child who is an “everlasting father (עד אב)” (9:6), in which an “endless peace (קץ אין שלום)” will be established and justice and righteousness will be instituted “from this time onward and forevermore (עד)” (9:7).
For Isaiah, the people of God will acquire in the eschatological times the luminous or glorious characteristics of Yahweh. While in 6:3 Yahweh is described as luminous (“Holy [קדוש], Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory [כבוד]”),32 the verse 4:2 ascribes the same attribute to the eschatological human condition: “On that day the branch of the Lord (Yahweh) shall be beautiful and glorious (כבוד).” The glory is also a central element of the soteriological geography in which certain terrestrial and sacred places, like those of the mount of Zion or the city of Jerusalem, represent the inhabited domains of salvation:
Whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy (קדוש), everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, […] The Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and a shining (נגה) of a flaming fire by night. Indeed over all the glory (כבוד) there will be a canopy.33
In the second chapter of Isaiah one can find the idea of procession towards this light: “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (2:5). The fragment 46:13, which is later and part of the deutero-Isaianic corpus, states even more clearly: “I will put salvation (תשועה) in Zion, for Israel my glory (תפארה).” The aspect of procession to the temple is also emblematic in both the symbolic and ritual denoting articulations of the text, the imagery indicating that the Isaianic oracles were probably hymns interpreted in one of the Festivals of the city of Jerusalem. See, for example, 2:5 and also 2:3: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” However, the deutero-Isaianic passage of 33:20-2, written probably at the time of the Second Temple, is the text where the ideas of light and salvation seem to start being connected with a certain festival for Yahweh:
Look on Zion, the city of our appointed festivals! Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be pulled up, and none of whose ropes will be broken. But there the LORD in majesty (אדיר) will be for us a place of broad rivers and streams, where no galley with oars can go, nor stately ship can pass. For the LORD is our judge, The LORD is our ruler, the LORD is our king; he will save (ישע) us.
The book of Psalms also discloses a similar perspective of salvation in the glory of Yahweh, as one can see for instance in Psalm 68. Moreover, the context of Ps.68 does not appear to be an ordinary Temple service (like probably those of 26; 27; 63:2; 68:35; 99), but a special festival where an embedded procession was a significant ingredient:
7/O God (אלהים), when you went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, /8/ the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain at the presence (פנים) of God, the God of Sinai, at the presence (פנים) of God, the God of Israel. /…24/ Your solemn processions (הליכה) are seen, O God, the processions of my God, my King, into the sanctuary (קדש) – /25/the singers in front, the musicians last, between them girls playing tambourines.
While in 67:1-2, 80:3, and 80:7 God’s shining face/presence (פנים) brings salvation (ישועה), in the Ps 104, the manifestation of פנים is the way through which God proffers life to every creature.34
In the Isaianic and Psalmic corpora, most likely the central semantic charge of the visio Dei is the salvation of the people of Jerusalem. Seeing God, therefore, for that time, was a general expectation, because seeing God meant salvation. Speaking about the light of theophany in the Old Testament, Aalen states: “The primary purpose of the theophany of God is the deliverance and salvation of the nation and of the individual.”35
Of course, the manifestation of God’s glory in the books of Isaiah and Psalms may include other functions, such as the punishment of enemies, or manifesting God as the first instance of knowledge, kingship, judgment or lawgiving. The former is strongly connected with the concept of salvation, since the liberation from the enemies’ oppression implies a salvific act, social and eschatological at the same time, insofar as Yahweh himself is the agent of salvation. Seeing his glory, the enemies “enter into the rock, and hide in the dust from the terror of the LORD (Yahweh), and from the glory (הדר) of His majesty (גאון).”36
In conclusion, the evidence above suggests that the connection between salvation and the vision of the divine glory has an honorable antiquity, being conveyed probably even at the time of the First Temple. Moreover, some texts pertaining to the Second Temple period such as Isaiah 33 and Psalm 68 appear to show the connection between these two ideas with certain Jewish festivals.
4. The Second Temple Passover Festival and the Expectation of the Divine Light
When did the two ideas of vision of the divine light and salvation start being associated with the Festival of Pesach? Several of the books ascribed to Philo of Alexandria seem to support the hypothesis that the connection was already conveyed at the time of the Second Temple. In the second part of his De specialibus legibus, while describing the “ten feasts which are recorded in the law,”37 Philo explains why Pascha falls on the fifteenth day of the first month. At that time light is an uninterrupted phenomenon of two days, the sun enlightening all the day of the fourteenth and the moon all the night of the fifteenth (i.e. in our modern calendar the day of 14th and the night of 14th to 15th):
The feast begins at the middle of the month, on the fifteenth day, when the moon is full, a day purposely chosen because then there is no darkness, but everything is continuously lighted up (fwto\j a)na/plea pa/nta dia\ pa/ntwn) as the sun shines from morning to evening and the moon from evening to morning and while the stars give place to each other no shadow is cast upon their brightness (fe/ggoj).38
The element of light was therefore an important part of the feast. In any circumstance, light was not only a physical or cosmological event, but also one pertaining to the spiritual domain. Thus the first part of the treatise Questions and Answers on Exodus is of significant help in showing this idea. The treatise is a commentary on Exodus 12, very similar to Melito’s and Ps-Hippolytus’s homilies, and thus it might be seen as a first treatise on Pascha. The key difference consists in the fact that, while the Christian homilists conceived a difference between the old and the new Pascha, and used the typological interpretation, Philo gave an allegorical interpretation and envisioned Pascha as the passage from the sensible to intelligible realm, and from the interpretation according to the text and its literal meaning (to\ r(hto/n) to the deeper one according to the reason (to\ pro\j dia/noian).39 Every chapter is methodically articulated by an initial, literal reading, which is followed by a second intelligible/allegorical/dianoetical explanation. At this second level, the Paschal feast has to be a progress (prokoph/) of the soul.40 The culmination of the process most likely consists in reaching the illumination:
For when the souls appear bright and visible, their visions begin to hold festival, hoping for a life without sorrow or fear as their lot and seeing the cosmos with the weight of the understanding as full and perfect, in harmony with the decade.41
A passage from De congressu quaerendae eruditionis gratia summarizes all these concepts:
We find this “ten” plainly stated in the story of the soul’s Passover, the crossing (dia/basij) from every passion and all the realm of sense to the tenth, which is the realm of mind and God; for we read “on the tenth day of this month let everyone take a sheep for his house” (Ex. xii.3), and thus beginning with the tenth day we shall sanctify to Him that is tenth the offering fostered in the soul whose face have been illumined (pefwtisme/n$) through two parts out of three, until its whole being becomes a brightness (fe/ggoj), giving light to the heaven like a full moon by its increase in the second week. And thus it will be able not only to keep safe, but to offer as innocent and spotless victims its advances on the path of progress (prokopai/).42
Thus, envisioning the Paschal festival as a progress (prokoph/) of the soul on the way toward illumination or meeting God, the Philonian passages illustrate that the expectation of the Paschal enlightenment was a lively phenomenon at the time of the Second Temple. In addition, as an important aspect, Philo articulated the entire visionary argument in an internalized form. Taking into consideration the measure of two-thirds and the completion of the entire brightness (fe/ggoj) of the soul, the Alexandrian also proffers a dynamic of spiritual advancement and of gradual illumination to the Paschal festival, a dynamic also present in a different form in Melito and Pseudo-Hippolytus.43 This internalized way to illumination is cosmically paralleled by the growth of the moon from two-thirds on the tenth day of Nissan to the full moon of the fourteenth.
As a plausible hypothesis, as in many cases the Targums preserve Jewish traditions of the Second Temple period, the Palestinian targumic passages on Exodus analyzed in the first part of this paper might also testify to the existence of the expectation of the divine glory at the festival of Pesach even at the time of the Second Temple.44
5. Concluding remarks
In conclusion, documentary evidence seems to lead to the idea that the divine salvific glory was an emblematic expectation in Paschal ritual traditions of the Second Temple of Jerusalem and was also part of both rabbinic and Christian Paschal traditions. The present study proposes a model of two branches developing from the same common trunk. At the same time, the possibility of mutual influences between the rabbinical and Christian traditions may not be excluded, as one can see in the above-mentioned case of Pesach-Hagghadah and Melito of Sardes or in that of the Quartodeciman tradition of Asia Minor Christianity. At the same time, the conjecture of a total influence of rabbinic ritual tradition on the Christian tradition encompasses its forced presuppositions. Moreover, the writings of the New Testament lend testimony indicating that the Christian communities did not break observance of the Temple liturgical life. For these reasons, the model of a tree with two branches seems to be more plausible.
Regarding the changes that each of the two separate developments brought into the Paschal celebration, this might be the subject of a different study. In broad ways, the main fracture intervened in both communities in AD 70 with the Roman troops’ destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. Nevertheless, the Christian communities made the most important semantic shift at the level of theory and of worship dimension by identifying with Christ the divine agent that comes in glory (i.e. Yahweh, Shekinah, or the Word of Yahweh). The texts from Melito and Pseudo-Hippolytus proved this idea which might be earlier than AD 70, or, in any case, pertaining to the first century, since several early Christian texts illustrate the identification of Christ with Yahweh or the Lord of Glory, one of Yahweh’s Old Testament titles. For this it should be remembered, for example, Paul’s 1 Corinthians 2:8 where Jesus Christ receives the title of the Lord of glory (Ku/rioj th=j do/chj) or Matthew 4:13-6. After the events of the Epiphany and Christ’s temptations, Matthew sets in connection Christ’s first kerygmatic actions with the salvific light promised in Isaiah 9:1-2:
He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Nephtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Nephtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people who set in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who set in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.
Matthew also identifies, in 1:22-3, the new-born Christ with the character of the new-born Emmanuel of Isaiah 7:14. In addition, in the narrative about the bringing to the Temple in Luke 28-32, Simeon, the old man who receives Christ in his hands, utters the oracle: “My eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light (fw=j) for revelation to the nations, and the glory (do/ca) of your people Israel.”
Also important for the investigation is the fact that John depicts the event of Incarnation as the coming of the divine light, therefore using glory-language: while in 1:4 the author identifies the Word with life and life with light, as the Targum Neofiti 1, in 1:9 the Gospel states that “[t]he true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” In 1:14 the apostle witnesses that disciples have seen Christ’s glory (do/ca) and in 8:12, 9:5 and 12:35-6,46 Christ defines himself as the light of the world (to\ fw=j tou= ko/smou), or the light that came into the world.
The glory-language which depicts Christ’s Incarnation as the coming of the divine light was therefore commonplace as early as the first century CE, and the soteriological intention of this coming was an incumbent element. In a document from the beginning of the second century such as the Book of Apocalypse, the salvific light is not associated with the event of Incarnation but with the eschatological reality of the heavenly kingdom. Chapter 21:23-24 states that “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. /24/ The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” Again, salvation equals living in the light or glory of God.
From a mystical perspective, all the three forms of the Paschal festival (Second Temple, Christian, and rabbinic) aim at seeing God, which is one of the most important purposes of every form of mysticism. The particular feature of the Paschal festival is that the practical method of this form of mysticism is one performed by a group or community, not by an isolated individual. The ascetic exercises such as the repentance of the Day of Atonement or the Christian feast, then the Paschal vigil, and the entire Paschal ritual with all its gestures and hymns play the same role as the ascetic exercises of the individual’s asceticism. However, it seems that the Paschal celebration is not the only form of group-mysticism, but the liturgical celebration of the Sabbath Sacrifice in the community of Qumran might be also seen as a group-mysticism. Finally, definitely the Christian liturgy as well, as one can see in many scholarly investigations, may also be regarded as a form of communitarian mysticism.45
Based on the assumptions of this study, several conclusions may be drawn:
First, it seems that a tradition that ascribed to the divine glory a salvific power existed in Second Temple Judaism and this position probably had its roots in the First Temple period. The main element of this theological position was that salvation comes through the manifestation of God’s glory and consists in living before the divine Face.
Second, documentary evidence of the Second Temple period, such as Isaiah 33 and Psalm 68, evinces the conception that certain appointed festivals constituted the temporary contexts in which this salvific light could have appeared.
Third, documents pertaining to the Second Temple period, such as Philo’s writings, and then early rabbinic texts, such as the Targums Neofiti 1 and Pseudo-Jonathan, associate the vision of light with the Passover festival.
Forth, Christian authors, such as Melito and Pseudo-Hippolytus, point to the Christian expectation of the divine light at the time of the Paschal festival. As an important innovation, a semantic import occurs in the old system of meanings: now, Yahweh’s theophany is the second coming, or the parousia, of the resurrected Christ.
Fifth, the Christian and rabbinic Paschal expectations of the divine light most probably constitute two separate developments of similar expectations at the Pesach festival observed during the Second Temple period.
Last, the Jewish and Christian Festivals of Pascha may be regarded as forms of a special sort of mysticism, liturgical in its nature, and being not the privilege of special individuals, but instead of a community.
1 Ex 12:1-14 [NRSV translation for the present study].
2 See Cantalamessa’s I piu antichi testi pasquali della Chiesa. Le omelie di Melitone di Sardi e dell’Anonimo Quartodecimano e altri testi de II secolo. Introduzione, traduzione e commentario (Rome: Edizioni Liturgiche, 1972).
3 See the hypothesis that L. W. Barnard proposed in his “The Epistle of Barnabas – A Paschal Homily?” VigChr 15 (1961): 8-22, as well as that from F.L. Cross’s I Peter, A Paschal Liturgy? (London: Mowbray, 1954).
4 S. G. Hall, introduction to Melito of Sardis. On Pascha and Fragments (trans. S. G. Hall; Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1979), xii and xv.
5 Melito of Sardes, Peri Pascha [PP] 44-45, in Hall, Melito, 23. The present study follows this critical edition.
6 Melito of Sardes, PP 68 [473-480]. In one of his articles, S.G. Hall studied this Melitonian passage in parallel with two Jewish texts, namely Mishnah Pesahim 10..5 and Exodus Rabbah 12.2 (cf. S. G. Hall, “Melito in the light of the Passover Haggadah,” JTS n. s. 22 : 29-46).
7 Halton’s expression “the blessed light of Christ sheds its rays” might be changed into “the light of Christ sheds its sacred rays,” according to i(erai\ me\n h)/dh fwto\j au)ga/zousi Xristou= a)kti=nej. Compare my proposal with Nautin’s solution (“les rayons sacrés de la lumière du Christ resplendissent” – Nautin, 116) and that offered by Visonà: “brillano i sacri raggi della luce di Cristo” (Visonà, 231). For the Greek text, the present study follows Pierre Nautin’s edition, Homélies Pascales (SC 27; Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1950), 170 (In sanctum Pascha [IP] 1,1). Cf. G. Visonà, Pseudo Ippolito. In sanctum Pascha. Studio, edizione, commento (Milano: Vita e Pensiero, 1988).
8 For the economy of the present study, it would be significant to mention that Nautin translated the Greek noun to\ pa=n through “l’univers” (Nautin, 116), while Visonà rendered it through “l’universo” (Visonà, 231).
9 A. Hamman, ed., The Paschal Mystery. Ancient Liturgies and Patristic Texts (trans. T. Halton; Staten Iland, N.Y. Alba House, 1969), 50. Cf. Nautin, 170.
10 C. Martin thought that the homily might be the lost Hippolytan On Pascha, in his “Un Peri\ tou= Pa/sxa de S. Hippolyte retrouvé?” Recherches de science religieuse 16 (1922): 148-65; M. Richard, “Une homélie monarchienne sur la Pâque,” Studia Patristica, v.III :78 (1961): 284.
11 See Pierre Nautin, introduction to Homélies Paschales 46-48.
12 R. Cantalamessa, ofmcap., L’Omelia “In S. Pascha” dello Pseudo-Ippolito di Roma. Ricerche sulla teologia dell’Asia Minore nella seconda meta del II secolo (Milano: Societa Editrice Vita e Pensiero, 1967), 187-368. Cf. G. Visonà, Pseudo Ippolito.
13 J. Gribomont, RSLR 5 (1969): 158-163; A. Stuiber, Theologische Revue 66 (1970): 398; Visonà, Pseudo-Ippolito, 35-6.
14 J. Daniélou, RechSR 57 (1969): 79-84; A. Grillmeier, Theologie und Philosophie 44 (1969): 128-130; B. Botte, Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale 33 (1968): 184; M. Simonetti, Vetera Christianorum 6 (1969): 218-220; S.G. Hall, JTS 20 (1969): 301-304; C.C. Richardson, “A New Solution to the Quartodeciman and the Synoptic Chronology,” JTS 24 (1973): 77; Kretschmar, “Christliches Passa im 2. Jahrhundert und die Ausbildung der christlichen Theologie,” RechSR 60 (1972): 306-307.
15 F. Blanchetière, Le christianisme asiate aux IIe et IIIe siècles (Lille, 1981), 185; Mara, Évangile de Pierre, (SC; Paris, 1973), 215; E. Mazza, “Omelie pasquali e birkat ha-mazon: fonti dell’anafora di Ippolito?” EL 97 (1083): 409-481.
16 K. Gerlach, The Antenicene Pascha. A Rhetorical History (Leuven: Peeters, 1998), 161, 387 and 403.
17 A. Hamman, The Paschal Mystery, 50.
18 Ibid., 50. IP 1,1.
19 For him, the Incarnation was both a coming (e)pidhmi/a, IP 43-4) of Christ, who is the eternal priest, the King of glory, and the Lord of the powers (IP 46), and a compression of the magnitude of divinity in a human form (IP 45).
20 Tg. Neof. 12:23, in M. McNamara and R. Hayward, Targum Neofiti 1: Exodus (vol.2 of The Aramaic Bible. The Targums; Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1994), 49. For the Aramaic text, see A. D. Macho, Neophiti 1. Targum Palestinense Ms de la Biblioteca Vaticana (Tomo II Exodo; trans. M. McNamara and M. Maher; Madrid-Barcelona: Consejo Superior de Investigationes Científicas, 1970), 439. See also M. Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (New York: Pardes Publishing House, 1950) 775: מימר , רמאמ , or אמימר = “word, command.” As well, הניכש, אתניכש, or יתניכש in some editions means “royal residence, royalty, glory, divine glory.” (Jastrow, 1573).
21 Tg. Neof. 12:12-13, in McNamara, Targum Neofiti 1, 47-48 and Macho, 437.
22 Tg. Neof. 12:42, in McNamara, Targum Neofiti 1, 52-53; Macho, 441-442. It is worth mentioning that, in Macho’s edition, McNamara prefered to translate אמור וג ןמ through “from on high” instead of “from the midst of Rome.” He is in agreement with Macho’s “de lo alto” (Macho, 78) and Le Déaut’s “d’en-haut” (Macho, 313). See also Le Déaut’s classical study on the theme of the four nights, La nuit pascale. Essai sur la signification de la Pâque juive à partir du Targum d’Exode XII 42 (Rome: Institut Biblique Pontifical, 1963).
23 Cf. Tertullian. Bapt. 19 and Hippolytus, Comm. Dan 4, 55 ff.
24 Tg. Ps-J. 12:11-12, in M. Maher, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Exodos (vol. 2 of The Aramaic Bible. The Targums; Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1994), 191. Cf. J.W. Etheridge, The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch with the Fragments of the Jerusalem Targum (New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1968), 457. Also, see manuscript Add. 27031 of Tg. Ps-J. from the British Museum in R. Le Déaut, Targum du Pentateuque. (Tome II, Exode et Lévitique; SC 256; Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1979], 87). For the Aramaic text, see M. Ginsburger, Pseudo-Jonathan. Thargum Jonathan ben Usiël zum Pentateuch (Berlin: S. Calvary & Co., 1903) or D. Rieder, Pseudo-Jonathan: Targum Jonathan ben Uziel on the Pentateuch Copied from the London MS [British Museum Add. 27031] (Jerusalem: Solomon’s, 1974) and E. G. Clarke, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan of the Pentateuch: Text and Concordance (Hoboken, New Jersey: Ktav, 1984). For ארקי, וריקי, or ירקי, which means “honor, dignity”, see Jastrow, A Dictionary, 592.
25 Tg. Ps-J. 12:23, in M. Maher, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, 192; cf. J.W. Etheridge, The Targums, 476-477.
26 Tg. Ps-J. 12:29, in M. Maher, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, 193; cf. J.W. Etheridge, The Targums, 447. It is worth mentioning that the destroying agent in Tg. Onq. and Tg. Neof., in accordance with the biblical Ex 12:29, is Yahweh.
27 E. D. Goldschmidt, The Passover Haggadah: Its Sources and History (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1960). Cf. Mishnah, Exodus Rabbah 12:2.
28 J. B. Segal, The Hebrew Passover from the Earliest Times to AD 70 (London, 1963); H. Haag, Vom alten zum neuen Pascha. Geschichte und Theologie des Osterfestes (Stuttgart: KBW Verlag, 1971); Otto, “Pasah,” in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament 12:1-24; T. Prosic, The Development and Symbolism of Passover until 70 CE (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2004). T. Prosic makes a general review of the previous theories on the origins of the festival (Prosic, 19-32). She maintains that the recent developments in the history of early Israel have eliminated the nomadic theory (Ib., 32); moreover, she supports the theory of a single origin for Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Sheaf (Ib., 69).
29 T. Prosic, The Development, 99-100.
30 Ibid., 83-97.
31 E. D. Kissane, The Book of Isaiah (Dublin: The Richview Press, 1960), 104. R. E. Clements, Isaiah 1-39 (London: Marshal, Morgan & Scott, 1980), 34; J. D. W. Watts, Isaiah 1-33 (vol. 24 of World Biblical Commentary; Waco, Texas: World Books, 1985), 133-4; J. J. Collins, Isaiah (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press), 106; H. Wildberger. Isaiah 1-12. A Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), 394.
32 שדק does not have only the meaning of “separated,” which is probably a later development, but the Semitic root – דק – sends to “bright,” a word used especially for the divinity and the things related to the divine. (Kornfeld and Ringgren “שדק qdš,” in G. J. Botterweck and H. Ringgren, eds., Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament [Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans, 2003], 12:521-45).
33 Isa 4:3-5. Cf. Isa 28:5: “In that day the LORD of hosts will be a garland of glory (צבי), and a diadem of beauty (תפארה = also “glory,” “splendor”), to the remnant of his people.” Cf. Isa 33:20-21. Another ancient text, the fragment of Exodus 15, generally called the Song at the Sea, sees salvation as an eternal dwelling in Yahweh’s sacred sanctuary; Ex 15:17-8: “You brought them and planted them in the mountain of your own possession, the place (מכון), O Lord (Yahweh), that you made your abode (ישב), the sanctuary (מקדש), O Lord, that your hands have established. The Lord will reign forever and ever (עד).”
34 Ps 104:29-31: “You hide your face (פנים), they [the living creatures – my note] are dismayed; when you take away their breath (רוח), they die and return to their dust. You send forth your spirit (רוח ), they are created; and you renew the face (פנים) of the ground. Let the glory (כבוד) of the LORD (Yahweh) endure forever.”
35 G. J. Botterweck and H. Ringgren, eds., Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Eerdmans, 1974), 1:165. On page 161 the same Aalen has the following remark: “The situation is the same when the OT speaks of ‘the light of Yahweh’ (Isa. 2:5), ‘his (God’s) light’ or ‘lamp’ (Job 29:3), or in the same sense, of ‘the light’ (Ps. 36:10; 43:3). Here too light is to be understood as a symbol not of God’s person, but of the salvation which God gives. The reference to seeing the light in Ps. 36:10 (9) is therefore not to be understood in a mystical sense. ‘To see the light’ simply means to experience salvation or deliverance (Isa. 9:1; 53:11 in the LXX and 1Qisa).”
36 Isa 2:10. The same expression, “the terror of the LORD (Yahweh) and from the glory (הדר) of His majesty (גאון),” occurs at 2:19 and 2:21. The same idea, but in different expressions appears at 10:16-18; 19:1; 26:21; 28:5; 31:7, 30; 33:2,3,6,11-12. The הוד (splendor) and the הדר (majesty) seem to be Yahweh’s garments, as the psalm 104:1 shows.
37 Philo, Spec. 2,41, in Philo VII (trans. F. H. Colson; LCL 320: Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984), 391: de/ka e(ortai/, a(\j a)nagra/fei o( no/moj.
38 Spec. 2,155. Cf. QE 1,9: “(Ex. 12:6a) Why does He command (them) to keep the sacrifice until the fourteenth (day of the month)? […] For when it has become full on the fourteenth (day), it becomes full of light in the perception of the people.” (Philo. Supplement II [trans. R. Marcus; LCL 401; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987] 17).
39 QE 1,4. Soul and mind have to pass from the vicious function to the virtuous one and finally soul even has to overpass the body, mind the senses and the thoughts have to become prophetic. Cf. Spec. 2,147 where the opposite word for to\ r(hto/n is a)llhgori/a, and Pascha regards the purification of the soul.
40 QE 1,3; 1,7; and 1,11.
41 QE 1,2 (trans. R. Marcus; LCL 401, p.8). The same perspective is also expressed a few pages further in the eight chapter: “First it [the soul which desires perfection] was necessary to pluck out sins and then to wash them out and, being resplendent, to complete the daily (tasks) in the practice of virtue.” (QE 1,8; LCL 401, p.17).
42 Philo, Congr. 106, in Philo IV (trans. F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker; LCL 261; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), 511.
43 For the theme of progressive illumination of the soul in Philo see also Spec. 2,145-149 and QE 1, 7-8. On the dynamic of the soul’s mystical progression in Melito and Pseudo-Hippolytus, see my article “The Roots of the Origenian Mystical Allegory In Melito’s Mystery Typology,” The Meaning of Allegory (Bucharest: The Romanian Institute for Culture / Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming 2006).
44 For the various theories regarding the age of the Palestinian and Babylonian Targums, the traditions that they preserve, and their mutual influences, see R. Le Déaut and J. Robert, “Targum,” Supplément au Dictionnaire de la Bible (Paris: Letouzey & Ané, 2002), 52-54. Generally, there are three hypotheses: Tg. Ps-J. is a document revised after Tg. Onq.: P. Kahle (1959), G. Vermes (1959-1960), G. J. Cowiling (1968), S. A. Kaufman. On the contrary, the second hypothesis sees Tg. Onq. as a revised version of an ancient Tg. Ps-J.: Vermes (1963), P. Schäfer (1971-1972), G.E. Kuiper (1968 and 1972), R.T. White (1981). The third hypothesis proposes a common source Proto-Onq. or Proto-TP.: A. Berliner (1884), White (1981), Le Déaut (2002).
45 See, for instance, L. Schiffman, “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Early History of Jewish Liturgy,” in The Synagogue in Late Antiquity (ed. Lee A. Levine; Philadelphia: American Schools of Oriental Research and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1984), 33-48; C. Newsom, Songs of the Sabath Sacrifice: A Critical Edition (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985); M. Barker, The Gate of Heaven: The History and Symbolism of the Temple in Jerusalem (London: SPCK, 1991); S. Reif, Judaism and Hebrew Prayer: New Perspectives on Jewish Liturgical History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); D. K. Falk, Daily, Sabbath, and Festival Prayers in the Dead Sea scrolls (Leiden; Boston : Brill, 1998); A. Golitzin, “Liturgy and Mysticism: The Experience of God in Eastern Orthodox Christianity,” Pro Ecclesia VIII.1 (1999) 159-186; see also A. Golitzin’s idea that the angelic hierarchy is a mirror and shaper of the soul in “Dionysius Areopagites in the Works of Saint Gregory Palamas: On the Question of a ‘Christological Corrective’ and Related Matters,” St Vladimir’s Theology Quarterly 46:2/3 (2002): 163-190; D. K. Falk, F. García-Martínez, E. M. Schuller, eds., Sapiential, Liturgical, and Poetical Texts from Qumran: Proceedings of the Third Meeting of the International Organization for Qumran Studies, Oslo 1998 : published in memory of Maurice Baillet (Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2000); M. Barker, The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Which God Gave to Him to Show to His Servants what Must Soon Take Place [Revelation I.I] ( Edinburgh : T&T Clark, 2000), esp. “Excursus: Parousia and Liturgy,” 373-388; C. H. T. Fletcher-Louis, All the Glory of Adam. Liturgical Anthropology in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Leiden: Brill, 2002); G. Schimanowski, Die himmlische Liturgie in der Apokalypse des Johannes : die frühjüdischen Traditionen in Offenbarung 4-5 unter Einschluss der Hekhalotliteratur(Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002); M. Barker, The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy (Edinburgh : T & T Clark, 2003); J. R. Davila, ed., The Dead Sea Scrolls as Background to Postbiblical Judaism and Early Christianity: Papers from an International Conference at St. Andrews in 2001 (Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2003); R. Elior, The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism (Oxford; Portland, Or.: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2004).