"[The Elder] lives as a normal man, just as any other living man, but he is as well the one whom God has taken and set apart, and who in consequence no longer lives quite the life of the present world. While indeed he walks the earth, he senses in some sense that his head is in the sky; that he sees heaven; that he sees God… [He is] the spiritual father who makes God tangible, powerful, living, intense, and true."
The quotation above comes from an interview with Archimandrite Aimilianos recorded for a program aired on German television just over twenty years ago1. The writer of the passage I wish to explore in this essay lived and wrote fifteen hundred years before that interview, and a thousand miles to the southeast of Mount Athos. His name was Aphrahat, Farhad in modern Persian2. He wrote in Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, and there is next to nothing in his writings to suggest that he had much of any contact at all with either the earlier writings of the Greek Church Fathers, or with the lexicon and concerns of Greek philosophy. His own diction, like the language he uses, is almost entirely Semitic, closer in fact to the rabbis of the huge Jewish diaspora of fourth-century Mesopotamia who were his neighbors, and with whom he quarreled, than to such contemporary Church Fathers as St. Athanasius of Alexandria or, later on in the fourth century, the Cappadocians3. Yet in spite of a vast distance at once physical, historical, linguistic and cultural, he offers us a portrait of the Christian holy man which is stunningly like the one which Father Aimilianos gives above, and which the latter himself has embodied for those of us who have had the intestimable privilege of knowing him. I shall return to this remarkable resemblance, and its importance, at the conclusion of my essay.
For now, however, a few more words of introduction to Aphrahat the Persian Sage are in order. He is a mysterious figure, though not because any wish on his part to cloak himself with obscurity. To the contrary, he writes to his correspondents as someone who is well known to them. He appears, in fact, to have been quite prominent in the Christian Church of the Persian Empire during the first half of the fourth century4. The mystery is rather that we know and hear nothing about this Church prior to the writings of Aphrahat himself. His is the first Christian voice from East of the Tigris that we can be certain of placing and dating securely, thanks entirely to the fact that Aphrahat himself is kind enough to supply us with the exact dates of his twenty-three discourses or, as he calls them, Demonstrations (tahwyata): the first ten in A.D. 337, the next twelve in 344, and the twenty-third in 3455. Yet the Church which his Demonstrations assume is clearly numerous, widespread in Mesopotamia and at least in Western Iran, and possessed moreover of long-standing institutions. An entire, hitherto-unglimpsed Christian universe appears thus for the first time in these writings, even though this is obviously a world which has been around for a long time — perhaps even for centuries — before it does so appear6.
There are many things of great interest about this "third world" which can and do shed light on the much better-known "worlds" of Greek and Latin Christianity. Its Semitic character at once betrays a number of traits unique to itself and, more importantly for my purposes here, reveals with perhaps especial clarity, thanks to its relative freedom from the technical vocabulary of Hellenistic philosophy, the great pool of Jewish traditions out of which Christianity itself originally coalesced, and from which it continued to draw — whether in Syriac, Greek, or Latin — throughout its early centuries7. All the materials, so-to-speak, for the foundational doctrines of the Church derive from this source, which is finally nothing more nor less than the single revelation of God to Israel as lived in the centuries prior to Christ and, in the fullness of time, as re-shaped by the inherent demands of the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth crucified, risen and enthroned at the right hand of the Father8. Since this is clearly a huge topic, and since my space is limited, I shall focus on the particular subject of the transfigured holy man, whom we shall find complete in our Mesopotamian author twenty years before — and a thousand miles removed from — St. Athanasius’ portrait of the "father of monks" in the famous Vita Antonii9.
Aphrahat, too, was writing to and about Christian ascetics. One of the institutions that we find fully-formed in the Persian Church of his day, indeed so much an assumed part of that Church’s life, and already so old as to require renewal, is that of the "sons" and "daughters of the convenant", bnai/bat qyama, who are consecrated "single ones", ihidaye, or "celibates" — though the theological resonances of both qyama and ihidaya are much richer and more subtle than simply these handy definitions10 Unlike Egyptian monasticism, which was in process of taking on its mature forms even as Aphrahat was writing, these native, Syro-Mesopotamian ascetics were not physically separated off from the larger Church in discrete communities and living outside the towns and villages under their own leaders, as in the nascent monastaries of St. Pachomius, or in the villages of monks at Scete, but were rather attached to their local churches under the supervision of the bishops and living in small groups within the town or city11 Later on, to be sure, during the latter days of St. Ephrem of Syria (+373), the Egyptian form of organized monasticism began to appear in Syriac-speaking churches and would eventually predominate.
This was not the case when Aphrahat wrote, however. By this fact alone, he offers proof that organized Christian asceticism was both older and more widespread than the monastic explosion of fourth-century Egypt, and his "proto-monks" have as a result been the focus of a modest scholarly industry for the past century. Only with the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, has it begun to become apparent just how old Christian asceticism is, and how rooted in Jewish traditions of the era immediately before Christ. Here again, Aphrahat’s ihidaye — and the very phrase, "sons of the covenant" — are extraordinarily revealing. Affinities between them and the Jewish covenanters have been noted in scholarly literature since the Scrolls first began to appear in print during the later 1950’s12. More recently, Antoine Guillaumont provided a rationale for the Qumranites’ celibacy based in great part on an analysis of Aphrahat, and the rationale still stands in scholarly circles13. In brief, the Persian Sage argues for celibacy on the basis of the levitical holiness code for priestly ministry in the Tabernacle or, later, in the Temple14. Similar concerns appear to have moved the Jewish convenanters four hundred years before, with the difference that, for our Christian writer, the continuous temple service — requiring thus continuous abstention even from the sanctified sexual activity of marriage — is that of the ministry of prayer within the temple of the body and so, as we shall see momentarily, before the presence of God in the heavenly temple. Obviously, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the "hatred of the body" supposedly characterizing early Christian asceticism and allegedly resulting from pagan, chiefly Platonist influences.
2. The Text: Demonstration XIV.35, columns 660:23-665:9
The notion of the temple, in particular the Christian as temple, may be said to be a key to understanding Aphrahat, and this is very much the case in the passage I have singled out for analysis here, which is paragraph 35 of his fourteenth Demonstration15. The latter takes the form of a long, general epistle addressed to the entire Church of the Persian Empire. It is concerned to address problems in that Church, notably greed, power-politics, and strife among believers, and all against the background of the persecutions just inaugurated by the Emperor Shapur II16. A little over halfway through his catalogue of human failings, Aphrahat breaks off his diatribe for several paragraphs, in order to consider, first, the example of Christ’s Cross and dying, with special emphasis on Phil 2:6-1117. He then moves to the scriptural theme of God’s exaltation of the lowly and from there, immediately preceding our text, to the divine inscrutability and the wonders of creation18. In paragraph 35, he arrives at his description of the glorified sage, hakkima. The column and line numbers refer to Parisot’s edition of the Demonstrations for volume I of the Patrologia Syriaca; and the translation is my own:
|660||23||Who has perceived the place of knowledge?|
|24||Who has attained to the roots of wisdom? And who|
|25||has insight into the place of understanding? The latter is hidden|
|26||from the thoughts of every fleshly being,|
|661||1||nor can the obstinate purchase it with gold. Its treasure|
|2||is open and permitted to those who ask [for it]. Its light|
|3||is greater than the sun, and its radiance is more comely and beautiful|
|4||than the moon. The innermost chambers of the intellect may touch it,|
|5||and the perceptions of thought may attain to it, and fulness of mind may|
|6||inherit it. Whoever has opened the door of his heart|
|7||finds it, and whoever unfolds the wings of his intellect|
|8||possesses it. It dwells in the man who is diligent,|
|9||and is implanted in the heart of the sage,|
|10||whose nerves are set firmly in their sources, and [so]|
|11||in it [i.e., the heart] he possesses a hidden treasure. His thought flies|
|12||to all the heights, and his pondering|
|13||descends to all the depths. She [i.e., Wisdom] depicts|
|14||wonderous things in his heart, and the eyes of his perceptions|
|15||take in the bounds of the seas. All things created|
|16||are enclosed within his thought, and he|
|17||becomes vast so as to receive still more. He becomes|
|18||the great temple of his Creator. Indeed, the King of the Heights|
|19||enters and dwells in him, and lifts his intellect up to the heights,|
|20||and causes his thought to fly to His Holy House,|
|21||and He shows him the treasure of color within [it].|
|22||His mind is absorbed in the visions, and his heart|
|23||is rapt in all its perceptions. He [the King] shows|
|24||him a thing that he never knew. He gazes on that place|
|664||1||and contemplates it, and his mind is stupefied by everything|
|2||that it sees: all the watchers hastening to his ministry,|
|3||the seraphim chanting the thrice-holy [lit. "sanctifying"] to his glory,|
|4||flying swiftly with their wings, and their vestments|
|5||white and shining, their faces are covered at|
|6||his radiance, their courses swifter than the wind;|
|7||there is the throne of the kingdom established;|
|8||the Judge makes ready the place of judgement;|
|9||the chairs for the righteous are set out in order for them to judge the wicked|
|10||on the Day of Judgement. When the sage sees|
|11||in his mind the place of many treasures,|
|12||his thought is thenceforth elevated, and his heart|
|13||conceives and engenders every good thing, and he meditates|
|14||on everything he had sought. While his form|
|15||and appearance are on the earth, the senses of [his] intellect are at once|
|16||above and below. He thought is swifter than the sun,|
|17||and its rays fly quicker than the wind,|
|18||swift as wing[s] in every direction.|
|19||The sage grows strong in his thought. Though his appearance is small,|
|20||and [he makes himself] smaller yet, he is still infused and filled with a mighty treasure.|
|21||The darkness at night is made light, and he sends|
|22||his thoughts out in all directions. His intellect touches|
|23||all the foundations and brings him a treasure of knowledge.|
|24||He has seen what his "ears have not heard", and he has perceived|
|25||what his "eyes have not seen". His interests traverse the seas,|
|26||though he bothers not with their mighty|
|665||1||billows, and his intellect is without a ship|
|2||or a sailor, yet his commerce is great and exceptional.|
|3||When he gives from what is his, he is no whit the less, and the poor|
|4||are made wealthy from his treasure. There is no limit|
|5||to his mind, which is gathered up and lodged in his inner being.|
|6||The place where the King dwells and is ministered to, who|
|7||who could calculate its treasure for you? Many|
|8||are its affairs and expenses, as for a king for whom|
Just over thirty years ago, in the course of a series of articles for Studia Monastica on "Purity of Heart", the late Sister Juana Raasch briefly noted a number of parallels between this passage and the oldest of the apocalypses which feature a heavenly journey, I or Ethiopic Enoch, chapters 1-36 (esp. chp. 14 ff.), or "The Book of the Watchers"20. In the latter, the biblical patriarch "travels to the ends of the earth as well as through the heavens". In heaven, he is shown the throne of God, "the Great Glory", initiated into the secrets of creation, and allowed to see the "court of heaven, angels and the thrones of the Judge and of the just"21. Raasch was too quick, however, to turn Aphrahat’s version of this scenario into a mental or spiritual exercise, a kind of meditation rather than a revelatory and/or mystical experience22. Twenty years later, Robert Murray discovered echoes in Dem.XIV.35 not only of apocalyptic literature, but even more so of the Jewish mystical texts roughly contemporary with Aphrahat, the "hekalot hymns", and specifically with Sefer Hekalot, 3 or Hebrew Enoch23. He cites in particular 3 Enoch 28 where Metatron, the Angel of the Presence par excellence who is serving as R. Ishmael’s heavenly tour-guide, tells the latter of the four supreme "Princes of the Presence", the "Watchers" (‘irin) and "Holy Ones who face the throne of God and reflect it", who "are praised with the praise of the Šekinah", and without whom "The Holy One, blessed be He, does nothing in His world without first taking [their] counsel"24. Murray then points to a very curious feature in Aphrahat’s account of the sage’s ascent to the Throne in 664:2-6: the masculine singular, third-person pronomial suffixes attached to "ministry" (tešmešta), "glory" (iqara), and "radiance" (ziwa) all have as their nearest "natural antecedent" not God, but the wise man, such that it is the latter whose glory the "Watchers", ‘irin, serve, to whom the thrice-holy is chanted, and from whose radiance the angelic priests, the Seraphim, veil their faces. Aphrahat, he suggests, is going "farther" — than, I assume, R. Ishmael, who ascends to heaven in the opening of 3 Enoch — and implying "that even a human being can be raised to the status of a Watcher and receive such honor from the angelic Watchers"25. This passage overall, he continues, interrupts the flow of argument in Demonstration XIV in order to describe "an experience like those which we may suppose are reflected in the Jewish mystical texts of the Merkabah tradition", that of being "rapt to the [heavenly] hekal". "The same words", Murray concludes, pointing to the verbs and adjectives touching on the speed and flight of the angels in our passage, "are used to describe their winged flight and then his [the sage’s] mental experience"26.
Both Raasch and Murray have contributed to what I shall have to say, the former by noting the tie-in to the Second Temple-era literature of visionary ascent, and by stressing the interiorized interpretation Aphrahat gives to it, and the latter with regard to several points, including, first, the recollection of Rabbinic-era hekalot mysticism, particularly 3 Enoch; second, the surprising — not to say shocking — picture of the sage as the object of angelic ministry; and, third, the attention to Aphrahat’s specific use of certain common words in order to establish the linkage between the angels’ service and the sage’s thought, and so pointing both to the latter’s effective identity with the "Watchers" and to his mystical experience. A little further analysis will bring out certain points that were missed or elided in the brief space, only a matter of a couple of pages in each instance, that Raasch and Murray could afford the passage.
While surely correct about Aphrahat’s intent to interiorize apocalyptic ascent, Raasch was too quick to dismiss the claim to genuine mystical experience that he was lodging. Murray, on the other hand, was not shy about this aspect at all, but I think he slightly missed the mark, first of all with regard to the very text which he singled out with such perspicacity as one of Aphrahat’s possible sources, 3 Enoch. The key, I submit, to understanding the Persian sage’s interest in this text, or in some earlier version of it, is neither R. Ishmael, nor the four ‘irin Murray cites in 3 Enoch 28, but rather the figure of Metatron himself, the transformed Enoch, who is the real hero of Sefer Hekalot, at least of its first fifteen chapters, and whom I take Aphrahat to be recasting into a shape consonant with Christian doctrine and spiritual practice27. An essential feature of that recasting is the process of interiorization which Raasch rightly underlined. Secondly, the lexical keys Murray put his finger on are certainly present, but in far greater numbers than suggested in his brief remarks. Picking out and following the links they establish will allow us to site Aphrahat’s portrait of the sage in the larger context of his understanding of the place of humanity in the divine plan, beginning with the creation of Adam and including the revelation of God to Moses on Sinai, but culminating in the meaning of Jesus Christ. It is Christ who is Aphrahat’s own real hero. The Lord Jesus is the Wisdom and Glory of God, the Eucharistic Presence and Himself the true tabernacle of worship28. In and through Him, the consecrated celibate and sage discovers his life and vocation, and experiences the eschatological recovery of Paradise. In short, as we shall see, Aphrahat’s sage is, in Christ, an illustration of what Greek-speaking Christians were calling theosis, deification29.
4. Chiasm and Terms of Special Interest: "Place", "Treasure", Verbs of "Seeing", "Glory", "Presence", and "Radiance/Splendor"
This brings me to the terms I have highlighted in the passage, the most important of which is the word "place", atra. The latter is repeated five times: twice in the opening lines, "the place of knowledge" and "of understanding" (660:23 and 25); twice in the climactic central section, "that place" and "the place of many treasures" (661:24 and 664:11); and once at the end, "the place where the King dwells" (665:6). The passage is built on this repetition, together with that of a pair of words, gaza and simta, both of which I have translated as "treasure", and which appear a total of eight times: twice at or toward the beginning, thus: the "treasure" (gaza) of the "place" (661:1) and the "treasure" (simta) "hidden" or "buried" in the "heart", lebba (661:11); twice in the central section: the "treasure" (gaza) within the heavenly sanctuary (661:21), and the "place of its [i.e., the "mind’s", rey’ana] many treasures [simata]"(664:11); and no less than four times in the concluding seventeen lines: the "mighty treasure" (gaza) filling the sage (664:20), the "treasure (gaza) of knowledge" he has at his disposal (664:23), the "treasure" (gaza) with which he enriches the poor (665:3-4), and finally the incalculable "treasures" (gaze) of "the place where the King dwells" (665:7).
The passage functions chiastically. We begin, A, with an echo of the questions in Job 28:12 ff.: "who has perceived the place of knowledge" which is "hidden" from earthly thoughts, and who is "fit" for understanding and so has accessed the "treasures"of wisdom? In Job 28, especially verses 23-27, the answer to these questions is God. With regard to the "treasure", however, a second scriptural passage, Mt 6:19-21, is of effectively equal importance for Aphrahat here. One’s treasures, simata in the Peshitta, are to be in heaven, "for where your heart is, there will your treasures be" (Mt 6:21)30. Thus the answer to the opening, the A’ of the chiasm, is not God, at least not directly, but the sage in whose "inner being" (‘ubba, lit. "womb" or "bosom") we are directed to find "the place where the King dwells" and all its "treasures". In between, we have learned the wonders of "that place", haw atra, wonders which include the heavenly temple, complete with angelic lower clergy, the "watchers" (‘irin), hurrying to accomplish their liturgy (lit., "ministry", tešmešta), and the seraphic priests, clothed in "white and shining vestments", chanting the celestial trisagion from Isa 6:3 (lit., "sanctifying", mqadšin) before the enthroned Glory (iqara), and veiling their faces from the divine radiance (ziwa). "There", too, "in that place", is the throne (tranaws) of judgement and the heavenly assize — in brief, "all the company of heaven", together with an anticipation, in the shape of the throne and seats of judgement, of the eschaton.
As Raasch observed, these images are standard fare in apocalyptic literature: the heavenly court, its ministry or liturgy, the angelic priests serving before the "Great Glory" (to cite I Enoch 14) and the place of judgement31. The heavenly temple, the hekal, and its angelic priesthood is also the especial interest of the rabbinic-era hekalot texts, whose history begins probably sometime shortly after the destruction of the Second Temple in A.D. 70 and whose origins, according to the recent theory of Rachel Elior, are very likely connected with that loss32. The two terms, iqara (glory) and ziwa (radiance), are also familiar from related literature. The former serves in the Syriac Bible, the Peshitta, as the regular rendering of the Hebrew kavod, the theophanic term par excellence in the Priestly strand of the Penteteuch, in Ezekiel, and in the Psalms most notably, though it is certainly present elsewhere in the Old Testament33. Iqara also appears regularly in the Palestinian Targumim, the Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible read in the synagogues of late antiquity34. In addition, not in the text cited above but on three other occasions, Aphrahat deploys a related Aramaic term, šekinta, which is the precise equivalent of the Hebrew word, šekinah, used by the rabbis to mean the radiant appearance of the divine presence, just as does Aphrahat with šekinta35. The brilliance of the divine presence is denoted by the term, ziwa, which again we find in the Rabbinic phrase, ziv haŠekinah, the blessed light of divinity on which the blessed "feed" in the age to come, and on which the hekalot mystics hope to "gaze" even in this life36.
Given that hope of the beatific vision in rabbinical literature, we should take special note of the verbs of seeing in our passage. The sage "gazes" (h’r) on "that place" (661:24); his mind is "stupefied" — mystical wonder or ecstasy — by what it "sees" (hz’) (664:2). He "has seen" (hz’) the "place of treasures" (664:11); and again "has seen" (hz’) "what ears have not heard" (664:2-4). We are surely in the realm here of mystical experience or, at the least, of its vocabulary, a lexicon that Aphrahat largely shares with his Jewish contemporaries, as well as with his Christian readers. That the latter were familiar with it, too, coupled with the fact that they were ascetics, members of the bnai qyama37, suggests to me that they — or at least some of them — were also interested in obtaining the same sort of visionary experience as the one being sought by contemporary Jewish "descenders to the Chariot": to ascend to the heavenly temple in order to "gaze" on the light of the enthroned Glory — and, indeed, we do have texts from earlier in the history of Christian Syria-Mesopotamia which feature ascents to heaven, as well as similar accounts — in both a positive and a negative key — in monastic Egypt of the fourth and fifth centuries38. Given this desire on the part of his contemporaries, together with a hope and literature effectively shared with neighboring Jews, we would have one of Aphrahat’s primary reasons for writing. I submit that, while he sympathizes with this desire to know and see the "place" of the heavenly mysteries and light of God, he also wishes to recast it in accordance with a consistent Christian teaching, and we shall see him doing precisely that with regard to his portrait of the perfected Christian, the sage or hakkima, as the "place" of the Presence.
"Place", atra, is a terminus technicus with a history at least long as long as any of the words touched on above. Given that it is also the principle term in our pericope, providing both the "ends" and the "pivot" of the chiasm, and further given that, by my rough count, it occurs at least thirty times in the Demonstrations in a like or similar context39, it is clearly worth a little attention. The Aramaic atra, like the Greek topos, renders the word, maqom, of the Hebrew Bible. The first and primary — verging on technical — meaning of maqom is the locus of divine manifestation, such as, for example, Bethel in Genesis 28:11 and 16-19, or the burning bush of Exodus 3:5, or verses such as Deuteronomy 12:5, 11, etc., which speak of the "chosen maqom" where God will make His Name to dwell40. With the latter we arrive at the association of "the place" with Zion, that is, the Temple in Jerusalem, a linkage which is especially frequent in the Psalms (e.g., Ps 24:3), and exceedingly frequent in Jeremiah, where the expression hammaqom hazzeh, "this place", occurs over thirty times41 as in, for example, Jer 17:12: "the place [maqom] of our sanctuary [miqdašenu]", where one modern English translation of the Bible renders maqom as, simply, "shrine"42. If anything, this identification of "place" with the Temple is accentuated in the Septuagint’s use of the equivalent Greek word, topos43. Thus, in Exodus 24:10, we find the insertion of the phrase, "the place where stood", into the Hebrew, "they saw the God of Israel". In the Septuagint version, the elders thus "saw the place", with topos serving as, effectively, a stand-in for God himself. While it may have been intended originally to soften the stark anthropomorphism of the Hebrew, this Septuagint variation would have a very important history in Greek ascetico-mystical literature, especially in the late fourth-century Desert Father, Evagrius Ponticus, whom I shall cite in this context below, and continuing thereafter in such writers as, for example, Dionysius Areopagites44.
Maqom in the Old Testament also occasionally refers to God’s heavenly dwelling, the celestial counterpart to the hekal on earth, most notably in the song of the cherubim in Ezekiel 3:12: "Blessed is the Glory of YHWH from his place [mimmaqomo]". In this verse, according to one modern scholar, we have an important moment in the development which flows seamlessly into the apocalyptic writings of the period immediately before and after Christ, and beyond45. By the time of Rabbinic literature generally, and of the hekalot texts in particular (and so of the era of Aphrahat as well), maqom has an established set of meanings reflecting its Old Testament usage. Not surprisingly, it occurs roughly 125 times in Peter Schäfer’s Synopsis of the hekalot literature, with around two dozen of those instances being citations or paraphrases of Ezk 3:1246. Reflecting the latter, we thus find the meaning of maqom in the hekalot texts as including, simply, "heaven"47, or, more specifically, as the "place of the throne of Glory"48, as the "place" unapproachable for created beings by virtue of the divine fire around it49, as the original or archetype of the earthly temple50, as a substitute expression for the divine throne itself51, as the heavenly equivalent of the Ark as footstool, "the place of the feet of the Šekinah"52, or, more broadly, as the divine "abode"53. Finally, and recalling the Septuagint deployment of topos as a kind of stand-in for God in Ex 24:10, we find throughout both the hekalot texts and other Rabbinic literature the use of maqom as a divine name, for which 3 Enoch alone supplies over a half-dozen instances54. In Rabbinic parlance therefore, haMaqom designates God in much the same way as do haKavod (the Glory), haŠem (the Name), haŠekinah (the Presence), haQadoš (the Holy One), etc.55. I maintain that all of these associations — the heavenly temple, the throne within it, the radiance, and God himself, together (and this last note is not to the fore in the Jewish literature, at least so far as I know) with God’s eschatological manifestation — lies behind Aphrahat’s use of the phrase in 661:24: "that place".
5. Indwelling Presence, Microcosm and Mystical Expansion
But there is a difference, and a very important one, between our Persian sage and the sources I cite above, which brings me back to Juana Raasch’s stress on interiorization, as well as to Aphrahat’s own deliberate echoing of Mt 6:19-21. For him, "that place" is within the sage. While it is true, as Murray pointed out briefly and as I have endeavored to flesh out above (nor am I finished), that we find more or less complete the vocabulary of ascent characteristic of both the ancient apocalypses and rabbinic-era hekalot texts, including the use of the verb "rapt" (šb’) — thus the sage’s "heart is rapt in all its perceptions" (661:23) — together with the verbs of seeing and even of flying, as in the prh of 661:20, it is also the case that all the rapturing and flying in question is accomplished by the sage’s "thoughts", mehšabata. It is he, the perfected Christian, who is the "great temple" (haikla rabba) of the "King of the heights", Who "enters [”l] and dwells [šr’]" in him (661:17-19). It is to this indwelling presence that the sage’s thoughts "fly", to it that he "ascends" in order to discover "there", within himself, the whole company of heaven. The "place" is thus effectively equated with the sage’s heart (lebba), or mind (rey’ana), or intellect (tar’ita), or simply "innermost being" (‘ubba), all of which seem to function here roughly as synonyms56. The allusion to I Cor 2:9, "what eye had not seen, nor has ear heard", in 664:24-25 also adds an eschatological reminiscence. The sage as the heavenly "place" enjoys in consequence an anticipation within himself of the age to come. Finally, he represents God — an aspect that I shall come back to presently. For now, however, allow me to conclude this paragraph by citing another Christian ascetic author who writes two generations later in Greek from the other side of the Eastern Christian world, Evagrius. The latter several times deploys Exodus 24:10 and the latter’s topos to precisely the same effect as Aphrahat. For example, in his 39th Epistle he writes:
If by the grace of God the intellect both turns away from [the passions] and puts off the old man, then it will also see its own constitution at the time of prayer, like a sapphire or the color of heaven, which recalls as well what the scripture calls the "place of God" seen by the elders on Mount Sinai. For another heaven is imprinted on a pure heart, because within it are beheld so many [things]: the meaning of beings and the holy angels who sojourn with the worthy.57
Here, too, we find the inner presence of the heavenly host and the place of theophany.
A third aspect of Aphrahat’s sage is that he is twice called, precisely, "sage", hakkima (661:9 and 664:10). William Schoedel has remarked on the "living tradition" of biblical Wisdom literature in early Christian — including early monastic — Egypt, and of a "coalescence" of the Jewish sage with other forms58. The same observations have been made specifically about, again, Evagrius of Pontus, and especially about the latter’s apparent invention of the genre of short sayings, the "centuries" or "kephalaia", to convey his teaching59. Likewise, those familiar with Evagrius will doubtless recall that the second stage of his return of the intellect to God, after the achievement (and gift) of victory over the passions in apatheia, is the physik theÇria, the contemplation of nature, which leads the initiate into the reasons or purposes of Christ at work in creating and judging the world, the logoi pronoias kai kriseÇs60. Less Evagrius’ particular metaphysics, this is very close indeed to what we find in our pericope from Aphrahat. The wisdom passage from Job 28 reverberates throughout the opening and closing sections of Demonstration XIV.35, while the sage’s ascent to the Presence and Throne, toward "that place", is through the knowledge of creation. His thought expands to enclose "all created things", heights and depths and "the bounds of the seas". Here we might recall the notion of the microcosm, also important for Evagrius, since in Aphrahat, too, the universe is somehow included in the intellect of the wise man. He has taken in the world. Nor is this the end of his expansion. His capacity and inclination, yatzra, to take in, his receptivity, does not stop with the created world, but becomes still more "vast [rwih]" (661:17)61. He expands to become "the great temple of his Creator", "large" enough, as it were, even for God.
6. Three Themes from Jewish and Jewish-Christian Mystical Literature
a. Background: the Lore of the Chariot (Ma’aseh Merkavah) and of the Beginning (Ma’aseh Berešit)
This matter of size, of growth or expansion to the dimensions of the cosmos and beyond, is a familiar one in Jewish mystical literature. We thus arrive at a fourth point about Aphrahat’s portrait of the sage: I read him as deliberately playing off of at least three, interrelated themes in Jewish and Jewish-Christian traditions touching on both the lore of the chariot-throne, ma’aseh merkavah, that is, the ascent to the divine throne and commerce with heaven, and the mystical (in a very broad sense) meditation on Genesis 1-3, ma’aseh berešit62, which spawned the very considerable literature of Adamic speculation preserved in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, and which further contributed fundamentally to religious movements like Gnosticism, Manicheanism, and Mandaeism, all three of which were incidentally active in Aphrahat’s neighborhood, and concerning which he makes occasional, condemnatory references63. These were then part of the Persian sage’s ambient, and that of his readers as well, together with the rabbinic criticisms of Christian practices to which he is also replying64. Ma’aseh merkavah and ma’aseh berešit are important elements in this background. Whether in their Jewish or Gnostic forms, they also posed an element of temptation for those to whom Aphrahat was writing. It is therefore not accidental that they feature in the background of his portrait of the glorified sage.
b. The Glory (Kavod), the Image (Tselem), the Likeness (Demut) and the Ši’ur Qomah
The three specific themes I have in mind are, first, the literature of the ši’ur qomah; second, the expansion of the mystical adept in certain esoteric texts; and, third, speculation about the imago dei that features in a number of the traditions around Adam, particularly concerning the protoplast’s size and splendor. All three are, again, interrelated, and the point of their connection to each other is, perhaps more than anything else, the biblical tradition of the Glory of God, the kevod YHWH. The most striking and arguably most influential expression of this tradition is the humanoform shape that Ezekiel the prophet saw atop the chariot-throne in Ezekiel 1:26 and 28: the demut kmar’eh adam, "in likeness as the appearance of a man", though anthropomorphism related to theophany is widespread in the Old Testament as, for example, in God’s appearance to the elders in Exodus 24:10, cited above, or to Moses in Exodus 33-34. There is also room to argue, as James Barr did forty years ago, and as many others have done since65, that the prophet’s vision of the human likeness atop the merkavah is linked to the Priestly source’s understanding of God’s image, tselem, and likeness, demut, in Genesis 1:26-27. The tselem/demut is, in short, the Glory itself, that "according to which" (Hebrew b, Greek kata) the first human was formed. This tradition, the Glory/kavod as the divine archetype of the human form, has a long, complicated, not to say bewildering and much-debated history in the literature of Israel subsequent to Ezekiel and the Priestly source, and later on in Early Christian sources66. Suffice it to say here that, by Aphrahat’s time, the three themes I have singled out were particular instances of this history and development. They were also, I think, very much in the air of his locale. They featured in the thought of every one of the heretical groups I listed above67, together with the rabbis and, indeed (though I cannot prove it), Aphrahat’s own fellow ihidaye.
Ši’ur qomah means literally "measure of the stature", that is, of the divine body of the kavod. In certain Jewish mystical texts, it is connected with, broadly, the visio gloriae and, specifically, with the ascent to the heavenly temple to see the enthroned divinity. There is good reason to believe that this tradition is very old68. For example, the phrase, metron ts hlikias (that is, "of the fulness of Christ"), in Ephesians 4:13 is the exact Greek equivalent of the Hebrew shi’ur qomah, while another Pauline phrase, "body of his glory" (sÇma ts doxs autou) in Philippians 3:21, to which the Christian is to become "conformed", is possibly in the same current69, a notion which is supported by the perhaps contemporary, Jewish apocalypse of 2 or Slavonic Enoch, where the "extent" of God’s body — or "Face" — is also strikingly to the fore70. In later Jewish texts the divine body is unimaginably huge. Millions of parasangs (Persian units of two-three miles) are accorded each of the divine features and limbs, with the inches making up these heavenly parasangs each equal to 90.000 times the breadth of the earth71. One might indeed, as one scholar suggested recently, do better to speak of parsecs, measurements in light years. Two biblical texts are of especial importance for this literature: Isaiah 66:1, "the heavens are my throne and the earth is my footstool", and the ecstatic description of the body of the bridegroom in Song of Songs 5:10-17. The two strands, the enormous body of the Glory and the beloved of the Song of Songs, appear to have fused sometime in the third century A.D.72. Aphrahat was certainly aware of the reverberations of Isaiah 66:1, since he elsewhere deliberately plays off of them, and so off of the ši’ur qomah traditions as well, in order to portray Christian holiness73. Arguably he knows of both strands, though his references to the divine Bridegroom are more clearly dependent on Matthew 25:1-15 than on the Song — but, then again, it may be that the First Gospel’s use of the imagery of virgins and bridegroom is itself alluding in part to the Old Testament love poem.
c. Mystical Expansion
1) From Solomon in I Kings, through the Qumran Sectarians, to the Hymn of the Pearl
If the notion of the ši’ur qomah lies in the more remote background of Dem. XIV.35, my second theme, the expansion of the mystical adept, is front and center. This, too, is quite old. As early as I Kings 5:9, Solomon’s heart (leb) is "enlarged" by the gift of wisdom sufficiently to take in the sands of the sea, and, in light of the prominence so far in this essay of temple themes, it is surely of significance that the first thing the king is reported to have done with his gift was to embark on the construction of the Temple. The idea of expansion appears in the Qumran Hodayot, where we hear of the the stature, qmh, of the poor man being "exalted to the clouds"74. Elsewhere the speaker in the hymn is "among the divinities" with "incomparable glory"75, and in another place his soul is "enlarged [rhb] and joined with the angels "in the tents of glory" (‘hly kbd)76. In the extraordinary conclusion to the Similitudes of Enoch (I Enoch 71), the patriarch assumes the throne of glory as the supra-angelic Son of Man, while, in the throne vision of 2 Enoch 22, he is transformed into an angel, then returns to earth to deliver the divine message to his sons, and finally ends by ascending again to assume his station among the angels of the Presence77. These likely first-century apocalypses are perhaps echoed by the verses I cited above from Ephesians and Phillipians, and, certainly, the body of Christ, in Col 1:15-20, is said to include all of creation78. In an early second-century, Christian apocalypse, The Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah, the prophet undergoes a progressive transformation as he makes his way up through the seven heavens to the throne79. A more strikingly explicit instance of mystical expansion, however, occurrs in the apocryphal Gospel of Phillip, which writes of the Transfiguration that:
When he [Christ] appeared to his disciples in glory on the mount, he was not small. He became great [i.e., large], but he made his disciples great, that they might be able to see him in his greatness.80
More proximate to Aphrahat’s own time and place, and certainly in circulation among both Christian and Manichaean ascetics of his day and region, there is the mid-third century Acts of Thomas. Incorporated into the latter we find a poem, the Hymn of the Pearl, long thought to be Gnostic in origin and Iranian in inspiration, but more recently recognized as essentially Jewish-Christian in nature81. The poem, which the Acts place in the mouth of the Apostle Thomas, describes the quest of the soul for its lost heavenly inheritance. This inheritance is in fact the imago dei, which is described as a garment, the heavenly robe of light which also features prominently elsewhere in both Jewish and Christian literature82. The climax of the story arrives with the speaker’s recovery of the robe through Christ’s mediation. Placed in Thomas’ mouth by the author(s) of the Acts, this moment also functions as the description of a mystical experience. The speaker encounters the robe "suddenly", discovers his true self reflected within it, together with the precious stones of Paradise covering it and the "image of the King [tsalmeh d-malka] depicted [syr] all over it", and the color of "the sapphire stone" suffusing it83. The robe-image speaks to the Apostle and tells him of its own growth by virtue of the Father: "My stature [Syriac qawmta; Greek hlikia] was growing [rby’] according to his labors"84. Thomas then puts on the heavenly robe in order to ascent to heaven, to greet Christ, the "radiance [ziwa] of the Father", to mingle with the angels, and finally to approach the divine throne. Quoting from J. A. Robinson’s English rendering of the Syriac:
My toga of brilliant colors [gawne] I cast around me, in its whole breadth …and ascended to the gate [tar’a] of salutation and homage. I bowed my head and did homage to the Majesty [literally, "radiance", ziwa] of the Father who had sent it to me, for I had done his commandments, and he had done what he promised. And at the gate of his princes I mingled with his nobles… And he promised that also to the gate of the King of kings I should speed with him, and, bringing my gift [literally, "offering", qurbana], I should appear with him before our King.85
Several points demand our attention here regarding comparison with Aphrahat’s portrait of the sage in Demonstration XIV.35 (as well as with other, related passages in his oeuvre). First, there are the lexical and notional correspondences. These include:
1) the verb, tswr ("depict"), used here for the imago on the robe and in Aphrahat for the "wondrous things" drawn in the heart in the sage (661:13-14);
2) ziwa ("radiance"), here a Christological title [cf. Heb. 1:3] and in Demonstration XIV.35 shining forth from "that place" within the sage (664:3);
3) the verb, rby ("grow large"), for the robe’s stature (qawmta, the Syriac equivalent of the Hebrew qomah), which I take in parallel with the sage’s capacity to receive becoming "vast" (rwih);
4) The "King of kings" and "our King" in the poem, and "the King of the heights" and "King" of 661:18 and 665:6 in Aphrahat; and
5) the wonderful colors (gawne) of the robe in parallel with the "treasure of color" which
the King reveals to the sage in 661:21 — where we might also note the emphasis on the sapphire hue suffusing the garment, and then compare both Evagrius’ deployment of the same color in dependence on Exodus 24:10, cited above, and Aphrahat’s use of the same term in reference to his own mystical experience in Demonstration 10.8, cited below (Section 10);
6) the note of ascension or going up (slq) in the poem, and the flight or lifting up of the sage’s intellect in 661:19-20.
Second, the whole setting and message of the poem is directly relevant to our discussion. It is concerned with the recovery of the imago and paradise, with increase in size or stature, with heavenly ascent, with Christ as light or radiance, with fellowship — literally, "mingling" (hlt) — with the angels (the "nobles" and "great ones"), and with the approach to the throne of God the Father. Third and last, this essentially eschatological picture is set in the Acts of Thomas within a context of mystical experience. It happens, in other words, not just then, at the eschaton, but is as well a present possibility. So is Aphrahat’s sage.
2) Later Rabbinical Literature: 3 Enoch and Metatron
From Jewish literature perhaps exactly contemporary with the Persian sage, we turn to the text singled out by Murray, 3 Enoch or Sefer Hekalot. The parallels lie thick on the ground here, though, as I noted earlier, not quite precisely in the way that Murray saw them. The hero of this composition is, again, the biblical forefather, Enoch, who functions, as Moshe Idel has pointed out, as the archetype of the mystical visionary86. He does so by way of his ascent to heaven and transformation into Metatron, the supreme "Angel" or "Prince of the Presence" (lit., "of the Face", Sar haPanim)87. To be sure, the themes of ascent and transformation are quite old, going back, as we saw, into apocalyptic literature88, and one can even find the notion of exaltation to equality with the highest heavenly beings, the "angels of the Face", in the sectarian literature of the Qumran scrolls89, but, in 3 Enoch, Enoch-Metatron not only becomes the highest angel, but is in fact crowned in chapter 12 as a kind of double for God Himself, and receives in consequence the title of "the lesser YHWH" (YHWH haQaton)90. The process begins earlier, in chapter 7 of Phillip Alexander’s English translation, with Enoch’s flight to the "palaces" of Arabot, the highest heaven, "on the wings of the Šekinah" to "serve the throne of glory" with the fiery company of the highest angels91. Together with this ministry come "wisdom heaped upon wisdom, understanding upon understanding…more than all the denizens of the heights"92. Then we arrive at the point under consideration here, Enoch’s declaration that "I was enlarged and increased in size [lit., "measure", ši’ur] till I matched the world in length and breadth"93. More notes follow that resonate with what we find in Aphrahat’s portrait of the sage. Enoch-Metatron receives "a throne like the throne of glory"94. He is appointed "ruler over all the denizens of the heights" and given charge over "all the treasuries [kol genizai]" in them95. God reveals to him "all the mysteries of wisdom, all the depths of perfect Torah, and all the thoughts of men’s hearts"96, such that Enoch declares: "there is nothing in heaven above or [the] deep beneath concealed from me"97. Metatron, for so we can call him now, is then robed with a cloak of glory and crowned with "a crown bearing the letters of the divine Name", thus the "lesser YHWH"98. So enlarged, gifted with all knowledge, robed, named and crowned, "all the princes of the kingdoms who are in the height of Arabot, and all the legions of every kingdom…trembled and shrank when they saw me"99, and "all fell prostrate when they saw me and could not look at me"100. In short, the angels worship him, and no wonder, for he has become the likeness of the Glory itself, changed entirely into divine fire, the "substance of my body [lit., "body of my stature", gf qmty] to blazing fire"101.
The likeness of the divine Glory will take us in a moment to my third theme. Right now I should like to underline the points in common between 3 Enoch on Metatron and Aphrahat on the sage. These include: 1) "flight" to heaven; 2) acquisition of the wisdom underlying creation, knowing the heights and the depths; 3) the increase in size; 4) the presence of the throne within; 5) the ministry of the angels, watchers, and (in Aphrahat) the seraphim, or (here) "the princes", before the transfigured man; 6) the language of royalty, "the King"; and 7) the presence, though elsewhere in Aphrahat’s oeuvre, of the motifs of the robe of glory, and of crowns, together with the language of the glory within102. If our Persian sage did not have the present text of 3 Enoch before him, which is admittedly debateable103, then he surely had something like it in mind. I think that Murray was altogether justified in deploying this late example of Jewish hekalot literature for his comparison, since I know of no texts other than this one or Aphrahat’s Demonstration XIV.35 in Jewish or Christian literature which are quite so bold in their application to a human being, however transformed, of the language and imagery normally associated with the divine Presence. The one exception in Christian writers would be the person of Jesus Christ Himself. As we shall see, this "exception" is of central importance for Aphrahat. In fact, it underlies his treatment of the transfigured sage.
d. Adam and the Recovery of the Imago
My third theme bearing on the "vastness" of the sage is the Adamic speculation of both Jewish and Christian literature, a current which runs from the late Second Temple era far into Late Antiquity. The Adamic traditions pre-supposed in various pseudepigrapha present Adam as very much the divine image, indeed as a heavenly being104. In some Jewish sources, the angels mistake the first man for God himself105, thanks to his huge size — of cosmic dimensions, like Enoch-Metatron above — and the brilliant light of his body: "The apple of Adam’s heel outshone the globe of the sun, how much more so the brightness of his face!"106 — and again we recall the terrifying aspect of the transformed Enoch, or the angels ministering to Aphrahat’s sage with veiled faces. In Adam’s case, the angels’ error is understandable: they mistake the man for the heavenly original, the divine "body of Glory" and source of the shi’ur qomah tradition. Hence the Rabbinic warning against the worship of the first man as demiurge, and their caution about the angels’ worship107. That worship of the first man tendered him by the angelic hosts, however, fits neatly into what we find in 3 Enoch and in Aphrahat’s Demonstration14.35. Both Enoch and the sage have recovered the imago which Adam lost, the likeness, demut, of God’s Glory and Majesty.
7. "Becoming Small": The Likeness to Christ and the Importance of Aphrahat’s Witness
Yet in Aphrahat, all of this — ascent to "that place", the expansion of the adept into the image of the divine body of glory, and so the recovery of the Adamic likeness — comes with a difference perhaps best summed up by a Syro-Mesopotamian Christian author writing a couple of generations later. "With Christ", said the anonymous author of the Macarian Homilies, "everything is within [endon]"108. This is, again, Juana Raasch’s point, though, contra Raasch, I think that Aphrahat means everything the older Christian and Jewish literature meant with its — to us — wild and bizarre imagery: a real vision and a genuine transformation, an experience "with all perception and assurance", to quote another controversial (though very influential) phrase from the Macarian Homilist109. Undoubtedly, he also wants to reduce or eliminate the physical element in the older transformational imagery I have been sketching. Hence we find, in physical terms, the effective reversal of the motif of expansion. The sage’s "appearance", hezwa, remains, precisely, "small", his form or likeness "earthly" (664:14-15 and 19). Indeed, he not only remains "small" in his physical aspect, but is "humble" as well (664:20). For Aphrahat, an essential facet of the recovery of the imago is humility and, still more specifically, the imitation of the humility of Christ who, "though he was in the form of God, emptied himself"110. In short, I read him as playing here on Phil 2:6 ff., which in fact he has cited four paragraphs earlier in Demonstration 14.31 (column 653), and which we should then understand as a constant background both to the sage in 14.35, and indeed to Aphrahat’s thinking throughout the Demonstrations. The Syriac equivalent of the Pauline kenoÇ, is srq, meaning "to strip", and it is virtually a terminus technicus for ascetic labors in another Syrian Christian work roughly contemporary to Aphrahat, the Liber Graduum, while a nominative form of the radical, msraqquta, becomes a genuinely technical expression denoting ascesis in Syrian literature not long afterwards111.
While it is only suggested in the sage’s portrait, the phrase "become small" carries thus a very considerable freight of meaning, including a powerful Christological resonance which itself is also tied into traditions of the Body of the divine Glory. It amounts in fact to a long-established image in Syriac-speaking Christianity for the act itself of the Incarnation, as in, for example, the following statement from the very early, first or second century A.D. Odes of Solomon: "In his kindness, he has made his greatness [rabbuta] small", where rabbuta answers to the cosmic size of the Glory, Christ, and is, indeed, a synonym for the Latter112. Likewise associated with Christ is another brief but telling phrase towards the end of our pericope: "When he [the sage] gives from what is his, he is no whit the less" [lit., "not diminished", la h~sar], and the poor are made wealthy from his treasure [gazeh]" (665:3-4). That treasure, Aphrahat goes on to say, has "no limit" because it is "the place where the King dwells and is ministered to", and so "its treasures [gaze]" cannot be calculated (665:4-7). God ("the King") and the heavenly liturgy ("is ministered to") are all included within "the place", which in turn is found in the "inner being [‘ubba] of the wise man, who is thus "as a king" — like the King, in fact — "who lacks nothing" (665:8-9). His resources, meaning here his ability to give — thus the comparison to a royal court’s expenses in 665:8 — are therefore infinite, "without limit". Put another way, the sage is the presence of God for those who come to him. His gifts, his experience of the Presence, and his wisdom are to a purpose, and that pupose is to make God present, manifest, visible. Not to mince words, the sage is a theophany.
Here, then, we meet the holy man in a way very similar — or, indeed, beneath a somewhat different and more archaic vocabulary, essentially identical — to the way we meet him in Aphrahat’s own, relatively exact contemporaries in Egypt, such as SS Anthony, Pachomius, and Macarius of Scete. To take but one, little-noted example, in the section of the alphabetical Aphophthegmata Pateron devoted to Macarius, the saint is referred to at one point as a "god on earth", theos epigeios, because he "covered the sins of the brethren"113. So, too, with Aphrahat’s sage: like God, "he makes the poor wealthy". In another Demonstration, Aphrahat referrs to sanctified ascetics as a "place of repentance", and of forgiveness, for sinners who come to them114. I could multiply parallels, but these suffice to underline something quite remarkable and significant. There can be no question of any influence moving from Roman Egypt to Persian Mesopotamia, nor vice-versa. Aphrahat and contemporary Egyptian monks are independent and simultaneous witnesses to common traditions that antedate them both. These traditions, I submit, extend back to the earliest Christian times and, in fact, ultimately to the matrix of Christianity in biblical and post-biblical Israel. Thanks to a lexicon and diction that are in certain repects more obviously archaic than his Coptic (and, moreso, than his Greek-speaking) contemporaries, Aphrahat emerges thus as a possible "canon" or "control" for, as it were, "measuring" the portraits of ascetic holy men as we find the latter emerging from the monastic movement of the fourth century. Placing his witness beside theirs, I think that we are enabled to "triangulate" back to his — and to their — ultimate sources in the apocalyptic seer of the Second Temple era, to Enoch of the Book of the Watchers (especially I Enoch 14 ff.), of the Similitudes of Enoch (particularly I Enoch 70-71), and 2 Enoch (notably the transformation of chapter 22), to the Jewish sectarians of Qumran, and to such early Christian works as the Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah, the Gospel of Thomas, and, as cited above, the Odes of Solomon115, and, of course, most importantly of all, to the teaching and example of Christ Jesus as the Latter is portrayed in the New Testament. Aphrahat’s sage and the holy "old men", gerontes, of early monastic Egypt are all mediators of the divine presence, instances of the recovery of the Adamic image — thus, for example, St. Anthony emerging "wholly natural" (en tÇi kata physin) from his fortress cell116 — but they are such only because their personal transformation has occurred in imagine Christi. They have become "christs" in Christ, the "place" of His presence.
8. Some Reason’s for Aphrahat’s Portrait of the Sage: A "Paulinized" Metatron?
Like the transformed Enoch-Metatron of 3 Enoch, the Christian sage in Demonstration XIV.35 is the likeness of the kevod YHWH, ministered to by the angelic priesthood in the heavenly temple, radiant with the divine splendor, possessor of a throne, endowed with the secrets of creation and the treasury of heaven, knowing the beginnings and reflecting the end, gazing on the heights and deeps, like the "lesser YWHW" — in short, truly a god in the image of God. So far the similarities, and so far as well, I think, the attractions which a text of mystical ascent along the lines of 3 Enoch, or of any one of the earlier and only slightly less spectacular versions of the earlier Enochic and related texts, may have exercised for Aphrahat’s own local ihidaye. We can point to the definitive case of such an attraction in Mani, only three generations or so earlier than Aphrahat and whose followers were active in the same general neighborhood (as well as in Egypt!). The Cologne Mani Codex, from just after the turn of the fourth century and thus only a generation removed from the Persian sage, is rife with these echoes: the body of glory, heavenly ascent, transformation, and remarkable revelations117. The Mandaeans, too, appear to have constructed their mythos out of similar materials, and they were also in the area, as were Valentinian Gnostics. Nor need we look exclusively to these fiercely dualistic movements. Christian encratite texts such as the Apocryphal Acts and the Gospel of Thomas, had similar interests and painted similar pictures of ascent and/or transformation, as we saw above in the Hymn of the Pearl118. Likewise, heavenly ascents abound in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha preserved by Christians, as do Adamic speculations and a general fascination with ma’aseh berešit. Some of these materials were surely circulating in Aphrahat’s vicinity. We know that they were in Egypt at the time. Witness Abba Ammonas’ explicit appeal to the Ascension of Isaiah, together with his remark that "there are some men who even now have attained to this measure", that is, to the ascent to heaven, or St. Athanasius’ simultaneous denunciation of the same pseudepigraphon, and of the Enochic literature as well, because they were a source of "boasting" for schismatic Meletian ascetics119. Then, and at a level of intensity equalled nowhere else in the Christian world of the period, there were the contacts between Jews and Christians in Aphrahat’s Mesopotamia, contacts which make, I think, the possibility of some influence from Rabbinic-era hekalot mysticism more likely there than anywhere else, with the possible exception a century earlier of Origen’s Caesarea, where we know there was some mutual exchange120. Finally, we find a consistent response on the part of Christian writers in Syria-Mesopotamia to the attractions of ascent to the merkavah in the two or even three centuries after Aphrahat, as in the Macarian Homilies a generation or two later, or in the long homily on Ezekiel’s markabta by Jacob of Serug or, as I believe, in the Corpus Dionysiacum, both at the turn of the sixth century, together with a telling detail in Ananisho’s Syriac rendering of Palladius’ Lausiac History over a century later still121. Altogether, what I have listed here stikes me as amounting to signs of a real attraction, and thus a real temptation, for Aphrahat’s "proto-monks". It is for this reason, I think, that we find the similarities with Enoch-Metatron noted at the head of this paragraph. On those similarities depended the attractive force of the Persian sage’s argument.
On the other hand, the parallels with Metatron are not a simple rhetorical device intended purely to lure his readers into Aphrahat’s view of things. They are not a mere ploy. Aphrahat, too, is talking about what he reckons to be realities, and these include — as he states expressly, and in the first person singular, about himself at the conclusion of his tenth Demonstration — the possibility of genuine mystical experience. He, too, believes in a real transformation and a true commerce with the things of heaven possible even in the present life, b-han alma ("in this age"), as the contemporary Liber Graduum puts it, or apo tou nyn, as the Macarian Homilist is fond of repeating122. In Demonstration VIII.24, however, Aphrahat warns against certain "evil doctrines". He does not specify what these are, but they appear in context to be connected with heavenly ascent and escape from death, since he cites against them John 3:12-13: the only one who has gone up to heaven is the Son of Man Who has come down from heaven123. That Christ must be the Christian’s true hero, model and mode of communion with God is in any case Aphrahat’s basic concern, as we have seen. He is likewise consistently Pauline (as well as Johannine) in his insistence on the primacy of faith, hope, love, prayer, and humility, which are the deliberate focus of his first ten Demonstrations124. If St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 acknowledges visionary experience in terms of heavenly ascent, and elsewhere insists on his own "revelations" of the risen Jesus, his overall emphasis is on the presence of Christ within the believer, as in the vision within the heart of "the glory of God in the face of Christ" in 2 Cor. 4:6. He, too, as a number of scholars have recently suggested, was at once moving within and struggling against Jewish visionary traditions — and claimants — of the sort that we find in the ancient apocalypses as well as in the later hekalot literature125. As the various Christian and para-Christian (especially Manichaean and Gnostic) texts that I referred to above testify, these same traditions continued in Christian — and especially ascetically inclined Christian — circles right up to Aphrahat’s time, and well beyond it. They were part of his ambient.
Hence the differences or adjustments we find him making to the portrait of Enoch-Metatron, to take — as I have been doing in following Murray’s suggestion — 3 Enoch as our comparative text. These adjustments are first and foremost Christological. Enoch-Metatron expands to cosmic size. Robed, crowned, changed into divine fire and bearing the Name, he fully recovers the image of the Glory that Adam had lost. Now, Christ for Aphrahat, following St. Paul, is the Glory (iqara) and divine imago, "the heavenly man", the "Greatness" (rabbuta) of the Father, the latter’s brilliance (ziwa), and indeed — as appears in earlier Syrian literature — the Father’s "face" and "place". He "makes Himself small" — thus the importance of Phil 2:6-11, the example of humility — historically in the Incarnation, and, personally and subjectively, by His entry into the believer’s heart. Clothed with the Heavenly Man at Baptism126, possessing the "Son of the King" within through the Eucharist127, the Christian, and pre-eminently the ihidaya, is to manifiest the Lord’s likeness, to be "conformed" — citing again from Paul — "to the body of His Glory" (Phil 3:21), and to grow into "the measure of the stature of His fulness" (Eph 4:13). If the latter two scriptural passages do not feature prominently in Aphrahat, they most decidedly do in the Macarian Homilist128, and I would submit that in this regard Macarius is fully in harmony with the Persian sage’s intention, especially as that intention is fleshed out in Demonstration XIV’s portrait of the sage. The latter has no need of ascent to heaven, for he carries the supernal realm within himself. In Christ, he is the "place" of the divine presence and the company of heaven, the recovery of Paradise, and the anticipation or foretaste of the world to come. In Christ, he is also the manifestation and salvific presence of God for others, the revelation of the Glory. All things that were Enoch-Metatron’s are, in Aphrahat’s reworking, the Christian sage’s as well, but this has not come about as the result of mystical technique, nor of special privilege, nor from desire for inquiry into the mysteries of heaven, but from love of Christ and from the resulting imitation of His example, together with baptismal grace and regular feeding on His body and blood in the Eucharist. Aphrahat’s sage is, in short, a thoroughly christianized, interiorized — we might as well say "paulinized" — and ecclesial recasting of the apocalyptic seer represented by the transformed forefather of 3 Enoch.
As I have already noted, the sage is also remarkably similar to the portraits of the ascetic holy men of Egypt as we find them emerging in the early literature of monasticism. I have cited Evagrius and Macarius of Scete, but there are many other images in this literature that draw on the same background of transformation, recovery of the imago, heavenly ascent, of the supernal temple and throne, the company of the angels, or likeness to the angels, or converse with them. The Historia monachorum in Aegypto, written at the end of the fourth century, is full of this imagery: ascents, transformations, angelic converse and ministry129, as are the Pachomian Vitae, perhaps especially the Coptic versions130. In the Apophthegmata Patrum, we find a primary emphasis which is quite analogous to Aphrahat’s own: a stress on the virtues of work, sobriety, humility, not judging, and charity. We also find a marked caution toward visionary experience, as we do in several of the other works cited above, including at least one veiled warning against visions of the merkabah type131, but we definitely do not find a rejection of the visionary or transformative element. Even in the Apophthegmata there are instances of the themes I noted just above. Perhaps the most admirably compact and dense of these stories, and the one most illustrative of what I have been discussing in Aphrahat’s sage, is the following on Abba Pambo:
They used to say that, just as Moses received the image of the glory of Adam when his countenance was glorified [cf. Ex 34:29-35], so too with Abba Pambo, that his face shone like lightening, and he was as a king seated upon his throne. And the same thing applied as well to Abba Silvanus and Abba Sisoes.132
Here we have Adam, Moses on Sinai, the face transformed with heavenly brilliance, the King, and the throne. The only things missing are the angels and, as in Dem 14.35, the express mention of Christ. But the Latter, as in Aphrahat, is surely assumed, while the angels make their appearances elsewhere in the Apophthegmata133.
Just as the sage in Demonstration XIV.35, and in other passages from the Demonstrations, "makes others rich", that is, serves as a manifestation — and likewise a salvific one — of Christ for those who come to him, so too are the "old men" of the Egyptian desert. Pachomius is the living heart around which his koinobia turn and from which his monks draw their example. Similarly, Anthony is depicted by Athanasius as teacher, magnet, and "physician of Egypt"134, while the saint himself in his letters writes to his "beloved Israelite children" as a sage and father135. We have already seen Macarius the Great "covering the sins of the brethren", and he, too, was a father to many of those who came to Scete lured by his example and fame. Evagrius himself was clearly such a figure for people like Palladius or St. John Cassian who came to sit at his feet at the Cells136. The pattern would continue in the Christian West at least into the Middle Ages, and in the Christian East it has lived on to the present day.
Allow me then to repeat that the sage or holy man as we see him emerging simultaneously in contemporaries who were unknown to each other and living nearly a thousand miles apart, and who were further divided by language, culture, and two empires, is a product of common sources: first, the literature of late Second Temple-era Judaism, especially the Wisdom tradition and, particularly, the apocalypses, with their visionary mediators of heavenly secrets; second, these traditions have been filtered through and given specific shape by the New Testament portrait of Christ. To use the language of contemporary cosmologists, the Christian Gospel acted on these currents like a kind of theological "singularity", a center of overwhelming gravitional force that acted to attract to itself the several themes I have mentioned in this essay — together, certainly, with many others from the Old Testament that I have not mentioned — and to bend them into a new configuration around the figure of the Risen Christ. If the Latter is the "place" of God par excellence, Himself transfigured and acting to transfigure humanity (cf. 2 Cor. 3:7-4:6), theophany in short, and Giver of saving life and knowledge, then those who come after Him clothed in His likeness are likewise theophanic, temples of God and "places" of divine revelation and salus. We see this already emerging in the New Testament itself, in St. Paul’s letters, in the portraits of the Apostles given in Acts, in Stephen the first martyr, or in the seer of Patmos. The line will continue in the second and third centuries, in the Apocryphal Acts I referred to earlier, and very notably in the Christian theology of martyrdom. St. Ignatius of Antioch’s letter to the Romans, and the Letter of the Smyrneans describing St. Polycarp of Smyrna’s martyrdom, both speak of the martyr as, in sum, the topos theou, sanctified and salvific, the extension to the world of the Eucharistic Presence137. The line goes on through Tertullian, the soldier-martyr of whose De Corona, like Moses at the "holy place" of the burning bush, removes his sandals once his martyrdom becomes a certainty138. The visionary dreams of Perpetua and her companions in Roman Numidia are full of imagery taken straight from apocalyptic literature, including heavenly ascent and transformation139. At the same time, in philosophically sophisticated Alexandria, Clement and Origen were simply, though with genius and singular fidelity, working with and "translating" traditional images and types from biblical and post-biblical Israel into the diction of Hellenistic philosophy140. But it was those images and types which were the original heritage of Christianity, its womb, and they, too, continued to be transmitted, read, copied, and valued by generations of Christians, many if not most of whom in later centuries were monks. The very possibility of modern collections of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha derives from this constant Christian and perhaps especially monastic interest141. The holy man is the apocalyptic seer broken down and reformed by the tidal forces of the Christian Gospel, and the presentation of that ancient but reformulated type is arguably the central thrust of Aphrahat’s Demonstrations.
10. The Sage in the Context of Demonstration XIV and of Aphrahat’s own Experience of God
The model Christian as "temple" of God can therefore justly be considered the great leitmotif of Aphrahat’s efforts, from the opening sections of his first Demonstration to the conclusion of his twenty-third and last. The word "temple" (haikla), in fact, and related terms, such as the "place" to which I devoted so much attention above, suffuse his language throughout142, to the degree that I am reminded of certain of Robert Murray’s other articles, together with the thesis of Margaret Barker, which argue for the origins of Christianity itself in temple traditions.143. This suggestion, particularly given the general consensus that Aphrahat’s church reflects a degree of continuity with its — admittedly conjectured — Palestinian Jewish founders unequalled by the emerging imperial church of the West, strikes me as most intriguing, especially when set beside the recent thesis of Rachel Elior, which reads the hekalot texts as originating in priestly circles seeking to compensate for the loss of the Second Temple in A.D. 70 through, in effect, the projection of priestly traditions into the unchanging realm of heaven144. In a way, then, the relationship between Aphrahat’s perfected ihidaya and texts like 3 Enoch is perfectly natural, at least in so far as they derive from a common ancestry and have similar, though certainly not precisely identical concerns. The Rabbinic-era hekalot adepts and the Syrian ihidaye are both descendents of the apocalyptic seer, theological cousins, we might say. They both share strands of, as it were, a common spiritual DNA.
The sage’s appearance in the latter part of Demonstration XIV is thus not so odd as it has appeared to some, inserted as it is into the catalogue of woes, sin, strife, and condemnation which both precedes and follows it. The passions and vices which Aphrahat is fighting and denouncing in this Demonstration — usury (column 577), injustice (581-4), pride (592), false priests (616-25), avarice and delight in titles and honors (632-41), claims of inherited office and even of inherited salvation (641-5), disobedience to divine commands (672-7), hatred and quarrels (697-704) — and the virtues he is counterposing and urging — innocence and holiness (588), peace (596-7), love (601-8), long-suffering and intercession (608-9), humility (613), simplicity of life (632), forgiveness (637-41), true pastorship (677-85), repentance (685-93), and peace (709-16) — are qualities that, respectively, he has implicitly condemned and explicitly affirmed in prior Demonstrations, notably in the first ten, which are quite without any note of controversy and written directly to instruct the ihidaye in the essentials of their calling: faith, hope, love, prayer (Demonstrations I-IV), fidelity in persecution (V), the ihidaya as "temple" (VI, esp. VI.1 ff.), repentance and pastorship (VII), the hope of the world to come (VIII), humility (IX), and again true pastorship (X), where we also find him summing up his case and concluding with an appeal to his own, surely mystical experience of Christ. Not accidently, he does so in terms which recall his portrait of the sage later on in Demonstration XIV.35:
|460||1||The Master of the House [lit., "Steward", rab baita] brought me to the treasury [beit gaza]|
|2||of the King and showed [hwy] me there many good things,|
|3||and when I saw [hzyt] them, my understanding was rapt [‘štby]|
|4||by the great treasure [gaza rabba]. And when I gazed [hrt] on it, it dazzled|
|5||and enraptured [šb’] my thoughts [mahšabata] and bewildered them with|
|6||many colors [gawne]. Whoever takes from it becomes rich and makes others rich.|
|7||To all who seek it [or Him], it [He] is opened up [ptyh] and permitted [šbyh].|
|8||And when many [people] take away from it [Him],|
|9||it [He] is no whit the less, and when they give from|
|10||what they have taken, that which they have is multiplied.|
After two columns devoted to different images for the the gift which cannot be diminished in giving, lines which include the image of an illumined lamp passing its fire on to other lamps145, he arrives at the identification of the Steward and of the treasure itself. They are One and the Same:
|464||5||…the treasure [gaza] does not diminish, since it is the Wisdom|
|6||of God, and the Steward is our Lord Jesus Christ,|
|7||as He testified, when He said: "Everything|
|8||is handed over to Me from My Father" [Mt 11:27]. Indeed, He|
|9||Who is the Steward is also the Wisdom, as the Apostle|
|10||said: "Christ is the Power|
|11||of God and His Wisdom" [I Cor. 1:24]. This is the Wisdom|
|12||which is distributed among many, yet is no whit the less.|
Thus, turning back to Demonstration XIV, we find that the portrait of the sage is prefaced by a rehearsal of Christ’s saving acts: His death, descent to hell, defeat of death and His trampling down the devil. Only after the labors of His voluntary self-emptying, Aphrahat emphasizes, does our Lord receive again the "Name above names" and the glorious throne, citing here Phil. 2:9-11 (columns 652-3). Building on this, and on the Gospel image of the healing, suffering, and risen Lord, he goes on to extoll the actions thus of God, Who overthrows every worldly expectation and standard — exalting the humble, preferring the younger over the older, advancing women over men to prophecy (656-7) — and whose works of creation surpass human understanding (657-60).
Having prepared his readers with an effective catalogue of sins and of their opposing virtues, with a reminder of Christ, and of the unsearchable God of salvation history and of creation, the Persian sage moves to his portrait of the sage. The latter is therefore not an interruption in the flow of the Demonstration, but the core and pivot of its argument. Neither, as Robert Murray suggested, is the sage here simply an instance of cosmological order set opposite the chaos of the world’s violence and the local church’s sins and quarrels146. He is rather the distillate of everything Aphrahat is commending, and the opposite of all that he is condemning. Where is there knowledge of the unsearchable God and of His mysterious works? Here! says Aphrahat. Where is true honor and a lasting throne, indeed the throne of the King and Judge, as opposed to the Persian throne that different factions are fighting to please, or to the episcopal thrones others are lusting to obtain, or to the throne of the bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon who is seeking to exalt himself over his fellows? Here, in the holy man, says our Persian sage. Where is there splendor and uncreated glory, as opposed to the fading glory of men? Here, in the saint. And how does the latter arrive at these things? By "making himself small", and by giving without stint or envy, since his treasury can never grow "one whit the less" — which is all to say, by means of all those qualities which Aphrahat has been at such pains to urge. Here, then, is also the "peace" of the Church, of "the Israel of God", which he concludes Demonstration XIV by commending to its readers (709-16 and 721-5), the manifestation of the true sons of Christ as opposed to the children of Cain (725). Christ, in short, is the true wealth, honor, splendor, treasure, and wisdom. He is the life of the Church and the Christian, Who has poured out the Spirit on all flesh (716-17), and Whom the "wise virgins" will enjoy in the heavenly bridechamber (724). The sage, clearly a type or ideal figure recognizable by Aphrahat’s readers, is the present, living image of that life and hope of glory. Scarcely peripheral to the argument, he is rather its very substance and proof.
11. One Kindled Lamp Lights Many Others: A Last Word, of Acknowledgement and of Purpose
So far in this essay I have labored — generally — to maintain something of a scholarly tone, to write wissenschaftlicherweise, as it were. For a university professor, this is a difficult habit to break. By way of a last word, however, I should like to step out of that pose in order to acknowledge my debts and reveal my motives. Aphrahat lived far away and long ago. He wrote in a language that is obscure, too little studied, and now almost dead, and for a community whose descendents are disappearing and likely to vanish entirely in the near future, scattered like embers by the winds of contemporary geopolitics blowing through suffering Iraq. Yet, for an Orthodox, Aphrahat’s relevance is or should be immediate. I recognize him and his sage as contemporaries, just as I hope that my readers will also recognize them as such. That recognition owes entirely to the fact that I have known Father Aimilianos, whose words began this essay, who also "walks on the earth like any man", yet whose "head is in the sky", "who sees heaven…who sees God", in whose person heaven and earth are joined, and in whom I believed — and still believe — that I met the Presence of the King, the Šekinah. Once one has met one mediator of Christ, one illumined lamp, the recognition of another is no great feat, since to know the one in the flesh is to recognize the other beneath the ancient words. Such is my debt to my Elder, in this and in all my works. However detached and cool the tone the latter may adopt, they are all informed by that memory, and guided by it. Father Aimilianos is the lense through whom I read the old words, and, not surprisingly, that lense has proven to be wonderfully illumining. It has never failed to reveal connections, ties, continuities that run throughout the history of "the Israel of God" (Gal 6:16). This is not surprising because, first of all, the doctrine of theÇsis is at the very core of the Gospel as Orthodoxy has always understood the latter, and, secondly, as those have read his writings or who have received his instruction should recall, the Elder’s own preferred diction has always been that of the scriptures. To be sure, one can find him from time to time using — and doing so with perfect ease and familiarity — the technical, theological vocabulary of the great councils and disputes, but always he comes back to the lexicon and imagery of God’s Israel, which is the same, of course, as informs the liturgy and the great saints of the desert, and in whose service all the dizzying abstractions of that technical vocabulary were confected in the first place. In both his person and his teaching, which in fact amount to the same thing, Father Aimilianos has provided his children with the key to reading — and, one hopes, to living out — the one and unique Revelation.
My motives in writing derive from the same source. Within the Orthodox world, particularly within the realm of its scholars and teachers, I hope to contribute to the "neo-patristic synthesis", the phrase for the recovery of the Fathers coined some decades ago by Fr. Georges Florovsky, and embodied by his own works and those of, for example, Vladimir Lossky, Fr. Dumitru Staniloae, Fr. John Romanides and many others. What was largely lacking in these earlier scholars, grateful as we must be to them all, was any significant engagement with what I have been at pains to stress in this essay, the patrimony of Israel. Biblical and extra-biblical sources continue to be generally neglected in Orthodox academies, perhaps because of the daunting impression that Western scripture studies, on which Eastern Christian students continue to depend, have little or no room for the themes and motifs that dominate the Church’s dogmas, liturgy, and spirituality. Here, though, what an Aphrahat wrote so long ago, what an Aimilianos embodies today, thanks to some very promising trends in the scholarship of immediately pre- and post-Christian Israel, appear more and more as of a direct and even stunning relevance. More inquiry into those earlier sources, including primarily the scriptural record, can only serve to illumine us, provided merely that we begin with confidence in the interpretive key that our saints afford us. In short, I hope that the Orthodox may be stirred to look into, and participate much more actively in, the study of our roots in Israel. As our Lord informed the Samaritan woman, "Salvation is of the Jews." The holy Fathers have always known this, and the careful examination of, especially, our liturgical and spiritual inheritance will confirm this truth.
A second motive is directed outwards, at once apologetic and ecumenical. Beginning in the 19th century and continuing today in the 21st, Orthodoxy is often portrayed as a curious deviation from the original teachings of Christ and even of St. Paul. Here, of course, one thinks of the determined ghost of Adolph von Harnack, so devoutly opposed by defenders of the Fathers such as those Orthodox listed above, and by advocates in the 1930’s through 50’s of Roman Catholicism’s théologie nouvelle (e.g., the Cardinals Jean Daniélou and Henri de Lubac), but Harnack was merely one among very many, and the reactions he and his fellows drew had the limits of being, precisely, reactive. I think it time that we get over our defensiveness, which itself is the product of a sort of "inferiority complex", and that we proceed positively, without polemics, to the elucidation of the scriptures and of the unbroken lines of continuity in the Tradition. TheÇsis, as it appears in Aphrahat and as, again, embodied in gerontes like Father Aimilianos, is manifestly not an invention derived from Greek philosophy, but a fruit of the Revelation to Israel fulfilled in Christ Jesus, and likewise the Christology of the Ecumenical Councils, while certainly making use of the philosophical lexicon, is itself rooted in the deepest layers of the Hebrew scriptures. To make this clear to our brothers and sisters in Christianity outside of the canonical bounds of Orthodoxy strikes me thus as a sacred duty for us, and as a restoral to them of their own, true inheritance in Christ. The wonder is, that we may do so increasingly on the basis of, and using the tools elaborated by, their own scholarly work over the past several centuries. We may, in other words, contribute to the recovery of our common patrimony, and indeed that process has already begun. It is my devout hope that I may make some small contribution to that effort, by the prayers of my father in God.
1 A Thousand Years Are as a Day, produced by Sudwest Funk, Baden Baden, in 1981. The English translation above is from A. Golitzin, The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain (South Canaan PA:1996) 167.
2 For such few biographical details of Aphrahat as exist, see M.-J. Pierre’s "Introduction" to her translation, Aphraate le sage persan: Les Exposés, in Source Chrétiennes 349 (Paris:1988), esp. 33-40. For the original Syriac the Demonstrations, together with a facing Latin translation, see D. I. Parisot, ed., Patrologia Syriaca, volume I (Paris: 1894), the entire volume for Demonstrations I-XXII, and volume II (Paris: 1894), columns 1-150, for Demonstration XXIII. All citations from Aphrahat below will be taken from Parisot’s edition.
3 On Aphrahat’s diction as a "hybrid" of Semitic and Hellentistic tropes, see Pierre, "Introduction", 65-69, and 79-93, 98-106 and 112-131 on Jewish traditions in his writings, together with R. Murray, "Some Rhetorical Patterns in Early Syriac Literature", in A Tribute to Arthur Vööbus, ed. R. H. Fischer (Chicago:1977) 109-31, esp. 109-25. Specifically with regard to debates with neighboring rabbis, see N. Koltun-Fromm, "A Jewish-Christian Conversation in Fourth-Century Iran", JJS 47 (1996) 45-63; and eadem, "Aphrahat and the Rabbis on Noah’s Righteousness in Light of Jewish-Christian Polemics", in The Book of Genesis in Jewish and Oriental Christian Traditions, ed. J. Frischman and L. Van Rompay (Louvain:1997) 57-71.
4 See again Pierre, "Introduction", 40.
5 See Demonstration XXII.26, col. 1044, for the first two sets, and XXIII.69, col. 149.
6 See Pierre, "Introduction", 79-93, for a sketch of Aphrahat’s church and informed conjecture about its history and major concerns.
7 For earlier discussions of the world of Syriac-speaking Christianity and its relation to early traditions, see R. Murray, "An Exhortation to Candidates for Ascetical Vows at Baptism in the Ancient Syrian Church", NTS 21 (1974) 59-80; idem, Symbols of Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition; idem, "Jews, Hebrews, and Christians: Some Needed Distinctions", NT 24.1 (1982) 195-208; and idem, "Disaffected Judaism and Early Christianity: Some Predisposing Factors", in To See Us as Others See Us (Chico CA:1985) 263-85; together with S. Brock, "Jewish Traditions in Syriac Sources", JJS 30 (1979) 212-32.
8 Thus my discussion below in Section 9.
9 Athanasius’ Life of Anthony was certainly a most important witness, especially as a literary influence, but the ideas behind it greatly antedate it and are widely spread in the Christian world — as Aphrahat’s work and central concerns help to demonstrate.
10 For an illumining analysis of the theological resonances of these terms, together with a thorough bibliography on the subject, see S. H. Griffith, "Asceticism in the Church of Syria: The Hermeneutics of Early Syrian Monasticism", in Asceticism, ed. V. L. Wimbush and R. Valantasis (Oxford/NY:1995) 220-45.
11 Ibid., and see esp. Demonstrations VI-VII, col.s 240-360, for Aphrahat’s own description of the ihidaye, together with his defense of their celibacy against rabbinically-inspired criticisms of the celibate life in XVIII, col.s 817-44.
12 See, e.g., A. Vööbus, History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient, vol. I: The Origins of Asceticism. Early Monasticism in Persia (Louvain:1958) 14-30 and 100-103; and J. Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, tr. and ed. by J. A. Barker (Philadelphia:1964) 2-3, 316-28 and 339-79.
13 A. Guillaumont, "A propos du célibat des Esséniens", in idem, Aux origines du monachisme chrétien (Bellefontaine:1979) 13-23. For an approving citation of Guillaumont’s hypothesis, see J. Baumgarten, "The Qumran-Essene Restraints on Marriage", in Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. L. H. Schiffman (Sheffield:1990) 13-23, here 20; and, for a searching analysis of Jewish asceticism in the Second Temple era with particular attention to its connection with visionary (i.e., apocalyptic) literature, see also S. P. Fraade, "Ascetical Aspects of Ancient Judaism", in Jewish Spirituality: From the Bible to the Middle Ages, ed. A. Green (NY:1988) 253-88.
14 Thus, in Aphrahat, see esp. Demonstrations VI.5, col. 261-4 (Moses’ celibacy, and the priests’ temporary celibacy while serving the Temple); and XVIII.1, 817-20 (Jewish arguments against celibacy), and 4-7, 824-36 (temporary celibacy required for Sinai theophany, 828, citing Ex 19:15, and, once more, as required for service in the Tabernacle/Temple, 832-6).
15 Demonstration XIV.35, col.s 660:23-665:9. Other than the partial attention afforded it in the two articles cited below, nn. 20 and 23, I know of no studies in depth of this remarkable passage, save the doctoral disstertation now underway by my student at Marquette, Ms Stephanie Skoyles, to whom I am greatly indebted for what follows.
16 So XIV.1, 573:4, and repeated in lines 7-8: the address to all the "bishops, priests, deacons" and the whole Church.
17 Ibid. 31, 652-3.
18 Ibid. 33-34, 656-60.
19 This is the place to express my devout thanks for the generosity of Dr. Sebastian Brock of Oxford University, who kindly went over my translation of this passage (and others from Aphrahat) in order to correct the many errors of an amateur Syricist.
20 J. Raasch, "The Monastic Concept of Purity of Heart and Its Sources", StMon 11.2 (1969) 269-314, here 280-81. For the relevant passages from I Enoch (chp.s 14 ff.), see the translation by E. Isaac, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. J. H. Charlesworth (NY:1983), vol. I:20-21 and ff.
21 Ibid., 281.
23 R. Murray, "Some Themes and Problems of Early Syriac Angelology", in V Symposium Syriacum, ed. R. Lavenant (Rome:1990) 143-53, here 150-3. For the text of 3 Enoch in translation, see P. Alexander’s rendering in Charlesworth, OT Pseudepigrapha I:223-315.
24 Ibid., 150, citing 3 Enoch 28, Charlesworth OTP I:282-3.
25 Ibid., 150-1.
26 Ibid., 151.
27 In the "Introduction" to his translation, OTP I:225-9, Alexander expresses the majority view regarding the dating of 3 Enoch in its present form, locating it no earlier than the fifth century A.D., though with the acknowledgement that parts of it may be much earlier, including the ascent narrative in chp.s 3-15, which is also precisely where I find the most significant parallels with Aphrahat. For a strong argument that 3 Enoch 1-16 pre-dates its parallels in the Talmud, see C. R. A. Morray-Jones, "Hekhalot Literature and Talmudic Tradition: Alexander’s Three Test Cases", JSJ 22.1 (1991) 1-39.
28 For Christ as Wisdom, see Demonstration X.8 cited below, section 10. While His identification with the Father’s "Greatness" (rabbuta), "Glory" (iqara), "Presence" (šekinta), and "Radiance" (ziwa) is not explicitly stated by Aphrahat, I take that identification as assumed by him. His use of šekinta (see below, n.35) equates it with what Moses sees on Sinai, i.e., the kevod YHWH, and with the Presence abiding in the Temple, likewise occasionally visible. This is the role of the Son, the Second Person, that is, to be the subject of the Old Testament theophanies, in virtually all orthodox, pre-Nicene writers (and see n.33 below). Likewise, iqara in Demonstration XVI.7, 781:12-24 (esp. 13) is used for the kavod of Isaiah 40:5 that "all flesh shall see" at the endtimes, and cf. similarly XVIII.7, 832:25 (God showed Moses His iqara), and XXIII.59, 121:13 (Christians have been made "temples" [haikle] and "a dwelling place" for the Father’s iqara). So, too, with rabbuta in the following passages: 2.20, 93:9 (Christ showed the rabbuta of His glory [šubha] at the feeding of the 5000); XVIII.4, 825:14-15 (Moses ministered to the rabbuta of his Lord", i.e., on Sinai); and 11, 813:7 (we kneel before "the rabbuta of His Father, Who [i.e., the rabbuta] has turned our worship to Him [i.e., to the Father]"; XXIII.59, 121:12 ("You [the Father] have thrust your rabbuta [Christ] into a little heart"); and 121:14 ("Your rabbuta has walked among us"). The iqara and ziwa that the angels see within the sage in XIV.35 are therefore the presence of Christ in him — proof of the Christian as "temple" and "dwelling place" of the Father’s Glory. Our Lord as the true tabernacle (maškna) appears in the course of a brief commentary on Jn 2:19-21 in Demonstration XII.8, 524:18-525:5. On the Eucharistic presence as Christ’s entry into the temple of the Christian’s body through the sacrament, see esp. Demonstration III.2, 101:18-25, and note Aphrahat’s play on Ps 24, the "clean hands" and "pure heart" required for ascent to the "holy hill" (i.e., Zion, the Temple), and the entry of the "King of Glory".
29 On the presence of the idea of theÇsis — though not the actual word itself — in Aphrahat’s younger contemporary, St.Ephrem Syrus, see S. Brock, The Luminous Eye: The Spiritual World of St. Ephrem the Syrian (rev. ed. Kalamazoo:1992) 148-54. In Apharahat, cf. esp. Demonstrations II.20, 92:21-93:1; VI.10, 277:21-23 ("He will make us share in His nature"); XXIII.49, 96:18-19 (raising us up to "His nature"); and 51, 100:4-9.
30 For Aphrahat’s use elsewhere of the related passage on the "inner chamber" of prayer, Mt 6:6, and its equation with the temple of God’s presence, see Demonstration IV.10, 157-60; and for comment, S. Brock, "Prayer of the Heart in the Syriac Tradition", Sobornost 4.2 (1982) 131-142, here 134-6 and 140.
31 Raasch, "Purity of Heart" 280; and, at greater length on the vision of the heavenly temple and court in apocalyptic literature, see M. Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (Oxford/NY:1993), esp. 9-46.
32 R. Elior, "From Earthly Temple to Heavenly Shrines: Prayer and Sacred Song in the Hekhalot Literature and Its Relation to Temple Traditions", Jewish Studies Quarterly 4 (1997) 217-67.
33 For kavod in the Hebrew OT, and doxa in the LXX, see G. Kittel, Doxa, in TDNT, tr. and ed. G. W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids:1968) III:233-53; M. Weinfeld, kbd, in TDOT, ed. G. J. Botterwick et alii, tr. D. E. Green (Grand Rapids:1995) VII:23-38; together with T. D. N. Mettinger, The Dethronement of Sabaoth: Studies in the Shem and Kavod Traditions (Lund:1982), esp. 80-123. For recent applications of the "Glory" to the Christology of the NT, especially to St. Paul, see A. Segal, Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee (New Haven:1990), esp. 9-11 and 58-64; C. C. Newman, Paul’s Glory Christology (Leiden:1992); together with J. Fossum, "Jewish-Christian Christology and Jewish Mysticism", VigChr 37 (1983) 260-87; and, extending the trajectory into later Christian literature, P. Deseille, "Gloire", DSp VI:421-63.
34 On the use of iqara in the Aramaic Targums of the Penteteuch, more often than not as rendering the Hebrew kavod and used together with šekinta, see D. MuZoz-Leon, La Gloria de la Shekinta en los Targumim del Penteteuco (Madrid:1977).
35 For Aphrahat’s use of !šekinta, see Demonstration IV.7 (152:1-2) and XVIII.4 (828:8), both times for God’s visible Presence on Mt Sinai, together with XIX.4 (857:6-7), where it denotes the Presence within the Holy of Holies. On Rabbinic use of šekinah, see E. E. Urbach, The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs, tr. I. Abrahams (1975, rep. Cambridge MA:1995) 37-65.
36 On the expression, ziv haŠekinah, and its mystical and eschatological connotations for the Rabbis, see I. Chernus, Mysticism in Rabbinic Literature (Berlin:1982), esp. the chapter, "Nourished by the Light of the Shekinah", 74-87.
37 Other than in Demonstration XIV, with its appeal to the whole Church, Aphrahat appears to have in mind exclusively the qyama as his target audience. See Pierre, "Introduction" 93 and 98-100.
38 For texts and discussion of these materials, see A. Golitzin, "’The Demons Suggest an Illusion of God’s Glory in a Form’: Controversy over the Divine Body and Vision of Glory in Some Late Fourth-, Early Fifth-Century Monastic Literature", StMon 44.1 (2002) 13-43.
39 See the following, select list for uses of "place" in a sense similar to what we find in the portrait of the sage: Demonstration VI.1, 245:11-12, 14, 16; XI.4, 417:12-13; XVIII.7, 833:4; XXII.9, 1009:18-29, and 12; 1013:10 and 12-13; 1016:5-6 and 13; XXII.13:1017:8, 13, 16, and 21-23 (all in sense of "place" as the eschatological hope); 1020:14-23 (nine times, all in the sense of heaven, the place hoped for); XXII.24, 1036:9; XXIII.51, 100:6; XXIII.59, 121:9-10; and XXIII.67, 148:4-5. Note esp. the use of "that place" (haw atra) as the goal of vision in IX.4, 417:13, in a passage devoted to the praise of humility.
40 On the "Name" theology of Deuteronomy, esp. as denoting the Presence (particularly in the Temple), see Mettinger, Dethronement of Sabaoth 38-79.
41 On maqom in the Hebrew OT, see the article by J. Gamberoni, mqm, in TDOT VIII:532-44, esp. 537 ff. for the cultic resonances, and 542 for the reference to Jeremiah.
42 I am quoting the New Revised Standard Version (NY:1989).
43 See the article by H. Köster, topos, in TDNT VIII:187-208, esp. 195 ff.
44 On Dionysius and the topos of Ex 24:10 and Ezk 3:12, implied in the famous description of Moses’ ascent in Mystical Theology I.3, see A. Golitzin, "Revisiting the ‘Sudden’: Epistle III in the Corpus Dionysiacum", StPatr 37 (2001) 482-91, esp. 482-3 and n.3. On the theological importance of the Exodus passage and the term, "place", for Evagrius, see C. Stewart, "Imageless Prayer and the Theological Vision of Evagrius Ponticus", JECS 9.2 (2001) 173-204. For discussion of the Jewish exegetical and mystical resonances of the phrase, topos theou, from Exodus and related texts from the Psalms, together with their relevance to Evagrius (a theme untouched by Stewart’s otherwise sensitive article), see the important and unfortunately neglected study by N. Séd, "La shekinta et ses amis araméens", COr 20 (Geneva:1988) 233-47.
45 See Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven 3-28.
46 See P. Schäfer, Konkordanz zur Hekhalot Literatur (Tübingen:1986) 432 for maqom, with the citations from Ezk 3:12 esp. under the headings mmqwm and mmqwmw. For the Hekhalot texts themselves in the Hebrew, see idem, Synopse zur Hekhalot Literatur (Tübingen:1981), together with the four-volume translation into German, idem, Übersetzung der Hekhalot Literature (Tübingen:1987-1995).
47 Synopse zur Hekhalot Literature # 20 (= 3 Enoch 16).
48 Ibid., # 71 (= 3 Enoch 48).
49 Ibid., # 256 (= Hekhalot Rabbati).
50 Ibid., # 297 (= Hekhalot Rabbati).
51 Ibid., ## 367 and 373 (= Hekhalot Zutarti).
52 Ibid., # 746 (= Seder Rabba).
53 Ibid., ## 61 and 67 (= 3 Enoch 39:1 and 43)
54 Ibid., ## 64-69 (= 3 Enoch 45:1 and 6; 46:1; 47:1 and 4; 48:1 and 5). Alexander’s English translation renders this sense of maqom consistently with "the Omnipresent One". See Charlesworth, OTP I:296-301.
55 See Urbach, The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs 66-79, on maqom, under the heading of "the Omnipresent" — thus Alexander’s rendering, above n.54.
56 On a similar equivalence in the Macarian Homilies, see A. Golitzin, "A Testimony to Christianity as Transfiguration: The Macarian Homilies and Orthodox Spirituality", in Orthodox and Wesleyan Spirituality, ed. S. T. Kimbrough Jr. (Crestwood NY:2002) 129-56, here 130-2 and 150, n.17.
57 Epistle 39, my English rendering of the Greek retroversion by W. Frankenberg, in idem, Evagrius Ponticus (Berlin:1912) 593, and cf. also ibid., 425, 427, 441, and 449 for like usages in Evagrius of Ex 24:10. On the interpretation, see again Steward and Séd, cited above, n.44, together with Golitzin, "’The Demons Suggest an Illusion of God’s Glory in a Form’" 22-23, 26-27, and 30-31 on the widespread importance of this scriptural verse in both Jewish and early monastic literature.
58 W. R. Schoedel, "Jewish Wisdom and the Formation of the Christian Ascetic", in Aspects of Wisdom in Judaism and Early Christianity, ed. R. Wilkin (Notre Dame:1975) 169-99.
59 See J. Driscoll, The "Ad Monachos" of Evagrius Ponticus: Its Structure and a Select Commentary (Rome:1991) 307-84.
60 On Evagrius’ physik theÇria, and together with his understanding of vision/participation in the logoi of judgement and providence, see A. Guillaumont, Les ‘Kephalaia Gnostica’ d’Évagre le Pontique (Paris:1962) 103-116, together with the texts assembled and discussed by A. Golitzin, Et introibo ad altare dei: the Mystagogy of Dionysius Areopagita (Thessalonica:1994) 325-33.
61 On the use here of yatzra, "capacity", and its relation to the rabbinic yetzer, see Brock, "Jewish Traditions in Syriac Sources".
62 On knowledge of the beginnings and the lore of creation generally as a feature in apocalyptic literature, see C. Rowland, The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity (NY:1982) 136-55 (early materials) and 271-81 (rabbinic); together with Daniélou, Jewish Christianity 107-14 and 166-72 for examples of ma’aseh berešit in early Christian literature.
63 See esp. Demonstration II.9, 116, vs. the "false fasts of the sects", naming Marcion, Valentinus, and Mani; together with VI.18, 305-9, for a possible polemic against Mani or other Gnostics (on the two Adams); and XII.9, 525-8, as perhaps directed against encratite sectarians.
64 See esp. Demonstration XVIII in its entirety (in defense of celibacy), together with other passages and themes noted by Koltun-Fromm, "A Jewish-Christian Conversation in Fourth-Century Iran."
65 See J. Barr, "Theophany and Anthropomorphism in the Old Testament", VT Suppl. 7 (1961) 31-8; Mettinger, The Dethronement of Sabaoth 103-7; G. Quispel, "Ezekiel 1:26 in Jewish Mysticism and Gnosis", VigChr 34 (1980) 1-13; and M. C. A. Korpel, A Rift in the Clouds: Ugaritic and Hebrew Descriptions of the Divine (Münster:1990), esp. 87 ff.
66 For a sampling of the major works dealing with the lines of this trajectory in early Rabbinism and Christianity, see A. Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism (Leiden:1977); idem, Paul the Convert, loc.cit.; J. Fossum, The Name of God and the Angel of the Lord (Tübingen:1985); idem, The Image of the Invisible God: Essays on the Influence of Jewish Mysticism in Early Christianity (Göttingen:1995); J. Tabor, Things Unutterable: Paul’s Ascent to Heaven in its Graeco-Roman, Judaic, and Early Christian Contexts (Lanham MD:1986); C. R. A. Morray-Jones, "Transformational Mysticism in the Apocalyptic-Merkavah Traditions", JJS 48 (1992) 1-31; idem, "Paradise Revisited (2 Cor. 12:1-12): The Jewish-Mystical Background of Paul’s Apostolate", HTR 86 (1993) 177-217 and 265-92; idem, "The Temple Within: The Embodied Divine Image and Its Worship in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Early Jewish and Christian Sources", SBL Seminar Papers 37.1 (Atlanta:1998) 400-31 A. Goshen-Gottstein, "The Body as Image of God in Rabbinic Literature", HTR 87.2 (1994) 171-95; G. G. Stroumsa, "The Incorporeality of God: Context and Implications of Origen’s Position", Religion 13 (1983) 343-58; idem, "Form(s) of God: Some Notes on Metatron and Christ", HTR 76.3 (1983) 269-88; idem, Hidden Wisdom: Esoteric Traditions and the Roots of Christian Mysticism (Leiden:1996), esp. 27-62 and 109-31; A. DeConick, Seek to See Him: Ascent and Vision Mysticism in the Gospel of Thomas (Leiden:1996), esp. 46-149; M. Bockmuehl, "The ‘Form of God’ (Phil. 2:6): Variations on a Theme of Jewish Mysticism", JTS ns 48.1 (1997) 1-23 and C. Fletcher-Louis, Luke-Acts: Angels, Christology and Soteriology (Tübingen:1997). Directly addressing its presence in fourth-century monastic literature, see Golitzin, "’The Demons Suggest’", and idem, together with A. Orlov (the primary author), "’Many Lamps are Lightened from the One: Paradigms of the Transformational Vision in the Macarian Homilies", VigChr 55 (2001) 281-98. For the imagery of the one lamp kindling many others, see also Aphrhahat below, n.145.
67 For resonances of Glory/Kavod anthropomorphic mysticism in early Manicheanism, see J. Baumgarten, "The Book of Elchesai and Merkabah Mysticism", JSJ 17.2 (1986) 212-23; and J. Reeves, Heralds of that Good Realm: Syro-Mesopotamian Gnosis and Jewish Traditions (Leiden:1996) 5-30.
68 See G. Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and the Talmudic Tradition (NY:1965, 2nd ed.), esp. 36-42; I. Gruenwald, Apocalyptic and Merkabah Mysticism (Leiden:1980) 213-16; and H. M. Jackson, "The Origins and Development of the Ši’ur Qomah in Jewish Mysticism", JSJ 34.4 (2000) 373-415; together with the works cited above, n. 66, esp. Quispel, "Ezekiel 1:26"; Fossum, Image of the Invisible God; Morray-Jones, "The Temple within"; and Stroumsa, "Form(s) of God". For an edition and translation of the Jewish texts, together with introduction and commentary, see M. S. Cohen, The Ši’ur Qomah: Liturgy and Theurgy in Pre-Kabbalistic Jewish Mysticism (Lanham MD:1983).
69 See, e.g., Stroumsa, "Form(s) of God" 281-6; Segal, Paul the Convert 58-64; Fossum, "Jewish-Christian Christology and Jewish Mysticism", esp. 261-74; Morray-Jones, "The Temple Within" 426-30; and M. Fishbane, "The ‘Measures’ of God’s Glory in Ancient Midrash", in Messiah and Christos, ed. I. Gruenwald et alii (Tübingen:1992) 53-74, esp. 70-2.
70 See esp. 2 Enoch39:6, tr. F. I. Anderson, in Charlesworth OTP I:162; and, for comment, A. A. Orlov, "Titles of Enoch-Metatron", Journal of the Pseudepigrapha 18 (1998) 71-86; and idem, "’Many Lamps are Lightened from the One’", esp. 283-7.
71 For a sampling of these dimensions, see Cohen, The Ši’ur Qomah 215-20, and for comment on their meaning, Ibid., 104-9.
72 Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism 36-42.
73 E.g., perhaps most notably in Demonstration XXIII.59, 120:21-121:20, which begins by dwelling on God’s immensity, echoing Isa 66:1, in order to stress the paradox of the entry of His rabbuta into the Christian’s "little heart". Note the Eucharistic resonance of 121:9-11: "You made Your Greatness small, sufficient for our tongue. Our mouth is capable of receiving You, and You have dwelt within us"; and cf. III.2, 101:18-25.
74 4Q 427 fr. 7 ii 8-10. For the text in Hebrew and facing English translation, see The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, ed. F. Garcia Martinez and J. C. Tigchelaar (Leiden:1997) II:888-9; and for comment on this passage, Fletcher-Louis, Luke-Acts 188-9.
75 4Q 491c fr.1 5-7, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition II.980-1.
76 IQH xx 1 (among other repetitions); Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition I:190-1. Compare the trhb nfšy of "You have enlarged my soul" with the rhb lb, "His [Solomon’s] heart was made large", of I K 5:9. I owe this insight to E. Eschel, "4Q 47 1b: A Self-Glorification Hymn", RdQ 17 (1996) 175-203, here 185 n.40. Note that the citations in nn.74-6 are all variants of the same, ancient (probably pre-Qumranite) hymn, but there are many instances in the Scrolls of fellowship with the angels, e.g., IQS iv 22; xi 7-8; IQM vii 6 and x 11; IQH xi 22; xiv 10-13; xix 11; and 4Q 417 fr. 2 i 17.
77 1 Enoch 71:11-17, in Charlesworth, OTP I:50; and 2 Enoch 22:8-10, in OTP I:138. For extended comment on the latter, see Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven 3 ff.
78 On Col. 1:15 ff., see the analysis of J. Fossum, "Colossians 1:15-18a in the Light of Jewish Mysticism and Gnosticism", NTS 35 (1989) 183-201.
79 The Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah 7-9, tr. M. A. Knibb, in Charlesworth, OTP II:165-72, esp. 7:25 (p.167) on the prophet’s own progressive transformation.
80 Gospel of Phillip 58:5-10, in The Nag Hammadi Library, Rev. Ed., ed. J. M. Robinson (SF:1990) 145. Compare the late fourth-, early fifth-century Acta Phillipi 142: "megas n and egeneto mikros di’ hm~s, heÇs hou auxsi tous mikrous kai eisenegki [autous] eis to megethos autou", in Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha, ed. M. Bonnet (1903; rep. Hildesheim:1959) vol. 2.2, 77:2-3. The vocabulary of "mystical expansion" is widespread in Christian ascetical literature, thus see, e.g., the same idea in Gregory the Great, Dialogues II.35.6-7, and the great Pope’s deployment of four synonyms — ampliatur, expanditur, laxatur, dilatatur — in order to explain the enlargement of St. Benedict’s soul on the occasion of the latter’s vision of the divine light; text ed. by A. de Vogüé, Grégoire le Grand: Dialogues, vol. II, SC 260 (Paris:1979) 240-1. I hope shortly to devote an essay to this passage.
81 Compare G. Bornkam’s introduction to the Acta Thomae for the first edition of W. Schneemelcher’s collection, The Apocryphal New Testament, tr. R. McL Wilson (Philadelphia:1965) 2:425-442, with H. Drijver’s introduction in the second edition of the same collection (Philadelphia:1991) 2:322-37, esp. 330-3 on the Hymn of the Pearl. The first sees only "Iranian" and "Gnostic" motifs, while in the second these have disappeared almost entirely.
82 See S. Brock, "Clothing Metaphors as a Means of Theological Expression in Syriac Tradition", in Typus, Symbol, Allegorie bei den östlichen Vätern und ihren Parallelen im Mittelalter, ed. M. Schmidt (Regensburg:1982) 11-38; and S. N. Lindemann, "From Figleaves to Fingernails: Some Notes on the Garments of Adam and Eve in the Hebrew Bible and Select Early Postbiblical Writings", in A Walk in the Garden: Biblical, Iconographical and Literary Images of Eden, ed. P. Morris and D. Sawyer (Sheffield:1992) 74-90.
83 For the Syriac text, with facing English translation, I am citing the edition by J. A. Robinson, The Hymn of the Soul Contained in the Syriac Acts of Thomas (1897; rep. Nendeln:1967), here 24-9, lines 76-87; Greek version in Bonnet, Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha 2.2, 223:9-21.
84 Robinson, The Hymn of the Soul 28-9, line 91 (Greek, AAA 224:5).
85 Robinson, The Hymn of the Soul 30-1, lines 97-105 (Greek, AAA 224:10-20).
86 M. Idel, "Enoch is Metatron", Immanuel 24/25 (1990) 220-40, esp. 233-5.
87 Metatron’s title of choice in 3 Enoch, begining in 1:4 (OTP I:256), repeated in 3:1 (257) and subsequently throughout the treatise.
88 See again Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven 29-46; Morray-Jones, "Transformational Mysticism" 10-31, and idem, "The Temple Within".
89 See the references above in nn.74-76, together esp. with 1Q 28b iv 24-5: "May you be like an angel of the face [ml’k pnym] in the holy residence for the Glory [kbwd] of the God of the Hosts"; Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition I:106-7.
90 3 Enoch 12:5; Hebrew in Schäfer, Synopse zur Hekhalot Literatur #15; English in OTP I:265.
91 Ibid., 7; Synopse # 10; OTP I:262.
92 Ibid., 8:2; Synopse # 11; OTP I:263.
93 Ibid., 9:2; Synopse # 12; OTP I:263. Note in the MS variant in Synopse, p.8, line 5: ši’ur šekinah; and see Alexander’s accompanying reference to the ši’ur qomah traditions, OTP I:263, note "c".
94 Ibid., 10:1; Synopse # 13; OTP I:263-4.
95 Ibid., 10:3-6; OTP 264.
96 Ibid., 11:1; Synopse # 14; OTP I:264. Note the Hebrew of # 14, p. 9, line 41: kl rzy ‘lm wkl sdy bršyt; "all the mysteries of eternity and all the secrets of the beginning".
97 Ibid., 11:3.
98 Ibid.; 12-13; Synopse ## 15-16; OTP I:265.
99 Ibid., 14:1; Synopse # 17; OTP I:266.
100 Ibid., 14:5; OTP I:267.
101 Ibid., 15; Synopse # 19; OTP I:267.
102 For being clothed (lbš) in Aphrahat, and for the "robe" or "garment" (lebuša), see Demonstrations VI.2, 240:12 and 248:4-5 (the "wedding garment"); 6, 268:6-7 ("the robe not made with hands"); 18, 308:1-13 (being "clothed with the image of the heavenly Adam", an allusion to I Cor. 15:44-5 and 49); and XIV.39, 681:21 ("the robe of Glory", identified with Christ).
103 On the dating of 3 Enoch, see above, n.27.
104 For discussion of Adamic speculation among the Rabbis and related materials, see above, n.65-69, and esp., J. Fossum, "The Adorable Adam of the Mystics and the Rebuttals of the Rabbis", in Geschichte – Tradition – Reflexion: Festschrift für Martin Hengel, Band I: Judentum, ed. P. Schäfer (Tübingen:1996) 529-39; together with Goshen-Gottstein, "The Body as Image of God"; and, for a cautionary note, D. H. Aaron, "Shedding Light on God’s Body in Rabbinic Midrashim: Reflections on the Theory of a Luminous Adam", HTR 90.3 (1997) 299-314. On 3 Enoch and Enoch-Metatron as also a deliberate play on Adamic traditions, see Idel, "Enoch is Metatron" 223-31.
105 Genesis Rabbah 8.10, and Pirke d-R.Eleazar 11, cited in Fossum, "Adorable Adam" 532.
106 Leviticus Rabbah 20.2, cited in Goshen-Gottstein, "The Body as Image" 178-9.
107 Thus the meat of Fossum’s argument in "Adorable Adam" 532-8.
108 Homily 8.1.5, Pseudo-Macaire: Oeuvres spirituelles, vol. I: Homélies propres B la Collection III, ed. V. Desprez, SC 275 (Paris:1980) 144, line 50.
109 For discussion of this Macarian phrase, see esp. C. Stewart, "Working the Earth of the Heart": The Messalian Controversy in History, Texts, and Language to A.D. 431 (Oxford/NY:1991) 96-169.
110 See esp. Aphrahat on humility in Demonstration IX.4, 413:14-417:2; and again his simultaneous play on Isa 66:1-2 and Phil 2:6-7 in XXIII.59, 121:5-20, cited above, n.73. On the relation between Phil 2:6-7 and the kavod tradition, particuarly with respect to Gen 1:26 and the imago dei, see the works cited above, n.66, esp. Quispel, "Ezekiel 1:26"; Fossum, "Jewish Christian Christology"; Bockmuehl, "’The Form of God’ (Phil. 2:6)"; and Stroumsa, "Form(s) of God".
111 See J. Payne Smith, A Compendious Syriac Dictionary (Oxford:1903, rep. 1990) 392-3 for srq, and 286 for msarqquta.
112 The Odes of Solomon 7:3, ed. and trans. by J. H. Charlesworth (Chico CA:1977), Syriac on p.33, English on 35. Note: I have been obliged to alter Charlesworth’s translation, rendering rabbuta with "greatness" rather than "dreadfulness". See above nn. 73, for Aphrahat, and 80 for the same phrasing in the Gospel and Acts of Phillip, and cf. the similar expressions, though clearly treated as metaphorical, in the Macarian Homilies, e.g., Homily 4.9-11 (esmikrynen heauton), in Die 50 geistliche Homilien des Makarios, ed. H. Dörries et alii (Berlin:1964) 33-6.
113 Macarius 32, PG LXV:273D. See also the perceptive analysis of St. Pachomius along these same lines in M. S. Burrows, "On the Visibility of God in the Holy Man: A Reconsideration of the Role of the Apa in the Pachomian Vitae", VigChr 41 (1987) 11-33.
114 Demonstration XXIII.3, 9:1-20, esp. 17-20: "These [holy people] become the leaven of the righteous in this world, through whom a place is given for repentance, also because of whom sins are forgiven on the earth." Cf. Acts of Thomas 94, Bonnet AAA 2.2, 207:16-18, where the "holy ones" (i.e., ascetics) are praised as "temples" and accorded "the authority to forgive sins".
115 See the references above in nn. 13-14, 20, 23, 31, 45-54, 62, 66-7, 70, 74-7, 79-80, 89-101, and 112.
116 Vita Antonii 14, PG XXVI:865C.
117 See again Reeves, Heralds of that Good Realm 5-30, together with the text itself, The Cologne Mani Codex (P. Colon. inv. nr. 4780): "Concerning the Origin of his Body", ed. R. Cameron and A. J. Dewey (Missoula MN:1979), esp. 8-9, 14-15, 20-1, 24-7, and 34-57.
118 For ascent and light mysticism in the Gospel of Thomas, see esp. DeConick, "Seek to See Him" 43-147 and 161-8. In the Apocryphal Acts, see again the Hymn of the Pearl, cited in section 6c above and nn.83-5, together with Thecla’s transfiguration in the Acta Pauli et Teclae 34, Bonnet AAA 2.1, 261:2-4, and, outstandingly reminiscent of the OT kavod traditions and Synoptic Transfiguration accounts, Mariamne’s transformation in the Acta Phillipi 126, Bonnet AAA 2.2, 55:11 and 26, where the saint’s body is described, respectively, as a "glass ark, filled up with light", and as surrounded "by a cloud of fire".
119 For Abba Ammonas, see Epistle 10 in M. Kmosko’s edition of the Syriac version of the letters, Patrologia Orientalis XI (Paris:1913) 594:3-11, where the Abba cites Ascension of Isaiah 8:21, and then adds: "There are men on earth who attain to this measure [i.e., the ascent to heaven]". See in contrast David Brakke’s translation of the longer, Coptic version of St. Athanasius’ "Paschal Epistle" of 367, in D. Brakke, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism (Oxford:1995) 326-32, here 330-2.
120 See, e.g., R. Kimmelman, "Rabbi Yohanan and Origen on the Song of Songs: A Third-Century Jewish-Christian Disputation", HTR 73.3-4 (1980) 567-95; and D. Halperin, "Origen, Ezekiel’s Merkabah, and the Ascension of Moses", ChH 50.3 (1981) 261-75.
121 On Macarius, see the references in Golitzin, "’The Demons Suggest an Illusion of God’s Glory in a Form” 38-42; for Jacob of Serug (+521) of the chariot, see P. Bedjan, ed., Mar Jacobi Sarugensis: Homiliae selectae (Paris:1908), vol. IV:543-610, and for comment, A. Golitzin, "The Image and Glory of God in Jacob of Serug’s Homily, ‘On that Chariot that Ezekiel the Prophet Saw’", SVTQ (forthcoming); for Ananisho’s variant on Palladius, Lausiac History 25.4-5, replacing the "burning wheel" of a false vision with "a chariot of fire", see R. Draguet, ed., Les formes syriaques de la matiPre de l’Histoire Lausiaque, vol. II, CSCO 398 (Louvain:1978) 213-24; and for comment, again Golitzin, "’The Demons Suggest’" 36-7. On Dionysius, see once more Golitzin, "Revisiting the ‘Sudden’" 481-3.
122 M. Kmosko, ed., Liber Graduum, PS III (Paris:1926), Discourse XV.16, col. 373:12-13 (and cf. XII.2, 288:12-289:1); and, for one among innumerable instances of this phrase in Macarius, Homily 15.38, Die 50 geistlichen Homilien 150:543.
123 Demonstration VIII.24, 404-5.
124 See Pierre, "Introduction" 55-8, and note Aphrahat himself, declaring his intention of building a "house" (baita) — clearly with the sense of "temple" — for his ihidaye in the first ten Demonstrations, thus I.2-3, col.s 5-9, and X.9, 464-5.
125 See again Segal, Paul the Convert; Morray-Jones, "Paradise Revisited"; Bochmuehl, "Form of God (Phil. 2:6)"; Newman, Paul’s Glory Christology, together with the series of articles M. Goulder has published over the past decade arguing for Paul as at least reacting to Jewish mystical traditions: "Sophis in I Corinthians", NTS 37 (1991) 516-34; "The Visionaries of Laodicea", JSNT 43 (1991) 15-39; "Vision and Knowledge", JSNT 46 (1994) 53-71; "The Pastor’s Wolves: Jewish-Christian Visionaries behind the Pastoral Epistles", NT 38.3 (1996) 242-56; and J. M. Scott, "The Triumph of God in 2 Cor 2:24: Additional Evidence of Merkabah Mysticism in Paul", NTS 42 (1996) 260-81.
126 See above, n.102.
127 Demonstration III.2, 101:18-25; and XXIII.59, 121:10-11.
128 See the references in Golitzin, "’The Demons Suggest’" 39-40, and nn.79-86.
129 Historia Monachorum in Aegypto: Édition critique du texte grec et traduction annotée, A.-J. FestugiPre (Bruxelles:1971), e.g., Abbas Patermuthis’ and Sourous’ trips to heaven in pp. 83-4 and 91-2; Abbas Apollo and Helle in converse with angels in 62-5, 92-4, and 96-8; together Abba John of Lycopolis’ likening of monastic life to the angels in 34.
130 See esp. the visions recorded in the Bohairic Life of St. Pachomius, chp.s 73, 76 and 184, in English in A. Veilleux, Pachomian Koinonia (Kalamazoo:1980-2), vol. I:95-6, 99-100, and 228-9.
131 Sisoes 40, PG LXV:405A: "Seek God, and do not seek the place where he dwells." There are much more direct warnings in the admonitory tales of Abba Or (Or 7), Historia Monachorum 38, and about the monk Valens, Lausiac History 25.4-5 (see above, n.121); and cf. St. Anthony’s rejection of demons apparently posing as the "Body of the Glory" in Vita Antonii, 39 (PG XXVI:900BC), 40 (901A) and 66 (937A).
132 Pambo 12, PG LXV:372A; cf. esp. Silvanus 3, 409A (a complete ascent narrative, recalling 2 Cor 12:2 ff., and with express mention of seeing the Glory enthroned); together with Sisoes 14, 396BC; Arsenius 27, 96BC; and Joseph of Panephysis 7, 229CD.
133 E.g., the angelic visions which are directed to correct Mark the Egyptian’s doubts about the worthiness of a priest, and Abba Daniel’s questions about the Eucharist: Mark the Egyptian 1, 304A-C; and Daniel 7, 156D-60A.
134 Vita Antonii 87, PG XXVI:965A.
135 See the edition of the letters and accompanying commentary by S. Rubenson, The Letters of St. Antony: Monasticism and the Making of a Saint (Minneapolis:1995), 197-231 for the text, 59-88 for Rubenson’s analysis of the gnosis they taught, owing much to Origen, and 141 ff. on the saint himself as "a charismatic teacher of spiritual gnosis".
136 On Evagrius as spiritual father, see G. Bunge, Geistliche Vaterschaft: Christliche Gnosis bei Evagrios Pontikos (Regensburg:1988), esp. 27-30 on Palladius’ witness to this aspect of Evagrius, 45-9 on him as "physician and teacher", and 69-72 on his "spiritual mystagogy".
137 See Ignatius, To the Romans 7, and the Letter to the Smyrneans 14-15, text in Lettres. Martyre de Polycarpe, ed. P. Camlet, SC 10 (Paris:1969), 116 and 226-8, resp. Relatedly, see also R. D. Young, In Procession before the World: Martyrdom as Public Liturgy in Early Christianity (Milwaukee:2001), esp. 3-37 on the theology and imagery of Temple and Eucharist in early Christian accounts of martyrdom.
138 Tertullian, De Corona 1, PL II:95A; cf. also Polycarp loosing his sandals before his death in Letter to the Smyrneans 13.2 (SC, p.226).
139 The Passion of St. Perpetua, ed. J. A. Robinson (1891, rep. Nendeln:1967), esp. the visions in chp.s 4 (66-9) and 10-13 (78-83).
140 See, e.g., Clement on the "Christian gnostic" as "temple" in Stromateis V.6 (GCS 40.1) and VII.13 (GCS 58:25-59:5); and Origen on the Christian saint as God’s city, kingdom, and paradise, as the place of the throne of the Father and Son (and therefore temple) in his De Oratione 25.1 and 3 (Koeteschau, Origenes Werke II:359-60), and cf. also his description of the consecrated virgin serving as priest within the temple of her body in "Fragments on I Corinthians", ed. C. Jenkins, JTS 9 (1907/8) 29, cited in P. Brown, The Body and Society (NY/Oxford:1988) 175.
141 There is next to no scholarship on this subject, but see the very preliminary remarks by R. A. Kraft, "The Pseudepigrapha in Christianity", in Tracing the Threads: Studies in the Vitality of the Jewish Pseudepigrapha, ed. J. C. Reeves (Atlanta:1994) 55-86; together with A. Golitzin, "’Earthly Angels and Heavenly Men’: The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Nicetas Stethatos, and the Tradition of ‘Interiorized Apocalyptic’ in Eastern Christian Ascetical and Mystical Literature", DOP 55 (2001) 125-53.
142 Literally, from the beginning of his labors in Demonstration I.3, 8:25-9:11, to their conclusion in XXIII.59, 121:13-17.
143 See Murray, "Disaffected Judaism and Early Christianity"; and M. Barker, "On Earth as it is in Heaven": Temple Symbolism in the New Testament (Edinburgh:1995), perhaps esp. 13-25 and 61-72 on the symbolism, resp., of light and clothing.
144 Cited above, n.32.
145 Demonstration X.8, 461:5-8; "When you take fire from fire for a lamp, you may kindle many lamps from it, yet the fire does not grow less when you take it, nor does the lamp diminish when from it you kindle many others."
146 "Some Themes and Problems of Early Syriac Angelology" 151-2.