Transformation of the Celebrants

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

Transformation of the Celebrants

The Apocalypse of Abraham challenges its readers’ imaginations with a plethora of priestly motifs. Veiled symbolism, partially revealing apocalyptic and priestly realities, accompanies the seer’s cultic entrance into heaven. In the Apocalypse of Abraham, as in many Jewish pseudepigraphical narratives, the hero’s access to the sacred realm coincides with his metamorphosis as a celebrant of the heavenly liturgy. This translation, hinted at symbolically via the change in Abraham’s garments, was often taken to mark the transition from the earthly to the celestial. Here, as in the Yom Kippur ordinance, the changes affecting the celebrant’s wardrobe is the climax of the transformation.

Our previous analysis has already drawn attention to many facets of the Yom Kippur imagery in the Apocalypse of Abraham. The task of the present chapter is to explore further the transformational aspects of this enigmatic celebration by focusing on the metamorphoses that the story’s protagonists and antagonists, be they human or angelic, experience in the course of their participation in the drama of the eschatological rite.

Transformation of the Protagonist

The Lost Attires

The second, apocalyptic section of the Apocalypse of Abraham unveils one of the most important dynamics found in Jewish apocalyptic accounts when both positive and negative characters of the story progress into the (erstwhile) realms of their opponents, frequently assuming the roles and offices of their counterparts.1 Given these overlapping trajectories, a seer and his demoted opponent(s) often meet as they exchange dwellings. Such interaction often becomes a pivotal crux of the story.2

Chapter 13, where Abraham encounters the antagonist Azazel, represents such point of intersection and confrontation in the Apocalypse of Abraham. In the course of this encounter, Abraham’s angelus interpres Yahoel informs both parties that the celestial garment of Azazel must now be transferred to a new owner — to the translated Abraham. Apocalypse of Abraham 13:7-14 reads:

Reproach is on you, Azazel! Since Abraham’s portion is in heaven, and yours is on earth, since you have chosen it and desired it to be the dwelling place of your impurity … For behold, the garment which in heaven was formerly yours has been set aside for him, and the corruption which was on him has gone over to you. (Apoc. Ab. 13:7-14)3

The promise of new attire to the translated hero signifies not merely a rather unusual expansion of the patriarch’s wardrobe; instead it denotes a pivotal ontological transition from the human to the celestial. Endowments of heavenly attire are not unusual in apocalyptic literature; seers often receive angelic garments. In 2 Enoch 22, for example, Enoch is clothed with a luminous angelic garment, which makes his body similar to the glorious bodies of the angelic servants. Such a metamorphosis is of great anthropological significance: it signals a return to the original luminosity the first humans lost after their transgression in Eden.

In the Apocalypse of Abraham the hero’s transition likewise invokes the protological story, in which the luminous clothes of the heavenly beings were exchanged for garments of skin. Abraham’s bestowal with angelic garments may, therefore, signal an eschatological return to the protoplasts’ original condition. Several scholars have, in fact, noted this possibility. Louis Ginzberg, for one, suggested the possible Adamic background and pointed to parallels in the targumic materials and in Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 20.4 Indeed, the transference of a garment from the demoted angelic antagonist to an exalted human protagonist is an important theme throughout the Adamic lore.

Some of the currents within this tradition entertain the notion, unusual though it may be, that even the original luminous garments of the first humans had come from a demoted celestial being. A witness to this interpretation is the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Gen 3:21, a passage which treats the etiology of the first humans’ luminous attire. According to this targumic interpretation, the original humans were endowed with luminous garments that had been stripped from the serpent:

And the Lord God made garments of glory for Adam and for his wife from the skin which the serpent had cast off (to be worn) on the skin of their (garments of) fingernails of which they had been stripped, and he clothed them.5

Later midrashim are also aware of the enigmatic provenance of the protoplasts’ luminous garments; hence Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 20:

Rabbi Eliezer said: From skins which the serpent sloughed off, the Holy One, blessed be He, took and made coats of glory for Adam and his wife, as it is said, “And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife coats of skin, and clothed them.”6

These passages unveil the dynamic of exaltation and demotion noted above; they suggest that the protagonist’s apotheosis, signaled by his acquisition of luminous attire, comes as a result of the denigration of the erstwhile favorite now stripped of his exalted status. The newly exalted are drawn, by the will of God, to their dignified abodes. Their antagonistic counterparts are forced into exile from their elevated dwelling places.

This tradition of the first humans’ clothes of glory, mentioned in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan and Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, is important for our study. Indeed, the motif of Abraham’s endowment with a garment stripped from the fallen angel cannot be properly understood without exploring the array of traditions associated with Adamic “clothing metaphors,” a conceptual development whose roots can be traced to biblical materials.7 In order to fully grasp these roots, a short excursus into several biblical and extrabiblical texts is necessary.

The Garments of Light

Genesis 1:26-27 and 3:21 are pivotal starting points for subsequent Jewish and Christian reflection on the glorious garments of Adam and Eve. Genesis 1:26 describes the creation of humanity after the likeness (דמות) of the image (צלם) of God. Notably Gen 1:26-27 refers to the צלם (tselem) of Adam, the luminous image of God’s glory according to which Adam was created.8 Adam’s tselem was created after God’s own tselem (בצלמנו, literally “in our tselem”) — a kind of luminous “imitation” of the glorious tselem of God. Later rabbinic interpretations often argue that the likeness that Adam and God shared was not physicality, in the usual sense of having a body, but rather luminescence.9 The first humans’ clothing in garments of glory was often taken by later interpreters as mirroring the state of the Deity, who, according to some biblical passages, was also clothed in glory and majesty.10

Consequently, it is especially noteworthy that amidst such major conceptual developments Gen 3 contains a cluster of motifs pertaining to the first humans’ attire. According to Genesis 3:21, God fashioned for his beloved creatures a set of clothes — enigmatically called “garments of skin.” Typically, this is thought to be clothing for Adam and Eve after the Fall. Some scholars, however, argue that sufficient evidence exists to suggest another interpretation of Gen 3:21. According to this alternative reading, the verbs in Gen 3:21 are to be taken as pluperfects that refer to the status of Adam and Eve at their creation before the Fall.11

Several extra-biblical materials also show familiarity with these traditions.12 The motif is evident, for example, in the elaborations of the protoplast story found in the Books of Adam and Eve. Some versions of the Primary Adam Books allude to the story of the original garments of light once possessed by the first humans. In the Armenian version of the Primary Adam Books (at 20:1) a testimony about the tragic loss of the garments comes directly from the mouth of one of the protoplasts, when Eve recollects the dramatic moment of the garments’ disappearance: “At that hour I learned with my eyes that I was naked of the glory with which I had been clothed.”13 This passage tells not only of the protoplasts’ original possession of the glorious clothes, but also of their tragic stripping after the Fall.14

Despite this unhappy memory, humanity’s return to the glorious garments of the protoplasts is foreshadowed already in the Primary Adam Books.15 A suggestive hint appears at the scene of Adam’s burial, found in the section dealing with Adamic funerary rites. His body is covered with linen vestments brought from paradise, imagery which serves as a sign of the eschatological re-clothing of humanity and its return to the protoplasts’ original attire:

After this, God spoke to Michael and said, “Go to the Garden of the [third] heaven and bring [me] three linen cloths.” When he had brought them, God said to Michael and to Ozel and to Gabriel, “Bring these linen cloths and cover Adam’s body, and bring sweet oil.” They brought them and set them around him and wound him in that garment. (Armenian version)16

The rabbinic materials reaffirm the tradition of the first humans’ glorious garments. The targumic traditions, both Palestinian and Babylonian, while retaining the concept of “garments of skin” from Gen 3:21, also add “garments of glory” to the description. This targumic interpretation is supported by a wide array of midrashic sources. In fact, the midrashim often go further, replacing skin with glory. As an example, Genesis Rabbah 20:12 says that the scroll of Rabbi Meir read “garments of light” (כתנות אור) instead of “garments of skin” (כתנות עור):

In R. Meir’s Torah it was found written, “Garments of light: this refers to Adam’s garments, which were like a torch [shedding radiance], broad at the bottom and narrow at the top.”17

Another midrashic compilation, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 14, also knows the motif of the protoplast’s glorious garment:

What was the dress of the first man? A skin of nail and a cloud of glory covered him. When he ate of the fruits of the tree, the nail-skin was stripped off him and the cloud of glory departed from him, and he saw himself naked….18

Indeed, this motif continued to be developed in the rabbinic context for millennia. In one of the later Jewish mystical compendiums, the Zohar I.36b, one finds an echo of the same tradition about the luminous garments. As was the case at Genesis Rabbah 20, this Zoharic passage also uses the same word play, אור / עור:

At first they had had coats of light (אור), which procured them the service of the highest of the high, for the celestial angels used to come to enjoy that light; so it is written, “For thou hast made him but little lower than the angels, and crowns him with glory and honor” (Ps. viii, 6). Now after their sins they had only coats of skin (עור), good for the body but not for the soul.19

The Glory of the Fallen Angel

The Adamic tradition represents the formative bedrock of the later apocalyptic and mystical developments centering on the eschatological re-clothing of the translated patriarchs and prophets, who change the “attire” of their ontological conditions — often at their opponents’ expense.

In the Adamic lore one also finds the roots of the peculiar etiology, noted above, according to which the first humans themselves received their unique status, manifested in luminous garments, as a result of the demotion of an exalted angelic being who fell out of favor with God. In these traditions, the protoplast literally takes the place, glory, and garments of the demoted angelic antagonist. One of the early specimens of such a tradition can be found in the Primary Adam Books, where Satan’s removal from his special glorious place is set in antithetical symmetry with the creation and exaltation of Adam. Moreover, the very fact of the first human’s entrance into the world serves, in this text, as the reason for Satan’s dismissal: several versions of the Life of Adam and Eve connect Satan’s removal from his exalted dwelling with his refusal to bow down before Adam, the Deity’s newly created favorite.

In the Armenian version of the Life of Adam and Eve 12:1-16:2, the infamous celestial rebel himself describes the reason for his dramatic exile from the throne of the cherubim and the dwelling of light:

Satan also wept loudly and said to Adam. “All my arrogance and sorrow came to pass because of you; for, because of you I went forth from my dwelling; and because of you I was alienated from the throne of the cherubs who, having spread out a shelter, used to enclose me; because of you my feet have trodden the earth…. Thereupon, God became angry with me and commanded to expel us from our dwelling and to cast me and my angels, who were in agreement with me, to the earth; and you were at the same time in the Garden. When I realized that because of you I had gone forth from the dwelling of light and was in sorrows and pains…”20

This passage explains the origins of the long-lasting drama of competition and revenge that will later overshadow the whole history of humankind. Yet it also hints at mysterious dynamics in heaven, a hierarchical world where the rise of the Deity’s new favorite almost inevitably leads to demise of the old, who now must surrender his unique status, reflected in his garment, to his replacement. It would seem that this unique wardrobe, which signifies the distinctive status of the servant before God, cannot be divided amongst many.

In the Life of Adam and Eve, Satan repeatedly describes his original condition through metaphors of glory and light. These are precisely the formulae often used in the Primary Adam Books to describe first humans’ celestial attire. Thus, in the Latin version of the aforementioned text (12.1-16:2), the adversary describes his lost condition through the symbolism of glory:

O Adam, all my enmity, jealousy, and resentment is towards you, since on account of you I was expelled and alienated from my glory (gloria mea), which I had in heaven in the midst of the angels. Then the Lord God grew angry with me and sent me forth with my angels from our glory (gloria nostra). On account of you we were expelled from our dwelling into this world and cast out upon the earth. Immediately we were in grief, since we had been despoiled of so much glory (gloria), and we grieved to see you in such a great happiness of delights.21

The demoted antagonist’s alienation from his former glorious state is several times set in parallel to the exaltation and gifts given to the protoplast: “since we had been despoiled of so much glory (gloria), and we grieved to see you in such a great happiness of delights.”22 Later rabbinic traditions also seem to know this motif, as they too find explanations for the provenance of the first humans’ luminous attire in the stories of demoted antagonists.

The Cultic Significance of the Clothing Metaphors

So the enigmatic exchange of conditions and garments between hero and anti-hero is already familiar from the stories of the first humans. In the accounts of exalted patriarchs and prophets — who attempt to regain the protoplast’s lost attire — the antagonist’s demotion receives a new, atoning significance via its frequent connection to priestly and liturgical traditions. Viewed through a cultic lens, the demotion of the antagonist plays two roles: it frees the exalted place intended for a new hero, and it also (more importantly) fulfills a purifying function. The demoted figures act as cosmic scapegoats, who take upon themselves humanity’s impurity and sins, carrying this heavy burden into a remote place of exile. This reflects a fundamental symbol of Yom Kippur, when humanity’s entrance into God’s presence is put in conspicuous correspondence with the removal of human sins into the wilderness by the means of a scapegoat.

This Yom Kippur imagery plays a significant role in the conceptual framework of the Apocalypse of Abraham. Yahoel’s promise regarding the transference of the celestial garment to the patriarch coincides with the angel’s testimony that Abraham’s sins—literally “his corruption”—are transferred to Azazel: “For behold, the garment which in heaven was formerly yours has been set aside for him, and the corruption which was on him has gone over to you” (Apoc. Ab. 13:7-14).23 Scholars have argued that this striking nexus of motifs is not just coincidental, as it betrays a subtle link to the Yom Kippur ordinance. Hence there is prima facie evidence that the motif of the patriarch’s clothing also bears priestly significance and is related to the cultic symbolism of the Day of Atonement. On this view, the text envisions the vestments Abraham receives from Azazel as priestly garments transferred from the demoted celestial priest to his replacement. To further clarify the sacerdotal dimension of the celestial garment that Azazel begrudgingly cedes to Abraham, a short introduction to the traditions of clothing and re-clothing the high priest on Yom Kippur is required.

Even a cursory review of the role attire plays in the atonement ritual demonstrates that the symbolism of the heavenly garments looms large in this rite. Indeed, it is one of the most pivotal symbols of transformation in the entire Yom Kippur ceremony. Given the wealth of biblical and rabbinic material in support of the point, it hardly needs to be said that this festival reached its climax in the high priest’s entrance into the Holy of Holies. This strongly resembles certain dynamics of Jewish apocalyptic accounts, where the seer’s entrance into the Deity’s abode often coincides with the metamorphosis of his earthly body. A new member of the celestial community has arrived, one who now needs new “clothing” to secure his safety in heaven. In these accounts, as in the Yom Kippur ceremony, the change of “garments” occurs upon the seer’s entrance into the celestial Holy of Holies, often represented by the divine throne room.

The origins of these striking resemblances remain shrouded in mystery: especially possible apocalyptic roots of the Yom Kippur symbolism. Did the ritual described in Leviticus develop as a dialogical reaffirmation of the practices of heavenly ascent, that is to say, as the earthly complement to the visionary’s eschatological entrance into the celestial Holy of Holies? Or, quite otherwise, did the Levitical ritual arise as a polemical response to such practices? That is, did it originate as an attempt to discourage the praxis of the heavenly priesthood by establishing an alternative cultic framework, thereby restricting access to the divine presence on earth to the members of certain priestly clans?24 There is no clear answer to these questions. Yet while the origins of this correlation between apocalyptic symbolism and Yom Kippur imagery remain unclear, it is noteworthy that the imaginations of the earliest interpreters were no less baffled by this striking parallelism. Let us now revisit some of these early exegetical efforts to grapple with the protological and apocalyptic dimensions of Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur and the Garden of Eden

There are a few suggestive links between Yom Kippur and the Garden of Eden. As in the narratives of apocalyptic ascent, the transformation of a human person upon entering God’s domain stands at the very center of the Yom Kippur ritual. As the apocalyptic literature often casts the visionary’s ascent in terms of return to the protological abode lost at the fall, so too the Yom Kippur ritual seems to entertain an important ontological transition, tied at once to the story of the original sin and to humankind’s eschatological restoration. In this respect, the Day of Atonement’s cultic drama, which culminates in breaching the boundary separating human and divine realms, brings us to a very peculiar nexus of eschatological as well as protological motifs. More precisely, this ritual is not only a reenactment of the drama of humankind’s demotion and expulsion beyond the boundaries of the celestial garden. It speaks also of the exiled creature’s eschatological joy; for he is now permitted, by means of this ritual, to reenter his lost abode and regain his abandoned domain and status.

This explains why several early Jewish texts identify the Holy of Holies with the Garden of Eden. One instance of this identification can be found in the Book of Jubilees. Jacques van Ruiten notes that in Jubilees, “the Garden of Eden is seen as a Temple, or, more precisely as a part of the Temple:25 the room which is in the rear of the Temple, where the ark of the covenant of the Lord is placed, and which is often called ‘Holy of Holies.’”26 Moreover, understanding Eden as the temple presupposes the protoplast’s role as a sacerdotal servant. In relation to this van Ruiten suggests that according to the author of Jubilees, Adam is acting as a prototypical priest. He burns incense at the gate of the Garden of Eden.27 Van Ruiten puts this description in parallel with a tradition found in Exodus: “the incense is burned in front of the Holy of Holies. The burning of incense is a privilege given to the priests, namely the sons of Aaron.”28 Van Ruiten also calls to the readers’ attention another important detail related to the function of Adam as priest, namely, the covering of nakedness. He reminds that covering one’s nakedness is a condition for offering since the priests are explicitly bidden to cover their nakedness. The author of Jubilees likewise lays emphasis on covering nakedness.29

Robert Hayward also supports this concept of Eden as the temple in Jubilees. He argues,

… Jubilees states that Eden is holier than all the rest of the earth (3:12). According to 8:19, Noah knew that the Garden of Eden is the holy of holies, and the dwelling of the Lord, and Mount Sinai the centre of the desert, and Mount Zion—the centre of the navel of the earth: these three were created as holy places facing each other. It would appear, then, that Adam and Eve were brought into the Holy of Holies prior to their disobedience: their expulsion from Eden thus signifies their removal from the place where God’s Presence on the earth is most immediate for Israel.30

Hayward goes on to suggest that, in these traditions, “the high priest’s entry into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur might, then, in some manner typologically correspond to the first man’s return to Eden, for a season, to be reconciled with his Maker face to face.”31

It is important to note that the theme of the first humans’ peculiar attire, and its sacerdotal significance, does not escape the attention of the author(s) of Jubilees. Hayward observes that the protoplast’s garments were possibly understood as priestly robes.32 He points especially to Jubilees 3:26-27, where Adam is clothed by the Deity prior to his entrance into the Garden of Eden, and then offers sacrifice to God.33 Noting the subtle detail that Adam made his offering after God had clothed him, Hayward suggests, “Jubilees possibly held that God had made for Adam priestly vestments.”34 He thus proposes that, for the Book of Jubilees, Adam is “constituted the first priest in a succession which will lead to Levi,35 and then to Aaron and his sons.”36

Ontological Robes

The motif of the protoplast’s sacerdotal vestments, received from the Deity upon his entrance into the Garden of Eden, reaffirms the ideological tenets of the Yom Kippur ritual, with its keen attention to cultic attire and its suitability for particular realms. Yet here as in other cases, clothing metaphors have anthropological meaning, too. They suggest a change in the ontological state of the priest, not only in his sacerdotal wardrobe.

In several late Second Temple Jewish texts, the ontological dimension of the celebrant’s sacerdotal clothes on Yom Kippur receives special attention. Philo, e.g., understands the exchange of the high priest’s garments not merely as symbolic steps of the cultic routine, but as symbols of transition between two ontological conditions, one earthly and another celestial. In De Mutatione Nominum 43-44, he reflects on the peculiar symbolism of the high priest’s two robes, seeing them as the distinctive “attires” befitting divine and human realms:

It was this thought which prompted Moses when he wove the tabernacle, dividing its precincts into two, and set a curtain between the parts to distinguish the inner from the outer; when too he gilded the sacred ark which holds the laws both within and without, and gave the high priest two robes, the linen robe to be worn within, the many-colored one with the long skirt to be worn outside. These and the like are symbols of a soul which in inward things is undefiled towards God and in outward things is pure towards the world of our senses and human life.37

In this passage, the linen robe of the high priest (the garment worn by the celebrant in the Holy of Holies) and his multi-colored vestment (worn outside the inner Sanctum) are understood as divine and human dimensions of the soul. 38

In De Specialibus Legibus 1.84 Philo returns to the theme of the sacerdotal clothing and comments on the materials from which both garments are fashioned. The fine linen of the sacerdotal garment worn in the Holy of Holies signifies the immortality of the one who wears it, in contrast to the priestly clothes worn outside the inner shrine, which are made of wool — a material taken from the hair of a mortal creature.

The high priest is bidden to put on a similar dress when he enters the inner shrine to offer incense, because its fine linen is not, like wool, the product of creature subject to death, and also to wear another, the formation of which is very complicated.39

There is only a hint of the celestial status of the priest in this text, but several places in De Somniis (Som. 2.28 §189; 2.34 §231)40 affirm unambiguously the unique ontological status of the Yom Kippur celebrant by envisioning him to have a more-than-human nature during his stay in the Holy of Holies. He is “… a being whose nature is midway between [man and] God, less than God, superior to man. ‘For when the high priest enters the Holy of Holies he shall not be a man.’”41 Moreover, Philo views the high priest as a mediator who breaches the boundary separating earthly and heavenly realms as he enters the Holy of Holies. Hence in De Somniis 2.231 he unveils the following tradition:

The good man indeed is on the border-line, so that we may say, quite properly, that he is neither God nor man, but bounded at either end by the two, by mortality because of his manhood, by incorruption because of his virtue. Similar to this is the oracle given about the high priest: “when he enters,” it says, “into the Holy of Holies, he will not be a man until he comes out.” And if he then becomes no man, clearly neither is he God, but God’s minister, through the mortal in him in affinity with creation, though the immortal with the uncreated, and he retains this midway place until he comes out again to the realm of body and flesh.42

It is clear, then, that Philo envisions the Yom Kippur ritual as a transformational cultic event that anticipates and proleptically celebrates the eschatological restoration of humankind to its original immortal condition.43

Clothes of Ascent

We have seen that biblical and rabbinic accounts of the Yom Kippur ritual demonstrate striking similarities to a cluster of motifs also prominent in Jewish apocalyptic and mystical texts. Constructing a genealogy of these correspondences, however, is very difficult since the Yom Kippur symbolism betrays its distinctive visionary mold as early as some biblical accounts.

Now, while the full extent of the apocalyptic influence on the Yom Kippur ritual remains shrouded in mystery, it is clear that this ritual’s imagery has captivated the imagination of apocalypticists over many generations. The earliest Jewish visionary accounts re-envision the atonement ritual along apocalyptic lines. This propels its distinctive symbolism in an entirely new eschatological dimension. The striking potential for humankind’s metamorphosis is symbolized by more than a change of the celebrant’s garments. It receives further elaboration by an account common to the apocalyptic tradition: the initiate’s daring eyes behold an array of transformational possibilities, which — till that very moment — had remained deeply concealed under the veil of the cultic ritual.

In extra-biblical pseudepigraphical accounts, this transformational thrust of the Yom Kippur ritual reaches its apex. The protagonist of this apocalyptic narrative is not merely dressed in the priestly linen clothing upon his entrance into the divine Presence. No, the profound and often terrifying changes he experiences far surpass his lofty wardrobes: his very flesh and bones are suddenly annihilated by the divine fire and then refashioned by that same fire into an angelic or even divine corporeality. The metamorphoses affect not only the protagonist of the apocalyptic narrative, but also his nefarious counterpart. Demoted subjects, including fallen angels, are drawn into an overarching drama of transformation, thereby becoming part of the cosmic ordeal mysteriously outlined in the Yom Kippur ritual. Like its sacerdotal celebrants, the other actors in the ritual — including the scapegoat, its infamous sacrifice — are reinterpreted eschatologically and cosmically in the apocalyptic tradition.

As has been already noted in our study one remarkable example of such apocalyptic reformulation of an antagonist is found in the Book of the Watchers, an early Enochic work stemming from the early Second Temple period. In this text, the scapegoat rite is reinterpreted angelologically, via the incorporation of details from the Yom Kippur ritual into the history of its rebel, the fallen angel Asael. The cosmic tragedy of the angelic servant’s demotion unfolds in the midst of the exaltation of the patriarch Enoch. Notably for our investigation, the profiles of both characters are overlaid with liturgical connections both explicit and implicit. Thus Asael, who is envisioned as the sacrificial agent of the atoning ritual, is juxtaposed with Enoch, who is understood as the celestial high priest entering the heavenly Holy of Holies. While Asael and other Watchers abandon their stations and attempt to assume a variety of human roles — including familial duties of husbands and fathers44 — Enoch progresses into the upper realm and assumes various angelic roles. As in the Apocalypse of Abraham, the offices of the fallen angels are transferred to a human being en route to the divine Presence. And with the roles come unique celestial status. This exchange of gifts between positive and negative characters is reciprocal: the angelic antagonist too receives a “gift,” though a rather unpleasant one, in the form of the defilement associated with the human condition.

This dynamic mimics the processions of protagonist and antagonist on the Day of Atonement. The high priest enters the divine presence while the scapegoat is exiled into the wilderness. The Book of the Watchers follows the same pattern. Its hero, Enoch, moving in the opposite direction of his negative counterpart Asael. Several scholars have noted this point.45 1 Enoch 14:9–18 reads:

And I proceeded until I came near to a wall which was built of hailstones, and a tongue of fire surrounded it, and it began to make me afraid. And I went into the tongue of fire and came near to a large house which was built of hailstones, and the wall of that house (was) like a mosaic (made) of hailstones, and its floor (was) snow. Its roof (was) like the path of the stars and flashes of lightning, and among them (were) fiery Cherubim, and their heaven (was like) water. And (there was) a fire burning around its wall, and its door was ablaze with fire. And I went into that house, and (it was) hot as fire and cold as snow, and there was neither pleasure nor life in it. Fear covered me and trembling, I fell on my face. And I saw in the vision, and behold, another house, which was larger than the former, and all its doors (were) open before me, and (it was) built of a tongue of fire. And in everything it so excelled in glory and splendor and size that I am unable to describe to you its glory and its size. And its floor (was) fire, and above (were) lightning and the path of the stars, and its roof also (was) a burning fire. And I looked and I saw in it a high throne, and its appearance (was) like ice and its surroundings like the shining sun and the sound of Cherubim.46

In commenting on this passage, Martha Himmelfarb draws attention to the peculiar description of the celestial edifices that Enoch encounters in his approach to the throne. The Ethiopic text reports that, in order to reach God’s Throne, the patriarch passes through three celestial constructions: a wall, an outer house, and an inner house. The Greek version mentions a house instead of a wall. As Himmelfarb observes, “more clearly in the Greek, but also in the Ethiopic, this arrangement echoes the structure of the earthly temple with its vestibule (אולם), sanctuary(היכל) , and the Holy of Holies (דביר).”47 God’s throne is located in the innermost chamber of this heavenly structure and is represented by a throne of cherubim (14:18). It can be seen as a heavenly counterpart to the cherubim found in the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem temple.

Himmelfarb also suggests that in the Book of the Watchers the patriarch himself becomes a priest in the course of his ascent,48 similar to the angels.49 In this light Enoch’s angelic status and priestly role appear to be interconnected.50 Himmelfarb stresses that “the author of the Book of the Watchers claims angelic status for Enoch through his service in the heavenly Temple,” since “the ascent shows him passing through the outer court of the temple and the sanctuary to the door of the Holy of Holies, where God addresses him with his own mouth.”51 The seer’s entrance into to the divine throne room, and vision of the Glory of God, suggests strongly that the Book of the Watchers elaborates an apocalyptic version of the Yom Kippur celebration that, like its earthy cultic counterpart, culminates with the celebrant’s entrance into the divine Presence.

Although the apocalyptic re-enactment of the Yom Kippur ritual in the Book of the Watchers does not openly invoke the imagery of the celebrant’s garments, other pseudepigraphical accounts often do. For example, in the depiction of the initiation of a heavenly priest reflected in the Testament of Levi 8 and 2 Enoch 22, sacerdotal clothing symbolism looms large.52 Moreover, as in the aforementioned Adamic developments, these descriptions also betray distinctive protological connections. In both Testament of Levi 8 and 2 Enoch 22, the priestly investitures of the hero appear to be understood as the glorious garments of the first humans. Testament of Levi 8:2-10 offers the following depiction of Levi’s celestial investiture:

And I saw seven men in white clothing, saying to me: Arise, put on the robe of the priesthood and the crown of righteousness and breastplate of understanding and the garment of truth and the plate of faith and the turban of (giving) a sign and the ephod of prophecy. And each of them carried these things and put them on me, and said: From now on become a priest of the Lord, you and your seed for ever. And the first anointed me with holy oil and gave a staff of judgment. The second washed me with pure water and fed me with bread and wine, most holy things, and put round me a holy and glorious robe. The third clothed me with a linen vestment like an ephod. The forth put round me a girdle like a purple (robe). The fifth gave me a branch of rich olive. The sixth put a crown on my head. The seventh put on me a diadem of the priesthood. And they filled my hands with incense that I might serve as a priest to the Lord.53

In this stunning passage, the visionary is clothed with a glorious robe — an event tied to a host of subtle allusions to the actions and attributes of the high priest. The vestment’s glorious nature invokes the memory of the first humans’ garments, and a series of other protological markers reinforce this connection. The olive branch offers suggestive hints, as it is reminiscent of both a menorah and the Tree of Life. Thus, it might provide an important bridge to unify the narrative’s protological and sacerdotal dimensions.

The case is similar with 2 Enoch 22. This text depicts Enoch’s arrival in the Deity’s abode. This entrance into the divine Presence necessitates an adjustment in Enoch’s wardrobe. The archangel Michael extracts Enoch from his clothes and anoints him with delightful oil. This oil is “greater than the greatest light and its ointment is like sweet dew, and the fragrance [like] myrrh; and it is like rays of the glittering sun.”54 The anointing transforms the patriarch. His garments of skin are replaced by the luminous garment of an immortal angelic being. He becomes one of the glorious ones. As in the Testament of Levi, the unity of the story’s sacerdotal and protological dimensions is secured through the pivotal arboreal symbol, for it appears that that the oil used in Enoch’s anointing comes from the Tree of Life. This connection is reinforced elsewhere in the work, in 8:3–4, in which the three is depicted similarly:

… . the tree [of life] is indescribable for pleasantness and fine fragrance, and more beautiful than any (other) created thing that exists. And from every direction it has an appearance which is gold-looking and crimson, and with the form of fire.55

The shorter recension refers to a second olive tree, near the first, which “flowing with oil continually.”56 Here, as in the Testament of Levi, the adept’s initiation and redressing coincides with his anointing, which tries to unify several theological dimensions, sacerdotal as well as protological. In this respect, Enoch’s investiture with celestial garments and anointing with shining oil represents not only his priestly initiation, but the restoration of fallen humanity.

The Primary Adam Books also attest to a very similar anointing tradition and underscore its significance in the eschatological restoration of the protoplast. The tradition surfaces, for example, in the Armenian version’s depiction of Adam’s burial. The protoplast is clothed with linen garments from paradise that are brought by archangels, and then he is anointed with oil:

After this, God spoke to Michael and said, “Go to the Garden of the [third] heaven and bring [me] three linen cloths.” When he had brought them, God said to Michael and to Ozel and to Gabriel, “Bring these linen cloths and cover Adam’s body, and bring sweet oil.” They brought them and set them around him and wound him in that garment.57

In light of this Adamic passage, it seems rather clear that the anointing of Enoch in the Slavonic apocalypse signals the return of fallen humankind to the original condition of the protoplast, replete with his garments of light.

Yet distinctly sacerdotal symbolism also permeates the scene of restoration in 2 Enoch. Himmelfarb observes, “the combination of clothing and anointing suggests that the process by which Enoch becomes an angel is a heavenly version of priestly investiture.”58 Crispin Fletcher-Louis also discerns a cultic dimension in Enoch’s newly acquired garments, suggesting that

Enoch’s transformation in 2 Enoch is greatly indebted to priestly practice and its understanding of investiture. The myrrh fragrance of the oil of Enoch’s anointing recalls the sacred oil of anointing prescribed by Moses for the tabernacle in Exodus 30:22–23. The comparison of the oil with sweet dew is perhaps a reflection of Psalm 133:2–3 where there is a parallelism between the oil running down the head of Aaron and the dew of Mount Hermon. The reference to the glittering rays of the sun is yet one more witness to the theme of priestly luminescence. The specific comparison of the oil of anointing with the sun’s rays is ultimately dependent on the priestly tradition within the Pentateuch since there the oil of anointing is placed in God’s fourth speech to Moses in Exodus 25–31 as a parallel within the Tabernacle instructions to the creation of the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation (Genesis 1:14–19). In general terms Enoch’s investiture is indebted to the scene in Zechariah 3 where the high priest’s old clothes are removed and replaced with new ones. In that scene too the priest is attended by angels, just as Michael acts as Enoch’s attendant in 2 Enoch (see T. Levi 8). In 2 Enoch 22:6 Enoch is granted permanent access to God’s throne room, just as Joshua is given rights of access to the heavenly realm in Zechariah 3:7. The concluding chapters of 2 Enoch (chs. 69–73) are devoted to the priestly succession after Enoch’s ascension.”59

Scholarly attention has focused on the cultic and protological significance of Enoch’s anointment and investiture.60 Nevertheless, interpreters of 2 Enoch have often been remiss in recognizing the synthetic nature of this imagery. Yet in the Slavonic account priestly and protological details are seamlessly interwoven.

Priestly Garments of Abraham

It is now time to return to the Apocalypse of Abraham, where the transference of Azazel’s angelic garment to the patriarch has similar sacerdotal associations. Scholars have noted that the details in the enigmatic story of Abraham’s changing wardrobe seem to invoke traditions from several biblical prophetic texts. Recall that, in Apoc. Ab. 13, Abraham is caught up in a strange interaction between the demon Azazel and the angel Yahoel. Azazel attempts to discourage Abraham from ascending into the celestial realm, warning him that he will be destroyed there by fire. Meanwhile, Yahoel strengthens the will of Abraham and rebukes the demon.

That fact that Abraham stands between two celestial figures, a good angel and his evil counterpart,61 is reminiscent of the account in Zechariah 3, where the high priest Joshua is depicted as standing between two spirits.62 In Zechariah, as in the Slavonic apocalypse, distinctive priestly concerns are conflated with the motif of the change of garments. Zechariah 3:1–4:3 reads:

Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this man a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” And to him he said, “See, I have taken your guilt away from you, and I will clothe you with festal apparel.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with the apparel; and the angel of the Lord was standing by. Then the angel of the Lord assured Joshua, saying “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Now listen, Joshua, high priest, you and your colleagues who sit before you! For they are an omen of things to come: I am going to bring my servant the Branch. For on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven facets, I will engrave its inscription, says the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day. On that day, says the Lord of hosts, you shall invite each other to come under your vine and fig tree.” The angel who talked with me came again, and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep. He said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it; there are seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And by it there are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” (NRSV)

In this striking passage we find a description of the priestly initiation in which a high priest receives a pure garment, and a number of Jewish apocalyptic texts have a cultic initiation resembling it, the Testament of Levi 8 and 2 Enoch 22 among them. As in Zechariah 3, these texts allude to the anthropological significance of priestly initiation, which symbolizes return to the original condition of the protoplast by stripping the filthy garments of fallen humanity. All three accounts are unified by the motif of the tree of life, which points at once to the garden of Eden and to the temple, its earthly counterpart.

The parallels between Zechariah 3–4 and the Apoc. Ab. 13–14 allow us to better understand the priestly context of the Slavonic account, and its connection with the Day of Atonement. Indeed, as Daniel Stökl has observed, the Apocalypse of Abraham goes further than Zechariah: “compared to Zechariah 3, the Apocalypse of Abraham embellishes the Yom Kippur imagery.”63 In Zechariah the soiled garment of the priestly figure is simply exchanged for a pure one. In the Apocalypse of Abraham the transformational pattern is radicalized. The priestly initiate’s “soiled” garments are not simply exchanged for pure ones; they are transferred to Azazel, recalling the Yom Kippur ritual, in which the sin of humanity is transferred to the scapegoat.

Apocalypse of Abraham 13:7, 14 forcefully portrays this exchange:

And he said to him, “Reproach is on you, Azazel! Since Abraham’s portion is in heaven, and yours is on earth. . . . For behold, the garment which in heaven was formerly yours has been set aside for him, and the corruption which was on him has gone over to you.”64

For this reason, David Halperin sees Azazel’s actions as a last-ditch effort to retain his privileged place in heaven:

. . . we see here the theme, which we have already met in the stories of Enoch in the Book of the Watchers and of Adam in the “Apocalypse of Moses,” of the exaltation of the human and the degradation of the angel corresponding to each other and to some extent depending on each other. If Azazel can persuade Abraham not to make his ascent, he will perhaps be able to keep his own privileged status.65

The importance of these connections between the Apocalypse of Abraham and Zechariah is that they illumine the priestly nature of the heroes’ transitions as they prepare to enter the sacred realms.

It is true that there is no decisive priestly transformation in the Apocalypse of Abraham, a fact lamented by a number of scholars.66 Yet Martha Himmelfarb very plausibly suggests that the promise of a garment given to Abraham immediately before his entrance into heaven fulfils the function of the actual re-clothing. Although “Abraham does not undergo a transformation as explicit as that of Enoch, Isaiah, or Zephaniah” and “is never actually provided with a garment,” nonetheless “he has been promised one.”67

Transformation of the Antagonist

Garments of Descent

On the basis of our previous investigation it seems that the transformation of the patriarch in the Apocalypse of Abraham depends in many ways on the peculiar changes affecting his antagonistic counterpart — the fallen angel Azazel. The exaltation of the one depends on the demotion of the other. As with entrance into the upper realm, removal too is laden with profound changes in the spiritual and physical states of the characters. Just as the heroes of the apocalyptic accounts undergo spectacular metamorphoses to prepare them for heaven, so also the refashioning of the antagonists have ontological significance, foreshadowing the fate of the Deity’s former favorites. By the will of the Creator, the antagonists are now doomed to wander lower realms.68 This transformation common to various pseudepigraphical accounts gives insight into the significance of the novel garments of the demoted antagonists. Further, some investigation into the negative transformation allows the reader to ferret out the logic of changes that befall the antihero.69 Indeed, this process plays an important role in apocalyptic stories as an apophatic reaffirmation of the hero’s transformative motifs.

The perplexing complexity of the alteration endured by the demoted agents should not be underestimated. The new ontological garments given to the antagonist are often surrounded with the most puzzling imagery to be found in the apocalyptic accounts. These accounts offer to the eyes of their beholders a stunning plethora of cryptic depictions, in which the composite physiques of the demoted heroes often represent a bizarre mixture of demonic and heavenly attributes. This hybrid nature of the antiheroes’ visible manifestations suggests that, despite their exile into the lower realms, these formerly celestial creatures were never intended to inhabit their new environments. Rather, they were predestined to become the agents of a foreboding, corrupting change — a fall as tragic to the realms of their exile as it is to the antagonists themselves.

It is, therefore, no coincidence that in the Slavonic apocalypse so much attention is spent on depictions of Azazel’s various transitional shapes. These are portrayals that represent creative improvisations on the theme of the corruption of an antagonist’s original celestial form. Already in his debut in Apoc. Ab. 13, Azazel is designated as an “impure bird” — the sobriquet which, in the peculiar symbolic code of the apocalypse’s avian angelology, points to the corruption of his celestial form. Interestingly, the fallen angel’s “celestial” attributes appear repeatedly in many other portrayals of Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham, serving throughout as pointed reminders of his forfeited heavenly status.

Hence, when Abraham later sees a protological manifestation of the demoted angel in the heavenly throne room, his vision combines both angelomorphic and theriomorphic attributes. Apocalypse of Abraham 23:4–11 reads:

And I looked at the picture, and my eyes ran to the side of the garden of Eden. And I saw there a man very great in height and terrible in breadth, incomparable in aspect, entwined with a woman who was also equal to the man in aspect and size. And they were standing under a tree of Eden, and the fruit of the tree was like the appearance of a bunch of grapes of vine. And behind the tree was standing, as it were, a serpent in form, but having hands and feet like a man, and wings on its shoulders: six on the right side and six on the left. And he was holding in his hands the grapes of the tree and feeding the two whom I saw entwined with each other. And I said, “Who are these two entwined with each other, or who is this between them, or what is the fruit which they are eating, Mighty Eternal One?” And he said, “This is the reason of men, this is Adam, and this is their desire on earth, this is Eve. And he who is between them is the Impiety of their pursuits for destruction, Azazel himself.”70

In this text, Azazel has a composite physique which combines features of a serpent (“a serpent in form”) and an angel (“wings on its shoulders”). This unusual combination of two forms — animal and angelic — in the appearance of the seducer during his corruption of the protoplasts brings to mind a peculiar cluster of traditions about Satan’s appearance found in the Primary Adam Books. There too, in the course of the seduction of the first human couple, the antagonist is endowed with a polymorphic shape that combines features of a serpent and an angel.71 In light of these similarities, a short excursus on the traditions of Satan’s appearances in the Primary Adam Books is necessary.

Satan’s Angelic Garment

In some versions of the Life of Adam and Eve, its chief antagonist — Satan — undergoes enigmatic transformations into angelic and theriomorphic manifestations: he acquires, temporarily, the shape of either a serpent or a glorious angel. In this respect, it is intriguing that the two forms manifested in the Apocalypse of Abraham’s depiction of Azazel also appear in the Primary Adam Books, in the narratives dealing with the seduction or temptation of the first humans. These temporary appearances are envisioned as “garments” of Satan, representing the disposable clothes which the Deceiver can easily switch over in the course of executing his evil plans.

It is not without design that one of the most intense conceptual crossroads dealing with Satan’s transformations should be situated amidst scenes of the protoplasts’ seduction, for the Advesary tries to disguise his identity by posing in the guise of an angelic messenger or an animal. Moreover, he enjoys the ability to clothe himself again in the “garments” he had already used for deception in the past; hence he wears angelic “garments” not once but several times in the Life of Adam and Eve.72

The Primary Adam Books openly portray Satan as formerly possessing an exalted and even glorious status in the heavenly realm. Yet he forfeited this position because of his refusal to venerate the newly created protoplast. Unlike some other demoted agents — including the protoplasts themselves, who quietly obey their sentence of exile to the lower realms — Satan retains the power needed to entertain the hope of return and exacted vengeance against his enemies, the first humans. This paradoxical ability to be topologically present in the upper regions despite his demotion may constitute an important prerequisite for his power to take multiple forms, as befits his evil schemes.

The Armenian version of the Primary Adam Books 17:1–2a attests Satan’s ability to temporarily assume the shape of an angelic being:

When the angels ascended to the worship of the Lord, at that time Satan took on the form of an angel and began to praise God with angelic praises. I knelt down by the wall and attended to his praises. I looked and saw him in the likeness of an angel; when I looked again, I did not see him.73

Although Satan’s angelic appearances are only temporary,74 this passage suggests that they are not for that reason merely illusory. They have functional potential. It is curious that, along with his imitation of the angelic form, Satan also attempts to imitate the functions of angels by participating in their liturgy. This ability to act as an angel grants more credibility to his transformation, as other characters in the story are depicted as attending to his praises.

The Life of Adam and Eve goes on to say that Satan appears as an angel once more to Eve during the second temptation. This time his manifestation is even loftier; the text repeatedly identifies him as a cherub endowed with a special luminous vestment. The Armenian version of the Primary Adam Books 9:1–2 provides further details:

When eighteen days of their weeping were completed, then Satan took on the form of a cherub with splendid attire, and went to the Tigris River to deceive Eve. Her tears were falling on her attire, down to the ground. Satan said to Eve, “Come forth from the water and rest, for God has hearkened to your penitence, to you and Adam your husband.”75

It is striking that, in this second temptation, Satan appears in angelic form — indeed, as a cherub. Cherubic imagery also looms large in the Apocalypse of Abraham, where Azazel combines the attributes of two cherubim.76 In Apoc. Ab. 23, for example, the demon has twelve wings, six on each side of his body:77 “And behind the tree was standing, as it were, a serpent in form, but having hands and feet like a man, and wings on its shoulders: six on the right side and six on the left.”78 Earlier in the apocalypse, when Abraham sees the “Living Creatures of the Cherubim” in the heavenly throne room each of them has six wings. As 18:3–6 has it, “And under the throne [I saw] four singing fiery Living Creatures . . . and each one had six wings: from their shoulders, <and from their sides,> and from their loins.”79 An Azazel with twelve wings, then, is masquerading as a double cherub.

Satan’s luminosity is another intriguing detail of the temptation accounts in the Primary Adam Books. The first temptation has Satan come come “with radiance.” Eve’s second temptation refers again to his splendid attire. This detail may indicate that assuming an angelic form is understood as wearing a garment, and the attire might also parallel the first humans’ luminous vestments. Such an understanding of a luminous angelic form as a garment is especially evident in the Georgian version of the second temptation:

When the twelve days of his weeping were completed, the devil trembled and changed his shape and his clothes by his artful deceit. He went close to Eve, on the Tigris River, and stood beside the bank. He was weeping and had his false tears dripping (trickling) down on his garment and from his garment down to the ground. Then he told Eve, “Come out of that water (where you are) and stop your tribulations, for God has hearkened to your penitence and to Adam your husband.”80

The equation of the angelic form and clothing is explicit here.

Satan’s Theriomorphic Garment

Without doubt, one of the most intense conceptual crossroads manifesting the transformational capacities of the antagonist is the first temptation of the protoplasts. Hence it is little surprise that, similar to Satan’s first dissembling in angelic garments — which first occurred during the seduction of the protoplasts — the transition to an animal garment is also found here.

Primary Adam Books 44 has Satan abandoning his angelic manifestation and taking on the form of a serpent81 in order to deceive the protoplasts. Yet Satan’s new identity is somewhat ambiguous, and pseudepigraphical and rabbinic accounts often dispute the serpent’s gender. Some of these sources seem to understand the serpent as an androgynous creature, whose skin God later used to create the garments of both Adam and Eve. The tradition of clothing the first humans in the attire of the serpent is especially intriguing in light of Satan’s acquisition of the same garments in the Primary Adam Books. Does Satan’s clothing as serpent anticipate the future re-clothing of the protoplasts in garments of skin?

Satan’s assumption of a serpentine form is the “anti-paradigm” of transformation: the antagonist’s transition from an upper (angelic) to a lower (animal) form mirrors the glorious metamorphosis of the apocalyptic visionary, who undergoes a transition from garments of skin into garments of light. The Armenian version of the Primary Adam Books offers the following account of Satan’s transformation:

The serpent said, “In what way or how can we expel him from the Garden?” Satan said to the serpent, “Be you, in your form, a lyre for me and I will pronounce speech through your mouth, so that we may be able to help.” Then the two of them came to me and hung their feet around the wall of the Garden. When the angels ascended to the worship of the Lord, at that time Satan took on the form of an angel and began to praise God with angelic praises. I knelt down by the wall and attended to his praises.
I looked and saw him in the likeness of an angel; when I looked again, I did not see him. Then he went and summoned the serpent and said to him, “Arise, come to me so that I may enter into you and speak through your mouth as much as I will need to say.” At that time the serpent became a lyre for him, and he came again to the wall of the Garden. He cried out and said, “Oh, woman, you who are blind in this Garden of delight, arise come to me and I will say some words to you.”82

Satan’s animal manifestation is not merely a phantom; he inhabits the actual living creature. The serpent is possessed by Satan.83

In another passage from the Primary Adam Books, Satan might again assume a theriomorphic shape — this time that of a wild beast. When Eve and Seth journey to paradise in order to obtain the oil of resurrection needed to heal the dying Adam, they encounter a mysterious creature labeled, in the narrative, as a wild beast. In the Greek version of the Life of Adam and Eve, the story takes the following form:

Then Seth and Eve went toward the direction of the Garden. [And while they were going,] Eve saw her son, and a wild beast assailing him. And Eve wept and said: “Woe is me; if I come to the day of the Resurrection, all those who have sinned will curse me saying: ‘Eve has not kept the commandment of God.’” And she spoke to the beast: “You wicked beast, Do you not fear to fight with the image of God? How was your mouth opened? How were your teeth made strong? How did you not call to mind your subjection? For long ago you were made subject to the image of God.” Then the beast cried out and said: “It is not our concern, Eve, your greed and your wailing, but your own; for (it is) from you that the rule of the beasts has arisen. How was your mouth opened to eat of the tree concerning which God commanded you not to eat of it? On this account, our nature also has been transformed. Now therefore you cannot endure it, if I begin to reprove you.” Then Seth spoke to the beast, “Close your mouth and be silent and stand off from the image of God until the day of Judgment.” Then the beast said to Seth: “Behold, I stand off from the image of God.” [And the beast fled and left him wounded] and went to his hut.84

An important detail in this encounter between the primordial humans and a hostile animal is the peculiar terminology of the “image of God.” This formula evokes the memory of Satan’s rebellion, when he refused to worship the image of God. As Seth and the animal struggle, the wild beast does not fear to fight with the image of God. This nexus of motifs alludes to Satan’s original protological opposition to Adam, the original bearer of the divine image. Here is the second instance of a rebellious stand against the imago. The two instances have much in common, as many scholars have noted. When commenting on Seth’s rebuke, “Get away from the image of God,” Gary Anderson suggests,

… . this rebuke has some rather clear resonances with another key moment in the Vita’s story-line. It sounds very much like the instructions Satan and the other angels received at the moment of Adam’s creation, “Prosternez vous devant le semblable et 1’image de la divinite” (14:1).85

This ominous connection between the Adversary and the animal seems to be at play in the various versions of the Primary Adam Books.86 Although the Greek, Georgian, and Latin versions of the Life of Adam and Eve do not name the wild beast Satan but allow for that reading, the Armenian Penitence of Adam takes that next step:

Thereafter, Seth and Eve went in the direction of the Garden. As they were going, Eve saw that a wild beast was fighting with [her son] Seth and was biting him. Eve began to weep and she said, “[When] the day of Judgment came; all sins will be blamed upon me and (men) will say, ‘Our mother did not hearken to the commandment of the Lord God!’ ” Eve called out against the wild beast and said, “O wild beast, how do you [not] fear the image of God, that you dared to fight with the image of God? How was your mouth open[ed] and your fangs bared, and your hair stood on end? How did you not remember the obedience which you formerly displayed, that your mouth was opened against the image of God?” Then the wild beast cried out and said to Eve, “In truth, our insolence is because of you, for the example came from you. How was your mouth opened to dare to eat of the fruit concerning which God commanded you not to eat of it? [Until he will change all of our natures, henceforth you are unable to resist that which I speak to you, or if I begin to rebuke you.]” Then Seth said to the wild beast, “Close your mouth, O Satan. Get away from the image of God until [[the day will come]] on which God will bring you to rebuke.]” Then he said to Seth, “Behold, I am standing apart from you, the image of God.” The beast fled from him.87

Much like the first temptation of the protoplasts, in this text Satan appears to take the form of an animal in order to challenge humanity.

Vessels of Evil: The Antagonist’s Possession of the Living Form

The Primary Adam Books demonstrate the perplexing fluidity of forms Satan can take. In some episodes he assumes not one, but several shapes. These texts often depict the antagonist’s rapid transition from one manifestation to another. Such a speedy change is especially notable during Eve’s first temptation. In this scene, Satan takes the form of both an angel and a serpent, and even assumes another, invisible condition88 between these two. The Armenian version of 17:1–5 reads this way:

Then the two of them came to me and hung their feet around the wall of the Garden. When the angels ascended to the worship of the Lord, at that time Satan took on the form of an angel and began to praise God with angelic praises. I knelt down by the wall and attended to his praises. I looked and saw him in the likeness of an angel; when I looked again, I did not see him. Then he went and summoned the serpent and said to him, “Arise, come to me so that I may enter into you and speak through your mouth as much as I will need say.” At that time the serpent became a lyre for him, and he came again to the wall of the Garden. He cried out and said, “Oh, woman, you who are blind in this Garden of delight, arise come to me and I will say some words to you.” When I went to him, he said to me, “Are you Eve?” I said, “Yes, I am.” He replied and said, “What do you do in [the Garden]?” I said to him, “God set us to guard the Garden,” Satan replied and said to me through the mouth of the serpent, “This work is good, but come, do you eat of [all] the trees which are in the Garden?” I said to him, “Yes, we eat of all of them except only of that one tree which is in the very middle of the Garden, concerning which God commanded us, ‘Do not eat of it, for if you eat you will surely die.’ ”89

The Georgian version maintains the same transformational pattern; it too attests the fluidity of Satan’s manifestations, describing his transitions into invisible, angelic, and theriomophic states:

And the two of them came together and they allowed their heads to hang on the wall of the Garden at the time where the angels had ascended to prostrate before God. Then the Devil changed himself into the image of an angel; he sang the praises of the angels. And I was gazing in the direction of the wall to hear the praises. I stared and I saw him like an angel and at once he became invisible for he had gone forth to bring the serpent. And he told him, “Arise and come and I will be with you and I will speak though your mouth that which it is proper for you to say.” He took on the form of the serpent (to go) close to the wall of the Garden and the Devil slipped inside the serpent and he allowed his head to hang on the wall of the Garden.90

Michael Stone suggests that the invisible condition Satan often assumes between taking other visible shapes is intended to underline the fact that these visible forms are temporal illusions or mirages. As Stone astutely observes, when “challenged, he disappears from sight.”91 Another important transformational feature (already mentioned above) is that Satan is able to possess the living forms of existing characters. This is clear from the case of the serpent. Satan is able to enter existing bodies and function alongside their genuine personalities. “The devil answered,” the text says, “through the mouth of the serpent.”

According to Michael Stone, in these transformational accounts Satan comes into possession of certain characters in the story, who thus become Satan’s instruments.92 In the Primary Adam Books,

. . . Satan says to the serpent, according to the Greek, “be my vessel and I will speak through your mouth words to deceive them.” The word “vessel” seems to imply the idea of possession. . . . Satan is identical for all practical purposes with the serpent; Satan enters or possesses the serpent and speaks through its mouth; the serpent is Satan’s instrument or tool.93

Stone discerns a similar development in the Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 13, where Samael “rides” the serpent as a camel.94 He notes that PRE 13 opens with

. . . the theme of angelic jealousy of Adam and Adam’s superiority to the angels in his ability to name the animals. The fall of the archangel Samael is described, together with his host. He found the serpent, and “its likeness was like a sort of camel and he mounted it and rode it.” This relationship is likened to that of a horse and a rider (cf. Exod 15:1, 21).95

Zohar I.35b, attesting a similar tradition, also understands Samael/Satan as the “rider” of the serpent:

R. Isaac said: “This is the evil tempter.” R. Judah said that it means literally a serpent. They consulted R. Simeon, and he said to them: “Both are correct. It was Samael, and he appeared on a serpent, for the ideal form of the serpent is the Satan. We have learnt that at that moment Samael came down from heaven riding on this serpent, and all creatures saw his form and fled before him.”96

The same mystical compendium depicts Azazel as the “rider” on the serpent:

. . . Now observe a deep and holy mystery of faith, the symbolism of the male principle and the female principle of the universe. In the former are comprised all holinesses and objects of faith, and all life, all freedom, all goodness, all illuminations emerge from thence; all blessings, all benevolent dews, all graces and kindnesses—all these are generated from that side, which is called the South. Contrariwise, from the side of the North there issue a variety of grades, extending downwards, to the world below. This is the region of the dross of gold, which comes from the side of impurity and loathsomeness and which forms a link between the upper and nether regions; and there is the line where the male and female principles join, forming together the rider on the serpent, and symbolized by Azazel (Zohar I.152b-153a).97

This description strikingly recalls the portrayal of Azazel’s corruption of the protoplasts in Apoc. Ab. 23:4–11, which situates the arch-demon beneath the tree of knowledge in the midst of the intertwined protological couple. Azazel and Satan’s transitions from a celestial to an animal form are not novelties here but rather an improvisation on a theme with ancient roots in Enochic tradition. Already in the Book of the Watchers its main antagonist Asael is depicted as a sacrificial animal whose hands and feet are bound by a celestial priest Raphael: “And further the Lord said to Raphael: ‘Bind Azazel by his hands and his feet, and throw him into the darkness.’” (1 Enoch 10:4). 98 Moreover Asael’s transformation into an animal is not limited solely to the Book of the Watchers. The same imagery also occupies an important place in the Animal Apocalypse, which depicts the fall of the Watchers as the mutation of stars into animals.99 In this Enochic account, the theriomorphism of the erstwhile angels is juxtaposed with the angelomorphism of Noah100 and Moses.101 These biblical heroes undergo an inverse transformation: they are refashioned from animals into humans, and within this apocalyptic work such imagery signals that Noah and Moses have acquired angelic bodies.

The Garment of Darkness

In the aforementioned passage about the binding of Asael during the sacrificial ritual in the desert in 1 Enoch 10 we find an intriguing tradition about clothing the demon with darkness:

And throw on him jagged and sharp stones, and cover him with darkness; and let him stay there for ever, and cover his face, that he may not see light, and that on the great day of judgment he may be hurled into the fire.102

The antagonist’s covering with darkness is pertinent for our investigation, as it represents the conceptual inverse of the hero’s clothing with light. It deprives the antagonist of receiving divine light — the source of life for all God’s creatures.

That it is the face of the demon which is thus clothed with darkness may recall a series of transformational motifs involving, respectively, God’s Panim and the panim of the visionary. This terminology is quite well known in Jewish apocalyptic literature. It does not merely designate the protagonist’s or deity’s visage per se, but symbolizes their complete covering with luminous attire.


What lesson might we draw from the motif of the special celestial garment in the Apocalypse of Abraham? It is no coincidence that the promise to Abraham of a mysterious garment comes in the most cultic-laden chapters of the apocalypse — the conceptual crux that immerses the readers into the depths of the apocalyptic Yom Kippur ritual. In this climatic point of the eschatological Yom Kippur ceremony, Abraham’s infamous opponent, stripped of his lofty celestial clothes, aquires on a new, now sacrificial role by taking the attire of darkness – the garment of Abraham’s sins. By assuming the office of the cosmic scapegoat who is predestined to carry the celebrant’s impurity into the netherworld he thus fulfills the principal purifying ordinance of the Jewish tradition.

1 This dynamic of apocalyptic accounts is already present in early Enochic materials, where the antagonists represented by the fallen angels assume a wide array of human roles on earth, while a human protagonist — specifically, Enoch — assumes their celestial and priestly offices in the heavenly realm.

2 One of the instances of such an encounter between an exalted hero and demoted antagonists is found in 2 Enoch. On his celestial journey, Enoch meets a group of imprisoned watchers in the second heaven. On this tradition see A. Orlov “The Watchers of Satanail: The Fallen Angels Traditions in 2 (Slavonic) Enoch,” in: Idem, Selected Studies in the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha (SVTP, 23; Leiden: Brill, 2009) 134-164.

3 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 20.

4 See Ginzberg, “Apocalypse of Abraham,” 92.

5 Maher, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Genesis, 29. Later rabbinic traditions also hold that the glorious garments of Adam and Eve were made from the skin of the female Leviathan.

6 Friedlander, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, 144.

7 One potential allusion to the protoplasts’ glorious garments occurs in Ezekiel 28, which might tell of a glorious angelic being, originally installed in the Garden of Eden but then forcefully expelled from this lofty location. The garment of this being is decorated with precious stones and gold.

8 For discussions about the luminous body of Adam, see: D. H. Aaron, “Shedding Light on God’s Body in Rabbinic Midrashim: Reflections on the Theory of a Luminous Adam,” HTR 90 (1997) 299-314; S. Brock, “Clothing Metaphors as a Means of Theological Expression in Syriac Tradition,” Typus, Symbol, Allegorie bei den östlichen Vätern und ihren Parallelen im Mittelalter (ed. M. Schmidt; Eichstätter Beiträge, 4; Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1982) 11-40; A. D. De Conick and J. Fossum, “Stripped before God: A New Interpretation of Logion 37 in the Gospel of Thomas,” VC 45 (1991) 141; N. A. Dahl and D. Hellholm, “Garment-Metaphors: The Old and the New Human Being,” in: Antiquity and Humanity: Essays on Ancient Religion and Philosophy: Presented to Hans Dieter Betz on His 70th Birthday (eds. A. Yarbro Collins and M. M. Mitchell; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2001) 139-158; A. Goshen Gottstein, “The Body as Image of God in Rabbinic Literature,” HTR 87 (1994) 171-95; S. N. Lambden, “From Fig Leaves to Fingernails: Some Notes on The Garments of Adam And Eve in the Hebrew Bible And Select Early Postbiblical Jewish Writings,” in: A Walk in the Garden: Biblical, Iconographical and Literary Images of Eden (eds. P. Morris and D. Sawyer; Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, 136; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992) 74-90; B. Murmelstein, “Adam, ein Beitrag zur Messiaslehre,” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 35 (1928) 255; N. Rubin and A. Kosman, “The Clothing of the Primordial Adam as a Symbol of Apocalyptic Time in the Midrashic Sources,” HTR 90 (1997) 155-174; J.Z. Smith, “The Garments of Shame,” History of Religion 5 (1965/1966) 217-238.

9 Aaron, “Shedding Light on God’s Body,” 303.

10 See, for example, Ezek 1; Ps. 101:1; Job 40:10.

11 Brock, “Clothing Metaphors in Syriac Tradition,” 14.

12 The Qumran materials appear to be aware of the motif of the glorious condition of Adam. Several texts invoke the tradition of the glory of the protoplast: 1QS 4:15 22-23: “For those God has chosen for an everlasting covenant and to them shall belong all the glory of Adam (כבוד אדם)”; 1QH 4:9 15: “giving them as a legacy all the glory of Adam (כבוד אדם)”; CD-A 3:20: “Those who remained steadfast in it will acquire eternal life, and all the glory of Adam (כבוד אדם) is for them.” The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition, 78-79; 148-149; 554-555.

13 A Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 58E. See also the Armenian LAE 10.1: “When Eve came forth from the water, her flesh was like withered grass, for her flesh had been changed from the water, but the form of her glory remained brilliant.” A Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 12E. On the Armenian version of the Primary Adam Books, see also M.E. Stone, The Penitence of Adam (CSCSO, 429-30; Louvain: Peeters, 1981); idem, Texts and Concordances of the Armenian Adam Literature (EJL, 12; Atlanta: Scholars, 1996) 70-81.

14 See also the Armenian LAE [44]21.2-5: “Then Adam came to me with his great glory … and I gave him to eat of the fruit, and I made him like me….” Later rabbinic traditions also speak about the lost of Adam’s glory after the Fall. Genesis Rabbah 12.6 contains the following elaboration: “… the six things … were taken away from Adam, viz. his lustre, his immortality … Adam did not retain his glory for a night … He deprived him of his splendor and expelled him from the Garden of Eden….” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 1.91.

15 Marinus de Jonge and Johannes Tromp note that in Greek Life of Adam and Eve the “promise of the eschatological restoration to glory does not postpone the divine grace to the end of times. Immediately after Adam’s death, the angels and the sun and the moon offer incenses and prayers to God, that he may have mercy on Adam (33.4—36.1). Their efforts succeed, and trumpets announce the favorable outcome of God’s gracious verdict on Adam (37.1-2). A Seraph washes Adam in the Acherusian lake (37.3), a ritual known from Greek mythology as the post mortem cleansing from guilt of the dead. Then God hands him over to Michael, who is to bring Adam to the third heaven, where he is to remain until the day of visitation (37.4-6).” M. de Jonge and J. Tromp, The Life of Adam and Eve and Related Literature (Guides to Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997) 51.

16 A Synopsis of the Books Adam and Eve, 86E-87E. Cf. the Georgian version: “They seized three folded shrouds of [cloth] and God told Michael and Gabriel, ‘Unfold these shrouds and envelop Adam’s body and take the ointment from the olive tree and pour it upon him.’ And three angels dressed him (in it) and when they had dressed Adam’s body (in it)….” A Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 87E.

17 Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 1.171.

18 Friedlander, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, 98. Other midrashic passages also speak about the luminosity of Adam’s body. For example, in Leviticus Rabbah 20.2 the following tradition is found: “Resh Lakish, in the name of R. Simeon the son of Menasya, said: The apple of Adam’s heel outshone the globe of the sun; how much more so the brightness of his face!” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 4.252. Ecclesiastes Rabbah 8:1 reads: “R. Levi said: ‘The ball of Adam’s heel outshone the sun … so was it not right that the ball of his heel should outshine the sun, and how much more so the beauty of his face!’” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 8.213-214. A similar tradition is also found in b. Bava Batra 58a.

19 Sperling and Simon, The Zohar, 1.136.

20 A Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 15E-18E.

21 A Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 15-18E.

22 A Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 18-18E.

23 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 20.

24 On the question of rivalry between various priestly clans in the Second Temple period, see G. Boccaccini, Middle Judaism. Jewish Thought, 300 b.c.e. to 200 c.e. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991); idem, Roots of Rabbinic Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).

25 At the same time, van Ruiten cautiously warns that “it is possible that the Garden of Eden is not seen as identical with the Temple, for sometimes Eden and the Temple are conceived as different entities. The author might see the relationship of the two as a sort of symbolic representation of one by the other. In any event, the author of Jubilees subscribes to the conception that Eden is related to the Temple, and this has important consequences for the rewriting of Genesis in the Book of Jubilees….” J. T. A. G. M. van Ruiten, “Eden and the Temple: The Rewriting of Genesis 2:4–3:24 in the Book of Jubilees,” in: Paradise Interpreted: Representations of Biblical Paradise in Judaism and Christianity (ed. G.P. Luttikhuizen; TBN, 2; Leiden: Brill, 1999) 76. For the identification of the Garden of Eden with the macrocosmic temple in Qumran literature and Jewish Merkabah mysticism, see J.R. Davila, “The Hodayot Hymnist and the Four Who Entered Paradise,” RevQ 17 (1996) 457-78.

26 Ibid.

27 Van Ruiten offers additional arguments for seeing Adam fulfilling priestly duties. He does so by directing attention to the incense sacrifices of Enoch, which also took place in Eden. In another article he observes, “Another indicator in the book that shows that the writer conceived Eden as a temple is the fact that also Enoch who was led from among the children of men, was brought by the angels into the Garden of Eden for his greatness and honour. There he is not only ‘writing down the judgment and condemnation of the world,’ but also he is burning incense, probably inside, maybe at the gate of the garden, on the mountain of incense. Whereas Adam burned incense in the morning, Enoch is burning the incense of the evening of the sanctuary. The motif of Enoch as a priest is not attested prior than [check “prior than” – atypical English] Jubilees. It fits in with the tendency of Jubilees that makes all the important patriarchs in the line of Seth priests.” J. T. A. G. M. van Ruiten, “Visions of the Temple in the Book of Jubilees,” in: Gemeinde ohne Tempel/Community without Temple: Zur Substituierung und Transformation des Jerusalemer Tempels und seines Kults im Alten Testament, antiken Judentum und frühen Christentum (eds. B. Ego et al.; WUNT 118; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1999) 215-228 at 220.

28 Van Ruiten, “Eden and the Temple,” 77-78.

29 Van Ruiten, “Eden and the Temple,” 78. Van Ruiten also notes that because of the conception of Eden as a sanctuary in Jubilees, its author “has difficulties with the view that the consummation of the sexual relationship of Adam and Eve took place inside the garden.” Van Ruiten, “Visions of the Temple,” 219.

30 Hayward, The Jewish Temple, 89.

31 Hayward, The Jewish Temple, 89.

32 Some rabbinic materials similarly understand the garments of the protoplasts to be priestly garments. Gary Anderson draws our attention to a passage from Midrash Abkir where the attires of the protoplast is envisioned as the priestly robes: “What was written above?—‘the Lord God made for Adam …’ This teaches that the Holy One Blessed Be He had made for him priestly garments just as it says in the text, ‘Behold the man adorned in linen …’ (Dan 10:5) [This is similar] to a king who loved his slave and made for him a tunic of gold. [When] he transgressed [the king] took it from him and he put on chains. So the Holy One Blessed be He, made for him priestly garments. When he sinned he removed them from him and he put on fig leaves. As scripture says, ‘They sewed fig-leaves….’” G. Anderson, “The Punishment of Adam and Eve in the Life of Adam and Eve,” in: Literature on Adam and Eve: Collected Essays (eds. G. Anderson, et al.; SVTP 15; Brill: Leiden, 2000) 57-82 at 66.

33 “And He made for them coats of skin, and clothed them, and sent them forth from the Garden of Eden. And on that day on which Adam went forth from the Garden, he offered as a sweet savour an offering, frankincense, galbanum, and stacte, and spices in the morning with the rising of the sun from the day when he covered his shame.” Hayward, The Jewish Temple, 90.

34 Hayward, The Jewish Temple, 90.

35 This tradition of the priestly garments of Adam transferred to protological and Israelite heroes was not been forgotten in the later midrashim. Numbers Rabbah 4.8 reads: “…Adam was the world’s firstborn. When he offered his sacrifice, as it says: And it pleased the Lord better than a bullock that hath horns and hoofs (Ps. LXIX, 32) – he donned high priestly garments; as it says: And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skin, and clothed them (Gen. III, 21). They were robes of honor which subsequent firstborn used. When Adam died he transmitted them to Seth. Seth transmitted them to Methusaleh. When Methusaleh died he transmitted them to Noah.” Freedman and Simon, Midrash Rabbah, 5.101. A similar tradition is also found in Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 24: “Rabbi Jehudah said: The coats which the Holy One, blessed be He, made for Adam and his wife, were with Noah in the ark….” Friedlander, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, 175.

36 Hayward, The Jewish Temple, 90.

37 Colson and Whitaker, Philo, 5.165.

38 Later rabbinic authors also take the linen garments of the high priest to signal a transition from a human to an angelic nature. The change of the garment of the High Priest to white linen often signifies a prerequisite for the expert’s entrance into heaven. The “celestial” nature of the Yom Kippur ritual looms large, e.g., in the Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 46: “He said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of all the universe! Thou hast one people like the ministering angels who are in heaven. Just as the ministering angels have bare feet, so have the Israelites bare feet on the Day of Atonement. Just as the ministering angels have neither food nor drink, so the Israelites have neither food or drink on the Day of Atonement. Just as the ministering angels have no joints, in like wise the Israelites stand upon their feet. Just as the ministering angels have peace obtaining amongst them, so the Israelites have peace obtaining amongst them on the Day of Atonement. Just as the ministering angels are innocent of all sin on the Day of Atonement, so are the Israelites innocent of all sin on the Day of Atonement.” Friedlander, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, 364.

39 Colson and Whitaker, Philo, 7.149.

40 Cf. Her. 16 §84.

41 Colson and Whitaker, Philo, 5.529.

42 Colson and Whitaker, Philo, 5.547.

43 Later rabbinic traditions also envision the high priest’s entrance into the Holy of Holies as his entrance into heaven. Jacob Milgrom notes that white linen as the garment of a high priest was understood in some traditions as an angelic garment. Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, 1016. He refers to the passage found in y. Yoma, which compares the action of the high priest on Yom Kippur with the ministration of a celestial being: “like the ministration on high so was the ministration below.”

44 Cf. Suter, “Fallen Angel, Fallen Priest: the Problem of Family Purity in 1 Enoch 6–16,” 115–135.

45 Himmelfarb, “The Temple and the Garden of Eden in Ezekiel, the Book of the Watchers, and the Wisdom of ben Sira,” 63–78; idem, “Apocalyptic Ascent and the Heavenly Temple,” 210–217. See also H.S. Kvanvig, Roots of Apocalyptic: The Mesopotamian Background of the Enoch Figure and of the Son of Man (WMANT, 61; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1988) 101–102; Halperin, The Faces of the Chariot, 81.

46 Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 1.50–52; 2.98–99.

47 Himmelfarb, “Apocalyptic Ascent,” 210.

48 David Halperin’s research also stresses the “apocalyptic” priestly function of Enoch in the Book of the Watchers. He observes that “Daniel and Enoch share an image, perhaps drawn from the hymnic tradition of merkabah exegesis (think of the Angelic liturgy), of God surrounded by multitudes of angels. But, in the Holy of Holies, God sits alone….The angels, barred from the inner house, are the priests of Enoch’s heavenly Temple. The high priest must be Enoch himself, who appears in the celestial Holy of Holies to procure forgiveness for holy beings.” Halperin, The Faces of the Chariot, 81–82.

49 Himmelfarb, “Apocalyptic Ascent,” 213.

50 Enoch’s sacerdotal duties in the Book of the Watchers also involve his intercession and transmission of the judgment against Asael. Crispin Fletcher-Louis observes, “Enoch’s intercession and transmission of the judgment against Asael is thoroughly priestly and related closely to that of the high priest on the Day of Atonement whose ministry involves the sending of a scapegoat into the wilderness to Azazel (Lev 16).” C. Fletcher-Louis, All the Glory of Adam. Liturgical Anthropology in the Dead Sea Scrolls (STDJ, 42; Leiden: Brill, 2002) 40.

51 Himmelfarb, “Apocalyptic Ascent,” 212.

52 A sacerdotal dimension in relation to the change of garments might also be present in Joseph and Aseneth. See Jos. Asen. 13:3; 14:12; 15:10.

53 H.W. Hollander and M. de Jonge, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. A Commentary (SVTP, 8; Leiden: Brill, 1985) 149.

54 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.138.

55 Ibid., 1.114.

56 Ibid., 1.117.

57 Armenian version of the LAE 40:2 in: A Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 86E-87E.

58 Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses, 40.

59 Fletcher-Louis, All the Glory of Adam, 23–24.

60 Thus, Moshe Idel suggests that Enoch’s luminous metamorphosis, attested in 2 Enoch 22, might also belong to the same tradition which views Enoch as the one who regained Adam’s lost status and luminosity. M. Idel, “Enoch is Metatron,” Immanuel 24/25 (1990) 220-240 at 224.

61 The unique position of Abraham, standing between Azazel and the Name of God (Yahoel), evokes the memory of the Yom Kippur ritual, where the high priest stood between two earthly counterparts of these celestial realities – the scapegoat (Azazel) and the goat for the Name of the Lord (Yahoel).

62 See Rubinkiewitz, Die Eschatologie von Henoch 9-11 und das Neue Testament, 101-102; 110-113; Stökl, The Impact of Yom Kippur on Early Christianity, 94.

63 Stökl, The Impact of Yom Kippur on Early Christianity, 94.

64 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 20.

65 Halperin, The Faces of the Chariot, 111.

66 Yet the repeated references to a seer’s encounter with fire appear to be significant for the authors of the pseudepigraphon, who envision fire as a theophanic substance surrounding the very presence of the Deity. Thus, later in the text, Abraham’s transition into the divine realm is described as his entering into the fire. See, for example, Apoc. Ab. 15:3: “And he carried me up to the edge of the fiery flame. . .”; Apoc. Ab. 17:1: “And while he was still speaking, behold, a fire was coming toward us round about, and a sound was in the fire like a sound of many waters, like a sound of the sea in its uproar.” Could the promise of a celestial garment to the patriarch in the Apocalypse of Abraham signify here, as in many other apocalyptic accounts, that his “mortal” body must be “altered” in the fiery metamorphosis?

67 Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven, 64.

68 Scholars have noted connections with Mesopotamian counterparts, where celestial beings lose garments of light during their descent into lower realms. Thus Sebastian Brock points to the tradition about Ishtar’s “robe of splendor,” the garment the goddess lost at the seventh gate during her descent to the underworld. Brock, Clothing Metaphors, 14.

69 On transformational mysticism, see C. R. A. Morray-Jones, “Transformational Mysticism in the Apocalyptic-Merkabah Tradition,” JJS 43 (1992) 1–31.

70 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 27.

71 In light of the uncertainty of the date of the traditions contained in the Primary Adam Books, it is often quite difficult to establish the priority of these mutual influences.

72 The tradition of Satan’s use of an angelic form for the deception of the protoplasts is also attested in various versions of the so-called Cheirograph of Adam. On these developments, see M. Stone, Adam’s Contract with Satan. The Legend of the Cheirograph of Adam (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002) 17, 18, 65, 75, 84, 88.

73 Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 51E. The Georgian version offers a very similar tradition: “Then the devil changed himself into the image of an angel; he praised the praises of the angels. And I was gazing in the direction of the enclosure to hear the praises. I stared and I saw him like an angel and at once he became invisible for he had gone forth to bring the serpent” (ibid., 51E). The Greek version also attests the angelic transformation, but does not mention Satan’s transition into an invisible condition: “And instantly he hung himself from the wall of paradise, and when the angels ascended to worship God, then Satan appeared in the form of an angel and sang hymns like the angels. And he bent over the wall and I saw him, like an angel. And he said to me: ‘Are you Eve?’ And I said to him, ‘I am’ ” (ibid., 51E–52E). The Slavonic Vita also lacks a motif of invisibility, but adds a new intriguing detail by emphasizing the luminous nature of Satan’s angelic form: “The serpent believed that it was an angel, and came to me. And the devil had changed to the form of an angel and came here with radiance, singing an angel’s song, just like an angel, and said to me: ‘Do you eat from everything in Paradise?’ And at that time I took him for an angel, because he had come from Adam’s side, so I said to him, ‘From one tree the Lord commanded us not to eat, the one which stands in the middle of Paradise’ ” (ibid., 51E-53E).

74 Michael Stone’s research underlines the temporary dimension of Satan’s acquisition of the angelic form. He notes that “Satan, who once had heavenly glory and luminosity, put it back temporarily in order to deceive Eve and Adam. . . . Provided with the σχῆμα “form” of an angel, he becomes externally angelic.” Stone, Adam’s Contract with Satan. The Legend of the Cheirograph of Adam, 19.

75 Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 11E. The tradition about Satan’s transformation into an angel is also supported by the Greek, Slavonic, and Latin versions. Greek: “But the Devil, not finding a place with respect to Adam, came to the Tigris River to me. And assuming the form of an angel he stood before me . . .” (ibid.). Slavonic: “The devil came to me in the form and radiance of an angel, there where I stood in the water, letting passionate tears fall to the ground, he said to me, ‘Come forth, Eve, out of the water, God has heard your prayer and also we angels, we who prayed for you, and the Lord has sent me to you, that your should emerge from this water.’ And I discerned that he was the devil, and answered him nothing at all. But when after forty days, Adam emerged from the Jordan, he noticed the footprints of the devil and was very afraid lest the devil had duped me. But when he saw me standing in the water, he was very happy. And he took me and led me out of the water” (ibid., 11E-13E). Latin: “Eighteen days passed. Then Satan grew angry and transfigured himself into the brilliance of an angel and went off to the Tigris River to Eve. He found her weeping, and then, the Devil himself, as if mourning with her began to weep and said to her: ‘Come out of the water and rest and weep no longer. Cease now from your sadness and lamenting. Why are you uneasy, you and your husband Adam?’ ” (ibid., 11E).

76 See Apoc. Ab. 23. Similar to the “Living Creatures of the Cherubim,” the demon is also portrayed as a composite being, combining zoomorphic and human features: the body of a serpent with the hands and feet of a man.

77 Cf. Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 13: “Sammael was the great prince in heaven; the Hayyot had four wings and the Seraphim had six wings, and Sammael had twelve wings . . .” (Friedlander, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, 92). Cf. also Georgian LAE 12:1: “My [Satan’s] wings were more numerous than those of the Cherubim, and I concealed myself under them” (Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 15–15E).

78 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 27.

79 Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 24.

80 Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 11E.

81 All versions of the Primary Adam Books clearly envision the serpent as an animal or a “wild beast.” See Armenian, Georgian, and Greek versions of the Primary Adam Books 16:2 in ibid., 49E.

82 Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 50E–52E. The tradition of Satan’s metamorphosis into the living form of the serpent is also present in the Georgian version: “And the serpent told him, ‘How can we have them excluded?’ The devil replied and told the serpent, ‘Be a sheath for me and I will speak to the woman through your mouth a word by which we will trick (them).’ And the two of them came together and they allowed their heads to hang on the wall of the paradise at the time where the angels had ascended to bow down to God. Then the devil changed himself into the image of an angel; he praised the praises of the angels. And I was gazing in the direction of the enclosure to hear the praises. I stared and I saw him like an angel and at once he became invisible for he had gone forth to bring the serpent. And he told him, ‘Arise and come and I will be with you and I will speak though your mouth that which it is proper for you to say.’ He took on the form of the serpent (to go) close to the wall of paradise and the devil slipped inside the serpent and he allowed his head to hang on the wall of paradise. He cried out and said, ‘Shame on you, woman, you who are in the paradise of Delight (and) who are blind! Come to me and I will tell you a certain secret word’ ” (ibid., 50E–52E).

83 Pseudepigraphical and rabbinic accounts depict this process of “possession” of a living form as Satan’s “riding” of the serpent. This tradition will be explored in detail later in our study.

84 Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 41E–43E.

85 G. Anderson, “The Penitence Narrative in the Life of Adam and Eve,” in: Literature on Adam and Eve. Collected Essays, 34.

86 It appears that the Slavonic version underlines the cosmic profile of the beast. Gary Anderson draws attention to the fact that in the Slavonic version “the beast declares his intention not simply to harm Seth, but to destroy Eve and all her children (11—15).” Anderson, “The Penitence Narrative in the Life of Adam and Eve,” 35. The cosmic profile of the final judgment of the beast attested in several versions is also noteworthy, as it best suits the final destiny of the Adversary rather than the destiny of an animal.

87 Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 41E–43E.

88 Michael Stone notes that in the Primary Adam Books Satan becomes invisible on several occasions. He observes, “at various junctures of the story in the primary Adam books, Satan becomes invisible. The assumed form is not permanent. In Apocalypse of Moses 20:3, the Greek text relates that when Satan had succeeded in seducing Eve and Adam, he descended from the tree (here as the snake) καὶ ἄφανατος ἐγένετο, ‘and vanished’ (literally: ‘became invisible’). When Adam in the river recognizes Satan, he asked him why he was so hostile. Satan responded with the story of his fall (12:1-17:3). At the end of the conversation between Adam and Satan, we read et statim non apparuit diabolus ei, ‘immediately the devil was not visible to him’ (Latin Life of Adam and Eve 17:2).” Stone, Adam’s Contract with Satan, 19.

89 Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 51E–53E

90 Ibid., 51E–52E.

91 Stone, Adam’s Contract with Satan, 20.

92 Even Eve may be among the living forms that Satan possesses in the Primary Adam Books. De Jonge and Tromp argue that she is. They note that “the character of Eve is comparable to that of the serpent. Both are instruments of the devil (16.5; 21.3), who uses them to reach his eventual goal: to have Adam evicted from Paradise (16.3).” De Jonge and Tromp, The Life of Adam and Eve and Related Literature, 54. Yet, unlike the case of the serpent where Satan unambiguously enters the body of the creature, Satan’s possession of Eve is less than certain. The Georgian version of the PAB 10:1–2 relates: “And Eve came up out of the water and her flesh was withered like rotten vegetables because of the coldness of the water. All the form of her beauty had been destroyed. And when she had come up out of the water, she fell on the face of the earth in great weakness and remained lying (on the ground) without moving for two days. And after two days she arose and the devil led her to where Adam was” (Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve, 12E). One of the important details here is that Eve is depicted as being led by Satan. It looks like the Adversary animates her body, taking her to Adam. A second intriguing detail is that, after succumbing to Satan, Eve’s form was changed. Although the Armenian version says that “the form of her glory remained brilliant,” scholars believe that the Georgian version preserves the original reading. In this respect, Gary Anderson notes, “As Eve comes out of the water, having succumbed a second time to the temptation of the devil, her flesh is transformed for the worse: ‘All the form of her beauty had been destroyed.’ ” Anderson, “Punishment of Adam and Eve in the Life of Adam and Eve,” Literature on Adam and Eve. Collected Essays (eds. G. Anderson et al.; SVTP, 15; Brill: Leiden, 2000) 57–82 at 79.

93 M. E. Stone, “ ‘Be You a Lyre for Me’: Identity or Manipulation in Eden,” The Exegetical Encounter between Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity (Eds. E. Grypeou and H. Spurling; JCPS, 18; Leiden: Brill, 2009) 87–99 at 96.

94 “. . . [The Serpent] appearance was something like that of the camel and he (Sammael) rode upon it. . . .” Friedlander, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, 92.

95 Stone, “ ‘Be You a Lyre for Me,’ ” 96.

96 Sperling and Simon, The Zohar, 1.133–34.

97 Ibid., 2.89–90.

98 Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 87–88.

99 Cf. 1 Enoch 86:1–4: “And again I looked with my eyes as I was sleeping, and I saw heaven above, and behold, a star fell from heaven, and it arose and ate and pastured amongst those bulls. . . . And again I saw in the vision and I looked at heaven, and behold, I saw many stars, how they came down and were thrown down from heaven to that first star, and amongst those heifers and bulls; they were with them, pasturing amongst them. And I looked at them and saw and behold, all of them let out their private parts like horses and began to mount the cows of the bulls, and they all became pregnant and bore elephants and camels and asses.” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.196–97.

100 Cf. 1 Enoch 89:1: “He was born a bull, but became a man, and built for himself a large vessel and dwelt on it. . . .” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.199.

101 Cf. 1 Enoch 89:36: “And I looked there at the vision until that sheep became a man, and built a house for the Lord of the sheep, and made all the sheep stand in that house.” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.206.

102 Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.87–88.

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