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Heavenly Worship in Second Temple Judaism, Early Christianity, and Gnostic Sects: Part 5

This is the 5th and final post in a series by guest blogger, Stephen Huebscher

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This is the final post in this series, and I draw a number of conclusions here. At the end, I list all the works that I referenced in this series, in case I missed one earlier. This has been a great opportunity to read through these texts again and think through the issues and the claims that I make here. Thanks to Mike and all of you for your openness!

GENERAL CONCLUSIONS

The first major finding of this study was that cosmology was often linked to liturgy in such a way that it could be considered an indicator of the kind of worship that was practiced. Cosmology includes the description of heaven and beings in it, and their relationship to those on the earth (and under it).  There were two primary cosmologies used by these groups:  the biblical cosmology and the platonic cosmology. In the biblical cosmology, there are three basic levels to the universe (heaven, earth, and the underworld), as opposed to seven in the Hellenistic cosmologies. For instance, Aune writes,

It is striking that Revelation does not reflect more specifically the cosmology typical of the Hellenistic and Roman period, in which the cosmos was thought to consist of seven heavens.  Paul’s account of his own ascent to the third heaven reflects a cosmology of at least three heavens (2 Cor 12:1-5). John knows only a single heaven as the dwelling place of God and his angels. This older cosmology consisted of a three-tiered universe consisting of heaven above, earth in the middle, and the underworld beneath (the three-tiered universe is also reflected in several apocalypses, including the five apocalypses that constitute 1 Enoch, the Testament of Abraham, and the Apocalypse of Ezra . . . .)  The earth itself was thought to be a flat disk surrounded on all sides by water. Below the earth was the underworld, which was the realm of the dead, called Sheol by the Israelites but Hades by the Greeks.  Above the earth was the vault of heaven containing the heavenly bodies and, in the highest place, God and his angelic entourage. The new cosmology that developed during the Hellenistic period, and quickly displaced older cosmologies, regarded the earth as a sphere . . . .  The earth was thought to be a stationary center surrounded by seven planets (including the sun and moon), each of which moved in its own sphere . . . .  The earth was at the same time the ‘innermost’ as well as the ‘lowest’ part of the cosmos . . . .  God was thought to dwell in the highest heaven or sphere, usually the seventh or eighth heaven (Corpus Hermeticum 1.26), with various supernatural beings located at various levels below him. (David Aune, Revelation 1—5, 318).

The mystical belief of “worship=ascending to heaven,” which was first a part of Jewish and later Gnostic (and still later, Christian) mystical groups, seems to have built on the Platonic cosmology of various levels Plato described in Timaeus.  Timaeus was the standard work for much of the ancient world about the cosmology of heaven and earth.  In it, the astronomer/philosopher who sees the stars and understands the cosmology is the hero.  Margaret Barker has argued (unconvincingly, in my opinion) that this work reflects First Temple Judaism (via Pythagorus). More helpful is Gordon Lathrop, who has pointed out significant parallels between the blind man in Timaeusand the blind man (his name in Aramaic is “Bar-Timaeus,” which Mark carefully explains means “the son of Timaeus”) in Mark’s gospel.

At the junction of the two major parts of the Second Gospel, between the Gospel’s ‘Galilee’ and its ‘Jerusalem,’ exactly between the ministry narratives and the passion story, there stands the account of a blind man (Mark 10:46-52).  He is called ‘the son of Timaeus.’  The name itself strikes us at least three ways.  First, this is the only recipient of the healing ministry of Jesus in the entire Gospel who is given a name at all.  The name matters.  Second, the name is intensified, this patronymic being repeated both in Greek and in Aramaic. . . .  And third, as many commentators have noted, the name is very hard to place in a Jewish context.  It is not a recognized, current Hebrew or Aramaic name.  . . .  It is a Greek name and, in fact, one with a very specific and recognizable history.  Here is the ‘son’ of Timaeus, Plato’s Timaeus, and, ironically, he is himself blind, crying out in lament, seeing nothing, going nowhere.  This cry for help occurs at the very place, structurally, that the lament of the blind man occurs in the Timaeus:  at the juncture of the two major parts of the book. (Gordon Lathrop, 30-31).

Unlike Plato’s blind man who laments without hope, Bar-Timaeus abandoned his cloak (perhaps a philosopher’s cloak?) and came to Jesus.  After calling Jesus “my teacher,” he received sight and followed Jesus “in the way” (Mark 10:52).

It occurs at a place that corresponds, in the Timaeus, to the ethical culmination of the argument, to the turning of the consideration of all things toward the ordering of the life of the wise.  Only now the wise—together with everyone else—are invited to the wise folly of the cross. (Lathrop, 33)

A second difference between the two cosmologies is the population of heaven.  In the biblical cosmology, not only is God in heaven, but there is a core group of the heavenly host that works closely with God.  The core group in the biblical model is known as the divine council (DC) or divine assembly, and is found in many places throughout Scripture.  “One of the central cosmological symbols of the Old Testament is the imagery of the divine council and . . . the issues of order in Israel and in the cosmos are rooted in and understood as under the aegis of the divine council” (P. Miller, 423) It is not an exaggeration to say that the DC may be the most important hermeneutical guide for understanding celestial worship, whether in ancient Jewish or early Christian theologies. Even some Gnostic texts adopted an eclectic approach and incorporated a heavenly assembly into their doctrine, while still relying primarily on the Platonic model. In the original Platonic model, there is no such core group of “helpers.”  Instead, there are the Ideals.

A lexical study of the words used for the DC includes, among others, the Hebrew words qahal (“congregation”), ‘edah “assembly”), and most importantly, sod(“council”).    The sod was a group of elohim that worked closely with Yahweh. The term sod was also applied to righteous, human worshipers on earth in some texts.

Those beings in his council (sod) are charged with three functions:

(a) “demonstration of Yahweh’s omnipotence in the form of accompaniment (Dt. 33:2), praise (Job 38:7; Ps. 19:2[1]; 29:1f.), fear (Ps. 89:7f. [6f.]), counsel in the form of obedient response (Job 1f.; Isa. 6:8; cf. the resistance to polytheistic notions in Isa. 40:13:f.);

(b) mediation of Yahweh’s salvific will to the world of human beings (1 K. 22; Isa. 6; cf Dt. 32:8f.; Jer. 23:22);

(c) implementation of social justice (Am. 3:7; cf. Ps. 82:3f.).” (Fabry, 10.174-75)

The first category contains our primary interest—heavenly worship—but you can see that it is likely that these various functions are interconnected. The DC is probably the heavenly model for the creation of the human community in the early chapters of Genesis.  It is the congregation that is the plural referent in “let us make man as our image” (Gen. 1.26-27).  The text is clear that God made the man (the Hebrew verbs are singular here), but that the model was plural.  Thus at the very beginning of the Torah, the cornerstone of the OT and of the whole Bible, we have humans created in order to be the physical, earthly representation of the spiritual, celestial community.

To say that the image of God is the primary overarching motif in Scripture is good. However, this claim goes beyond that, and this leads us to the third major finding of this study:  that liturgy or worship is one of the key purposes of human existence. It is an essential part of our reason for existence.

Psalm 29 is an example of this. “If Psalm 29 were to be considered a song for the solemn prostration before Yahweh . . . then we would have to assume that a heavenly act would correspond to the earthly hymn of praise and prayer (cf. especially Psalm 148)” (Kraus, 348). In other words, the heavenly worship is the model for the earthly worship.  In fact, Psalm 29:9b “is the key-verse of the whole psalm—it leads us away from the commotions on the earth up to the heavenly sanctuary where the company of the heavenly beings recognizes and glorifies these very occurrences on the earth as a revelation of the glory of Jahweh” (von Rad, 1.360).

 

 NOTES/BIBLIOGRAPHY

All quotations from the Apostolic Fathers are from the translation of Lightfoot, Harner, Holmes, 2nd edition.

All quotations of Origen’s Commentary on John 13-32 are from Ronald E. Heine, trans., FOTC, Origen: Commentary on the Gospel According to John Books 13—32(Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1993).  Thanks to Peter Martens for pointing out this passage to me.

“The Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas,” in Acts of the Christian Martyrs, trans. Herbert Musurillo (London, UK: Oxford University Press, 1972), 111-13.

Harold Attridge, Hebrews (Minneapolis: Fortress Press).

David H. Tripp, “‘Gnostic Worship’: the State of the Question,” in Gnosticism in the Early Church, Studies in Early Christianity 5, ed. David M. Scholer (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1993), 322-23; reprinted from Studia Liturgica 1 (1987): 210-20.

Margaret Barker, Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy (London and New York: T & T Clark, 2003).

Patrick D. Miller, “Cosmology and World Order in the Old Testament: The Divine Council as Cosmic-Political Symbol,” in Patrick D. Miller, Israelite Religion and Biblical Theology: Collected Essays, JSOTSS 267 (Sheffield, 2000).  Previously published in HBT 9 (1987), 53-78.

Robert A. Oden, Jr., “Cosmology, cosmogony,” Anchor Bible Dictionary 1.1170.

H.-J. Fabry, “סוד, sod” in TDOT 10.174-75; H.-J. Fabry, “סוד als ekkleiologischer Terminus,” Bausteine Biblischer Theologie: Festgabe für G. Johannes Botterweck zum 60. Geburtstag dargebracht von seinen Schülern, (Köln-Bonn: Peter Hanstein, 1977).

Nag Hammadi Library in English, ed. by James Robinson, 3rd edition.

April D. Deconick, “Heavenly Temple Traditions and Valentinian Worship: A Case for first-Century Christology in the Second Century,” in Carey C. Newman, James R. Davila, and Gladys S. Lewis, Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism:  Papers from the St. Andrews Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus, SJSJ 63 (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 308-41.

Pheme Perkins in “Identification with the Savior in Coptic Texts from Nag Hammadi,” in Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism, ed. Newman, Davila, Lewis (Leiden: Brill, 1999).

Frank C. Senn, “Lutherans Are Natural ‘Splitters’,” Worship 79 (July 2005).

Gordon W. Lathrop, Holy Ground: A Liturgical Cosmology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003.

Jean Daniélou, Theology of Jewish Christianity I.

  1. K. Beale, NIGTC,Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999),

Daniel Boyarin, “The Gospel of the Memra: Jewish Binitarianism and the Prologue to John,” in HTR 94 (2001) 243-84.

  1. J. Krause,Psalms 1-59: A Commentary (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988)
  2. von Rad,Old Testament Theology, trans. D. M. G. Stalker (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001).

David E. Aune, WBC, 3 volumes: Revelation 1—5Revelation 6—16, and Revelation 17—22.

Hans Wildberger, Isaiah 1—12.

George Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1 (Hermeneia).

James Davila, Liturgical Works.

Claus Westermann, “kbd” TLOT 2.

Robert Hayward, Divine Name and Presence: The Memra.

Lucien Deiss, trans Benet Weatherhead, Early Sources of the Liturgy (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1975).

  1. Ringgren, “עמד,” inTDOT 11.182-85.
  2. Grundmann, “‘ίστημι,”TDNT 7.641, 43.

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Heavenly Worship in Second Temple Judaism, Early Christianity, and Gnostic Sects: Part 3

Guest blogger, Stephen Huebscher
This is the third of five posts in this series.

B. CONCEPTIONS OF HEAVENLY WORSHIP IN EARLY CHRISTIANITY

Early Christian conceptions of heavenly worship drew heavily on the OT and, not surprisingly, show a similarity, though with some important differences.  Revelation and Hebrews are undoubtedly the most important NT books to gain an understanding of the heavenly liturgy and its significance for Christians on earth.

Revelation

Revelation 4—5 is the most comprehensive of all the worship scenes and hymns in the book.  It has a number of OT antecedents, including Exodus 19, Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1—2, and especially Daniel 7:9ff, which Beale argues is the primary interpretive lens John uses to understand the visions he has seen (Beale 315, 366-69). The fact that Isaiah 6 forms a part of the understanding of the heavenly throne room in Revelation is a striking contrast to the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice where this OT text is not even mentioned! (Davila 91). Rev. 4—5 presents a scene of heavenly worship around the throne of God, and in that sense is similar to what were later called the merkavah hymns in Jewish mystical texts of hekhalot literature.  David Aune correctly observes the connection between the heavenly worship scenes in Revelation and the divine council.  “The focus on the throne vision is God enthroned in his heavenly court surrounded by a variety of angelic beings or lesser deities (angels, archangels, seraphim, cherubim) who function as courtiers.  All such descriptions of God enthroned in the midst of his heavenly court are based on the ancient conception of the divine council or assembly found in Mesopotamia, Ugarit, and Phoenicia as well as in Israel” (Aune 277). Scholars have argued for a variety of sources for the liturgy portrayed here, ranging from Jewish synagogues to Christian churches.  However, I have been most persuaded by Beale’s arguments for a strong OT background for this passage (as well as the rest of the book), and I believe he is correct when he writes, “John intended the readers to see what is told of in the vision as a heavenly pattern that the church is to reflect in its worship rather than the other way around (just as the heavenly pattern of the tabernacle shown to Moses on the mountain was to be copied by Israel in the construction of their own tabernacle)” (Beale 312). Beale summarizes:

The concluding hymns of Rev. 4:11 and Rev. 5:9-13 bear out that this idea—that sovereignty in creation is the basis for sovereignty in judgment and redemption—is the main theme of the two chapters . . .” (Beale 369, italics original). One of the keys to seeing these chapters as a heavenly liturgical pattern for earthly worship comes at the end of chapter 5, where creatures on earth join the heavenly praise, and to which the elders add “Amen.”  Of the prayers of the saints that the elders hold in 5:8, the elders function as heavenly priests, according to Aune (356). The use of καινός (new) “associates Christ’s redemptive work with the beginning of a new creation . . .” (Beale 358).

In Revelation 6:9-11 (souls of the martyrs under the altar) Beale believes that the altar is to be identified with the throne of God, thereby showing divine protection (Beale 391-92). Although the importance of silence in Revelation 8:1-4 (silence in heaven) is probably to be found in Jewish writings, it may perhaps reflect “the practice of maintaining silence in the Jerusalem Temple while the priests went into the Holy Place to offer incense; it was during such a time that Zacharias had his vision of the archangel Gabriel” (James Roger Black, personal note).  Revelation 11:19 with its mention of the ark in heaven points to the “presence of God without a literal reappearance of the ark . . . which is expanded in 21:3, 22, where the establishment of the end-time temple is interpreted as God’s presence in the midst of his people” (Beale, Revelation, 619).

Revelation 19:9 mentions the wedding supper of the Lamb, which may be the (eschatological) wedding meal mentioned elsewhere in Scripture and Gnostic literature (Isa. 25:6-7; 65:13-17; Matt 22:1-10 = Gos. Thom. 64; Matt. 25:10; Luke 12:36; 14:8; Acts Thom. 4-5, 7, 13) (Aune, Revelation 17—22, 1032). If this is so, then it is the referent for Jesus’ statement at the Last Supper about drinking new wine in his Father’s kingdom (Matt 26:29; Mark 14:25; possibly Luke 22:18).  This, in turn, makes the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper an earthly type of the (future), heavenly worship. Other texts that could be added, though not specifically wedding texts, include Matt 8:11-12; Luke 13:28-29; 14:15; 22:28-30.

Hebrews. Hebrews 8—10 has a lengthy discussion of the application of Jeremiah 31 and the new covenant to the situation of Christians.  In it, the author repeatedly makes distinctions between the earthly “tent” of the Mosaic worship and the true, heavenly “tent” that Christ has entered to make atonement for sins once for all.  For our purposes, two observations by Attridge will suffice.  “The basic image with which our author operates is that of a paradigmatic sanctuary, probably with two parts, in heaven” (Attridge 223).  “The interior reality that the heavenly temple symbolizes is not a principle or virtue generally available to humankind, but a relationship made possible by Christ” (Attridge 224). Although the author of Hebrews makes much use of liturgical language, the application to Christians generally does not put a lot of emphasis on ritual act, but rather on prayer, public praise, and service (e.g., Hebr. 13:15).

Hebrews 12.22-23

You, however, have approached Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem; and myriads of angles in festive gathering and an assembly of firstborn who are inscribed in heaven; and a judge, God of all, and spirits of the righteous who have been perfected. [This passage uses language that draws on the picture of the cosmic mountain in the OT and ANE (which is where God convenes the divine council), divine theophanies, and visions of the celestial court.  This text shows human Christians participating with heavenly beings in a festival gathering, which, by definition, has liturgical overtones.] (Attridge 371, 374-75).

Other NT. In other NT texts, the cosmology and population of heaven is usually very similar to that found in OT texts. For instance, Paul’s statement “I charge you, in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels,” (1 Tim 5.21) should be probably be understood as a divine council scene.  The differences in heaven are both cosmological and liturgical.  Cosmologically, Christ has been highly exalted.  The liturgical implication is that he therefore receives worship.  In other words, Christ now becomes the focal point of heavenly worship.  Unlike some of the DSS and later hekhalot texts, no angels, not even exalted ones, ever receive worship in heaven.  A second cosmological difference is that whereas OT Israelites would pray to the Name in the Jerusalem temple and God would hear in heaven, now Christians are to pray to Jesus in heaven, and the Father will hear them (e.g., 1 Kings 8; John 14:13-14). “Name” was still used as a reference to Jesus in some of the NT texts (Acts 5:41; 3 John 7). Other names or titles for Jesus include Law, Covenant, Beginning, and Day (Daniélou, 147-63).

The present identity of Christians is often referred to in the same terms used of celestial beings: sons of God, children of God, children of the Most High, saints/holy ones, stars, etc. The future identity of Christians seems to be celestial beings, and some texts seem to state that Christians will be on par with or part of God’s divine council (DC).

Some texts show joint human/angelic worship (e.g., Hebr 12:22-23), just as some OT texts show joint human/angelic combat (e.g., Judges 5:20 “the stars fought with Sisera”). This joint worship makes sense when we understand that God is present among worshipers, and that members of the heavenly host are present with him.  The fact that God is present accounts for the emphasis on the proper way of worshiping God.

The worship of angels in Colossae that Paul opposed “may represent a cultic practice of visionary ascent and deification,” a practice which has connections with the mystical views both in Jewish and Gnostic sects. (Perkins, 167)

This last quotation in this post is from Justin Martyr, and early Christian writer.

Justin, Apol. I, 65-66. On the day which is called Sun-day, all . . . gather in the same place.  Then the Memoirs of the Apostles or the Writings of the Prophets are read . . . .  The president speaks. . . .  Then we rise all together and pray (Deiss 25). [Basil some years later comments on his understanding of standing in prayer, which scholars believe to be reflected in the forgoing quotation from Justin. “We stand up when we pray, on the first day of the week (i.e., Sunday)… also because that day itself seems in some fashion to be an image of the world to come” (Deiss 25). This becomes significant when we realize that the phrase “stand before” is often used with the liturgical sense of “serve” in biblical and Jewish texts of angelic messengers who serve God.]

CONTINUITY AND DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OT & NT

There is a lot of continuity and overlap between OT and NT on this issue. The biggest difference is that the OT has a mysterious “second Yahweh” figure, whereas Jesus is part of the equation in the NT. Stay tuned for Part 4.

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Heavenly Worship in Second Temple Judaism, Early Christianity, and Gnostic Sects: Part 1

By guest blogger, Stephen L. Huebscher

This series was originally written as an academic paper for presentation at a conference. At the time, we were doing research on the divine council for what ended up in Mike’s book The Unseen Realm. I had told Mike I was interested in worship. He helped me design a topic that was more likely to be included in the program, and this was the result! At the conference, I was assigned a time slot late in the day in a tiny room that was hard to find. Only a handful of people came. Nevertheless, there are some really interesting conclusions here (to me at least) that say, in the simplest terms: worshiping God with other believers in a church is important. There is more to worship than what is here, but there is not less. Someday, I hope to write a book on worship, and this will be part of it, somehow.

Ancient peoples often believed that heavenly (celestial) worship provided a normative or authoritative pattern for earthly worship. They also commonly believed in some kind of divine transformation (e.g., glorification) in the presence of the god or God. The biblical texts tended to belong to one stream (though not exclusively), while the texts with a platonic-like cosmology tended to belong to another stream (again, with exceptions).  Over time the divergence between the two became greater, and shows up most obviously later in the mystical Jewish hekhalot texts (which are not covered here). One of the difficulties of this study is that non-biblical texts, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Gnostic manuscripts, are often highly fragmented and with little context, so most conclusions are tentative, whether explicitly stated or not.

STEP ONE: DEVELOPING A VOCABULARY

Here is a brief overview of some of the key words and concepts relating to worship, some of which are not obviously connected with worship at a first glance. Obvious worship words are the easy ones, words like “sing,” “worship,” “priest,” “sacrifice,” “incense,” and “pray,” especially when several of these are used together in phrases such as “sing the praise of x.”  Subtle worship words are a bit more tricky, like “congregation,” “assembly,” “stand before,” “serve,” “bow,” “remember.”  These words are more dependent on the context for their liturgical meaning.  For this study, I have coined or at least adopted terms to identify kinds of language that I did not otherwise have language for. There are several groups of this. For instance, what I will call exaltation words are not directly about worship, but often give the context where worship is implied. This includes phrases like “exalted above every name,” “exalted in the heavenlies,” etc.  There can be overlap with cosmological words.  Cosmological words are also not directly about worship, but often give the context where worship is implied.  This would include such things as “the highest heaven,” “the heaven of heaven,” “ascending,” etc. Architectural words include things like “temple,” “palace,” “tabernacle,” “house,” and “tent.”  All of these words can be used for the dwelling place of a god/God, and therefore also for the place of worship.

STEP TWO: RECOGNIZING THE BIBLICAL, HEAVENLY PARADIGM

Many of the key texts from the earlier part of the Old Testament continued to be influential. Contrary to what mainstream scholars hold, I believe that much of the Pentateuch is from the time of Moses. Look at the emphasis on the heavenly source for worship that we find in Exodus 25:9,40. (Actually, this idea of a heavenly pattern was fairly common throughout in the ANE.)

 Exodus 25:9, 40. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. (v. 9 ESV) And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain. (v. 40 ESV)

One of the last books written in the Old Testament was the book of Chronicles, along with others such as Ezra and Nehemiah. In Chronicles, at the end of the Old Testament period in the Persian times, we find that the biblical author repeated this same idea about the importance of the heavenly source and paradigm for Israel’s worship. Notice this text, which refers to the plans for Solomon’s temple:

 1 Chron. 28:19. All of this the LORD made clear to David directly in a document, including the plan for all of the work. (1 Chr. 28:19 CEB)

Later on, early Christian writers (both biblical and post-biblical) also used terminology that points to this kind of understanding, both in Scripture and in the first few centuries following.

 Luke 20:4. The baptism of John—was it from heaven or men? [The implication is that if it was based on a heavenly paradigm, then it should  be recognized as authoritative.]

 Hebrews 9:24. Christ has entered, not copies, but heaven. [The assumption is that earthly temples are copies of the heavenly sanctuary.]

 Ignatius Trall 3.1. Similarly, let everyone respect the deacons as Jesus Christ, just as they should respect the bishop, who is a model of the Father, and the presbyters as God’s council and as the band of the apostles.  Without these no group can be called a church. [This implies that the local church reflects in a physical way the heavenly council paradigm.]

 Ignatius, Magn 6.1. Be eager to do everything in godly harmony, the bishop presiding in the place of God and the presbyters in the place [= Greek topos; variant, Greek typos = “after the model”] of the council of the apostles and the deacons . . . .  [Again, Ignatius is drawing a parallel between the local church as the visible representation of the celestial divine council.]

 Passion Perpetua & Felicitas 4. This was the vision I had.  I saw a ladder of tremendous height made of bronze, reaching all the way to the heavens, but it was so narrow that only one person could climb up at a time. . . .  At the foot of the ladder lay a dragon of enormous size. . . .  I trod on his head and went up.  Then I saw an immense garden, and in it a grey-haired man sat in shepherd’s garb; tall he was, and milking sheep.  And standing around him were many thousands of people clad in white garments.  He raised his head, looked at me, and said: ‘I am glad you have come, my child.’  He called me over to him and gave me, as it were, a mouthful of the milk he was drawing; and I took it into my cupped hands and consumed it.  And all those who stood around said:  ‘Amen!’  At the sound of this word I came to, with the taste of something sweet still in my mouth. [In this important text, Perpetua, who was an early Christian martyr, reports a vision given to her in which God is pictured as an old man and the martyrs in heaven celebrate the Eucharist.  The implication is that these early Christians who recorded and handed this story on believed that they were worshiping the same way that those in heaven were worshiping.]

 Origen, Commentary on John 13.99. For just as the angels (as even the Jews would agree) do not worship the Father in Jerusalem because they worship the Father in a better way than those in Jerusalem, so those who can already be like the angels in their attitude will not worship the Father in Jerusalem but in a better way than those in Jerusalem . . . . [boldface added; Origen claims Jewish support for the idea that heavenly worship is superior to earthly worship, and then adds that Christians who are already like the angels in their attitude will worship God in a superior, i.e., a heavenly, way.  Thus, Origen holds that Christian worship is on par with the heavenly worship, and seems to reflect a belief in a heavenly paradigm.]

 Origen, Commentary on John 13.146. We want to honor God in truth and no longer in types, shadows, and examples, even as the angels do not serve God in examples and the shadow of heavenly realities, but in realities that belong to the spiritual and heavenly order, having a high priest of the order of Melchisedech as leader of the saving worship for those who need both the mystical and secret contemplation. [Origen believes that Christian worship, unlike Gnostic worship, participates currently in a real way in the celestial worship, thus reflecting belief in a heavenly liturgy of which Jewish worship was a shadow.]

 In the coming posts, we’ll look at OT texts, Second Temple non-biblical Jewish texts, NT and early Christian texts, and then drawing some general conclusions.

 

NOTES/BIBLIOGRAPHY

All quotations from the Apostolic Fathers are from the translation of Lightfoot, Harner, Holmes, 2nd edition.

All quotations of Origen’s Commentary on John 13-32 are from Ronald E. Heine, trans., FOTC, Origen: Commentary on the Gospel According to John Books 13—32 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1993).  Thanks to Peter Martens for pointing out this passage to me.

“The Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas,” in Acts of the Christian Martyrs, trans. Herbert Musurillo (London, UK: Oxford University Press, 1972), 111-13.

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Naked Bible Podcast Episode 163: Other Gods and Other Religions with Gerald McDermott

Gerald R. McDermott (PhD, University of Iowa) is Anglican Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. Before joining Beeson, he was the Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion at Roanoke College. He is also associate pastor at Christ the King Anglican Church and Distinguished Senior Fellow in the History of Christianity at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion.

In this episode of the podcast we discuss two of Dr. McDermott’s books: God’s Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions? and Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land.

God’s Rivals raises the question of why there are other religions—why would God permit that? The content of the book takes note of the Deuteronomy 32 worldview discussed so often on the Naked Bible Podcast – that, for biblical writers, the gods were real and allotted to the nations (and vice versa) in judgment at the Babel event (Deut 4:19-20; 17:1-3; 29:23-26; 32:8-9 [per the Dead Sea Scrolls “sons of God” reading]; 32:17). Dr. McDermott surveys early church thinkers reflections on this situation and what it meant in God’s plan of salvation.
Israel Matters discusses the diversity of opinion (positive and negative) in the believing Church toward the people, land, and state of Israel.

Books referenced:

  1. God’s Rivals: Why Has God Allowed Different Religions? Insights from the Bible and the Early Church
  2. Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land
  3. The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land

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Reversing Hermon Logos Bible Software Edition Now Available for Pre-Order

Well, it was just a few days ago that my latest book, Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ, became available on Kindle. Now the book is available for pre-order for Logos Bible Software users. Make it part of your biblical studies data mine!

Enjoy!

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Does believing in aliens conflict with Christian faith?

Does believing in aliens conflict with Christian faith?

     Some people believe that aliens exist, but is it okay if Christians believe the same thing? The answer is “no,” according to Dr. Danny R. Faulkner of Answers in Genesis.
By JB Cachila
www.christiantoday.com
6-3-17

“The thought that aliens might be living on other planets may sound innocent enough. But lurking underneath are some deep theological dangers,” he wrote on their website.

Faulkner said Christian belief about extraterrestrials is no trivial matter. He noted though that the Bible makes no mention of “ETs or flying saucers.” If there is life on other planets, then that must mean God made them, too.

“From the Bible, we know that this is not how life came about on the earth. Rather, God especially created life on this planet,” he said. “It would be inconsistent to believe that God created life on earth but that life arose naturally on other worlds.”

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Aliens and Demons: New 90-Minute Documentary

This has been quite a while in coming, and I had to keep it under wraps. My employer, Faithlife (makers of Logos Bible Software) has a relatively new streaming TV channel called Faithlife TV. They’re about to launch a documentary featuring some of my thoughts on an immensely popular fringe topic of UFOs and alleged alien contact. You can watch the trailer here.

As many readers till know, I’ve had a presence in the UFO community since the publication of my first novel, The Façade. (For why I bother with writing paranormal science fiction, blogging on UFO Religions, podcasting on paranormal topics, and participating in fringe communities like this, read this).

Those familiar with my involvement / ministry in know that I don’t think the question of an ET reality is a problem for Christian theology. I’ll be lecturing in Roswell, NM this summer during the festival for the 70th anniversary of the “Roswell event” on that and other topics. That said, what passes for contactee messaging  and alien abductions is, in my view, quite sinister, and demonization is one (strong) possibility in my mind for explaining those phenomena. The trailer page describes the documentary in part this way:

In a series of four provocative interviews Dr. Heiser draws together UFOs, Roswell, government conspiracies, alien abductions, ancient alien theories, and enigmatic biblical passages. The documented overlaps between alien abductions, occult rituals, and ancient texts . . .

Faithlife TV is hoping to launch a subscription model to the channel via Aliens and Demons. I hope many of you will subscribe to watch the entire documentary. It’s inexpensive ($4.99 a month). For those wondering, none of that goes in my pocket. The Roswell conference this summer is the ONLY place, so far as I know, that this documentary will be available in DVD. So if you want it in that form, come to Roswell!  Otherwise, it will be exclusively Faithlife TV streaming content.

The subscription gives you access to a lot more content than the documentary. The channel is in its beginning stages, but there’s actually a lot on it already. As the site notes, the channel aims to be “the premier video library for students, scholars, and self-proclaimed Bible geeks. Faithlife TV has more than 1,000 Bible documentaries, dramas, biographies, kids videos, and more.”

Check it out!

 

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Mike Heiser Being Controversial on TV

Here’s a link to an experimental talk show on Faithlife TV (my employer). It’s an intentionally provocative TV talk show that focuses on questions or topics that Christians think about but don’t bring up so as to avoid controversy. I’m the co-host with my friend Johnny Cisneros. We don’t worry about creating controversy. Someone has to generate a discussion. But listen carefully, our motivation is to be part of the solution, not the problem. But you first have to recognize that something isn’t quite right.

The show is called Questions Aloud. There are six episodes. I hope you’ll watch one or two!

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Naked Bible Podcast Breaks Into Top Thirty on iTunes

The Naked Bible Podcast recently hit # 24 on the iTunes Most-Listened-To Christianity Podcasts:

nbpodranknov2016

It’s kind of amazing to see the Naked Bible Podcast — intentionally stilted toward serious biblical studies content — ranking right up there with names so familiar in evangelical pop culture and sermon content. Thanks to everyone who listens to the podcast and tells friends about it!

Keep spreading the word about the podcast and rate us on iTunes!  It really does help with ranking, which in turn helps people who need the content find the podcast when searching in iTunes.

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Serious Science and Christian Faith Incompatible?

Go ahead, tell me that old wives tale again.

Question: What do you get when you cross a Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford, an associate of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, and a young man who grew up in rural Africa and had a pet chimpanzee? You get one person: Ard Louis. If you don’t know who he is, you should. Here are a few samples:

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