Tag Archives: stars

September 23, 2017, Revelation 12, US Solar Eclipse – Signs in the Heavens

In this Dahboo77 takes a look at the coming events that we will see in 2017. He starts with the extremely rare US solar eclipse on August 21, he then takes a look at the alignment of stars on September 23, 2017 and its possible connection to Revelation 12. See first video.

The Great American Eclipse occurs in the exact same area of the sky as the Rev12 Sign and as millions of people look to the sky they will be given a short glimpse of this Sign as it moves into its final stages of fulfillment.

The remarkable crop circle of May 22, 2017 discovered in Cerne Abbas Giant, Nr Minterne Magna, Dorset, UK, which depicts the Eye of RA, refers to these upcoming events?

The code contained in the Eye of RA Crop Circle, denotes and broadcasts the future ritual dates of 9-21, 9-22, 9-23, 9-24, the established and repeated future dates associated with the future plans of the NWO globalist?

And because the future plans of these globalists Trump tweeted on May 31, 2017 the cryptic word COVFEFE as a coded response to the NWO ritual globalist, seeking a one world govt. and one world religion? (See video on the crop circle – the Eye of RA).

COV-Fe”Fe and the translation “I Will Stand Up” is a declaring of Trump’s plans to be standing up and it indicates that the NWO Globalist are going to fail at their Trump elimination plans and which will then cause the NWO Globalist to fail in their control over planet earth?

Sudden changes and or new directions are expected as a result of Trump telling the world and the NWO Globalist, that they WILL in the future Fail to do what they sought to do, and will instead, be defeated by their own evil plans and actions? (See video on Trump’s COVFEFE).

In no way am I calling for rapture or anything like that but one thing is for sure, the alignment of stars will happen on September 23, 2017, which comes 33 days after the US solar eclipse, and could be linked to The Revelation 12 Sign which is an extremely rare and complex astronomical alignment which many believe matches the Biblical prophecy found in Revelation 12:1-2.

The most unique portion of the Rev12 Sign is the fact that the king planet (Jupiter) enters into the womb area of the woman (Virgo), does a loop in her womb area and stays there for just over 9 months (the period of a human pregnancy).

In addition to this, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars and Venus all take their positions perfectly on September 23, 2017. Together they form a sign which has been found to be completely unique, even after studying more 7000 years in astronomy software. See second video.

More questions than answers, but both events in the heavens will be used to create the timing that kicks off chaos by the Powers that be… will it cause a major shift in people’s mind and attitude?

Old ways will be destroyed to give way to new one!

 

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Scientists have found proof that our Sun has a twin called Nemesis!

Did our sun have a twin when it was born 4.5 billion years ago? Almost certainly yes!

Now, for the first time, scientists have found proof that our sun has a twin called Nemesis and it may exist somewhere in the universe after revealing that all stars are born in pairs.

Image: This infrared image from the Hubble Space Telescope contains a bright, fan-shaped object (lower right quadrant) thought to be a binary star that emits light pulses as the two stars interact. (Image: NASA, ESA and J. Muzerolle, STScI). Credit: newsberkley.edu.

And so did every other sun-like star in the universe, according to a new analysis by a theoretical physicist from UC Berkeley and a radio astronomer from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard University.

It is said that Nemesis is the cause for hurling objects from the outer solar system towards Earth and ‘Nemesis’ was supposed to have kicked an asteroid into Earth’s orbit that collided with our planet and exterminated the dinosaurs. Note: Is Nemesis the so-called ‘Second Sun”?

The new assertion is based on a radio survey of a giant molecular cloud filled with recently formed stars in the constellation Perseus, and a mathematical model that can explain the Perseus observations only if all sun-like stars are born with a companion.

Image: A radio image of a triple star system forming within a dusty disk in the Perseus molecular cloud obtained by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. (Image: Bill Saxton, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), NRAO/AUI/NSF). Credit: newsberkley.edu.

“We are saying, yes, there probably was a Nemesis, a long time ago,” said co-author Steven Stahler, a UC Berkeley research astronomer, reports newsberkley.edu.

In this study, “wide” means that the two stars are separated by more than 500 astronomical units, or AU, where one astronomical unit is the average distance between the sun and Earth (93 million miles). A wide binary companion to our sun would have been 17 times farther from the sun than its most distant planet today, Neptune.

Based on this model, the sun’s sibling most likely escaped and mixed with all the other stars in our region of the Milky Way galaxy, never to be seen again.

It will be not surprising that scientists have started an intensive research to find Nemesis.

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Huge star vanished without a trace – Mystery of the disappearing star

The star N6946-BH1 quietly winked out of existence between 2009 and 2015. Mystery of the disappearing star: Scientists have no idea how it vanished without a supernova.

The star N6946-BH1 in a spiral formation 22 million light years away known as the ‘fireworks galaxy’, was last seen by NASA’s Hubble Telescope in 2009. By 2015, it wasn’t there anymore.

How did a star 25 times the size of our Sun simply wink out of existence?

Such large stars often go out with a bang – a supernova – blasting off much of their remaining mass before collapsing to form an incredibly dense black hole.

 

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Paul’s Use of Genesis 15:5 in Romans 4:18 in Light of Early Jewish Deification Traditions: Part 6: Origen’s Commentary on Romans 4 and the Reception of the Qualitative Interpretation

This is the final installment of David Burnett’s guest series.


 

This reading of Genesis 15:5 may appear novel yet it has an ancient antecedent in one of the earliest commentaries on Romans. Origen believed that in Romans 4, Paul did in fact understand the Abrahamic promise of Genesis 15:5 to become as the stars qualitatively. In his Commentary on Romans 4.6.4, he states: “Thus Abraham ‘against hope believed in hope that he would become the father of many nations,’ (Rom 4:18) which in the future would be like the stars of heaven, not only in terms of the greatness of number but also in splendor.”1 Here Origen reads the quotation of Gen 15:5 in Rom 4:18 explicitly as qualitative. In 4.6.7, he speaks further on the nature of the Abrahamic promise, as he understands Paul’s recounting of it. Discussing the content of Abraham and Sarah’s hope, he states:

 

“On the contrary when they hear of a such a hope of posterity and that the glory of their own offspring would be equal to heaven and its stars, when they hear these things, they do not think about their own goods, about the grace of continence, about the mortification of their members, but instead they regard all these things which contributed to their own gain as loss in order that they might gain Christ.” (Orig. Comm Rom, 4.6.7)

 

Origen assumes that the promise to Abraham and Sarah of an offspring would be “equal to heaven and its stars” in their “glory” is actually understood as the promise to “gain Christ,” drawing on the language of Phil 3:8. Significant here is the immediate context of Phil 3:8 in which Paul is discussing becoming like Christ (3:10) and attaining the resurrection from the dead (3:11).2 Fee rightly points out that Paul’s language regarding them, “children (τέκνα) of God without blemish, though you live in a crooked and perverse generation (γενεᾶς σκολιᾶς καὶ διεστραμμένης)” echoes Deut 32:5 (ἡμάρτοσαν οὐκ αὐτῷ τέκνα μωμητά, γενεὰ σκολιὰ καὶ διεστραμμένη), unsurprisingly where the immediately following verses (Deut 32:6-9) narrate Israel’s election in terms of the Deuteronomic vision as described above. Paul then turns to the language of Dan 12:1-4 to describe the children of God as those who “shine as lights (φωστῆρες, cf. Dan 12:3) in the world (κόσμῳ, cf. note 28),” reflecting the eschatological hope in Daniel as they are “holding on to the word of life (λόγον ζωῆς ἐπέχοντες, Phil 2:16),” echoing the language of Dan 12:3, “those who hold strong to my words (καὶ οἱ κατισχύοντες τοὺς λόγους μου),” as they approach the seemingly immanent eschaton and the full realization of their hope.3 Again, in the context of discussing the fruit of the spirit and dying to lust and vices Origen states: “Your seed and your works can ascend to heaven and become works of light and be compared to the splendor and brilliance of the stars, so that when the day of resurrection arrives, you will stand out in brightness as one star differs from another star” (4.6.9). Origen here relates the Abrahamic promise of star-like seed in Romans 4 to the discussion of the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15, also echoing the language of Daniel 12:3. It seems apparent that Origen takes for granted in his Commentary on Romans that Paul understands the promise to Abraham in Gen 15:5 qualitatively as well as quantitatively.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is necessary to restate the initial problem this paper sought to answer. Esler noticed the deficiency in the quantitative only interpretation of Paul’s use of Genesis 15:5, seeming far too unlikely that having numerous descendants would somehow be the equivalent of inheriting of the cosmos, becoming the father of nations, and the expectation of being resurrected from the dead. This paper proposes a possible answer to this problem. Reading Paul’s use of Gen 15:5 in light of early Jewish deification traditions stemming from a qualitative as well as quantitative interpretation of the Abrahamic Promise provides fruitful results. This proposal is supported by widely attested interpretive traditions from Paul’s early Jewish historical context, whether Palestinian or Hellenistic (or diasporic), and is further received into the Patristic tradition, as seen in Origen, through Paul.

 

 

  1. Translations of Origen here are taken from Thomas P. Scheck, Origen: Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, Books 1-5 (Washington D.C.: Catholic University Press, 2001).
  2. See Phil 3:8-11. Also important to note here previously in Philippians in the context of a moral admonition in light of the coming “day of Christ (ἡμέραν Χριστοῦ), which Paul seems to articulate here as an eschatological conflation Deut 32:5-9 with Dan 12:1-3, he describes the holy ones as “children of God (τέκνα θεοῦ)” who “shine as lights in the world (φαίνεσθε ὡς φωστῆρες ἐν κόσμῳ)” (Phil 2:15).
  3. See Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 244-48. In the eschatological expectation of Romans 8 the holy ones are also called “children of God (τέκνα θεοῦ, 8:16-17, 21),” most likely part of the same complex of language, see above.

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Paul’s Use of Genesis 15:5 in Romans 4:18 in Light of Early Jewish Deification Traditions: Part 5: Resurrection and Astral Immortality in Early Judaism and Paul

This is Part 5 of David Burnett’s guest series.


 

In early Judaism it was widely accepted that in the resurrection or afterlife, the righteous were to in some sense become as the stars or angels.1 In Dan 12:2-3, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” John Collins points out that the stars in Dan 8:10 are the host of heaven, which in comparison to Dan 12:3 implies that those raised from the dead in vindication will be associated with the angels.2 A similar idea is found in regard to the destiny of the righteous in 1 Enoch 104:2-6: “But now you shall shine like the lights of heaven, and you shall be seen; and the windows of heaven will be open to you… and you are about to be making a great rejoicing like the angels of heaven.” In the Testament of Moses we also find the affirmation of the astral immortality of the faithful as it states in 10:9: “God will raise you to the heights. Yes, he will fix you firmly in the heaven of the stars.” In context of a discussion of the seven ordered eschatological rest promised for those who “keep the ways of the Most High,” 4 Ezra 7:97 states, “The sixth order, when it is shown to them how their face is to shine like the sun, and how they are to be made like the light of stars, being incorruptible from then on.”

 

4 Maccabees 17:5-6 re-narrates the martyrdom of the faithful mother and her seven sons from 2 Maccabees 7 in the following way:

 

“O mother, destroying the violence of the tyrant with your seven children, rendering his evil intentions void and demonstrating the nobility of faithfulness (πίστεως)! For like a roof set nobly upon the pillars of the children, you, unwavering, bore up under the earthquake brought on by torments. Be confident, therefore, O pious-souled mother, holding firm toward God the hope (ἐλπίδα) that comes from endurance! Not so much, not so much has the moon in heaven among the stars been made to stand as revered as you, who lit the path (φωταγωγήσασα) toward piety for the seven star-like children (ἰσαστέρους ἑπτὰ παῖδας), have been made to stand honored in God’s presence and firmly fixed with them in the heavens. For your child-bearing was from father Abraham.” (4 Macc 17:5-6)

 

Here the mother embodies faithfulness (πίστεως) and her seven sons demonstrate firm hope (ἐλπίδα) that God will vindicate them in their willing martyrdom. The faithful mother now stands more august among the stars than even the moon. Her faithful sons are deemed “star-like,” which seemingly identifies them as true children of Abraham.3

 

Paul’s Use of Genesis 15:5 in Romans 4:18 in Light of the Early Jewish Qualitative Interpretation

 

When considering Paul’s use of Gen 15:5 in Rom 4:18 in light of this early Jewish qualitative interpretation, we find fruitful and interesting exegetical results. When the evidence above has been taken into account, we are provided with a kind of narrative framework, out of which we arrive with a reading proposal that may provide a cogent answer to the interpretive problem this study sought to address. This proposal would provide us with a reading which links all the constituent parts (the inheritance of the cosmos, becoming a father of many nations, and the resurrection of the dead) of the one promise Paul understands to be given to Abraham in Gen 15:5 when he is told “so shall your seed be (οὕτως ἔσται τὸ σπέρμα σου),” a reference to becoming as the stars.4

 

Psalm 82 as a Narrative Framework for the Reception of the Abrahamic Promise in Early Judaism

 

Within the reception of the Deuteronomic vision in early Judaism we find a coherent narrative through which the promise of Abraham could be read. We find the setting up of the cosmic polis, where the celestial bodies (or angels of god) were “allotted to all the nations under the whole heaven (πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν τοῖς ὑποκάτω τοῦ οὐρανοῦ)” (Deut 4:19; 32:8-9), while Israel was Yahweh’s inheritance (κληρονομία) (Deut 32:9). In early Jewish reception of this tradition, the cosmos was understood as the “greatest of commonwealths (πόλις ἡ μεγίστη)” where the celestial bodies were appointed as rulers (ἄρχόντας) who were to mimic (μιμουμένους) the rule of the “Father of all (πάντων πατρός),” exercising their rule in law and justice (δίκην καὶ νόμον) (Spec. Laws 1.13-19). These celestial rulers (ἄρχοντα) were to “preside (or rule) (χρή) over his subjects (ὑπηκόων) as a father over his children (πατέρα παίδων) so that he himself may be honored in return as by true-born sons, and therefore good rulers may be truly called the parents of states and nations (ἐθνῶν) (Spec. Laws 4.184-188).” But as Philo states, “those who assume great power to destroy and injure their subjects should be called not rulers but enemies (πονηρότεροι) (Spec. Laws 4.185).” Psalm 82 (81 LXX) provides a narrative where the Father of all stands in judgment of the gods who were apportioned over the nations who have failed at precisely task that was set out for them saying “how long will you judge (or rule) unjustly (Ἕως πότε κρίνετε ἀδικίαν) (Ps 81:1 LXX)?” They were commanded to do justice or righteousness (δικαιώσατε) (Ps 81:3 LXX), but they failed, leading to the announcement of their judgment: the gods (Θεοί), or sons of the Most High (υἱοὶ ὑψίστου), will die like men (Ps 81:7 LXX). The hope of the psalmist is then stated: “Arise, O God and rule the earth (ἀνάστα, ὁ θεός, κρῖνον τὴν γῆν), for it is you who will obtain the inheritance of all the nations (ὅτι σὺ κατακληρονομήσεις ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν) (Ps 81:8)!” This narrative provides us with a framework for how early Jewish interpreters of the Abrahamic promise could understand it qualitatively as well as quantitatively. In light of these traditions, the Abrahamic promise could be read afresh.

 

Paul’s Reception of the Qualitative Reading of the Promise to Abraham? A Proposal

 

The following proposed reading will be a rough attempt to understand Paul’s use of Gen 15:5 and his midrashic exposition of the promise in Romans 4 in light of the above tradition. Paul states in Rom 4:18 “In hope against hope (ἐλπίδα ἐπʼ ἐλπίδι) he believed (ἐπίστευσεν), so that he might become a father of many nations (πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν) according to that which had been spoken ‘so shall your seed be (οὕτως ἔσται τὸ σπέρμα σου)’.” When taken qualitatively, for Abraham’s seed to become as the stars of heaven meant to become as the gods or angels, the celestial bodies, the “fathers (πατέρας) of the nations (ἐθνῶν)” who had been allotted to rule the nations (Posterity, 89; Spec. Laws 1.13-19; 4.184-188; Sir 44:21; Apoc. Ab. 20:3-5). “In hope against hope (ἐλπίδα ἐπʼ ἐλπίδι) he believed (ἐπίστευσεν)” that he would attain the promise of astral glory (Rom 4:18; 4 Macc 17:5-6). For Paul, the faithful Abraham who had been credited righteousness was known now in astral glory as “the father of us all (πατὴρ πάντων ἡμῶν),” as it was written about him in Gen 17:5 (Rom 4:16-17). As was common in Jewish expectation in Paul’s day, he hoped in the god “who gives life to the dead,” who would raise his seed in celestial glory, replacing the powers (ἂρχοντας ἔχουσα), calling “into being that which did not exist (καλοῦντος τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα),” or establishing a new cosmic polis (κόσμου); a new creation (Rom 4:17; Philo Spec. Laws 4.187; 2 Bar. 21:4; 48:8). This is what would be understood in Rom 4:13 when Paul states the promise to Abraham and his seed was to “inherit the cosmos (κληρονόμον αὐτὸν εἶναι κόσμου).” As in Gen 22:17, for Abraham’s seed to become as the stars of heaven would result in “inheriting the cities of their enemies (κληρονομήσει τὸ σπέρμα σου τὰς πόλεις τῶν ὑπεναντίων)” (see Ps 81:8 LXX; Philo Spec. Laws 4.185). This expectation is further delineated in Romans 8 where the “sons of God (υἱοὶ θεοῦ)” or “children of God (τέκνα θεοῦ)” are “heirs (κληρονόμοι)” of creation as “the creation waits with eager longing for the apocalypse of the sons of God (τῆς κτίσεως τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τῶν υἱῶν τοῦ θεοῦ ἀπεκδέχεται, 8:19).5

 

 

  1. See above conversation on 2 Baruch 51. For further treatment of resurrection and celestial immortality in Early Judaism, see Hans C. C. Cavallin, Life After Death: Paul’s Argument for the Resurrection of the Dead in 1 Cor 15, Part I, An Enquiry into the Jewish Background, CBNT 7.1 (Lund: Gleerup, 1974); Smelik, “On Mystical Transformation,” 122-44; N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), Wright disagrees that there is a tradition of astral immortality in the usual texts used to support that idea; Nickelsburg, Resurrection; Jon D. Levenson, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel: the Ultimate Victory of the God of Life (New Haven: Yale, 2006); Turid Karlsen Seim and Jorunn Økland, eds., Metamorphoses Resurrection, Body, and Transformative Practices in Early Christianity, Ekstasis 1 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2009); David Litwa, We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul’s Soteriology, BZNW 187 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012), 140-51: It is surprising that in an otherwise thoroughgoing discussion of celestial immortality in Greco-Roman and Jewish sources in relation to Paul, Litwa never mentions the texts that read Genesis 15:5 qualitatively as a promise of celestial immortality, especially in light of how important that text is for Paul to his argument in Romans. For other recent works on the topic of deification or theosis in Paul, see Michael J. Gorman, Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009); idem, “Romans: The First Christian Treatise on Theosis,” JTI 5.1 (2011): 13-34; Ben C. Blackwell, Christosis: Pauline Soteriology in Light of Deification in Irenaeus and Cyril of Alexandria, WUNT 2.314 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011); Rabens, “Pneuma and the Beholding of God”; Michael J. Thate, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, and Constantine R. Campbell, eds., ‘In Christ’ in Paul: Explorations in Paul’s Theology of Union and Participation, WUNT 2.384 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014).
  2. John J. Collins, Daniel: A Commentary, Hermeneia (Minneapolis: Fortress), 393-94.
  3. The tradition presented here in 4 Macc 17:5 of being exalted above the moon and the stars may reflect an eschatological expectation to shine as the sun, the greatest of the luminaries in the heavens. This tradition is reflected in Matt 13:43, in the context of the eschatological reaping where the Son of Man sends his angels to dispense of the devil and his people, Jesus says once this has been accomplished, “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father (οἱ δίκαιοι ἐκλάμψουσιν ὡς ὁ ἥλιος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτῶν).”
  4. The following allusions or references to primary texts below do not denote citation or allusion for Paul in any way, but are used to simply construct the narrative framework which provides for an alternate reading using the qualitative interpretation to how Paul might understand the promise to Abraham in Gen 15:5.
  5. See Rom 8:12-25. Pertinent here is the shared complex of language between Paul and Philo associated with inheriting or judging the cosmos, see footnote 7 in Part 3.

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Paul’s Use of Genesis 15:5 in Romans 4:18 in Light of Early Jewish Deification Traditions: Part 4: Becoming as the Stars and Inheritance of the Nations, Continued

This is Part 4 of David Burnett’s guest blogging series


 

Philo’s Spec. Law 4.187, 2 Baruch 21:4; 48:8, and Romans 4:17: Misconstrual and a Missing Link?

 

This passage is frequently cited by commentators on Rom 4:17, rightly recognizing the parallel language regarding God’s calling “the non-existent things into existence (μὴ ὄντα ἐκάλεσεν εἰς τὸ εἶναι)” (Spec. Laws 4.187) and Paul’s recounting of the God of Abraham who “calls into existence the things that do not exist (καλοῦντος τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα)” (Rom 4:17b). Most commentators on Rom 4:17 understand this particular passage in Spec. Laws 4.187 as a reference only to creatio ex nihilo while not taking into account the wider context of the citation as a reference to the establishment of God’s celestial government over the cosmos.1 In this particular context, Philo’s language of calling the non-existent into existence (μὴ ὄντα ἐκάλεσεν εἰς τὸ εἶναι) has nothing to do with the creating of all things out of nothing, but with the creation (in the sense of establishing) of the order or government of the cosmos (κόσμου γένεσίς τε καὶ διοίκησις). This should be read and understood in light of what Philo has already stated earlier in Spec. Laws 1.13-19 (see above), that the κόσμος was created or established (γενητός) as the “greatest of commonwealths (πόλις ἡ μεγίστη),” where the celestial bodies were appointed as the delegated rulers (ἄρχόντας), Philo sharing the Deuteronomic vision. Calling “the non-existent into existence (μὴ ὄντα ἐκάλεσεν εἰς τὸ εἶναι)” is connected to “bringing order out of disorder;” for Philo these are part of a long list of acts of cosmic beneficence that are not works of God alone, but of “He and His beneficent powers (δυνάμεσι)” who in their governance of the κόσμος, “ever make it their business to transmute the faultiness of the worse wherever it exists and convert it to the better (Spec. Laws 4.187).”

 

So then for Philo, the language of God’s calling “the non-existent things into existence (μὴ ὄντα ἐκάλεσεν εἰς τὸ εἶναι)” in Spec. Laws 4.187 should be understood more in terms of the ancient near eastern archetypical idea of creation as bringing order to the chaos, withstanding the idea of the act of bringing things that do not exist into existence. The thrust of the reference to creation here is an establishing of the cosmic government, seeing the κόσμος as “the greatest of commonwealths (πόλις ἡ μεγίστη),” in which the celestial bodies, or powers (δυνάμεσι), are delegated to the nations of the earth as rulers (ἄρχόντας) who are to rule as a father over his children (πατέρα παίδων), imitating (μιμεισθαι) the rule of the Father of all (πάντων πατρός). It is through the mimicking (μιμεισθαι) of this rule that the earthly ruler (of any kind) may be “assimilated to God (ἐξομοιώσεωσ της πρὸς θεόν),” becoming like the celestial “fathers (πατέρας)” or even the “Father of all (πάντων πατρός).”2

 

The same argument as above can be made with regard to the commentators’ use of 2 Baruch 21:4 and 48:8 as examples of creatio ex nihilo in relation to Romans 4:17.3 2 Bar. 21:4 reads: “O, you who have made the earth, hear me, who has (fi)xed the (fi)rmament by the word, and have set the height of heaven in place by the Spirit, which has called from the beginning of the world things which did not previously exist, and they obey you.”4 Here, in context, the calling into being of “things which did not exist” speaks of the fixing of the “firmament” and “the heights of heaven” which are actually personified saying, “they obey you.” Reading a bit further into the context may make clear what is being discussed here. Immediately following in 2 Bar. 21:5-6, “You have commanded the air by your nod, and have seen the things which are to come as those which have occurred (already). You who rule the hosts that stand before you with great reckoning and who rules with indignation the countless holy beings which you created from the beginning with (fl)ame and (fi)re which stand around your throne.” In context, the language of the personified “heights of heaven” that “obey you” that “previously did not exist” (2 Bar. 21:4), are referring to the celestial bodies or the heavenly host; the countless holy beings that “he created from the beginning.”

 

Again, when 2 Bar. 48:8 is read in context, the “bringing to life of that which did not exist” takes on a new dimension. 2 Bar. 48:8-10 reads:

 

“With signs and fear and indignation you command the (fl)ames, and they change into spirits. And with a word you bring to life that which does not exist, and with mighty power you hold that which has not yet come. You instruct created things in your understanding, and you make wise the spheres so as to minister in their orders. Armies without number stand before you and minister in their orders quietly at your sign.” (2 Bar. 48:8-10)

 

What is brought to life that has not existed before in this text, like above, are the celestial bodies and their role in the ordering of the cosmic government. Once he has brought them into existence, he “makes wise the spheres so as to minister in their orders.” Both of the texts from 2 Baruch refer not merely to creatio ex nihilo, but to the establishment of the order of the cosmos, giving the celestial bodies wisdom to “minister in their orders.”

 

It is important to keep in mind this interpretation when considering how 2 Baruch later discusses the vindication of the righteous. After the dead are raised in 2 Bar. 50:1-4, the destiny of those that were righteous is discussed in 2 Bar. 51:

 

“their splendor will be glori(fi)ed in changes, and the appearance of their face will be turned into the light of their beauty, so that they may be able to acquire and receive the world which does not die, which is promised to them (51:3) … When, therefore, they [speaking of the unrighteous] see that those over whom they are now exalted, who will then be exalted and glori(fi)ed more than they, they will be transformed: the latter into the splendor of angels (51:5) … and time will no longer age them (51:9). For they will dwell in the heights of that world, and they will be made like the angels. And they will be made equal to the stars … and from light into the splendor of glory (51:10) … and there will then be excellence in the righteous surpassing that in angels (51:12).”

 

Here in 2 Baruch, the angelic transformation of the righteous is spoken of in terms of “being made equal to the stars” (51:10). Baruch’s reason for this is so that “they may be able to acquire and receive the world which does not die, which is promised to them” (51:3).

 

So in 2 Baruch 21:4 and 48:8, the language of being “called from the beginning of the world things which did not previously exist” referred to the establishment of the cosmic order and the celestial bodies who obey him, similar to that of Philo’s Spec. Laws 4.187. Later in 2 Baruch 51, the righteous after the resurrection must be changed into the likeness of the stars or angels so that they might be exalted and “be able to acquire and receive the world which does not die, which is promised to them” (51:3). In both Philo Spec. Laws 4.187 and 2 Bar. 21.5 and 48:8, the bringing into being of that which did not exist referred not merely to creatio ex nihilo in a general sense, but more specifically of the establishment of the celestial bodies and their orders, akin to that of the Deuteronomic vision. It is also important to note that in both texts there was the hope of deification (or angelomorphism), whether in terms of assimilation to God or to become like the stars or angels. This reading of Spec. Laws 4.187 and 2 Bar. 21.5 and 48:8 may provide a missing link with Rom 4:17b and the constellation of language and concepts found there.

 

Sirach’s Reception of the Deuteronomic Vision

 

Sirach also appears to share in the Deuteronomic vision. Sirach 17:17, speaking in context of Yahweh’s election of Israel, states: “He appointed a ruler for every nation (ἑκάστῳ ἔθνει κατέστησεν ἡγούμενον), but Israel is the Lord’s own portion (καὶ μερὶς κυρίου Ισραηλ ἐστίν).” Though the term ἡγούμενον is used frequently in the LXX of human rulers, there seems to be a clear echo of Deut 32:9 here in Sirach 17:17, “but Israel is the Lord’s own portion (καὶ μερὶς κυρίου Ισραηλ ἐστίν)” (see Deut 32:9, “καὶ ἐγενήθη μερὶς κυρίου λαὸς αὐτοῦ Ιακωβ”).5 This is significant in light of Sirach’s understanding of the Abrahamic promise of Gen 22:17, as discussed above, that God would “exalt (ἀνυψῶσαι) his seed as the stars, giving them an inheritance (κατακληρονομῆσαι) from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Sir 44:21). The reception of the Deuteronomic vision in Sirach makes clear how the author can read the promise God makes to Abraham in Gen 22:17, to “multiply your seed as the stars of heaven (πληθυνῶ τὸ σπέρμα σου ὡς τοὺς ἀστέρας τοῦ οὐρανοῦ),” as “exaltation (ἀνυψῶσαι).” In Sirach 44:21, the connection made between the Abrahamic and Davidic promises is that the inheritance (κληρονομήσει) of the “governments of your enemies (πόλεις τῶν ὑπεναντίων)” in Gen 22:17 is understood as receiving dominion (κατακυριεύσει) from “seas to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”6 In the Deuteronomic vision, the stars were understood as the “gods (θεοῖς)” or “angels of God (ἀγγέλων θεοῦ)” who had been “allotted (ἀπένειμεν)” to rule all the “nations under heaven (πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν τοῖς ὑποκάτω τοῦ οὐρανοῦ),” but Israel was to be ruled over directly by Yahweh as his own inheritance (κληρονομίας) (Deut 4:19; 17:3; 29:6 [25]; 32:8-9). It can be argued then that Sirach 44:21 reads the Abrahamic promise of Gen 22:17 qualitatively through the lens of the Deuteronomic vision, seeing the promise of celestial glory as usurping the rule of the gods or angels of the nations and exalting (ἀνυψῶσαι) the seed of Abraham as the stars to receive the inheritance (κατακληρονομῆσαι) of the all nations of the earth “from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”7

 

Wisdom of Solomon’s Reception of the Deuteronomic Vision

 

The Wisdom of Solomon, a text scholars have mined for parallels to Romans, speaks of the vindication of righteous dead in 3:7-8: “In the time of their visitation they will shine forth (ἀναλάμψουσιν), and will run like sparks (σπινθῆρες) through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever (κρινοῦσιν ἔθνη καὶ κρατήσουσιν λαῶν, καὶ βασιλεύσει αὐτῶν κύριος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας).”8 Later in 5:5 the unrighteous who are amazed at the unexpected salvation of the righteous say, “Why have they been numbered among the sons of God (υἱοῖς θεοῦ), and their lot among the holy ones (ἁγίοις ὁ κλῆρος)?” In Wisdom, common to texts that share the Deuteronomic vision, the connection again is seen between heavenly shining (ἀναλάμψουσιν) in the afterlife and the rule of the nations (κρινοῦσιν ἔθνη) (Wis 3:7-8). The connection is only strengthened when it is recognizes that they are seen to be among the “sons of God (υἱοῖς θεοῦ)” and the “holy ones (ἁγίοις),” both commonly denotations for the angelic hosts of the heavenly court.9

 

 

  1. It will arguably result in an anachronistic reading of this text to use the language of later Christian doctrine such as creatio ex nihilo in attempting to articulate the thrust of the passage. For the common interpretation of the parallel language of Spec. Laws 4.187 and Rom 4:17b as referring only to creation ex nihilo, see e.g. Byrne, Romans, 159-60; Cranfield, Romans 1-8, 245; Dunn, Romans 1-8, 218; Jewett, Romans, 334; Käseman, Romans, 122.
  2. For further texts in Philo regarding celestial deification or assimilation, see Creation 144; Dreams 1.135-37, 1:138-145; Giants 7; QE 2.114; Moses 2.108.
  3. As with the frequent misconstrual of Spec. Laws 4.187, the same argument can be applied to commentators interpretations of 2 Baruch 21:4 and 48:8 as referring only to creatio ex nihilo, see e.g. Byrne, Romans, 160; Cranfield, Romans 1-8, 245; Dunn, Romans 1-8, 218; Jewett, Romans, 334; Käseman, Romans, 122.
  4. Translation of 2 Baruch is taken from Daniel M. Gurtner, Second Baruch: A Critical Edition of the Syriac Text with Greek and Latin Fragments, English Translation, Introduction, and Concordances, JCTCRS 5 (New York: Continuum, 2009).
  5. See Di Lella, Ben Sira, 283.
  6. See also in the discussion above of the connection with the “exaltation (ἀνύψωσεν)” of David in Sirach 47:11.
  7. This interpretation of the covenant promise may have a narrative similar to that of Psalm 82 in the background.
  8. For recent comparative studies of Wisdom of Solomon and Romans, see e.g. Joseph R. Dodson, The ‘Powers’ of Personification: Rhetorical Purpose in the Book of Wisdom and the Letter to the Romans, BZNW 161 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2008); Jonathan A. Linebaugh, God, Grace, and Righteousness in Wisdom of Solomon and Paul’s Letter to the Romans: Texts in Conversation, NovTSup 152 (Leiden: Brill, 2013).
  9. See Nickelsburg, Resurrection, 81-82.

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Paul’s Use of Genesis 15:5 in Romans 4:18 in Light of Early Jewish Deification Traditions: Part 3: Becoming as the Stars and the Inheritance of the Nations

This is Part 3 of the series by David Burnett; see Part 1, Part 2


 Part 3 – Becoming as the Stars and the Inheritance of the Nations

 

The Deuteronomic Vision of the Celestial Bodies as the Gods (or Angels) of the Nations

The precedent for this assumed connection in early Jewish tradition between becoming as the stars and the rule of nations is rooted in the Deuteronomic portrayal of the celestial bodies as the gods or angels of the nations, members of Yahweh’s Divine Council.1 It is necessary to point out here the hermeneutical significance of Deuteronomy for Paul (especially 29-32) that colors much of his engagement with scripture in Romans.2 Lincicum rightly recognizes that Deuteronomy “has been received by Paul with a threefold construal of the book as ethical authority, theological authority, and a lens for the interpretation of Israel’s history.”3 It is precisely the theological authority of Deuteronomy and its function as a lens for interpretation for Paul and Early Judaism that will be necessary to keep in mind.

The aniconic discourse of Deuteronomy 4 surveys all the creatures under heaven, whose images Israel must abstain from fashioning idols. After the creatures under heaven have been catalogued, the author directs Israel’s attention to the heavenly beings. Deuteronomy 4:19 states:

“And do not lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven (πάντα τὸν κόσμον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ), and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the Lord your god has allotted to all the nations under the whole heaven (ἃ ἀπένειμεν κύριος ὁ θεός σου αὐτὰ πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν τοῖς ὑποκάτω τοῦ οὐρανοῦ).”

Here, the celestial bodies themselves are regarded as the “hosts (or ornaments) of heaven (κόσμον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ)” who have been allotted or assigned to (ἀπονέμω) all the nations (ἔθνεσιν) under heaven.4 Later in Deuteronomy, in the same vein, Israel is commanded to refrain from the worship of the heavenly host in Deut 17:2-3:

“If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the Lord your god is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your god, by transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshipped them (καὶ ἐλθόντες λατρεύσωσιν θεοῖς ἑτέροις καὶ προσκυνήσωσιν αὐτοῖς), whether the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven (ἢ παντὶ τῶν ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τοῦ οὐρανοῦ), which I have forbidden…”

The celestial bodies here are referred to as “gods (θεοῖς)”. Likewise in 29:18 (17), 26 (25), these beings are referred to as the gods of the nations:

“so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our god, to go and serve the gods of those nations (τοῖς θεοῖς τῶν ἐθνῶν)… they went and served other gods (θεοῖς ἑτέροις) and worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom he had not allotted to them (θεοῖς οἷς οὐκ ἠπίσταντο οὐδὲ διένειμεν αὐτοῖς).

Here in 29:25, we find similar language of the distribution (διένειμεν) of the gods of the nations akin to 4:19. Finally in the Song of Moses we see these ideas come together in the narratival recounting of Israel’s election:

“When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam (ὅτε διεμέριζεν ὁ ὕψιστος ἔθνη, ὡς διέσπειρεν υἱοὺς Αδαμ), he set the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the angels of God (ἔστησεν ὅρια ἐθνῶν κατὰ ἀριθμὸν ἀγγέλων θεοῦ). For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the allotment of his inheritance (καὶ ἐγενήθη μερὶς κυρίου λαὸς αὐτοῦ Ιακωβ, σχοίνισμα κληρονομίας αὐτοῦ Ισραηλ).” (Deut 32:8-9)5

In Deuteronomy, the celestial bodies are portrayed as the gods or angels allotted to rule the nations. While the Lord (YHWH in the MT) appoints the gods or angels to rule the other nations, he elects Jacob (Israel) as his own inheritance (κληρονομίας), ruling over them directly as their sovereign. It is important to note that the language of inheritance (κληρονομία) employed here in LXX Deuteronomy denotes the particular relationship between the divine sovereign and the nation to which He rules. With this relationship in mind, Israel’s election appears to be the reason why they call Yahweh father (πατήρ) (Deut 32:6).

The language of inheritance (κληρονομία) is employed in the same fashion in Ps 82:8. Sharing the Deuteronomic vision, Psalm 82 narrates a scene in the Divine Council where Yahweh passes judgement on the gods of the nations for their ruling unrighteously (κρίνετε ἀδικίαν, 82:2).6 Echoing the language of Deut 32:8 for the gods of the nations, Yahweh pronounces his judgment in 82:6-7 saying: “I said ‘you are gods (Θεοί), sons of the Most High (υἱοὶ ὑψίστου), all of you; nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the rulers (ἀρχόντων)’.” The psalmist then concludes with the following cry: “Arise, O God, judge the earth (ἀνάστα, ὁ θεός, κρῖνον τὴν γῆν)! For it is you who will inherit all of the nations (κατακληρονομήσεις ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, 82:8).” Corresponding to Deuteronomy, Psalm 82 provides a narrative framework for early Judaism’s understanding of inheritance (κληρονομία) that includes the judgment of the gods of the nations and Yahweh’s restored rule over them.

Philo’s Reception of the Deuteronomic Vision and the “Fathers” of the Nations

In Philo’s interpretation of the territorial law of Deut 19:14, we see an interesting explanation of the identity of the “fathers (πατέρες)” mentioned. In On the Posterity of Cain 89, he states:

“These boundaries were fixed not by the creation to which we belong, but on principles which are divine and are older than we and all that belongs to earth. This has been made clear by the Law, where it solemnly enjoins upon each one of us not to adulterate the coinage of virtue, using these words: ‘thou shalt not remove thy neighbour’s boundaries (ὅρια), which thy fathers (πατέρες) set up’ (Deut. 19:14), and again in other words: ‘Ask thy father and he will show thee; thine elders and they will tell thee. When the Most High distributed nations (διεμέριζεν ὁ ὕψιστος ἔθνη), when He dispersed the sons of Adam, He set boundaries of nations (ὅρια ἐθνῶν) according to the number of the angels of God, and Jacob His people became the Lord’s portion, Israel became the lot of His inheritance (κληρονομίας) (Deut 32:7-9).” (Philo, Posterity 89)

Here Philo sees the “fathers (πατέρες)” in Deut 19:14 not referring to human ancestral patriarchs, but to the angels of God apportioned over the nations, citing Deut 32:7-9.

In The Special Laws 1.13-19 we find further explanation on Philo’s conception of the astral gods of Deuteronomy and their role in God’s cosmic πόλις:

“Some have supposed that the sun and moon and the other stars were gods with absolute powers (θεοὺς αὐτοκράτορας) and ascribed to them the causation of all events. But Moses held that the universe (κόσμος) was created (γενητός) and is in a sense the greatest of commonwealths (πόλις ἡ μεγίστη), having magistrates (ἂρχοντας ἔχουσα) and subjects (ὑπηκόυς); for magistrates (ἄρχοντας), all the heavenly bodies (οὐρανῷ), fixed or wandering; for subjects (ὑπηκόους), such beings as exist below the moon, in the air or on the earth. The said magistrates (ἄρχοντας), however, in his view have not unconditional powers (αὐτεξουσίους), but are lieutenants (ἄρχοντας) of the one Father of All (τοῦ πάντων πατρὸς ὑπάρχους), and it is by copying (μιμουμένους) the example of His government exercised according to law and justice (δίκην καὶ νόμον) over all created beings that they acquit themselves aright; but those who do not descry the Charioteer mounted above attribute the causation of all the events in the universe (κόσμῳ) to the team that draw the chariot as though they were sole agents. From this ignorance our most holy lawgiver would convert them to knowledge with these words: ‘Do not when thou seest the sun and the moon and the stars and all the ordered host of heaven go astray and worship them- Deut 4:19.’  Well indeed and aptly does he call the acceptance of the heavenly bodies as gods going astray or wandering … in supposing that they alone are gods … So all the gods (θεούς) which sense descries in Heaven must not be supposed to possess absolute power (αὐτοκρατεῖς) but to have received the rank of subordinate rulers, naturally liable to correction, though in virtue of their excellence never destined to undergo it.” (Philo, Spec. Laws 1.13-19)7, then the celestial- sun, moon, and stars [Deut 4:19; 1 Cor 15:41]). Paul likens the resurrection body to that of the sun, moon, and stars (1 Cor 15:40-42), even going so far as referring to the resurrected ones as “those who are of heaven (οἱ ἐπουράνιοι, 15:48).” This Pauline complex of language fits the same background and pattern found in Romans 4 as argued in the present study. For a discussion of resurrection and astral immortality in Early Judaism, see below.]

Here, Philo describes the κόσμος as the “greatest of commonwealths (πόλις ἡ μεγίστη),” a kind of heavenly government akin to a Greco-Roman city-state where celestial rulers (ἄρχοντας) are delegated rule over subjects (ὑπηκόυς) that consist of all those who live below the heavens. Philo does not deny the divinity of the celestial bodies, but in his use of Deut 4:19, the logic given to not worship them is simply that they are not gods with “absolute powers (αὐτοκρατεῖς),” but are appointed rulers (ἄρχοντας) under the one God who is “Father of all (του πάντων πατρὸς ὑπάρχους)”. The celestial bodies are to carry out their rule by mimetic (μιμουμένους) participation in God’s own rule of the κόσμος in justice and law (δίκην καὶ νόμον).8 For Philo, the use of the appellation “Father of all (πάντων πατρός)” for God is predicated on his unshared, absolute sovereignty over the cosmic polis.

Later in Spec. Laws 4.184-188, we find the similar conceptual link between rulership and fatherhood described in detail, this time actually connecting these concepts with the potential for human rulers to be “assimilated to God (ἐξομοιώσεως της πρὸς θεόν)”:

“The ruler (ἄρχοντα) should preside (χρή) over his subjects (ὑπηκόων) as a father over his children (πατέρα παίδων) so that he himself may be honoured in return as by true-born sons, and therefore good rulers may be truly called the parents of states and nations (ἐθνῶν) in common, since they show a fatherly and sometimes more than fatherly affection. But those who assume great power to destroy and injure their subjects should be called not rulers but enemies (πονηρότεροι)9 … Now “rule” or “command” is a category which extends and intrudes itself, I might also say, into every branch of life, differing in magnitude and amount … For this is to follow God since He too can do both (for good or for worse) but wills the good only. This was shown both in the creation and in the ordering of the world (κόσμου γένεσίς τε καὶ διοίκησις). He called the non-existent into existence (μὴ ὄντα ἐκάλεσεν εἰς τὸ εἶναι) and produced order from disorder … For He and His beneficent powers (δυνάμεσι) ever make it their business to transmute the faultiness of the worse wherever it exists and convert it to the better. These things good rulers (ἄρχοντας) must imitate (μιμεισθαι) if they have any aspiration to be assimilated to God (ἐξομοιώσεωσ της πρὸς θεόν).” (Philo, Spec. Laws 4.184-188)

Here Philo points out that every ruler (ἄρχοντα) should act as a “father over his children (πατέρα παίδων).” Good rulers may be “truly called parents of the nations (ἐθνῶν).”10 As the celestial bodies were called to mimic (μιμουμένους) the rule of the “Father of all (πάντων πατρός)” in the cosmic government (κόσμος) (previously in Spec. Laws 1:13-19), so to now the human rulers must imitate (μιμεισθαι) the rule of God and his “beneficent powers (δυνάμεσι)” (likely a reference the celestial bodies, or ἂρχοντας ἔχουσα, referred to above in Spec. Laws 1:13) if they wish to be “assimilated to God (ἐξομοιώσεωσ της πρὸς θεόν).”11


 

  1. For support of this idea and further discussion on the Divine Council in Deuteronomy, see Daniel I. Block, The Gods of the Nations: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern National Theology, ETS 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000); Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Canonical Second Temple Literature” (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004), 68-89; idem, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” BS 158 (2001): 52-74; Nathan McDonald, Deuteronomy and the Meaning of Monotheism, FAT 2.1 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003); Patrick D. Miller, “Cosmology and World Order in the Old Testament: The Divine Council as Cosmic-Political Symbol,” HBT 9.2 (1987): 53-78; idem, “God’s Other Stories: On the Margins of Deuteronomic Theology,” in Realia Dei: Essays in Archaeology and Biblical Interpretation in Honor of Edward F. Campbell Jr. at his Retirement, ed. P. Williams et al. (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1999), 185-94; idem, The Religion of Ancient Israel (London: SPCK, 2000), 23-28; Theodore E. Mullen, Jr., The Assembly of the Gods: The Divine Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature, HSM 24 (Harvard: Scholars Press, 1980); Mark S. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts (New York: Oxford, 2001), 41-53; idem, God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 193-214; Ellen White, Yahweh’s Council: Its Structure and Membership, FAT 2.65 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014), 34-38. Heiser’s work is of special importance to the present study as he demonstrates, quite persuasively, that “the pre-exilic Israelite belief in a divine council under the rule of Yahweh was maintained in Israel’s faith after the exile and survived in at least some strains of Judaism well into the Common Era (quote from 258).” For the full study, see Heiser, “Divine Council.” Following this line of thought, McDonald (Deuteronomy, 96), in a discussion of the gods mentioned in 1 Corinthians 8, says of the Apostle Paul: “Paul, it can be argued, is breathing the same spirit as Deuteronomy 32. Other gods exist, but in another sense they are ‘no-gods’ and ‘demons.’ It is only YHWH that is ‘God’. Paul too wants to express the theme in relational terms. There are indeed many gods that exist, but for us (ἡμῖν) there is only one God. The absolute terms are confessional, not ontological.”
  2. For Paul’s engagement with Deuteronomy and its importance for his interpretation of scripture and thought in general, see David Lincicum, Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter with Deuteronomy, WUNT 2.284 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010); Per Jarle Bekken, The Word is Near You: A Study of Deuteronomy 30:12-14 in a Jewish Context, BZNW 144 (Berlin: De Grutyer, 2007); Guy Waters, The End of Deuteronomy in the Epistles of Paul, WUNT 2 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006); Wagner, Heralds; James M. Scott, “Paul’s Use of Deuteronomic Tradition,” JBL 112 (1993): 645-65; Hays, Echoes.
  3. See Lincicum, Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter, 198.
  4. The term “κόσμον” as a gloss for the “host of heaven” appears 4 times in the LXX, twice in Deuteronomy (4:19; 17:3; both discussed here) and twice in Isaiah (24:21; 40:26). It may be important to note here that Isa 24:21 speaks of the day Yahweh will punish the “hosts of heaven (κόσμον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ)” as well as the “kings of the earth (βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς),” which is more than likely speaking of the judgment of the gods of the nations and the corresponding kings, sharing the linguistic and conceptual parallels with Deuteronomy and the narrative of Psalm 82 (see below).
  5. For discussions of the difficult text-critical problem in 32:8 regarding the “angels of God,” see Michael S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” BS 158 (2001): 52-74. This account is more than likely narrating the dispersing of the nations in Gen 11:1-9; the language of “separating the sons of Adam (ὡς διέσπειρεν υἱοὺς Αδαμ)” of Deut 32:8 reflecting the language of the dispersion in Gen 11:8-9, “and from there the Lord God scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth (καὶ ἐκεῖθεν διέσπειρεν αὐτοὺς κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἐπὶ πρόσωπον πάσης τῆς γῆς).”
  6. The tradition of the portrayal of the celestial bodies as the gods/angels of the nations as seen in Deuteronomy will be simply referred to for the remainder of the study as the Deuteronomic Vision. The vision functions as a cosmic-political lens through which many Jews of the period understood their world, their unique relationship to their God with respect to their election, as well as their relationship to the other nations. See e.g. Miller, “Cosmology and World Order.”
  7. The web of connections in Philo’s language here (Spec. Laws 1.13-19) for the celestial bodies (οὐρανῷ) as the rulers or magistrates (ἂρχοντας ἔχουσα) and powers (δυνάμεσι, see Spec. Laws 4.184-188 below) of the cosmos (κόσμος) provides us with an important comparative map when considering Paul’s employment of a similar complex of language for the angels, principalities, and powers (ἄγγελοι, ἀρχαί, ἐξουσίαι, δυνάμεις, cf. Rom 8:38; 1 Cor 6:2-3; 15:24; Eph 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Col 1:16; 2:10, 15) of the cosmos (κόσμος, cf. Rom 4:13; 1 Cor 6:2-3; 8:4-6). An important point for consideration in the present study is Paul’s parallel in 1 Cor 6:2-3 between the expectation that the holy ones will “judge the cosmos (ὑμῖν κρίνεται ὁ κόσμος),” connected with the idea that they will “judge the angels (ἀγγέλους κρινοῦμεν).” Later in 1 Corinthians 15, another important connection is found in the context of a discussion on the glory of the resurrection body. A survey is taken of the terrestrial creatures and then the celestial creatures, following the same pattern of Deut 4:16-19 (the terrestrial- humans, land animals, birds, fish [Deut 4:16-18; 1 Cor 15:39
  8. It is important to note that in Psalm 82, this is precisely why the gods of the nations are to be judged and lose their inheritance (κληρονομία), because they did not maintain the cosmic world order (see Miller, “Cosmology and World Order,” 438-39), but ruled unjustly (κρίνετε ἀδικίαν).
  9. See e.g. Psalm 82.
  10. This is particularly important in Rom 4:17-18 as Abraham is referred to as a “father of many nations (πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν).”
  11. For the proper context see above, Spec. Laws 1.13-19. For a helpful discussion on the meaning of “assimilation to God” in Philo, see George H. van Kooten, Paul’s Anthropology in Context: The Image of God, Assimilation to God, and Tripartite Man in Ancient Judaism, Ancient Philosophy and Early Christianity, WUNT 232 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 181-98; Wendy E. Helleman, “Philo of Alexandria on Deification and Assimilation to God,” SPA 2 (1990): 51-71; David T. Runia, Philo of Alexandria and the Timaeus of Plato, PA 44 (Leiden: Brill, 1986), 341ff. It is surprising that van Kooten does not pick up on Philo’s qualitative reading of the promise to Abraham in Gen 15:5, as it may provide a rich exegetical source Philo could utilize in support of his Platonic notion of “assimilation to God.”

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Paul’s Use of Genesis 15:5 in Romans 4:18 in Light of Early Jewish Deification Traditions: Part 3: Becoming as the Stars and the Inheritance of the Nations

This is Part 3 of the series by David Burnett; see Part 1, Part 2


 Part 3 – Becoming as the Stars and the Inheritance of the Nations

 

The Deuteronomic Vision of the Celestial Bodies as the Gods (or Angels) of the Nations

The precedent for this assumed connection in early Jewish tradition between becoming as the stars and the rule of nations is rooted in the Deuteronomic portrayal of the celestial bodies as the gods or angels of the nations, members of Yahweh’s Divine Council.1 It is necessary to point out here the hermeneutical significance of Deuteronomy for Paul (especially 29-32) that colors much of his engagement with scripture in Romans.2 Lincicum rightly recognizes that Deuteronomy “has been received by Paul with a threefold construal of the book as ethical authority, theological authority, and a lens for the interpretation of Israel’s history.”3 It is precisely the theological authority of Deuteronomy and its function as a lens for interpretation for Paul and Early Judaism that will be necessary to keep in mind.

The aniconic discourse of Deuteronomy 4 surveys all the creatures under heaven, whose images Israel must abstain from fashioning idols. After the creatures under heaven have been catalogued, the author directs Israel’s attention to the heavenly beings. Deuteronomy 4:19 states:

“And do not lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven (πάντα τὸν κόσμον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ), and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the Lord your god has allotted to all the nations under the whole heaven (ἃ ἀπένειμεν κύριος ὁ θεός σου αὐτὰ πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν τοῖς ὑποκάτω τοῦ οὐρανοῦ).”

Here, the celestial bodies themselves are regarded as the “hosts (or ornaments) of heaven (κόσμον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ)” who have been allotted or assigned to (ἀπονέμω) all the nations (ἔθνεσιν) under heaven.4 Later in Deuteronomy, in the same vein, Israel is commanded to refrain from the worship of the heavenly host in Deut 17:2-3:

“If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the Lord your god is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your god, by transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshipped them (καὶ ἐλθόντες λατρεύσωσιν θεοῖς ἑτέροις καὶ προσκυνήσωσιν αὐτοῖς), whether the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven (ἢ παντὶ τῶν ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τοῦ οὐρανοῦ), which I have forbidden…”

The celestial bodies here are referred to as “gods (θεοῖς)”. Likewise in 29:18 (17), 26 (25), these beings are referred to as the gods of the nations:

“so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our god, to go and serve the gods of those nations (τοῖς θεοῖς τῶν ἐθνῶν)… they went and served other gods (θεοῖς ἑτέροις) and worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom he had not allotted to them (θεοῖς οἷς οὐκ ἠπίσταντο οὐδὲ διένειμεν αὐτοῖς).

Here in 29:25, we find similar language of the distribution (διένειμεν) of the gods of the nations akin to 4:19. Finally in the Song of Moses we see these ideas come together in the narratival recounting of Israel’s election:

“When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam (ὅτε διεμέριζεν ὁ ὕψιστος ἔθνη, ὡς διέσπειρεν υἱοὺς Αδαμ), he set the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the angels of God (ἔστησεν ὅρια ἐθνῶν κατὰ ἀριθμὸν ἀγγέλων θεοῦ). For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the allotment of his inheritance (καὶ ἐγενήθη μερὶς κυρίου λαὸς αὐτοῦ Ιακωβ, σχοίνισμα κληρονομίας αὐτοῦ Ισραηλ).” (Deut 32:8-9)5

In Deuteronomy, the celestial bodies are portrayed as the gods or angels allotted to rule the nations. While the Lord (YHWH in the MT) appoints the gods or angels to rule the other nations, he elects Jacob (Israel) as his own inheritance (κληρονομίας), ruling over them directly as their sovereign. It is important to note that the language of inheritance (κληρονομία) employed here in LXX Deuteronomy denotes the particular relationship between the divine sovereign and the nation to which He rules. With this relationship in mind, Israel’s election appears to be the reason why they call Yahweh father (πατήρ) (Deut 32:6).

The language of inheritance (κληρονομία) is employed in the same fashion in Ps 82:8. Sharing the Deuteronomic vision, Psalm 82 narrates a scene in the Divine Council where Yahweh passes judgement on the gods of the nations for their ruling unrighteously (κρίνετε ἀδικίαν, 82:2).6 Echoing the language of Deut 32:8 for the gods of the nations, Yahweh pronounces his judgment in 82:6-7 saying: “I said ‘you are gods (Θεοί), sons of the Most High (υἱοὶ ὑψίστου), all of you; nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the rulers (ἀρχόντων)’.” The psalmist then concludes with the following cry: “Arise, O God, judge the earth (ἀνάστα, ὁ θεός, κρῖνον τὴν γῆν)! For it is you who will inherit all of the nations (κατακληρονομήσεις ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, 82:8).” Corresponding to Deuteronomy, Psalm 82 provides a narrative framework for early Judaism’s understanding of inheritance (κληρονομία) that includes the judgment of the gods of the nations and Yahweh’s restored rule over them.

Philo’s Reception of the Deuteronomic Vision and the “Fathers” of the Nations

In Philo’s interpretation of the territorial law of Deut 19:14, we see an interesting explanation of the identity of the “fathers (πατέρες)” mentioned. In On the Posterity of Cain 89, he states:

“These boundaries were fixed not by the creation to which we belong, but on principles which are divine and are older than we and all that belongs to earth. This has been made clear by the Law, where it solemnly enjoins upon each one of us not to adulterate the coinage of virtue, using these words: ‘thou shalt not remove thy neighbour’s boundaries (ὅρια), which thy fathers (πατέρες) set up’ (Deut. 19:14), and again in other words: ‘Ask thy father and he will show thee; thine elders and they will tell thee. When the Most High distributed nations (διεμέριζεν ὁ ὕψιστος ἔθνη), when He dispersed the sons of Adam, He set boundaries of nations (ὅρια ἐθνῶν) according to the number of the angels of God, and Jacob His people became the Lord’s portion, Israel became the lot of His inheritance (κληρονομίας) (Deut 32:7-9).” (Philo, Posterity 89)

Here Philo sees the “fathers (πατέρες)” in Deut 19:14 not referring to human ancestral patriarchs, but to the angels of God apportioned over the nations, citing Deut 32:7-9.

In The Special Laws 1.13-19 we find further explanation on Philo’s conception of the astral gods of Deuteronomy and their role in God’s cosmic πόλις:

“Some have supposed that the sun and moon and the other stars were gods with absolute powers (θεοὺς αὐτοκράτορας) and ascribed to them the causation of all events. But Moses held that the universe (κόσμος) was created (γενητός) and is in a sense the greatest of commonwealths (πόλις ἡ μεγίστη), having magistrates (ἂρχοντας ἔχουσα) and subjects (ὑπηκόυς); for magistrates (ἄρχοντας), all the heavenly bodies (οὐρανῷ), fixed or wandering; for subjects (ὑπηκόους), such beings as exist below the moon, in the air or on the earth. The said magistrates (ἄρχοντας), however, in his view have not unconditional powers (αὐτεξουσίους), but are lieutenants (ἄρχοντας) of the one Father of All (τοῦ πάντων πατρὸς ὑπάρχους), and it is by copying (μιμουμένους) the example of His government exercised according to law and justice (δίκην καὶ νόμον) over all created beings that they acquit themselves aright; but those who do not descry the Charioteer mounted above attribute the causation of all the events in the universe (κόσμῳ) to the team that draw the chariot as though they were sole agents. From this ignorance our most holy lawgiver would convert them to knowledge with these words: ‘Do not when thou seest the sun and the moon and the stars and all the ordered host of heaven go astray and worship them- Deut 4:19.’  Well indeed and aptly does he call the acceptance of the heavenly bodies as gods going astray or wandering … in supposing that they alone are gods … So all the gods (θεούς) which sense descries in Heaven must not be supposed to possess absolute power (αὐτοκρατεῖς) but to have received the rank of subordinate rulers, naturally liable to correction, though in virtue of their excellence never destined to undergo it.” (Philo, Spec. Laws 1.13-19)7, then the celestial- sun, moon, and stars [Deut 4:19; 1 Cor 15:41]). Paul likens the resurrection body to that of the sun, moon, and stars (1 Cor 15:40-42), even going so far as referring to the resurrected ones as “those who are of heaven (οἱ ἐπουράνιοι, 15:48).” This Pauline complex of language fits the same background and pattern found in Romans 4 as argued in the present study. For a discussion of resurrection and astral immortality in Early Judaism, see below.]

Here, Philo describes the κόσμος as the “greatest of commonwealths (πόλις ἡ μεγίστη),” a kind of heavenly government akin to a Greco-Roman city-state where celestial rulers (ἄρχοντας) are delegated rule over subjects (ὑπηκόυς) that consist of all those who live below the heavens. Philo does not deny the divinity of the celestial bodies, but in his use of Deut 4:19, the logic given to not worship them is simply that they are not gods with “absolute powers (αὐτοκρατεῖς),” but are appointed rulers (ἄρχοντας) under the one God who is “Father of all (του πάντων πατρὸς ὑπάρχους)”. The celestial bodies are to carry out their rule by mimetic (μιμουμένους) participation in God’s own rule of the κόσμος in justice and law (δίκην καὶ νόμον).8 For Philo, the use of the appellation “Father of all (πάντων πατρός)” for God is predicated on his unshared, absolute sovereignty over the cosmic polis.

Later in Spec. Laws 4.184-188, we find the similar conceptual link between rulership and fatherhood described in detail, this time actually connecting these concepts with the potential for human rulers to be “assimilated to God (ἐξομοιώσεως της πρὸς θεόν)”:

“The ruler (ἄρχοντα) should preside (χρή) over his subjects (ὑπηκόων) as a father over his children (πατέρα παίδων) so that he himself may be honoured in return as by true-born sons, and therefore good rulers may be truly called the parents of states and nations (ἐθνῶν) in common, since they show a fatherly and sometimes more than fatherly affection. But those who assume great power to destroy and injure their subjects should be called not rulers but enemies (πονηρότεροι)9 … Now “rule” or “command” is a category which extends and intrudes itself, I might also say, into every branch of life, differing in magnitude and amount … For this is to follow God since He too can do both (for good or for worse) but wills the good only. This was shown both in the creation and in the ordering of the world (κόσμου γένεσίς τε καὶ διοίκησις). He called the non-existent into existence (μὴ ὄντα ἐκάλεσεν εἰς τὸ εἶναι) and produced order from disorder … For He and His beneficent powers (δυνάμεσι) ever make it their business to transmute the faultiness of the worse wherever it exists and convert it to the better. These things good rulers (ἄρχοντας) must imitate (μιμεισθαι) if they have any aspiration to be assimilated to God (ἐξομοιώσεωσ της πρὸς θεόν).” (Philo, Spec. Laws 4.184-188)

Here Philo points out that every ruler (ἄρχοντα) should act as a “father over his children (πατέρα παίδων).” Good rulers may be “truly called parents of the nations (ἐθνῶν).”10 As the celestial bodies were called to mimic (μιμουμένους) the rule of the “Father of all (πάντων πατρός)” in the cosmic government (κόσμος) (previously in Spec. Laws 1:13-19), so to now the human rulers must imitate (μιμεισθαι) the rule of God and his “beneficent powers (δυνάμεσι)” (likely a reference the celestial bodies, or ἂρχοντας ἔχουσα, referred to above in Spec. Laws 1:13) if they wish to be “assimilated to God (ἐξομοιώσεωσ της πρὸς θεόν).”11


 

  1. For support of this idea and further discussion on the Divine Council in Deuteronomy, see Daniel I. Block, The Gods of the Nations: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern National Theology, ETS 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000); Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Canonical Second Temple Literature” (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004), 68-89; idem, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” BS 158 (2001): 52-74; Nathan McDonald, Deuteronomy and the Meaning of Monotheism, FAT 2.1 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003); Patrick D. Miller, “Cosmology and World Order in the Old Testament: The Divine Council as Cosmic-Political Symbol,” HBT 9.2 (1987): 53-78; idem, “God’s Other Stories: On the Margins of Deuteronomic Theology,” in Realia Dei: Essays in Archaeology and Biblical Interpretation in Honor of Edward F. Campbell Jr. at his Retirement, ed. P. Williams et al. (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1999), 185-94; idem, The Religion of Ancient Israel (London: SPCK, 2000), 23-28; Theodore E. Mullen, Jr., The Assembly of the Gods: The Divine Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature, HSM 24 (Harvard: Scholars Press, 1980); Mark S. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts (New York: Oxford, 2001), 41-53; idem, God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 193-214; Ellen White, Yahweh’s Council: Its Structure and Membership, FAT 2.65 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014), 34-38. Heiser’s work is of special importance to the present study as he demonstrates, quite persuasively, that “the pre-exilic Israelite belief in a divine council under the rule of Yahweh was maintained in Israel’s faith after the exile and survived in at least some strains of Judaism well into the Common Era (quote from 258).” For the full study, see Heiser, “Divine Council.” Following this line of thought, McDonald (Deuteronomy, 96), in a discussion of the gods mentioned in 1 Corinthians 8, says of the Apostle Paul: “Paul, it can be argued, is breathing the same spirit as Deuteronomy 32. Other gods exist, but in another sense they are ‘no-gods’ and ‘demons.’ It is only YHWH that is ‘God’. Paul too wants to express the theme in relational terms. There are indeed many gods that exist, but for us (ἡμῖν) there is only one God. The absolute terms are confessional, not ontological.”
  2. For Paul’s engagement with Deuteronomy and its importance for his interpretation of scripture and thought in general, see David Lincicum, Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter with Deuteronomy, WUNT 2.284 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010); Per Jarle Bekken, The Word is Near You: A Study of Deuteronomy 30:12-14 in a Jewish Context, BZNW 144 (Berlin: De Grutyer, 2007); Guy Waters, The End of Deuteronomy in the Epistles of Paul, WUNT 2 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006); Wagner, Heralds; James M. Scott, “Paul’s Use of Deuteronomic Tradition,” JBL 112 (1993): 645-65; Hays, Echoes.
  3. See Lincicum, Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter, 198.
  4. The term “κόσμον” as a gloss for the “host of heaven” appears 4 times in the LXX, twice in Deuteronomy (4:19; 17:3; both discussed here) and twice in Isaiah (24:21; 40:26). It may be important to note here that Isa 24:21 speaks of the day Yahweh will punish the “hosts of heaven (κόσμον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ)” as well as the “kings of the earth (βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς),” which is more than likely speaking of the judgment of the gods of the nations and the corresponding kings, sharing the linguistic and conceptual parallels with Deuteronomy and the narrative of Psalm 82 (see below).
  5. For discussions of the difficult text-critical problem in 32:8 regarding the “angels of God,” see Michael S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” BS 158 (2001): 52-74. This account is more than likely narrating the dispersing of the nations in Gen 11:1-9; the language of “separating the sons of Adam (ὡς διέσπειρεν υἱοὺς Αδαμ)” of Deut 32:8 reflecting the language of the dispersion in Gen 11:8-9, “and from there the Lord God scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth (καὶ ἐκεῖθεν διέσπειρεν αὐτοὺς κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἐπὶ πρόσωπον πάσης τῆς γῆς).”
  6. The tradition of the portrayal of the celestial bodies as the gods/angels of the nations as seen in Deuteronomy will be simply referred to for the remainder of the study as the Deuteronomic Vision. The vision functions as a cosmic-political lens through which many Jews of the period understood their world, their unique relationship to their God with respect to their election, as well as their relationship to the other nations. See e.g. Miller, “Cosmology and World Order.”
  7. The web of connections in Philo’s language here (Spec. Laws 1.13-19) for the celestial bodies (οὐρανῷ) as the rulers or magistrates (ἂρχοντας ἔχουσα) and powers (δυνάμεσι, see Spec. Laws 4.184-188 below) of the cosmos (κόσμος) provides us with an important comparative map when considering Paul’s employment of a similar complex of language for the angels, principalities, and powers (ἄγγελοι, ἀρχαί, ἐξουσίαι, δυνάμεις, cf. Rom 8:38; 1 Cor 6:2-3; 15:24; Eph 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Col 1:16; 2:10, 15) of the cosmos (κόσμος, cf. Rom 4:13; 1 Cor 6:2-3; 8:4-6). An important point for consideration in the present study is Paul’s parallel in 1 Cor 6:2-3 between the expectation that the holy ones will “judge the cosmos (ὑμῖν κρίνεται ὁ κόσμος),” connected with the idea that they will “judge the angels (ἀγγέλους κρινοῦμεν).” Later in 1 Corinthians 15, another important connection is found in the context of a discussion on the glory of the resurrection body. A survey is taken of the terrestrial creatures and then the celestial creatures, following the same pattern of Deut 4:16-19 (the terrestrial- humans, land animals, birds, fish [Deut 4:16-18; 1 Cor 15:39
  8. It is important to note that in Psalm 82, this is precisely why the gods of the nations are to be judged and lose their inheritance (κληρονομία), because they did not maintain the cosmic world order (see Miller, “Cosmology and World Order,” 438-39), but ruled unjustly (κρίνετε ἀδικίαν).
  9. See e.g. Psalm 82.
  10. This is particularly important in Rom 4:17-18 as Abraham is referred to as a “father of many nations (πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν).”
  11. For the proper context see above, Spec. Laws 1.13-19. For a helpful discussion on the meaning of “assimilation to God” in Philo, see George H. van Kooten, Paul’s Anthropology in Context: The Image of God, Assimilation to God, and Tripartite Man in Ancient Judaism, Ancient Philosophy and Early Christianity, WUNT 232 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 181-98; Wendy E. Helleman, “Philo of Alexandria on Deification and Assimilation to God,” SPA 2 (1990): 51-71; David T. Runia, Philo of Alexandria and the Timaeus of Plato, PA 44 (Leiden: Brill, 1986), 341ff. It is surprising that van Kooten does not pick up on Philo’s qualitative reading of the promise to Abraham in Gen 15:5, as it may provide a rich exegetical source Philo could utilize in support of his Platonic notion of “assimilation to God.”

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Paul’s Use of Genesis 15:5 in Romans 4:18 in Light of Early Jewish Deification Traditions: Part 3: Becoming as the Stars and the Inheritance of the Nations

This is Part 3 of the series by David Burnett; see Part 1, Part 2


 Part 3 – Becoming as the Stars and the Inheritance of the Nations

 

The Deuteronomic Vision of the Celestial Bodies as the Gods (or Angels) of the Nations

The precedent for this assumed connection in early Jewish tradition between becoming as the stars and the rule of nations is rooted in the Deuteronomic portrayal of the celestial bodies as the gods or angels of the nations, members of Yahweh’s Divine Council.1 It is necessary to point out here the hermeneutical significance of Deuteronomy for Paul (especially 29-32) that colors much of his engagement with scripture in Romans.2 Lincicum rightly recognizes that Deuteronomy “has been received by Paul with a threefold construal of the book as ethical authority, theological authority, and a lens for the interpretation of Israel’s history.”3 It is precisely the theological authority of Deuteronomy and its function as a lens for interpretation for Paul and Early Judaism that will be necessary to keep in mind.

The aniconic discourse of Deuteronomy 4 surveys all the creatures under heaven, whose images Israel must abstain from fashioning idols. After the creatures under heaven have been catalogued, the author directs Israel’s attention to the heavenly beings. Deuteronomy 4:19 states:

“And do not lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven (πάντα τὸν κόσμον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ), and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the Lord your god has allotted to all the nations under the whole heaven (ἃ ἀπένειμεν κύριος ὁ θεός σου αὐτὰ πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν τοῖς ὑποκάτω τοῦ οὐρανοῦ).”

Here, the celestial bodies themselves are regarded as the “hosts (or ornaments) of heaven (κόσμον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ)” who have been allotted or assigned to (ἀπονέμω) all the nations (ἔθνεσιν) under heaven.4 Later in Deuteronomy, in the same vein, Israel is commanded to refrain from the worship of the heavenly host in Deut 17:2-3:

“If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the Lord your god is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your god, by transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshipped them (καὶ ἐλθόντες λατρεύσωσιν θεοῖς ἑτέροις καὶ προσκυνήσωσιν αὐτοῖς), whether the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven (ἢ παντὶ τῶν ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τοῦ οὐρανοῦ), which I have forbidden…”

The celestial bodies here are referred to as “gods (θεοῖς)”. Likewise in 29:18 (17), 26 (25), these beings are referred to as the gods of the nations:

“so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our god, to go and serve the gods of those nations (τοῖς θεοῖς τῶν ἐθνῶν)… they went and served other gods (θεοῖς ἑτέροις) and worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom he had not allotted to them (θεοῖς οἷς οὐκ ἠπίσταντο οὐδὲ διένειμεν αὐτοῖς).

Here in 29:25, we find similar language of the distribution (διένειμεν) of the gods of the nations akin to 4:19. Finally in the Song of Moses we see these ideas come together in the narratival recounting of Israel’s election:

“When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam (ὅτε διεμέριζεν ὁ ὕψιστος ἔθνη, ὡς διέσπειρεν υἱοὺς Αδαμ), he set the boundaries of the nations according to the number of the angels of God (ἔστησεν ὅρια ἐθνῶν κατὰ ἀριθμὸν ἀγγέλων θεοῦ). For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the allotment of his inheritance (καὶ ἐγενήθη μερὶς κυρίου λαὸς αὐτοῦ Ιακωβ, σχοίνισμα κληρονομίας αὐτοῦ Ισραηλ).” (Deut 32:8-9)5

In Deuteronomy, the celestial bodies are portrayed as the gods or angels allotted to rule the nations. While the Lord (YHWH in the MT) appoints the gods or angels to rule the other nations, he elects Jacob (Israel) as his own inheritance (κληρονομίας), ruling over them directly as their sovereign. It is important to note that the language of inheritance (κληρονομία) employed here in LXX Deuteronomy denotes the particular relationship between the divine sovereign and the nation to which He rules. With this relationship in mind, Israel’s election appears to be the reason why they call Yahweh father (πατήρ) (Deut 32:6).

The language of inheritance (κληρονομία) is employed in the same fashion in Ps 82:8. Sharing the Deuteronomic vision, Psalm 82 narrates a scene in the Divine Council where Yahweh passes judgement on the gods of the nations for their ruling unrighteously (κρίνετε ἀδικίαν, 82:2).6 Echoing the language of Deut 32:8 for the gods of the nations, Yahweh pronounces his judgment in 82:6-7 saying: “I said ‘you are gods (Θεοί), sons of the Most High (υἱοὶ ὑψίστου), all of you; nevertheless you will die like men and fall like any one of the rulers (ἀρχόντων)’.” The psalmist then concludes with the following cry: “Arise, O God, judge the earth (ἀνάστα, ὁ θεός, κρῖνον τὴν γῆν)! For it is you who will inherit all of the nations (κατακληρονομήσεις ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, 82:8).” Corresponding to Deuteronomy, Psalm 82 provides a narrative framework for early Judaism’s understanding of inheritance (κληρονομία) that includes the judgment of the gods of the nations and Yahweh’s restored rule over them.

Philo’s Reception of the Deuteronomic Vision and the “Fathers” of the Nations

In Philo’s interpretation of the territorial law of Deut 19:14, we see an interesting explanation of the identity of the “fathers (πατέρες)” mentioned. In On the Posterity of Cain 89, he states:

“These boundaries were fixed not by the creation to which we belong, but on principles which are divine and are older than we and all that belongs to earth. This has been made clear by the Law, where it solemnly enjoins upon each one of us not to adulterate the coinage of virtue, using these words: ‘thou shalt not remove thy neighbour’s boundaries (ὅρια), which thy fathers (πατέρες) set up’ (Deut. 19:14), and again in other words: ‘Ask thy father and he will show thee; thine elders and they will tell thee. When the Most High distributed nations (διεμέριζεν ὁ ὕψιστος ἔθνη), when He dispersed the sons of Adam, He set boundaries of nations (ὅρια ἐθνῶν) according to the number of the angels of God, and Jacob His people became the Lord’s portion, Israel became the lot of His inheritance (κληρονομίας) (Deut 32:7-9).” (Philo, Posterity 89)

Here Philo sees the “fathers (πατέρες)” in Deut 19:14 not referring to human ancestral patriarchs, but to the angels of God apportioned over the nations, citing Deut 32:7-9.

In The Special Laws 1.13-19 we find further explanation on Philo’s conception of the astral gods of Deuteronomy and their role in God’s cosmic πόλις:

“Some have supposed that the sun and moon and the other stars were gods with absolute powers (θεοὺς αὐτοκράτορας) and ascribed to them the causation of all events. But Moses held that the universe (κόσμος) was created (γενητός) and is in a sense the greatest of commonwealths (πόλις ἡ μεγίστη), having magistrates (ἂρχοντας ἔχουσα) and subjects (ὑπηκόυς); for magistrates (ἄρχοντας), all the heavenly bodies (οὐρανῷ), fixed or wandering; for subjects (ὑπηκόους), such beings as exist below the moon, in the air or on the earth. The said magistrates (ἄρχοντας), however, in his view have not unconditional powers (αὐτεξουσίους), but are lieutenants (ἄρχοντας) of the one Father of All (τοῦ πάντων πατρὸς ὑπάρχους), and it is by copying (μιμουμένους) the example of His government exercised according to law and justice (δίκην καὶ νόμον) over all created beings that they acquit themselves aright; but those who do not descry the Charioteer mounted above attribute the causation of all the events in the universe (κόσμῳ) to the team that draw the chariot as though they were sole agents. From this ignorance our most holy lawgiver would convert them to knowledge with these words: ‘Do not when thou seest the sun and the moon and the stars and all the ordered host of heaven go astray and worship them- Deut 4:19.’  Well indeed and aptly does he call the acceptance of the heavenly bodies as gods going astray or wandering … in supposing that they alone are gods … So all the gods (θεούς) which sense descries in Heaven must not be supposed to possess absolute power (αὐτοκρατεῖς) but to have received the rank of subordinate rulers, naturally liable to correction, though in virtue of their excellence never destined to undergo it.” (Philo, Spec. Laws 1.13-19)7, then the celestial- sun, moon, and stars [Deut 4:19; 1 Cor 15:41]). Paul likens the resurrection body to that of the sun, moon, and stars (1 Cor 15:40-42), even going so far as referring to the resurrected ones as “those who are of heaven (οἱ ἐπουράνιοι, 15:48).” This Pauline complex of language fits the same background and pattern found in Romans 4 as argued in the present study. For a discussion of resurrection and astral immortality in Early Judaism, see below.]

Here, Philo describes the κόσμος as the “greatest of commonwealths (πόλις ἡ μεγίστη),” a kind of heavenly government akin to a Greco-Roman city-state where celestial rulers (ἄρχοντας) are delegated rule over subjects (ὑπηκόυς) that consist of all those who live below the heavens. Philo does not deny the divinity of the celestial bodies, but in his use of Deut 4:19, the logic given to not worship them is simply that they are not gods with “absolute powers (αὐτοκρατεῖς),” but are appointed rulers (ἄρχοντας) under the one God who is “Father of all (του πάντων πατρὸς ὑπάρχους)”. The celestial bodies are to carry out their rule by mimetic (μιμουμένους) participation in God’s own rule of the κόσμος in justice and law (δίκην καὶ νόμον).8 For Philo, the use of the appellation “Father of all (πάντων πατρός)” for God is predicated on his unshared, absolute sovereignty over the cosmic polis.

Later in Spec. Laws 4.184-188, we find the similar conceptual link between rulership and fatherhood described in detail, this time actually connecting these concepts with the potential for human rulers to be “assimilated to God (ἐξομοιώσεως της πρὸς θεόν)”:

“The ruler (ἄρχοντα) should preside (χρή) over his subjects (ὑπηκόων) as a father over his children (πατέρα παίδων) so that he himself may be honoured in return as by true-born sons, and therefore good rulers may be truly called the parents of states and nations (ἐθνῶν) in common, since they show a fatherly and sometimes more than fatherly affection. But those who assume great power to destroy and injure their subjects should be called not rulers but enemies (πονηρότεροι)9 … Now “rule” or “command” is a category which extends and intrudes itself, I might also say, into every branch of life, differing in magnitude and amount … For this is to follow God since He too can do both (for good or for worse) but wills the good only. This was shown both in the creation and in the ordering of the world (κόσμου γένεσίς τε καὶ διοίκησις). He called the non-existent into existence (μὴ ὄντα ἐκάλεσεν εἰς τὸ εἶναι) and produced order from disorder … For He and His beneficent powers (δυνάμεσι) ever make it their business to transmute the faultiness of the worse wherever it exists and convert it to the better. These things good rulers (ἄρχοντας) must imitate (μιμεισθαι) if they have any aspiration to be assimilated to God (ἐξομοιώσεωσ της πρὸς θεόν).” (Philo, Spec. Laws 4.184-188)

Here Philo points out that every ruler (ἄρχοντα) should act as a “father over his children (πατέρα παίδων).” Good rulers may be “truly called parents of the nations (ἐθνῶν).”10 As the celestial bodies were called to mimic (μιμουμένους) the rule of the “Father of all (πάντων πατρός)” in the cosmic government (κόσμος) (previously in Spec. Laws 1:13-19), so to now the human rulers must imitate (μιμεισθαι) the rule of God and his “beneficent powers (δυνάμεσι)” (likely a reference the celestial bodies, or ἂρχοντας ἔχουσα, referred to above in Spec. Laws 1:13) if they wish to be “assimilated to God (ἐξομοιώσεωσ της πρὸς θεόν).”11


 

  1. For support of this idea and further discussion on the Divine Council in Deuteronomy, see Daniel I. Block, The Gods of the Nations: Studies in Ancient Near Eastern National Theology, ETS 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000); Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Canonical Second Temple Literature” (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004), 68-89; idem, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” BS 158 (2001): 52-74; Nathan McDonald, Deuteronomy and the Meaning of Monotheism, FAT 2.1 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003); Patrick D. Miller, “Cosmology and World Order in the Old Testament: The Divine Council as Cosmic-Political Symbol,” HBT 9.2 (1987): 53-78; idem, “God’s Other Stories: On the Margins of Deuteronomic Theology,” in Realia Dei: Essays in Archaeology and Biblical Interpretation in Honor of Edward F. Campbell Jr. at his Retirement, ed. P. Williams et al. (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1999), 185-94; idem, The Religion of Ancient Israel (London: SPCK, 2000), 23-28; Theodore E. Mullen, Jr., The Assembly of the Gods: The Divine Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature, HSM 24 (Harvard: Scholars Press, 1980); Mark S. Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel’s Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts (New York: Oxford, 2001), 41-53; idem, God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 193-214; Ellen White, Yahweh’s Council: Its Structure and Membership, FAT 2.65 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014), 34-38. Heiser’s work is of special importance to the present study as he demonstrates, quite persuasively, that “the pre-exilic Israelite belief in a divine council under the rule of Yahweh was maintained in Israel’s faith after the exile and survived in at least some strains of Judaism well into the Common Era (quote from 258).” For the full study, see Heiser, “Divine Council.” Following this line of thought, McDonald (Deuteronomy, 96), in a discussion of the gods mentioned in 1 Corinthians 8, says of the Apostle Paul: “Paul, it can be argued, is breathing the same spirit as Deuteronomy 32. Other gods exist, but in another sense they are ‘no-gods’ and ‘demons.’ It is only YHWH that is ‘God’. Paul too wants to express the theme in relational terms. There are indeed many gods that exist, but for us (ἡμῖν) there is only one God. The absolute terms are confessional, not ontological.”
  2. For Paul’s engagement with Deuteronomy and its importance for his interpretation of scripture and thought in general, see David Lincicum, Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter with Deuteronomy, WUNT 2.284 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010); Per Jarle Bekken, The Word is Near You: A Study of Deuteronomy 30:12-14 in a Jewish Context, BZNW 144 (Berlin: De Grutyer, 2007); Guy Waters, The End of Deuteronomy in the Epistles of Paul, WUNT 2 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006); Wagner, Heralds; James M. Scott, “Paul’s Use of Deuteronomic Tradition,” JBL 112 (1993): 645-65; Hays, Echoes.
  3. See Lincicum, Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter, 198.
  4. The term “κόσμον” as a gloss for the “host of heaven” appears 4 times in the LXX, twice in Deuteronomy (4:19; 17:3; both discussed here) and twice in Isaiah (24:21; 40:26). It may be important to note here that Isa 24:21 speaks of the day Yahweh will punish the “hosts of heaven (κόσμον τοῦ οὐρανοῦ)” as well as the “kings of the earth (βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς),” which is more than likely speaking of the judgment of the gods of the nations and the corresponding kings, sharing the linguistic and conceptual parallels with Deuteronomy and the narrative of Psalm 82 (see below).
  5. For discussions of the difficult text-critical problem in 32:8 regarding the “angels of God,” see Michael S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” BS 158 (2001): 52-74. This account is more than likely narrating the dispersing of the nations in Gen 11:1-9; the language of “separating the sons of Adam (ὡς διέσπειρεν υἱοὺς Αδαμ)” of Deut 32:8 reflecting the language of the dispersion in Gen 11:8-9, “and from there the Lord God scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth (καὶ ἐκεῖθεν διέσπειρεν αὐτοὺς κύριος ὁ θεὸς ἐπὶ πρόσωπον πάσης τῆς γῆς).”
  6. The tradition of the portrayal of the celestial bodies as the gods/angels of the nations as seen in Deuteronomy will be simply referred to for the remainder of the study as the Deuteronomic Vision. The vision functions as a cosmic-political lens through which many Jews of the period understood their world, their unique relationship to their God with respect to their election, as well as their relationship to the other nations. See e.g. Miller, “Cosmology and World Order.”
  7. The web of connections in Philo’s language here (Spec. Laws 1.13-19) for the celestial bodies (οὐρανῷ) as the rulers or magistrates (ἂρχοντας ἔχουσα) and powers (δυνάμεσι, see Spec. Laws 4.184-188 below) of the cosmos (κόσμος) provides us with an important comparative map when considering Paul’s employment of a similar complex of language for the angels, principalities, and powers (ἄγγελοι, ἀρχαί, ἐξουσίαι, δυνάμεις, cf. Rom 8:38; 1 Cor 6:2-3; 15:24; Eph 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Col 1:16; 2:10, 15) of the cosmos (κόσμος, cf. Rom 4:13; 1 Cor 6:2-3; 8:4-6). An important point for consideration in the present study is Paul’s parallel in 1 Cor 6:2-3 between the expectation that the holy ones will “judge the cosmos (ὑμῖν κρίνεται ὁ κόσμος),” connected with the idea that they will “judge the angels (ἀγγέλους κρινοῦμεν).” Later in 1 Corinthians 15, another important connection is found in the context of a discussion on the glory of the resurrection body. A survey is taken of the terrestrial creatures and then the celestial creatures, following the same pattern of Deut 4:16-19 (the terrestrial- humans, land animals, birds, fish [Deut 4:16-18; 1 Cor 15:39
  8. It is important to note that in Psalm 82, this is precisely why the gods of the nations are to be judged and lose their inheritance (κληρονομία), because they did not maintain the cosmic world order (see Miller, “Cosmology and World Order,” 438-39), but ruled unjustly (κρίνετε ἀδικίαν).
  9. See e.g. Psalm 82.
  10. This is particularly important in Rom 4:17-18 as Abraham is referred to as a “father of many nations (πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν).”
  11. For the proper context see above, Spec. Laws 1.13-19. For a helpful discussion on the meaning of “assimilation to God” in Philo, see George H. van Kooten, Paul’s Anthropology in Context: The Image of God, Assimilation to God, and Tripartite Man in Ancient Judaism, Ancient Philosophy and Early Christianity, WUNT 232 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 181-98; Wendy E. Helleman, “Philo of Alexandria on Deification and Assimilation to God,” SPA 2 (1990): 51-71; David T. Runia, Philo of Alexandria and the Timaeus of Plato, PA 44 (Leiden: Brill, 1986), 341ff. It is surprising that van Kooten does not pick up on Philo’s qualitative reading of the promise to Abraham in Gen 15:5, as it may provide a rich exegetical source Philo could utilize in support of his Platonic notion of “assimilation to God.”

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Paul’s Use of Genesis 15:5 in Romans 4:18 in Light of Early Jewish Deification Traditions: Part 2: Early Jewish Qualitative Interpretation of Genesis 15:5 and Related Texts

This is Part 2 of a series of guest pots by David Burnett. Part 1 is located here. – MSH


 

PART 2 – Early Jewish Qualitative Interpretation of Genesis 15:5 and Related Texts

Philo of Alexandria and the Saying “So Shall Your Seed Be”

In commenting on Genesis 15:5 in Who Is the Heir? 86-87, Philo states:

“When the Lord led him outside He said “Look up into heaven and count the stars, if thou canst count their sum. So shall be thy seed.” Well does the text say “so (οὕτως ἔσται)” not “so many (τοσοῦτον)” that is, “of equal number to the stars.” For He wishes to suggest not number merely, but a multitude of other things, such as tend to happiness perfect and complete. The “seed shall be (οὕτως οὖν ἔσται)”, He says, as the ethereal sight spread out before him, celestial as that is, full of light unshadowed and pure as that is, for night is banished from heaven and darkness from ether. It shall be the very likeness of the stars.”1

Here Philo argues from the grammar of the LXX of Gen 15:5 that the adverb οὕτως should be understood not merely quantitatively but qualitatively as well, suggesting that the promise to become as the very likeness of the stars was the original intention of the scribe. The promise of Gen 15:5 for Philo entails being transformed into beings full of light, being in the “very likeness of the stars,” and participating in their celestial life.2

In Questions and Answers on Genesis, Philo similarly comments on the patriarchal promise of star-like seed as it was retold to Isaac in Gen 26:4a:

“What is the meaning of the words, “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven?” Two things are indicated, in which the nature of all things in general consists, (namely) quantity and quality – quantity in “I will multiply,” and quality in “as the stars.” So may (thy descendants) be pure and far-shining and always be ranged in order and obey their leader and may they behave like the luciform (stars) which everywhere with the splendour of ethereal brightness also illumine all other things.” (QG 4.181)

Philo here again sees implicit within the language “so may thy descendants be” the promise of the ethereal life of the stars. In Gen 26:5, Abraham’s seed will be multiplied as the stars of heaven and be given all these lands “because Abraham obeyed my voice.” For Philo, Abraham acts as the stars act who are always “ranged in order and obey their leader.” In both of these texts Philo seems to axiomatically employ the phrase “so shall your seed be (οὕτως ἔσται τὸ σπέρμα σου)” as if it were to be taken as a kind of adage that was intended to denote celestial immortality.

 

Sirach, Exaltation as the Stars, and the Linking of the Abrahamic and Davidic Promises

In a paraphrase of the Abrahamic promise as reiterated in Gen 22:17, the Greek text of Sirach 44:21 states: “For this reason, God promised him with an oath to bless the nations through his seed, to make him numerous as the grains of dust, and exalt (ἀνυψῶσαι) his seed as the stars, giving them an inheritance (κατακληρονομῆσαι) from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”3 The Greek text of Sirach limits the numeric aspect of the promise to the dust, while becoming as the stars is seen as referring to exaltation (ἀνυψῶσαι). Surprisingly, commentators on Romans 4 universally cite this text as a source for the expansion of the land promise in early Judaism in attempting to determine what it might mean for Paul to “inherit the cosmos,” yet without any reference to or discussion of the significance of the exaltation as the stars as it relates to the inheritance of the earth.4 This exaltation in Sirach 44:21 results in “giving them an inheritance (κατακληρονομῆσαι) from sea to sea,” linking the qualitative interpretation of the Abrahamic promise with the language of the Davidic royal inheritance of Psalm 72:8 (71:8 LXX), “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”5 Later in Sirach 47:11, the link is strengthened all the more with the employment of the language of exaltation, this time speaking of David: “The Lord took away his sins and exalted (ἀνύψωσεν) his power forever; he gave him a covenant of kingship and a glorious throne in Israel.”6

It is important to note that we may find something similar in Rom 4:6-8. In the middle of an argument framed by Genesis 15, Paul introduces David saying that he “also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works.” Paul portrays David as if he were, like Abraham, being “credited righteousness,” quoting from Ps 32:1-2, which speaks of the forgiveness of David’s sins. In a relationship similar, and quite possibly parallel, to that of Sirach 47:11, David’s forgiveness is connected to his receiving the promise of exaltation, almost interchangeably with that of Abraham.7

A similar tradition linking the Abrahamic and Davidic promises in astral terms can be found in Jeremiah 33:19-22, which shares its rhetorical and theological shape with the promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:

“The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Thus says the Lord: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me.”8

The language of day and night coming at their appointed time is more than likely a reference to the greater and lesser lights (sun and moon) and the stars from Gen 1:14-18, where the celestial bodies were “set in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from darkness.” The constancy of the ruling order in heaven kept by the celestial bodies is likened here to the everlasting rule of the Davidic monarch. It is important to note here that instead of the term for “stars” normally used as the referent for the multiplicity of seed in the Abrahamic covenant formula, the author chooses to employ the term “hosts of heaven,” assuming their interchangeability.9

The source of this particular literary pattern of linking the rule of the celestial bodies to the rule of David (or his seed) is more than likely found in Balaam’s prophecy referring to David, and later in early Judaism to the coming Messiah: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth” (Num 24:17).10 Here in Num 24:4 and 16 and Gen 15:1, the Davidic oracle and the Abrahamic promise are both described as a vision (מחזה), both speaking of their seed in astral terms, and both narrating the coming dominion over the land.11

 

Apocalypse of Abraham, the Power of the Stars, and the Rule of Nations

The late first century to mid second century CE text, the Apocalypse of Abraham, re-narrates Abraham’s counting of the stars from Gen 15:5 in the context of an ascent to heaven where he is welcomed above the stars.12 In Apoc. Abr. 20.3-5 the Eternal Mighty One addresses Abraham:

“‘Look from on high at the stars which are beneath you and count them for me and tell me their number!’ And I [Abraham] said, ‘When can I, for I am a man.’ And he said to me ‘As the number of the stars and their power so shall I place for your seed the nations and men, set apart for me in my lot with Azazel’.”13

Here Abraham’s seed is promised not merely the number of the stars, but their power, which is understood in terms of the rule over nations and men, which seem to have been allotted to the Eternal Mighty One or to Azazel and his company.

Taking into account the textual evidence cited above from early Hellenistic as well as Palestinian Jewish sources, I believe it is clear that there existed a tradition within Early Judaism of reading Gen 15:5 (and 22:17 and 26:4) qualitatively as well as quantitatively. Considering the wide diffusion of this particular tradition, it would be fair to assume Paul was not only aware of it, but may have also used it himself in his expounding of the Abrahamic promise in his corpus, and more particularly in Romans 4.

A commonly recurring feature in the qualitative interpretations of the Abrahamic promise is an apparent relationship between becoming as the stars and the rule of the nations.14 Sirach connects exaltation as the stars to the Davidic promise of the inheritance of the nations (44:21). Similarly, in the Apocalypse of Abraham, receiving the power of the stars is connected with being placed over the nations (20:5). At this point in the study it is necessary to pose the following question: How are we to understand the apparent relationship between becoming as the stars of heaven and inheriting the rule of the nations?

  1. All translations of Philo are taken from, Philo, trans. F.H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker et al., LCL (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1929-1987).
  2. For a tracing of the early Jewish tradition of transformation into light in the afterlife as astral symbolism, see Willem F. Smelik, “On Mystical Transformation of the Righteous into Light in Judaism,” JSJ 26.2 (1995): 122-44.
  3. Emphasis added. The reference to the stars is absent in Manuscript B from Qumran, and G and Syriac text also differs. See Patrick W. Skehan and Alexander A. Di Lella, The Wisdom of Ben Sira: A New Translation with Notes, AB 39 (New York: Doubleday, 1987), 504, n.21b-d.
  4. See for example Kenneth Bailey, “St. Paul’s Understanding of the Territorial Promise of God to Abraham,” TR 15.1 (1994), 61; James M. Scott, Paul and the Nations: The Old Testament and Jewish Background of Paul’s Mission to the Nations with Special Reference to the Destination of Galatians, WUNT 84 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1995), 62, 64, 130; Byrne, Romans, 157; Cranfield, Romans 1-8, 239; Dunn, Romans 1-8, 212; Fitzmyer, Romans, 384; Jewett, Romans, 326; Käsemann, Romans, 120; Wright, Romans, 495-96; idem. Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 366, 815, 1005.
  5. See also Zech 9:10. Scott makes an important observation here that in order to demonstrate the absolute sovereignty of the king, Ps 71 (LXX) draws from a list of nations from the table of nations tradition in Genesis 10; see Scott, Paul and the Nations, 62.
  6. The term ἀνυψόω is used elsewhere in Sirach in unrelated contexts, but the term specifically applied in the context of linking the Abrahamic promise of exaltation as the stars, the Davidic promise of inheriting the lands, and David’s reception of the covenant of kingship is significant.
  7. While Talbert rightly recognizes Paul’s use of the rabbinic interpretative practice known as gezerah shawah in connecting the language of “reckon (ἐλογίσθη)” from Gen 15:6 with the use of “reckon (λογίσηται)” in Ps 32:2, that does not rule out the possibility of Paul having a wider framework in mind when linking the Abrahamic and Davidic promises in Romans 4, as well as the letter as a whole. See Charles H. Talbert, Romans, SHBC 24 (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2002), 118. This is not to say however that Paul is intentionally echoing Sirach 44 and 47, or even has them in mind, but that he could be drawing from a pre-existing tradition of reading the promises together in a similar way. An example might be found in Wagner’s observation of a possible link between Abraham in Romans 4 and Christ in 15:8-9, see J. Ross Wagner, Heralds of the Good News: Isaiah and Paul in Concert in the Letter to the Romans, NovTSup 101 (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 309 n 11.
  8. Emphasis added. While acknowledging that the authenticity of this doublet is in question (this section is not present in G), the interest in its citation here is merely to highlight early evidence of the astral connection of the Abrahamic and Davidic promise that appears in both parts of the doublet. Holladay places the addition in the post-exilic period and suggests it has a part to play in NT thinking; see William L. Holladay, Jeremiah 2: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, Chapters 26-52, Hermeneia (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989), 228-231.
  9. It is commonplace in the Hebrew Bible to understand the stars as the host of heaven, angels, or even the gods. See e.g. Deut 4:19; 17:3; Judges 5:20; 2 Kings 17:16; 21:3-5; 23:4-5; 2 Chron 33:3-5; Neh 9:6; Job 38:7; Ps 148:3; Is 14:12-13; 24:21-23; 40:26; 45:12; 48:13; Jer 7:18; 8:2; 19:13; 32:29; 33:22; Dan 8:10; Zeph 1:5.
  10. E.g. T. Levi 18:3; T. Jud. 24:1; 1QM 11:6-7; 4QTestim 9-13; CD 7:18-20. For the messianic use of Num 24:17 in early Judaism, see the discussion of John J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star: Messianism in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2nd ed., ABRL (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010).
  11. The precedent for the literary links between the Abrahamic promise of Genesis 15 and the Davidic oracle of Numbers 24 is more than likely due to intentional composition or redaction. For the historical discussion regarding the formation of these texts in relation to one another see R. E. Clements, Abraham and David: Genesis 15 and its Meaning for Israelite Tradition (Naperville: A. R. Allenson, 1967); Bernard Gosse, “Abraham and David,” JSOT 34.1 (2009): 25-31; idem. David and Abraham: Persian Period Traditions (Pendé: Gabalda, 2010).
  12. Apoc. Abr. is presumed to be a Palestinian apocalypse with a Hebrew Vorlage. For the discussion on dating and provenance, see George W. E. Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature between the Bible and the Mishnah: A Historical and Literary Introduction, 2d ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 285-288; Alexander Kulik, Retroverting Slavonic Pseudepigrapha: Toward the Original of the Apocalypse of Abraham, TCSt 3 (Atlanta: SBL, 2004).
  13. Emphasis added. Translation of the Apocalypse of Abraham is taken from R. Rubinkiewicz, “Apocalypse of Abraham,” OTP 1:681-711. It is important to note that here in Apoc. Ab. 20:5, the author presupposes the allotment of the nations to the heavenly host as in the Deuteronomic vision: “the nations and men, set apart for me in my lot with Azazel.” For the discussion on the “Deuteronomic vision” in the present study, see below.
  14. This is the case as well with the reiterations of the Abrahamic promise of Gen 15:5 in 22:17 and 26:4, as referenced above.

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