The Divine Man?

The concept of a pre-existent and semi-divine or divine being may very well have had its roots in Judaism. Paul who makes claim to being a Pharisee and a Hebrew of Hebrews would very well have been acquainted with these doctrines. Jewish mystical texts are full of apocalyptic literature, which is based on ecstatic visions. There are numerous references to out of body experiences similar to Paul’s as mentioned in 2 Cor. 12:2-5. In Jewish Merkabah mysticism the voyager often speaks as though he is actually going from place to place in heaven, yet we know from the frame of reference that the adept’s body is on earth. Paul speaks at a time before these distinctions were clear or accepted by his community and he states he is not sure whether his experience took in or out of the body. It suffices to inform us that he was acquainted with the literature. Also Paul does not use the concept of the soul (psyche) to affect his heavenly travel but refers to the spirit (pneuma) more frequently. This suggests that Paul understood being in Christ as a literal exchange of earthly body for a new, pneumatic one to be shared with the resurrected Yahshua at the eschaton (last or final things). At the time of Paul’s writing the ancient world did not support the concept of soul as it now does. It was but shortly after that they adopted the Platonic notion of the soul, which answers the question for them as it now does for us distinguishing between bodily and spiritual journeys. Paul however conceived his journey without a developed concept of the soul. Since Paul’s account was an experience of a journey by means of a spiritual body, it seems warranted to call it an ecstatic or paranormal experience, rather than a physical transport, though Paul himself would caution against claims of authority based on ecstasy.

What was the Jewish cultural context informing Paul’s experience? Ezekiel 1 was one of the central scriptures that Luke, and Paul used to understand Paul’s conversion. The vision of the throne-chariot of G-d in Ezekiel 1, with it attendant description of the Glory (Kavod), G-d’s Glory or form, for the human figure, is a central image of Jewish mysticism, which is closely related to apocalyptic tradition. The name merkabah – that is throne- chariot mysticism, which is the usual Jewish designation for these mystical traditions as early as the mishnaic period (ca. 220 C.E.; see Mishna Hagigas 2.1) conveyance described in Ezekiel 1. To support the theory that the entire liturgy is pre-Christian has been validated by the Qumran texts of the Angelic Liturgy and could not have appeared later than the First Century C.E. and confirms the same themes of Jewish mysticism that until to now could only be dated to the third century from mystical sources. It contains many oblique references to the divine hierarchies, the seven heavens inside one another, and the appearance and movements of G-d’s throne-chariot, familiar to scholars of merkabah mysticism. First Enoch and Ezekiel. 1 seem to be the informing scriptural passages, but the hierarchy of heavens is best known from such merkabah documents as the Reuyoth Yehezkel ( The visions of Ezekiel).

In the Hebrew Bible G-d is sometimes described in human form. Exodus 23:21 mentions an angel who has the form of man and who carries within him or represents “the name of G-d.” A human figure on the divine throne described in Ezekiel. I, Daniel 7, and Exodus 24, among other places, and was blended into a consistent picture of a principal mediator figure who like the angel of the Lord in Exodus 23, embodied, personified, or carried the name of G-d, YHVH, the Tetragrammaton. This figure, ELABORATED ON BY JEWISH TRADITION, WOULD BECOME A CENTRAL METAPHOR FOR CHRIST IN CHRISTIANITY.

Several Jewish traditions discuss the eikon or image of G-d as Adam’s prelapsarian appearance, an especially glorious and splendid form that humanity lost when Adam sinned. The human figure on the merkabah described by Ezekiel is called “the appearance of the likeness of the Glory of the Lord”. Thus, G-d’s Glory of Kavod can be a technical term for G-d’s human appearances.

In Daniel 7:13 Daniel in his vision describes what he calls an “ancient of days” appoints a human figure (“one like a son of man”) to execute justice in the destruction of the evil ones. The human figure is best understood as an angel. In Dan. 12.3 resurrection is promised both for the faithful dead and for the most heinous villains who will be resurrected so that they may be sentenced to eternal perdition. (Perdition, eternal ruin, destruction, eternal death) Those who are wise, the elite of the apocalyptic group, will then shine in heaven. This scripture implies that the leaders will be transformed into angels, since stars were identified with angels in the biblical tradition (e.g., Job 38:7)

The preeminence of the enigmatic (anything inexplicable, obscure statement or question; riddle) human figure is due primarily to the description of the angel of the Lord in Exodus 23:20-21 states: “Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice, do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him.” The Bible expresses the unique status of this angel by means of it participation in the divine name.

Moses asks to see the Glory of G-d. In answer, G-d makes “his goodness” pass in front of him but he cautions, “You cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live…Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand upon the rock (refuge/Yahshua); and while my Glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock (refuge/Yahshua), and I will cover you with my hand (Power) until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.” (G-D DOES NOT REVEAL HIMSELF AS HE IS BUT ONLY IN THE IMAGE OF YAHSHUA) YHVH himself, the angel of G-d, and his Glory are peculiarly melded together, suggesting a deep secret about the ways G-d manifested himself to humanity. (COMPOSITE-UNITY)

The Septuagint, the second century B.C.E. translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, identifies the figure on the throne in Ezekiel. 1:26 with the form (edios) of man. This term has a philosophical history dating from Plato’s Parmenides 130c, where edios means the idea of man. For Platonists, edios meant the unchanging immortal idea of man that survives death. Because of Plato’s fortunate use of language, Hellenistic Jews could reinterpret the phrase “form of man” to mean edios. So for Jewish mystics like Philo, the figure of man on the divine throne described in Genesis, Exodus, Ezekiel, Daniel and the Psalms (forming the basis of the son of man speculation) was also understood as the ideal and immortal man. His immortality and glorious appearance were things, which Adam possessed in the Garden of Eden and lost when he sinned. In this form, the traditions concerning the son of man are centuries older than Christianity, and Paul, as we shall see, uses them to good advantage.

In the Hellenistic period many new interpretations of Ezekiel, 1:26 grew up. In various Jewish sects and conventiclers (a secret meeting, a meeting of religious dissenters; their meeting place,) the foremost name given to the figure on the throne is YAHOEL. The first century Apocalypse of Abraham presents YAHOEL as a version of the divine name, since it is a combination of the Tetragrammaton and a suffix denoting angelic stature. Yahoel appears in chapters 10 and 11, where he is described as the one, “in whom G-d’s ineffable name dwells.”

Now let us look into this study. Go to Ezekiel Introduction