Ep48-Monotheism & the Hierarchy of Divine Beings in 2nd Temple Judaism (Pt 2)-Of God and Gods Ch 3

Topics Discussed:
• The Hierarchy of Holiness in the Heavenly Temple
• Strict Monotheism in Second Temple Judaism: An Assessment of the Argument

Show Notes:

The Hierarchy of Holiness in the Heavenly Temple

“Both Jewish and Christian sources present a continuum of divine beings that form a hierarchy, with God as the Most High and with a chief agent or vizier as second only to God, together with a retinue of other divine beings. The basis of this hierarchical view of divinity was undoubtedly the floor-plan of the temple, with outer courts open to all but becoming holier and more restricted to entrance as the worshipper progressed toward the center—the Holy of Holies where God dwells.”

“The celestial temple was envisioned as a series of hekhalot, concentric chambers, which occupy various heavens. Therefore, the journey through the various levels of heaven was described as a journey through increasingly holy rooms of the temple to the holiest of the chambers found at the very center, the Holy of Holies. God is enthroned in the Holy of Holies, and only those beings who approach or approximate his holiness can withstand his glory and presence.”

3 Enoch

“in the Hebrew or 3 Enoch, the heavens became compared to hekhalot or halls of the heavenly temple which became more restricted and holier as one ascended, with the Holy of Holies found in the highest heaven.”

The Testament of Levi

“In the Testament of Levi (ca. 180 b.c.), an angel appears to Levi and ushers him through seven heavens.”

2 Enoch

“A similar scene is presented 2 Enoch (Slavonic Enoch, ca. 70 a.d.) where Enoch ascends through seven heavens.23 Each successive heaven is more glorious.”

The Apocalypse of Abraham

“The Apocalypse of Abraham (written soon after 70 a.d.) also presents a vision of the Holy of Holies in the seventh heaven surrounded by concentric circles of lesser holiness.”

The Ascension of Isaiah

“The Christian work known as the Ascension of Isaiah dates from the late first or early second century (about 90 to 125 a.d.) and provides a stunning glimpse into an early Christian view of the hierarchy of divine beings.”

“The Qumran covenantors evince their conviction that they enter into the presence of God’s throne and actually join the assembly of the divine beings or gods (1QH 6:13f; 3:2ff; 11:10ff; 1QS 11.5–10). Such a practice is the ultimate expression of belief in deification or becoming like God through ritual means. ”

“Ultimately the view that divinity is a continuum of glory or a hierarchy of authority is reflected in the earthly temple that is patterned after the heavenly temple. It is sanctified and set apart by means of increasing sacredness and power as one journeys from the outer courts of the temple toward its center where God is seated on his throne, represented by the ark of the covenant and the cherubim.”

The Odes of Solomon

“The Odes of Solomon, a very early Jewish-Christian hymnal, probably written in Antioch, dates from about 100 a.d.30 It reflects a very similar view to that expressed in the Dead Sea Scrolls and also has significant contacts with the Ascension of Isaiah.”

“the Odes and the Ascension of Isaiah vividly demonstrate the influence upon Christianity of the Jewish view of the hierarchical heavens and the hierarchy of authority among the heavenly beings who inhabit them.”


“These same themes of ascension and investiture appear in the book of Revelation which states repeatedly that the Name of God is written on the foreheads of the saints who become priests officiating in the heavenly temple: “He who conquers, I will make a pillar in the temple of my God; never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and . . . my own new name” (Rev. 3:12; see 7:2–3).”

“the early Christian and Jewish accounts of heavenly journeys and worship are not just literary phenomena: they express a powerful and popular view of divine visions and revelation. The entire community saw itself as being transformed into divine beings to join the divine council in songs of praise and worship alongside the divine beings in the heavenly temple.”

Justin Martyr

“Justin argues that there is a second figure in heaven next to God who is also called “God” and “Lord.”

“it was actually Christ who appeared in visions in the Old Testament bearing the name “the Lord” as the agent of the Father. Justin also emphasized that Genesis 1:27 is a genuine dialogue between two truly “numerically distinct” (<Greek script>) divine beings who address each other as an “other.”

Strict Monotheism in Second Temple Judaism: An Assessment of the Argument

“There are competent scholars on the literature of Second Temple Judaism who maintain that Jews during the Second Temple period monolithically adopted a strict monotheism that defined God as unique in terms of the ontological gulf inherent in the Creator/creature dichotomy.”

“What Bauckham appears to mean is that what God is must be definitive of who God is since, necessarily, there is only one instance of its kind. Thus, the very referent “God” essentially entails that God is the only Creator and the sole sovereign. It follows that the use of the term “gods” is a type of category mistake if one accepts Bauckham’s view. ”

“I suggest that Bauckham’s position is not sustainable. The notion of “species” differentiation is simply unsustainable in a religion where the relation of father to a “first-born son” and to “sons” and “children of God” is the dominant image to express the relation to gods and divine beings.”

“ The view that there were other divine beings who shared in the divine glory allowed the first Christians to see Jesus Christ as having been exalted by the one God to share fully in the same monarchical and divine status.”


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