Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Great Angel by Margaret Barker, Part 2

Chapter 4

According to Philo, the two cherubim of the temple represent the God of Israel, yet one is male and one is female. Both participated in creation and the mother was called either Knowledge or Wisdom. According to rabbinic tradition (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 3a, Genesis Rabbah 8:1, Clementine Homilies III:54:2) Yahweh was a hermaphrodite and created Adam as a hermaphrodite. Philo did not think Adam was a hermaphrodite, but believed that Yahweh was (God made male and female and created them after his image).

Rabba bar Rab Shila's text of 1 Kings 7:36 described the cherubim as like a man intertwined with his wife. Ezekiel 41:18 implies this by describing the cherubim as having two heads, one of a man and one of a lion, facing away from each other. Yahweh is sometimes described in feminine terms, such as giving birth to Israel (Deuteronomy 32:11,18, Isaiah 42:14, see also Isaiah 45:9-11, Isaiah 49:14-15, Isaiah 66:13).

Digging into the texts, Margaret Barker finds evidence that Yahweh's female aspect or consort, Wisdom, was suppressed by the Deuteronomists (1 Enoch 94:5, Deuteronomy 4:6, Baruch 3:12, Baruch 3:36-37, Pistis Sophia). Kabbalistic writings speak of the exile of the female aspect of Yahweh called Shekinah. Jeremiah calls this figure the Queen of Heaven (Jeremiah 44:17-18). A female god is also mentioned in Micah 5:3 and Isaiah 7:14.

In the Deuteronomic writings, the goddess Asherah is always linked with Ba'al, however in extra-Biblical Hebrew writings, Asherah is linked with Yahweh, and in Canaanite texts of the first millennium, she is never linked with Ba'al. It seems the Deuteromists connected Asherah with Ba'al in an effort to discredit both, but Asherah was originally Yahweh's consort, not Ba'al's.

In Isaiah, a female herald brings news to Zion and Jerusalem (Isaiah 40:9, 61:1-4) but later becomes identified with the city itself (Isaiah 54:7), a city which is abandoned by her husband (Isaiah 49:14) and deprived of her children (Isaiah 54:1). Perhaps this was why the city of New Jerusalem married the Lamb in the New Testament (Revelation 21:9-14). The woman in labor from Isaiah (Isaiah 66:7) becomes the woman clothed with the sun (Revelation 12:1-6) which indicates that John saw her as a goddess.

We know Asherah was worshiped in Israel, since we are repeatedly told that she was purged from the Temple (2 Kings 23:6-7, 18:4, 21:7, 13:6, 23:6, 1 Kings 15:13, 18:19, 18:40). These purgings didn't seem to take effect, since she always seemed to come back. She is described by Ezekiel in terms similar to Lady Atirat, consort of El and mother to seventy sons in the Ugaritic literature.

We also know she was Yahweh's consort from archealogical evidence. There are inscriptions mentioning "Yahweh and his Asherah" at Kuntillet 'Ajrud and Khirbet-el-Qom. There is a cultic stand at Taanach which has two Asherah scenes and two Yahweh scenes. Asherah is sometimes depicted as a tree (see Deuteronomy 16:21, 7:5, 12:3, 1 Kings 14:23, 14:15, 16:33, 2 Kings 17:10, 17:16, Proverbs 3:18, Sirach 24:13-22) while Yahweh was depicted as a sun horse. Female figurines have been found at many Israelite sites, including at the royal palace of Ramath Rachel, indicating that worship of a female deity was not limited to the common people. Horse figurines, some with sun disks around their heads, have also been found in Jerusalem, not far from the temple (see 2 Kings 23:11, Revelation 19:11-16).

In one version of 1 Enoch 10:1, the archangel who warns Noah about the Flood is named Istrael, the Greek version of the Hebrew Ishtarel which is very similar to the Babylonian goddess Ishtar who laments the Flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Not only was Yahweh's female aspect called the Spirit of God or Wisdom in the Old Testament, but many early Christians considered the Holy Spirit of the trinity to be female. The greatest church in Byzantium was named Hagia Sophia after Wisdom. Words Matthew 23:34 attributes to Jesus are attributed to Wisdom in Luke 11:49 and Paul describes Jesus as the Wisdom of God in 1 Corinthians 1:24.

Chapter 5

The Prayer of Joseph, an early Jewish work which has not survived the ravages of time, but is quoted in part by Origen, says that the archangel Israel was chief captain of the heavenly hosts before coming to earth as Jacob. According to the gnostic text On the Origin of the World, Jesus became the angel Israel ('the man who sees God').

The angel Jaoel, Joel, or Yahoel (whose name is a combination of Yahweh and El) is described in the Apocalypse of Abraham as being robed in purple with a rainbow turban. He carries a golden scepter, and has white hair and a body like sapphire. He lives in the seventh heaven. This angel also appears in the Slavonic Life of Adam and Eve 31 and the Apocalypse of Moses 43:15. In 3 Enoch, this archangel reveals that he is better known as Metatron, and he used to be the man known as Enoch (3 Enoch 4:3). Metatron is also mentioned in b. Sanhedrin 38b.

In apocalyptic writings, humans are referred to as animals and angels are referred to as men. Thus, when Noah is born a bull and becomes a man (1 Enoch 89:1) and Moses is a sheep who becomes a man (1 Enoch 89:36), what's really being described is the process of them becoming angels. The New Testament describes Jesus going through a similar transformation (Philippians 2:9-11).

Metatron is known as the Little Yahweh, which implies there were two Yahwehs. Many early Christian and gnostic texts refer to two different Lords or Yahwehs (Pistis Sophia, Book of Jeu, Gannat Bussame, Sirach 51:10, Ascension of Isaiah 9:40, 10:7, Eusebius, 1 Corinthians 8:5-6)

Some places refer to just four archangels, while others refer to seven. Adding these together may explain why Yahweh is said to have eleven names. 1 Enoch 20 names the seven archangels as Uriel (2 Esdras 2:48, 4:1), Raphael (Book of Tobit), Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel (Daniel 8:16, 9:21), and Remiel (2 Esdras 4:36, Apocalypse of Zephaniah, 2 Baruch 55:3, 63:6). Enoch gives each angel a different role, however their roles seemed to be interchangeable.

Yahweh tries to kill Moses in Exodus 4:24, however in Jubilees 48:1-3, it is the angel Mastema who tries to kill Moses instead. 1 Enoch mentions a couple other fallen angels: Azazel and Semjaza. Fragmentary texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls indicate that the Prince of Darkness was also known as Satan or Melchiresa, while the Prince of Light was also called Michael and Melchizedek.

Melchizedek appears only twice in the Old Testament (Genesis 14, Psalms 110). Both references indicate that he is a priest of El Elyon (not Yahweh). However, the 11QMelch fragment presents Melchizedek as not a priest, but an angel. He is the judge of the council of gods in Psalms 82:1 and the one heralded in Isaiah 52:7 (see also Isaiah 61:1).

In the Kabbalah, Yahweh is Adam, the primordial man.

Chapter 6

In the Old Testament, "Yahweh" and the "Name of Yahweh" are sometimes used synonymously, but sometimes refer to two different figures. The Name, or the Logos, was an important concept to Philo. In Exodus, the priests wore a golden plate on their turban which said "Holy to Yahweh", however Philo records a different tradition in which the golden plate said simply YHWH, indicating that the priest was a stand in for Yahweh.

It was originally thought that Yahweh himself sat upon the cherubim throne in the Temple of Solomon, but the Deuteronomists criticized this idea.

But will God indeed dwell on earth? Behold heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built. (1 Kings 8:27)
Would you build a house for me to dwell in? [Your son] shall build a house for my Name. (2 Samuel 7:5,13)

The Deuteronomists tell us Yahweh's Name dwells in the Temple, not Yahweh himself. According to the Gospel of Truth 38 and other gnostic texts, the Name is the Son of God. There are Greek magical papyri which give the name of the god of the Jews as Jesus. Jesus and Yahweh were one and the same. "I conjure you by the God of the Hebrews, Jesus" or "Hail God of Abraham; hail, God of Isaac, hail, God of Jacob, Jesus Chrestos, the Holy Spirit, the son of the Father." The fact that two different versions of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) both forbid taking the Name in vain, may be a reference to this magical practice of invocation.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Great Angel by Margaret Barker, Part 1

The Great Angel by Margaret Barker

Margaret Barker's book The Great Angel is incredibly dense, so I'm unable to provide a full summary of everything. I highly recommend everyone get a copy and read it for themselves. Her book does assume a readership with some knowledge of Biblical studies, so if you're not already familiar with the scholarship, parts may be confusing.

Chapter 1

In the Old Testament, the phrase "son of God" is sometimes used to refer to angels, and sometimes used to refer to kings or the people of Israel. However, there are different words for God in Hebrew. Sons of El Elyon, El, or Elohim are always heavenly beings, i.e. angels, whereas sons of Yahweh, Lord, or the Holy One are always humans. This indicates that Yahweh is not the Most High God, but rather one of the sons of El Elyon.

Turning to the New Testament, Jesus is called the son of the Most High, that is the son of El Elyon (Luke 1:32, Mark 5:7), but not the son of Yahweh or the son of the Lord. In fact, Jesus is called Lord himself, which is the phrase New Testament writers use to refer to Yahweh (compare Deuteronomy 6:5 with Luke 10:27).

Yahweh is the most prominent son of El Elyon in Biblical literature, but other sons of El Elyon also make appearances. The sons of El Elyon in Genesis 6:2-4 who fathered children with human women are named in 1 Enoch 6:7 and 59:2.

In the LXX and Qumran version of Deuteronomy 32:8-9, El Elyon divides the world up into different nations, one for each of his sons. Yahweh gets Israel, while the other gods get the other nations. These sons of god also appear in Deuteronomy 32:43, LXX and DSS versions, and are referred to in Hebrews 1:6. These rival gods, also called messengers or angels, also appear in Isaiah 14:32. They are called princes in Daniel 10:13-14 where they fight against Yahweh and the archangel Michael.

These rival gods challenge Yahweh in Job 1:6, although you can't tell that from most English translations: "Now there was a day when the sons of El Elyon set themselves against Yahweh and Satan came also among them." Here we learn that Satan is one of the other sons of El Elyon, making him Yahweh's brother and fellow god. In the Book of Job, Yahweh is not the highest god, but rather just one amongst many and he is challenged to prove that Job is loyal only to him. The sons of El Elyon get mentioned again in Job 38:7: Yahweh asks Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? [...] when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of El shouted for joy?" The creation of the other sons of El (angels) are mentioned in Jubilees 2:1,4.

Psalms also mentions the sons of El Elyon. In Psalm 29:1, they are told to acknowledge Yahweh (often translated as Lord in English). Psalm 89:6 tells us Yahweh is feared amongst the council of gods. Psalm 58 and 82 describe the judgement placed upon the sons of El Elyon. "You are Elohim (plural form of God in Hebrew), sons of Elyon (the Most High), all of you..." (Psalms 82:6)

One like a son of God appears in the fiery furnace in Daniel 3:25. 2 Esdras 13:22-26, and 2 Esdras 2:42:-48 present one of the sons of Elyon as the deliverer of Israel. There is also the Qumran fragment 4Q Son of God: "He shall be hailed as the son of El and they shall call him the son of Elyon." In apocalyptic literature such as Daniel and Revelation, the sons of El are referred to as being like men (for example, Daniel 9:21 calls the angel Gabriel a man), whereas mortals are called animals.

Chapter 2

A great reform occurred in ancient Israel when the Book of Deuteronomy was "discovered" (2 Chronicles 34-35, 2 Kings 22-23). History was rewritten to conform to the new laws, although books such as 1 Enoch and parts of Isaiah preserve the pre-Deuteronomic religion of Israel. Interestingly, there is no mention of Moses in any Jewish writings until after the Babylonian exile. He appears to have been introduced by the writers of Deuteronomy as part of their attempt to elevate the Law above Wisdom (Deuteronomy 4:5-6).

Part of this new Law was the prohibition against worshiping gods other than Yahweh. Thus history had to be rewritten to remove reference to the other gods, although, as we have seen, traces of Israel's previous polytheism remain.

I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as El Shaddai, but by my name Yahweh I did not make myself known to them. (Exodus 6:2-3)

"You are my witness," says Yahweh, "I am El, and also henceforth, I am He." (Isaiah 43:12-13)

Yahweh thundered in the heavens, and Elyon uttered his voice. (Psalms 18:13) 

The Israelite and Canaanite myths are very similar. The theophanies of Yahweh resemble the appearances of the Canaanite storm god Ba'al Haddu (Job 38, Ezekiel 1:4, Isaiah 24:19-23, 34:8-10, 42:13-15, 59:16-19). Yahweh's heaven resembles the Canaanite court of El. The son of man vision in Daniel 7 has similarities to the depictions of Ba'al and El in the Ugaritic texts. This relationship gets carried over into the New Testament in the parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46) where the king (the Son of Man) acknowledges a superior Father.

During the period of Deuteronomic reform, multiple gods were combined into a single entity, however not all the Israelites went along with this. Worship of El and Yahweh as two separate gods fulling the roles of Father and Son continued all throughout Jewish history and eventually spun off into the new religion of Christianity.

Chapter 3

Psalm 89 depicts Yahweh as the greatest of the Holy Ones in heaven. In Daniel, these Holy Ones or Watchers bring Yahweh's decrees to earth (Daniel 4:14). Two of them discuss the fate of Jerusalem in Daniel 8:13 and they are promised the kingdom of Elyon (Daniel 7:18, 25, 27).

The Holy Ones are Yahweh's entourage when he comes as King (Deuteronomy 33:2-3, Zechariah 14:1-9, 1 Enoch 1:2,9, also quoted in Jude 14). The early Christians expected Jesus to come just like Yahweh and refer to him as a Holy One (Mark 1:24)

The house of David shall be like Elohim, like the angel of Yahweh at their head. (Zechariah 12:8)

In some sections of the Bible, the words god and angel are used interchangeably (Psalms 34:7, Psalms 35:5-6, 2 Samuel 24:16-17, 2 Kings 1:3, 2 Kings 15, Exodus 14:19), although in later sections a clear distinction is made between angels and gods. However, there are far more passages in which Yahweh and Angel of Yahweh are used interchangeably (Zechariah 3:1-7, Genesis 16, Genesis 18, Genesis 48:15-16, Judges 5:23, Judges 6:11-16, Judges 13:3,22, Genesis 22:12, 2 Kings 19:34-35, Isaiah 37:35-36). When Moses talks to the burning bush (Exodus 3:2-7), the Angel of Yahweh, Elohim, and Yahweh all speak to him at different times, indicating these terms were used as synonyms, although early Christians may have read the trinity into this story.

Yahweh had the form of a man and carried a sword filled with blood (Isaiah 34:6). He protected Israel and did battle with their enemies. He appointed their high priest and was their redeemer and judge. Ezekiel described Yahweh as being bronze from the waist up and made of fire from the waist down with a rainbow surrounding him (Ezekiel 1:27-28). Daniel describes a similar figure made of bronze and fire (Daniel 10:5-6). In Daniel 7, Yahweh (Son of Man) is depicted as the young warrior god succeeding the elderly El Elyon (Ancient of Days).

The four names of the Messiah, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) are summarized in the LXX as simply "The Angel of Great Council." This great fourfold angel was divided up into four different angels: Gabriel (Literally Strength of God. This is Yahweh as El Gibbor or Mighty God as in Isaiah 10:21), Raphael (Healing of God. This is Yahweh as healer as in Exodus 15:26 and Psalms 30:2), Phanuel (Presence of God, later became Uriel, Light of God invoked in the high priestly blessing of Numbers 6:25), and Michael (Who is Like God? the incomparable Yahweh of Isaiah 40:18,25). Michael was the Wonderful Counsellor (since Yahweh's incomparability lay in his wisdom Job 38-39, Isaiah 40, 43), Gabriel was Mighty God, Raphael was Everlasting Father and Phanuel was Prince of Peace.

Throughout the Bible, kings are said to be the sons of Yahweh and worshipped as if they were Yahweh (1 Chronicles 29:20,23, 1 Chronicles 28:6, Zephaniah 1:5). Kings of other nations are also described as gods. The Babylonian king is associated with a god called the Day Star, one of the sons of El in the Ugaritic texts. Day Star is also called Lucifer, not to be confused with Satan who is a different god altogether (Isaiah 14:12). Just like the planet Venus (a.k.a the morning star) is the brightest object in the sky before sunrise, so too Day Star appears to be the mightiest god. However, when the sun does rise, Babylon's god, like Venus, will disappear in the face of the sun (Yahweh). Yahweh vows to destroy another god in Ezekiel 28:12-19, this one associated with the King of Tyre. Moses is said to be a King and a God in some extra canonical sources (Philo's Life of Moses 1:155-158, the Exodus of Ezekiel the Dramatist).

The word "branch" is used to refer to kings, such as the King of Babylon (Isaiah 14:19), Ptolemy III Euergetes (Daniel 11:7), and the royal prince of the house of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1).

Leviticus 16 describes a ritual in which the sins of the people are placed upon a goat which is driven out into the desert "for" Azazel, although the Hebrew can also be translated "as" Azazel, meaning the goat is being punished for Azazel's rebellion in 1 Enoch 10:5 and The Book of Giants from the Dead Sea Scrolls. A second goat, perhaps representing Yahweh, is slain for purposes of atonement. Thus, the god symbolically dies for the sins of the people which becomes a major idea in Christianity later on.