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TWO POWERS IN HEAVEN: Christian Heresy or Theology of the TANAKH? “The basic heresy involved interpreting scripture to say that a principal angelic or hypostatic manifestation in heaven was equivalent to God.” The idea of the 2 nd power was not considered heretical until the 2 nd century C.E.

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TWO POWERS IN HEAVEN:Christian Heresy or Theology of the TANAKH?


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“The basic heresy involved interpreting scripture to say that a principal angelic or hypostatic manifestation in heaven was equivalent to God.”

The idea of the 2nd power was not considered heretical until the 2nd century C.E.

Segal, Two Powers in Heaven, p. x-xi (Introduction)


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Other scholars have made similar observations, namely that the rabbinic polemic of late antiquity against two powers in heaven arose from "rabbinic unease about much material in the Hebrew Bible which seemed too close to paganism for comfort.”

P. Hayman, “Monotheism—A Misused Word in Jewish Studies?” Journal of Jewish Studies 42:1 (Spring 1991): 12


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Points of Potential Confusion the rabbinic polemic of late antiquity against two powers in heaven arose from

  • I’m not describing Zoroastrianism, though the rabbis opposed that dualistic system

    • Zoroastrianism had one evil, one good power

    • This pre-dates the rabbinic debate and heresy-hunt

  • I’m not describing Gnosticism’s “True God” (the good guy) vs. the Demiurge (the evil God of the OT)

    • The rabbis included this as a two powers heresy, but distinguished it from our focus today: two deities equal in essence that were good.


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CURIOUS TEXTS the rabbinic polemic of late antiquity against two powers in heaven arose from


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Genesis 19:24 the rabbinic polemic of late antiquity against two powers in heaven arose from

YHWH rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulfurous fire from YHWH out of heaven.

Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society (1997)


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Genesis 19:24 the rabbinic polemic of late antiquity against two powers in heaven arose from

YHWH rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulfurous fire from YHWH out of heaven.

Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society (1997)


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Amos 4:11 the rabbinic polemic of late antiquity against two powers in heaven arose from

I have wrought destruction among you, as when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah; You have become like a brand plucked from burning.Yet you have not turned back to Me—declares YHWH.

Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society (1997)


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Amos 4:11 the rabbinic polemic of late antiquity against two powers in heaven arose from

I have wrought destruction among you, as when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah; You have become like a brand plucked from burning.Yet you have not turned back to Me—declares YHWH.

Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society (1997)


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Isaiah 13:17a, 19 the rabbinic polemic of late antiquity against two powers in heaven arose from

Behold, I stir up the Medes against them … And Babylon, glory of kingdoms, proud splendor of the Chaldeans, shall become like Sodom and Gomorrah, overturned by God.

Jeremiah 51:11 – The LORD has roused the spirit of the kings of Media, for his plan against Babylon is to destroy her . . .


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Isaiah 13:17a, 19 the rabbinic polemic of late antiquity against two powers in heaven arose from

Behold, I stir up the Medes against them … And Babylon, glory of kingdoms, proud splendor of the Chaldeans, shall become like Sodom and Gomorrah, overturned by God.


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FOUNDATIONAL TEXTS the rabbinic polemic of late antiquity against two powers in heaven arose from


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יְהוָ֖ה אִ֣ישׁ מִלְחָמָ֑ה יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃

YHWH is a man of war;

YHWH is his name.

Exodus 15:3


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  • Segal (pp. 33-35) cites the Mekhilta of Rabbi Simeon ben Ishmael (MRSbY), noting that in MRSbY the two powers in heaven issue is introduced as an exegetical comment on the two statements made about YHWH in Exodus 15:3 –

    • “YHWH is a man of war” is to be interpreted as a descriptive statement referring to God’s manifestation as a young warrior when he destroyed the Egyptians at the Red Sea. “YHWH is his name” is necessary because at Sinai he will reveal Himself as an old man, showing mercy. Hence it is important to realize that the same God is speaking in both cases, though the manifestations look different.


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The rabbis argued: Ishmael (MRSbY), noting that in MRSbY the two powers in heaven issue is introduced as an exegetical comment on the two statements made about YHWH in Exodus 15:3 –

man of war = a manifestation or “mode” or YHWH in his justice

the revelation of YHWH’s name in the burning bush = YHWH in his mercy.

There were not two YHWHs, but one YHWH appearing in twoforms.

The POINT


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  • Segal notes that the proof-text used by rabbis for this thinking is Daniel 7:9-13 -

    • As I looked on, Thrones were set in place, And the Ancient of Days took His seat. His garment was like white snow, And the hair of His head was like lamb’s wool. His throne was tongues of flame; Its wheels were blazing fire. A river of fire streamed forth before Him; Thousands upon thousands served Him; Myriads upon myriads attended Him; The court sat and the books were opened. . . . One like a human being Came with the clouds of heaven; He reached the Ancient of Days And was presented to Him. Dominion, glory, and kingship were given to him; All peoples and nations of every language must serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, And his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed.


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There is no “name” mentioned. thinking is Daniel 7:9-13 -

The “son of man” to be identified with the young warrior is never described as a warrior.

In fact, it is the Ancient of Days and his council that kill the fourth beast in the rest of the chapter.

The prooftext could actually be used to argue two separate deities.

PROBLEMS


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  • Segal admits this problem: thinking is Daniel 7:9-13 -

    • “[Daniel 7] describes a heavenly enthronement scene involving two divine manifestations, ‘the son of man’ and ‘the Ancient of Days’. . . . Not only does [Daniel 7:9ff.] allow the interpretation that God changes aspect, it may easily be describing two separate, divine figures. More than one throne is revealed and scripture describes two divine figures to fill them.”


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יְהוָ֖ה אִ֣ישׁ מִלְחָמָ֑ה יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃

YHWH is a man of war;

YHWH is his name.

Exodus 15:3


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MODE 1: יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃ YHWH = a man of war (violence)

MODE 2: YHWH’s name = mercy; deliverance

Exodus 15:3


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1. יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃What if these “modes” were fused into one entity – that is, the same entity is identified as the man of war and with the name?

QUESTIONS

2. What if this entity (who subsumes the “modes”) appeared with YHWH in the same scene?


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MODE 1: יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃YHWH = a man of war (violence)

Joshua 5:13 Once, when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him, drawn sword in hand (וְחַרְבּ֥וֹ שְׁלוּפָ֖ה בְּיָד֑וֹ). Joshua went up to him and asked him, “Are you one of us or of our enemies?” 14 He replied, “No, I am captain of the YHWH’s host. Now I have come!” Joshua threw himself face down to the ground and, prostrating himself, said to him, “What does my lord command his servant?” 15 The captain of the YHWH’s host answered Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Where else?


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MODE 1: יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃ YHWH = a man of war (violence)

= The Angel of YHWH

(מלאך יהוה)

The POINT


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 יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃

MODE 2: YHWH’s name = mercy; deliverance

Does the Angel, the “warrior mode” ever appear as, or in conjunction with, the Name of YHWH, or in a “mercy mode” deliverance context?




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Exodus 3 יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃

1 Now Moses, tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, drove the flock into the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 An angel of YHWH appeared to him in a blazing fire out of a bush. He gazed, and there was a bush all aflame, yet the bush was not consumed. 3 Moses said, “I must turn aside to look at this marvelous sight; why doesn’t the bush burn up?” 4 When YHWH saw that he had turned aside to look, God called to him out of the bush: “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.” 5 And He said, “Do not come closer. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. 6 I am,” He said, “the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God . . . 13 Moses said to God, “When I come to the Israelites and say to them ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 And God said to Moses, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh.” He continued, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites, ‘Ehyeh sent me to you.’”






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 יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃

Let’s reverse the last question:

Is the Name, the “mercy mode” of YHWH ever linked with the Angel, the “warrior mode”?




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Exodus 23 יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃

20  I am sending an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have made ready. 21 Pay heed to him and obey him. Do not defy him, for he will not pardon your offenses, since My Name is in him; 22 but if you obey him and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes.



Judges 2

1 The angel of YHWH came up from Gilgal to Bochim and said, “I brought you up from Egypt and I took you into the land which I had promised on oath to your fathers. And I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you. 2 And you, for your part, must make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you must tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyedMe—look what you have done! 3 Therefore, I have resolved not to drive them out before you; they shall become your oppressors, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” 4 As the angel of YHWH spoke these words to all the Israelites, the people broke into weeping. 5 So they named that place Bochim, and they offered sacrifices there to YHWH.




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MODE 1: יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃ YHWH = a man of war

MODE 2: YHWH’s name = mercy

BOTH = The Angel of YHWH

(מלאך יהוה)

The POINT


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 יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃

Related question:

Does the Angel, in whom both “modes” of Yahweh are absorbed, ever appear with YHWH in the same scene?




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Judges 6 יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃

11 An angel of YHWHcame and satunder the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was then beating out wheat inside a winepress in order to keep it safe from the Midianites. 12 The angel of YHWHappeared to him and said to him, “YHWH is with you, valiant warrior!” 13 Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if YHWH is with us, why has all this befallen us? Where are all His wondrous deeds about which our fathers told us, saying, ‘Truly YHWH brought us up from Egypt’? Now YHWH has abandoned us and delivered us into the hands of Midian!”


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14 יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃And YHWH turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” 15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And YHWH said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” 17 And he [Gideon] said to him [the Angel / YHWH], “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speaks with me. 18 Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return.”


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19 יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃So Gideon went into his house and prepared a young goat and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the terebinth and presented them. 20 And the angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.” And he did so. 21 Then the angel of YHWH reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes. And fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. And the angel of YHWHvanished from his sight. 22 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of YHWH. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” 23 But YHWH said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.”


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The Angel of YHWH יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃(מלאך יהוה), in whom both “modes” of the rabbis are fused, is tightly identified with YHWH and yet distinguished. They BOTH appear in the same scene, and yet BOTH are called YHWH.

The POINT


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1. יְהוָ֖ה שְׁמֽוֹ׃What if these “modes” were fused into one entity – that is, the same entity is identified as the man of war and with the name?

SUMMARY OF QUESTIONS

2. What if this entity (who subsumes the “modes”) appeared with YHWH in the same scene?


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If it is incorrect to say these two YHWH figures are just “modes” of YHWH, then there must be a more coherent way to understand what’s going on.

ANSWER


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Prior to the time of the rabbis the idea of a second power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much speculation about the identity of the second power.

Earlier Judaism’s Second Heavenly Power


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Exalted Humans power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much


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Jacob power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much



Earlier several references to plural sons of God were noted in Fragment A of the Prayer of Joseph. That text is also significant for its deification of Jacob in the form of the angel Israel: “I, Jacob, who is speaking to you, am also Israel, an angel of God and a ruling spirit . . . I am he whom God called Israel, which means ‘a man seeing God,’ because I am the firstborn of every living thing to whom God gives life” (lines 1, 3). Jacob is confronted by a jealous archangel Uriel, whom Jacob puts in his place as “the eighth after me” (7). Jacob then declares, “I, Israel, the archangel of the Power of the Lord and the chief captain among the sons of God. Am I not Israel, the first minister before the presence (lit., face) of God.”




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Adam power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much

  • 2 Enoch 30:11-12explicitly identifies Adam as one of God’s chief angels over creation:

    • 11 And on the earth I assigned him to be a second angel, honored and great and glorious. 12 And I assigned him to be a king, to reign on the earth, and to have my wisdom. And there was nothing comparable to him on the earth, even among my creatures that exist.

  • Adam is also elevated higher than a principal angel in the Life of Adam and Eve (14:2) where Michael commands Satan to worship Adam, “the image of God.” In the Testament of Abraham 11:4, Abraham is shown a man “seated on a golden throne” who has a “terrifying” appearance “like the Master’s.” Abraham’s guide, Michael, reveals the figure’s identity in verse 9: “This is the first-formed Adam who is in such glory, and he looks at the world, since everyone has come from him.”






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Enoch power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much

1 Enoch71:1 Thus it happened after this that my spirit passed out of sight and ascended into the heavens. And I saw the sons of the holy angels walking upon the flame of fire; their garments were white—and their overcoats—and the light of their faces was like snow. 2 Also I saw two rivers of fire, the light of which fire was shining like hyacinth. Then I fell on my face before the Lord of Spirits. 3 And the angel Michael, one of the archangels, seizing me by my right hand and lifting me up, led me out into all the secrets of mercy; and he showed me all the secrets of righteousness. . . . 8 And I saw countlessangels —a hundred thousand times a hundred thousand, ten million times ten million—encircling that house. 9 Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Phanuel, and numerous (other) holy angels that are countless. 10 With them the Ancient of Days: His head is white and pure like wool and his garment is indescribable. 11 I fell on my face, my whole body mollified and my spirit transformed . . . 14 Then an angel came to me and greeted me and said to me “You, son of man, who art born in righteousness and upon whom righteousness has dwelt, the righteousness of the Ancient of Days will not forsake you.”






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Enoch power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much

2 Enoch22:4 And I fell down flat and did obeisance to the Lord. 5 And the Lord, with his own mouth, said to me, “Be brave, Enoch! Don’t be frightened! Stand up, and stand in front of my face forever.” 6 And Michael, the Lord’s archangel, lifted me up and brought me in front of the face of the Lord. And the Lord said to his servants, sounding them out, “Let Enoch join in and stand in front of my face forever!” 7 And the Lord’s glorious ones did obeisance and said, “Let Enoch yield in accordance with your word, O Lord!” 8 And the Lord said to Michael, “Go, and extract Enoch from his earthly clothing. And anoint him with my delightful oil, and put him into clothes of my glory. 9 And so Michael did just as the Lord had said to him. He anointed me and clothed me. And the appearance of that oil is greater than the greatest light, and its ointment like sweet dew, and its fragrance myrrh; and it is like the rays of the glittering sun. 10 And I looked at myself, and I had become like one of his glorious ones.






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Moses power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much



Ezekiel the Tragedian 68 On Sinai’s peak I (Moses) saw what seemed a throne 69 so great in size it touched the clouds of heaven. 70 Upon it sat a man of noble mien, 71 becrowned, and with scepter in one hand 72 while with the other he did beckon me. 73 I made approach and stood before the throne.74 He handed over the scepter and he bade 75 me mount the throne, and gave me the crown; 76 then he himself withdrew from off the throne. 77 I gazed upon the whole earth round about; 78 things under it, and high above the skies. 79 Then at my feet the multitude of stars 80 fell down, and I their number reckoned up.




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Important Angels power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much


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Michael power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much

Michael was also considered by some Jewish writers to be Yahweh’s co-regent in heaven and on earth due to his status as the chief intercessor for Israel (Dan 12:1-3), a position that placed him nearest to God in Jewish belief.

Testament of Dan 6:1-2 - 1 And now fear the Lord, my children, be on guard against Satan and his spirits. 2 Draw near to God and to the angel who intercedes for you, because he is the mediator between God and men [i.e., all nations] for the peace of Israel. He shall stand in opposition to the kingdom of the enemy.






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Ya’el power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much (Yahoel); here = God

  • InApocalypse of Abraham17:4, Abraham is commanded to worship God “on the place of highness” by reciting a song listing God’s names. Abraham obeys and proclaims (Apoc. Ab.17:8-13):

    • 8 Eternal One, Mighty One, Holy El, God autocrat 9 self-originated, incorruptible, immaculate, unbegotten, spotless, immortal, 10 self-perfected, self-devised, without father, without mother, ungenerated, 11 exalted, fiery, 12 just, lover of men, benevolent, compassionate, bountiful, jealous over me, patient one, most merciful. 13 Eli, eternal, mighty one, holy, Sabaoth, most glorious El, El, El, El, Ya’el.






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Ya’el power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much (Yahoel) continued . . .

  • The same deified figure appears in the Life of Adam and Eve 29:1-6, but in this case it is God himself who is called Ya’el. The passage is quite reminiscent of occasions in the pre-exilic texts of the Hebrew Bible where Yahweh and his vice regent were virtually indistinguishable:

    • 1 When the Lord had said these things, he ordered us cast out of paradise. 2 And your father (Adam) wept before the angels opposite Paradise, and the angels said to him, “What do you want us to do for you, Adam?” 3 Your father answered and said to the angels, “See you are casting me out; I beg you, let me take fragrances from Paradise, so that after I have gone out, I might bring an offering to God so that God will hear me.” 4 And they (the angels) came to God and said, “Ya'el, eternal king, command that fragrant incenses from Paradise be given to Adam.” 5 And God ordered Adam go come that he might take aromatic fragrances out of Paradise for his sustenance.






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Ya’el power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much (Yahoel); here = an angel

Apocalypse of Abraham10:1-7, 15-17 –

1 And it came to pass when I heard the voice pronouncing such words to me that I looked this way and that. 2 And behold there was no breath in me, and my spirit was amazed, and my soul fled from me. And I became like a stone, and fell down upon the earth, for there was no longer strength in me to stand up on the earth. 3 And while I was still face down on the ground, I heard the voice of the Holy One speaking, “Go, Ya’el of the same name, through the mediation of my ineffable Name, consecrate this man and strengthen him against his trembling.” 4 The angel he sent to me in the likeness of a man came, and he took me by my right hand and stood me on my feet. 5 And he said to me, "Stand up Abraham, friend of God who has loved you, let human trembling not enfold you! 6 For lo! I am sent to you to strengthen you and to bless you in the name of God, creator of heavenly and earthly things, who has loved you. 7 Be bold and hasten to him. I am Ya’el . . . 17 And with me Michael blesses you for ever. Be bold, go!"






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Philo’s LOGOS power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much


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Philo on the Logos power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much

Philo says of the Logos:

“[God] sustained the universe to rest firm and sure upon the mighty Logos who is my viceroy.”[1]

The Logos is “that power of his [God] by which he made and ordered all things.”[2]

[1]Dreams 1: 241; cf. Agriculture, 51.

[2]Confusion, 137.






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Philo on the Logos power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much

  • Not only is God between the two primary Powers, but so is the Logos:

    • While God is indeed One, his highest and chief Powers are two, even Goodness and Sovereignty . . . and in the midst between the two, there is a third which unites them, the Logos, for it is through the Logos that God is both ruler and good. Of these two powers, Sovereignty and Goodness, the cherubim are the symbols, as fiery sword is the symbol of the Logos.[1]

    • [1]Cherubim, 27-28.






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Philo on the Logos power in heaven was quite acceptable -- and there was much



  • Philo refers to the Logos as:

  • “God” (theos); Som I (On Dreams), 229ff.

  • “the second god” (deuteros theos); Questions on Genesis 2, 62

  • Philo also refers to there being “two gods,” a synonym for the two powers in Jewish thought of his day (Segal, 159; Som I (On Dreams), 227ff.)




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