Friday, November 9, 2012

A Heavenly Counterpart?

A while back, I wrote a post about an alleged rabbinic belief that there was a heavenly Jacob and an earthly Jacob.  In an essay in Enoch and the Mosaic Torah: The Evidence of Jubilees, there is an essay about this very topic: Andrei Orlov's "The Heavenly Counterpart of Moses in the Book of Jubilees".

Orlov essentially asks if the notion of a heavenly counterpart could be relevant to interpreting such passages as Jubilees 6:22 and 30:12.  These passages depict an angel as writing things that are in the Book of Jubilees, and yet the claim of the book is that Moses wrote it.  How can this be?  Orlov speculates that Moses and his heavenly counterpart are both authors of the Book of Jubilees, according to these passages.

Orlov goes into a variety of ancient Jewish writings as he argues that there was a notion of a heavenly counterpart in ancient Judaism.  There are Targumim that say that Jacob's image was in heaven (some say it was inscribed on God's throne) even while Jacob was on earth, and some Jewish materials even go so far as to identify Jacob's image with God's kavod----"an anthropomorphic extension of the Deity" (Orlov's words on page 134).  In a document known as the Prayer of Joseph, there is an archangel named Israel who was "the first minister before the face of God" (Orlov's quotation of the Prayer of Joseph on page 138).  In I Enoch 71, Enoch is identified with the heavenly Son of Man, and James VanderKam interprets that in light of the ancient Jewish belief that some people have a heavenly double.  II Enoch 36 says that Enoch is before God from now and forever, and this is prior to Enoch returning to earth; Orlov appears to believe that this text is saying that, even while Enoch is on earth, there is an Enoch in heaven who is before God.  

I cannot dismiss what Orlov and other scholars are saying about this issue, for I don't know enough to do so.  But I have questions.  How does the belief in a heavenly double fit in with another view within ancient Judaism----that God exalts certain people to a heavenly status?  (Scholars have referred to this view in seeking to understand early Christian Christology.)  Does this entail the earthly figure becoming united with his heavenly counterpart to become the same person?  That may work if the heavenly counterpart existed prior to the time of the earthly figure, but, in the case of Enoch, Enoch ascends to heaven and sees God, and then is told that he will be before God forever.  And, in II Enoch 39:3-6 (which Orlov quotes), Enoch tells his children that he saw the face of God----Enoch does not appear to say that a heavenly counterpart separate from him did so, but that he himself did so.  Do certain people have heavenly counterparts, according to ancient Judaism, or do they become heavenly beings?  Or is it both?

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