Those Who Burn

Why is their name called seraphim? Because they burn the tablets of Satan. Every day Satan sits with Sammael, Prince of Rome, and with Dubbiel, Prince of Persia, and they write down the sins of Israel on tablets and give them to the seraphim to bring before the Holy One, blessed be He, so that He should destroy Israel from the world. But the seraphim know the secrets of the Holy One, blessed be He, that He does not desire that this nation of Israel should fall. What, then, do the seraphim do? Every day they take the tablets from Satan’s hand and burn them in the blazing fire that stands opposite the high and exalted throne, so that they should not come into the presence of the Holy One, blessed be He, when He sites upon the throne of judgment and judges the whole world in truth.

Third Enoch 26.12

For those who don’t know Hebrew, the above may not make much sense. The Hebrew word seraphim, שׂרפים, is derived from the Hebrew root saraph, שׂרף, to burn, somehow describing the character of these great beings as burning. I found this passage to be a beautiful explanation for the reason they are called seraphim.

It is also unfortunately timely, as there are still many in the world who desire the destruction of Israel, once again including Persia, and even perhaps, in a way, Rome, if we remember that in ancient midrashim Rome was referred to as Edom, and also know that in certain circles today the Palestinians are now also referred to as Edom. That’s kind of an odd connection, of course, but the point is there….

The Book Full of Hints

The Bible is complete. But the sacred history is not yet completed. The Biblical canon itself includes a prophetical Book of Revelation. There is the Kingdom to come, the ultimate consummation, and therefore there are prophecies in the New Testament as well. The whole being of the Church is in a sense prophetical. Yet, the future has a different meaning post Christum natum. The tension between present and future has in the Church of Christ another sense and character than it had under the old dispensation. For Christ is no more in the future only, but also in the past, and therefore in the present also. This eschatological perspective is of basic importance for the right understanding of the Scriptures. All hermeneutical “principles” and “rules” should be re-thought and re-examined in this eschatological perspective. There are two major dangers to be avoided. On the one hand, no strict analogy can be established between the two Testaments, their “covenantal situations” being profoundly different: they are related as “the figure” and “the truth.” It was a traditional idea of patristic exegesis that the Word of God was revealing himself continuously, and in divers manners, throughout the whole of the Old Testament. Yet all these theophanies of old should never be put on the same level or in the same dimension as the incarnation of the Word, lest the crucial event of redemption is dissolved into an allegorical shadow. A “type” is no more than a “shadow” or image. In the New Testament we have the very fact. The New Testament therefore is more than a mere “figure” of the Kingdom to come. It is essentially the realm of accomplishment. On the other hand, it is premature to speak of a “realized eschatology,” simply because the very eschaton is not yet realized: sacred history has not yet been closed. One may prefer the phrase: “the inaugurated eschatology.” It renders accurately the Biblical diagnosis—the crucial point of the revelation is already in the past. “The ultimate” (or “the new”) had already entered history, although the final stage is not yet attained. We are no more in the world of signs only, but already in the world of reality, yet under the sign of the Cross. The Kingdom has been already inaugurated, but not yet fulfilled. The fixed canon of Scripture itself symbolizes an accomplishment. The Bible is closed just because the Word of God has been incarnate. Our ultimate term of reference is now not a book—not only as a record of the past, but also as a prophetical book, full of hints, pointing to the future, to the very end.

Fr Georges Florovsky. Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View (Nordland Publishing, 1972), 35–36