You are an unfinished book

Life in the world is like a manuscript of writings that is still in rough draft. When a man wishes or desires to do so, he can add something or subtract from it, and make changes in the writings. But the life in the world to come is like documents written on clean scrolls and sealed with the royal seal, where no addition or deletion is possible. Therefore, so long as we are found in the midst of change, let us pay heed to ourselves; and while we have power over the manuscript of our life, which we have written by our own hand, let us strive earnestly to add to it by leading a good manner of life, and let us erase from it the failings of our former life. We have power to erase our debts from it as long as we are here. And God will take into account every change we make in it, so that we may be deemed worthy of eternal life before we go before the King and He sets His seal upon it. For so long as we are in this world, God does not affix His seal either to what is good or to what is evil, even up to the moment of our departure when the service of our fatherland is completed and we set out upon our journey. And as Saint Ephraim says, we should make our soul like a ready ship that does not know when a wind will come upon it, or like an army that does not know when the trumpet of battle will sound. And if, he says, merchants are so well prepared for the sake of a little gain, though they will perhaps soon return from their voyage, how much more should we make ourselves ready, and in advance prepare ourselves before the coming of that decisive day, that bridge and door into the new age? May Christ, the mediator of our life, grant us to arrive at that decisive judgment in full preparation, He that has glory, worship, and thanksgiving unto the ages. Amen.

St Isaac the Syrian, from Homily Sixty-Two

Rachel Elior Festschrift

If any of you readers have enjoyed through the years, as I have, the work of Rachel Elior, Daphan Arbel and Andrei Orlov have edited a Festschrift for her: With Letters of Light: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Early Jewish Apocalypticism, Magic, and Mysticism in Honor of Rachel Elior.

Professor Orlov was kind to forward the below information about the volume. You’ve just got to love a book that includes a chapter titled something like Jodi Magness’ “The Impurity of Oil and Spit among the Qumran Sectarians”! Rock it, sister! Ptui! Seriously, though, this collection promises to be a fascinating read. The names of several of the authors are already familiar to me and appreciated for their consistent skill and care in dealing with the materials. Those whom I don’t recognize (through the lack of breadth of my own reading, I’m sure), will I’m sure have interesting things to say, as well.


This collection of essays is a tribute to Rachel Elior’s decades of teaching, scholarship and mentoring. If a Festschrift reflects the individuality of the honoree, then this volume offers insights into the scope of Rachel Elior’s interests and scholarly achievements in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish apocalypticism, magic, and mysticism from the Second Temple period to the later rabbinic and Hekhalot developments. The majority of articles included in the volume deal with Jewish and Christian apocalyptic and mystical texts constituting the core of experiential dimension of these religious traditions.

Contents of the volume:

Daphna Arbel and Andrei Orlov
Rachel Elior – An Appreciation from her Colleagues and Students – 1-5

Frances Flannery
The Consideration of Religious Experience in the Work of Rachel Elior – 6-10

I. Exegesis

Kelley Coblentz Bautch
Peter and the Patriarch: A Confluence of Traditions? – 13-27

Silviu N. Bunta
In Heaven or on Earth: A Misplaced Temple Question about Ezekiel’s Visions – 28-44

James R. Davila
Scriptural Exegesis in the Treatise of the Vessels, a Legendary Account of the Hiding of the Temple Treasures – 45-61

Dan Merkur
Cultivating Visions through Exegetical Meditations – 62-91

Sergey Minov
“Serpentine” Eve in Syriac Christian Literature of Late Antiquity – 92-114

Annette Yoshiko Reed
From “Pre-Emptive Exegesis” to “Pre-Emptive Speculation”? Ma‘aseh Bereshit in Genesis Rabbah and Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer – 115-132

Mark Verman
Earthly and Heavenly Jerusalem in Philo and Paul: A Tale of Two Cities – 133-156

II. Ritual

Crispin Fletcher-Louis
The Book of Watchers and the Cycle of New Year Festivals – 159-168

Yuval Harari
A Different Spirituality or ‘Other’ Agents?: On the Study of Magic in Rabbinic Literature – 169-195

Rebecca Lesses
“They Revealed Secrets to Their Wives”: The Transmission of Magical Knowledge in 1 Enoch – 196-222

Jodi Magness
The Impurity of Oil and Spit among the Qumran Sectarians 223-231

Andrei Orlov
“The Likeness of Heaven”: The Kavod of Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham – 232-253

Pieter W. van der Horst
Mystical Motifs in a Greek Synagogal Prayer? – 254-264

III. Transformation

Daphna Arbel
“A Chariot of Light Borne by Four Bright Eagles”: Eve’s Vision of the Chariot in the Greek Life of Adam and Eve – 267-284

Joseph Dan
“Messianic Movements in the Period of the Crusades” – 285-298

April D. DeConick
Jesus Revealed: The Dynamics of Early Christian Mysticism – 299-324

Celia Deutsch
Aseneth: Ascetical Practice, Vision, and Transformation – 325-348

Naomi Janowitz
“You Are Gods”: Multiple Divine Beings in Late Antique Jewish Theology – 349-364

Alan F. Segal
Transcribing Experience – 365-382