A New Book from Andrei Orlov

Andrei Orlov of Marquette University has published a new and very interesting looking book! Here are the details. It really does sound lke a fascinating book.

Dark Mirrors
Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology
Andrei A. Orlov

Discusses the two most important figures in early Jewish mythologies of evil, the fallen angels Azazel and Satanael.

Dark Mirrors is a wide-ranging study of two central figures in early Jewish demonology—the fallen angels Azazel and Satanael. Andrei A. Orlov explores the mediating role of these paradigmatic celestial rebels in the development of Jewish demonological traditions from Second Temple apocalypticism to later Jewish mysticism, such as that of the Hekhalot and Shi‘ur Qomah materials. Throughout, Orlov makes use of Jewish pseudepigraphical materials in Slavonic that are not widely known.

Orlov traces the origins of Azazel and Satanael to different and competing mythologies of evil, one to the Fall in the Garden of Eden, the other to the revolt of angels in the antediluvian period. Although Azazel and Satanael are initially representatives of rival etiologies of corruption, in later Jewish and Christian demonological lore each is able to enter the other’s stories in new conceptual capacities. Dark Mirrors also examines the symmetrical patterns of early Jewish demonology that are often manifested in these fallen angels’ imitation of the attributes of various heavenly beings, including principal angels and even God himself.

Andrei A. Orlov is Associate Professor of Theology at Marquette University. He is the author of several books, including Selected Studies in the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha.

• Albany: SUNY Press, 2011
• 256 pages
• $75.00 hardcover 978-1-4384-3951-8

Here is the flyer with the same information.

The Vision of Theophilus

Following is a translation by Alphonse Mingana of the Third Book of an apocryphal history of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. This book is typically referred to (somewhat imprecisely) as The Vision of Theophilus, for the discourse of the Virgin to Theophilus comprises the majority of this book. The translation and original Syriac text are found in Mingana’s Woodbrooke Studies, volume 3, a pdf of which is available here, for those interested in further introductory materials, annotations, and the Syriac text. (The same volume, as a bonus, includes the text and translation of the Syriac Apocalypse of Peter.) Of chief interest in the Vision is the description of the troubled journey of the Holy Family into Egypt, escaping King Herod.

This book is obviously in its origins closely connected with the most important shrine associated with the travels of the Holy Family in Egypt, the Monastery of the Holy Virgin at al-Muharraq, near the mountains of Qusqam, near the town of al-Qusiya in Upper Egypt, 48 km north of Assyut. The church there is (so the narrative and Coptic tradition uphold) the first church in the world, consecrated by the risen Lord, where the first Divine Liturgy in the world was celebrated by the miraculously transported Peter and the Apostles, with the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Salome (Mary’s cousin who accompanied the Holy Family into Egypt) also present. The Vision is actually something of a foundation story for the church and monastery there, rather than strictly an account of the Holy Family’s travels throughout Egypt. The church is built upon the ruins of an ancient house that the Holy Family is said to have stayed in for six months, the longest duration of any of their traditional stops, and traditionally the southernmost (although there is also the Monastery of the Holy Virgin further south at Durunka, the position of which is harmonized through its being the place where the Holy Family waited in a cave to embark on a boat sailing down the Nile on their way back to the Holy Land.).

The narrative is complicated. The Theophilus of the title is Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria (+412). The account is a first-person account of some event of Theophilus’ tenure, including a visit to the monastery during which he is granted a vision of the Virgin Mary, who then relates (in first person) her and her Son’s connection with the monastery. The entire narrative is then said to have been actually written down by Cyril of Alexandria (+ 444) himself! But there is no doubt that while the narrative demonstrates traditions of definite antiquity it does not date so far back as St Cyril! Mingana would attribute the work to Kyriakos, Bishop of Bahnasa (Oxyrrhynchus), who wrote in the early fifteenth century.

While there are many aspects of the Vision of Theophilus which may be found entirely bizarre by western Christians, the work itself is a rather beautiful expression of piety. For more information on the traditions related to the Holy Family in Egypt, see this post in which I give short descriptions of a number of excellent books on the subject. Enjoy a seasonally apropos reading originating from a land closer to the sunrise!

Again the third Book (containing) the flight (according to) the vision shown to Theophilus, Patriarch of the great city of Alexandria, concerning the arrival of our Lady Mary, Mother of God, in the land of Egypt, and concerning the house which she and her beloved Son Jesus Christ inhabited in the holy mountain of Ḳusḳam, on account of their great fear of King Herod.

Continue reading “The Vision of Theophilus”

Near to the Fire

For behold, my cause is in Your hands
and my recourse is to You.
I know my sin, so cleanse me, O Lord,
that I may enter into Your presence
with self-respect.
Now my offenses are weighty;
I have drawn near to the fire which burns.
Your mercy is upon all things,
so that You can take away
all my transgressions.
Pardon me, even me, the sinner.
And pardon all Your creatures
whom You have fashioned,
but who have not heard and learned of You.

Testament of Isaac 4.27-31


Now Jael took a stake in her left hand and approached him, saying, “If God will work this sign with me, I know that Sisera will fall into my hands. Behold I will throw him down on the ground from the bed on which he sleeps; and if he does not feel it, I know that he has been handed over.” And Jael took Sisera and pushed him onto the ground from the bed. But he did not feel it, because he was very groggy.

And Jael said, “Strengthen in me today, Lord, my arm on account of you and your people and those who hope in you.” And Jael took the stake and put it on his temple and struck it with a hammer.

And while he was dying, Sisera said to Jael, “Behold pain has taken hold of me, Jael, and I die like a woman.”

And Jael said to him, “Go, boast before your father in hell and tell him that you have fallen into the hands of a woman.”

Pseudo-Philo, Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum 31.7

Oh yeah. That’s funnier than one would think an ancient pseudepigraphon should be. “That’s right! Tell your daddy in hell that a woman did you in!”

Jael, of course, rocks.

A Pseudepigraphic Pearl

And I am now an orphan and desolate,
and I have no other hope save in you, Lord,
and no other refuge except your mercy, Lord,
because you are the father of the orphans,
and a protector of the persecuted
and a helper of the afflicted.
Have mercy upon me, Lord,
and guard me, a virgin who is abandoned and an orphan,
because you, Lord, are a sweet and good and gentle father.
What father is as sweet as you, Lord,
and who is as quick in mercy as you, Lord,
and who is as long-suffering towards our sins as you, Lord?

Joseph and Aseneth 12.13-15

Who’s got your back?

For the Lord did not draw Ishmael and his sons and his brothers and Esau near to himself, and He did not elect them because they are the sons of Abraham, for He knew them. But He chose Israel that they might be a people for Himself. And He sanctified them and gathered them from all of the sons of man because there are many nations and many people, and they all belong to Him, but over all of them He caused spirits to rule so that they might lead them astray from following Him. But over Israel He did not cause any angel or spirit to rule because He alone is their ruler and He will protect them and He will seek for them them at the hand of His angels and at the hand of His spirits and at the hand of all of His authorities so that He might guard them and bless them and they might be His and He might be theirs henceforth and forever.

Jubilees 15.30–32

Heroes of Faith

Today is the Sunday of Orthodoxy on which we commemorate the Seventh Ecumenical Council and the vindication of the Apostolic Faith. Though the particular emphasis on this day is on icons, as the Seventh Ecumenical Council definitively categorized iconoclasm and aniconism in the Church as heresy, since this was the last great theological challenge in the formative years of the Church, it has come to be celebrated as a commemoration of the defense, approbation and triumph of the Apostolic Faith against all its enemies through the ages.

Today was also read for the Epistle reading Hebrews 11.32-40, a passage very familiar to Christians as one describing heroes of the faith. There is a very interesting variation on this particular reading from the old Georgian Lectionary, which is based almost verbatim on the practice in the churches in Jerusalem circa 700 AD. This variation entails the insertion of names of various holy prophets into the text at appropriate places:

And what more can we say, for time would fail us in this description of the judges, of Barak, of Samson, and of Jephthah, of the kings, of David and Samuel and the prophets, Abraham and the judges who through faith conquered kings, Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Phineas administered justice, Abraham, Joshua, and Caleb received promises, Samson and David and Daniel shut the mouths of lions, the three youths Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael quenched flaming fire, Uriah, Mideli [sic], and Elijah the Prophet escaped the edge of the sword, David, King Hezekiah, King Asa received strength out of weakness, Gideon, Barak, Samson, and David routed the foreign armies, the Shunammite woman and the woman from Sarepta — women received their dead by resurrection, the seven Maccabee brothers and their mother and other prophets others were tortured … that they might be worthy, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Job, certain were bent over … were tested, Jeremiah and Micah chained and imprisoned, Jeremiah and Naboth were stoned, Isaiah was cut in two, Job, Zerubbabel were tempted, Micah, Amos, Zechariah the priest were killed by the sword, John the Baptist, Elijah, Elishah went around in skins…this world, the prophet who nourished Obadiah wandered in deserts…in the caves of the earth. With all these, witness was proven…that not without us will they be perfected.

There are two quite striking additions relating to the Old Testament apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, and others that may likely do so, though they are obscure.

The first is “the seven Maccabee brothers and their mother and other prophets others were tortured … that they might be worthy” is inserted into verse 35, the relevant part of which in the ESV reads: “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.” Anyone familiar with the tale of the mother and her seven sons in Second Maccabees chapter 7 will recognize this summary in Hebrews 11.35 as relating to that episode. What is striking is that the Georgian Lectionary made this connection explicit in a liturgical context (specifically for the commemoration of Saint Antony the Great on 17 January; commemoration of the Holy Prophet Amos on 17 June; and the commemoration of the Holy Prophet Jonah on 10 December).

Then comes the reference to “Isaiah was cut in two” which is an alteration of part of verse 37, “they were sawn in two.” This particularly grisly end to the earthly life of the Holy Prophet Isaiah is related in books categorized as among the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, particularly the Martyrdom of Isaiah (also known as Ascension of Isaiah) chapter 5 and in the Lives of the Prophets 1.1. It is also mentioned in St Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 120, and also appears in the writings of St Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lecture 13) and Palladius (Dialogue on the Life of St John Chrysostom. This is also referred to in the hymnography of Matins on Wednesday of mid-Pentecost in Eastern Orthodox churches: “They sawed Esaias asunder with a saw fashioned out of wood.” Also somewhere I’ve read an elaboration of this tradition that Isaiah was hiding inside a hollow mulberry tree, was found, and then the tree was sawed through with him inside it (I heard this so long ago as a child that whenever I see a mulberry bush I think of Isaiah; I can’t find a reference to this fuller version, however). This tradition of Isaiah’s death by being sawn asunder was so widespread, however, it’s hard to say whether it was related to a particular writing or simply a long-preserved tradition with no single source of written original expression.

Other alterations above refer to events that can’t be easily construed from the biblical text. These include “Uriah, Mideli [sic], and Elijah the Prophet escaped the edge of the sword” (Mideli being certainly a corruption, perhaps Mordecai in Esther might be meant); “Job, Zerubbabel were tempted”—I suppose one may read Job as being tempted to sin in Job, though this is not so explicit as in Testament of Job, while the tempting of Zerubbabel remains mysterious; “Micah, Amos, Zechariah the priest were killed by the sword”—the deaths of Micah and Amos are not related canonically, and death “by the sword” doesn’t fit the descriptions in Lives of the Prophets, wherein Micah is apparently pushed off a cliff, and Amos dies some days after being hit in the head with a club (LivPro 6–7), and the death of Zechariah the priest in Second Chronicles 24.20-22 is not by sword, though this could be inferred from Matthew 23.35 and Luke 11.51.

This bit of elaboration of Hebrews 11.32-40 on the part of either Greek ecclesiastics in Jerusalem or Georgian ecclesiastics in their homeland shows the enduring value of tradition within community, and specifically the value early Christians placed on traditions known through their inclusion in the Old Testament apocrypha and pseudepigrapha. Presumably the works preserving those traditions were likewise held in some kind of esteem, subordinate but supportive of the canonical biblical books (which differ among traditions).

Above all, it’s simply a delightful lectionary passage, bringing even greater life to an already beloved passage. I hope others will also find delight in it.

Deuterobaruchian Pearls

For the youth of this world has passed away, and the power of creation is already exhausted, and the coming of the times is very near and has passed by. And the pitcher is near the well, and the ship to the harbor, and the journey to the city, and life to its end.

——2 Baruch 85.10

But now, the righteous have been assembled, and the prophets are sleeping. Also we have left our land, and Zion has been taken away from us, and we have nothing now apart from the Mighty One and his Law.

——2 Baruch 85.3

And it will happen at that time that those treasuries will be opened in which the number of the souls of the righteous were kept, and they will go out and the multitudes of the souls will appear together, in one assemblage, of one mind. And the first ones will enjoy themselves and the last ones will not be sad.

——2 Baruch 30.2

Adam is, therefore, not the cause, except only for himself, but each of us has become our own Adam.

——2 Baruch 54.19

Apocalypse of Elijah Versification

I’ve just put up a web page which aligns the versification of Rosenstiehl’s translation of Apocalypse of Elijah with the Wintermute translation found in Charlesworth’s Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Some may have noticed their differences already, 3 chapters in Rosenstiehl, 5 in Wintermute, etc. Several contributors to the OTP volumes seem to have introduced their own versification, likely related to their differing with earlier editors on readings, sentences and so on. As I run across more examples, I’ll very likely prepare similar tables in those cases as well. The difficulty comes in seeing that even within the OTP volumes themselves, some used one versification to insert comparanda in the margin or notes, while others used another. I’m in the process of straightening all those out.

Anyhow, this is another tool that I found necessary, and thought I’d share it with the wider world. Enjoy!