I must start this post by saying that although I would have liked to, I don’t have any wonderful Christmas message to share. I have been quite busy lately — but I still feel that Christmas spirit. It has been snowing here in St Andrews, and the snow has stayed (which I hear is rather rare here), so it looks like we’ll have a nice white Christmas. We’ve built a snowman and gone sledding, so even though we’re far from home, it still seems like Christmas-time for our family.
What I do want to share with you is from something I’ve been reading (not necessarily Christmas-related, but not far off). Then I’d like to share some links to some good articles that are more Christmas-themed.
As part of my research for my dissertation, I’ve been looking at a book by British scholar Crispin Fletcher-Louis entitled All the Glory of Adam: Liturgical Anthropology in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Fletcher-Louis, who seems to have some connections to Margaret Barker, has done some great research here, and although his ideas are not accepted by all, he presents a lot of exciting and insightful material.
I just wanted to share a couple of excerpts from my “Christmas” reading. All the Glory of Adam attempts to make sense of the Qumran community’s concept of “divine humanity.” There is much language in the Dead Sea Scrolls that indicates that the community who produced (or at least used) those texts believed that humans could become either angelic or divine (I don’t believe there was much of a difference between angelic or divine, but there is language of humans both becoming angels and becoming gods).
Fletcher-Louis notes that in these texts:
…there seems to be a claim which is usually implicit, but…at other times explicit, that true humanity, as it is restored among the elect, is both angelomorphic and divine (All the Glory of Adam, p. 12, emphasis in original).
The author discusses at length the Qumran and other Second Temple literature that describe what he terms “angelomorphic humanity.” It is quite well established that in this period, at least some Jews (who felt that their belief was orthodox), believed that humans, especially kings, prophets, and priests, were considered to have an angelic status, at least in ritual/cultic settings. He notes, however, that humans are also often described as “gods.” He says:
More startling [than the angelomorphic language] are those statements to the effect that the transformed humanity are “gods”. This is a more persistent and widespread feature of the texts than would permit us to conclude such language is merely an accommodation to Hellenism in which some Jews on the periphery of “orthodoxy” indulged. Already in the biblical texts Moses is “as God [elohim, theos] to Pharaoh” (Exo. 7:1) and the king is hailed as (a) god in Psalm 45:6 (cf. Zech 12:8). Exodus is probably behind Sirach’s ascription of the [elohim] status to Moses in Sirach 45:2. In Jubilees Joseph is acclaimed “god, god, mighty one of God” and in Joseph and Aseneth Jacob is “a god [theos]” to Aseneth.
The existence of god language for humanity within Jewish texts is more remarkable than angel language because of the way in which in the Second Temple period angelology replaced the polytheism of the pre-exilic period. However, just as many biblical and post biblical texts continued to speak of many “gods” (elim, elohim, theoi) with the understanding that these were “angelic” beings on a distinctly lower level of reality than God himself, so it seems there remained the freedom to speak of human as “divine” in similar terms and in certain circumstances. In texts such as those gathered around Moses and Exodus 7:1 there is stressed the fact that Moses’ “divinity” is no independent of that of God himself but is strictly bestowed by the creator of all. This may offend traditional Jewish and Christian views of divinity as a strictly independent, uncreated reality, but it should be remembered that in the ancient world the begetting and creating of gods (theogony) was a much more acceptable notion then than it is now.
The presence of “god” language for humanity in texts as far apart as Sirach, Jubilees, Philo and the rabbis testifies to the degree to which such language was widely spread and accepted in late Second Temple Judaism. (pp. 85-86)
While all of these are very interesting and important statements, I was even more pleased to find that Fletcher-Louis locates the root of all these beliefs in the correct life setting: the Temple and its rituals. He states:
...the principal socio-religious life setting for a Jewish divine anthropology, particularly in its earlier formative stages of development, was the Jewish Temple, its sacred space and priesthood…(p. 5, emphasis in original).
In other words, the proper setting for and origin of this language of humans becoming angels and/or gods, is in the rituals and liturgy of the Temple of Jerusalem. Very interesting…
So I guess that’s the message I wanted to leave you with this Christmas. As St. Athanasius once wrote (and as is written in the Catechism of the Catholic Church): “For the Son of God became man so that man could become God.” Just as there are many who believe that God came down to earth and became man, so there have also been many that believed that the true destiny and potential of mankind is to become like God. That is why Christ came down to us — to provide a way for us to, following his example, become like his Father.
As I promised, some great Christmas themed reads:
Jeffrey M. Bradshaw has a great series of articles at Meridian Magazine:
Also, check out a similar post at www.templestudy.com, by Bryce Haymond:
I’m sure there are lots of others, and if you know of any good ones, please let me know! Above all, I wish you a Merry Christmas from bonnie (and currently snow-covered) Scotland! May this New Year be full of abundant blessings and new wisdom from God!
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