Category:Apocalypse of Abraham (text)
From 4 Enoch: The Online Encyclopedia of Second Temple Judaism
The Apocalypse of Abraham is a Jewish text usually included in collections of Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.
- See Online Text
- This page is edited by Gerbern S. Oegema, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
The Apocalypse of Abraham (→ Abraham) is an apocryphal (→ Apocrypha / apocryphal) and apocalyptic (→ Apocalypses) booklet in 31 chapters about Abraham’s conversion from idolatry to the one true God and his temporary heavenly journey. It was probably composed in Palestine between 70 and 100-150 CE by a Jewish author. It is contemporary with the Fourth Book of Ezra, the Second or Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch and the Book of Revelation. It is one of the earliest examples of Jewish merkavah mysticism, the mystical interpretations of the heavenly chariot in Ezekiel 1-2, which became prominent in the later Hekhalot literature of talmudic times. Despite its Jewish origin, its reception history has mainly taken place in Orthodox Christianity. The book is important for the fields of Biblical Studies, New Testament, Early Judaism, and especially for the study of apocalypticism and tradition history.
The Apocalypse has been handed down in six complete surviving Old Church Slavonic (or Old Bulgarian) manuscripts made in Russia after 1300 CE as well as several other fragmentary and / or shorter versions. Its original language may have been Hebrew / Aramaic or Greek with Hebraisms.
The booklet contains 31 chapters with (in chapters 1-8) a Haggadah on Abraham’s conversion from his father Terah’s idolatry to his belief in the one true God, and (in chapters 9-31) a midrash on Genesis 15:9-11, which begins with a description of Abraham’s ascent into heaven (10-16). During his journey, Abraham receives seven visions, dealing with: 1) the throne of God (17-18), 2) the stars of heaven (19-20), 3) the creation (21-22), 4) Adam and Eve (23-24), 5) the idol (25-26), 6) the heathens (27-28), and 7) the latter day (29-31). Before the latter day comes, a battle will take place, in which the heathens will kill many, set the temple on fire and plunder the holy vessels. However, in the same way as his father Terah’s idol was consumed by fire, at the end of days also they will be destroyed by fire. Judgement and the punishment of the earth will follow (29) through a number of “plagues” modelled after the ten plagues in Exodus 7-10 (30). Then the righteous will live and rule as kings and judges. After the vision, Abraham returns to earth and is called “God’s Chosen One” (31).
The Theology of the Apocalypse of Abraham
There are very few indications in the book that point to a historical context or relevance (see, however, 28:3 and 29:2). The apocalyptic character is unmistakable (pseudepigraphy, visions, revelations, eschatology, and a heavenly journey). The theology is directed against “paganism” and highlights the importance of monotheism. The provenance is closest to Pharasaic-Rabbinic circles, as there is little affinity with the thought and practice of other Jewish religious groups of the period. In general, it has to be assumed that the Apocalypse was written as a reaction or answer to the tumultuous social and religious times after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and the ultimate Roman dominance of Jerusalem and Israel. The author clearly wanted to warn its audience not to be influenced by the idolatry spread by the Roman army, but to stay within the boundaries of Jewish monotheism.
There is no Messiah figure in the Apocalypse, although the expected life of the righteous as kings and judges does disclose some of the future expectations of the author, namely, that there will be a time of righteousness after a period of idolatry and war. This future hope could fit very well in a situation after the destruction of the Second Temple and a time of great distress and uncertainty in the decades to come, during which the people hoped for what was lacking most: a time of righteousness, as exemplified by “our father Abraham.”
In all of this, the life of Abraham namely functions as the sole example and role model of the importance of turning away from idolatry, of the belief in the one true God and of righteousness as the theological centre of a new social code still to be developed. This message, then, is all dressed in the attire of some images and popular beliefs of those days, namely in visions, revelations, and heavenly journeys.
The apocalypse provides us with information on the religious ideas and mentality of the Jewish people between the two wars of 66-73 and 132-135 CE and at the same time it reveals some of the aspects of the transition of Second Temple into Rabbinic Judaism. The life setting of the writing is defined by the effort of the author to call his audience away from idolatry and convince them to worship the one true God by following the example of Abraham. His heavenly journey and his visions show the way into this worship by emphasizing its mystic and eschatological character; at the same time, they underline the crucial difference between good and evil and between idolatry and divine worship.
From this, one may conclude that the author belongs to apocalyptically and mystically influenced scribal circles, in which the form of scriptural interpretation and the focus on the patriarchal tradition has a clear haggadic and pastoral character. The political context is that of the time immediately following Titus’ destruction of the Second Temple (cf. ApocAbr 27,1-2; 4 Ezra 10,21-22 and Josephus, Bell VI §§ 29-53), a period dominated by “paganism” and “idolatry” (cf. ApocAbr 1,1-2.9-2,9; 3,1-4,6 and 5,1-14).
The apocalyptic elements in the writings are the following: 1) conversations between Abraham and the angel Jaoel (10,6-11,5; 12,4-8; 14,5-14,7 and 16,1-4) as well as between Abraham and God (8,1-9,10 and 20,1-31,3); 2) auditive and visual experiences (10,4-5; 11,1-3; 13,3; 15,1-4; 15,5-6; 18,1-2 and 30,1); 3) a revelation to Abraham about the ten plagues (30,3-31,3); 4) seven visions on a) the fiery throne (18,1-11), b) the 5th to 7th heaven and the angels (19,3-9), c) the creation (21,3-9), d) paradise (23,3-6), e) sin, the idol and the Temple (24,3-25,2), f) the heathens and the destruction of the Temple (27,1-2), and finally g) the man, who is worshipped (29,3-5); five of the seven visions are interpreted; and 5) Abraham receives eight tasks, two from Jaoel (14,3-4,6 and 17,5-7) and six from God (20,2; 21,1; 23,1; 24,2; 26,5 and 29,2).
Scriptural interpretation in the apocalypse focuses mostly on the Biblical narrative about Abraham and its mystical and eschatological interpretation: 1) Abraham joining Thera’s idolatry (1,1-6,10); 2) Abraham’s call (7,1-9,10); 3) Abraham’s ascent and vision of the fiery throne (10,1-16,4 and 17,1-18,11); 4) the stars (19,1-20,6); 5) the creation (21,1-22,6); 6) Adam and Eve (23,1-24,8); 7) the idol (25,1-26,5); 8) the heathens (27,1-28,3); and 9) the end of days (29,1-31,3).
The theological themes of the apocalypse centre on the temple and the people of God, eschatology, the image of God, and angelology. The temple is depicted in three ways: foreshadowed in the destruction of the house of Thare (8,5); as the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans (27,1-2); and at the end of days, when the heathens are destroyed. The temple thus plays a central role in the axis of history, past, present, and future of the people of Israel. Not less important seems to be fire, as it destroys the temple in all three cases and also plays an important role in Abraham’s sacrifice, which is the starting point of his heavenly journey and his visions, thus making heaven also a kind of temple or even the true temple.
The image of God in the apocalypse is that of an eternal God (9,2), who protects Abraham and his descendants (9,3), has created the world (9,2), has chosen Israel and called it “my people” (22,6; 31,1) and in the end will also destroy its enemies (31,1f.). In the heavenly liturgy (17,8-18) one finds more than 40 different epithets and names for God, a characteristic of mystical liturgy, as found in the Hekhalot literature and the Songs of the Sabbath in Qumran. The two most prominent angels in the apocalypse are Azazel and Jaoel, the former being the fallen angel and personified evil (13,6-14; 14,6) and the latter an almost priestly and divine-like angel (10,4; 11,2), who is described on the basis of biblical passages like Ex 24,10: Ez 1,26; Dan 7.
- Abraham, Apocalypse of / Daniel C. Harlow / In: The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism (2010 Collins / Harlow), dictionary, 295-298
- Apocalypse of Abraham / S.E. Robinson / In: Dictionary of New Testament Background (2000 Evans & Porter), dictionary, 37-39
- Abraham, Apocalpse of / Ryszard Rubinkiewicz / In: The Anchor Bible Dictionary (1992 Freedman), dictionary, 1:41-43
Pages in category "Apocalypse of Abraham (text)"
The following 7 pages are in this category, out of 7 total.