Bishop N.T. Wright is the Bishop of Durham in the Church of England. He is considered one of the world’s foremost theologians. Last night he was interviewed by Martin Bashir on ABC’s Nightline program about his new book “Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church,” in which he gave his perspective on death and what heaven is like. Borrowing a Niblyism, Latter-day Saints will “hear the ringing of familiar bells” in what Bishop Wright has to say. [Read more…]
A reader emailed me last night and introduced me to the work of Dr. Andrei Orlov, a professor at Marquette University, who has done much work on Enoch pseudepigraphal material. As I was perusing some of his research I came upon one of the excerpts from his book The Enoch-Metatron Tradition that interested me. It is an account from the book of 1 Enoch which tells of Enoch’s vision of his ascension to the throne of God:
And I proceeded until I came near to a wall (t[eqm) which was built of hailstones, and a tongue of fire surrounded it, and it began to make me afraid. And I went into the tongue of fire and came near to a large house (be4t (a3biy) which was built of hailstones, and the wall of that house (was) like a mosaic (made) of hailstones, and its floor (was) snow. Its roof (was) like the path of the stars and flashes of lightning, and among them (were) fiery Cherubim, and their heaven (was like) water. And (there was) a fire burning around its wall, and its door was ablaze with fire. And I went into that house, and (it was) hot as fire and cold as snow, and there was neither pleasure nor life in it. Fear covered me and trembling, I fell on my face. And I saw in the vision, and behold, another house, which was larger than the former, and all its doors (were) open before me, and (it was) built of a tongue of fire. And in everything it so excelled in glory and splendor and size that I am unable to describe to you its glory and its size. And its floor (was) fire, and above (were) lightning and the path of the stars, and its roof also (was) a burning fire. And I looked and I saw in it a high throne, and its appearance (was) like ice and its surrounds like the shining sun and the sound of Cherubim. ((http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/enochpriest))
I believe I’ve come across this reference before, perhaps in Nibley’s writings, but it was good to go over it again. This type of psudepigrapha is full of symbolism and can be intimidating unless we have a guide. Dr. Orlov helps us in this regard:
Commenting on this passage, Himmelfarb draws the readers’ attention to the description of the celestial edifices which Enoch encounters in his approach to the Throne. She notes that the Ethiopic text reports that, in order to reach God’s Throne, the patriarch passes through three celestial constructions: a wall, an outer house, and an inner house. The Greek version of this narrative mentions a house instead of a wall. Himmelfarb observes that “more clearly in the Greek, but also in the Ethiopic this arrangement echoes the structure of the earthly temple with its vestibule (Mlw)), sanctuary (lkyh), and the Holy of Holies (rybd).” ((ibid.))
So in order to reach the highest level of the heaven, Enoch had to pass through three stages or levels of progression on his ascent. As Dr. Orlov notes, this has also been shown to follow the very structure of many ancient temples themselves, that of three levels of separation or partition from the most sacred interior, the Holy of Holies, where God dwells. Such a structure can be seen in Moses’ tabernacle, as well as Solomon’s temple and those that followed its pattern.