Friday, April 29, 2011

Did Saadia Gaon & Maimonides Believe in Eternal Marriage?

I'm very much in favour of using sources from the ancient world to explore our scriptures and doctrines.
They deepen and enrichen our understanding because, lets face it, we live in a time far-removed from that of the scriptures. Our understanding is not necessarily their understanding.
If you were to give a Russian a dozen roses they would ask who died. An even number of flowers in Russian culture is used for mourning, not for romantic or thoughtful gifts. Hilary Clinton commited a major faux pas when she sent birthday congratulations to the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych before his birthday. For Russians and Ukrainians, this is considered very bad luck, nd a possible jinx. It simply isn't done. Many years ago, when I was a little kid, some BYU Jerusalem professors had been with the students to a cemetary in Israel. My Dad asked them how it had been. It was alright, the professor said, but the cemetary was in a terrible condition, little rocks all over the graves! We spent most of the time clearing them off.
Dad had to explain that leaving small rocks on a grave is a Jewish custom and not a lack of proper maintenance.
These are all examples of how easy it is to misunderstand a living culture, let alone a dead one several millenia removed from us.
What I find problematic is trying to force our own understandings unto the past. Particularly doctrinal understandings. Mormonising the sources, so to speak.
To avoid any misunderstanding, let me state that I believe in the doctrines of the Restoration. What I don't believe in is making texts say something that they don't.
This gives us a distorted view of both past and texts.
This colloquy between Jesus and his Sadducean detractors does not question or throw doubt, in proper cases, on the eternal verity that the family unit continues in the resurrection. Jesus had previously taught the eternal nature of the marriage union. "What therefore God [not man!] hath joined together, let not man put asunder." That is, when a marriage is performed by God's authority—not man's!—it is eternal. See Matt. 19:1-12. "Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever." (Eccles. 3:14.)

Indeed, almost the whole Jewish nation believed that marriage was eternal, and that parents would beget children in the resurrection. Those few who did not believe that marriage continued after death and among such were the Sadducees, who could not so believe because they denied the resurrection itself—were nonetheless fully aware that such was the prevailing religious view of the people generally. Without doubt Jesus, the apostles, the seventies, and the disciples generally had discussed this doctrine.

The Sadducean effort here is based on the assumption that Jesus and the Jews generally believe in marriage in heaven. They are using this commonly accepted concept to ridicule and belittle the fact of the resurrection itself. They are saying: 'How absurd to believe in a resurrection (and therefore in the fact that there is marriage in heaven) when everybody knows that a woman who has had seven husbands could not have them all at once in the life to come.'

A most instructive passage showing that the Jews believed there should be marriage in heaven is found in Dummelow. "There was some division of opinion among the rabbis as to whether resurrection would be to a natural or to a supernatural (spiritual) life," he says. "A few took the spiritual view, e.g. Rabbi Raf is reported to have often said, 'In the world to come they shall neither eat, nor drink, nor beget children, nor trade. There is neither envy nor strife, but the just shall sit with crowns on their heads, and shall enjoy the splendor of the Divine Majesty.' But the majority inclined to a materialistic view of the resurrection. The pre-Christian book of Enoch says that the righteous after the resurrection shall live so long that they shall beget thousands. The received doctrine is laid down by Rabbi Saadia, who says, 'As the son of the widow of Sarepton, and the son of the Shunamite, ate and drank, and doubtless married wives, so shall it be in the resurrection'; and by Maimonides, who says, 'Men after the resurrection will use meat and drink, and will beget children, because since the Wise Architect makes nothing in vain, it follows of necessity that the members of the body are not useless, but fulfill their functions.' The point raised by the Sadducees was often debated by the Jewish doctors, who decided that 'a woman who married two husbands in this world is restored to the first in the next.'" (Dummelow, p. 698.)

How much nearer the truth were these Jews, on this point, than are the modern professors of religion who suppose that family love, felicity, and unity cease simply because the spirit steps out of the body in what men call death!
Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary

The very first problem to present itself is one of chronology. Saadia Gaon was born in 882 AD and died in 942. If we assume that Jesus died somewhere between AD 28-33, then Saadia is separated from him by almost eight hundred and fifty years! Maimonides was a couple of centuries later even than that, from 1138-1204.
Such late sources by themselves are very poor indicators of what beliefs 1st-century Jews would have held.
If this was the extent of the problems posed by this source, then things might not be so bad. My blog post would certainly be shorter.
No such luck.
I might be a little hard on McConkie. Most of this is not so much his fault as the fault of his source- Dummelow's commentary.
The whole thing is available for free through google books.
The Reverend John Roberts Dummelow in 1908 had edited a work entitled "The One Volume Bible Commentary." This was a fairly critical work for 1908, but in terms of Jewish and New Testament scholarship anything that old tends to be positively primeval. So many new directions and, indeed, new sources had opened up since then that our understanding of those topics is vastly improved.
Dummelow's provides no citations for the quotes listed above. By modern standards that is entirely unforgiveable in a scholarly source. I did however manage to track down the sources used.
The first source is the only one to predate Jesus' mortal ministry.
I shall destroy all iniquity from upon the face of the earth, and every evil work shall come to an end; and there shall appear the plant of righteousness; and it shall be a blessing, and deeds of righteousness shall be planted with joy for ever.
And now all the righteous shall escape, and shall live till they beget thousands; and all the days of your youth and of your old age you shall fulfil in peace. Then shall the whole earth be tilled in righteousness, and it shall all be planted with trees, and filled with blessing. And all luxuriant trees will be planted in it; and they will plant vines in it, and the vine which they plant will produce a thousand measures of wine, and of all seed which is sown upon it.
Each seah will produce a thousand seah; and every seah of olives will produce up to ten baths of oil. And as for you. cleanse the earth from all uncleanness, and from all injustice and from all sinfulness and godlessness; and all the unclean things that have been wrought 'on the earth' remove from the earth. And all the children of men are to become righteous and all nations shall serve and bless me, and all shall worship me.
And the whole earth shall be freed from all defilement and from all uncleanness, and wrath and castigation: and I shall not again send a Deluge upon it unto generations of generations and for ever.
-1 Enoch 10:16-22, trans. Matthew Black.

This passage does not imply eternal marriage in the LDS understanding of the term.
As William R. G. Loader wrote, "the images of the future do not include sexuality as a theme, although some statements imply it. The abundant fruitfulness to which 10:17-19 looks forward, when Michael rejuvenates the earth, will include that people “will live and beget thousands and all the days of their youth and their old age will be completed in peace” (10:17). This means that the author does not envisage that human beings will live like undying angels, without further need for procreation, nor that they will be in the kind of holy context where sexual activity would be out of place."[1]
Likewise, Nicklesburg, in page 49 of his commentary on 1 Enoch, explained the biblical imagery underlying 1 Enoch's concept of the future, "most of the major sections of 1 Enoch– drawing on Isaiah 65-66 for their inspiration– envision a renewed earth and a restored Jerusalem as the setting for the long life that the righteous will enjoy after the judgment."
What presents us here, then, is an ideal, rejuvenated earth in which the righteous will live as long as the antediluvian patriarchs, if not longer, and will beget thounds of children. The trees will be just as productive, yielding colossal quantities of fruit and oil. After living a long life, the righteous will die.
Nothing so far about eternal marriage.
As for the so-called Rabbi Raf, he seems to be Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, known by the honorific Rav. Rav was the chief (though not the only) compiler and redactor of the Mishnah and one of the most significant authorities among the ancient sages. Rabbi Raf is pointless tautology, much like saying Rabbi Rabbi.
In the world to come there is no eating nor drinking nor begeting nor give and take nor jealousy nor hatred nor competition, but the righteous sit with their crowns on their heads feasting on the brightness of the divine presence (Shekhinah), as it says, "And they beheld God, and did eat and drink (Ex. 24:11)."
-Babylonian Talmud, t. Berachot 17a.

This talmudic passage is a little ambiguous. Rav might have been referring to a corporeal state or he might have meant a bodiless one. Be that as it may, Rav is saying that the existence of the righteous in the world to come will be extremely different than what we know from earthly experience. The prooftext is meant to show that basking in God's splendour is what replaces physical meat and drink.
Or shall he ponder and say, 'Those in this world, shall they eat, drink and be married, or no?'
We should know that they will eat and drink like us, and be married, as is elucidated by the Sareptan widow's son and the Shunamite's son, who lived in this world, ate, drank and were worthy of marriage. One of the sages said that he was of the seed of one of them.
-Saadia Gaon, the Book of Beliefs and Opinions, the seventh article, chapter five.

I've rendered a fairly literal translation, following R. Yosef Qafih's first-rate Hebrew translation. Saadia Gaon, one of the most influential figures in Judaism, was embroiled in a polemic against those who denied the resurrection and particularly against those who spiritualised it. Any brief sketch According to Saadia, the resurrection takes place in this world. Here on earth, not in heaven. Not a general principle, the resurrection is restricted to the righteous and penitent among the children of Israel. It is a reward for the righteous. For him the resurrection is also an indication of God's power and preeminence, because if he once created us ex nihilo, then he can certainly recreate us from the same even after our bodies have entirely decayed away. This world, the world of the resurrection, is a transient and corporeal one and we will be transfered from it into the world to come, which is in heaven. There we neither eat, drink, nor live a married life. Saadia uses Moses as an example. Moses ate and drank before ascending Mt. Sinai, but while there he went without those things. Moses' experience symbolises what is to come. When he ascended Mt. Sinai and was directly, but temporarily, in the presence of God then eating, drinking and sex were a non-issue for him. They played no part at all in that experience. If that held true for the mortal Moses the more so when we will live permanently in God's presence.
Yosef Qafih says that he couldn't find a source for Saadia's statement regarding the two sons, but thinks that it might be emmendated to read "as is elucidated by the Sareptan widow's son and the Shunamite's son, and the dead which Ezekiel brought to life." The sage mentioned by Saadia is R. Judah b. Bathira, who declared that he was descended from the dead in Ezekiel's vision.[2]
At any rate, Saadia's concept of marriage was not eternal marriage. Marriage was a condition of this world. It lasted as long as people were in this world.
Saadia was very insistent that resurrection was part of this world, not the one to come.
Marriage was what legitimised sexual activity. Sexual activity was a bodily function (or appetite), like eating and drinking. Resurrection, after all, related first and foremost to the body. Eating, drinking and sex were (indeed, are) the epitome of earthly life.[3]
The last quote is the most problematic of all. It is distorted almost beyond recognition.
We can see from those treatises that the people whose souls shall return to their bodies will eat, drink, copulate, beget children and die after a very long life, a life as long as life is in the days of the Messiah. Indeed, the life after which there is no death is the life in the world to come, since there is no body in it. We believe, as any man of understanding verily does, that in the world to come souls are bodiless as the angels are. This explanation, that the body is the sum of instruments required for the soul's actions, has already been explained in an examplary fashion... Here it has been explained that the entire purpose of the body is the recption of food for sustaining the body, and begeting similar ones for the continuance of that body's kind. When that purpose is removed then it [the body] becomes unnecessary. That is, in the world to come, which is what our sages of blessed memory have elucidated, that in it is neither eating, nor drinking, nor usage[4], which is explained by the absence of a body. The Blessed One would not invent things in order for them to remain unused, and would not do anything without a reason, and heaven forbid that his acts would be like those who worship idols, "Eyes have they, but they see not, they have ears, but they hear not; noses have they, but they smell not (Ps 115:5-6)."
-Maimonides, the Treatise on Resurrection.

Maimonides had written a book entitled The Guide of the Perplexed. This book reconciled traditional Jewish beliefs with the mysteries of Aristotelian philosophy.
His book inspired many who were far more radical than he himself. They were embroiled in a sharp disoute with the traitionalists, who assumed that Maimonides was just as radical and that he denied the reality of the resurrection. He wrote the Treatise on Resurrection in order to defend himself from those charges.
Maimonides was not only a reknowned philosopher but also a gifted physician. I ommited the passage describes the three groups of functions the body is divided into.
For Maimonides, like Saadia, marriage wasn't eternal. It lasted only until man went to the heavenly realm, which is entirely bodiless. The resurrection isn't permanent. It is followed by another death, and then entry into perfect world which is that of the disembodied spirit.
None of what McConkie used support his claim.
This is not to say that there aren't Jewish sources indicating a belief in an eternal marriage.
There are some, but Dummelow's didn't include them. For the sake of fairness, I'll dedicate a future blog post to at least one of them.
My post though is more about the use of sources than eternal marriage in ancient Judaism.
To sum up my post, never use Dummelow's, there are far too many better ones out there, and McConkie's commentary should be used only with great caution. Elder McConkie being an apostle of the Lord had many good spiritual insights and he could bear powerful witness of the atonement, but he was not a great New Testament scholar.

[1]Enoch, Levi, and Jubilees on sexuality: attitudes towards sexuality in the Early Enoch Literature, the Aramaic Levi Document, and the Book of Jubilees, pg. 80.

[2]Babylonian Talmud, t. Sanhedrin 92b.

[3]I'm indebted to my friend Walker for that phrase.

[4]Usage was a rabbinic euphemism for sex.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nine Thousand Myriads of Angels

Every Jewish community's Passover Haggadah contains the following statement.
"And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt," not by means of an angel, and not by means of a seraph, and not by means of a messenger. On the contrary, the Holy One, blessed be He, by His own glorious self [did it]...
"For I will go through the land of Egypt," I, and not an angel.
"And will smite all the firstborn," I, and not a seraph.
"And against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements," I, and not a messenger.
"I the Lord," it is I and none other.

The Yemenite Jews follow a slightly different Haggadah, one based on R. Saadiah Gaon's rescension in the 9th century CE. Theirs contains an additional midrash on the same topic. Despite a reference in Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews, it isn't that well known, undeservedly so.
I transcribed this from a 1953 Folkways recording of a Yemenite Passover in Jerusalem.
Our rabbis of blessed memory say: When the Holy One, blessed be He, went down against the Egyptians in Egypt, nine thousand myriads of angels went down with Him; some of them angels of fire, some of them angels of hail; some of them angels of shaking; some of them angels of quaking; some of them angels of trembling. Trembling seized all who beheld them.
They said unto Him: 'Master of the World, when a king of flesh and blood goes down to battle, his ministers and servants surround him lest harm befall him.
Now, Thou art the King of Kings and Thou knowest full well that we are Thy servants and they [the Israelites] are the children of thy covenant. Let us go down and make war with them [the Egyptians].'
But He replied: 'I will have no peace of mind until I Myself go down.
I myself in My glory, I Myself in My grandeur, I Myself in My holiness. I am the Lord, I am he, and none other [will go down].

Monday, April 11, 2011

Who is Like Unto Thee Among the Gods

Popular wisdom has it that when gods (elohim or elim) appear in the Bible, and does not refer to God, that it was a term designating judges or magistrates.
I have several other blog posts showing why this was not so, but one can never have enough primary sources. Here is another, rather an important one, which explains what the word gods could mean in early Judaism.
The Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael is a midrashic collection of treatises and homilies grouped around the book of Exodus. The traditions in it are mainly Tannaitic, that is, dating from before the early 3rd century AD.
A sizeable treatise inside the Mekhilta is the Shirta, which expounds the Song at the Sea (Exodus 15). The topic of course is celebrating God's might and his deliverance of Israel from Pharaoh's army. When the midrash reaches Exodus 15:11, it naturally discusses what the word elim meant.
The translation is Judah Goldin's.
Another interpretation of WHO IS LIKE UNTO THEE, O LORD, AMONG THE ELYM: Who is like unto Thee among those who minister before Thee on high, as it is said, "For who in the skies can be compared... A God dreaded in the great council of the holy ones... O Lord God of hosts, who is a mighty one, like unto Thee, O Lord" (Ps. 89:7-9).

This reference to the celestial retinue and the courts on high are a clear indication that elim did refer to divine beings, though usually understood as angels. This is borne out by Hebrews 2:5-9 where the Hebrew elohim is rendered as angels.
Shirta contains four other explicit interpretations of the word elim. Out of these, two are word plays (mighty men and mutes, respectively) and are irrelevant to this discussion. The other two read "Who is like unto Thee among those who call themselves divine?" and "Who is like unto Thee among those whom others call divine and there is absolutely nothing to them?"
The first is a polemic against the cult of emperor worship so prevalent in late antiquity. The additional proof texts list Pharaoh, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, and the Prince of Tyre.
Those whom others called divine yet are worthless are idols. People see them as something divine when they really are not.
All three of these interpretations sees elim as divine beings, whether they truly are divine such as angels, or rulers who call themselves divine, or idols which men call divine.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Heavenly Coronation of King David

One of the songs I learned as a child was this one, , though the melody we sang it to is more like this
The words are David melech Israel khai ve-kayyam (David, king of Israel, is alive and well). They are taken from an incident related in the Babylonian Talmud (t. Rosh ha-Shanah 25a) regarding the blessing of the new moon. Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi sends R. Hiyya to bless the new moon and report back if all goes well by sending a signal containing the phrase "David, king of Israel, is alive and well."
The link between King David and the moon did not originate with R. Judah. It is found in Ps. 89:37-38. "His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established for ever as the moon; and be steadfast as the witness in sky."
In early Judaism David was considered by many to still be alive, and that he would be the messiah. Others considered him more than a messiah, but a divine figure, if not a secondary god.
"One passage says: His throne was fiery flames (Dan. 7:9) and another
passage says: Until thrones were placed; and One that was ancient of days did sit - there is no contradiction; One (throne) for Him, and one for David:
this is the view of R. Akiba.
Said R. Jose the Galilean to him: 'Akiba, how long will you profane the Divine Presence [Shekhinah]!
Say rather, one for justice and one for mercy.'
Did he accept this from him, or did he not accept it? - come and hear: 'One for justice and one for mercy'; this is the view of R. Akiba."
-Babylonian Talmud, t. Hagigah 14a.
More on this controversy can be found in pg. 47-48 of Alan Segal's "Two Powers in Heaven" and in Daniel Boyarin's "Border Lines" pg. 140-145.
The following source should illustrate my point on David's role as a divine co-ruler with God.
Eleh Ezkerah, or the Midrash on the Ten Martyrs, was one of the most popular and influential texts in Judaism. it was composed in Geonic times, but based on several earlier traditions. The "Ten Martyrs" relates how the Roman emperor decreed that ten leading Jewish sages were to be seized and put to death. They were to be punished vicariously for the sin of their ten ancestors. They sold their brother Joseph into slavery, an act which Torah states is punishable by death.
Rabbi Nehunia ha-Qanah sends his disciple R. Ishmael on a heavenly ascent to
discover if the decree was decreed in heaven as well. If it were an earthly decree, then they could overturn it by their piety and mystical powers.
R. Ishmael discovers that God has allowed the decree to stand in order to fulfil the demands of justice, and in return for the deaths of the ten sages, Rome will be obliterated.
When R. Ishmael returns, the ten sages submit to the yoke of heaven and are cruelly executed by Rome.
Eleh Ezkerah is, historically-speaking, a jumbled mess. The ten martyrs did not all live and die at the same time, and the political and religious reality of life under the Byzantine Empire rubs shoulders with those of the Bar-Kochba Revolt and the Hadrianic persecutions.
What follows is part of the earlier Eleh Ezkerah material included in the mystical text Heichalot Rabbati.
Heichalot Rabbati, Apocalypse One, translated by Morton Smith. I ammended the translation slightly to better fit the biblical references in the original.
[Segansegael, the Prince of the Presence, said to R. Ishmael] “My friend, sit in my bosom and I shall tell thee what is to come upon Israel.”
I sat in his bosom and he gazed upon me and did weep, and his tears ran down continually from his eyes and fell upon my face.
I said to him, “Why does your Excellency weep?”
He said to me, “My friend, come, and I shall take thee in and teach thee what is laid up for Israel, the holy people.”
He grasped me by my hand and took me in to the inmost chambers and to the most secret rooms and to the treasuries. He took tablets and opened them and showed me letters written with griefs each different from the other.
I said to him, “For whom are these?” He said to me, “For Israel.”
I said to him, “And can Israel bear them?”
He said to me, “Come tomorrow and I shall teach thee of griefs yet different from these.” On the morrow he took me in to the inmost chambers and showed me griefs more bitter than the first: "Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for captivity, to captivity (Jer. 15:2)." I said to him, “And did then, your Excellency, Israel alone sin?”
He said to me, “Griefs more bitter than these are laid on them anew each day. And when, assembling in synagogues and schools, they say, ‘Amen. Let the great name be blessed,’ we do not permit these [griefs] to go forth from the inmost chambers.”
When I went down from before him I heard a voice speaking in the Aramaic language, and thus it said:
“The holy shrine shall be a ruin;
and the temple, a fire burning;
“And the dwelling of the king, desolation;
and she in whom the king rejoiced shall mourn as a widow;
“And the virgins and the youths shall be spoiled;
and the servants of the king, be killed;
“And the pure altar, polluted;
and the table which was set before the Lord, taken as spoil by the enemy;
“And Jerusalem shall be desolation;
and the land of Israel trembling.”
When I heard the voice of this vision I was terrified and struck silent and fell backwards. But then came the angel Hadariel and gave me breath and spirit and stood me upon my feet. He said to me, ”My friend, what came over thee?” I said to him, “Your Excellency, is there no restoration for Israel?”
He said to me, “Come, and I shall bring thee in to treasuries of consolations and to treasuries of salvations and shall show thee.” He brought me in to treasuries of salvations and to treasuries of consolations and I beheld the companies of ministering angels, that they were sitting and weaving garments of salvations and making crowns of life and fixing in them precious stones and pearls and compounding all manner of spices and perfumed wines for the righteous. And I beheld one crown which differed from all the [other] crowns, and the sun and the moon and the twelve signs of the zodiac were fixed in it. I said to him, “Your Excellency, for whom are these crowns?”
He said to me, “For Israel.”
“And that different crown, for whom is that destined?”
He said to me, “For David, the king of Israel.”
I said to him, “Your Excellency, show me the glory of David.”
He said to me, “My friend, wait for three hours until David cometh hither and thou shalt behold his greatness.”
He took me and seated me in his bosom.
He said to me, “What dost thou see?”
I said to him, “I see seven lightnings which strike as one.”
He said to me, “My son, close thine eyes that thou not be shaken by those that shall go forth to meet David.” At once, all ophanim and seraphim and the holy beasts and treasuries of snow and treasuries of hail and clouds of glory and planets and stars and ministering angels and fiery spirits of the fourth heaven cried out in tumult, saying: “For the chief musician, a psalm of David. The heavens are telling the glory of God (Ps. 19:1-2).”
And I heard a sound of a great uproar which came from Eden, saying: “The Lord shall reign forever and ever (Ex. 15:18).”
And behold David, the King of Israel, came first, and I beheld all the kings of the house of David following after him, and each had his crown on his head and the crown of David was more brilliant and differed from all the other crowns and its splendor went forth from one end of the world to the other.
When David went up to the great temple which is in the firmament, there was set for him a throne of fire which was forty parasangs in height and double in length and double in breadth.
And when David came and sat down upon his throne which was prepared for him opposite the throne of his Creator (and all the kings of the house of David sit before him, and all the kings of the house of Israel stand behind him) at once David arose and uttered songs and praises [such as] ear hath not heard from [the creation of] the world.
And when David began and said, “The Lord shall reign forever and ever!" Metatron and all his servants began and said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts, all the earth is full of His glory (Isa. 6:3),” and the beasts praise God saying, “Blessed be the glory of the Lord from His [dwelling] place (Eze. 3:12),” and the firmaments say, “The Lord shall reign forever and ever,” and all the earth saith, “The Lord has been King (Ps. 93:1), the Lord is King (Ps. 10:16), the Lord shall be King, forever and ever (Ex. 15:18),” and all the kings of the house of David say, “The Lord shall be King over all the earth, in that day shall the Lord be one and His name One (Zech. 14:9).”

The angel Sagansegael (one of the titles of Metatron) weeps over the woes awaiting Israel. R. Ishmael leaves the treasury and hears a bath kol (a voice serving as heavenly oracle) reciting an Aramaic lament over Jerusalem and its temple. Aramaic, as shown by the Babylonian Talmud, t. Sotah 33a, served as a direct conduit of revelation between God (or his Shekhinah) and man. Aramaic bypassed the ministering angels, who only know Hebrew. R. Ishmael is overwhelmed by the horrific news until he is revived by an angel, who shows him a scene of consolation and salvation. The Revelation of St. John and the later, Gnostic "Dialogue of the Saviour" both have new garments given to God's people when salvation occurs, but the imagery can be found as early as Zechariah 3. Revelation 2:10 describes a crown (as do several other New Testament books) given to those that overcome.
While it can't be emphasised enough that crowns weren't pretty little trinkets, but had definite associations of dominion and victory, I don't see the need to labour the point.
The similarity between Revelation and this passage of Heichalot Rabbati doesn't point to any direct dependance, but to shared aspects of culture and historical circumstance.
David's crown differs from all the other crowns, and it contains emblems of the agents through which God ruled the universe.
"And God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; and the stars. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good (Gen 1:16-18)." At the end of Genesis Rabbah 6:9 we read about Joshua's greatness in commanding the sun and moon to be still "which are they who rule the world from one end to another."
Just like the sun, the glory of David's crown shines from one end of the world to another.
David is accompanied by the same heavenly beings that accompanied God's merkabah in Ezekiel 1. He is then seated upon an enormous throne of fire. Psalms and other scriptures applied to YHWH are recited, but YHWH is nowhere to be seen in all this.
That thrones belong to both earthly and heavenly kings is self-evident. As can be seen from the talmudic passage quoted above, both R. Akiba and R. Jose saw in the interpretation of Daniel 7:9 as a throne for David the implication that David was a divine figure, participating in God's rule and kingship. A secondary god, as I stated earlier. In Heichalot Rabbati, so do all the kings of Judah and Israel to a lesser degree, as well as the children of Israel.
One final aspect of David's coronation that I would like to consider is the material which the throne is made of- fire.
Daniel 7:9 says that throne which the divine figure is seated on is fire. Shiur Qomah, a mystical text closer in time to Heichalot Rabbati draws on the same imagery in Daniel, describing a fiery throne used by Metatron, God's viceroy. This is in addition to a description of God as a fiery being.
In parting, I would like to share a statement in Shiur Qomah regarding Metatron that sums up the attitude of the mystics towards man sharing in God's power.
"The name of the lad is the name of his master."