Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ancient Hebrew cosmology

JAMES MCGRATH has a post on Ancient Hebrew Cosmology which interacts with a diagram from Logos Bible Software. The diagram is accurate as far as it goes, but incomplete and to a large degree it misses the point. For the ancient Israelites (and ancient Near Eastern peoples in general), the physical universe was God's (or the high god's) temple. The firmament/dome of the heavens was the floor of the temple and formed its vestibule (entryway) and nave (main room). The heaven of heavens contained the holy of holies, God's throne room, where he sat enthroned. The earth was below all the action and was merely God's footstool. The earthly temple is the microcosmic representation of the macrocosmic reality. This layout is implicit in the architecture and decoration of the Jerusalem temple and is explained in detail by Philo of Alexandria (Spec. Leg. 1:66-67, 82-96; Moses 2:74-76, 88, 98, 101-5, 109-33). It forms the basis of the theology and celestial cosmography of mystical texts such as the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and the Hekhalot literature.