The Origins of Jewish Mysticism offers the first in-depth look at the history of Jewish mysticism from the book of Ezekiel to the Merkavah mysticism of late antiquity. The Merkavah movement is widely recognized as the first full-fledged expression of Jewish mysticism, one that had important ramifications for classical rabbinic Judaism and the emergence of the Kabbalah in twelfth-century Europe. Yet until now, the origins and development of still earlier forms of Jewish mysticism have been largely overlooked. In this book, Peter Schafer sheds new light on Ezekiel's tantalizing vision, the apocalyptic literature of Enoch, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the writings of the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo, the rabbinical writings of the Talmudic period, and the esotericism of the Merkavah mystics. Schafer questions whether we can accurately speak of Jewish mysticism as a uniform, coherent phenomenon with origins in Judaism's mythical past.
Rather than imposing preconceived notions about "mysticism" on a great variety of writings that arose from different cultural, religious, and historical settings, he reveals what these writings seek to tell us about the age-old human desire to get close to and communicate with God.
Peter Schafer is the Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies and professor of religion at Princeton University. His books include "Jesus in the Talmud" and "Mirror of His Beauty: Feminine Images of God from the Bible to the Early Kabbalah" (both Princeton). He received a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2007.
Acknowledgments XI Abbreviations XIII Introduction 1 Mysticism 1 Jewish Mysticism 9 1 Phases of Jewish Mysticism 9 2 Unio mystica 17 Origins 20 The Origins of Jewish Mysticism 23 Chapter 1: Ezekiel's Vision: The Cosmos as Temple 34 Chapter 2: Enoch and His Circle: Ascent to Heaven 53 The Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36) 53 The Testament of Levi67 Similitudes of Enoch (1 Enoch 37-71) 72 2 Enoch 77 Chapter 3: Enoch's Companions: From the Community to the Individual 86 Apocalypse of Abraham 86 Ascension of Isaiah 93 Apocalypse of Zephaniah 99 Apocalypse of John 103 Chapter 4: Qumran: Communion with the Angels 112 A Community of Priests 113 Communion with the Angels in the Holy War 116 Liturgical Communion with the Angels 122 The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice 130 The Self-Glorification Hymn 146 Summary 151 Chapter 5: Philo: The Ascent of the Soul 154 Philo's Concept of God 155 Body and Soul, Senses and Mind 160 The Soul's Vision of God 164 Chapter 6: The Rabbis I: Approaching God through Exegesis.175 Reading and Expounding the Torah 176 The Cycle of Seven Stories 185 1 Yohanan b Zakkai and Eleazar b Arakh: Teacher and Student 186 2 Chain of Transmission 195 3 Four Entered a Garden 196 4 Parable of the King's Garden 203 5 Parable of the Middle Course 206 6 Ben Zoma and Creation 207 7 Creation 209 Summary 210 Chapter 7: The Rabbis II: The Merkavah in Context 214 Yerushalmi 214 Bavli 222 Chapter 8: The Merkavah Mystics 243 Hekhalot Rabbati 244 1 The Gedullah Hymns 245 2 The Qedushah Hymns 254 3 The Ten Martyrs Narrative 256 4 The Apocalypses 257 5 Qedushah Hymns and Hymns of Praise 259 6 The Ascent Accounts 268 Hekhalot Zutarti 282 1 335-374: Ascent Accounts 283 2 375-406: Metatron 294 3 407-427: The Test of the Mystic and His Ascent 298 4 489-495: The Book of the Mysteries of the Divine Names 304 5 498-517: The Magic of the Name 305 Shi'ur Qomah 306 3 Enoch 315 1 Ishmael's Ascent 316 2 Enoch Is Metatron 318 Summary 327 Chapter 9: Conclusions 331 Ezekiel and the Ascent Apocalypses 331 Hekhalot Literature 339 Qumran 348 The Rabbis 350 Philo 352 Mysticism 353 Bibliography 357 Source Index 373 General Index 391