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The Worship of Jesus in Apocalyptic Christianity


Richard Bauckham
New Testament Studies / Volume 27 / Issue 03 / April 1981, pp 322 - 341
DOI: 10.1017/S0028688500006718, Published online: 05 February 2009

Link to this article: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0028688500006718


How to cite this article:
Richard Bauckham (1981). The Worship of Jesus in Apocalyptic Christianity. New
Testament Studies, 27, pp 322-341 doi:10.1017/S0028688500006718
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New Test. Stud. vol. 27, pp. 322-341

RICHARD BAUCKHAM
THE WORSHIP OF JESUS IN
APOCALYPTIC CHRISTIANITY
In the development of Christology in the primitive church, the emergence
of the worship of Jesus is a significant phenomenon. In the exclusive
monotheism of the Jewish religious tradition, as distinct from some other
kinds of monotheism, it was worship which was the real test of monotheistic faith in religious practice. In the world-views of the early centuries
A.D. the gap between God and man might be peopled by all kinds of intermediary beings - angels, divine men, hypostatized divine attributes, the
Logos - and the early church's attempt to understand the mediatorial role
of Jesus naturally made use of these possibilities. In the last resort, however,
Jewish monotheism could not tolerate a mere spectrum between God and
man; somewhere a firm line had to be drawn between God and creatures,
and in religious practice it was worship which signalled the distinction between God and every creature, however exalted. God must be worshipped;
no creature may be worshipped. For Jewish monotheism, this insistence
on the one God's exclusive right to religious worship was far more important than metaphysical notions of the unity of the divine nature. Since the
early church remained - or at least professed to remain - faithful to Jewish
monotheism, the acknowledgement of Jesus as worthy of worship is a
remarkable development. Either it should have been rejected as idolatry and a halt called to the upward trend of christological development - or
else its acceptance may be seen with hindsight to have set the church
already on the road to Nicene theology.
Of course, it may be argued that early Christianity developed from a
kind of Judaism which was not as strictly monotheistic as later rabbinic
Judaism. Early Christianity could with considerable plausibility be seen as
a variety of the 'two powers in heaven' heresies against which the Rabbis
later argued.1 Or, again, it might be held that the worship of Jesus emerged
in Gentile Christianity influenced by Hellenistic syncretism, and therefore
not in the context of a strict distinction between God who must be
worshipped and creatures who may not be worshipped.
Either of these explanations would make the worship of Jesus more
readily explicable, but they do not quite fit the evidence. Some of the
most interesting evidence is that contained in two early Christian writings
which are among the most explicit in their treatment of Jesus as worthy
of divine worship, and yet at the same time seem to be alert to the dangers

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of infringing monotheism by worshipping creatures: the Apocalypse of


John and the Ascension of Isaiah.2 These two works, despite some notable
differences, seem to belong to broadly the same kind of Christianity, a
Christianity which expressed its faith in terms drawn from the tradition of
Jewish apocalyptic and Merkabah mysticism.3 Both works contain (a) a
vision of the worship of Christ in heaven, and (b) a prohibition of the
worship of angels. Since there seems to be no direct literary dependence
between the two works, it is likely that this combination was typical of
the apocalyptic Christian circles which they represent. It is the purpose of
this article to study this interesting combination of motifs.
I. THE ANGEL REFUSES WORSHIP: AN APOCALYPTIC TRADITION

The Apocalypse of John relates, in almost identical terms, two episodes


(Rev. xix. 10; xxii. 8 f.) in which the seer prostrates himself before the
interpreting angel to worship him; the angel interposes, 'Do not do it! I
am a fellow-servant with you and with your brothers who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!' (xix. 10; cf. xxii. 9). A similar episode
occurs in the Ascension of Isaiah, where on reaching the second heaven
Isaiah falls down to worship the heavenly being who occupies the throne
in that heaven. His angelic guide forbids him: 'Worship neither angel nor
throne which belongs to the six heavens - for this reason was I sent to
conduct thee - till I tell thee in the seventh heaven. For above all the
heavens and their angels is thy throne set, and thy garments and thy
crown which thou shalt see' (vii. 21 f.).4 Later, when Isaiah calls his guide
'my Lord', the angel insists, 'I am not thy Lord, but thy fellow-servant'
(viii. 5).5
It is unlikely that the Ascension of Isaiah is dependent on the Apocalypse6 or vice versa, but the coincidence of ideas is striking. Both forbid
worship of angels on the grounds that only God (in the seventh heaven)
may be worshipped and that angels are not the seer's superiors. It looks as
though both reflect a common tradition in apocalyptic Christianity, just
as they elsewhere reflect common traditions about Antichrist (Rev. xi-xiii;
Asc. Isa. iv. 2-14). To understand this tradition we must first examine the
standard pattern of response to angelophanies in apocalyptic and other
Jewish literature.
There seem to be two similar but distinguishable types of reaction to
angelophanies. In both cases the glorious apparition of the heavenly being
provokes fear and prostration. But in one case the fear is extreme and the
prostration is involuntary: the visionary falls on the ground in a faint 'as
one dead'. In the other case the fear is less extreme and the prostration
voluntary: the visionary bows down before the angel in a gesture of awed
reverence. A simple example of the first category occurs in the Testament

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of Abraham: when the archangel Michael appeared to Abraham, 'he fell


on his face to the ground as one dead' (9, Rec. A). A more graphic account
occurs in III Enoch i. 7: when R. Ishmael entered the seventh heavenly
Hall: 'As soon as the princes of the Merkabah and the flaming Seraphim
perceived me, they fixed their eyes upon me. Instantly trembling and
shuddering seized me and I fell down and was benumbed by the radiant
image of their eyes and the splendid appearance of their faces.'7 An example
of the second category is II Enoch i. 7: when two angels appeared to Enoch,
'I hastened and made obeisance to them and was terrified, and the appearance of my countenance was changed from fear.'8 Both types of reaction
occur in the resurrection narratives of the Gospels: 'for fear of him the
guards trembled and became like dead men' (Matt, xxviii. 4); 'they were
frightened and bowed their faces to the ground' (Luke xxiv. 5).
Of course neither reaction need constitute worship and neither was
originally regarded as reprehensible in apocalyptic literature. Prostration
(irpooKvvT)ois), though it could denote divine worship 9 and occurs as a
response to theophanies, 10 was also a normal gesture of respect, acceptably given to human superiors.11 The gesture in itself was not an indication
of worship such as belongs to God alone. Terror and fainting commonly
characterize the visionary's response to the vision or voice of God, 12 but
also to other kinds of visionary phenomena. 13
Nevertheless in both reactions a potential danger of angelolatry might
be seen to lurk. The gesture of prostration came to be unacceptable to
Jews in contexts which gave it idolatrous overtones, such as reverence for
monarchs who claimed divinity.14 Arguably angelophanies were a comparable context, since polytheists worshipped similar beings, ls and apocalyptic
always walked a dangerous tightrope in its relationship with Oriental and
Hellenistic syncretism, borrowing so much and yet needing to distinguish
itself sharply from non-Jewish religion.16 It would not be surprising if the
need for the apocalyptic tradition to safeguard monotheism sometimes
took the form of prohibiting irpooKvvriois to the angels. Furthermore, the
fear which is a primary ingredient in both types of reaction to angelophanies, and becomes uncontrollable terror in one, comes very close to
the essentially religious response to the numinous. Accounts of angelophanies depict the angels radiant with the divine glory they share, and
many of the accounts of the visionaries' reactions seem to exemplify precisely that mixture of terror and fascination which Rudolf Otto described
as man's basic, primitive response to the numinous Other, which lies at the
root of all religious worship. 17 It is easy to see that the prominent role of
angels in apocalyptic visions could come to require some safeguard against
the danger to monotheism. 18
To provide such a safeguard was the purpose of the tradition in which
an angel is represented as refusing worship. Several texts besides those

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already cited in the Apocalypse of John and the Ascension of Isaiah are
evidence of this tradition. The earliest and mildest version is in
(a)Tobitxii. 16-22.
When the angel Raphael revealed his identity, Tobit and Tobias
were both alarmed; and they fell upon their faces, for they were afraid. But he said to
them, 'Do not be afraid; you will be safe. But praise God for ever. For I did not come
as a favour on my part, but by the will of our God. Therefore praise him for ever. . . .'
So they confessed the great and wonderful works of God, and acknowledged that the
angel of the Lord had appeared to them.19

Here Raphael does not explicitly refuse obeisance, but he makes clear that
he is no more than a servant of 'our God' and emphatically directs all
attention to God, to whom all praise is due.
(b) Apocalypse of Zephaniah (Akhmimic text ix. 12-x. 9).20
I raised myself up, then, and stood there and saw a tall angel who took his stand in
front of me; whose countenance shone like the rays of the sun in his magnificence,
which is filled with his own magnificence; and he was encircled by a golden girdle, likewise, upon his breast; his feet were like brass which glows in a fire. I, however, when I
had beheld him, was affrighted -1 thought, then that the Lord, the Almighty was come
to visit me. I threw myself down upon my face, and besought him. He spake to me:
'Turn thy heart to him! Do not pray to me! I am not the Lord, the Almighty, but I
am the archangel Eremiel.'21

Although it would seem that the Apocalypse of Zephaniah has received a


Christian editing,22 there is nothing in this passage or its context which
need come from a Christian hand. It is certainly striking that all three
items in the description of the angel recur in the longer description of
Christ in Rev. i. 13-16, but each of the three also occurs in other angelic
descriptions.23 A Christian translator's or editor's reminiscence of Rev. i.
13-16 may be responsible for the closeness of the resemblance, but he is
unlikely to have created a description of an angel modelled on one of
Christ. Even if Rev. i. 13-16 were the source of the description here, the
account of the seer's worship and the angel's rejection of it is sufficiently
different from that in Rev. xix. 10; xxii. 8 f. to be probably independent
of the latter. Probably, therefore, this text is evidence of a more widespread
common tradition on which both the Apocalypse of John and the Ascension of Isaiah also depended.
(c) Apocalypse of Paul (Coptic version).
And companies of singers were singing and ascribing blessing to the Father, and tens of
thousands of tens of thousands of angels were standing before him, and thousands of
thousands of angels were surrounding him, saying, 'Honourable is thy name and splendid is thy glory, 0 Lord'; and the Cherubim and the Seraphim said, 'Amen.' And when
I Paul saw them I quaked in all my members, and I fell down upon my face. And,
behold, the angel who accompanied me came to me and raised me up, saying, 'Fear
thou not, 0 Paul, thou beloved of God; rise up now and follow me, and I will shew
thee thy place.'24

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Although the context of this incident is somewhat obscure, its significance


seems to be that Paul should not fear or prostrate himself before the angels
in the third heaven because he is not inferior to them; his own throne, as
he subsequently sees, is set up for him, with those of the prophets, the
other apostles, and the martyrs, in paradise, where the angels honour them.
This text therefore particularly resembles Ascension of Isaiah vii. 21 f.
(d) Apocryphal Gospel of Matthew iii. 3.
Then Joachim adored the angel, and said to him: 'If I have found favour in thy sight,
sit for a little in my tent, and bless thy servant.' And the angel said to him: 'Do not say
servant, but fellow-servant (conservum); for we are servants of one Master.'25

This late Christian text, included for the sake of completeness, is likely to
be dependent on Rev. xix. 10; xxii. 8 f.
This completes the evidence for the tradition in which an angel refuses
worship. There are also, however, some other texts which counter the
danger of angelolatry in somewhat different ways. These texts are additional evidence that the traditional forms of response to angelophanies
were felt by some within the apocalyptic tradition to run the risk of infringing strict monotheism.
(e) Ladder of Jacob iii.
And the archangel Sarekl came to me, and I saw: it was a face . . . terrible. But I did
not fear before his look, for the face which I had seen in my dream [i.e. the face of
God] .. . was more than this,26 and I feared not the face of an angel.27
Here the awe-inspiring appearance of the archangel is reduced to insignificance by comparison with the vision of God himself.
if) III Enoch xvi. 2 - 5 .
When Aher [Elisha b. Abuyah] came to behold the vision of the Merkabah and fixed his
eyes on me [Metatron], he feared and trembled before me and his soul was affrighted
even unto departing from him, because of fear, horror and dread of me, when he beheld
me sitting upon a throne like a king with all the ministering angels standing by me as
my servants and all the princes of kingdoms adorned with crowns surrounding me: in
that moment he opened his mouth and said: 'Indeed, there are two Divine Powers in
heaven!' Forthwith Bath Qol went forth from heaven from before the Shekina and
said: 'Return, ye backsliding children [Jer. iii. 22], except Aher!' Then came 'Aniyel,
the Prince . . . in commission from the Holy One, blessed be he and gave me sixty
strokes with lashes of fire and made me stand on my feet.28

Another version of this story is in b Hag. 15a.29 Perhaps the version in III
Enoch is the more original and represents an attempt from within the
mystical circles themselves30 to counter the danger to monotheism which
could be incurred by the extreme exaltation of the figure of Metatron in
this tradition. Aher's terror should be noted, because it is in this response
to Metatron's royal appearance - the traditional response to angelophanies that Aher's apprehension of Metatron as a second divinity consists. The
version in b Hag. 15a omits this element and represents Metatron as seated

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only because he is the heavenly scribe: it could therefore be seen as a


bowdlerised version from circles less sympathetic to the Metatron tradition.
(g) Cairo Genizah Hekhalot A/2, 13-18. 31
A youth [i.e. Metatron] comes out to meet you from behind the Throne of Glory. Do
not bow down to him - for his crown is as the crown of his King, and the sandals on his
feet are as the sandals of his King, and the robe upon him is as the robe of his King .. .;
his eyes blaze like torches, his eyeballs burn like lamps; his brilliance is as the brilliance
of his King, his glory is as the glory of his Maker - Zehobadyah is his name.

Here the Merkabah mystic is warned not to mistake Metatron for God, and
therefore not to perform obeisance which in these circumstances would be
worship. The mistake was no doubt peculiarly easy to make in the case of
Metatron, but the glory of all angels to some extent resembles the glory
of their Maker: this is why the danger of idolatry was always present in
circles which devoted as much attention to angels as apocalyptic and
Merkabah mysticism did.
Since the role of Metatron in these Merkabah texts presents a closer
parallel to the role of Christ in early Christianity than any other figure in
Jewish religion,32 it is interesting to notice how the worship of Metatron
in heaven is here explicitly excluded,33 whereas the worship of Christ in
heaven is explicitly portrayed in the Apocalypse of John and the Ascension
of Isaiah.
These texts, (/) and (g), from the Hekhalot literature are, of course,
much later than the Apocalypse of John and the Ascension of Isaiah, but
they belong to a tradition which was in some respects continuous with the
older Jewish apocalyptic tradition and with which, as we shall see, the
Ascension of Isaiah has particular affinities. They illustrate again how the
role of mediating heavenly beings could be felt to endanger monotheism,
and how the tradition itself sought to safeguard monotheistic worship
from such danger.
In taking up the traditional motif of the angel who refuses worship the
authors of the Apocalypse of John and the Ascension of Isaiah showed
themselves alert to this kind of danger and sensitive to the implications of
Jewish monotheism in the sphere of worship. We must now examine the
specific use they made of the tradition.

II. THE TRADITION IN THE APOCALYPSE OF JOHN

The usual explanation for the inclusion and repetition of the incident in
Rev. xix. 10; xxii. 8 f. is that John intended to counter a tendency to angelworship in the Asiatic churches to which he addressed his work. 34 In that
case it is surprising that no reference to this aberration is made in the seven
messages to the churches, 3s but it is possible that the prophetess 'Jezebel'

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(ii. 20) justified her teaching by appeal to visionary revelations given by


angels.
A more adequate understanding of the function of the two passages will
be reached by examining their role in the structure of the Apocalypse. A
literary artist as skilful as John will not have duplicated this incident other
than by careful design. In fact, the two parallel passages xix. 9 f. and xxii.
6-9 form the parallel conclusions to two visions (xvii. 1-xix. 10 and xxi.
9-xxii. 9) which also have closely parallel openings (xvii. 1-3; xxi. 9 f.). It
is clearly John's intention in this way to mark out these two visions as
comparable and contrasting segments of his work: they portray the two
cities Babylon the harlot and Jerusalem the bride, the judgment of the one
and the subsequent establishment of the other.36
The parallel openings and closings of the two visions raise and answer
the question of the authority on which John receives and communicates
these prophetic revelations. As so often in apocalyptic visions it is in each

case an angel who shows John the vision (xvii. 1-3; xxi. 9 f.), though in
both cases John also adds that this occurs while he is iv irvevfian (xvii. 3;
xxi. 10; cf. i. 10; iv. 2), i.e. in a condition of visionary rapture attributed
to the action of the divine Spirit.37 It is as the giver of prophetic revelation that John is tempted to worship the angel (xxii. 8), but in rejecting
worship the angel disclaims this status: he is not the transcendent giver
of prophetic revelation, but a creaturely instrument through whom the
revelation is given, and therefore a fellow-servant with John and the
Christian prophets, who are similarly only instruments to pass on the
revelation.
Instead of the angel John is directed to 'worship God' (xix. 10; xxii. 9)
as the true transcendent source of revelation. In the first version of the
incident, the angel's rejection of worship is further justified by the explanation, 'For the witness of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy' (xix. 10c). The
divine Spirit who gives John the visionary experience in which he may
receive revelation communicates not the teaching of an angel but the witness which Jesus bears.38 The second version of the incident (xxii. 6-9)
lacks a precise verbal parallel to xix. 10c, but a similar point is made in the
verses which follow it. For this second version of the incident functions
both as a conclusion to the vision of the New Jerusalem (xxi. 9-xxii. 9)
and also as the beginning of the epilogue to the whole book (xxii. 6-21).
For this reason the question of the authority for revelation in xxii. 6-9 is
no longer limited to the immediately preceding vision, but expands, as the
language of those verses indicates, to include the revelation given in the
whole book. For the same reason the angel is no longer merely the angel
of xxi. 9 but the angel who 'showed' John the whole of his prophetic
vision (cf. i. 1; xxii. 6b). The angel's rejection of worship now functions,
therefore, to claim for the whole book the authority, not of an angel, but

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of God himself (hence xxii. 18 f.), to whom alone worship is therefore


due. The equivalent of the reference to 'the witness of Jesus' in xix. 10 is
now found in the words of the epilogue, in which the angel disappears
from view and Jesus testifies directly: 'I Jesus have sent my angel to you
with this testimony for the churches. . . . He who testifies to these things
says, "Surely I am coming soon"' (xxii. 16, 20). The angel is a mere intermediary, Jesus is the source of the revelation.39
Thus John has used the traditional motif of the angel who refuses
worship in order to affirm the divine source of his prophecy and play
down the role of the angelic intermediaries. What is interesting from the
point of view of Christology is that for John it seems that Jesus is the
source, not the intermediary, of revelation. It is true that Jesus is subordinate to God and receives the revelation from God. The title of the Apocalypse (i. 1) setsout a chain of communication of the revelation: God, Jesus,
angel, John, Christians. But when it comes to distinguishing the giver of
revelation from the instrument of revelation it is clear that for John Jesus
belongs with God as giver, while the angel belongs with John as instrument.
Implicitly the monotheistic prohibition of the worship of angels does not
prohibit the worship of Jesus.40
John has chosen to make his point about the authority for his prophecy
by using a tradition about worship. There was good reason for this. In a
sense the theme of his whole prophecy is the distinction between true
worship and idolatry, a distinction for which Christians in the contemporary situation needed prophetic discernment. The 'eternal Gospel' is
summarised in the words 'Fear God and give him glory . . . and worship
him' (xiv. 6), and the conflict between God and Satan takes historical form
in the conflict of human allegiances manifest in worship. The Apocalypse
divides mankind into the worshippers of the dragon and the beast (xiii. 4,
8, 12, 15; xiv. 9, 11; xvi. 2; xix. 20; xx. 4; cf. the emphasis on idolatry in
ii. 14,20; ix. 20) and those who will worship God in the heavenly Jerusalem
(vii. 15; xiv. 3; xv. 3 f.; xxii. 3; cf. xi. 1). This contrast reaches its climax
in the two visions of Babylon the harlot in xvii. 1-xix. 10 (where the metaphor of harlotry retains as its primary sense the Old Testament meaning of
false worship; cf. also ii. 20-22), and Jerusalem the bride in xxi. 9-xxii. 9,
with its picture of the city in which God himself dwells as its temple (xxi.
22) and his servants do him priestly service (xxii. 3). The message of these
two visions is emphasised by their parallel conclusions (xix. 10; xxii. 8 f.),
which enable John to end both with the injunction 'Worship God!' The
angel's refusal of worship reinforces the point: Do not worship the beast,
do not even worship God's servants the angels, worship God!
Such deliberate treatment of the question of true and false worship implies that when John portrays the worship of Christ in heaven in chap, v he
cannot be doing so in forgetfulness of the stringent claims of monotheism

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in the sphere of worship. In that chapter John - like many an apocalyptic


seer and Merkabah mystic - has been admitted to the heavenly throneroom of God, not, as was perhaps sometimes the case in Merkabah mysticism, for the sake of a merely private experience of heavenly worship,
but rather, in the old prophetic tradition continued by the apocalyptists,
in order to be present at the heavenly council-meeting to learn God's plans
for his action in history. The divine purpose of establishing his kingdom
John sees entrusted to Christ, who has proved himself, by his redeeming
death, to be the only one worthy to execute it. Since it is he who has
achieved salvation on the cross it is he who must bring it to completion in
the final eschatological events by which evil is destroyed and the reign of
God established. The question of the angel, 'Who is worthy . . .?' (v. 2) which follows an ancient pattern of procedure in the heavenly council
(I Kings xxii. 20 f.; Isa. vi. 8)41 - elicits the important information, not
only that the Lamb is worthy, but also that noone else is worthy (v. 3).
This establishes Christ's unique role in distinction from all angels who act
as the instruments of God's purpose. Such angels appear frequently in the
visions in which John portrays the Lamb's execution of his commission: at
every point before the parousia itself (xix. 11 ff.) it is angels who actually
implement the divine purposes in history. But this instrumental role of the
angels - for which no special worthiness is required and no praise given - is
distinguished sharply from the role of Christ as the divine agent of salvation
and judgment, even though that role is the subordinate one of executing
the Father's will (opening the scroll received from him who sits on the
throne). For his acceptance of that unique role Christ receives the worship
of the heavenly host (v. 8-12).
The distinction between Christ and the angels which John establishes
in chap, v with regard to the work of establishing God's reign is therefore
strictly parallel to the distinction we have observed John using with regard
to the giving of revelation. Just as the angels are only fellow-servants with
the Christian prophets in the communication of revelation and may not be
worshipped (xix. 10; xxii. 8 f.), so the angels who implement the divine
purpose in history are only fellow-servants with the prophets and martyrs
who bear the witness of Jesus in the world. In both cases, however, Christ,
although he receives the revelation from God (i. 1) and the scroll from
God (v. 7), is not classed with the servants who may not be worshipped
but with God to whom worship is due.42
There can be no doubt that in v. 8-12 John portrays explicit divine
worship paid to Christ: the parallels between iv. 9-11 and v. 8-12 make
this clear.43 The setting, it should be remembered, is the heavenly throneroom in which the apocalyptic and Merkabah traditions portrayed the
ceaseless angelic worship of God.44 The hymn of v. 12,4S in its accumulation of doxological terms, resembles on a minor scale the more elaborate

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hymns of the Hekhalot texts. 46 Of course, never in the Jewish texts are
such angelic hymns sung to any except God. 47
At v. 13 the climax of the throne-vision is reached as the circle of worship
expands to encompass the whole creation and the doxology is addressed
to both God and the Lamb, uniting the praise of God (iv. 9-11) and the
praise of the Lamb (v. 9-12) in a single hymn which anticipates the goal
of God's purpose through Christ, the universal worship in the new heaven
and earth. The conjunction of God and the Lamb (cf. vii. 10; xi. 15; xiv. 4;
xx. 6, 22; xxii. 1) in this verse illustrates how John, while holding Christ
worthy of worship, remains sensitive to the issue of monotheism in worship.
Christ cannot be a second object of worship alongside God, and so the
specific worship of Christ (v. 9-12) leads to the joint worship of God and
Christ, in a formula in which God retains the primacy. Although elsewhere
John represents Christ as sharing God's throne (iii. 21; xxii 1, 3), here God
alone is called 'he who sits on the throne'. 48 Probably the same concern
leads to a peculiar usage in other passages of the Apocalypse, where mention of God and Christ together is followed by a singular verb (xi. 15) or
singular pronouns (xxii. 3 f.).49 Whether the singular in these passages
refers to God alone or to God and Christ 'as a unity', 50 John is evidently
reluctant to speak of God and Christ together as a plurality. 51 Their 'functional unity' 52 is such that Christ cannot be an alternative object of worship,
but shares in the glory due to God.
Arguments that the heavenly liturgy of the Apocalypse reflects an
earthly liturgy practised in John's churches53 can probably not be sustained. 54 John's eschatological perspective is such that he reserves for the
New Jerusalem the church's participation in the angelic liturgy in the faceto-face presence of God.5S But the worship of Christ in the Apocalypse is
nevertheless 'highly suggestive of the devotional attitude of the Asiatic
Church... towards the Person of Christ'. 56 The doxology in i. 5 f., whether
or not based on a traditional formula,57 is evidence enough that John's
churches offered praise to Christ comparable with that offered by the
angels in heaven.S8
III. THE TRADITION IN THE ASCENSION OF ISAIAH

The Ascension of Isaiah is more closely related to the traditions of Merkabah


mysticism than is the Apocalypse of John. It shows a great many remarkable similarities to the later Hekhalot literature, including features not
otherwise attested in the older Jewish and Christian apocalypses. It describes, for example, Isaiah's ascent through the seven heavens, each with
its hosts of angels, in progressively increasing glory. 59 From the vision of
the descent of Christ through the heavens we learn that each heaven has its
door-keepers who demand seals to be shown before permitting entry (x. 24,

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25, 27, 29): a striking correspondence with the Hekhalot literature. 60


Isaiah's entry into the seventh heaven is challenged by an angel before he
is admitted (ix. 1-5).61 In each heaven Isaiah is transformed into the glory
of the angels of that heaven (vii. 25; ix. 30, 33). 62 He joins the angels in
their worship of God (viii. 17; ix. 28, 33). 63 The angels in heaven cannot
bear to see the glory of God (ix. 37) but the righteous behold the glory of
God 'with great power' (ix. 39). 64 All these are features of the literature of
ascent to the Merkabah.6S
On the other hand, by comparison with the Merkabah texts, the angelology is restrained. This may be due in part to the abbreviation which all
versions of the work have suffered,66 but it is still noteworthy that no
angel except Michael is named, 67 few specific angels are singled out, 68 and
there is relatively little mention of the various classes and ranks of angels.
More definitely, there is a statement that the secret names of angels cannot
be known by any man before death (vii. 4 f.; cf. viii. 7; ix. 5, of the name
of Christ): this must be a deliberate rejection of the techniques of Merkabah
mysticism, in which it was essential for the mystic to know the names of
the angelic doorkeepers he must pass and to be able to invoke the names
of other angels as protection during his ascent.69 Any suggestion that
Isaiah's ascent could be an example of what a would-be mystic could
accomplish on his own initiative by the theurgic use of angelological lore
is thereby countered. Isaiah is able to ascend only because God himself
has sent an angel from the seventh heaven to conduct him there as an
exceptional privilege, so that he may receive the prophetic revelation of
the descent of Christ into the world (vi. 13, vii. 4 f., 8; viii. 8-10; xi. 34).
For the righteous in general the ascent to heaven is possible only after
death (vii. 23; viii. 11; xi. 34). 70
The Ascension of Isaiah therefore seems to be deliberately rejecting a
form of Merkabah mysticism (whether Jewish or Christian is not clear)
in which angels were reverenced and invoked both as obstacles and as aids
in the mystical ascent to heaven.71 The author saw this as a dangerous
obsession with angels, bordering on idolatry, and in order to oppose it
head-on he also used the traditional motif, already developed as a safeguard
for monotheism in apocalyptic and Merkabah mystical circles, in which
the seer attempts to worship an angel and is forbidden. With the version
of this in the Ethiopic (to which the Slavonic and Latin are similar) at vii.

21 f., should be compared the rather different version preserved in the socalled 'Greek Legend' ii. 21 f.:
And he took me up into the sixth heaven,72 and I could no longer bear the splendour
and the lights, and I was greatly afraid and fell on my face. And the angel of God who
was with me said: 'Listen, prophet Isaiah, son of Amos: do not worship (npoaKW^ffQ?)
angels nor archangels nor dominions (nvpuiTqTaq) nor thrones, until I tell you.' And
seizing me by the hand, he strengthened the spirit which is in me.73

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In view of the abbreviation which all versions of the Ascension of Isaiah


have suffered, it may well be that the additional material here is original.
Certainly, the dazzling, overwhelming effect of the angel's glory, the
visionary's fear and trembling, and the angel's action to bring him to his
feet and strengthen him, are all authentic parts of the response to angelophanies in the apocalyptic and Hekhalot literature. 74 The further incident
in Ascension of Isaiah viii. 5 (also in the Greek Legend ii. 10 f.), where the
angel refuses to be called Kvptxx; because he is Isaiah's fellow-servant (ovvSovXos), makes a similar point to that made in Rev. xix. 10; xxii. 8 f.: the
interpreting angel is not the source of the revelation given to Isaiah, but
only a servant of God sent to guide him through the heavens.
In the Ascension of Isaiah the prohibition of the worship of angels is
more directly linked with the vision of the worship of God in heaven than
it is in the Apocalypse of John. Throughout his passage through the six
lower heavens Isaiah's attention is directed upwards to the seventh (cf. vii.
27). The sole function of all the angels in the lower heavens is to praise
God and his Beloved and the Holy Spirit (vii. 17; viii. 18) in the seventh
heaven. Similarly Isaiah is not to worship the angels in these lower heavens,
because his place is in the seventh heaven, participating in the worship of
God there (vii. 21 f.). The angel forbids Isaiah to worship 'till I tell thee in
the seventh heaven' (vii. 22), a clause which functions explicitly to link the
prohibition in the second heaven with the angel's commands to worship,
when Isaiah reaches the seventh heaven (ix. 31, 36; cf. 'Worship God' in
Rev. xix. 10; xxii. 9).
It is therefore the more remarkable that these commands to worship are
commands to worship Christ (the pre-existent Christ, most often called
'the Beloved' in the Ascension of Isaiah) and 'the angel of the Holy Spirit'.
The worship which is prohibited in the case of angels is commanded in the
case of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The carefully structured form of the
account of the trinitarian worship in the seventh heaven should be noticed.
It is set out in the following pattern:
A. Worship of Christ
1. the righteous worship and Isaiah joins them (ix. 28)
2. the angels worship (ix. 29)
3. the guiding angel's command 'Worship this one' (ix. 31),
and identification of the object of worship, 'This is . . .' (ix. 32).
B. Worship of the Holy Spirit
1. the righteous worship and Isaiah joins them (ix. 33)
2. the angels worship (ix. 34)
3. the guiding angel's command 'Worship him',
and identification of the object of worship, 'This i s . . . ' (ix. 36).

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C. Worship of God
1. Christ and the Holy Spirit worship (ix. 40)
2. the righteous worship (ix. 41)
3. the angels worship (ix. 42)
and the praises of the six heavens ascend (x. 1-5)
4. the guiding angel's identification of the object of worship, 'This
is . . .' (x. 6). 7S
The fact that Christ and the Holy Spirit are here represented as worshipping
God (ix. 40) 76 is just as noteworthy as the fact that they are themselves
worshipped. This subordination, though it takes a different form from the
subordination in the Apocalypse of John, manifests the same desire to
ensure that all worship is ultimately directed to God the Father. Christ and
the Holy Spirit share in this worship but are not rival objects of worship
alongside the Father, and to express that they themselves worship him.
The Ascension of Isaiah has commonly been held to embody an angelChristology. The two figures of the Beloved and 'the angel of the Holy
Spirit', on the right and left hand of God respectively (ix. 35 f.; xi. 32 f.),77
have been identified either with Michael and Gabriel,78 or with the two
Seraphim of Isaiah vi. 2 f., whom Origen identified as Christ and the Holy
Spirit {de Princ. I. iii. 4). 79 The former identification has very little to
recommend it, for: (a) in spite of Dantelou's argument, when Michael is
named in iii. 16 he cannot be a name for Christ; (b) the addition of Michael
in the Slavonic and Latin versions at ix. 23, 29, 42, may well be original;
(c) xi. 4 does not identify the 'angel of the Holy Spirit' with Gabriel, since
the angel there is the angel of Matt. i. 20, not Gabriel of Luke's account, of
which this section is ignorant;80 (d) the evidence that Michael and Gabriel
were represented as seated on either hand of God is scanty (2 Enoch xxiv.
1); (e) Michael and Gabriel would be a natural pair in iii. 16, but this is
hardly a compelling argument. The identification with the Seraphim cannot be refuted, but nor is there anything in the text to support it.
This is not to say that there may not be elements of an angel-Christology
behind the Ascension of Isaiah. Both ix. 27 (cf. ix. 21) and the description
of the Holy Spirit as 'the angel of the Holy Spirit' suggest that Christ and
the Holy Spirit are conceived as heavenly beings analogous to the angels.
The theme of the descent and ascent of the Lord (x. 7-xi. 32) probably
has an angelological background. 81 But just as in the Apocalypse of John, 82
these angelic features are thrust into the background by the rigorous differentiation between Christ and the angels. Christ is 'the Lord of all the glories
[i.e. angels] 83 which thou hast seen' (ix. 32), 'the Lord with me [God] of
the seven heavens and of their angels' (x. 11), worshipped by the angels of
all the heavens (vii. 17; viii. 18; x. 19; xi. 26-32). The Christology of the
Ascension of Isaiah is less aptly defined in terms of an angel-Christology,

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than in terms of worship, the combination of the prohibition of the worship


of angels with the command to worship Christ. Finally, it should be noticed
that here Christ's status as worthy of worship already belongs to him in
his pre-existence (ix. 27-32), though it is apparently his redemptive work
which leads to his enthronement (xi. 32).
IV. CONCLUSION

The worship of Jesus in early Christianity could neither be easily rejected,


since it was a natural response to his role in the Christian religion, nor unreflectively permitted, since it raised the relationship of Christology to
monotheism in its acutest form. No doubt the latter consideration, combined with the conservatism of the liturgy, which so largely followed
Jewish models, accounts for its absence from the formal liturgies which
have survived from the pre-Nicene period.84 That it occurred at least in
hymns and spontaneous worship, however, cannot be doubted, 8s and the
Christological significance of this should not be underrated. That the
highest Christology, including the direct ascription of the title 'God' to
Jesus, seems to have occurred earliest in contexts of worship, has often
been noticed, 86 but sometimes with the implication that it should therefore be taken less seriously. In fact, on the contrary, if it is in worship that
monotheism is tested in religious practice, the devotional attitude to Jesus
in worship is the critical test of Christology.
There were probably early Christian circles in which a general neglect of
the limits of monotheism in worship accompanied the emergence of the
worship of Jesus. This is perhaps evident in a passage of Justin Martyr: 'him
[God], and the Son who came from him,. . . and the army of other good
angels who follow him and are made like him, and the prophetic Spirit, we
worship and adore (oe(36neda Kal irpoonvpoviiev).'*1 But the importance of
the material studied in this article lies in its sensitivity to the issue of monotheism in worship. So far from endorsing a general tendency to reverence
intermediary beings, these writers - and no doubt the apocalyptic Christian
circles they represent - emphasised a traditional motif designed to rule out
angelolatry. At the same time they depicted the worship of Jesus in the
throne-room of heaven. This combination of motifs had the effect, probably more clearly than any other Christological theme available in their
world of ideas, of placing Jesus on the divine side of the line which monotheism must draw between God and creatures. 88

NOTES
[1] Cf. A. F. Segal, Two Powers in Heaven. Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism (Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 25) (Leiden, 1977).

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[2] For the purposes of this article it is not necessary to enter the discussion on the date of these
works, or on the question of the unity of the Ascension of Isaiah, since our concern is only with
the vision in chaps, vi-xi. These chaps, (with or without the section xi. 2-22, which is only in the
Ethiopic version) have frequently been dated within the first century: in the 60s (with the rest of
the work) by R. Laurence, Ascensio Isaiae Vatis (Oxford, 1819), pp. 171-7, and again recently by
J. A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (London, 1976), p. 240 n. 98; in the 80s (with the
rest of the work) by J. Danielou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity (London, 1964), pp. 12 f.;
at the end of the first century, by R. H. Charles, The Ascension of Isaiah (London, 1900), pp. xliv
f., and by G. H. Box, in R. H. Charles and G. H. Box, The Ascension of Isaiah (London, 1917), pp.
x f. But they have also been plausibly placed in the second century: within the first three or four
decades (with the rest of the work), by F. C. Burkitt, Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (Schweich
Lectures 1913) (London, 1914), p. 46; in the first half of the century, by E. Tisserant,/lsee/wion
d'Isaie (Paris, 1909), p. 60; cf. also E. Hennecke and W. Schneemelcher (trans. R. McL. Wilson)
New Testament Apocrypha, ii (London, 1965), p. 643.
[3] For the relationship between apocalyptic and Merkabah mysticism, see various comments in
G. G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (London, 1955), chap. 2; idem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition (New York, 1965), chap. 3; and especially
(including discussion of Rev. iv) C. C. Rowland, The influence of the first chapter of Ezekiel on
Jewish and early Christian literature (unpublished Cambridge Ph.D. thesis, 1975). In using the term
'Merkabah mysticism' with reference to the first and second centuries A.D., I do not of course
intend to imply that all features of the medieval Merkabah texts can be read back into that period.
I use the term to identify the continuity which can be demonstrated between descriptions of ascent
to the throne of God in earlier texts (among which the Ascension of Isaiah is prominent) and the
literature of medieval Merkabah mysticism.
The similarities between the Ascension of Isaiah and Gnostic literature, pointed out by A. K. Helmbold, 'Gnostic Elements in the "Ascension of Isaiah"', N.T.S. xviii (1971-2), 222-7, do not show
the Ascension of Isaiah to be Gnostic, since these features are also to be found in Jewish apocalyptic; they show rather that Gnosticism was indebted to the kind of Jewish and Jewish Christian
apocalypticism that the Ascension of Isaiah represents. There are no distinctively Gnostic features
in the Ascension of Isaiah.

On the Ascension of Isaiah as a woik of Jewish Christian apocalyptic, see Danielou, op. cit., pp.
12,173-6; on its relationship to Merkabah mysticism, see below, section III.
[4] This translation by D. Hill, in Hennecke and Schneemelcher, op. cit., ii, p. 654. The last sentence follows the Ethiopic version; the Latin (to which the Slavonic is similar) has: 'Similarly
worship him who is above all angels, thrones, and above the garments and crowns which you will
see afterwards' (see Tisserant, op. cit., p. 156).
[5] For this translation, see R. H. Charles, op. cit., pp. 54 f., with note; the original Greek of the
angel's reply is preserved in the Greek Legend ii. 11: O6K iyu Kvpiaq, &\\a avvSov\6<; aov ekii.
[6] There are few signs that Ascension of Isaiah is dependent on any New Testament writings. The
passage xi. 2-17 (Ethiopic version only) seems dependent on Matt, i f.
[7 ] Translation in H. Odeberg, 3 Enoch, or The Hebrew Book of Enoch (Cambridge, 1928). Other
examples: IV Mace. iv. 10 f.; Rev. i. 17; Hekhalot Rabbati xxiv. 2 f. Fainting is probably the sense
in Dan. viii. 18; x. 8 f. In some accounts of angelophanies only fear is mentioned: Test. Abr. xiii
(Rec. B); II Enoch xx. 1; cf. Mark xvi. 5,8; Luke xxiv. 37.
[8] Other examples: Num. xxii. 31; Josh. v. 14; Dan. viii. 17.
[9] E.g. Exod. xx. 5; xxiii. 24; Deut. v. 9; Apoc. Moses xxvii. 5; xxxiii. 5; Matt. iv. 9 f.
[10] Gen. xvii. 3;Ezek. i. 28; iii. 23; xliii. 3; xliv. 4; I Enoch lxxi. 11; II Enoch xxii. 4; Vita Adae
xxvi. 1; xxviii. 1; cf. I Enoch xiv. 24. I Enoch lx. 3; lxxi. 2 seem to be generalised reactions to the
vision of the throne of God and its surrounding angels.
[11] E.g. Gen. xviii. 2;xix. 1; xxiii. 7,12; xxxiii. 2; I Sam. xxviii. 14; I Kings ii. 19; II Kings ii. 15;
Isa. xlv. 14; Rev. iii. 9. In III Enoch iv. 9; xiv. 5, the angels prostrate themselves before Metatron;
and in III Enoch xviii there is elaborate description of how each rank of angels shows respect for its
superiors: 'they remove the crown of glory from their head and fall on their faces' (cf. also Hek. Rab.
xxiii. 3). On npooicvvrioK and worship, see H. Greeven in T.D.N.T. vi, pp. 758-66; C. F. D. Moule,
The Origin of Christology (London, 1977), pp. 175 f.; B. A. Mastin, 'Daniel 2W and the Hellenistic
World', Z.A.W. lxxxv (1973), 80-93. When Greeks objected to npoonvvnou; to a living man, it was
not because it was blasphemous, but because it was servile: see M. P. Charlesworth, 'Some Observations on Ruler-Cult, Especially in Rome', H.T.R. xxviii (1935), 5-44, especially 16-20.

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[12] I Enoch lx. 3; lxv. 4; Apoc. Abr. x; Matt. xvii. 6.


[13] Dan. v. 6; vii. 15, 28; viii. 27; I Enoch xiv. 9,13 f.; II Esdias x. 30.
[14] The earliest Jewish instance of a refusal to prostrate oneself is Esther iii. 2, which is interpreted as a monotheistic objection to -npoanvvr^oK in the LXX Additions to Est. xiii. 12-14 ('I will
not bow down before any but thee, my Lord') and the Second Targum to Est. iii. 3 ('I will not bow
down, except to the living and true God'): see the discussion (with these and other texts cited) in
L.B. Paton, A criticaland exegetical commentary on the Book of Esther (I.C.C.) (Edinburgh, 1908),
pp. 195-7. The question became acute in relation to those Roman Emperors who demanded explicit
divine honours: cf. Philo, leg. Gai. 116. For the monotheistic rejection of npooicvvrioK, see also
Acts x. 25 f.: for Cornelius, his action is the reverence due to a human messenger of God, but Peter
regards it as inappropriately given to a mere man.
[15] If it is true that Jewish apocalyptic and its angelology are indebted to Zoroastrianism, it is relevant to note that in Zoroastrianism both the Bounteous Immortals and the yazads were worshipped.
Jewish angels certainly also had an older relationship to the gods of the Canaanite pantheon.
[16] On the relationship of apocalyptic to non-Jewish culture, see my article, The Rise of Apocalyptic', Themelios iii. 2 (1978), 10-23.
[17] R. Otto, The Idea of the Holy (Oxford, 1923), chap. 4.
[18]- A. L. Williams, The Cult of Angels atColossae'./.r.S. x (1909), 413-38; M. Simon, 'Remarques sur l'angelolatrie juive au debut de l'ere chretienne',^4cad^mie des inscriptions et belles-lettres.
Comptes rendus des stances de Vannie 1971, 120-32, discuss the main evidence for Jewish angelolatry and rightly conclude that there was no officially sanctioned cult of angels in mainstream
Judaism, though prayer to angels seems to have been at least an occasional feature of popular piety,
and invocation of angels was a Jewish contribution to Hellenistic magic. Neither discusses the texts
examined in this section.
[19] RSV, translating the text in Vaticanus. The text in Sinaiticus gives a similar sense.
[20] I accept as probable the identification of the Akhmimic, 'Anonymous Apocalypse' (from
which this passage comes) with the Apocalypse of 'Sophonias' (Zephaniah), extant in a Sahidic
fragment (texts of both in G. Steindorff, Die Apokalypse des Elias, eine unbekannte Apokalypse
und Bruchstiicke der Sophonias-Apokalypse (T.U. 17. 3a) (Leipzig, 1899)): see M. R. James, The
Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament (London, 1920), p. 73; J. H. Charlesworth, The Pseudepigrapha and Modern Research (Missoula, Montana, 1976), pp. 220-2. If it is also the Apocalypse of
Zephaniah which Clement of Alexandria quotes (Str. V. xi. 77), then it belongs to the same type of
apocalypse as the Ascension of Isaiah.
[21 ] Translation by H. P. Houghton, The Coptic Apocalypse', Aegyptus xxxix (1959), 81 f.
[22] J. B. Frey, D.B.S. i, col. 457, thinks the work wholly Jewish, but at least minor Christian
editing seems probable.
[23] Face shining like the sun: Test. Abr. ii, vii, xii (Rec. A); II Enoch i. 5; xix. 1; III Enoch xlviii
C. 6; Apoc. Paul xii.
Girded with golden girdle: Dan. x. 5; Apoc. Paul xii.
Feet like brass in the fire: Ezek. i. 4, 7; Dan. x. 6.
[24] Translation in E. A. W. Budge, Miscellaneous Coptic texts in the dialect of Upper Egypt
(London, 1915), p. 1078.
[25] Translation in A. Walker, Apocryphal Gospels, Acts, and Revelations (A.N.C.L. xvi) (Edinburgh, 1873), p. 21; Latin text in C. Tischendorf, ed., Evangelia apocrypha (Leipzig, 1876, 2nd
ed.), p. 59.
[26] Chapter i describes the face of God: 'the middle face was higher than all, which I saw made of
fire, to the shoulder and the arm, very terribly'; cf. the description of the face of God in II Enoch
xxii. 1 (A); xxxix. 3.
[27] Translation in James, op. cit., p. 98.
[28] Translation in Odeberg, op. cit.
[29] This text is discussed in Segal, op. cit., chap. 3; P. S. Alexander, The Historical Setting of
the Hebrew Book of Enoch', J.J.S. xxviii (1977), 177 f.
[30] Odeberg, op. cit., intro. pp. 85 f., believes the chapter to emanate 'from early opponents to
the Metatron-speculations of the mystics'; but by comparison with the version in b Hag. 15a its
demotion of Metatron is moderate. It is therefore better to see it as an attempt at self-correction
from within the Metatron tradition.

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[31] Fragments of the Cairo Genizah Hekhalot published by I. Gruenwald, Tarbiz xxxviii (1969),
354-73;xxxix (1970), 216 f.: this passage on pp. 362 f. The translation I give is by P. S. Alexander,
from his edition of III Enoch in the forthcoming Doubleday edition of the Pseudepigrapha; I am
grateful to him for drawing my attention to this passage.
[32] For some of the parallels, see A. Murtonen, 'The Figure of METATRON', V.T. ill (1953),
409-11, though his view that the figure of Metatron has been influenced by the Christian view of
Jesus is improbable. Even less tenable is the view that 'Metatron is a rough draft of which Jesus is
the marvellous finished product': P. L. Couchoud, The Book of Revelation: A key to Christian
origins (London, 1932), p. 65.
[33] Were there Merkabah mystics who did worship Metatron? Presumably the warnings against
the danger of this presuppose that the danger was sometimes realised, though perhaps those who did
'worship' Metatron would not have regarded it as worship. In b Sanh. 38b (discussed in E. E. Urbach,
The Sages (Jerusalem, 1975), pp. 138 f.; Segal, op. cit., pp. 68-71; Alexander, art. cit., 177) R. Idi
disputes with a min who argues from Ex. xxiv. 1 that there is a second divine figure who should be
worshipped. Since it is R. Idi who calls this figure Metatron we cannot be quite sure that the min is
an adherent of the Met&tion-Merkabah traditions. Urbach thinks it 'most likely that the reference
is actually to a Christian sectarian' (p. 139), while Segal supposes that Metatron was the rabbinic
name for a variety of mediating beings in heresies, and finds no convincing evidence that Merkabah
mystics were ever called heretical (p. 200). On the other hand, the warnings against the worship of
Metatron make it quite possible that some Merkabah mystics strayed into 'two powers' heresy.
[34] So, for example, W.housset,Die OffenbarungJohannis(Gdttingen, 1906),p.493;H. B. Swete,
The Apocalypse of St John (London, 1907, 2nd ed.), pp. 249, 304; M. Kiddle, The Revelation of
St John, Moffatt NT Commentary (London, 1940), pp. 382, 449; A. S. Peake, The Revelation of
John (London, n.d., 71919), p. 355 n. 1; L.Morris, The Revelation of St John,Tyndale NT Commentaries (London, 1969), p. 228; R. H. Preston and A. T. Hanson, The Revelation of Saint John
the Divine, Torch Commentaries (London, 1949), pp. 120, 143 f.; J. Sweet, Revelation, SCM Pelican Commentaries (London, 1979), p. 280.
[35] So G. B. Caird, The Revelation of St John the Divine, Black's NT Commentaries (London,
1966), p. 237.
Nicolaitanism, distinguished by its lack of moral strictness (ii. 14, 20), seems to have been a
form of gnosticising libertinism (see E. S. Fiorenza, 'Apocalyptic and Gnosis in the Book of Revelation and Paul', J.B.L. xcii (1973), 565-81), and therefore more like the antinomian heretics in
Jude, who slandered angels (Jude 8), than the ascetic legalists at Colossae, who worshipped them
(Col. ii. 18). But this classification may be too schematic. It is quite possible that the Nicolaitan
prophets enjoyed visions in which angelic beings loomed large.
[36] The structure of these passages and its theological significance is studied in detail by C. H. Giblin, 'Structural and Thematic Correlations in the Theology of Revelation 16-22', Biblica lv (1974),
487-504. The following two paragraphs are much indebted to his analysis.
[37] On the significance of the phrase iv tivewaTi see my article, 'The Role of the Spirit in the
Apocalypse', Evangelical Quarterly lii (1980), 66-72.
[38] For the subjective genitive in naprvpLa 'ITJCTOO, cf. i. 2; xxii. 20. In a subordinate sense both
John (i. 2) and the angel (xxii. 16) bear witness to Jesus' witness.
[39] Cf., in more detail, Giblin, art. cit., 496-8.
[40] Cf. Caird, op. cit., p. 283: the repetition of the incident 'further serves to enhance the divine
majesty of Christ, to whom worship is paid without any sense of detraction from what is due to
God alone'.
[41] K.-P. Jorns, Das hymnische Evangelium (Giitersloh, 1971), pp. 45 f., following H. P. Miiller,
'Die himmlische Ratsversammlung. Motivgeschichtliches zuApk.5,l-5',Z.JV.H'. liv (1963), 254-67.
[42] There are traces of an angel-Christology in the terminology of the Apocalypse (i. 13-16,
where most of the terms are paralleled in descriptions of angels, cf. especially Dan. x. 5 f.; Apoc.
Abr. xi; Apoc. Zephaniah, Akhmimic ix. 14-19, quoted above; and Rev. xiv. 14 f., which seems to
imply that Christ can be called an angel), but it has been reduced to relative insignificance by the
sharp theological distinction between Christ and angels.
[43] Cf. Kiddle, op. cit., p. 105 (on v. 11 f.): 'Nowhere else in the New Testament is Christ adored
on such absolutely equal terms with the Godhead'; Swete, op. cit., p. 127 (on chap, v): 'This chapter is the most powerful statement of the divinity of Christ in the New Testament, and it receives
its power from the praise of God the Creator which precedes it.'

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[44] For the hymns sung in heaven, see Apoc. Abr. xvii; I Enoch xxxix. 12 f.; 4QShiiShab; II
Enoch xxi. 1; III Enoch i. 12; xix. 7; xx. 2; xxxix. 2; xl. 1 f.; xlviii B. 2. Also Odeberg, op. cit.,
intro. pp. 183-7; Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, chap. 4.
[45] The thiee hymns using the formula tffuxr . . . Xafleiv (iv. 11; v. 9, 12) have commonly been
called 'acclamations'. It is not, however, likely that the formula derives, as Peterson argued, from
Greek secular acclamations: see the most recent discussions in Jorns, op. cit., pp. 56-73; W. C. van
Unnik, '"Worthy is the Lamb." The Background of Apoc. 5\Melanges bibliques (Festschrift for
B. Rigaux), ed. A. Descamps and A. de Halleux (Gembloux, 1970), pp. 445-61. Jorns prefers to
see the three 'Axios-Strophes' as antiphonal responses.
This is not to deny, however, that in view of John's polemic against Emperor-worship, a parallel
and contrast with the acclamations of the Emperor are probably intended. It is interesting to compare Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shiita 1, where doxological hymns to God are very explicitly compared with acclamations of human kings: see J. Goldin, The Song at the Sea (New Haven/London,
1971), pp. 80 f.
[46] Cf., e.g. Hek. Rab. xxviii. 1; also the hymns in Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Shirta 1, with the
attempt at reconstruction in Goldin, op. cit., p. 81.
[47] Perhaps the closest parallels are III Enoch xxii. 1: 'Above them (the Hayyot) there is one
prince, noble, wonderful, strong, and praised with all kinds of praise. His name is Kerubiel.. .';
Hek. Rab. xxiii. 2: 'Anaphiel-YHVH, Lord of Israel - a revered, awesome, terrifying, noble, glorified, powerful, mighty, and valiant prince whose name is mentioned before the Throne of Glory
three times a day, in the heavens, from the day the world was created until now, in praise, because
the signet ring of the heavens and of the earth is given into his power' (translation in D. R. Blumenthal, Understanding Jewish Mysticism (New York, 1978), p. 76). The prostration of angels before
superior angels is described in III Enoch iv. 9; xiv. 5; xviii; Hek. Rab. xxiii. 3. There is certainly also
a tendency in the Hekhalot texts to dwell on the glory of the angels, in terms which almost become
doxological (Hek. Rab. xxiii. 2, 4; III Enoch xvii. 1; xix. 1; xx. 1; xxvi. 1; xxviii. 1) - precisely the
tendency against which the texts in section I are aimed. But notice: (a) such passages are no doubt
intended to enhance the glory of God by describing the glory of the creatures whose purpose is to
glorify God; and (b) even this tendency does not lead to doxologies addressed jointly to God and
the angels, like the doxology of God and Christ in Rev. v. 13.
The Parables of Enoch mention several times the 'worship' of the Son of Man or Elect One
(most clearly: I Enoch xlviii. 5; lxii. 6, 9), but always as the eschatological subjection of men to
God's vicegerent, never as worship by angels in heaven (unless lxi. 7 refers to this).
[48] P. Beskow, Rex Gloriae. The Kingship of Christ in the Early Church (Stockholm, 1962), pp.
140 f.: but he exaggerates the subordination of Christ in the Apocalypse by ignoring v. 9-12.
[49] xx. 6 is hardly in the same category, since aiirov rather obviously refers to Christ (cf. xx. 4).
[50] G. R. Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation, New Century Bible (London, 1974), p. 332
(on xxii. 3); cf. p. 189 (on xi. 15); Swete, op. cit., p. 142 (on xi. 15); R. H. Mounce, The Book of
Revelation, New International Commentary on the NT (Grand Rapids, 1977), p. 231 (on xi. 15);
T. Holtz, Die Christologie der Apokalypse des Johannes, T.U. lxxxv (Berlin, 1962), pp. 202 f. God
and Christ take a singular verb in 1 Thes. iii. 11.
[51] Probably in vi. 17 the reading OUTOV should be preferred, since it is easier to understand correction of aurov to airrCiv than vice versa (so C. A. Scott, Revelation, Century Bible (Edinburgh,
n.d.), p. 187): this passage then presents a phenomenon rather similar to xi. 15; xxii. 3. At v. 14
(where the reading fami ek TOU<T aitova? rCjv aliovojv might conform to this usage, but is much
too poorly attested to be original) John probably deliberately avoided specifying the object of
worship, since v. 13 would require it to be plural (elsewhere when he uses the same terms, in iv. 10;
vii. 11; xi. 16; xix. 4, the object of worship is specified as God; cf. v. 8, of the Lamb). Holtz, op.
cit., p. 202 (following Lohmeyer), suggests that the repeated ainov in i. 1 is another example of a
singular pronoun for both God and Christ.
[52] Holtz, op. cit., pp. 202 f.
[53] O. A. Piper, 'The Apocalypse of John and the Liturgy of the Ancient Church', Church History xx (1951), 10-22; L. Mowry, 'Revelation 4-5 and Early Christian Liturgical Usage', J.B.L.
lxxi (1952), 75-84; M. H. Shepherd, The Paschal Liturgy and the Apocalypse (London, 1960).
J. J. O'Rourke, 'The Hymns of the Apocalypse', C.B.Q. xxx (1968), 399-409, finds only fragments
of pre-existing hymns (and none in chap. v).
[54] Jorns, op. cit., pp. 178-84.
[55] E. S. Fiorenza, art. cit., 577-9; idem, 'Cultic Language in Qumran and the New Testament',
C.fl.0. xxxviii (1976), 175.

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[56] Swete, op. cit., p. 84.


[57] E. S. Fioienza, 'Redemption as liberation: Apoc. l:5f. and 5:9f.\ C.B.Q. xxxvi (1974),
223-7, thinks John has turned a traditional confessional formula into a hymn of praise by adding
the doxology.
[58] Doxologies addressed to Christ also appear in II Tim. iv. 18; II Pet. iii. 18; perhaps I Pet. iv.
ll;Heb. xiii. 21; I Clem. xx. 12; 1. 7.Cf. also Pliny's report that Christians 'carmen Christo quasi
deo dicere secum invicem' (Ep. x. 96).
[59] The seven heavens in Asc. Isa. resemble the seven halls of the later Hekhalot texts rather than
the seven heavens of Test. Levi ii f.; II Enoch; or even Visions of Ezekiel. Cf. also Apoc. Zephaniah
as quoted by Clement of Alexandria, Str. V. xi. 77.
[60] Cf. Ill Enoch xviii. 3; Hek. Rab. xvii; xix; xx. 5-xxi. 3; xxii. 2; xxiii. According to the Ethiopic version of Asc. Isa., Christ 'gave the password' at each gate; but the Latin has 'ostendebat
characterem' (x. 25) and 'dedit signa' (x. 29) (Slavonic, in Bonwetsch's Latin translation, has
'ostendebat signa' and 'dedit signum'). Evidently the Greek had xapanrrip, meaning the impress
on a seal, corresponding to Hek. Rab. xix, where at each gate seals imprinted with the names of
angels had to be shown. This motif is not otherwise known from the older apocalypses.
[61 ] Cf. Ill Enoch ii. 2-4; iv. 7-9; vi. 2 f.
[62] Cf. II Enoch xxii. 10; III Enoch xv. 1; xlviii. C. 6.
[63] Cf. I Enoch xxxix. 9 f.; lxxi. 11; Apoc. Abr. xvii; III Enoch i. 11 f.; Hek. Rab. xxv.
[64] In the Hekhalot texts the angels cannot behold God but the mystic can: Hek. Rab. xxiv. 5;
Lesser Hekhalot, as quoted by Scholem, Major Trends, p. 63 ('God who is beyond the sight of his
creatures and hidden to the angels who serve him, but who has revealed himself to Rabbi Akiba in
the vision of the Merkabah'). Cf. I Enoch xiv. 21; and, for the idea of 'power', I Enoch lxxi. 11;
III Enoch i. 11.
The versions of Asc. Isa. are confused as to whether Isaiah himself was able to see God (ix. 37,
39; x. 2; xi. 32): it seems that in the original he could only bear the sight momentarily. The confusion in the versions may be due to a doctrinal difference, since the two recensions of II Enoch
xxii also differ as to whether or not Enoch was able to see God.
[65 ] Cf. also Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, pp. 30,129.
[66] Such abbreviation is apparent from the comparison of the versions, and the Greek Legend,
and also from the quotation of ix. 35 f. preserved in Epiphanius Haer. lxvii. 3 (Charles, op. cit.,
p. 67).
The Greek Legend seems to show traces of a richer angelology: cf. the lists in ii. 40: &yye\oi,
ipxAyye^-oi, 8p6voi, KuptdTTjres, dpxa'> 4ovolcu, Ka\ naacu twv oipavuv ai Swipeis (the corresponding verse, Asc. Isa. x. 15, has shorter lists in Latin and Slavonic), and ii. 22, quoted below.
But the resemblance to Col. i. 16 is probably against the originality of these lists. More suggestive is
the mention of viro6p6vva fu>a in Greek Legend ii. 20.
[67 ] Michael is named at iii. 16 ('the chief of the holy angels'), and, in Slavonic and Latin but not
Ethiopic, at ix. 23, 29, 42.
[68] Apart from Michael and 'the angel of the church' (iii. 15), only Isaiah's guide (vii. 2 etc.), the
angel who presides over the worship in the sixth heaven (ix. 4), and the angel of ix. 21 (identified
as Michael by Slavonic and Latin at ix. 23).
[69] Hek. Rab. xvi. 4 f.; xvii; cf. Scholem,Major Trends, pp. 50 f.; Alexander, art. cit., p. 178. No
doubt this is why the technique of passing the gatekeepers is mentioned in Christ's descent (x. 24,
25,27,29), not in Isaiah's ascent: presumably Isaiah's guiding angel deals with this for him.
[70] Perhaps there is also some polemic against the Enoch traditions, though a moderate polemic,
in view of ix. 9. The author does not deny Enoch's translation, though he equates it with the postmortem ascensions of the other righteous men of the Old Testament (ix. 7-9); he does seem to
deny Enoch's visit to heaven before his translation.
[71 ] This suggests that Asc. Isa. should be given more attention than it has had in the discussion
ofCol.ii. 18.
[72] In Asc. Isa. the incident occurs in the second heaven, while in the sixth heaven occurs the
exchange in which the angel refuses to be called 'Lord'. The Greek Legend has moved the latter
back to the firmament below the first heaven (ii. 10 f.) and replaced it in the sixth heaven by the
prohibition of angel-worship. It is perhaps possible that the original included two versions of the
seer's attempt to worship angels and its prohibition, one in the second and one in the sixth heaven.

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[73] Greek text in Charles, op. cit., p. 144. (The Greek Legend is a much abbreviated and rewritten
version of Asc. Isa., but it frequently preserves the original Greek of the latter.)
[74] Dan. viii. 17 f.; x. 10,18; Apoc. Abr. x; III Enoch i. 7-9; Hek. Rab. xxiv. 2 f.
[75] The need for a specific command to 'Worship God' was perhaps redundant here, though it is
not clear why Isaiah is not stated to have joined in the worship of God.
[76] Cf. also Irenaeus, Demonstratio x.
[77] The positions in ix. 35 f. are clearer in the version in Epiphanius, Haer. lxvii. 3; see Charles,
op. cit., p. 67.
[78] So Danielou, op. cit., pp. 127-9, followed by C. Stead, The Origins of the Doctrine of the
Trinity, 1', Theology lxxvii (1974), 514.
[79] So M. Werner, The formation of Christian dogma (London, 1957), p. 132; cf. G. Kretschmar,
Studien zur friihchristlichen Trinitdtstheologie (Tubingen, 1956), pp. 73, 78. On Origen's identification, see Danielou, op. cit., pp. 134-6; Kretschmar, op. cit., pp. 64-8; a similar identification in
Irenaeus, Danielou, op. cit., p. 138.
[80] For the probability that xi. 2-22, though only in the Ethiopic version, belongs to the original
text, see Charles, op. cit., pp. xxii-xxiv; A. Vaillant, 'Un apocryphe pseudo-bogomile: la Vision
d'Isaie', Revue des Etudes slaves xlii (1963), 111 f.
[81 ] C. H. Talbert, The Myth of a Descending-Ascending Redeemer in Mediterranean Antiquity',
N.T.S. xxii (1975-6), 422-6.
[82] See above n. 42.
[83] This is probably the sense of 'glories' (Lat. gloriarum) here: cf. Jude 8; 1QH x. 8; II Enoch
xxii. 7,10.
[84] J. Jungmann, The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer (London/Dublin, 1965, 2nd ed.). It is
important to notice that the liturgies are more conservative, in the area of prayer to and worship
of Jesus, than the evidence of the New Testament suggests was true of Christian worship towards
the end of the first century: cf. the doxologies addressed to Christ cited in n. 58 above. The extent
to which prayer is addressed to Jesus in the New Testament has been frequently underestimated
(see E. Delay, 'A qui s'addresse la priere chretienne?', Revue de thiologie et de philosophic xxxvii
(1949), 189-201); note especially John xiv. 14, which lays down a general principle.
[85] See A. E. J.Rawlinson, The New Testament Doctrine of the Christ (Bampton Lectures 1926)
(London, 1926), pp. 135 f.; R.P.Martin, Worship in the Early Church (London, 1964), p. 31;
Jungmann, op. cit., chap. 10.
[86] E.g. Segal, op. cit., p. 215.
[87] IApol. 6. 2; the translation follows that of L. W. Barnard, Justin Martyr: his life and thought
(Cambridge, 1967), p. 105, who rules out attempts to read the passage differently.
[88] In the preparation of this article I have been helped by valuable comments on my argument
from Prof. C. F. D. Moule, Dr P. S. Alexander, and Dr J. P. Kane.

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