Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Air Beneath the Moon Part 2

This essay follows my previous one on "The Air Beneath the Moon Part 1", in which I discussed how the Ancient Greeks divided the world into spheres of existence, with a broad division into two fundamental layers :
  • Above the Moon
  • Below the Moon

Jewish and Christians writers expressed some similar ideas, but divided by the Firmament instead of the Moon. Many writers were apparently influenced by the dividing of the waters from Genesis, in the context of a division or dichotomy in the universe.

The Firmament divides the Waters of Above and Below

The Firmament is called Heaven and divides the Waters Above from the Waters Below - many Christians quote Genesis :
Genesis, 1:6 :
And God made the Firmament, and divided the waters which were under the Firmament from the waters which were Above the Firmament: and it was so. And God called the Firmament Heaven.

Jubilees, 2nd C. BC :
And on the second day He created the Firmament in the midst of the waters, and the waters were divided on that day -half of them went up above and half of them went down Below the Firmament.

Various writers such as Theophilus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Ephraim, Epiphanius, John Damascene, Basil the Great, even Julian, and Augustine quote or refer to the division of the waters by the Firmament, e.g. :
Theophilus, To Autolycus :
And God made the Firmament, and divided the waters which were Under the Firmament from the waters which were Above the Firmament. And God called the Firmament Heaven:

Augustine, City of God :
The earth was separated from the water, and each element took its own distinct form, and the earth produced all that grows on it. On the second day, then? Not even on this; for on it the Firmament was made between the waters above and beneath, and was called "Heaven,"

The Waters Above and the Waters Below

It's not really clear specifically what this division represented in earlier times - by later times, various opinions arose -

Some said the Waters Above represents the Spiritual Perfect Man :
Hippolytus, Heresies Bk 5, Ch. 4, 3rd C. :
"But the fourth river is Euphrates." This, they assert, is the mouth, through which are the passage outwards of prayer, and the passage inwards of nourishment. (The mouth) makes glad, and nurtures and fashions the Spiritual Perfect Man. This, he says, is "the Water that is Above the Firmament"

Some argued the divided waters split -
  • Below the Firmament - earthly, wicked, animal men
  • Above the Firmament - life-giving, the Good One, spiritual

Hippolytus, Heresies, Bk 5, Ch. 22, 3rd C. :
For there has been a separation made between water and water; and there is water, that Below the Firmament of the wicked creation, in which earthly and animal men are washed; and there is life-giving water, Above the Firmament, of the Good One, in which spiritual living men are washed; and in this Elohim washed Himself.

Epiphanius (and Jerome and Augustine) said Origen says the divided waters split -
  • heroic beings of angelic power
  • demons, potencies of contrary sort

Epiphanius, To John, 4th C. :
Origen says of the waters that are Above the Firmament that they are not waters, but heroic beings of angelic power, and again of the waters that are over the earth— that is, Below the Firmament— that they are potencies of the contrary sort— that is, demons?

Basil the Great has Origen as saying the division of the waters splits :
  • spiritual, incorporeal powers, good powers, purity, better
  • earth, matter, malignant, wicked, evil

The higher regions of the Waters Above are Above the Firmament.
The lower regions of the Waters Below are Under the Heaven.
Basil, Homily 3, 4th C. :
certain writers in the Church (i.e. Origen) who, under the shadow of high and sublime conceptions, have launched out into metaphor, and have only seen in the waters a figure to denote spiritual and incorporeal powers. In the higher regions, Above the Firmament, dwell the better; in the lower regions, earth and matter are the dwelling place of the malignant. So, say they, God is praised by the Waters that are Above the Heaven, that is to say, by the good powers, the purity of whose soul makes them worthy to sing the praises of God. And the Waters which are Under the Heaven represent the wicked spirits, who from their natural height have fallen into the abyss of evil.

(I cannot yet find such a reference in my Origen files.)

Above the Firmament

There are regions, heavens, beings and actions Above the Firmament :

There is a region Above the Firmament :
Pseudo-Philo, Antiquities 3, 1st C. :
I raised him up Above the Firmament and showed him all the orderings of the stars

God is Above the Firmament :
Jubilees, 2nd C. BC :
Jacob, my beloved son, whom my soul loveth, may God bless thee from Above the Firmament,

There are heavens Above the Firmament :
Apocalypse of Abraham, 2nd C. :
and we ascended upon many winds to the Heavens which were Above the Firmament.

Even good men can rise to the Region Above the Firmament, thus being 'as gods' :
Ambrose, Hypomnemata, 3rd C. :
Oh the blessedness of the teaching which quenches the fire of appetite! which, though it makes not poets, nor fits men to be philosophers, nor has among its votaries the orators of the crowd; yet instructs men, and makes the dead not to die, and lifts men from the Earth as gods up to the region which is Above the Firmament.

Below the Firmament

The Firmament of Heaven could refer to the entirety of the sensible world :
Philo, On the Confusion of Tongues, 1st C. :
and the footstool beneath his feet, which is, as it were, a work of sapphire stone, and, as it were, a resemblance to the Firmament of Heaven, namely, the world perceptible by the outward senses, which he describes allegorically by these figures

So by the time of Paul, this broad view was discussed :

Obviously quite similar to the Greek view at the time :

What's IN the Firmament ?

In some early books God himself is in the Firmament :
Prayer of Azariah, 2nd C. BC :
Blessed art thou, O Lord, God of our fathers, ... Blessed art thou in the Firmament of Heaven and to be sung and glorified for ever.

But generally it contains Sun, Moon, Stars, Planets -
Genesis :
{1:14} And God said, Let there be lights in the Firmament of Heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: and let them be for lights in the Firmament of Heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made the two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: the stars also. And God set them in the Firmament of Heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night,

Jubilees, 2nd C. :
And on the fourth day He created the sun and the moon and the stars, and set them in the Firmament of the Heaven,

Pliny Elder, Histories 2, 1st C. :
And not only the seven wandering stars be of this power, but many of them also that are fixed in the Firmament; so often as they be either driven by the access and approach of those Planets, or pricked and provoked by the casting and influence of their beames

Above the Heavens are the Holy Ones - where it's Divine, Spiritual

Holy and spiritual beings are found Above the Heavens :
1 Enoch 47, 1st C. BC :
In that day the prayer of the holy and the righteous, and the blood of the righteous, shall ascend from the earth into the presence of the Lord of spirits. In that day shall the holy ones assemble, who dwell Above the Heavens, and with united voice petition, supplicate, praise, laud, and bless the name of the Lord of spirits, on account of the blood of the righteous which has been shed; ...
At that time I beheld the Ancient of Days, while he sat upon the throne of his glory, while the book of the living was opened in his presence, and while all the powers which were Above the Heavens stood around and before him.

Irenaeus, Heresies 2, 2nd C. :
yet all things of a more spiritual nature than these, -those, namely, which are Above the Heavens, such as Principalities, Powers, Angels, Archangels, Dominations, Virtues, -were produced by a spiritual process of birth

There is a Divinity Above the Heavens :
4 Ezra 4:21
For as the land is assigned to the forest and the sea to its waves, so also those who dwell upon earth can understand only what is on the earth, and He who is Above the Heavens can understand what is above the height of the heavens.

Julius Africanus, Events in Persia, 5th C. :
and do ye bid us take your bribes, and conceal the things which have been communicated to us by the Divinity who is Above the Heavens, and neglect the commandments of our proper King?

The Christian Heaven is material, below the spiritual :
Irenaeus, Heresies 2, 2nd C. :
If, however, they labour to maintain that, while all material things, such as the heaven, and the whole world which exists below it, were indeed formed by the Demiurge,

Upper and Lower Heavens

Before Paul, belief in heavens above and below the Firmament arose :
2 Enoch, 21:7
And I saw the Eighth Heaven, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Muzaloth, changer of the seasons, of drought, and of wet, and of the twelve constellations of the circle of the Firmament, which are above the Seventh Heaven.

Probably influenced by the Kabbalah, there are a total of ten heavens in 2 Enoch - 7 below the Firmament and 3 above.
2 Enoch 20:3
On the Tenth Heaven is God

(Later works commonly have Seven Heavens, e.g. The Vision of Isaiah, Ascension of Isaiah, Irenaeus, Aristo of Pella, ClementA.)

Later, Nag Hammadi tells us that the Seventh Heaven is below the Veil of Above and Below.
Hypostatis of the Archons, 3rd C. :
And Sophia and Zoe caught him up and gave him charge of the Seventh Heaven, below the Veil between Above and Below.

The Testament of the 12 Patriarchs has the lower three heavens as rather earthly :
  1. gloomy, near the iniquities of men
  2. fire, snow, ice; retributions for vengeance on the wicked
  3. host of armies, for vengeance on the spirits of deceit and Beliar

But the four higher heavens are brighter and without comparison to the lower three :
Testament of the 12 Patriarchs, 3:2, 2nd C. :
And I saw a third heaven far brighter than those two, for there was in it a height without bounds. And I said to the angel, Wherefore is this? And the angel said to me, Marvel not at these, for thou shall see four other heavens brighter than these, and without comparison,

There are heavens Under the Firmament :
Apocalypse of Paul, 4th C. :
And I went along with the angel, and he brought me up into the heavens Under the Firmament

The Third Heaven

Back to Paul's time, we see a reference specifically to Paradise in the Third Heaven -
The Life of Adam and Eve 11:1, 1st C. :
Then God spake to the archangel(s) Michael, (Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael): 'Go away to Paradise in the Third Heaven, and strew linen clothes and cover the body of Adam and bring oil of the 'oil of fragrance' and pour it over him.'

Perhaps that influenced Paul, who refers to BOTH 'paradise' and 'third heaven' in his famous passage -
2 Corinthians 12:2-4 :
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the Third Heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to Paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.
The Christian Spheres of Existence in Paul's time

So, putting this all together, I conclude Paul probably saw the universe as being somewhat as follows :
Once again, we see this has much similarity to the Greek view :

The main difference is that the various planetary spheres and the stars are all combined in the (solid) Firmament. The Greeks tended to multiply spheres, whereas the Christians tended to multiply heavens.

Clearly, the Christian cosmology is similar to, and partially derived from, the Greek one.

Conclusion :

By Paul's time, the following Christian and Jewish beliefs were discussed :
  • There are both Upper and Lower heavens
  • Heavens exist both Above and Below the Firmament
  • Angels and Demons and other beings exist and act in the Lower Heavens
  • Divine beings can ascend and descend to/from heaven
  • Men can rise to the heavens
  • Paradise is in the Third Heaven

Along with the similar beliefs discussed in the previous part :
  • There is a distinct region between the Earth and the Moon
  • This region, called 'Air', is Beneath the Moon
  • This Air separates the Earth from the Moon
  • The Air is occupied with invisible beings, spirits, souls, demons, even Gods
  • In the Air are non-physical things - lakes, thrones, crowns, gardens, graves, nails etc.
  • In the Air are non-physical beings, good and bad - souls, demons, spirits, even Gods
  • In the Air higher Beings take action - such as whipping, punishments, reforming souls
  • What happens In the Air is vital to us down on Earth.

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