Similitudes – Their Binitarian Nature – Visions and Cultural Context – Steven Richard Scott
Posted by NT Wrong on October 9, 2008
The Book of Similitudes, now found in 1 Enoch 37-71, was written in ca. 20 B.C. Various contributors to Boccaccini’s Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man (2007) provide about half a dozen reasons for this dating. This makes the work a very important one for understanding the influences on the early Jesus Movement, including Jesus’ self-understanding, and his followers’ understandings of Jesus.
Steven Richard Scott has written a good article entitled ‘The Binitarian Nature of the Book of Similitudes’ in the Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha (18: 55-78). He looks at the distinction made between the Lord of Spirits and the Name of the Lord of Spirits, and concludes that the Similitudes evidence binitarian — not monotheistic — worship of God. God is worshipped in two different persons, in Judaism, before Christianity. Moreover, the ‘other power in Heaven’ is to be identified with the Son of Man or Chosen One — the very figure that Jesus self-identifies with in the canonical Gospels.
The article is well worth reading. But I just want to draw attention to one comment he makes which, I think, is quite correct. In discussing the prominent role of visionary experiences of the heavenly exalted Jesus for his worship alongside the Most High God, Scott notes that it is not enough for there to be visions of Jesus alone. Visions don’t come out of nowhere. Visions come from people’s heads. And in order for the information to be in those heads, they must have already been a part of the person’s cultural beliefs. What is needed in order to make the argument of the origin of Jesus’ worship as God as derived from visions is both (1) proof of the belief in a second power in heaven, and (2) proof of visions. And in fact, there is significant proof for both.
“Hurtado is correct in pointing to the extensive literature on mystics and how their visions and experience lead to changes within religions, and the formation of new religions… However, the change is too great to be accounted for primarily by mystical experience, because of [the] inherently contextual nature of mystical experiences. The study of mystical experiences shows that almost all the content of mystical experience can be explained by the religious tradition that the mystic belongs to: by and large, the mystic experiences what his tradition says she or he should experience.”
– Steven Richard Scott, ‘The Binitarian Nature of the Book of Similitudes’ Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 18 (2008): 55-78, 58.
And did I note his firm disagreement with Crossley (2005)?
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