Author: Stephen Huebscher

The Function of the Divine Council in Heavenly Worship: Piety, not Mysticism: Part 5

For the previous post and links to earlier parts of this series by Stephen Huebscher, click here. -MSH   SUMMARY OF TEXTS. After surveying the most common biblical and Second Temple texts (together with a few older ones from the ancient Near East), we can see that the majority of the biblical texts consist of little more than reports of heavenly praise, or else calls for heavenly praise to be directed to Yahweh. Even the greatest exception to this, Isaiah 6, is remarkably brief. Since there are no indications that these texts functioned in mystical experiences, I take this...

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The Function of the Divine Council in Heavenly Worship: Piety, not Mysticism: Part 4

[Note: This post continues where Part 3 left off.  It includes the rest of the main biblical as well as non-biblical ancient Jewish texts.– MSH]   Psalm 97:7–9. “All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods!  Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, Yahweh.  For you, Yahweh, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.” This psalm focuses on the kingship of Yahweh and uses the imagery of a Divine Warrior.  Vv 1–6 deal...

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The Function of the Divine Council in Heavenly Worship: Piety, not Mysticism Part 3

[This is Part 3 of Stephen Huebscher’s series on the divine council and heavenly worship. See Part 1 and Part 2. — MSH]     We now move on to the second group of texts relating to our topic, the OT biblical texts. Over the next several posts, we are will look at nine that are fairly clear and direct in referring to worship in heaven. This post includes the first two of them. We begin with Deut 32:43. “Rejoice with him, O heavens; bow down to him, all gods, for he avenges the blood of his children and takes vengeance on his adversaries. He repays those who hate him and cleanses his people’s land.” (ESV) This Pentateuchal text is the first, clear reference to celestial praise. The Hebrew text is corrupted, so it is necessary to look at the Septuagint and Qumran. (The MT has 4 lines, Qumran 6 lines, and the LXX 8 lines.) The Qumran version is most likely original. This verse comes at the end of a song that Moses taught to Israel for the purpose of helping them return to worshiping Yahweh in the future. It calls on the gods who have been receiving worship to bow down and worship Yahweh. Yahweh will keep covenant faithfulness to his people in the form of vengeance on his enemies. The call to the inferior gods does...

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The Function of the Divine Council in Heavenly Worship: Piety, not Mysticism: Part 2

Part 1 of this series can be found here.   To introduce the topic and get things moving, there are two points to remember. First, the responsibilities of the divine council include (1) administrating Yahweh’s will to the nations, (2) administering justice, and (3) praising Yahweh. Because of the council’s central role in God’s cosmic administration, it ought to be seen as the most significant example of the praise of God in Scripture. “[T]he council of the Lord is the place where the goal of all creation, praise, begins . . . . If all reality finds its ultimate purpose in the praise of God, the divine assembly leads the choir” [italics original].1 Second, scholars have a hard time defining exactly what mysticism is, but they often define it as (1) seeking direct union with God (unio mystica). Sometimes this is expanded to include (2) union with angels (unio angelica) or (3) union in worship or liturgy (unio liturgica). Phillip Alexander does not use that term as far as I can see, but he clearly supports the concept when he writes, “The mystic desires to . . . join the angels in their worship of God. He longs for union with the angels so that he can share in their communion with God”.2 Now, for the texts. There are three primary categories of texts that are relevant for this study: ancient...

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The Function of the Divine Council in Heavenly Worship: Piety, not Mysticism: Part 1

Editor’s Note: This is the first post in a series by my friend Stephen Huebscher. Stephen is a doctoral student in Hebrew Bible and is very acquainted with my work and the divine council in general. I hope you enjoy his contributions to the blog! — MSH   “Heavenly Worship” brings to mind texts like Isaiah 6, Psalm 29, or the Qumran Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice. Each of these is appropriate since we are considering the worship in heaven, primarily by groups of heavenly spirits, as recorded in the texts of ancient Israel.1 Since the biblical texts contain brief praises or reports of worship or wishes for worship rather than full-scale liturgies, the term “celestial liturgy” may seem somewhat pretentious. Further, since it is usually associated with texts from the Second Temple or later, it may seem anachronistic to apply it to earlier texts. True, but diachronic study (tracing a word or topic across time periods) is rarely completely pure. However, I have chosen to retain this term since the term accurately conveys the interest of this study, and since this study does include some of the Second Temple texts with which the term is usually associated. The belief in various forms of celestial/heavenly worship appears to have been common both in ancient Israel and the ancient Near East, as attested by a variety of texts. In such religions,...

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