SOMETHING must now be said about the mystical elements in the Hellenistic, as distinguished from the Palestinian, branch of early Judaism. The Palestinian (which includes the Babylonian) is, by a long way, the more voluminous; and its significance for the development of the later Judaism totally eclipses that of Jewish Hellenism which really wielded its influence over Christianity rather than over Judaism. Still there are a few outstanding features in Jewish Hellenism which are germane to our subject. Moreover, modern research has shown that there was a certain degree of intercourse, in the opening centuries of the Christian era, between Jewish scholars of Palestine and Babylonia on the one hand, and Jewish scholars of Alexandria on the other, Alexandria being the great centre of the Hellenistic culture then predominant. This must have resulted in an interchange and interaction of ideas and doctrines which found their way into the literatures of both branches.
A noteworthy example of this fusion of ideas is the famous Philo Judæus of Alexandria. Platonic, Stoic and Rabbinic strata make up the philosophy of Philo. They are intermingled not always harmoniously. But what tells hard upon the student of Philo's presentation of Hebrew thought is the difficulty of knowing whether certain parallel ideas in his writings and the writings of the Palestinian Rabbis originated with him or with the Rabbis. It has, however, been shown, with a fair approach to conclusiveness, that where there is a resemblance in Halachic interpretation, Philo is the borrower; whereas the Haggadic parallels emanate from the Rabbis.
To attempt an examination of Philo's mysticism as a whole lies quite outside the scope of this book. All that can be dealt with--and this very fragmentarily and in-adequately--are certain points in the mysticism of his Logos idea which, by reason of their affinity with the Haggadah, are important to an understanding of Jewish mysticism. How to bridge the chasm between God and the world, how at the first creation of man it was possible for God who is the all-holy and all-perfect, to come into contact with imperfect man, is an oft-recurring subject of speculation in the Talmud and Midrashim. The cosmogony of Genesis comes in for an exceptionally
elaborate treatment. In this connection it is only to be expected that angelology should figure largely. Theologians are quite wrong when they say that post-Biblical Judaism removed the Deity further and further away from the world, and then tried to bring Him nearer again by the medium of the angel. The truth is that God was in many senses brought very near, and the angel was but an aspect of this 'nearness.' God was immanent as well as transcendent, and the angel was a sort of emanation of the Divine, an off-shoot of Deity, holding intimate converse with the affairs of the world. It was on these lines that the Rabbis solved their problem of reconciling the idea of a pure God with an impure world. God did not really come into contact with the world, but His angels did--and His angels are really part and parcel of His own being, emanations of His own substance. This was, of course, far from being a logical solution, but the Rabbis, like many other religious thinkers of those early centuries, were not masters of logic.
Philo's ideas run in what seems a similar groove. All matter is to him evil; hence God must be placed outside the world. But though this was his philosophy, his religion--Judaism--taught him otherwise. Obliged to find some way out of the difficulty, he hit upon the idea of the Logoi, i.e. divine
agencies, which, while being in some senses inherent in God, are, in other ways and at various times, exterior to Him. It would be incorrect to say that he derived this theology from the Rabbinic sources. Platonic and Stoic teachings are largely responsible for them. But Philo endeavoured to bring them into line with Rabbinic modes of Biblical interpretation. He felt that he ought to give them a Jewish dress--with the result that much of what he says about Divine powers, agencies, attributes operating in the world, independently of the Deity and yet as part and parcel of Him, bears a close resemblance to much of Rabbinic angelology and Rabbinic teaching about the Divine attributes. Thus, to give some examples.
The Rabbis (in Genesis Rabba, viii. 3, 4, and in many other places) are at pains to justify the usage of the grammatical plural in the words: "And God said, Let us make man" (Gen. i. 26). Various opinions are thrown out. But the finally accepted view is that "at the time when God was about to create the first man, He took counsel with the ministering angels." What this interpretation aims at, is to relieve the Deity of the blame for the evil in man, and to place it upon some other shoulders. But what it really does is to show that the earth is the scene and centre of Divine agencies.
[paragraph continues] Angels are emanations of the Divine working here below. Man is in a double sense made by them. It was they who had a hand in his creation. It is they who fill his environment, and make him realise that he is ever in the grip of a Presence from which there is no escaping. The Talmud and Midrashim overflow with the descriptions of vast hierarchies of spiritual intelligences--angels--who guide the will of man and the course of nature, surrounding man on all sides and at all moments, shielding him and lifting him up to higher planes of thought and feeling. They protect the pious and help them in their transactions. Every angelic host consists of a thousand times a thousand. The angels give instruction in certain matters. Every man has a special guardian angel. All this literature of angelology can have no possible meaning at all unless it is interpreted to mean that God is present and active in the world, a Power behind phenomena, a directing Mind, a controlling Will, an Immanent God.
Philo's doctrine is similar. Thus he says: "For God, not condescending to come down to the external senses, sends His own words (logoi) or angels for the sake of giving assistance to those who love virtue. But they attend like physicians to the diseases of the soul, and apply themselves to heal them, offering sacred recommendations like sacred
laws, and inviting men to practise the duties inculcated by them, and, like the trainers of wrestlers, implanting in their pupils strength and power and irresistible vigour. Very properly, therefore, when he [i.e. Jacob] has arrived at the external sense, he is represented no longer as meeting God, but only the Divine word, just as his grandfather Abraham, the model of wisdom did" (On Dreams, i. 12).
In another passage in the fore-mentioned section, he speaks of "the immortal words (logoi) which it is customary to call angels" (ibid. i. 19). Again, take the following:
"But these men pray to be nourished by the word (logos) of God. But Jacob, raising his head above the word, says that he is nourished by God Himself, and his words are as follows: The God in whom my father Abraham and Isaac were well pleased; the God who has nourished me from my youth upwards to this day; the angel who has delivered me from all my evils, bless these children. This now, being a symbol of a perfect disposition, thinks God Himself his nourisher, and not the word; and he speaks of the angel, which is the word, as the physician of his evils, in this speaking most naturally. For the good things which he has previously mentioned are pleasing to him, inasmuch as the living and true God has given them to him face to face, but the
secondary good things have been given to him by the angels and by the word of God. On this account I think it is that God gives men pure good health which is not preceded by any disease in the body, by Himself alone, but that health which is an escape from disease, He gives through the medium of skill and medical science, attributing it to science, and to him who can apply it skilfully, though in truth it is God Himself who heals both by these means, and without these means. And the same is the case with regard to the soul. The good things, namely, food, He gives to men by His power alone; but those which contain in them a deliverance from evil, he gives by means of His angels and His word" (Allegories of the Sacred Laws, iii. 62).
The intermingling of Greek and Hebraic elements in these passages is curious. But the two sets are easily distinguishable. Two things are clear from these quotations. Firstly, the angel is a kind of representative of the Deity among mortals. It is a sort of God in action. God is very near man and not transcendent. Secondly, the angel and the Logos (Word) or Logoi (Words) have very much the same nature and fulfil very much the same function. The Rabbinic mysticism clustering round angels as well as the Rabbinic doctrine of the Shechinah--which will be dealt with later--have likewise many points in common. Angels encompass
the worthy Israelite; the Shechinah likewise accompanies Israel, nay, even dwells in the midst of impure Israelites, as a famous passage in the Talmud says. But there are aspects of Philo's angelology which are strange to Rabbinic modes of thought. One of the most interesting of these is his designation of angels as 'incorporeal intelligences' and as 'immortal souls' (On Dreams, i. 20). The Rabbis obviously thought of angels as material beings. They even at times materialised the Shechinah, as will be mentioned in the following chapter. The sight of an angel was a physical phenomenon. Philo's exegesis took quite a different turn.
Thus, in a lengthy comment on Genesis, xxviii. 12 ("And he dreamed a dream and behold a ladder was planted firmly on the ground, the head of which reached to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending upon it") he goes on to say: "This air is the abode of incorporeal souls, since it seemed good to the Creator of the universe to fill all parts of the world with living creatures. . . . For the Creator of the universe formed the air so that it should be the habit of those bodies which are immovable, and the nature of those which are moved in an invisible manner, and the soul of such as are able to exert an impetus and visible sense of their own. . . . Therefore, let no one deprive the most excellent nature
of living creatures of the most excellent of those elements which surround the earth; that is to say, of the air. For not only is it not alone deserted by all things besides, but rather like a populous city, it is full of imperishable and immortal citizens, souls equal in number to the stars. Now, of these souls some descend upon the earth with a view to being bound up in mortal bodies. . . . But some soar upwards. . . . But others, condemning the body of great folly and trifling, have pronounced it a prison and a grave, and, flying from it as from a house of correction or a tomb, have raised themselves aloft on light wings towards the æther, and have devoted their whole lives to sublime speculations. There are others again, the purest and most excellent of all, which have received greater and more divine intellects, never by any chance desiring any earthly thing whatever, but being, as it were, lieutenants of the Ruler of the universe, as though they were the eyes and ears of the great king, beholding and listening to everything. Now philosophers in general are wont to call these demons, but the sacred scriptures call them angels, using a name more in accord with nature. For indeed they do report (διαγγέλλουσι) the injunctions of the father to his children and the necessities of the children to the father" (On Dreams, i. 22).
From this passage the following deductions
seem to be obvious: Firstly, one large department of the Philonic angelology is utterly strange to Talmudic and Midrashic exegesis. An angel as an 'incorporeal soul' is more akin to the Aristotelian doctrine of 'intelligences,' the intermediate beings between the Prime Cause and existing things. The general level of the Rabbinic conception of the angel is well characterised by the following passage:
"When Samael saw that no sin was found amongst them [the Jews] on the Day of Atonement, he exclaimed before God, 'O Thou Sovereign of the Universe, Thou hast one nation on earth resembling the ministering angels in heaven. Just as the latter are bare-footed, so are the Israelites bare-footed on the Day of Atonement. Just as the angels neither eat nor drink, so do the Israelites not eat or drink on the Day of Atonement. Just as the angels do not skip about, so do the Israelites stand, unmoved, upon their feet the whole Day of Atonement. Just as peace reigns in the midst of the angels, so does peace reign in the midst of Israel on the Day of Atonement. Just as the angels are free from all sin, so are the Israelites free from sin on the Day of Atonement.' God hearkens to the advocacy of Israel from the mouth of their arch-accuser, and He grants His atonement for the altar, for the sanctuary, and for the priests and for all the people of the congregation."
This quotation is from the Pirké-de-Rabbi-Eliezer, a curious Midrashic work belonging to the 9th century A.D. It seems to summarise all the best points in the angelic lore of the Jews in the preceding nine centuries. The naïveté of the whole Rabbinic outlook is here very apparent and is ever so far removed from Philo's 'incorporeal soul.' In fact Philo's systematic division of angels into higher and lower grades is foreign to the Rabbinic speculations which are largely without any system whatsoever. Foreign also is his view of angels as 'souls descending upon the earth with a view to being bound up in mortal bodies.' The angel, in Rabbinic thought, is never inside any one.
But, in the second place, it is obvious to the student of mediaeval as distinct from the Talmudic and Midrashic mysticism that there is an affinity between the Philonic treatment of angels and the treatment of the subject by such famous Jewish theologians as Sa‘adia b. Joseph (892-942), Judah Ha-Levi (1085-1140), Solomon Ibn Gabirol (1021-1058), Abraham b. David (1100-1180), and Moses Maimonides (1135-1204). They, too, like Philo, were influenced by Greek thought they were either Aristotelians, Platonists, or Neo-Platonists; so that what amount of influence came to them directly from the works of Philo is a matter that calls for deep research. To
the first-named theologian--Sa‘adiah--there is, like to Philo, something immaterial, something ethereal, unearthly, about the angel. While being external to man, it is, in a sense, internal too, Sa‘adiah being of opinion that they were visions seen during prophetic ecstasy rather than outward realities. See his philosophical work Emunot we-De‘ot ('Faith and Knowledge'), ii. 8, iv. 6.
That Ibn Gabirol should develop a more mystical line of thought than this, is not surprising seeing he is dependent, in many of his essential teachings, upon the Enneads of Plotinus. The words of Judah Ha-Levi are worth quoting here. He says (Cusari, iv. 3):
"As for the angels, some are created for the time being, out of the subtle elements of matter [as air or fire]. Some are eternal angels [i.e. existing from everlasting to everlasting], and perhaps they are the spiritual intelligences of which the philosophers speak. We must neither accept nor reject their words [i.e. the words of these philosophers]. It is doubtful whether the angels seen by Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel were of the class of those created for the time being or of the class of spiritual essences which are eternal. 'The glory of God' is a thin subtle body (goof dâk) produced by the will of God, and which forms
itself in the prophet's imagination in the way that the Divine will directs. This is according to the first [i.e. simpler explanation]. But according to a second [i.e. more complex] explanation, the 'glory of God' denotes the whole class of angels together with the spiritual instruments (kēlīm hāruḥniim), viz. the Throne, the Chariot (Merkabah), the Firmament, the Ophanim and the Spheres (Gālgālim), and others besides which belong to the things which are eternal. All this is implied in the term 'glory of God.'
Further on, in the same paragraph, Judah Ha-Levi brackets together as having one meaning, the phrases 'Glory of God,' 'Kingdom of God,' and 'Shechinah of God.' Maimonides speaks on the subject thus (Guide of the Perplexed, ii. 6):
"The angels are not corporeal; this is what Aristotle also said; only there is a difference of name; he calls them 'separate intelligences' (sichlim nifrādīm), whereas we designate them angels. Moreover, when he says that these 'separate intelligences' are also intermediaries between the Creator and existing things, and that through their means the spheres are moved--the motion of the spheres being the prime cause of all being--this also is written in all books, because you will not find that God does any deed except by means of an angel. . . . The movement of
[paragraph continues] Balaam's ass was done by means of an angel . . . even the elements are called angels. . . . The term angel is applied to a messenger of men, as, e.g., in the phrase 'and Jacob sent messengers' (mălākīm), in Genesis, xxxii. 3. It is applied to a prophet, as, e.g., in the phrase 'and an angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim,' in Judges, ii. 1. It is the term used of the 'separate intelligences' which are seen by the prophets in the prophetic vision. It is the designation also of the vital powers as we shall explain."
Maimonides takes a Rabbinic apothegm such as "God does nothing without previously consulting his heavenly [or upper] host," or "God and his Court of Justice have taken counsel together over every limb in the human body, and have put each in its rightful place," and is at pains to show how these statements must not be taken literally to mean that the Deity asks advice or seeks help, but that what they convey is that the term 'angel' stands for the powers embodied in all earthly phenomena, the world-forces which are outflowings of God and represent the aspect of the Divine activity in the universe. Paradoxically enough, Maimonides is rationalist and mystic at one and the same time. While striving to strip the Hebrew scriptures of the supernatural and the miraculous, he exhibits his strong belief in a
world impregnated with traces and symptoms of a Divine Life.
But let it not be thought that Philo's Logos and Logoi and his angelology are nothing but symbols of abstract thinking on the ways in which the Deity participates in the affairs of men and of the world. It has been mentioned a little above, that the Rabbis often materialised the Shechinah and gave strongly definite personality to their 'angels.' There is one respect in which Philo followed a similar line of exposition. He too gave personality to his Logos--personality as understood in Philo's time, and very different from our modern ideas of personality. Not alone does he speak of the Logos as the being who guided the patriarchs, as the angel who appeared to Hagar, as the cloud at the Red Sea, as the Divine form who changed the name of Jacob to Israel, but he also describes him as "a suppliant to the immortal God on behalf of the mortal race which is exposed to affliction and misery; and is also the ambassador sent by the Ruler of all to the subject race" (Who is Heir to the Divine Things, xlii.). He is "an attendant on the one Supreme Being" (ibid. xlviii.). He is a paraclete. "For it was indispensable that the man who was consecrated to the Father of the world, should have, as a paraclete, his son, the being most perfect in virtue, to procure forgiveness
of sins, and a supply of unlimited blessings" (Life of Moses, iii. 14).
The resemblances between these teachings and much of the mysticism of Paul, as well as of the author of the Fourth Gospel, are unmistakable; and whether they show borrowing or are explicable as belonging to the modes of thinking current in that age, is a moot point. But what strongly concerns our presentation of this subject, is the fact that this branch of Philonic theology is mirrored in the early Jewish, as well as in the early Christian, teaching about God. But with this considerable difference--that whereas some of the cardinal doctrines of Christianity are embedded in these ideas, their significance for Judaism was, at no epoch, vital. They belong to the literature, not to the faith, of the Jew. They were ever for the few rather than for the many.
It is to the figure of Metatron that we must turn for the counterpart in Rabbinic mysticism to the personified Logos of Philo. "Behold I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him" (Exodus, xxiii. 20, 21). This angel in whom God's name exists is, said the Rabbis, Metatron. And why so? Because, said they, the numerical value of
the Hebrew letters composing the name Metatron (314) corresponds with those comprising the word Shaddai (= Almighty, one of the Divine appellations).
This is a typical illustration of the Rabbinic mysticism clustering round (i.) arithmetical numbers, and (ii.) the Divine Name. 'My name is in him,' i.e. the name 'Almighty' is comprehended in the name 'Metatron.' And the Divine Name is not merely a grammatical part of speech. It is a kind of essence of the Deity Himself. Hence, the essence of the Deity exists in Metatron. He is God's lieutenant. He represents the active phase of Deity as manifested in the universe.
The command to 'beware of him and obey his voice,' failing which 'he will not pardon your transgressions,' forcibly brings out the intercessory powers of Metatron. In the Midrash Tanḥuma (on portion Wa’-ethḥanan) it is graphically related how Moses, when he knew that he must die, implored all the different parts of creation--the sea, the dry land, the mountains and the hills--to pray that he might live. But they all refuse. He finally betakes himself to Metatron and says to him: "Seek mercy for me that I may not die." But Metatron replies: "O Moses, my master, why troublest thou thyself thus? I have heard behind the veil that thy prayer for life will not be heard." Metatron confesses that his intercession would
be vain, but yet--and here is a great point--the Midrashic passage in question states that immediately after "the anger of the Holy Spirit grew cool." Metatron did not succeed in securing a prolongation of life for Moses, but he managed to turn away Divine wrath from him.
The title 'Prince of the Presence' (Sār Hā-Pānim) as well as 'Prince of the World' (Sar Ha-‘Ōlam) is often applied to Metatron. A striking passage again depicting Metatron, not alone as pleader for Israel, but as taking upon himself the sorrow for Israel's sins, is as follows (Introduction to Lamentations Rabba, xxiv.):
"No sooner was the Temple burnt than the Holy One (blessed be He) said: Now will I withdraw my Shechinah from it and I will go up to my former habitation, as it is said (Hosea, v. 15), 'I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence and seek my face.' At that hour the Holy One (blessed be He) wept, saying: Woe is me! What have I done! I caused my Shechinah to abide below for the sake of Israel, but now that Israel has sinned I have returned to my original dwelling-place. Far be it from me that I should be a derision to the nations and a mocking to all creatures! Forthwith Metatron fell upon his face, exclaiming: O Sovereign of the Universe, let me weep, but weep thou not! "
The title 'Prince of the Presence' or 'Prince of the World' denotes Metatron's active interference with the happenings of the universe. T.B. Yebamoth, 16b, has the following extraordinary saying:
"No one but the 'Prince of the World' could have uttered verse 25 of Psalm, xxxvii, 'I have been young and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.' Who else could have said this? Could God have said it? Does old age apply to God? Could David have said it? Was he advanced in years [when he composed this Psalm]? No one else but the 'Prince of the World' could have said it."
Two important ideas are enshrined here. Firstly, Metatron's existence is made to date from the Creation. A kind of pre-existence is accorded him--and the doctrine of pre-existence, or rather pre-existences, is a ubiquitous element in the old Rabbinic treatment of cosmogony. "Seven things preceded the Creation of the world, viz.: (a) the Torah, (b) the Divine Throne, (c) the Temple, (d) the Name of the Messiah, (e) Paradise, (f) Hell, (g) Repentance." Whether Metatron ought to be an eighth, or is to be identified with one among these seven, is a point for further research.
Secondly, Metatron speaks words of worldly wisdom garnered from an intimate experience
of contact with the multitudinous facts and phases of earthly existence. He knows men as no one else could know them. He resembles, in this respect, the strongly-personified 'Wisdom' of the Jewish-Alexandrian literature. Like it, he is given a sort of prime part in the cosmic process.
The Aramaic commentary (Targum) on Genesis, v. 24 ("And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him") renders the name 'Enoch' by 'Metatron.' And just as Enoch in the Apocrypha (Book of Jubilees, iv. 23; 2 Enoch, liii. 2) appears as the heavenly scribe, so Metatron is often described in the Talmud and Midrash (see TḄ Ḥaggigah, 15a).
The idea fundamental to both these branches of literature is probably the same; viz. that Metatron is a link uniting the human with the Divine, the bridge over which the knowledge of what is passing here below is brought to the realms above, and over which, in return, the Divine concern for men and the world passes down to the scenes of earth. A truly poetic rendering of this Divine concern is given in the Talmud (Abodah Zarah, 3b), where God is described as giving instruction a certain number of hours every day, to prematurely-deceased children. "Who instructed them in the period previous to their death?" So the question runs. And the answer is "Metatron! "
[paragraph continues] On this understanding, Metatron is the helper to the Deity; he, as it were, takes up the Divine work at points where its omnipotence cannot, if one may so speak, reach; not even the smallest, meanest child need be forgotten, forsaken of God, so long as Metatron is its guide and instructor.
Metatron has been identified with the Zoroastrian Mithra. It certainly possesses features resembling Philo's Logos. It has also much in common with the theology of the early Gnostics. In all probability it is the result of a fusion of all these systems of thought. The same can be predicted of more than one other branch of Rabbinic angelology. Noteworthy, however, is the fact that though the Jews could get so far as to bring themselves to look at Metatron in the light of a heavenly co-worker with God, a kind of semi-divinity having an access to the Deity in a measure utterly unique, yet so extraordinarily uncompromising were their notions of the Divine Unity that, as far as the religion of their daily life was concerned, God alone was God, and Metatron was ignored. His name figures somewhat in certain departments of the Jewish liturgy. He plays a rôle in mediæval Jewish mysticism. But the stringent, inelastic emphasis on the idea of safeguarding the Divine Unity--an emphasis rarely appreciated
by the non-Jew--could brook no recognition of Metatron in the sphere of the Jew's most intimate religious concerns.
One other dominating characteristic of the Jewish-Hellenistic mysticism is to be found in the functions assigned to the idea of Wisdom. The grand preliminary to this branch of doctrine is to be found in the Old Testament (Proverbs, viii. 22-31):
Wisdom is the quality through which God acts in the world, and by the instrumentality of which the Deity is known to
man. It is, in the passage just quoted, personified and objectified. It dwells among the sons of men and finds its special delight in intercourse with them. It resembles the Divine Pneuma or Spirit of the Stoic philosophy which, too, is given a prime part in the cosmic process.
The Rabbis, it is interesting to notice, made much of the phrase 'as one brought up with him.' The phrase is represented in the original Hebrew by one word 'Amun.' By slight alterations in the vowelling they extracted three meanings from it: viz. (i.) pedagogue, (ii.) pupil, (iii.) workman. Thus (i.) Wisdom (which they identified with the Torah or Law) was the school-master, tutor in the Divine household, giving guidance to his Divine Master in his plans for the creation of the universe. (ii.) Wisdom was the pupil or child of the Divine (according to Rabbinic teaching a pupil stood to his master in the position of child to a father), hidden away by reason of its preciousness in the lap of the Father, until the time when it became a gift to a newly-launched universe. (iii.) Wisdom was God's workman, or servant, in the work and administration of the universe.
And yet, in spite of all this obvious and strong personification, Wisdom is but "a quality belonging to God, one of His attributes by which He makes Himself known and
felt in the world of men and in the human heart, one of the elements in the Divine nature which is most in sympathy with the innate tendency in man to go on striving ever upward and onward." 1
It is, after all, only God's Wisdom, no matter how near an approach to personality there may be in the various descriptions of the term. It is a potency wholly in God, and yet at one and the same time wholly out of God. It is an embodiment, a revealer of one aspect of Divine Spirit. As has already been remarked, the Jew always vindicated the Unity of God no matter into what dubious fields his theological speculations otherwise led him.
The apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon shows forth similar mystical elements. "For wisdom is more mobile than any motion; yea, she pervadeth and penetrateth all things by reason of her pureness" (vii. 24). This is the Stoic conception of the immanent Pneuma. Again:
(vii. 25, 26.)
This seems to be rather the language of
[paragraph continues] Platonism. So is the following pronouncement on the soul's pre-existence:
(viii. 19, 20.)
Platonic, too, is the notion of earth and matter pressing down the soul:
Wisdom is man's anchorage in time of trouble. It is the immanent protector and redeemer of mankind. The whole of chapter x. is given over to this theme. In xviii. 14-16, Wisdom becomes a personality. It is identified with the 'Word' which dominates the Prologue of the Fourth Gospel, and which in very similar senses appears in the Rabbinic mysticism as 'Dibbur,' 'Mā-amār' or 'Memra.'
The Word in this extraordinary pronouncement holds the idea of the Divine Energy (as distinguished from the Divine Love) which is operative in all things and which "links the Transcendent Godhead with His creative spirit, creature with Creator, and man with man" (Evelyn Underhill, The Mystic Way, p. 223). Truly enough, the passage breathes what seems an unedifying spirit of revenge and bloodthirstiness, but it is explicable as an echo of the Old Testament idea of the God of righteousness who hates wickedness and slays the wicked. Divine Justice energises in the world, it is embedded in the scheme of the cosmos, it brooks no evil, it recognises nothing but uprightness and truth. This idea of an antagonism between an immanent God and sin is, as will be seen in our next chapter, a feature of the Rabbinic conception of the Shechinah. In Exodus Rabba, xxviii. and xxix., the Divine Voice at the revelation on Sinai deals out death to the idolaters. Similarly, the Targum (Aramaic paraphrase on the Old Testament) renders the Hebrew for "And my soul shall abhor you" (Leviticus, xxvi. 30), by "And my Memra 1 shall remove you afar." The Memra here is the avenger of the wayward Israelites. The
[paragraph continues] Jewish-Hellenistic 'Wisdom,' the 'Word' of the Fourth Gospel, the 'Memra' of Targumic literature, the 'Shechinah' of the Talmud and Midrashim--all point--though in somewhat different ways and degrees--to the great fact that the world of matter and of spirit is the scene of the immanent manifestation of Divine Wisdom, Divine Power, Divine Love, Divine Justice.
75:1 For a fuller treatment of this point see the author's work, The Immanence of God in Rabbinical Literature, pp. 198-201 (Macmillan & Co., 1912).
77:1 'Memra' is the Aramaic for 'word.' For the full theological significance of the 'Memra' see the author's Immanence of God in Rabbinical Literature, pp. 146-173.