David Frankfurter: The Heavenly Temple Cult in Apocalyptic Tradition

David Frankfurter, “The Heavenly Temple Cult,” in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, second edition, edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 553:

One principal theme in Jewish apocalyptic literature was the revelation of a Temple cult that prospered in heaven, by God’s throne, by the ministry of angels, according to the stringent precepts of the Torah, regardless of the historical circumstances that might be afflicting the Temple in Jerusalem. Stimulated by such ancient blueprints for Jewish liturgical perfection as the desert tabernacle (Ex 25-31; 36-39) and Ezekiel’s heavenly Temple (Ezek 40-48), authors of the Enoch and Levi apocalypses (for example), writing in the Hellenistic and early Roman periods, described specific heavenly and liturgical procedures both to reassure readers and to signify the priestly functions of the angels in heaven. The Qumran community saw itself as participating in this heavenly cult through their Sabbath Songs (11QShirShabb), which were supposed to call into action the priestly angels. Neither the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple nor Jesus-belief eliminated such esoteric interests in a heavenly cult, as we see in Christian texts like the Testament of Levi and the Letter to the Hebrews.

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