Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Marcionite אִישׁ and Alexandrian Judaism

It is an incredible feeling when conducting research on behalf of a theory and more than line of proof emerges.  I was in the middle of writing the second part to my investigation into the Marcionite interest in the 'man (אִישׁ) of war' concept when the ultimate proof for the nomen sacrum ΙΣ = אִישׁ came to me.  Philo of Alexandria, the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher of the first century repeatedly says that Israel was so named because this name signifies 'ish ra'ah [or ro'eh] 'El, "a man seeing God."
Of course the claim is silly but it shows once and for all that Ἰσραὴλ and Ἰσ in particular = אִישׁ. 

Robert McQueen Grant and Ralph Patai point to "emendation of the initial syllable Yis- into Ish ("man") was first suggested by Jerome, who translated Israel as vir videns deum, which corresponds to a hypothetical Hebrew Ish ra'ah el, that is, "man who saw God."  Justin interestingly has Is ra el = a man who overcame God, but the basic idea is the same.  It is worth noting that Clement of Alexandria explicitly references Jacob as meeting the Christian god here.   But at least we have settled the linguistic arguments.  The door is now open to identifying this angelic 'man (אִישׁ) who saw God' with an anthropomorphic 'firstborn son' of God.  Origen cites the Prayer of Joseph text as saying:

Thus Jacob says: " I, Jacob, who speak to you, and Israel, I am an angel of God, a ruling spirit, and Abraham and Isaac were created before every work of God; and I am Jacob, called Jacob by men, but my name is Israel, called Israel by God, a man seeing God, because I am the first-born of every creature which God caused to live. "

A careful examination of the writings of Philo will support this understanding. Israel was an angel which was viewed as the precursor of Jesus. More to follow ...

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

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