Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Secret Presence of איש in the Pentateuch

I don't know if I am getting through to anyone out there. The question of whether the Greek nomen sacrum ΙΣ was a transliteration of איש is only one part of the ultimate puzzle.  There is this story about a guy named Jesus which we associate with the gospel.  But there were groups in early Christian antiquity who took the story to be about a heavenly being.  How could a heavenly being have been named Ἰησοῦς?  It's sub-moronic and can't have been the original understanding.  It's just no one has thought about it before.

We have to imagine that there was this ancient form of Christianity associated with a guy who went by the name or title 'Paulos.'  Many - if not most - of his early followers assumed he was following a heavenly man.  I have been arguing that was read ΙΣ as איש by the earliest followers of Paul because he was a student of mystical traditions in ancient Israel.  When he spoke about a new man, a heavenly man he summoning the idea of his god as איש as 'Man.'  His followers seem to have envisioned ΙΣ as a 'secret' power.  The Marcionites called him a 'stranger.'  I wonder if this has something to do with the traditional role of  ΙΣ in ancient Israel.

Look at Benny Tsedaka's recent English translation of the Samaritan Pentateuch with commentary.  Of course he identifies איש as a heavenly being in Genesis 32:24.  But there are many more places where this 'hidden power' appears.  The Samaritan version of Genesis chapter 37:11 - 18 reads:

11 And Yishraael said to Yoosef, Are not your brothers pasturing in Ashkem. Come, and I will send you to them. And he said to him, I will. 14 And he said to him, Go please, and see how your brothers are, and how the flock is, and bring word back to me. And he sent him from the valley of Eebrone, and he came to Ashkema. 15 And איש found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field. And איש asked him, What are you looking for. 16 And he said, I am looking for my brothers, please tell me where they are pasturing. 17 And איש said, They have moved from here, for I heard them say, Let us go to Dooten. And Yoosef went after his brothers and found them at Dooten. 18 And they saw him from a distance. And before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. 

There is a note at the margin where it is written:

איש - Name of angel. The Samaritan Sages in their tradition always considered the “man” to be an angel. 

Similarly Ex 2:19 - 21 reads:

And he said to his daughters and where ... why is it that you have left the איש behind (i.e. Mooshe = Samaritan 'Moses')? Invite him to have bread to eat. And Mooshe was willing to dwell with the man. And he gave his daughter Seebbooraa to Mooshe as wife. And she bore a son, and he named him Girshaam.[Ex 2:19 - 21] 

Tsedaka's commentary reads again:

איש - This verse hints that Mooshe was considered almost like an angel by Yitroo when Mooshe saved the women from being harmed.

I am starting to wonder whether the 'strangeness' of the Marcionite divinity - his 'alien nature' - was owing to the fact that איש.  In other words, the gospel writer built upon the things said about איש by generations of Jews and Samaritans only now developed into a whole narrative where איש (= ΙΣ) comes to earth to reveal his true identity. 

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