“Are the Dead Sea Scrolls Dead to Us? An Orthodox Christian Perspective into Ancient Jewish Mysticism”.
Below are my notes of the things I was pondering as I listened to Bishop Alexander’s talk. These are not notes recording what he said, but some of what he said viewed through the lens of what I was thinking about as I listened to his talk.
His talk centered on and wove together three main points:
The Divine Glory in the Temple
Syncretistic Earthly and Heavenly Liturgy
Notion of Becoming Angels
The Lord said to Moses: “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. According to all that I show you concerning the pattern (or design; Greek: paradigm) of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.” (Exodus 25:8-9)
God shows Moses the original, the real, the heavenly tabernacle, and commands Moses to build a copy of this tabernacle on earth.
Many commentators both ancient and modern marveled over what they saw in the Scriptures as God’s own effort to make the earth his temple/tabernacle. Certainly some feel the story of Genesis 1 is God framing the earth or paradise in a temple. The Creator intended His creation all to be the temple in which He dwelt with humans. So now after the Fall and the Flood, God commands Moses to build the tabernacle based on Moses having been shown the original prototype. (In Hebrews 8-10, we have in the New Testament a description of Christ entering not a human temple, a replica, but the real prototype. See 9:24).
In the Divine Liturgy we sing the Cherubic Hymn: “let us who mystical represent the Cherubim.” Bishop Alexander noted that the Greek for “represent” says “ikonizo”: we are to be icons of the cherubim. Just as in the sanctuary Moses was commanded to build, there was to be the “mercy seat” over the Ark of the Covenant” which consisted of two graven cherubs upon which the glory of God was to rest. We assembled in the Liturgy by the grace of God become the place where God now rests – we are the ikons of the cherubim and so mystically become that place where God rests.
In the Old Testament it becomes clear that God’s glory is the model for humans. We are made not “in the image” but “according to the image and likeness” of God. There are three distinct but related ideas:
God – God’s image – humans.
In Colossians 1:15, St. Paul says Christ is the image of God. There is a three-fold pattern as above:
God – Christ – humans.
In Philippians 2:5 Christ is in the image of God who empties himself to become incarnate.
Similar to the sense that God was creating for Himself a temple when He created the heavens and the earth, so too each human is a temple of God. Both the earth as temple and the human as temple are lost in the Fall. But the human as temple is fulfilled in Christ.
The connection to and importance of the Qumran Jewish community and the Dead Sea Scrolls?
Qumran believed that the Jerusalem temple had also succumbed to the Fall and was defiled. But they believed that they were the place of the Divine glory. God rested in them. They believed they had become the holy place which God needed as His place to rest on earth. They believed they could participate in the divine glory.
There is no indication or reason to believe that the Qumran community knew of Jesus or of Christianity. But they hold to an idea that was obviously possible for Jewish groups to believe. Beliefs about God’s resting place and who and what they were as community.
God rests in the holy place = God rests in the Temple
God rests in the Christ,
God rests in the Church,
God rests in the people of God,
God rests in the Christian.
The Church, the people of God, is to be the place where we meet God and where earth and heaven come together. The church – the liturgical assembly – is the place which unites heaven and earth.
We, members of the Church, are and are to become the place where God rests – God rests in His saints.
We each personally are called to be the place where God’s splendor rests. We each are a temple to the Lord. The Liturgy reveals this “heaven to us” – reveals that we each personally but also collectively are the temple in which God’s glory dwells.
Humans are to be the temple of God. The icon reveals the human as this temple, the very place where God’s glory dwells.
The original creation was meant to be a temple for God to dwell with us. Each of us were made according to God’s image and meant to be that temple in which God rests. Christ is the human who fulfills this human destiny. Mary, His mother, in containing in her womb the incarnate God, also becomes that temple which creation itself was meant to be. The power of God overshadowed her (Luke 1:35), as God did the apostles at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:34, Mark 9:7, Matthew 17:5), and as God had filled the Temple when it was consecrated by Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:1).
The Divine glory is in Creation and in Humans at the beginning.
The Divine glory is in the temple when it is consecrated.
The divine glory is in the Theotokos.
The divine glory is in the Christ.
The divine glory is in the Church and the Christian.
Heaven and earth were united at the beginning in creation.
Heaven and earth were united in the temple which bore God’s glory.
Heaven and earth are united in the Theotokos.
Heaven and earth are united in Christ.
Heaven and earth are united in the Church and in the Liturgy.