Thursday, July 17, 2014

More on Jacob and Esau and the Myth of Zurvan

The son of Zurvan's desire is Ohrmazd, warm and moist, the god of goodness, light, and life. The son of his doubt is Ahri- man, cold and dry, lord of darkness and evil. To Ahriman Zurvan had planned to give nothing, for his intent was to bestow the rule of the world upon the son he loved. But Ahriman thrusts himself first out of the womb and claims the rule, to the horror of his father, who exclaims, "My son is light and fragrant, but thou art dark and stinking. And so for a time Ahriman obtains lordship in this world, though the moment of his destruction and the triumph of Ohrmazd is set. The story of Jacob and Esau comes quickly to mind, and indeed what we have here is another set of doublets." [Jeffery Burton Russell, The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity p. 111] 

 What does it tell us about the origins of the Pentateuch if Ezra (for lack of a better name) its author re-purposed Babylonian and Persian myths to construct its 'historical record'? I really don't know. My first sense is that Ezra really didn't know much abou the history of his people before Egypt. But why transform the story of two divine twins into that of two earthly ones? Yet Esau is at once Eeshu, the one who bears the face of Elohim. I think these words (Genesis 33:10) are a confession on the part of its author that something lies deeper under the surface, that the recurring pattern of rival twins goes back to a divine - and ultimately Persian - source.

 But what of the idea that the Persians venerated Ohrmazd and the Israelites extolled his wicked rival? I can't help but see something subversive in this - that from its very beginnings, the Pentateuch was rooted in a crypto-theology which kept the real meaning of the narrative away from outsiders.

Jacob and Esau and the Iranian Myth of Zurvan

I happened to have stumbled across an incredibly detailed study of the Iranian myth of Zurvan at the Encyclopaedia Iranica.  I had a vague recollection about the figure of Zurvan or 'Time' in Zoroastrianism.  I think I was first introduced to the concept in one of the books in the Eranos series when I was a kid.  Nevertheless when I became aware of the strange and twisted back story to the myth I found parallels between the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau quite astounding:

We are left, therefore, with a very specific and amply attested fact: the myth of Zurvan, which is an alternative version of the Zoroastrian myth of creation known from Greek, Syriac, Armenian, and Arabic sources (texts given synoptically in Zaehner, 1955 and Rezania, 2010). In this myth, which is surprisingly uniform in the various sources, the two spirits (Ohrmazd [see AHURA MAZDĀ] and Ahreman [see AHRIMAN]) are presented as the twin offspring of a pre-existing god Zurvan. The difference among versions of the myth is largely restricted to the origin of the two spirits: the myth presents Zurvan as sacrificing for a period of a thousand years, in order to beget a son. Zurvan experienced a moment of doubt; as a result, Ohrmazd came into being because of the sacrifices and Ahreman out of Zurvan’s doubt. When Zurvan realized that two children had been formed in his womb, he promised to give dominion to his first-born, intending it to be Ohrmazd, but Ahreman pierced the womb and presented himself as the first-born. It is here that the stories vary, but in general it is from the birth of the two spirits onwards that the narration of the cosmogony follows the customary lines known from “standard” Zoroastrianism. The myth of Zurvan is thus some sort of a “prequel” to the ordinary story of creation, and there are very few (if any) indications that this prequel was considered as imposing by any contemporary Zoroastrian, as it has seemed to modern Western scholars. 

I have grown more and more interested in the possibility that scholars haven't done enough to uncover the Persian influence on the development of the Torah.  One of the most obvious impediments is the silly tendency of researchers to assume that 'Judaism' came before 'Samaritanism.'  I see the actually historically inverted.  In other words, the reason we know so little about the original exegetical tradition associated with the Pentateuch is because (a) our understanding of the text is dominated by Jewish sources and (b) 'Judaism' only emerged as a separate tradition at the beginning of the Hellenistic period (cf. the fragments of Hecataeus).

Under these assumptions, I put forward that the Dustan were likely connected with the oldest exegetical traditions in Israel.  The name 'Dustan' is Persian as are a number of words in the Pentateuch and more important associated with surviving Samaritan sectarian groups in the first and second centuries of the Common Era.  I wonder then whether the Persian myth of Zurvan is the proper literary context for understanding the Jacob and Esau narrative.  Consider what we get from Eznik of Kolb in the 5th century:

When, they saw, there was nothing at all, neither heaven nor earth nor any creatures that are in heaven or earth, there was a certain one named Zruan, which is translated fate or glory. He performed sacrifice" for one thousand years, so that there might be a son to him, whose name is Ormszd, who might make heaven and earth and everything that is in them. And after a thousand years of performing sacrifice he began to ponder in his mind, and said, 'Will this sacrifice I am performing be of any help, and will there be to me a son Ormizd, if I strive in vain?' And while he was meditating on this, Ormizd and Arhmn were engendered" in the womb of their mother: Ormazd, from the performance of sacrifice; and Arhmn, from the doubting. Then, when Zruan found out, he said, 'There are two sons there in the womb: the one of them who reaches me first, him I will make king.' And when Ormizd recognized the thoughts of his father, he declared them to Arhmn, saying, 'Zruan our father had the thought that the one of us who goes to him first, him will he make king.' And when Arhmn heard this he punctured the womb, went out and stood before his father. And Zruan, seeing him, did not know who this might be, and asked, 'Who are you?' And he said, I am your son.' Zruan said to him, 'You are not my son, my son is sweet-smelling and luminous, and you are dark and foul- smelling.'"- And while they were speaking these things to each other, Ormizd being born in his own hour, came and stood before Zruan. And when Zruan saw him, he knew that this was Ormazd his son, for whose sake he had been sacrificing. And, taking up the bundle of twigs" with which he had been performing the sacrifice, he gave it to Ormizd, saying, 'Up till now I performed sacrifice for your sake, hereafter you will do it for mine.' And as Zruan gave the bundle of twigs to Ormgzd and blessed him, Arhmn, coming up to Zruan, said to him, 'Did you not promise" this: Whichever of my two sons reaches me first, I will make him king?' And Zruan, in order not to break his promise, said to Arhmn, 'O false one and malefactor! Let the kingdom be given to you for nine thousand years, my having appointed Ormazd king over you, and after nine thousand years Ormszd shall reign, and what he will then to do, he shall do it.' Then began Ormizd and Arhmn to make the creations; and everything that Ormizd made was good and straight [ulil], and whatever Arhmn worked was evil and warped [t'iwr]." [Eznik of Kolb, De Deo (Maries and Mercier 1960, pp. 460- 461  tr. by J. R. Russell]

What are the implications for our understanding of the origins of the Israelite religious form that the tradition possibly understood itself to have originated from the Semitic equivalent of Arhmn?  If the parallels hold up we should ask, how and why did the story of two heavenly twins develop into an association with two earthly twins as the heads of a family of West Semitic people?  As well we should ask, what are the implications on Marcionitism?

My feeling again is that at the core Marcionitism developed from the earliest surviving forms of the Israelite religion - in specific the Dustan (hence the early interest in Samaria and the 'Dositheans' in particular among the Church Fathers).  As well Marcionite 'dualism' and its struggle to distinguish itself from Manichaeanism marks the difference between the early Israelite sects 'loose borrowing' from Zurvanism as opposed to the tradition of Mani which went back to the original source of the tradition.

Hard to prove any of these things right now, but I think in general the existence of an early Israelite tradition rooted in Persian religious thought is ignored by scholars because (a) too much emphasis is placed on Judaism and (b) too little is accorded to Samaritan sources.  Any attempt to reconstruct an Israelite religious tradition which dated back to the Persian period is also necessarily going to be quite speculative.  The motto of most scholars by contrast seems to be 'a sure nothing is better than a maybe something.'  But in this case we have to ask - what happened to the Persian-religious inspiration that made Paradise in the shape of an Iranian garden and bid Moses goodbye with the eshdat lamo?  I clearly suspect that it will end up being the 'missing link' in our understanding of Judeo-Christian origins ultimately connecting Marcion to Moses ...

Monday, July 7, 2014

The 'Super-Celestial' Textual Variant in 1 Corinthians 15:48 - 49

In my previous posts I noted that the Marcionite recension of 1 Corinthians 15:48 - 49 was known to Celsus.  The emphasis was clearly on taking on the 'super-celestial' rather than mere 'heavenly' image as our surviving Catholic texts render.  This was a reflection of the Marcionite - and ultimately mystical Jewish - understanding of a 'heaven of heavens,' that is a third heaven above the two heavens of this world.  It is worth noting that I discovered the same reading in Jerome's writings.  First the Commentary on Isaiah:
Dissipabitur ergo terra, et omnia terrena opera redigentur ad nihilum, ut abolita imagine χοἳκοῦ, permaneat imago supercoelestis. Primus enim homo de terra terrenus, et secundus de coelo coelestis: qualis terrenus, tales et terreni; et qualis supercoelestis, tales et supercoelestes: ut sicut portavimus imaginem terreni, portemus et imaginem supercoelestis [I Cor. XV, 47-49]. Unde idem Apostolus loquitur: Caro et sanguis regnum Dei non possidebunt [Ibid., 50]. Non quod secundum haereticos dispereat natura corporum, sed quod corruptivum hoc induat incorruptionem, et mortale hoc induat immortalitatem.

And then his Commentary on Matthew:

Si quis igitur in tempore judicii inventus fuerit sub nomine Christiano non habere vestem nuptialem, hoc est, vestem supercoelestis [Al. coelestis] hominis;  sed vestem pollutam, id est, veteris hominis exuvias, hic statim corripitur, et dicitur ei: Amice, quomodo huc intrasti?

I Was Right: Celsus Was Most Likely Citing from the Marcionite 1 Corinthians 15:48 - 49

In my previous post I suggested that Celsus was citing from the Marcionite version of 1 Corinthians 15:48 - 49 when he is reported by Origen as saying:

Celsus in the next place alleges, that "certain Christians, having misunderstood the words of Plato, loudly boast of a 'super-celestial' God (τὸν ὑπερουράνιον θεόν) thus ascending beyond the heaven of the Jews."

I reconstructed the passage as follows:

καὶ οἷος ὁ ὑπερουράνιος, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ ἐπουράνιοι, καὶ καθὼς ἐφορέσαμεν τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ τοῦ ἐπουρανίου, φορέσωμεν καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ ὑπερουρανίου.

and as is the super-heavenly one, so also are those who are of heaven, and just as we have borne the image of the heavenly one, so shall we bear the image of the super-heavenly one.

I found the citation in question in De Resurrectione, indeed in the very same passage I made reference to in my last post.  Let's take a look at the order the material appears in that text. 

We begin with Tertullian's citation of 1 Corinthians 15:48, pretty much the same as our standard text:

Therefore, As is the choic one, such are they also that are choic: as is the heavenly one, such are they also that are heavenly. (Qualis ergo choicus tales et choici, et qualis caelestis tales et caelestes)

Then we read, in what immediately follows our last citation Tertullian, the reference to the concept of the 'super-celestial' which prompted my investigation in the first place.  But now I see embedded in the discussion a new version of 1 Corinthians 15:40 - 41 embedded in the material:

Such in substance? Or such at first in discipline and afterwards in the dignity which has been the aim of the discipline? Yet even in substance choic men and heavenly can by no means be dissevered when once the apostle has described them as men. For even if Christ alone is truly heavenly, nay rather even more than heavenly (immo et supercaelestis), and yet is man, as being flesh and soul, and as far as this condition of the substances goes is in no degree distinguished from the choic quality, it follows that those who after his fashion are heavenly must be understood to have been declared heavenly not on the ground of their present substance but on the ground of their future splendour: because at the previous point from which that distinction derived it was shown that it is by difference of dignity that there is one glory of the super-celestial and another of the super-earthly, and one glory of the sun, another of the moon, and another of the stars, seeing that star also differs from star in glory (de dignitatis differentia ostensa est alia supercaelestium gloria, alia superterrenorum,et alia solis, alia lunae, alia stellarum, quia et stella a stella differt in Gloria) [1 Cor. 15. 40-1] yet not in substance.

And then this is followed by my exact proposed 'Marcionite' reading for 1 Corinthians 15:49:

Consequently, having premised that there is in the same substance a difference of the dignity which must now be sought after and hereafter will be attained, he adds also an exhortation for us even here to seek after Christ's attire by discipline, and there to attain to his altitude by glory: As we have worn the image of the choic man, let us also wear the image of him who is super-celestial (Sicut portavimus imaginem choici, portemus etiam imaginem supercaelestis)[1 Cor. 15. 49]

That is quite a transformation of the original text, and it seems - as I noted before to have been known to Celsus c. 177 CE. 

Now - even in light of this discovery - I am left with the next question, is Tertullian's citation recording the original order in the Marcionite recension?  That is:

As is the choic one, such are they also that are choic: as is the heavenly one, such are they also that are heavenly.  For there is one glory of the super-celestial and another of the super-earthly, and one glory of the sun, another of the moon, and another of the stars, seeing that star also differs from star in glory.  As we have worn the image of the choic man, let us also wear the image of him who is super-celestial.  For this I say that flesh and blood cannot obtain by inheritance the kingdom of God. 
 Hmmmm ...

Could the Parallels in Plato, Judaism and Christianity Date Back to their Mutual Reliance on Persian Religion?

Just a thought.  Celsus complains that Christians 'misrepresent Plato' when they connect the world of ideas to a super-celestial realm above that of the Demiurge.  That may well be true but what if Jews and Christians recognized that Plato was dependent on Iranian concepts for his 'realm of ideas'?  Would it really be tantamount to 'misrepresenting Plato' or better yet 'correcting errors' in his doctrine by determining where he strayed from his source?  An example.  The earliest Persian sources speak apparently of three heavens.  The Jews 'the heaven of heavens.'  The Christians, that of 'the third heaven' up to which the apostle ascended.  If, as I would suggest, this was identified by Philo and the early Christians with Plato's realm of ideas (proof to follow) then it would seem that Jews and Christians were only correcting Plato rather than misrepresenting him. 

Everything Scholars Teach About the Marcionite Recension of the 'Antithetical Section' of 1 Corinthians 15 is Hopelessly Inaccurate Because its Reconstruction is Difficult and Scholars Have Little Imagination

There is an extremely important testimony in the writings of Celsus (c. 177 CE) where it is clear from Origen's response that the Marcionite concept of the 'third heaven' is connected with the Hebrew concept of 'the heaven of heavens' (as we just saw in Eznik of Kolb).  Let's start with the reference in Book Six of Contra Celsum:

Celsus in the next place alleges, that "certain Christians, having misunderstood the words of Plato, loudly boast of a 'super-celestial' God (τὸν ὑπερουράνιον θεόν) thus ascending beyond the heaven of the Jews."

In no uncertain terms the 'certain Christians' mentioned here are to be identified with the Marcionites.  This same terminology emerges in Tertullian's arguments against the Marcionite interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:47:

Yet even in substance choic men and heavenly can by no means be dissevered when once the apostle has described them as men. For even if Christ alone is truly heavenly, nay even super-celestial (supercaelestis), and yet is man, as being flesh and soul, and as far as this condition of the substances goes is in no degree distinguished from the choic quality, it follows that those who after his fashion are heavenly must be understood to have been declared heavenly not on the ground of their present substance but on the ground of their future splendor.

Tertullian's point is to disagree with the Marcionite understanding of Jesus as a super-celestial man and the accompanying argument that his substance was also 'super-celestial.' 

Before I continue on with Origen's discussion of the Hebrew terminology 'heaven of heavens' I would like to take a moment to bring up something discussed in Schmid's book.  Schmid notices that Tertullian's discussion of 1 Corinthians transliterated Greek terms (for example his use of choicus for χοϊκός which appears throughout the section).  Schmid then points to Evans statement in his translation of De Resurrectione

supercaelestis (and again below) and superterrenorum are needlessly precise translations of ἐπουράνιος, ἐπίγειος, for which Latin Vulgate is rightly satisfied with caelestis, terrestris

I am quite certain that when we make a careful examination of the context of the statement in Tertullian, the author is actually making reference to a textual variant that appears in place of ἐπουράνιος in our Catholic texts in the Marcionite original. 

In other words - and this is key I believe for understanding the motivation for the Catholic 'correction' of the Marcionite recension - when Celsus makes reference to the Marcionite interest in Jesus as τὸν ὑπερουράνιον θεόν he is demonstrating that he had before him the variant text of 1 Corinthians.  This is not at all surprising given that he cites several variant readings from the Pauline epistles.  Origen consistently claims he 'misunderstands' the material properly preserved in the Catholic edition.  However I think the difference here is quite significant especially given what we know of the echoes of the Marcionite understanding from other sources - especially Eznik, Ephrem and the Nag Hammadi writings. 

I believe we can tentatively substitute ὑπερουράνιος for every or at least some of the instances we find ἐπουράνιος in the famous 'antithetical section' in 1 Corinthians 15.  I am not sure what the original reading of all the material was, but let us consider what we know for certain with respect to the Marcionite reading:

1 Corinthians 15:45b - ὁ ἔσχατος ὁ Κύριος εἰς πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν
1 Corinthians 15:47b - ὁ δεύτερος ὁ Κύριος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ

In other words, it is generally assumed that because of our Catholic text that Adam was somehow 'first' and then 'the second the Lord from heaven.'  But I have to admit that I - as a non-Christian who has no particular attachment to any of this material - have struggled with making sense of this argument. 

Knowing that the Catholics did indeed corrupt the original Marcionite text one would have expected something closer to the Philonic understanding that Adam came after the creation of the world (which was anthropomorphic in shape) or perhaps after the Logos.  Instead we read the bizarre understanding that Jesus was made after Adam or perhaps appeared after Adam in chronological history.  Yet I can't escape the sense that Celsus provides us with the original dichotomy which is key to unlocking the original Marcionite 'antithesis' - one which was so dangerous that Irenaeus effectively reshaped the canon and indeed the original controversy known from the time of Celsus. 

The basic idea in Marcionitism was that the Lord from heaven (ὁ Κύριος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ) - i.e. Jesus - was known to the Jews but 'the super-celestial god' (τὸν ὑπερουράνιον θεόν) - i.e. his Father - was not.  As I have noted many times here Jesus was the Jewish angel Eesh.  He was from 'heaven' but above him there was a being whom the apostle saw when he ascended up to the 'heaven of heavens' - i.e. the third heaven.  This is at the heart of the discussion in Celsus reflecting the original Marcionite understanding which is never quite explained in the Church Fathers because - it should be noted - the basic understanding continued in Alexandrian writers such as Origen

So when we go back to the original 'antithetical' section in 1 Corinthians 15:48 - 49 I wonder whether the original sense of the Marcionite section read something like:

καὶ οἷος ὁ ὑπερουράνιος, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ ἐπουράνιοι, καὶ καθὼς ἐφορέσαμεν τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ τοῦ ἐπουρανίου, φορέσωμεν καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ ὑπερουρανίου.

and as is the super-heavenly one, so also are those who are of heaven, and just as we have borne the image of the heavenly one, so shall we bear the image of the super-heavenly one.

I just don't see how anyone when confronted with the necessary logic of Marcionitism can deny that this must have been the original readings - in spite of the fact that we have only the most fragmentary evidence in favor of their existence. 

In any event it is important to note - going back to our original discussion of Celsus - that Origen replies to the pagan that 'super-celestial' goes back to 'heaven of heavens' in the Hebrew scriptures:

By these words, indeed, he does not make it clear whether they also ascend beyond the God of the Jews, or only beyond the heaven by which they swear. It is not our purpose at present, however, to speak of those who acknowledge another god than the one worshipped by the Jews, but to defend ourselves, and to show that it was impossible for the prophets of the Jews, whose writings are reckoned among ours, to have borrowed anything from Plato, because they were older than he. They did not then borrow from him the declaration, that "all things are around the King of all, and that all exist on account of him;" for we have learned that nobler thoughts than these have been uttered by the prophets, by Jesus Himself and His disciples, who have clearly indicated the meaning of the spirit that was in them, which was none other than the spirit of Christ. Nor was the philosopher the first to present to view the "super-celestial" place; for David long ago brought to view the profundity and multitude of the thoughts concerning God entertained by those who have ascended above visible things, when he said in the book of Psalms: "Praise God, ye heaven of heavens and ye waters that be above the heavens, let them praise the name of the LORD." I do not indeed, deny that Plato learned from certain Hebrews the words quoted from the Phoedrus, or even, as some have recorded, that he quoted them from a perusal of our prophetic writings, when he said: "No poet here below has ever sung of the super-celestial place, or ever will sing in a becoming manner," and so on. And in the same passage is the following: "For the essence, which is both colourless and formless, and which cannot be touched, which really exists, is the pilot of the soul, and is beheld by the understanding alone; and around it the genus of true knowledge holds this place." Our Paul, moreover, educated by these words, and longing after things "supra-mundane" and "super-celestial," and doing his utmost for their sake to attain them, says in the second Epistle to the Corinthians: "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are unseen are eternal."

Now, to those who are capable of understanding him, the apostle manifestly presents to view "things which are the objects of perception," calling them "things seen;" while he terms "unseen," things which are the object of the understanding, and cognisable by it alone. He knows, also, that things "seen" and visible are "temporal," but that things cognisable by the mind, and "not seen," are "eternal;" and desiring to remain in the contemplation of these. and being assisted by his earnest longing for them, he deemed all affliction as "light" and as "nothing," and during the season of afflictions and troubles was not at all bowed down by them, but by his contemplation of (divine) things deemed every calamity a light thing, seeing we also have "a great High Priest," who by the greatness of His power and understanding "has passed through the heavens, even Jesus the Son of God," who has promised to all that have truly learned divine things, and have lived lives in harmony with them, to go before them to the things that are supra-mundane; for His words are: "That where I go, ye may be also." And therefore we hope, after the troubles and struggles which we suffer here, to reach the highest heavens, and receiving, agreeably to the teaching of Jesus, the fountains of water that spring up unto eternal life, and being filled with the rivers of knowledge, shall be united with those waters that are said to be above the heavens, and which praise His name. And as many of us as praise Him shall not be carried about by the revolution of the heaven, but shall be ever engaged in the contemplation of the invisible things of God, which are no longer understood by us through the things which He hath made from the creation of the world, but seeing, as it was expressed by the true disciple of Jesus in these words, "then face to face;" and in these, "When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part will be done away."

The Scriptures which are current in the Churches of God do not speak of "seven" heavens, or of any definite number at all, but they do appear to teach the existence of "heavens," whether that means the "spheres" of those bodies which the Greeks call "planets," or something more mysterious. Celsus, too, agreeably to the opinion of Plato, asserts that souls can make their way to and from the earth through the planets; while Moses, our most ancient prophet, says that a divine vision was presented to the view of our prophet Jacob,--a ladder stretching to heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon it, and the Lord supported upon its top,--obscurely pointing, by this matter of the ladder, either to the same truths which Plato had in view, or to something greater than these. On this subject Philo has composed a treatise which deserves the thoughtful and intelligent investigation of all lovers of truth.

After this, Celsus, desiring to exhibit his learning in his treatise against us, quotes also certain Persian mysteries, where he says: "These things are obscurely hinted at in the accounts of the Persians, and especially in the mysteries of Mithras, which are celebrated amongst them. For in the latter there is a representation of the two heavenly revolutions,--of the movement, viz., of the fixed stars, and of that which take place among the planets, and of the passage of the soul through these. The representation is of the following nature: There is a ladder with lofty gates, and on the top of it an eighth gate. The first gate consists of lead, the second of tin, the third of copper, the fourth of iron, the fifth of a mixture of metals, the sixth of silver, and the seventh of gold. The first gate they assign to Saturn, indicating by the 'lead' the slowness of this star; the second to Venus, comparing her to the splendour and softness of tin; the third to Jupiter, being firm and solid; the fourth to Mercury, for both Mercury and iron are fit to endure all things, and are money-making and laborious; the fifth to Mars, because, being composed of a mixture of metals, it is varied and unequal; the sixth, of silver, to the Moon; the seventh, of gold, to the Sun,--thus imitating the different colours of the two latter." He next proceeds to examine the reason of the stars being arranged in this order, which is symbolized by the names of the rest of matter.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

On the Marcionite Concept of Three Heavens

The Marcionites held fast to the idea that there were three heavens.   Eznik clearly identifies this as the abode of the Father.  But far more significantly he makes clear that the Marcionites developed their understanding from the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch:

But first, where did Marcion get the idea of three heavens? It was because Moses said two heavens, but as the sectarians wander in all things, so also in this (point) because one said ten heavens, another seven, Marcion three, and, they want to establish their error in scripture, because these books often speak of 'the heavens' and 'the heaven of heavens.' When the sectarian are by no one restrained, iquite apart from the holy books the wander; and then, that is why they are at risk in the holy books they take refuge. For we find 'heaven' and 'heaven of heavens' in (our) Scripture. But it is because in the Hebrew language one can not say 'heaven,' as in the Syriac language (it says) no water, or sky, but a plural said. And there it is evident that by the Septuagint (it was) translated (well) in Greek, they say: 'From the beginning God made heaven and earth,' showing (that question) of a (single) heaven, and in the Syriac language, as we can not say heaven, it says: 'From the beginning God made the heavens and the element earth element.' Although we can not say the singular skies, however, saying hain, that is to say, 'element,' the translation states as part of the sky. In addition, the firmament, which is separated from water, the Septuagint translated heaven where it is obvious that the sky above and the sky are two indoor air, and not three or more." [Eznik Refutation, Marcion 7]

The system of three heavens is attested in Jewish sources: in T. Levi (α) 2:6–10; Midr. Pss. 114:2; and 2 Cor 12:2 and Apoc. Sedr. 2:3–5, where visionaries arrive to the third heaven, and no higher heaven is mentioned.  For the Apocalypse of Sedrach it is probable that the third heaven is the highest, since there the visionary can “speak to God face to face” (2:4).  The three stages of the as- cent probably also appear in 1 En. 14 (the fiery wall of 14:9 and two concentric houses in 14:10–17).

Bousset traced the threefold celestial system back to the Persian model of the three firmaments with the Paradise located above them.469 Zoroastrians believed that a just soul crosses three levels (even called “heavens”) in order to reach the highest divine realm. The scheme may even be older, since although the typical ancient Near Eastern systems normally had only one heaven, Enuma Elish has more than one level above the sky, and the three heavens system (parallel there to three terrestrial surfaces) is also attested among other multicelelstial systems systems in Mesopotamia (see Akkadian texts in KAR 307 and OA 8196). Some interpret the biblical expression, shamayi h'shamayim ; “heaven of heavens [in dual. tant.]” as referring to the Babylonian conception of the celestial realm divided to “the upper,” “the middle,” and “the upper heavens” inhabited by Anu (cf. the terminology of T. Levi 2:7, 3:1, and 3:4 below).

This is clearly the logic of the Marcionites as laid out by Eznik.  With respect to וּשְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמָיִם it may refer to two or three heavens understood as “heaven of heaven” or “heaven of heavens” (Deut 10:14; 1 Kgs 8:27; Neh 9:6; Ps 148:4; 2 Chr 2:5; 6:18).482 Thus it was interpreted by R. Yehudah bar Ilai: “There are two heavens, as it is written, 'Heaven, heaven of heaven, earth and everything in it, all belong to God' [Deut 10:14]” (b. Hag. 12b; cf. Deut. Rab. 2.32 (6:4); Midr. Pss. 114:2 knows of both variations: the concept of two heavens based on Ps 68:34(33): “who rids upon the heaven of ancient heaven,” and the alternative view that there are three heavens, referring to “the heavens [understood as dual] and the heaven of heavens [above them]” of 1 Kgs 8:27.

Heaven is mentioned several times in the first chapter of Genesis. It appears in the first verse as a creation of God. His dividing the light from the darkness in verses 4 and 5 this has been interpreted as the separation of heaven into two sections: day (God's throne) and night (where our universe is contained). In verse 8 heaven refers to the atmosphere over the earth in which birds fly, and in verse 14 it's the setting for the celestial lights, later identified (verse 16) as the sun, moon and stars. Shamayi h'shamayim (םשמיה שמי or "Heaven of Heavens") is mentioned in such passages as Genesis 28:12, Deuteronomy 10:14 and 1 Kings 8:27 as a distinctly spiritual realm containing (or being traveled by) angels and God. 

3 Baruch has the same concept.  As noted earlier the stages of Enoch's tour in 1 En. 14:8–18 can also be interpreted according to this model: heaven, “house,” and the second “house” with the Throne corresponding to the supercelestial realm. In the Ethiopic Apoc. Pet. 17 Jesus ascends to the second heaven with Moses and Elijah (however, there are may be more heavens). The scheme most similar to this understanding of 3 Baruch is brought in the Nag Hammadi Apocryphon of James, where disciples follow Jesus through the first two heavens and are not allowed to the third.
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