As promised in my last post, with Dr. Orlov’s permission, I am posting a link to the full introduction to his new book Divine Manifestations in the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha .

Click here: Orlov Introduction

The intro is over 20 pages long, but it is well worth your time to take a look at it.  Dr. Orlov contrasts two basically concurrent but very different religious traditions — one that emphasizes visionary experiences in which the believer is taken up into heaven and is allowed to see the “Glory of God” and is transfigured in the process–and the other in which the adept emphasizes hearing the voice of God.

Dr. Orlov provides some great material here from the monastic Desert Fathers regarding their experiences with heavenly ascent and how they were permitted to see the Glory of God described in anthropomorphic terms.  Those who were near the visionaries while or soon after they received this vision described their face/body as shining like the sun.

Orlov looks into the recurring theme that the being that the visionary would see in heaven was regularly described as being corporeal or human-like, similar to Ezekiel’s vision of the fiery, human-like being on the throne.  This concept of deity is very ancient and was preserved by certain segments of the Jewish tradition. However, some parties (e.g. the Deuteronomists) were intent on dislodging the ancient anthropomorphic tradition and attempted to replace it with a “Name theology” that posited that God could not be seen but only heard. God did not dwell in his holy temple–only his “Name” did.

Lahaye, Isaiah 6, The Lord on His Throne

The polemics between these two theologies (Form vs. Voice) can be seen in the biblical text as we now have it. For example, in Exodus 19, Moses and the elders of Israel climb Mount Sinai and see the God of Israel standing before them. However, in Exodus 33 and Deut. 4 we are told that Moses merely heard the voice of God and saw no Form.  Orlov believes that an insertion of a reinterpretation of the Sinai vision as purely aural is apparent here.  Orlov sees Elijah as the champion of this aural tradition—Elijah sees no human-like form, but only hears a still, small voice.

Dr. Orlov goes on to analyze the texts of 2 (Slavonic) Enoch and the Apocalypse of Abraham as examples of each of these traditions, the first being an example of the Form theology and the latter an example of the aural tradition. Enoch is taken up into heaven and sees the divine face of God, described in appearance like “iron made hot by a fire, emitting sparks.” Abraham, however, according to this apocalyptic text, is not permitted to see God, but hears his voice coming from within a pillar of fire.


You can judge for yourself whether you agree with his theories on the polemics between these to theological trends, but I highly recommend taking a good look at this introduction. Dr. Orlov has done and continues to do excellent research on divine manifestations, on heavenly ascents and visions of God’s Face, and how these traditions were perpetuated over time.

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