Jesus as Merkabah Mystic

in Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
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This article examines and critiques the portrayal of Jesus as a merkabah mystic in Bruce Chilton’s Rabbi Jesus. After providing a brief summary of Chilton’s presentation of Jesus’ spirituality, the article explores the origin of merkabah mysticism and questions whether available sources confirm the existence of a developed mysticism that included the practice of the ascent during Jesus’ lifetime. The article also examines the New Testament texts to which Chilton appeals as evidence of Jesus’ mysticism. The article concludes that Chilton’s fascinating theory has only meager support in the canonical Gospels since a careful comparison of the words and activities of Jesus of Nazareth and the descenders of chariot in Tannaitic and hekhaloth literature discovers more differences than similarities.

Jesus as Merkabah Mystic

in Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus



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