In Jewish hekhalot mysticism, one who ascends to the heavenly temple may see something which looks like - but is not - water. Should he be deceived by this illusion, he betrays his unworthiness and exposes himself to retribution.
Detailed examination of the water vision discovers that its real object is the celestial pavement, separating the fiery divine realm from the "watery" world of impure organic matter. This pavement is Ezekiel's firmament of
hashmal - a luminous crystalline substance - seen by the visionary from above.
Further investigation finds that the water vision continues an ancient tradition of exegesis of Ezekiel 1 as an account of a heavenly ascent, in which "water" signifies materiality, femininity and impurity. The wide and profound influence of these ideas is encountered in a variety of Jewish, Christian and Gnostic sources.
This book brings together the perspectives of apocalypticism and early Jewish mysticism to illuminate aspects of New Testament theology. The first part begins with a consideration of the mystical character of apocalypticism and then uses the Book of Revelation and the development of views about the heavenly mediator figure of Enoch to explore the importance of apocalypticism in the Gospels and Acts, the Pauline Letters and finally the key theological themes in the later books of the New Testament. The second and third parts explore the character of early Jewish mysticism by taking important themes in the early Jewish mystical texts such as the Temple and the Divine Body to demonstrate the relevance of this material to New Testament interpretation.