Friday, May 02, 2014

The translation of Elijah

19 And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left (1 Kgs 22:19). 
11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more (2 Kgs 2:11-12). 
17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kgs 6:17).
(1:6) God spends one-sixth of his entire creative effort (the second day) working on a solid firmament. 
(2:11-14) Elijah ascended into heaven in a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire.
I'm using the SAB as a foil. It nicely illustrates the ineptitude of unbelievers. In this case, Steve Wells (author of the SAB). 
i) If ancient Hebrews thought the sky was a solid dome, how did Elijah ascend to heaven through that impenetrable barrier? Perhaps Wells will say someone opened a window in the sky. But that would release rain, which would extinguish the fiery horse-drawn chariot. 
ii)The account doesn't say he "ascended into heaven in a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire." Rather, the "whirlwind" was the vehicle. The fiery horse and chariots merely separated Elijah and Elisha. 
iii) Wells doesn't begin to understand the imagery. Biblical theophanies often trade on storm cloud imagery because the Shekinah resembles a storm cloud. The Shekinah has the appearance of luminous plasma or ball lightning. The "whirlwind" is the Shekinah. Elijah was enveloped by the Shekinah, and whisked away. 
The storm cloud imagery becomes a picturesque metaphor for archers on chariots. Thunderbolts resemble fiery spears and arrows. Thunder sounds like chariots and galloping warhorses on a plain. 
iv) This dovetails with the angelology of 1-2 Kings. In addition to the Shekinah, angels fight on behalf of Elijah and Elisha. LIke the Shekinah, angels can project luminosity. 
These are common motifs in the OT and NT alike. All these elements come together in Ezk 1. 

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