This post continues a series I have been doing on the Ascension of Isaiah: the full set of posts are archived here.
The Ascension of Isaiah describes a vision in which Isaiah
- is taken up through the firmament above the earth
- and then through seven heavens until he sees the Great Glory on his throne,
- and from where he sees the Beloved of God descending through those heavens
- to be crucified by Satan,
- plummeting further down to Sheol, before
- returning glorified to his former place in the highest heaven,
- having rescued the souls of the righteous in the process.
This vision or ascent belongs to chapters 6 to 11 of the longer text; the first five chapters are sometimes referred to as the Martyrdom of Isaiah, and are widely considered to have had an independent existence before various later Christian or “proto-Christian” additions.
Earl Doherty has brought this text of the Ascension (chapters 6 to 11) to some prominence with his argument that early Christianity (or even “proto-Christianity”) began with the idea of Christ as an entirely heavenly entity, with the idea of him living a life as a human on earth being a later development of the myth. Whether one accepts Doherty’s arguments or not, the text is nonetheless of interest as an indicator of ideas among early Christians and their Jewish thought-world. The idea of a visionary ascent through the heavens to see the glory of God, and thereby be transformed and be graced with salvation, was, as I have shown in recent posts, known among certain Jewish and Christian groups around the time (and either side) of the first and second centuries. I compare the details of this vision with those others in this post. Continue reading “Ascension of Isaiah as a mystic-visionary salvation myth”