Book Note: With Letters of Light (Arbel and Orlov, eds.)

There is a wonderful new collection of essays on early Jewish and Christian mysticism available now from De Gruyter. It is a festschrift honoring the career, contributions, and fellowship of Professor Rachel Elior, the John and Golda Cohen Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Jewish Mystical Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Professor Elior has made tremendous contributions to the field, both in Hebrew and English. Her work is among the best in the world on the subject. Some of my favorites are her books

The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism


The Mystical Origins of Hasidism

(2006) and

Dybbuks and Jewish Women in Social History, Mysticism, and Folklore


In her festschrift,

With Letters of Light

, her students and colleagues have amassed a fascinating collection of essays on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Early Jewish Apocalypticism, Magic and Mysticism. I contributed an essay myself where I try to describe and explain early Christian mysticism in its earliest stages starting with the biblical materials and working into the second century: "Jesus Revealed: The Dynamics of Early Christian Mysticism" (299-324). I wrote this piece because I had enjoyed a conversation with Rachel a few years ago about the mysticism I saw emerging in the New Testament materials and how similar they were to her own discussions of mysticism at Qumran in

The Three Temples

. She asked me then if I would write something about it, since she didn't work in the Christian materials as much as she did the Jewish. So I took her up on the suggestion.

With Letters of Light: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Early Jewish Apocalypticism, Magic, and Mysticism in Honor of Rachel Elior (Edited by Daphna Arbel and Andrei Orlov; Ekstasis: Religious Experience from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, 2; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011; ISBN 978-3-11-022201-2; US$ 182.00).
You can view this volume in electronic copy HERE.
Contents of the volume:
Daphna Arbel and Andrei Orlov
Rachel Elior – An Appreciation from her Colleagues and
Students - 1-5
Frances Flannery
The Consideration of Religious Experience in the Work of
Rachel Elior - 6-10
I. Exegesis
Kelley Coblentz Bautch
Peter and the Patriarch: A Confluence of Traditions? - 13-27
Silviu N. Bunta
In Heaven or on Earth: A Misplaced Temple Question about
Ezekiel’s Visions - 28-44
James R. Davila
Scriptural Exegesis in the Treatise of the Vessels, a Legendary
Account of the Hiding of the Temple Treasures - 45-61
Dan Merkur
Cultivating Visions through Exegetical Meditations - 62-91
Sergey Minov
“Serpentine” Eve in Syriac Christian Literature of Late
Antiquity - 92-114
Annette Yoshiko Reed
>From “Pre-Emptive Exegesis” to “Pre-Emptive Speculation”?
Ma‘aseh Bereshit in Genesis Rabbah and Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer - 115-132
Mark Verman
Earthly and Heavenly Jerusalem in Philo and Paul:
A Tale of Two Cities - 133-156
II. Ritual
Crispin Fletcher-Louis
The Book of Watchers and the Cycle of New Year Festivals - 159-168
Yuval Harari
A Different Spirituality or ‘Other’ Agents?: On the Study of
Magic in Rabbinic Literature - 169-195
Rebecca Lesses
“They Revealed Secrets to Their Wives”: The Transmission of
Magical Knowledge in 1 Enoch - 196-222
Jodi Magness
The Impurity of Oil and Spit among the Qumran Sectarians 223-231
Andrei Orlov
“The Likeness of Heaven”: The Kavod of Azazel in the
Apocalypse of Abraham - 232-253
Pieter W. van der Horst
Mystical Motifs in a Greek Synagogal Prayer? - 254-264
III. Transformation
Daphna Arbel
“A Chariot of Light Borne by Four Bright Eagles”:
Eve’s Vision of the Chariot in the Greek Life of Adam and Eve - 267-284
Joseph Dan
“Messianic Movements in the Period of the Crusades” - 285-298
April D. DeConick
Jesus Revealed: The Dynamics of Early Christian Mysticism - 299-324
Celia Deutsch
Aseneth: Ascetical Practice, Vision, and Transformation - 325-348
Naomi Janowitz
“You Are Gods”: Multiple Divine Beings in Late Antique
Jewish Theology - 349-364
Alan F. Segal
Transcribing Experience - 365-382