Book Note: The Greatest Mirror (by Andrei Orlov)

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I received a beautiful book in the mail this week by Andrei Orlov, The Greatest Mirror: Heavenly Counterparts in the Jewish Pseudepigrapha (SUNY).  While the idea of a heavenly double—an angelic twin of an earthbound human—is found in Christian, Manichaean, Islamic, and Kabbalistic traditions, scholars have been less familiar with this imagery in early Jewish writings.  In fact, most scholars have traced the lineage of these ideas to Greco-Roman and Iranian sources. But in his new book, Andrei A. Orlov shows that heavenly twin imagery drew in large part from early Jewish writings. The Jewish pseudepigrapha—books from the Second Temple period that were attributed to biblical figures but excluded from the Hebrew Bible—contain accounts of heavenly twins in the form of spirits, images, faces, children, mirrors, and angels of the Presence. Orlov provides a comprehensive analysis of these traditions in their full historical and interpretive complexity. He focuses on heavenly alter egos of Enoch, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, and Aseneth in often neglected books, including Animal Apocalypse, Book of the Watchers, 2 Enoch, Ladder of Jacob, and Joseph and Aseneth, some of which are preserved solely in the Slavonic language.