From: Robert Schneider (email@example.com)
Date: Fri Feb 21 2003 - 11:58:52 EST
Rich asked: "What is "merkabah mysticism?"
"Merkabah" is the Mishnaic term for the chariot that Ezekiel saw in his throne-chariot vision (Ezek.1:4-28a). According to my source, Alan Segal, "merkabah mysticism" was "a secret and imperfectly understood" Jewish apocalyptic mysticism of Paul's time (_Paul the Convert_, p. 11, 36ff passim, etc.). The mystic is granted a vision of the throne of God's "kavod" (glory), as Ezekiel was. Sorry that I don't have a good enough grasp to describe it in detail, but Segal sees a connection between this apocalyptic mysticism, and Paul's own mystical journeys (cf. 2 Cor. 12) and utterances. Drawing upon "heavenly man" figures in apocalyptic writings, Paul describes Jesus as the image and "kavod" of God. Segal argues that Paul's articulation of his conversion and his theology are shaped by his mystical experiences, and his vocabulary for these experiences is influenced by Jewish apocalyptic mysticism. If you Google "merkabah mysticism," you'll get lots of sites; some are academic and apparently provide pre-Kabbalistic historical information.
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