MARTYRDOM AND ASCENSION OF ISAIAH (1st - early 3rd century AD) Questions

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MARTYRDOM AND ASCENSION OF ISAIAH (1st - early 3rd century AD) Questions

Post by rakovsky » Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:03 pm

The Apostolic Constitutions and an Armenian Bible listed the Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah (heretofore "Ascension of Isaiah") as apocryphal, and the existence of manuscripts in numerous translations suggest that it once had widespread use.

The text for the Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah can be found here: ... -isaiah-en
And here:

See also the helpful graph in the "Table of contents of the surviving manuscripts": ... of-isaiah/

Wikipedia notes:
The earliest section, regarding chapters 3:13-4:22, was composed at about the end of the first century A.D. or perhaps early second century and is believed to be a text of Jewish origins which was later on redacted by Christian scribes.[3] The date of the Vision of Isaiah is rather more difficult to determine, but it is no more recent than the third century, since Saint Jerome (c. 347-420 AD) cites a fragment of the work in some of his writings, but from internal evidence it seems that the text is to be placed before the end of the second century AD.
Justin Martyr's and Origen's respect for Ascension of Isaiah is interesting, as they seem to think it reflected either an account censured from the Tanakh or else a writing the Jews were embarrassed about (because it narrates iIaiah's killing) and secretly preserved. William Deane writes:
there are early references to the book itself under different names. Justin Martyr, indeed, who, in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew (chap. cxx.)... refers unmistakably to the tradition therein embodied. He is showing from the Old Testament the mission and character of Christ, and he tells his antagonist that, had the Jews understood the full import of such passages, they would have removed them from the text, as they have removed "those relating to the death of Isaiah, whom," he says, "ye sawed in pieces with a wooden saw." It is not clear what part of Scripture Justin supposes to have been thus violently handled, but his reference to the mode of the prophet's death recalls the wording of the "Ascensio."
In [Origen's] Epistle to Africanus (chap. ix.), after remarking that the Jews were accustomed to remove from popular cognisance all things supposed to be derogatory to elders and judges, while preserving many of such facts in secret books, he instances the story of Isaiah, which, he says, is confirmed by the testimony of the Epistle to the Hebrews, thus making the document that contains the legend of more ancient date than the Epistle. And he continues: "It is clear that tradition reports that Isaiah was sawn asunder; and so it is stated in a certain apocryphal writing (en tini apokrupho), which was perhaps purposely corrupted by the Jews who introduced incongruous readings in order to throw discredit on the whole narrative." ... His acquaintance with our book is still further expressed in one of his Homilies on Isaiah (tom. iii. p.108), where the resemblance to a passage quoted below is perfectly obvious. "They say that Isaiah was cut asunder by the people, as one who depraved the law and spoke beyond what Scripture authorised. For Scripture says, No one shall see my face and live; but he says, I saw the Lord of Hosts. Moses, they say, saw Him not, and thou didst see Him! And for this cause they cut him asunder and condemned him as impious." ... isaiah.htm
Origen's words retelling the martyrdom are quite close to what is found in Ascension of Isaiah. Deane explains that Jerome also noted a Biblical saying in the Book of Isaiah that was similar to one in Ascension of Isaiah, but Deane notes that the Ascension of Isaiah was also used by heretics and that the later Apostolic Constitutions ban the Apocryphon of Isaiah (Deane thinks it's the same work) as having false teaching.

(Question 1) What do you think about the claim that what is in the heavens is like what is on earth?
In the Ascension of Isaiah, Isaiah has a vision of the heaven/firmament, and writes: "there I saw Sammael [the Devil] and his hosts, and there was great fighting therein. above so on the earth [below] also; for the likeness of that which is in the firmament is here on the earth."
The only thing that comes to mind is the cryptic passage in Ode 34 of the Odes of Solomon:
4. The likeness of that which is below is that which is above.
5. For everything is from above, and from below there is nothing, but it is believed to be by those in whom there is no understanding.
(Question 2) Is the Ascension of Isaiah from a sect rejected by the mainstream, "orthodox" church of St. Ignatius?
E. Norelli suggests on the contrary that the whole text, even if written in different times, is the expression of a docetic Christian prophetic group related with the group attacked by Ignatius of Antioch in his letters to the Smyrnaeans and to the Trallians.[12] According with this scholar chapters 6-11 (the Vision) are older than chapters 1-5 (which represent a later pessimistic introduction to the original Vision), the date of composition is the end of the 1st century AD, and the narrative of Mary's pregnancy (AI 11:2-5) is independent from the Gospel of Matthew.

[16] Enrico Norelli (1994), L'Ascensione di Isaia. Studi su un apocrifo al crocevia dei cristianesimi.
Chapter 3 of the Ascension of Isaiah talks about disciples rejecting the 12 apostles' teaching and the Ascension of Isaiah's visions in the lead up to the Second Coming:
21. And afterwards [ie. after Jesus' Resurrection and Great Commission], on the eve of His approach, His disciples will forsake the teaching of the Twelve Apostles, and their faith, and their love and their purity.
22. And there will be much contention on the eve of [His advent and] His approach.
29. And there will be great hatred in the shepherds and elders towards each other.
30. For there will be great jealousy in the last days;; for every one will say what is pleasing in his own eyes.
31. And they will make of none effect the prophecy of the prophets which were before me, and these my visions also will they make of none effect, in order to speak after the impulse of their own heart.
I wonder if the part about the disciples forsaking the 12 apostles' teaching and the visions of Isaiah is a reference to some of Jesus' disciples and Christian bishops rejecting the Ascension of Isaiah?

On the other hand, Robert G. Hall sees Ascension of Isaiah as trying to legitimize its visions for the mainstream Church:
Asc. Is. 3:13-20 summarizes the doctrine of the descent and ascent [of the Beloved, Jesus] and establishes it as the doctrine of the apostles. Asc Is 3:21-31 attacks those who reject this doctrine of the apostles... Those who reject the vision reject the heavenly robes promised in the vision...

The author idealizes apostolic Christianity to mirror ...his own prophetic school. The twelve apostles are prophets, they prophesy (Asc 3:21) the descent and ascent of the Beloved. Many of those who attain salvation by heeding the twelve also become prophets ... b_contents
Hall sees the vision of Isaiah as being an allegory for the kinds of visions that the author's Christian group experienced. Isaiah, in the work, went into the desert with other prophets and experienced visions like the ascent to heaven, and Hall proposes that the author belonged to a community doing the same kind of thing.

Hall notes that in the Ascension of Isaiah, Satan complains that Isaiah says he saw God (as noted in Isaiah 6), despite Moses' claim that No man can see God and live. Hall proposes that the author of the Ascension is using this debate as a way to defend claims of divine visions by the author's group.
It's a good question what the author's relationship is to the official mainstream Church of his time. Hall writes:
The author has little use for those who claim official status in communities (chp 3), but the proliferation of false prophet imagery cautions against assuming that the rivalry pits the prophetic school against officials as such.
The Vision of the Descent and Ascent of the Beloved falls at the end, out of all chronological sequence, because of its importance: the author's goal from the beginning is to win a hearing for this Vision from a reluctant audience. ... That the Ascension of Isaiah survived testifies that the author met the rhetorical problem [of how one could have divine visions of God] and in a large measure solved it.
The author writes the Ascension of isaiah as a member of this early Christian prophetic school seeking to persuade a recalcitrant church to accept the all important doctrine of the descent and ascent of the Beloved. ... b_contents
Hall makes I think a great point in the underlined statement above as to why the Ascension would be narrated out of order as many scholars have noted.
Hall thinks that the Ascension is related to a community of prophets like the author of John's Revelation. He notes another scholar who think that when John in Revelation talks about letters to angels in seven churches, it refers to prophets in those churches. But Hall sees the Ascension as in conflict with Johanine Christianity, as John's Gospel says, "No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man" (John 3:13), and "Not that anyone has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father" (John 6:46). But maybe these verses are not in conflict with the Ascension of Isaiah, since Abraham saw God in the form of three angels and Paul knew a man who ascended to the third heaven. Maybe John's gospel could mean that no one else saw the Father in his ultimate divine substance. The Russian theologian explains that the original of John 3:13 ended "the Son of Man, who is in Heaven", based on the manuscripts. And Augustine explains that since Christ ascended into heaven, the verse implies that believers (like John in the Revelation and Paul's acquaintance) ascend with Christ, since they are considered His body: "After taking notice of this lack of knowledge in a person, who, on the strength of his magisterial station, set himself above others, and blaming the unbelief of such men, our Lord says, that if such as these do not believe, others will: No one has ascended into heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man who is in heaven. This may be rendered: The spiritual birth shall be of such sort, as that men from being earthly shall become heavenly: which will not be possible, except they are made members of Me; so that he who ascends, becomes one with Him who descended. Our Lord accounts His body, i.e. His Church, as Himself."(quoted in Aquinas' Golden Chain commentary on John 3:13).

He also sees resemblances to St. Ignatius' ideas about community as well as to the Odes of Solomon. It's interesting:
Ignatius claims prophetic inspiration for himself concerning issues important to the Ascension of Isaiah: he promises to reveal anything further about Christ as God reveals it to him (Ign Eph 20). He claims the ability to describe heavenly realities like one who has taken a heavenly trip (Ign Trall 5)... Confronted by the anomaly of bishops without the prophetic gift, Ignatius does not abandon the prophetic ideal, but interprets them as silent prophets.
It's quite interesting to see St Ignatius' emphasis on prophecy as continuing in the church, perhaps even in the early 2nc c. after the apostles had passed away.

I do think Asc. of Isaiah is raising an interesting debate when it has:
8. And Isaiah himself has said: ‘I see more than Moses the prophet’.
9. But Moses said: ‘No man can see God and live’; and Isaiah has said: ‘I have seen God and behold I live’.
10. Know therefore, king, that he is lying.
Lopuhin comments on the verse in Exodus:
As one not having the ability to see the Lord, Moses sees only the shining of the divine glory: "you see Me from behind".
If one checks the verse in Exodus, it actually says that Moses, being a man, could not see God's "face". It doesn't specify that Moses couldn't see God at all. In fact, Exodus 24:10 talks about the elders visiting and seeing God: "and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself."

In Isaiah's case, maybe the same distinction worked? Isaiah was only seeing God like the elders did, but not His face in particular?
It seems that rhetoric about no one seeing God needs to have exceptions, since John 1 said no one but Jesus saw God, but then says later in 1 John 4:12: "No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us."

So maybe Ascension of Isaiah is not really alluding to the Christian bishops rejecting the author's visions like one scholar proposed above, but rather to Jewish officials rejecting Christian claims about Jesus seeing God?

(Question 3) Is the Ascension of Isaiah docetic?
M.A. Knibb suggests that it was written toward the end of the first century, because a
passage of the Ascension (3:17) provides a description of the emergence of the Beloved (Jesus) from the tomb which is similar to the description given in the Gospel of Peter 39f., a work which dates from the middle of the second century. ...

The date of the Vision of Isaiah is rather more difficult to determine. The fact that Jerome refers to 11:34, and that Epiphanius gives a quotation of 9:35f., suggests that this part of the Ascension was in existence, at the latest, by the end of the third century A.D. But it is probably much older than the third century. The Acts of Peter 24, which dates from the second half of the second century, appears to quote 11:14, while the narrative of the miraculous birth of the Lord in 11:2-16 shows some similarities with the Protevangelium of James, a work attributed to about A.D. 150.
The resemblance between the Ascension of Isaiah and G.Peter could help explain the claim of Docetism, since some scholars suggest that the Gospel of Peter is Docetic. John Knight believes the Ascension of Isaiah isn't Docetic, but rather Polymorphic in that Jesus takes on different forms, as he wrote in his essay, The Christology of the Ascension of Isaiah: ... ht&f=false

In The Mystery of God: Early Jewish Mysticism and the New Testament, C. C. Rowland and Christopher R. A. Morray-Jones see the work as docetic:
"there is every indication that this event[the nativity] is interpreted in a docetic mannter. In 9:13 the angel ...speaks thus of the descent of the Beloved: ...'...he had descended and become like you in appearance and they[the lower heavenly beings] will think that he is flesh and a man.' ... Mary was pregnant for only two months before the birth takes place. There are no labour pains... Thus he sucked the breast merely so that 'he would not be recognized' (11:17)... By disguising himself as a human being the Beloved thereby escaped the attention of the heavenly powers (11:16)
I suppose that even if one denies that Asc. Isaiah is docetic, one would think that the phrase he uses is still easily misleading - "become like you in form, and they will think he is flesh and a man" - as if they are only thinking that he is flesh, whereas actually he is not flesh.

In contrast, "In The Ascension of Isaiah and Docetic Christology", Darrell D. Hannah proposes that Asc. Isaiah is not Docetic. ( ... b_contents)
If parallels are sought for this ['he sucked the breast like an infant .... that he might not be recognized' ~ Asc. Isaiah] there are much closer ones than .... angelic docetism.
He points to Clement Alexandrine saying that Christ ate food to keep people away from the false teaching of Docetism:
in the case of the saviour it were ludicrous .... that the body as a body demanded the necessary aids in order to its duration. For He ate, not for the sake of the body, which was kept together by a holy enegery, but in order that it might not enter into the minds of those who were with Him to entertain a different opinion of Him; in like manner as certainly some afterwards supposed that He appeared in a phantasmal shape
Clement Alexandrine, Stromata
That's curious. Jesus didn't need food because of his divinity, but just did it to show his humanity?
Hannah adds: "Current scholarhip is agreed that Clement was no docetist", noting how in the passage above Clement A. opposes Docetism directly.
Hannah notes how in the Ascension of Isaiah, in each of the lower heavens, Christ appears only as an angel and the demons don't recognize him, and so in that sense at times Christ was able to assume an appearance different from his divine reality. Hannah sees a relationship to the 2nd c. AD "Epistula Apostolorum", an anti-docetic work where Jesus says: "as I was about to come down from the Father of all.... I was in the heavens, and I passed by the angels and archangels in their form, as if I were one of them among the dominions and powers".
Hannah translates the blue words, which Rowland finds Docetic, as: "he has descended and become like you in form, and they will think he is flesh and a man". Hannah comments:
In 3:13 we find reference to the Beloved's transformation as well as the statement "and the form into which he must be transformed, the form of a man.
He notes that taking on something's form could mean linguistically that it really is such a being. Further, Hannah argues that since the suffering and death of Jesus was seen as real by the author of the Ascension of Isaiah, then the birth was seen as real too.
Hannah says that since Beliar/Satan is said in Asc. Isaiah to take on the Antichrist Nero's form, it suggests that in such a case, Satan became the person of a man by possession, rather than by mere appearance. Since Beliar was an anti-Christ and became a real person, then the Christ for whom he is a foil would be a real person too.

(Question 4) Does the Ascension of Isaiah mistakenly equate the angel Gabriel with the Holy Spirit?
Evan T writes that the Ascension's treatment of:
The Holy Spirit is rather problematic because it does not appear as a person of the Trinity, but as an angel that brings divine wisdom to people. The text makes mention to the “angel of the Spirit” and the “angel of the Holy Spirit” which is identical to Gabriel (this is apparent in 11;4 and crystal clear in 3;16). Origen had a similar opinion on the matter and believed that the two seraphim that appeared to Isaiah in the Bible (Isaiah ch.6) were the Son and the Holy Spirit. Unlike the Son, the “angel of Spirit” is not referred to as “God”. ... of-isaiah/
In R.H. Charles' Introduction, he writes:
The Holy Spirit is often designated, either as the Angel of the Spirit (vi.21, ix, 39-40,x:4,xi:4, or the Angel of the Holy Spirit, iii.16, vii.23,ix.36,xi.33. In two of these passages, iii.16 and xi.4, He is identified with Gabriel, the angel of the Annunciation.
Ascension of Isaiah 3:16 says that Isaiah's vision showed that:
14. And the twelve who were with Him[ie. Christ] should be offended because of Him: and the watch of those who watched the sepulchre:

15. And the descent of the angel of the Christian Church, which is in the heavens, whom He will summon in the last days.

16. And that (Gabriel) the angel of the Holy Spirit, and Michael, the chief of the holy angels, on the third day will open the sepulchre:

17. And the Beloved sitting on their shoulders will come forth and send out His twelve disciples;
The Early Christian Writings text above has Gabriel in parentheses. Charles' footnote for Asc.Isa.3:16 is: "Here and in xi.4 this angel appears to be Gabriel, but elsewhere in the book to be the Holy Spirit." Charles' footnote also points out how the "Shepherd of Hermas" (Mandate 11) talks about being filled with the "angel of the prophetic Spirit":
When then the man who hath the divine Spirit cometh into an assembly of righteous men, who have faith in a divine Spirit, and intercession is made to God by the gathering of those men, then the angel of the prophetic spirit, who is attached to him, filleth the man, and the man, being filled with the Holy Spirit, speaketh to the multitude, according as the Lord willeth.
If "Gabriel" is called "the angel of the Holy Spirit" in the Ascension of Isaiah, I suppose it could mean grammatically that Gabriel is the angel who is "of" or especially "belongs to" the Holy Spirit. By comparison, when the passage says that the angel "of" the Church descends in the last days and refers to "Michael, chief of the holy angels", it doesn't mean grammatically that the angel is the Church or that Michael, the chief, "is" the holy angels.
In the gospels' story of the Annunication, Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear as a virgin by the Holy Spirit. So one could perceive in the Annunciation a special relationship between the Holy Spirit and Gabriel.
On the other hand, in the story of God meeting Abraham in Genesis, it seems that God met Abraham as three angels. So to refer to a person of the Trinity, like the Holy Spirit, might be conceivable as well.
In Ascension of Isaiah 4:21, Isaiah says that the things that he predicts are written "in the rest of the Psalms also which the angel of the Spirit inspired." Here it sounds like the "angel of the Spirit" refers to the Holy Spirit, since Christianity teaches that the Holy Spirit "spoke by the Prophets".
The Angel of the Spirit and the Holy Spirit come up again in Isaiah's heavenly visions in 9:39-40 & 10:4-5,6:
39. And my Lord drew nigh to me and the angel of the Spirit and He said: "See how it is given to thee to see God, and on thy account power is given to the angel who is with thee."
40. And I saw how my Lord and the angel of the Spirit worshipped, and they both together praised God.

3. And I myself was hearing and beholding the praise (which was given) to Him.
4. And the Lord and the angel of the Spirit were beholding all and hearing all.
6. And I heard the angel who conducted me and he said: "This is the Most High of the high ones, dwelling in the holy world, and resting in His holy ones, who will be called by the Holy Spirit through the lips of the righteous the Father of the Lord."
Then in 11:3-4, Isaiah foresees the story of God telling Joseph to stay with Mary:
3. And when she was espoused, she was found with child, and Joseph the carpenter was desirous to put her away.

4. But the angel of the Spirit appeared in this world[C], and after that Joseph did not put her away, but kept Mary and did not reveal this matter to any one.

[C] Manuscript B says: "appeared in this world to him"
(Question 5) What do you make of the differences between the Ascension of Isaiah and the gospels' Nativity story: No Annunciation, surprise at the child's divinity, no persecution or wise men?
Evan T summarizes them:
Mary gets pregnant without being asked, as in the classic narration. The pregnancy proves to be a surprise both to Mary and Joseph... When they see the infant they are both awestruck, since they realize that the child is divine...
The couple also appears to be residents of Bethlehem, mainly because the other citizens know that Mary is a virgin and that she and Joseph are newly-weds. Because rumours start circulating about Mary’s odd pregnancy, the couple moves to Nazareth. ...
Finally, the author minces no words when he tells us that Jesus’ birth went completely unnoticed by all men and princes and celestial beings. This version of the nativity has no room for Wise Men bearing gifts, nor for Herod’s rampage. ... -of-isaiah
Maybe the author is just making oversimplifications, like the birth being unnoticed by "all men", and glossing over some places, like the Annunciation?

Or maybe the differences are the result of the document being put together disorderly and like patchwork over time? Ascension of Isaiah went through different redactions and there are different versions of it with different information (eg. the Ethiopic vs. Latin and Slavic ones). Evan writes:
"Compared to Charles’ reconstructed text, the best-preserved greek text is a good deal shorter, spanning only 3 chapters and 76 verses... Reading this text makes the fact that the “Ascension” is a composite text even more apparent.
(Question 6) How can one reconcile the praise from the heavens that rise to God in Chapters 7 and 10 with the denial by the princes, gods, and angels of the world (ie. apparently of the heavens) of God in Chapter 10?
Chapter 7 says that the angels in the first heaven were worshiping the one in the seventh heaven, who I think is God:
13. And afterwards he [ie. the angel leading the narrator] caused me to ascend (to that which is) above the firmament; which is the (first) heaven.
14. And there I saw a throne in the midst, and on his right and on his left were angels.
15. And (the angels on the left were) not like unto the angels who stood on the right, but those who stood on the right had the greater glory, and they all praised with one voice, and there was a throne in the midst, and those who were on the left gave praise after them; but their voice was not such as the voice of those on the right, nor their praise like the praise of those.
16. And I asked the angel who conducted me, and I said unto him: “To whom is this praise sent?”
17. And he said unto me: “(It is sent) to the praise of (Him who sits in) the seventh heaven: to Him who rests in the holy world, and to His Beloved, whence I have been sent to you. [Thither is it sent]”.
Then in the end of Chapter 9 and beginning of Chapter 10, the narrator hears the praises of the six heavens that go up to the Most High who is in the Holy World:
IX. ...And all the angels drew near and worshiped.

X. And thereupon I heard the voices and the giving of praise, which I had heard in each of the six heavens, ascending and being heard there: And all were being sent up to that Glorious One whose glory I could not behold. And I myself was hearing and beholding the praise (which was given) to Him.

And the Lord and the angel of the Spirit were beholding all and hearing all. And all the praises which are sent up from the six heavens are not only heard but see. And I heard the angel who conducted me and he said: This is the Most High of the high ones, dwelling in the holy world, and resting in His holy ones, who will be called by the Holy Spirit through the lips of the righteous the Father of the Lord.
I wonder if these passages from Chapter 7 and 10 above go against the statement in Chapter 10, where in v. 13 certain angels claim to be alone in the cosmos. There, God the Father says to Christ:
9. And you will become like unto the likeness of all who are in the five heavens.
10. And you will be careful to become like the form of the angels of the firmament and the angels also who are in Sheol.
11. And none of the angels of that world shall know that You are Lord with Me of the seven heavens and of their angels.
12. And they shall not know that You are with Me, till with a loud voice I have called (to) the heavens, and their angels and their lights, (even) unto the sixth heaven, in order that you mayst judge and destroy the princes and angels and gods of that world, and the world that is dominated by them:
13. For they have denied Me and said: ‘We alone are and there is none beside us’.

Charles' footnotes:
v. 12 The angels of that world (ie. the earth) will not learn that Christ is with God till the final judgment.
"Mayest judge... the princes... of that world." Cf. John xvi II, the prince of this world is judged.
"Gods of that world" 2 Cor.iv.4 'God of this world.'
Charles views "the world" as referring to the earth. However, the "holy world" earlier in Chapter 10 referred to the dwelling of the Most High, which is in the seventh heaven, so I don't think that the word "world" must mean a planet.
So it isn't clear to me what is the "world" in vv. 11-12. I can't tell if it's the "firmament and Sheol"(v. 10) or "The heavens, including the sixth heaven"(v.12). I guess that it's the latter (the heavens), and this puts the princes', angels', and gods' denial of God in chapter 10 in apparent conflict with the angels of those heavens' praises to the Most High God in Chapter 7 and in the beginning of Chapter 10.
Maybe one way to resolve this conflict is by saying that the angels in Chapter 7 and Chapter 10 who praise God are different than the ones in Chapter 10 who don't? The "princes, angels, and gods of the world" don't mean necessarily all those who are located in the world, but rather those who belong to and are only loyal to (A) those lower heavens and to (B) their rulers, and not to the Most High God?

Charles compares this passage to John 16:11, where Jesus says that when the Comforter (Holy Spirit) comes, He will convict the world "of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."
Charles compares the term "gods of that world" with 2 Cor 4, which says: "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age (αἰῶνος, The Greek word"aeon") has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them."

(Question 7) Do you think that the Ascension of Isaiah included the gnostic teaching that Christ was on earth 18 months/545 days following the resurrection?

Chapter 9:16 says:
And when He hath plundered the angel of death, He will ascend on the third day, [and he will remain in that world five hundred and forty-five days].
CHARLES' FOOTNOTE: This clause is wanting in Slavonic and Latin manuscripts. [But it's in Ethiopic]. It is of course no creation of Ethiopic scribes. The Ethiopic translator found it already in his Greek text. The idea is a Gnostic one. It was held by the Valentinians and the Ophites (See Irenaeus adv. Haer i.3)... It was nevertheless an intrusion in the Greek text; for the many righteous mentioned in verse 17 are none other than the souls delivered from Hades, and the ascent mentioned in that verse is the ascent from Hades. This is clear from Slavonic and Latin manuscripts, which bring the resurrection of Christ and the deliverance of the souls from Hades together. "And then many of the righteous will ascend with Him, ie. from Hades, as I have shown in the preceding note. Yet the present form of the Ethiopic implies that the ascension here designed is not from Hades, but from earth to heaven after the resurrection.
Evan T's Footnote: Probably an addition to the text, since the belief remained on Earth for 545 days is a known doctrine of the Ophites and Valentinians.
Chapter 11 says:
20. In Jerusalem indeed I saw Him being crucified on a tree:
21. And likewise after the third day rise again and remain [fourty] days. [17]
22. And the angel who conducted me said: “Understand, Isaiah” and I saw when He sent out the Twelve Apostles and ascended.

Charles' footnote: Manuscripts ab have simply 'days', c has 'forty days.' Dillmann is of opinion that originally the number 545 stood here, as in ix.16 (see note). The phraseology at all events is the same.

EVAN T's footnote: Some manuscripts here have simply “days”, one has “40 days” and some believe that initially this part read “545 days”
Here are Irenaeus' words from Against Heresies that Charles' footnote in Chapter 9:16 refers to:
2. The production, again, of the Duodecad of the Æons, is indicated by the fact that the Lord was twelve Luke 2:42 years of age when He disputed with the teachers of the law, and by the election of the apostles, for of these there were twelve. Luke 6:13 The other eighteen Æons are made manifest in this way: that the Lord, [according to them,] conversed with His disciples for eighteen months after His resurrection from the dead. They also affirm that these eighteen Æons are strikingly indicated by the first two letters of His name [᾿Ιησοῦς], namely Iota and Eta.
(Question 8) What do you make of Chapter 11 of the Ascension of Isaiah making it sound as if Joseph saw the infant Jesus with his eyes "opened" and in a "vision"?:
10. And when her husband Joseph said unto her: “What has astonied you?” his eyes were opened and he saw the infant and praised God, because into his portion God had come.
11. And a voice came to them: “Tell this vision to no one”.
12. And the story regarding the infant was noised abroad in Bethlehem.
13. Some said: “The Virgin Mary has borne a child, before she was married two months”.
14. And many said: “She has not borne a child, nor has a midwife gone up (to her), nor have we heard the cries of (labour) pains”. And they were all blinded respecting Him and they all knew regarding Him, though they knew not whence He was.
15. And they took Him, and went to Nazareth in Galilee.
Charles' footnote:
Verse 11. This verse is undoubtedly related to Protev. Iacobi, XX.4
The Protoev. Iacobi xx talks about Salome putting her finger into the Virgin Mary, and Salome's hand starts to drop off burning:
And the midwife went in, and said to Mary: Show yourself; for no small controversy has arisen about you. And Salome put in her finger, and cried out, and said: Woe is me for mine iniquity and mine unbelief, because I have tempted the living God; and, behold, my hand is dropping off as if burned with fire.
It's like seeing Jesus was only something that was done in a vision, and required one to have one's eyes opened. It's strange. It reminds me of the time that Jesus had to "open the eyes" of the apostles walking to Emmaus in order for them to recognize him after the resurrection (Luke 24).

Doesn't this go back to the whole Docetism debate about Ascension of Isaiah and whether Jesus only "seemed" to have a real human, material existence?
By the logic of Docetism, the Romans killed him, but it was only the human "appearance" or visual "form" that they killed?

(Question 9) Chapter 11 says that when Jesus ascended to heaven, Satan and the angels worshiped him because they recognized him. What do you make of that?
Here in Chapter 11, Jesus sends out the twelve apostles (The Great Commission) and then ascends and when he does, the "Satans" and angels of the firmament recognize Him and worship Him:
22. And the angel who conducted me said: “Understand, Isaiah” and I saw when He sent out the Twelve Apostles and ascended.
23. And I saw Him, and He was in the firmament, but He had not changed Himself into their form, and all the angels of the firmament and the Satans saw Him and they worshipped.
24. And there was much sorrow there, while they said: “How did our Lord descend in our midst, and we perceived not the glory [which has been upon Him], which we see has been upon Him from the sixth heaven?”
Next as he ascends through the layers of the heavens and reaches the seventh one, at each layer, the angels recognize and worship Him.

In An Introduction to the New Testament, Raymond E. Brown writes, "Among the 2d-century apocrypha the Ascension of Isaiah 9:16,10:14,11:23 has Christ despoil the angel of death before rising from the dead and ascending into heaven, after which the angels and Satan worshiped him."
In "The Salvation of Satan", C. A. Patrides (Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 28, No. 4) writes,
The long and complicated history of a belief, advanced from time to time, in Satan's possible restoration to grace - apocatastasis - begins properly with St Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c/215). From the outset one element clearly emerges: the conviction that God's love is all-inclusive and irresistible. ..."I think it is demonstrated," he wrote, "that the God being good, and the Lord powerful, they save with a righteousness and equality which extend to all that turn to him, whether here or elsewhere..." Yet Origen's was the name destined to be associated with apocatastasis.
Paul A. Anthony writes in "To Heaven with the Devil: The Importance of Satan’s Salvation for God’s Goodness in the Works of Gregory of Nyssa", "Scholars generally agree on two points regarding Gregory ofNyssa’s eschatology: That he believed in universal reconciliation, and that he believed the salvation of all rational beings eventually will include Satan himself." ( ... 7b4a6e.pdf)

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Re: MARTYRDOM AND ASCENSION OF ISAIAH (1st - early 3rd century AD) Questions

Post by Bernard Muller » Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:50 pm

The Ascension of Isaiah is a mess because it was originally a fully Jewish text which got interpolated later by Gnostic Christians.
My own detailed study is here: (Thanks to the study of R.H. Charles, this hypothesis can be postulated: the 'Vision of Isaiah' started as a Jewish Greek text which got interpolated (first slightly, then heavily) by docetist Christians.)
My conclusion:
"It seems the original text was entirely Jewish and then slightly interpolated (at 9:13-14 & 16) by Docetic Christian(s). Then two interpolators (Docetic Christians themselves), separately, from their own copy, added more DIFFERENT additions/insertions, some of them overtly Christian in nature. These two resulting copies (witnessed by E & L1 and S & L2) were furthermore interpolated when new ones were made from them.

The original text, even after the first Christian-like interpolations, still did not have "Son", "first-begotten", "Jesus" or "Christ" in it (that will come later from different interpolators). ...

Cordially, Bernard
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Re: MARTYRDOM AND ASCENSION OF ISAIAH (1st - early 3rd century AD) Questions

Post by rakovsky » Sun Mar 03, 2019 9:55 pm

Thanks, Bernard. One theory that I read was that the Martyrdom was the original, Jewish part, whereas the Ascension was added later. But I read another theory that sounds true to me that proposes that the Vision at the end was part of the original document, and the Martyrdom served to build up credibility for it.

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Re: MARTYRDOM AND ASCENSION OF ISAIAH (1st - early 3rd century AD) Questions

Post by GakuseiDon » Mon Mar 04, 2019 2:15 am

rakovsky wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:03 pm
(Question 1) What do you think about the claim that what is in the heavens is like what is on earth?
It's actually what is in the firmament is the same as what is on earth. The firmament is the abode of Satan. To me, the likeness refers to the fighting going on in the firmament as well as on earth, as I outline below.
rakovsky wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:03 pm
In the Ascension of Isaiah, Isaiah has a vision of the heaven/firmament, and writes: "there I saw Sammael [the Devil] and his hosts, and there was great fighting therein. above so on the earth [below] also; for the likeness of that which is in the firmament is here on the earth."
The only thing that comes to mind is the cryptic passage in Ode 34 of the Odes of Solomon:
4. The likeness of that which is below is that which is above.
5. For everything is from above, and from below there is nothing, but it is believed to be by those in whom there is no understanding.
My own guess is that it parallels what is in Ch 3:

22. And there will be much contention on the eve of [His advent and] His approach.
23. And in those days many will love office, though devoid of wisdom.
24. And there will be many lawless elders, and shepherds dealing wrongly by their own sheep, and they will ravage (them) owing to their not having holy shepherds.
29. And there will be great hatred in the shepherds and elders towards each other.
30. For there will be great jealousy in the last days
; for every one will say what is pleasing in his own eyes.

Compare with Ch 7:

9. And we ascended to the firmament, I and he, and there I saw Sammael and his hosts, and there was great fighting therein and the angels of Satan were envying one another.
10. And as above so on the earth also; for the likeness of that which is in the firmament is here on the earth.
11. And I said unto the angel (who was with me): "(What is this war and) what is this envying?"
12. And he said unto me: "So has it been since this world was made until now, and this war (will continue) till He, whom thou shalt see will come and destroy him."

In both cases, groups are envying each other and fighting; and in both cases, the envying/jealousy continues until the Beloved comes to put a stop to it. I think it is comparing wicked people exploiting the church to demons.
It is really important, in life, to concentrate our minds on our enthusiasms, not on our dislikes. -- Roger Pearse

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Re: MARTYRDOM AND ASCENSION OF ISAIAH (1st - early 3rd century AD) Questions

Post by rakovsky » Mon Mar 04, 2019 10:34 am

Good input.

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