Joseph Dan
Outlines of the Historical Study of Jewish Esotericism and Mysticism

A uniqe characteristic of Jewish thought is the belief that one of the meaningful components of the essence of Jewish culture is the existence of a layer of esoteric truth within it. This conception is evident since the Tanaitic period, but its roots may be found in the Second Temple period. This layer contains cosmogony and cosmology, theology and the knowledge of the divine realms ("work of Genesis" and "work of the celestial chariot"). To these main subject others are usually added – magic, apocalypticism, messianism and mysticism. The thinkers who contributed to this layer of religious thought insisted that the truth revealed in their writings is ancient tradition, reflecting eternal divine truth, rather than the result of original experience or reflection. Many of the scholars who dealt with subject tended to accept this claim, at least in part, and described the various chapters in it as differing only in style and external expression. The historical approach to the study of Jewish esotericism differs from this attitude by emphasizing the dynamism, the turning-points. The innovations, the diversity, the conflicts, schisms and controversies which characterize this layer in Jewish religious culture, striving to understand each writer and each work as individual expressions which reflect unique attitudes, based on specific ideological, social and historical circumstances. These unique expressions create in their totality the dynamic fabric of Jewish esotericism and mysticism.

Vol. I


Introduction: The Thematic and Chronological Boundaries and the Structure of the Study

I. The Middle Ages
II. The Early Circles of Kabbalists

Chapter One: History and Historiography of Jewish Mysticism

I. The Need for a History of Mysticism and Esotericism

II. Between History and Faith

III. Between History and "Comparative Religion"

IV. "Religion", "Law" and "Language".

V. The Temptations of Apologetics

VI. "External Influences": Hellenism, Islam and Modernity

VII. The Complexity of Contacts with Christianity

VIII. Mysticism: The Contingental Approach

Part I: The Beginnings of Esotericism and Mysticism in the Second Temple Period

Chapter Two: The "End of Prophecy" and Its Impact on the History of Jewish Thought

I. The Problem of "Beginning"

II. The Traditions Concerning the End of Prophecy

III. Why did Prophecy End? The Scholarly Debate

IV. Religious Authority and the Language of Prophecy
V. Responses to the Absence of Prophecy

VI. The End of Prophecy and the Biblical Canon

VII. Pseudepigraphy

VIII. Divine Revelations and the "Bat Kol"

IX. Autonomous Revelation: Rationalism

X. Esoteric Tradition: The Kabbalah

Chapter Three: The Period of the Second Commonwealth and Hellenistic Civilization: New Worlds

I. Esotericism in Jewish Culture in the Second Commonwealth Period

II. The Study of Judaism in the Hellenistic Period

III. The Names of God and the Names of the Angels

IV. The Celestial World and the Next World

V. Apocalyptic Literature and Messianism

VI. Spiritual Ascensions and Journeys to the Celestial Realms

VII. Dualism and the Powers of Evil

VIII. Summary

Chapter Four: The Septuagint and the Change in the Concept of God

I. Is the Septuagint the Bible?

II. The Letter of Aristeas

III. The Message of the Letter and the Biblical Canon

IV. The Septuagint as Divinely-Inspired Exegesis

V. The Names of God in the Septuagint

VI. Jewish Attitudes towards the Septuagint

VII. Between Semantic and Semiotic Texts

Chapter Five: Angels in Pseudepigraphic Literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Christianity
I. The Names of Angels in the Hellenistic Period

II. Characteristics and Functions of Angels

III. Angels, the Devil and the Divine Chariot in the Book of Adam and Eve

IV. The "Prayer of Joseph", the Angel Israel and the Image of Jacob

V. Angels and Prayer in the Dead Sea Scrolls

Chapter Six: The Beginnings of Apocalyptic Literature in the Pseudepigrapha, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Early Christianity

I. The Meanings of "Apocalypse"

II. Enoch Literature, the Celestial World and the Throne of Glory

III. The Book of Daniel

IV. The Apocalypse of the Beasts, The Book of Jubilees and the War of the Sons of Light

V. The Vision of Ezra

VI. The Apocalypse of Abraham

VII. The Apocalypse in the Testament of Moses

VIII. The Apocalypse of Elijah

IX. The Vision of Baruch

X. The Apocalypse of John

Chapter Seven: Enoch, Fallen Angels and the Beginning of the Concept of Evil

I. Enoch Son of Jared and Early Enoch Literature

II. The Book of Watchers and the Powers of Evil

III. The Struggle Against Evil Powers

IV. Fallen Angels as Humans

V. Allegorical Conceptions of the Fallen Angels

IV. The Roots of Evil and Its Characteristics

VII. Shemhaza, Azael, Sataniel, Blial, Mastema

Part II: Esotericism and Mysticism in Talmudic and Midrashic Literature

Chapter Eight: Midrash - Divine Presence in Language and Text

I. The Uniqueness of Midrash

II. The Midrash as a Problem

III. Midrash and Exegesis

IV. Christian Exegesis

V. "The Ways of the Aggadah"

VI. What is not a Midrash?

VII. Midrash and the Conception of Divine Language

VIII. Midrash and Prophecy

IX. Midrash and Divine Law

X. Midrash: "The Medium is the Message"

XI. Jewish and Christian Languages

XII. The Denial of the Disciplines

Chapter Nine: The Sages Who Entered the Pardes and the Beginning of Jewish Esotericism

I. History of the Study of the Pardes Narrative

II. Analysis of the Sources and Defining the Problem

III. Rabbi Akiva, Origen and the Song of Songs

IV. Alternative Interpretations

Chapter Ten: The Problem of "Gnosticism" and Its Relation to the History of Jewish Mysticism
I. Gnosis and the Legend of the "Third Religion"

II. Critical Approaches and New Conceptions

III. Gnostics, Mandeans and Manichaeans

IV. Are there Characteristics Common to "Gnostic" Writings?

V. Gnosticism and Judaism

VI. The Evil Demiurge

VII. Yaldabaoth and the Relationship between the God of Israel and the Gnostic Demiurge

Chapter Eleven: The Shekhinah and the Concept of God in Rabbinic Literature

I. The Shekhinah: "Myth" and "Symbol"

II. Two Languages Describing God

III. The Shekhinah Replacing the Temple

IV. Israel and the Shekhinah, the Exile of the Shekhinah

V. The Shekhinah in the Works of the "Descenders to the Chariot"

VI. The Ascension of the Shekhinah in the Third Book of Enoch
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