Abraham’s Heavenly Journey – Testament of Abraham 10- 14

Many apocalyptic texts include a heaven journey. For example, in the Book of the Watchers Enoch passes through the heavens and sees various locations. He sees the “high places” and storehouses of the earth where the rains and snows are kept. In Chapter 18 he sees the storehouse of the wind, the cornerstone of the earth, and the pillars of heaven. He also sees a “dark pit” with heavenly fire, described as a “desolate and terrible place.” Second Enoch also has a heavenly journey in which he sees the orderliness of the universe.

Image result for Abraham Bible visionIn chapter 10 Abraham’s “heavenly tour” begins. He sees various things happening all over the world, including many sinners (robbers, immorality, etc.) He asks the Lord to open the earth and swallow them up, which it does. This sort of thing reoccurs several times. We are told Abraham has never sinned, therefore he has no mercy on sinners. Michael then takes Abraham to a place where he can see two ways, a narrow way and a broad and spacious way (ch. 11). There are two gates here, one leading to the broad way, which is destruction and the other to the narrow way, which leads to life. This motif of “two ways” is common in the testament literature.

Abraham sees two terrible angels appear and drive people with fiery lashes who have entered through the broad gate. Within the broad gate Abraham sees a terrifying throne and the books open for judgment (cf. Rev 20). Abraham asks who the judge and angels are. The one seated on the throne is the “Son of Adam” – Abel, the first formed. This is an interesting use of a phrase which might be taken as “son of man” which does not refer to a messianic figure in quite the same way as 2 Baruch. At the time of the Parousia every person will be judged by the twelve tribes of Israel and will receive a judgment which cannot be changed. This eschatological outline is familiar from other apocalyptic in the pseudepigrapha, but also from the New Testament.  On either side is an angel who records either good or bad deeds.

An archangel, Purouel, holds a balance in his hand to test the works of those being judged. This angel, we are told, is in charge of the fire by which he tests the works of men. C. W. Fishburne has argued that Paul was aware of T.Abraham in his description of judgment in 1 Corinthians. The verbal parallels noted by Fishburne are fairly general and may be a reflection of a similar topic rather than Paul’s knowledge (and use) of T. Abraham.

Abraham asks about the soul in the hand of the angel in the middle of the scene (ch. 14). It is lacking one righteous deed more than its sin in order to be saved. Abraham prays for the soul, and it is saved as a result. Perhaps this added to the popularity of the Testament of Abraham in the medieval period since it implies the prayers of the righteous are effective for the dead.


3 thoughts on “Abraham’s Heavenly Journey – Testament of Abraham 10- 14

Leave a Reply