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Alexandr Loginov ©, 2017

It is interesting that in Bible this secret and for many centuries forgotten name Yahweh was mentioned, but is used to characterize a person who progressed to religious and moral goodness. “You who are far away, hear what I have done; you who are near, acknowledge my power! The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes, who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil – they are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them.” (Is. 33:13-16).

Isaiah on behalf of the deity promised the men of God a supernatural ability “to live in consuming flame”. But the case is not about afterlife destiny as transfer to some weird fire mixture of paradise and hell, some after world mansion of eternal flame which is only safe for Yahwism followers. No, the prophet promises to grant the ability even in mortal life. If to understand the prophet’s words literally, some puzzle questions will occur: why to live in consuming flame? What is good in it? But if Living in Flame was the sacred name of Yahweh, Isaiah’s words can be understood: he tells about the sanctified approaching and 

even assimilating with their deity. The ancient daunting image of “eating flame1 in the prophet’s conceptualization became linked with the idea of moral perfection, so to say flaming model of sainthood.2

Conceptualization about life in flame as the most significant award for religious asceticism explains also the mystic tale about the ascension of Elijah the Prophet. “When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal… As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.” (2 Kings 2:1, 11-12). When Elijah found himself on the chariot of fire, he continued to live; he became the deity like and also The Living in Flame, so he was granted the gift of immortality.

Precisely this conceptualization was also stated in Book of Zechariah (VI B.C.). The author on behalf of Yahweh promises depopulation of the larger part of humanity, and the rest are promised immersion into fire; it will not kill them, though but proselyte to Yahwism. “In the whole land,” declares the Lord, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’” (Zech. 13:8-9). New Israel as it appears from the text, will be formed with the humanity remains after the purifying fire of Yahweh.

According to the prophet Zechariah (VI B.C.), Yahweh could cover the entire capital of Judaea with his redemptive flame. “Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it, declares the Lord, and I will be its glory within.” (Zah. 2:4-5). The wall of supernatural fire for the whole nation is surely not hope for real flame, but artistic metaphor (see also Obad. 17-18, 21), which, though, ascend to the antique legendary about the redemptive fire granted to The Living in Flame its chosen votarists.

Prophet Zechariah promised the fire presence of Yahweh in Jerusalem – “I will be famed in the centre of it”, and it is presented in Talmud, but it is carried back to the glorious past. “The Master says elsewhere that in Jerusalem were two perpetual miracles: the rain never extinguished the fire on the outer altar, and the smoke was always straight in spite of the winds, in whichever directions they might blow.” (Yoma: Chapter 1). / Cit. ex: The author of the utterance thought that before the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans one had been able to eye-witness the overwhelming force of fire with Yahweh himself.


In Bible, however, we can find one fragment which seems a forcible argument against the hypothesis in focus. In 1 Kings prophet Elijah “traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain 

1 “When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates” (Gen. 15:17-18). “…For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God”. (Deut. 4:24) “Elijah answered the captain, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men.” (2 Kings 1:10 etc). “On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.” (Ps. 11:6-7). “Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies; your right hand will seize your foes. When you appear for battle, you will burn them up as in a blazing furnace.” (Ps. 21:8-9). “The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame…” (Ps. 10:17). “See, the Lord is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.” (Is. 66:15). And etc.


2 So-called Second Isaiah, the unknown author of оf VI B.C., also promised the Yahweh adepts тоже invincibility in fire power. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior”. (Is. 43:2-3).


of God.  There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:8-12). Prophet Elijah turned out a religious castaway in his Motherland and ran away to Horeb to meet Yahweh. The God started to talk to him and, for some reason, calling himself He, explains what manifestation of his presence in the world must be. Yahweh specially clarifies that he is not in “the breaking rocks” wind, or earthquake, or fire, or “gentle whisper”. This explanation is rather unusual.

Is it possible for the readers the text was for could seek the God in an earthquake and fire? Yes. They could. Again and again in Old Covenant texts of theophany Yahweh was described as volcanic explosion. “…You stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. ” (Deut. 4:10-12). “The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.” (Ps. 18:7-8). “Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.  As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him” (Ex. 19:18-19). At the time of the volcanic explosion Moses conducted an initiation (see 1 Cor. 10:1-2) of a large group of escape slaves into worship of the deity Living in Fire.3 It did not happen on Sinai (Horeb) with no volcanoes functioning in the historic time; this peninsula was considered the localization of Sinai mountain as late as in the middle of I Thd. A.D. The volcano was in the country of Madian on the north-west of Arabia (see Ex. 3:1, Gal. 4:25), there the Madian Yahweh priests proselyted Moses. When former Egyptian slaves together with their leader left the outskirts of Sinai (Horeb), after some dangerous adventures they could settle on the territory of the ancient Palestine.

The Yahweh neophytes remained adepts of the volcano deity and worshiped him at heights (probably, they were waiting for an underground fire to get away from the mountain tops). Religious zeal was maintained with tales about unprecedented power of the underground god of volcanoes and earthquakes; unlike other gods represented in motionless statues, Yahweh was “alive”, and manifested himself with terrible rumble, ruinous earth tremor, streams of lava – “eating fire”, and burning hot ashes pour with choking sulfur odor. Correspondingly, natural disasters causing thousands of people’s deaths (see foe example, Gen. 19:24-25, Deut. 29:23, Jer. 49:18), ascribed Yahweh and declared fair and necessary extermination of hopeless sinners. “I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me…”  (Am. 4:11).

Natural disasters happened relatively rare, and priests and prophets had to constantly remind about their deity might. “In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground.” (Ezek. 38:19-20 и т. п.).

3 The hypothesis about “volcanic origin” of Yahweh worship was offered by researchers of Bible quite long ago, and validated by many authors. Here are some works where the given hypothesis is proved: Charles Beke, Mount Sinai, a Volcano (1873), Eduard Meyer, Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstämme (1906). Jakob. E. Dunn, A God of Volcanoes: Did Yahwism Take Root in Volcanic Ashes? (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 38.4, 2014). Glen A. Fritz, Was Mount Sinai a Volcano?/


But there was no the key concept in Yahweh worship, which is religious contemplation of fire-breathing sanctity during a volcano explosion, so believers used to hear about the power of their deity for centuries but never witnessed his destroying fire. They could think that he cancelled the testament and left his stubborn nation. “This is what the Lord says: “What fault did your ancestors find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and ravines, a land of drought and utter darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’” (Jer. 2:5-6). With no observation of threatening power of Yahweh, the ancient Jewish people gradually turned to traditional Semitic gods of Canaan worship. “…It is because your ancestors forsook me,’ declares the Lord, ‘and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law. ” (Jer. 16:11). “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings. 19:10).

In response to the religious crises Yahweh templar cult was introduced, the same as in other Middle-Eastern religions. The image of the deity created by the witnesses of Madian volcano explosion – rumbling flame at the top of the mountain – was also rejected; they tried to represent Yahweh as the lord of the entire environment but not only underground fire. “The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.” (Ps. 103:2-4).  Because of that many Biblical texts mention an underground deity who can shake earth and split mountains, alongside with the later descriptions of Yahweh as the lord of the entire Universe.

It is to overcome archaic conceptualization about the Lord, the author of 1 Kings purposely explains: “after the earthquake there is fire, but the God is not in it”; there is no need to seek the deity in material volcanic ash.”4 But such clarification shows that there was conceptualization of Yahweh as The Living in Fire! And it remains, according to the above Biblical portrait of the fire deity, but now his fire was supposed to be supernatural.


Still surviving apocryphal works help us imagine how the God of Israel was pictured in Judaic tradition of I Thd. A.D.. Some of them are dedicated to Enoch, a Biblical character, who is supposed to be taken alive to the heaven, like the prophet Elijah. In the so-called Ethiopic Book of Enoch (named for the place of discovery of the ancient text), Yahweh was literally The Living in Flame of the celestial palace hidden behind the fire wall. “And the vision was shown to me thus: Behold, in the vision clouds invited me and a mist summoned me, and the course of the stars and the lightning’s sped and hastened me, and the winds in the vision caused me to fly and lifted me upward, and bore me into heaven.5 And I went in till I drew nigh to a wall which is built of crystals and surrounded by tongues of fire: and it began to affright me. And I went into the tongues of fire and drew nigh to a large house which was built of crystals...” (chapter 14; translated by R. H. Charles). / / As we see, the after world hall 


4 “…Tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks” (1 Kings. 19:11) there is no wind in nature. Why did the author allow such exaggeration? But in the Judaic original of the text they do not say about wind, but use the word רוּח – ”spirit”, “breath”. It could be the citation from the ancient legendary, in which they tried to describe emission of volcanic gases and ashes "before" by the God, i.e. at the very beginning of volcanic explosion?


5 Philo of Alexandria: “For it is impossible for even so slight a portion of the earth to touch the heaven, by reason of the cause before mentioned, that no centre can ever touch the circumference; in the second place, because the ether is sacred fire and an unquenchable flame... If, then, these things are so, was it not necessary that those men who were endeavoring to mount up to heaven must have been stricken with thunderbolts and burnt up, their high-minded and proud designs being unaccomplished by them?” (On the confusion of tongues. XXX. 156-158, Tr. вy Ch. D. Yonge). / /


of The Living was bounded by everlasting fire.  The flamy image of Yahweh is also described in The Second Book of Enoch (there is only the later translation of this Judaic apocryphal work into Old Slavic preserved). “Listen my children, for it is not from my own lips that I am reporting to you today, but from The Lips of The Lord, I have been sent to you. For you hear my words, out of my lips, out of my lips, a human being created exactly equal to yourselves; but I have heard from The Fiery Lips of The Lord. For The Lips of The Lord are a furnace of fire, and His angels are flames which come out. But you, my children, see my face, a human being created exactly like yourselves; but I am one who has seen The Face of The Lord, like iron made burning hot by a fire, and it is brought out, and it emits sparks and it is incandescent. You gaze into my eyes, a human being equal in significance as yourself; but I have gazed into the eyes of the Lord; shining like the rays of the sun and terrifying the eyes of a human being.” (chapter 39).  / Cit. ex:

The Book of the Palaces apocryphal work (its other name is Hebrew book of Enoch with approximate dating V-VI centuries A.D.) tells how Enoch himself was liken to Angel Metatron and passed into a living fire. “As soon as the Holy One, blessed be He, took me in (His) service to attend the Throne of Glory and the Wheels (Galgallim) of the Merkaba and the needs of Shekina, forthwith my flesh was changed into flames, my sinews into flaming fire, my bones into coals of burning juniper, the light of my eye-lids into splendour of lightings, my eye-balls into fire-brands, the hair of my head into dot flames, all my limbs into wings of burning fire and the whole of my body into glowing fire.” (15:1). /Cit. ex: tr. by H. Odenberg/


The frightening image of Yahweh was critically reexamined in many texts of gnostic Christians, who considered the World Creator an imperfect and even fierce after world substance principally different from good everlasting Deity. No wonder that the image of the deity creating destroying fire was looked at exceptionally negatively by Gnostics, and the reasons they gave were taken from the written and oral tradition of Yahweh followers. For instance, the description in the so-called Gospel of Judas correlatesclearly with the above given description of the flamy face of Yahweh in The Second Book of Enoch: “And look, from the cloud there appeared an [angel] whose face flashed with fire and whose appearance was defiled with blood. His name was Nebro, which means ‘rebel’; others call him Yaldabaoth”. (tr. by R. Kasser, M. Meyer, and G. Wurst, in collaboration with Fr. Gaudard)./ /

It is fair to assume that the authors of some gnostic text knew the sacred name-epithet of Yahweh. In The Apocryphon of John there is a tale about genesis of the creator and the archon of the material world, identified with Yahweh. The mother of this imperfect deity, Sophia (Wisdom), is one of the celestial hypostasis of Pleroma - Kingdom of Heaven, made a mistake having given birth to ugly Demiurge and gave him the name of Yaldabaoth. Further Demiurge is told about as follows: “He created for himself an aeon of fiery, luminous flame, in which he now dwells.” (Codex III, Nag Hammadi Library, tr. by M. Waldstein and Fr. Wisse) / /. Demiurge’s characteristic in Acts of John Apocrypha agrees completely with the name-epithet of Yahweh – The Living in Fire.

The flamy deity of Israel was taught about the gnostic preacher Apelles whose opinion is known from the retelling (purposely confusing and controversial) of heresy scholars of growing orthodoxy. “But Apelles, sprung from these, thus expresses himself, (saying) that there is a certain good Deity, as also Marcion supposed, and that he who created all things is just. Now he, (according to Apelles) was the Demiurge of generated entities. And (this heretic also main-rains) that there is a third (Deity), the one who was in the habit of speaking to Moses, and that this (god) was of a fiery nature, and that there was another fourth god, a cause of evils.” (Hippolytus of Rome. The Refutation of All Heresies. VII, 26, 1-5; tr. by J.H. MacMahon). “More readily was doubt felt about the Son than about the Father, until Marcion introduced, in addition to the Creator, another god of goodness only. Apelles made the Creator of some nondescript glorious angel, who belonged to the superior God, the god (according to him) of the law and of Israel, affirming that he was fire.” (Tertullian. The Prescription Against Heretics, 34; tr. by P. Holmes). “Apelles tells us that our souls were enticed by earthly baits down from their super-celestial abodes by a 

fiery angel, Israel’s God; and ours, who then enclosed them firmly within our sinful flesh.”  (Tertullian. Onthesoul. 23; tr. by P. Holmes).

But not only “heretics” provide validation of the hypothesis about The Living in Fire in early Christian writings. The sacred name Yahweh is mentioned by Ephrem the Syrian, one of the great doctors of Church of IV century, whose writings were very common in the Christian East, and significantly contributed to framing of canonical orthodoxy. In his work Commentary on Exodus Ephrem points that the wonder of the burning bush is only analogy to the secret name The Living in Fire. The bush which was unsuitable even as an image of dead gods was able to depict within itself the mystery of the living God. Moses, this is a sign to you; as you saw God dwelling in the midst of the fire, by fire must you serve the God who dwells in the fire”. (Tr. by Ed. G. Mathews, Jr.). Ephrem the Syrian directly says that the burning but incombustible plant symbolized “the mystery of the living God”, and later mentions the secret openly – Yahweh is “The Living in Fire”.


Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus Flavius contain validation of the hypothesis about the sacred name of Yahweh. In this book the Jewish historian, among other things, tells how a high priest’s garments looked like. He came out of the noble priestal kin, and his detailed description of ceremonial clothes of the high priest of the Temple is the most valuable information. In particular, Josephus Flavius tells about the headwear of the high priest which was a kidar – a turban of a special form, and a gold slab with the holy name of Yahweh. “…While the flower which it produces may be thought comparable to the broad petals of a poppy. It was, then, on the model of this plant that was wrought the crown extending from the nape of the neck to the two temples; the forehead, however, was not covered by the ephielis (for so we may call the calyx), but had a plate of gold, bearing graven in sacred characters the name of God” (Ant, III, 7, 6; tr. H. St. J. Thackeray).

This description is close to the Old Covenant tale about the headwear of high priest: «“Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: Holy to the Lord. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord» (Ex. 28:36-38). However, Josephus Flavius directly pointed that the holy name was carved on the forehead metal plate (the name of God in sacred characters). Does it turn out that the author of Exodus divulged the sacred name Holy to the Lord (קֹדֶשׁ לַיהוָה – kodesh li-Yahweh)?

Certainly, it did not happen. The sacred thing is a ceremonial term which meant “devoted to Yahweh”; that was also the name for a tithe (see Lev. 27:32), and sacrificial meat (see Ex. 29:30-33, Lev. 9:17 etc.), and the objects for religious rituals. Moreover, Old Testament contains a vaticination that this kind of sacred thing will be even cooking pots of Jerusalem citizens: «On that day Holy to the Lord will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the Lord’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the Lord Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them» (Zech. 14:20-21). The author of Exodus mentioned the title Holy to the Lord to point to the sacred name minted on the diadem which was actually considered a sacred thing of Yahweh, however, he cited it on purpose. Contemporary readers of the text knew perfectly well how the name sounded, and did not need further information.6 Yet, Josephus Flavius was writing his work soon after destruction of The Temple and, more likely, wanted to preserve as much information about details of temple worship as possible for future generations (e.g. the headwear of the high priest he described in more detail than in the Bible). The historian only mentioned that the sacred name of Yahweh was written on the diadem, but he did not tell how it was pronounced.

But Josephus Flavius left behind exceptionally valuable information about the appearance of the sacred diadem. “Furthermore, the head-dress [of the high priest] appears to me to symbolize heaven, being blue;

6 “For in the long garment was the whole world, and in the four rows of the stones was the glory of the fathers graven, and thy Majesty upon the diadem of his head.” (Wisdom of Solomon, 18:24; King James version).


else it would not have borne upon it the name of God, blazoned upon the crown – a crown, moreover, of gold by reason of that sheen in which the Deity most delights(Ant., III, 7, 7, Translated  by Henry St. John Thackeray). Josephus Flavius compared the diadem with a flower (see The Jewish Antiquities III, 7, 6), and pointed that it expresses the “sheen in which the Deity”. The Judaic the diadem really means tzitz – “flower” (צִּיץ, Strong's Number H 6692a), and according to Josephus Flavius, it resembled the corona of a flower. But the initial meanings of the word tzitz were “spark”, “gleam”. It is expected that the “flower” did not represent some after world sparkling, but the fire erupted from the volcanic vent of Horeb. And the escapists from Egypt took for a supernatural wonder. The flower with gold “petals” on the high priest’s forehead,7 symbolized the sacred thing of Israel, the tabooed name of its deity – The Living in Fire.


7 The chief priest wore The Sacred diadem throughout the year, and on Yom Kippur only he took off all ritual paraphernalia and put on white clothes before entering the Holy of Holies of the Temple. There he heated on coal some special producing “incensing smoke” incense. That smoke symbolized Yahweh presence, and, to my mind, was the prototype of the holy volcano’s explosion.  In the case, as the believers thought, in Holy of Holies there appeared the fire of the deity who could not be seen behind the smoke. If the diadem stood for the flame of Yahweh, it is clear why the chief priest did not wear it – on Yom Kippur it symbolized the nation, and the flaming Name was before him. On all other days the diadem was on the head of the chief cohen, and it showed Yahweh followers the image of their deity.



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