Beholders of Divine Secrets

Mysticism and Myth in the Hekhalot and Merkavah Literature

By Vita Daphna Arbel

Subjects: Religion
Paperback : 9780791457245, 262 pages, October 2003
Hardcover : 9780791457238, 262 pages, October 2003

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Table of contents




1. The Hekhalot and Merkavah Literature and Its Mystical Tradition

2. Hekhalot and Merkavah Mysticism

3. Mythical Language of Hekhalot and Merkavah Mysticism

4. Mystical Journeys in Mythological Language

5. The Concept of God: Mystical and Mythological Dimensions

6. Literary, Phenomenological, Cultural, and Social Implications



Index of Passages Discussed

Index of Authors

General Index

A wide-ranging exploration of the Hekhalot and Merkavah literature, a mystical Jewish tradition from late antiquity, including a discussion of the possible cultural context of this material's creators.


Beholders of Divine Secrets provides a fascinating exploration of the enigmatic Hekhalot and Merkavah literature, the Jewish mystical writings of late antiquity. Vita Daphna Arbel delves into the unique nature of the mystical teachings, experiences, revelations, and spiritual exegesis presented in this literature. While previous scholarship has demonstrated the connection between Hekhalot and Merkavah mysticism and parallel traditions in Rabbinical writings, the Dead Sea Scrolls, apocalyptic, early Christian, and Gnostic sources, this work points out additional mythological traditions that resonate in this literature. Arbel suggests that mythological patterns of expression, as well as themes and models rooted in Near Eastern mythological traditions are employed, in a spiritualized fashion, to communicate mystical content. The possible cultural and social context of the Hekhalot and Merkavah mysticism and its composers is discussed.

Vita Daphna Arbel is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of British Columbia.