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Spiritual Ecstasy: Israeli Spirituality in the Days of Jesus the Messiah, by Kevin Williams

Here is one example or a prophetic utterance from 4 Ezra, also known as the Second Book of Esdras, written around 70 CE:

And it came to pass after seven days that I dreamed a dream by night: and I beheld, and lo! There arose a violent wind from the sea, and stirred all its waves. And the wind caused the likeness of a form of a man to come out of the heart of the seas. And this Man flew with the clouds of heaven. And wherever he turned his countenance to look, everything seen by him trembled; and whithersoever the voice went out of his mouth, all that heard his voice melted away, as the wax melts when it feels the fire. And after this I beheld that there was gathered from the four winds of heaven an innumerable multitude of men to make war against that Man who came up out of the sea. … And I saw that he cut out for himself a great mountain and flew up upon it. … And when he saw the assault of the multitude as they came, he neither lifted his hand, nor held spear nor any warlike weapon; but I saw only how he sent out of his mouth as it were a fiery stream, and out of his lips a flaming breath, and out of his tongue he shot forth a storm of sparks. … And these fell upon the assault of the multitude … and burned them all up. …

These are the interpretations of the vision: Whereas you did see a Man coming up from the heart of the sea: this is he whom the Most High is keeping many ages and through whom He will deliver His creation, and the same shall order the survivors … .

But he shall stand upon the summit of Mount Zion. And Zion shall come and shall be made manifest to all men, prepared and built, even as you did see the mountain cut out without hands. But he, My Son, shall reprove the nations that are come for their ungodliness (4 Ezra 13:1-9, 25-26, 35-36).

While not considered canon by either the Jewish or Christian camps, this book does represent Jewish prophetic thought contemporary to the authors of the New Testament. Some elements still have a familiar ring to Christian ears.

For the believer in Messiah Jesus, devekut has many familiar concepts. One might say that if in a state of devekut, he or she would have faith sufficient enough to move a mountain.

Jewish Mysticism is that form of the Jewish religion which, like the mysticisms of other religions, seeks especially to cultivate personal communion between the worshipper and God. This communion is of course an essential feature of the ordinary talmudical Judaism also. But whereas in talmudical Judaism it is subsidiary to the observance of the precepts, and to some extent an offshoot of it, in mysticism it takes the first place and can itself become the source of religious practice and observance. Hence the distinguishing mark of mysticism in Judaism as in other religions is a peculiar intensity of religious feeling, rising frequently to ecstasy, which gives to it a dynamic force unknown to the ordinary religion (A History of Jewish Mysticism, Ernst Müller, ©1946, Barnes & Nobel Books, New York, NY, p. 9).

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Category: Church History, Fall 2005, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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