It is clear that in AA Abraham is visiting the heavenly Temple, its Holy of Holies. Hurtado’s analysis demonstrated that it is, naturally, the place of the Throne of God.
In the earliest layer of the so-called Priestly tradition, the propitiatory is the main place of God’s revelation. See, for instance, cases of appearance of God “on the propitiatory” in Lev 16:2 and also in Ex 25:22 and Num 7:89. Milgrom once had coined the propitiatory “the Priestly ‘picture of Dorian Gray’ ”.
During its development, the role of the propitiatory was becoming more and more preponderant over the role (and even the sanctity) of the ark. “The chest containing holy objects is the ark itself; the throne [of God] is symbolised only in its cover, the kapporet, on the side of which two cherubim spread their wings”. The kapporet is not a part of the ark at all.
In the Intertestamental period the kapporet is developing into an apparently quite different device, the magical chalice with oracular capacities and, ultimately, into the Christian chalice of the Eucharist. I am tracing these tendencies at length in another place and à propos another Jewish-Greek-Slavonic pseudepigraph, namely, an inscription over the so-called “Chalice of Solomon”. I have to limit myself now to several illustrations.
So, it is symptomatic that in one case (Lev 16:13) Vulgate translates kapporet as oraculum. We do not know the ultimate source of this translation, but it would be reasonable to seek it somewhere in the Intertestamental exegetical traditions.
The most important for us is the testimony of the Greek version of the book of Ezekiel where it describes the ceremony of consecration of the Ezekiel eschatological Temple (Ezek 43-44). (As to the Hebrew book of Ezekiel, it is known that there were neither ark nor propitiatory in his eschatological Temple, that was, very probably, a right representation of the state of affairs in the First Temple in the time of Ezekiel ).
In Septuagint version (Ezek 43:14 and 17), there is no ark in the Temple, but there are two different devices called “propitiatory” (ἱλαστήριον), the great one and the small one. This “small propitiatory” corresponds exactly to the role of the propitiatory in the rest of the Priestly tradition being the upper part of the whole altar structure.
Now, with the Greek book of Ezekiel, we are very close to our AA.
Our Apocalypse has been already treated in the vein of the late Jewish Ezekiel traditions by David Halperin. Now, taken into account also Hurtado’s treatment, we have to express that in the Temple of Ezekiel its propitiatory (I mean only the “small propitiatory” of the Greek version) is indeed the seat of God: in Ezek 44:3 a messianic divine figure is entering the Holy of Holies and seating here. But, according to the Greek version, the only surface to seat here is the “small propitiatory”.
Needless to say that an eschatological Temple of Ezekiel has a lot of common with the heavenly one. Our author of AA is dealing with the latter, but takes his knowledge from the former, that is, from an intertestamentary interpretation of the Ezekiel Temple.
So, in the heavenly Temple of AA, there is no ark, but there is a propitiatory. It is also the Throne of God. Moreover, as in the rest of the Priestly tradition, it is the main device of transmitting the divine revelation.
The main contents of such a revelation are, of course, the sins of Israel. I say “of course” because the propitiatory is a device to be used on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Our Apocalypse is not an exception.
AA, being a precious source on the liturgical devices of the heavenly Temple according some late form of the Priestly tradition, is not a source on the rites themselves. So, I omit here the correspondences between the liturgical structure of the heavenly Temple of AA and the atonement rites in several other Jewish traditions, including that of the Greek book of Ezekiel. I am considering all of them in my paper on the “Chalice of Solomon”.
Let us sum what we did demonstrate in this section.
The Throne of God in AA is the same device as the “small propitiatory” in the Greek book of Ezekiel. It is a propitiatory indeed.
It is now showed without referring to linguistic considerations.
In general, on the propitiatory in the early Priestly tradition and especially in Leviticus: J. Milgrom, Leviticus 1—16. A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (N. Y. etc., 1991) (Anchor Bible, 3); I. Knoll, The Sanctary of Silence. The Priestly Torah and the Holiness School (Minneapolis 1995) 150.
J. Milgrom, Israel’s Sanctuary: the Priestly «Picture of Dorian Gray», Revue biblique 83 (1976) 390-399 [reprinted in: Idem, Studies in Cultic Theology and Terminology (Leiden, 1983) 75-84].
See L. Monloubou, F. M. Du Buit, Dictionnaire biblique universel (Paris, 1984) 603 (s.v. Propitiatoire) and especially M. Horan, Temple and Temple-Service in Ancient Israel. An Inquiry into the Character of Cult Phenomena and the Historical Setting of the Priestly School (Oxford, 1978).
Horan, Temple and Temple-Service..., 247-251 and especially 248.
В. Лурье, Чаша Соломона и скиния на Сионе. Ч. 1. Надпись на Чаше Соломона: текст и контекст, Византинороссика 3 (2005) 8-74.
See, for details: Лурье, Чаша Соломона…, 39-41.
Horan, Temple and Temple-Service..., 276-288.
Halperin, The Faces of the Chariot..., 103-113.
Лурье, Чаша Соломона…