ON FIRE: PRETERNATURAL AND HYPOSTATIC FIRE IN ANCIENT ISRAELITE RELIGION
Simone, Michael R.
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Fire is one of the most common images in the Hebrew Bible to depict the divine presence. In spite of this, no thorough study of fire and its relationship to the divine has been undertaken. As a first step toward that goal, this research project will engage a question posed in a forthcoming work by Theodore Lewis, who asks whether fire ever functions as a hypostasis of Yahweh. After a review of the classical and modern scholarship on hypostases in the second chapter, the third chapter will show the close relationship between fire and Yahweh's active presence. The fourth chapter analyzes narratives in which fire acts on its own to accomplish the divine will. The fifth chapter investigates cultic narratives of fire and its relationship to the divine in cultic action. The sixth chapter uses the thought of Gebhard Selz to organize the narratives engaged in the previous chapters on a gradient. In some narratives, the fiery phenomena are Yahweh. In others, the phenomena are not at all Yahweh. Many images, however, fall somewhere in between. In one of these in-between cases, Genesis 15:17, the fiery phenomenon has characteristics of the hypostatized active divine presence. Although this one image is the only evidence available to answer Lewis's question affirmatively, this research project overall advances the larger goal of studying fire and its relationship to the divine. Ancient authors found in fire an ethereal, dangerous, yet life-giving phenomenon that served as a superb symbol for the divine.