September 23, 2019
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SeraphimfA seraph (pl. seraphim; Hebrew: שְׂרָפִים śərāfîm, singular שָׂרָף śārāf; Latin: seraphi[m], singular seraph[us]; Greek: σεραφείμ) is a type of celestial being in Judaism and Christianity. Literally “burning ones”, the word is normally a synonym for serpents when used in the Hebrew Bible, but they are mentioned in the Book of Isaiah as fiery six-winged beings attending on God. They appear again as celestial beings in an influential Hellenistic work, the Book of Enoch, and a little later in the Book of Revelation. A seraph (pl. seraphim; Hebrew: שְׂרָפִים śərāfîm, singular שָׂרָף śārāf; Latin: seraphi[m], singular seraph[us]; Greek: σεραφείμ) is a type of celestial being in Judaism and Christianity. Literally “burning ones”, the word is normally a synonym for serpents when used in the Hebrew Bible, but they are mentioned in the Book of Isaiah as fiery six-winged beings attending on God. They appear again as celestial beings in an influential Hellenistic work, the Book of Enoch, and a little later in the Book of Revelation. They occupy the fifth of ten ranks of the hierarchy of angels in medieval and modern Judaism, and the highest rank in the Christian angelic hierarchy. The word sarap/seraphim appear three times in the Torah[1] and four times in the Book of Isaiah.[2] In Numbers and Deuteronomy the “seraphim” are serpents – the association of serpents as “burning ones” is possibly due to the burning sensation of the poison. Isaiah also uses the word in close association with words to describes snakes.[3] In the Illustration from the Petites Heures de Jean de Berry, a 14th-century we can see Seraphim surrounding the divine throne.

Seraphim-2The Seraphim have six wings; two covering their faces, two covering their genitals (“feet”), and two with which they fly. Two of the Seraphim are named Seraphiel and Metatron, according to some books. Seraphiel is said to have the head of an eagle. It is said that such a bright light emanates from them that nothing, not even other angelic beings, can look upon them. It is also said that there are four of them surrounding God’s throne, where they burn eternally from love and zeal for God.

Isaiah’s vision of seraphim in the First Temple in Jerusalem is the sole instance in the Hebrew Bible of the word being used to describe celestial beings: there the winged “seraphim” attend God and have human attributes: “… I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and His train filled the Hekhal (sanctuary). Above him stood the Seraphim; each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.”[4] In Isaiah’s vision the seraphim cry continually to each other, “Holy, holy, holy, is YHWH of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory” (verses 2-3) before carrying out an act of purification for the prophet (verses 6-7). It is possible that these are winged snake-beings, but given that the word “seraphim” is not attached as an adjective or modifier to other snake-words (“nahash,” etc.), as is the case in every other occurrence of the word, it is more probable that they are variants of the “fiery” lesser deities making up God’s divine court.

The Seraphim appear in the 2nd century B.C. Book of Enoch [5] where they are designated as drakones (δράκονες “serpents”), and are mentioned, in conjunction with the cherubim as the heavenly creatures standing nearest to the throne of God. In the late 1st century A.D. Book of Revelation they are described as being forever in God’s presence and praising Him constantly: “Day and night with out ceasing they sing: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.’”[6] They appear also in the Christian Gnostic text On the Origin of the World, described as “dragon-shaped angels”.[7]

250px-Seraphim_-_Petites_Heures_de_Jean_de_Berry

Seraphim – Petites Heures de Jean de Berry

In medieval Christian theology, the Seraphim belong to the highest choir of the Christian angelic hierarchy. They are the caretakers of God’s throne, continuously singing “holy, holy, holy”. Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in his Celestial Hierarchy, helped fix the fiery nature of seraphim in the medieval imagination.[8] It is here that the Seraphim are described as being concerned with keeping Divinity in perfect order, and not limited to chanting the trisagion. Taking his cue from writings in the Rabbinic tradition, the author gave an etymology for the Seraphim as “those who kindle or make hot”: “The name seraphim clearly indicates their ceaseless and eternal revolution about Divine Principles, their heat and keenness, the exuberance of their intense, perpetual, tireless activity, and their elevative and energetic assimilation of those below, kindling them and firing them to their own heat, and wholly purifying them by a burning and all-consuming flame; and by the unhidden, unquenchable, changeless, radiant and enlightening power, dispelling and destroying the shadows of darkness”[9]

Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae offers a description of the nature of the Seraphim: “The name ‘Seraphim’ does not come from charity only, but from the excess of charity, expressed by the word ardor or fire. Hence Dionysius expounds the name ‘Seraphim’ according to the properties of fire, containing an excess of heat. [10]Now in fire we may consider three things. “First, the movement which is upwards and continuous. This signifies that they are borne inflexibly towards God. Secondly, the active force which is ‘heat,’ which is not found in fire simply, but exists with a certain sharpness, as being of most penetrating action, and reaching even to the smallest things, and as it were, with superabundant fervor; whereby is signified the action of these angels, exercised powerfully upon those who are subject to them, rousing them to a like fervor, and cleansing them wholly by their heat. Thirdly we consider in fire the quality of clarity, or brightness; which signifies that these angels have in themselves an inextinguishable light, and that they also perfectly enlighten others.”[11]

seraphimeAccording to Dionysus Aeropagite: “The name Seraphim clearly indicates their ceaseless and eternal revolution about Divine Principles, their heat and keenness, the exuberance of their intense, perpetual, tireless activity, and their elevative and energetic assimilation of those below, kindling them and firing them to their own heat, and wholly purifying them by a burning and all- consuming flame; and by the unhidden, unquenchable, changeless, radiant and enlightening power, dispelling and destroying the shadows of darkness.”

The seraphim took on a mystic role in Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man(1487), the epitome of Renaissance humanism. Pico took the fiery Seraphim—”they burn with the fire of charity”—as the highest models of human aspiration: “impatient of any second place, let us emulate dignity and glory. And, if we will it, we shall be inferior to them in nothing”, the young Pico announced, in the first flush of optimistic confidence in the human capacity that is the coinage of the Renaissance. “In the light of intelligence, meditating upon the Creator in His work, and the work in its Creator, we shall be resplendent with the light of the Cherubim. If we burn with love for the Creator only, his consuming fire will quickly transform us into the flaming likeness of the Seraphim.”

St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan theologian who was a contemporary of Aquinas, uses the six wings of the seraph as an important analogical construct in his mystical work The Journey of the Mind to God.

As they were developed in Christian theology, seraphim are beings of pure light and have direct communication with God.

When human beings fail to survive, their personal or group guardians may repeatedly serve in similar capacities on the same planet. The seraphim develop a sentimental regard for individual worlds and entertain a special affection for certain races and types of mortal creatures with whom they have been so closely and intimately associated.

The angels develop an abiding affection for their human associates; and you would, if you could only visualize the seraphim, develop a warm affection for them.
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Divested of material bodies, given spirit forms, you would be very near the angels in many attributes of personality. They share most of your emotions and experience some additional ones. The only emotion actuating you which is somewhat difficult for them to comprehend is the legacy of animal fear that bulks so large in the mental life of the average inhabitant of Urantia. The angels really find it hard to understand why you will so persistently allow your higher intellectual powers, even your religious faith, to be so dominated by fear, so thoroughly demoralized by the thoughtless panic of dread and anxiety. (From THE URANTIA BOOK
Part III, 113, 2)

Tree of Life Attributions

The Seraphims are an attribution on the Sephiroth Daath acording to Gareth Knight. “As Daath was not considered to be a Sephirah by the original Qabalists the sphere has no God Name, Archangels or Order of Angles traditionally assigned to it.  However, it could be said that the Angels of the Sephirah are a kind of Seraphim, only not flaming as the Seraphim of Geburah.  To claivoyant sight they have the appearance of silvery grey serpents with golden darting tongues and a type of force emmanating from them which can be described as ‘Incandescent Knowledge.’ “(Gareth Knight, A Practical Guide of Qabalistic Symbolism p.112)

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[1] Numbers 21:6-8, Deuteronomy 8:15.
[2] Book of Isaiah 6:2-6, 14:29, 30:6.
[3] nahash, the generic word for snakes, in 14:29, and efeh, viper, in 30:6.
[4] Isaiah 6:1–3.
[5] Enoch, xx. 7, lxi. 10, lxxi. 7.
[6] The Bible, Revelation (iv. 4-8)
[7] The Nag Hammadi Library in English“, p.166, Harper & Row, 1977.
[8] Dionisius Aeropagite, De Coelesti Hierarchia, (vii)

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