Divine Mediator Figures

Welcome to the Web Page on Divine Mediator Figures in the Biblical World

at the Divinity School of the University of St Andrews

The Divine Mediator Figures online course is currently on hiatus, but you can visit PaleoJudaica.com, my weblog (“blog”) on ancient Judaism and its context – updated frequently with the latest on ancient Judaism in the news and on the Internet and full of interesting links!

This page was created and is maintained by Dr. James R. Davila, Lecturer in Early Jewish Studies, for the honours course module DI3217 (postgraduate DI4217), “Divine Mediator Figures in the Biblical World,” which was taught for the first time in the spring semester of 1998. This module examined traditions in the biblical and parabiblical literature about divine, divinized, and exalted figures who served as mediators between God and human beings. Such figures might include angels such as Michael and Gabriel, deified people such as Enoch and Melchizedek, and powerful prophets or magicians such as Moses, Solomon, and the Sibyl. The focus was on biblical, Jewish, and Greco-Roman traditions in the Second Temple period (c. 586 B.C.E. to 70 CE), but with a continual eye to the larger context of the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds from the second millennium B.C.E. to late antiquity. Each seminar concentrated on a particular figure, drawing on texts as diverse as the Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Pseudepigrapha, the Coptic Gnostic literature, and Greco-Roman philosophy and magic. (All texts are read in English translations.) The overarching concern of the module was to further our understanding of the cultural matrix that gave rise to the veneration of Jesus and to New Testament christology. The last seminar was devoted to the topic of Jesus as a divine mediator.

A public discussion group for this module was created on the Internet to go with this World-Wide Web page, and the students and instructor used electronic mail to dialogue with students and scholars outside the University of St. Andrews on the subject matter of the course. The list opened for discussion in early February of 1998 and closed on 30 June 1998. This list was a virtual classroom, so it is subject to something rather like classroom etiquette. The realtime course was set up as a seminar, with a mixture of lectures by the instructor and sessions devoted to discussion of student seminar papers. Summaries of the lectures and abstracts of student papers have been posted on the list to stimulate discussion by the listmembers. Our Community Rule describes what the list was about and how discussions were to be conducted. The mediators list is currently on hiatus and is no longer accepting subscriptions, but an online course on the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha is planned for spring semester 2002. If you are interested, keep an eye on the Old Testament Pseudepigraph web page, where more information is posted.

To get a list of all the files available on the Mediators archive send the case sensitive message:

index mediators

to majordomo@st-andrews.ac.uk

The majordomo system is “case sensitive,” meaning that any message you send to it must be written, as above, without capital letters.

You can have the list archive sent to you by sending the case sensitive messages:

get mediators mediators.9801
get mediators mediators.9802
get mediators mediators.9803
get mediators mediators.9804
get mediators mediators.9805
get mediators mediators.9806

to the majordomo address (“mediators.9801” is the archive for January and “mediators.9802” is the archive for February, etc.).

An annotated basic bibiography for the course is also available through this link and in the majordomo archive (follow the link for access instructions).

The course and its accouterments served as a prologue to a conference held on 13-17 June, 1998, at the University of St. Andrews (organized by myself and Carey Newman, chair of the Institute for the Study of Christian Origins, Louisville, Kentucky). The International Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus gathered a team of scholars from around the world to explore the historical and cultural matrix in ancient Palestine and the Mediterranean in which Christianity developed, concentrating especially on religious and philosophical traditions about mediation between the divine and human realms. The program of papers and responses, complete with summaries of both, can be found on the conference web page or downloaded from the St. Andrews majordomo server. The focus was on the origins of christology in the first century and its relation to Jewish monotheism, but attention was also be given to relevant biblical, Jewish, and Greco-Roman traditions in the Persian and Hellenistic/Roman periods (c. 539 B.C.E. to 200 C.E.). The goal was to gain a better understanding of the cultural background in which early Christianity grappled with the meaning of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Abstracts of the papers were posted in advance on the Jesus Conference page and many of the presenters and attendees joined the online discussion list while the course was being taught.


Some relevant and related sites on the World-Wide Web include:

  • Resource Pages for Biblical Studies – A collection of links compiled by Professor Torrey Seland of Volda College in Norway. Includes connections to many primary texts (see especially page 1) and secondary materials relevant to this course.
  • Ioudaios Review – An online journal edited by myself and David Suter which contains book reviews and articles having to do with first century Judaism and its general historical context.
  • The Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls – Located at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and sponsor of the Orion online discussion list on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  • The Works of Flavius Josephus – The complete text of the works of this first century CE Jewish historian in the English translation by William Whiston. Can be read with a browser or downloaded in zip format.
  • Philo of Alexandria Page – The fifth page of Torrey Seland’s site (see above).
  • Traditions of Magic in Late Antiquity – An exhibit of magical texts in the University of Michigan’s collections, created and maintained by Gideon Bohak.
  • The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Web Page – A set of pages for the honours course module DI3216 (postgraduate DI4214), “The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha,” which was taught for the first time in the spring semester of 1997 at the University of St. Andrews by James Davila. This module examined a loose collection of ancient quasi-Biblical writings that were excluded from the canons of both normative Judaism and Christianity. Includes online lectures, abstracts of student essays, instructions for accessing the archives, and links to related pages.
  • The Home Page of Robert A. Kraft – Bob Kraft is a pioneer in using computer technology for teaching and research. His home page has links to a number of courses he has taught online, as well as to his own online publications, and many other resources useful for our course. In particular see the minutes from the Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins (1976-77) on “Magic, the Phenomenon and the Issue in the Graeco-Roman World” and (1977-78) on “Heavenly Ascent in Graeco-Roman Piety”.
  • The Jesus Seminar Forum – The official page for the controversial scholarly project that seeks to reconstruct the life and works of Jesus. Best known (somewhat unfairly) for its members voting on the genuiness of the sayings and deeds of Jesus with coloured beads. Includes much material relevant to this course.
  • The Crosstalk discussion list is devoted to the problem of the historical Jesus. This link leads to subscription information and the list archive.
  • The Gospel of Thomas Home Page – Maintained by Professor Stevan Davies, this site is full of information on a noncanonical Gospel that may preserve early traditions about Jesus.
  • The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus – Translations of these works of the earliest church fathers, archived in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.


Starred topics were covered by student essays. The other topics were covered in lectures (L) by the instructor, except the last session, which was a joint effort of the entire class. Realtime sessions met on Tuesdays from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., except for the last session, which met on Friday at the same time.

Week 1 (3 Feb): Introduction and Methodology (L)
Read: Davis, “Divine Agents, Mediators, and New Testament Christology”

Week 2 (10 Feb): Case Studies:
Enoch (Metatron) (L)
Read: 1 Enoch 37-71, 3 Enoch 1-16; online lecture (for the otpseud list, 1997) by James VanderKam,“The Enoch Literature”. (You can have VanderKam’s lecture e-mailed to you by sending the case sensitive message “get otpseud enoch” [without the quotation marks] to the majordomo address.)

Melchizedek (Michael) (L)
Read: Genesis 14; Psalm 110; Jubilees 13:22-27; 11Q13; Philo, _Legem Allegoriae_, III 79-82; Josephus, Antiquities 1.10.2; Hebrews 7, Revelation 12; NHC IX,1; and Davila, “Melchizedek, Michael, and War in Heaven” _SBL 1996 Seminar Papers_ (Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press, 1996) 259-72. (You can have this article e-mailed to you by sending the case sensitive message “get mediators melchizedek” [without the quotation marks] to the majordomo address.)

Week 3 (17 Feb): Moses* (Ysmena Pentelow)
Read: Ezekiel the Tragedian, _Exagoge_ (OTP II, 803-819); (4Q377: Moses Apocryphon); Philo, _De Vita Mosis_ books I-II

Week 4 (25 Feb) : The assignment to read and discuss for this week is Robert Kraft, “Was There a ‘Messiah-Joshua’ Tradition at the Turn of the Era?”. (My thanks to Bob Kraft for offering the use of this paper for the Divine Mediator Figures course.)

Week 5 (3 Mar): Solomon* (Andrew Home-Cook)
Read: 11QApocPsalms; Josephus, Antiquities 1-8 (esp. 8.2.5); 2 Baruch 61:1-8; Eupolemus 30:8-34:16; 34:30; Testament of Solomon

Week 6 (10 Mar): Elijah* (Christopher Maxwell)
Read: 1Kgs 17:1-2Kgs 2:18; Malachi 4:5-6; the NT texts listed in the annotated basic bibliography; Ben Sira 48:1-6; Josephus, Ant. 9.2.2; and Apocalypse of Elijah 1:1, 4:7-20, 5:32-35

Week 7 (17 Mar): The Teacher of Righteousness* (Ysmena Pentelow)
Read: The Damascus Rule and the Pesharim

Spring Break (21 March to 12 April). On 24 March Dr. Davila posted his article “The Hekhalot Literature and Shamanism” on this page. (You can have this lecture e-mailed to you by sending the case sensitive message “get mediators hekhalot.shamanism” [without the quotation marks] to the majordomo address.)

Week 8 (14 Apr): Apollonius of Tyana* (Andrew Home-Cook)

Week 9 (21 Apr): The Future Davidic Ruler* (Pilchan Lee)

Week 10 (28 Apr): Philo of Alexandria’s Logos* (Masanobu Endo)

Week 11 (1 May): Jesus (Summary Session)

A six-week course on the development of Christology was offered at Oxford University in May and June of 1998 by Professor Christopher Rowland and Dr. Crispin H. T. Fletcher-Louis. There is no formal connection between this course and the Divine Mediator Figures module at St. Andrews, but Dr. Fletcher-Louis kindly posted summaries of his lectures on the mediators list and has given me permission to post these summaries on the Divine Mediator Figures web page. (Dr. Fletcher-Louis was a participant on the mediators list and a presenter and respondent at the International Conference on the Origins of the Worship of Jesus.)

11 May: First Oxford Lecture

18 May: Second Oxford Lecture

25 May: Third Oxford Lecture

Last updated 9 June, 2003

Dr James R Davila (jrd4@st-andrews.ac.uk)

Contact details

St Mary’s College
The School of Divinity
University of St Andrews
South Street
St Andrews
Fife KY16 9JU
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)1334 462850 
Fax: +44 (0)1334 462852