About the Author(s)

Vasile Birzu Email symbol
Faculty of Theology ‘Andrei Saguna’, Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Sibiu, Romania

Department of Science of Religion and Missiology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


Birzu, V., 2019, ‘The Throne of God as a prototype of primacy in the Church and in creation’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 75(4), a5424. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i4.5424

Research Project Registration:

Project Leader: N. Niemandt symbol

Project Number: 04317734

Description: This research is part of the research project, ‘Mission from the margins: Missiology and human dignity’, directed by Prof. Dr Nelus Niemandt, Department of Science of Religion and Missiology, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria.

Original Research

The Throne of God as a prototype of primacy in the Church and in creation

Vasile Birzu

Received: 13 Feb. 2019; Accepted: 15 Aug. 2019; Published: 29 Nov. 2019

Copyright: © 2019. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This study emphasises the cosmic dimensions of the Church understood as the Throne of God, analysing its understanding in this way by the great writers and thinkers of the ancient world, for example, Philo the Alexandrine, Saint Dionysius the Areopagite and Saint Irene of Lyon. The reconstitution of all the cosmological contexts and understanding of the Throne of God inspired by the texts of the ancient authors is opening a very interesting perspective over the existence of the Church as a cosmic Throne of God and reassembling of all the heavenly and intelligible creations sustained and vivified by the primal light of God transmitted in this way towards the lower degrees of the heavenly angelic and churchly hierarchy. Thus, the real source of primacy in the Church is originated, as Saint Dionysius pointed out, in the primal light of God poured over the Church. The Church as the Throne of God helps to discover the real cosmic and heavenly perspective over the heavenly power and authority, the bishops of the Churches are called frankly by God from the beginning (Rv 3:21).

Keywords: primacy; ecclesiology; cosmic church; cherubim; throne; heavenly liturgy.

In Revelation chapters 1–4, Saint John the Evangelist, using some cosmic symbols, presents the mystery of the Church as understood in both historical and eschatological perspectives. The messages addressed to the universal or catholic Church symbolised through the number and the individual existence of the seven historical city-churches from his time are addressed, in fact, to the hierarchs or the angels of these churches compared to the seven stars kept in the ‘right hand’ of ‘the Son of Man’ surrounded by the seven golden lampstands as symbols of the historical seven churches, and in fact as symbols of the entire catholic Church.

Moreover, the symbolic images of the Church from the Revelation testify to a hierarchical structure of the heavenly spiritual world, which, as Mr Bogdan Bucur explains, include the ‘mysterious group of “seven spirits” (Rv 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6)’ named protoctists or the first angels of creation, placed around Jesus Christ as the Great Angel of Presence, or the Face of God (Clement, Excerpta 10–11; 27; Eclogae 51–52; 56), ‘the whole world of creatures revolving in sevens heavens’ mastered by ‘the first-born princes of the angels, who have the greatest power’ (Clement, Strom. 6.16.142–43). These seven protoctists angels were the powers of the Holy Ghost and the ‘angels of the little ones’ mentioned in Matthew 18:10. The eschatological Church hierarchy enounced by Clement and other ancient Christian writers consists, with some small differences, in the Face of God or Jesus Christ, the seven first created angels or the protoctists, the archangels and finally the angels (Bucur 2008:179–181), the addressed messages by Christ to these seven angels or hierarchs of the seven historical city-churches revealing exactly the inner spiritual and ecclesial order to follow in order to receive the right to sit on the Throne of Christ, the victorious Emperor of the Church.

The image of the Church from Revelation, with the ‘heptad of the Spirit’ (Paed. 3.12.87), with the four cherubic beings and 24 elders surrounding the enthroned Lamb of God (Rv 5:6, 8), and, also, the glorious image of the Son of Man (Rv 1:13–16), reminds us of the other old testamentary manifestations of God (Ex 34), of his throne and glory (Ezk 1–10; Is 6), with great importance for our understanding of the cosmic dimensions of the Church and of its leadership over creation through Jesus Christ and his celestial companions. And if in the work of Clement we find a hierarchical structure of the angelic beings around God, we must go deeper with our analysis of the image of the Church from Revelation, in the perspective of these Old Testament visions and other more tardive sources, to see how this hierarchical structure is asked and determined exactly by what is named the Merkava Throne of God described in these visions.

Actually, the messages addressed to the hierarchs or the angels of the churches are closed in Revelation 3:21 with the promise that:

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

This way, the real hierarchical leadership of the historical churches with the Father’s primacy over creation and with his leadership over the universal and cosmic Church is identified. In fact, because immediately in the fourth chapter there is a description of the Church surrounding the Throne of God in Heaven, we have here a potential invitation addressed to the hierarchs of the Church to raise up and inherit through wisdom, good leadership and worthiness the real heavenly Throne of the Church promised to them by Jesus Christ. The vision described in Revelation 4:1–11 is that of the heavenly, glorified Church, because we meet here the same symbols of the Church, ‘the seven blazing lamps’ which ‘are the seven spirits of God’ standing in front of the throne surrounded by ‘a sea of glass, clear as crystal’ describing the purity of the multitude of the believers represented concretely and symbolically1 by the 24 elders crowned with ‘crowns of gold on their heads’ and incessantly glorifying God from their 24 thrones. The throne ‘someone was sitting on it’ is the Merkava throne, with Christ being described in glory as ‘the one who … had the appearance of jasper and ruby’ (Rv 4:3), similar to the description of ‘someone with an image of a man’ from Ezekiel 1:26–27 ‘shining as the fire and the electros’, over and encircling his throne ‘a rainbow shining like an emerald’ (Rv 4:3) or like a sapphire (Ezk 1:26).

What is important here, for our intended interpretation and envisioned demonstration of our proposed subject in this study, is the heavenly and cosmic glorifying liturgy of the four living creatures, with faces of a lion, a bull, an eagle and a man, ‘covered with eyes, in front and in back’, because in this description from Revelation 4:6–11, we have a presentation which is mixing the two principal visions of the Merkava throne from Is 6, where the seraphim are glorifying God crying Holy, holy, holy, in the temple, and from Ezekiel 1, where the cherubim are residing and sustaining the glory of God.

The heavenly liturgy, here, is invoking, finally, through the voices of the 24 elders, the motive of creation as the absolute and claiming argument for the absolute Lordship and glory of Jesus Christ, the heavenly hierarch of his Church. Also, the implicit superposition and identification of the images of the seraphim and cherubim (here the cherubim with four faces and not the seraphim are glorifying God) is inviting us to analyse more closely the meaning of the Throne of God as an image of the Church and its cosmological and eschatological implication in the creation and the governance of the heavenly and materially created world which the Church is called to recapitulate in God.

The thrones

The biblical doctrinal foundation of the third type of the celestial beings, the thrones, from the first proximal to God triad, by Saint Dionysius the Areopagite is only the New Testament reference to the thrones from Colossians 1:16, where the thrones are mentioned as the celestial entities created in, through and for the Logos, besides the other kinds and ranks of the angelic hierarchy. But the biblical revelation and that from the Semitic sources do not say what, really, is the difference between the three ranks of the first triad. As Bucur Bogdan resumes, Clement equates the seven protoctists angels with ‘the seven eyes of the Lord’ (Zch 3:9; 4:10; Rv 5:6), with the ‘thrones’ (Col 1:16) and the ‘angels ever contemplating the Face of God’ (Mt 18:10) (Strom. 5.6.35; Eclogae 57.1; Excerpta 10) (Bucur 2008:179), as some kind of celestial powers, intelligences or spirits in great intimacy with the omnipresent God. On the other hand, the historical and biblical references to the expression Throne of God2 regard, firstly, the Merkava throne of cherubim and reveal the heavens as the Throne of God. The biblical expressions are very clear, the Lord not only ‘established his throne in heaven’ (Ps 103:19), but the ‘heaven is my Throne, what house will build you for Me?’ (Is 66:1), says the Lord almighty, thus indicating the identity of this Throne with his dwelling place, the Heaven, or with his house or Tabernacle which ‘will last for ever and ever’ (Ps 45:6).

Psalms 47:6–9 present a similar image, and Psalms 2:1–6 present a concept that is opposite to Revelation 4. In this last psalm, instead of the 24 elders bowing in front of the Lord, we have the emperors of the earth gathered against the Lord … Who sits in Heaven … on the glory throne, assigned Emperor by God in Sion (Ps 2:6).

We can understand better what the throne really means as the rank of the celestial hierarchy, looking at the liturgical and spiritual significance of the mercy seat overshadowed from both sides by the cherubim wings in the tabernacle (Ex 25:10), where the mercy seat of the temple was overshadowed by the faces of the cherubim standing side by side and faced down into the hekal (2 Chr 3:13). As Margaret Barker (1990) explains it:

[I]n some traditions the ark was the footstool of the throne; in others it seems to have been the throne itself. We do not know how these two traditions are related to each other. Those associated with the desert tabernacle describe two miniature cherubim at either end of a mercy seat of Gold which was placed on the top of the ark (Ex 25:17–21), whereas those of the temple describe two enormous cherubim in the holy of holies, each ten cubits across, which formed the throne. (p. 138)

From this archaeological exegesis, it can be concluded that the throne was either exactly the Ark of the Covenant (Nm 10:35–36; 1 Sm 4:3–4), on whose lid the high priest took the blood for the atonement sacrifice (this is why the word translated ‘mercy seat’ is kapporeth which derives from the Hebrew root kpr, ‘atone’) and sprinkled it onto the mercy seat, which means onto the throne itself (Lv 16) (Barker 1990:140), and in this understanding, St Paul spoke of Jesus as the new ‘mercy seat’ (Rm 3:25); either the throne was formed by the great cherubim from the temple (Is 37:16), whose imposing image is remembered in the visions from Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10, or at Isaiah 6.

In both cases, the ark and the throne were the essence of the cult in the tabernacle or in the temple, because here, on the mercy seat (kapporeth) or on the cherubim, throne was the place where the Lord revealed himself to speak with Moses (Ex 25:22).

Conforming to the sacred archaeology of the Holy Tent and Temple, the Throne of God in the holy of holies of the Tabernacle represented the highest heaven (Barker 1990:138), because the Tent or the Tabernacle3 or the Temple was built intending to symbolise and represent heaven, although it was built on earth, and so the throne of the Lord was in heaven, but also in the temple, as was perceived by Jeremiah: ‘A glorious throne set on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary’ (Jr 17:12); and also was understood to be only in heaven as is expressed in the Deuteronomy: ‘Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel’ (Dt 26:15) (Barker 1990:134–135).

Cosmic and spiritual dimensions of the Cherubim throne in some spiritual writers

As Margaret Barker (1990) expresses it, ‘Philo gave a very sophisticated view of the role and meaning of the cherubim’:

For him the two cherubim also represented two aspects of God; he calls them the two Powers of God, and says that they were represented in the Scriptures by the two names for God: Yahweh (Lord) and Elohim (God). (p. 143)

According to Barker (1990:143), the two names ‘were both names for the Logos, the archangel of the presence of God who becomes visible in the material world’:

God himself standing above the mercy seat and in the midst of two cherubim’ … he means to show that the primal and highest powers of the Existent, the beneficent and the punitive, are equal having him to divide them. (Who is the Heir? 166). (Barker 1990:144)

But in the other part, Philo sees the Logos as the third power, symbol of the ‘fiery sword of reason, which unites the two cherubim, for it is through the Logos that God is both ruler and good’ (Cherubim, 27–8). Elsewhere Philo spoke of the word as the charioteer of the Powers (On Flight, 101), guiding the universe under the direction of God (Barker 1990:144–145).

In his work about cherubim,4 Philo from Alexandria gives us a quite interesting cosmological description of the Cherubim with the flaming sword at the Eden’s Gate, identical for him with those from the Holy Tent’s Tabernacle, very important for the real understanding of the heavenly liturgy from Revelation 4 and of the cosmic supremacy and primacy of Christ over his cosmic Church.

Philo says that ‘Moses introduces under a figure (of the cherubim with the fiery sword from Gn 3:24) an intimation of the revolutions of the whole heaven’:

[T]he two cherubim are meant as symbols of each of the hemispheres? For they say that they stand face to face, inclining towards the mercy-seat; since the two hemispheres are also exactly opposite to one another, and incline towards the earth which is the center of the whole universe, by which, also, they are kept apart from one another. (Cohn 1896:177)

Thus, Philo identifies one Cherub with:

[O]utermost sphere of … the fixed stars … celebrating their truly divine dance, which always proceeds on similar principles and is always the same, without ever leaving the order which the Father, who created them, appointed for them in the world. (Cohn 1896:176)

while the other Cherub symbolises for Philo ‘the inner sphere which is contained within that previously mentioned…’ and contains other ‘stars (planets) (moving) in their proper orbit…’ ruled by God ‘like a driver in a chariot’ so that ‘the character of their motion would be rendered most harmonious’. In his allegorical cosmic understanding of the Cherubim from the Eden’s Gate, Philo identifies:

[T]he flaming sword as a symbol of the sun … consisting of an immense body of flame and always turning in every direction, intimates their motion (of the Cherubim) and the everlasting agitation of the entire heaven. (Cohn 1896:177)

This cosmic understanding of the Cherubim, although allegorically, opens a very realistic perspective on the image of the cosmic liturgy described in Revelation 4. Enthroned on the throne of the cherubim, Christ is the Emperor of the entire heaven symbolised by the throne of the cherubim.

We find another cosmological reference to the Cherubim throne as representing synthetically the entire cosmos, with all four elements identified with the four faces of the Cherubim, in Methodius of Olympus work Aglaofon. He says:

Expressing the idea that God leads and cares of the world (because life of these creatures is not headed by chance), he says he entrusted this leadership to the four faces of the cherubim. (He talks of the four faces) because four faces are those who keep the universe: a man, a lion, a bull, and the eagle. Man can be compared to air because it is a heavenly plant; lion with fire, because of its agility and power; the bull calf with the earth, and the eagle with water, because the birds were born of water. Each of these is in turn composed of four elements. In the midst of all is God who is the beginning, middle and end of all that exists; He made the world, at the counsel of His will, of earth, air, water and fire, and runs like a chariot with four horses.5

We see here that the Cherubim are declared the rulers of the world and the sustainers of the universe, but in fact the world has God at its centre similar to a charioteer pulling the chariot with four horses of the cosmos identified with four living creatures of the Cherubim.

Commenting on the vision of the Cherubim from Ezekiel 1–10, Saint Irineus of Lyon considers four creatures as the four aspects of the Logos’ work in creation. This is why the Cherubim throne is organically integrated in and with Christ in the reigning of the cosmos. As in the mystical references evoked above in Philo’s exegesis, Christ is fully integrated with the other two aspects of God. The lion, he explains, represents Christ’s imperial and royal qualities manifested in the epoch of the patriarchs before the time of Moses, the calf represents his sacrificial and priestly role during the era of the law, the man represents his advent among human beings through incarnation, and the eagle represents the gift of the spirit hovering over the Church after his arrival in the world at Pentecost, the throne, thus, unfolding in the historical periods of the economy of salvation. On the other hand, the throne of the Cherubim symbolises all the time the fourfold unitary essential structure giving stability and life to the Church, because the cosmic Church is sustained by ‘four universal winds’ which constitute the foundation and the pillars (cf. 1 Tm 3:15) of the creation divided in ‘four regions of the world’. He concludes: ‘the Creator of all things, the Word, who sits upon the Cherubim (Ps 79:2 LXX) and sustains all things (cf. Pr 1:7)’ gave a fourfold Gospel that is united by one spirit and is reflected in the cherubim’s four faces which are ‘images of the Son of God’s work’.6 (Irenaeus of Lyon 1974:III,11,7–8)

It is in Saint Dionysius the Areopagite’s works that we find described the relationship of God with all the heavenly and ecclesiastical hierarchy in a true and Christian manner, which means with Christ as absolute God in the centre of the spiritual and material universe. In the first chapter, Section 2, of his work The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, Saint Dionysius enumerates all the supermundane ranks of the heavenly hierarchy and mentions finally about the ‘Divine Thrones, or of the Beings of the same ranks as the Thrones’, a mention which could be witnessing, in the first centuries of the Church history, about the understanding of the Cherubim and Seraphim as being essentially thrones, and that only the word of God was ‘naming them in the Hebrew tongue Cherubim and Seraphim’. Also, Dionysius emphasises, here, that all the ranks of the divine hierarchy have:

[O]ne and the same power throughout the whole hierarchical transaction, and that the hierarch himself, according to his essence, and analogy, and rank, is initiated in Divine things, and is deified and imparts to the subordinates according to the meetness of each for the sacred deification which comes to him from God. (Parker 1894:51)

Thus, the entire hierarchy is penetrated, illuminated and united by the divine Light of the Logos which is the Father’s Ray, Father being the synagogos, the one who keeps united all the ranks of hierarchy and all the levels of existence in creation. Thus, the hierarchical structure of the Church has as the origin and animating principle, the foundational primacy of the Father shared to the creation and Church by the dynamic primacy of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and this last primacy must be gained by the bishops who are ruling the historical churches in order to inherit the heavenly throne of the Father.7

The primacy in the Church is explained by the image of the ranks from the first celestial triad, the Seraphim, the Cherubim and the Thrones which are depicted by Dionysius as receiving the first holy illumination from God through his divine and deifying Ray, Jesus Christ, who is the mystagogos, the one who initiates through his purifying and illuminative light as said by Dionysius (Parker 1894):

The first Hierarchy, then, of the heavenly minds is purified, and enlightened, and perfected by being religiously directed by the Author of initiation Himself, by its elevation to Himself immediately, and by being filled, according to its degree with the most holy purification of the unapproachable Light of the most perfect source of initiation, and being unstained by any inferiority and full of primal Light, and perfected by its participation in first-given knowledge and science. (p. 30)

Thus, it is not Jesus Christ who receives something (dignity or power or illumination) from these heavenly ranks, but these first ranks of celestial hierarchy receive the primal light and, thus, the primacy in the heavenly hierarchy, and this situation is extended to all the ranks and levels of the hierarchy ‘from the supercelestial minds to the lowest of the earth’ (Parker 1894:31). God is the spiritual initiator of these celestial minds giving them ‘participation in first-given knowledge and science’ and ‘fulness of knowledge’ (Parker 1894:27) and, also, God is the initiator of their physical and spiritual movement around him and ‘dances around His eternal knowledge in the most exalted and ever-moving stability’ (Parker 1894:30). The appellation by Saint Dionysius as ‘celestial minds’, ‘Burning and Thrones, and Stream of Wisdom’ or as ‘heavenly Beings which encircle and stand immediately around God’ for their ‘Godlike characteristic’ or ‘dispositions’, evokes their spiritual nature, their intimacy with God and their function as transmitters and informers of the material world through these streams of knowledge and wisdom.

Their nature is essentially spiritual because they are ‘minds who receive God’ and as images of God, are the divine places of the divine repose (Ps 66:1), that means Thrones of God, ‘sending forth his most kindly forethought to all created things, … as Prince above principality and cause of all creation, and grasping all things supernaturally in his resistless embrace’ (Parker 1894:30).

A similar description, as ‘Throne of God’ is giving us Saint Macarius in his first Homily, referring to the human soul called to be inhabited by Christ, and thus to reign with Christ over the entire creation and heavenly Church through the human soul directed by Christ as stated by Pseudo-Macarius (1978):

Thus the soul is completely illumined with the unspeakable beauty of the glory of the light of the face of Christ and is perfectly made a participator of the Holy Spirit. It is privileged to be the dwelling-place and the throne of God, all eye, all light, all face, all glory and all spirit, made so by Christ who drives, guides, carries, and supports the soul about and adorns and decorates the soul with his spiritual beauty. For scriptures say: ‘There was the hand of a man under the Cherubim and this is why Christ is the one who is carried by the soul and still directs it in the way’. (Pseudo-Macarius 1978:37–38)

Pseudo-Macarius (1978) identifies the soul with exactly the same image of the cherubic throne, whose faces are the symbols of the organic powers through which he is directing and ruling it:

The four animals that bore the chariot were a type of the leading characteristics of the soul. For as the eagle rules over all the other birds and the lion is king of the wild beasts and the bull over the tamed animals and man rules over all creatures, so the soul has certain dominant powers that are superior to others. I am speaking of the faculties of the will: conscience, the mind and the power of loving. For it is through such that the chariot of the soul is directed and it is in these that God resides. (p. 38)

Pseudo-Macarius (1978) continues saying that: ‘In some other fashion also such a symbolism can be applied to the Heavenly Church of the saints’ compared by him with the infinite multitude of the stars in the sky, thus extending this inner way of ruling to the entirely spiritual and material creation and cosmos:

The Rider, then, is carried by the chariot and the animals with all eyes, or, in a way, he is carried by every soul that has become his throne and exists now as eye and light. He is mounted on the soul and guides it with the reins of the Spirit, directing it according to his knowledge of the way. (p. 38)

Thus, the angelic beings from the first celestial triad and, also, the soul are the Thrones on which God is presiding and ruling over all the creation and Church, and from this we can understand what is exactly the promised throne from Revelation 3:21, because in order to be worthy and victorious in their work and care for the Church in this world, the angels or bishops of the Church must have their soul’s powers as organic functions inserted in the cosmic structure and function of the cherubic Throne of God, as it is described by the biblical and spiritual tradition.


The promise from Revelation 3:21 that ‘To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne’, is exactly the consequence of the victorious acts of salvation of the entire creation by Jesus Christ through his death on the Cross and the resurrection and elevation to heaven as the hierarch. This must be understood in this heavenly or celestial perspective as a communion with some very spiritual angelic beings, described as celestial minds full of divine light, knowledge and stability which ask from the pretender for the episcopal throne the same high virtues and spiritual states to be accomplished in his life. Also, the cosmic, organic and integrative nature of these thrones in creation as aspects of the Logos’ work in it, speaks about the unitive nature of the Logos and, consequently, of bishop in creation through the primal light which is coming from the Logos of God.

The Logos of God has the primacy in Church and in creation through his primal light, and is also giving it to the worthy Bishops of the Church in an organic way as they accomplish the mystery of their real transformation into cherubic Thrones of God through their virtues and inhabitation by Logos, as the spiritual tradition witnesses about the inner throne of cherubim from the human soul.


Competing interests

The author has declared that no competing interests exist.

Author(s) contributions

I declare that I am the sole author of this research article.

Ethical consideration

This article followed all ethical standards for a research without direct contact with human or animal subjects.

Funding information

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.


Alomia, K.M., 1987, Lesser Gods of the Ancient Near East and some comparisons with heavenly beings of the Old Testament, Andrews University, MI.

Barker, M., 1990, The Gate of Heaven: The history and symbolism of the temple in Jerusalem, SPCK.

Bucur, B.G., 2008, ‘Hierarchy, prophecy, and the angelomorphic spirit: A contribution to the study of the book of revelation’s Wirkungsgeschichte’, Journal of Biblical Literature 127(1), 173–194.

Christman, A.R., 2005, ‘What did Ezekiel see?’: Christian exegesis of Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot from Irenaeus to Gregory the Great, Bible in Ancient Christianity, Brill, Leiden.

Cohn L., 1896, Philonis Alexandrini opera quae supersunt, vol. 1, Reimer, Berlin, [repr. 1962, De Gruyter, Berlin, p. 176; transl. C.D. Yonge, The works of Philo: Complete and unabridged, New Updated, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, 1993, p. 120].

Gallusz, L., 2011, ‘The Throne Motif in the book of revelation’, PhD dissertation, Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary Faculty of Theology, Budapest.

Gilbertson, M., 2003, God and history in the book of revelation, New Testament Studies in Dialogue with Pannenberg and Moltmann, Cambridge University Press, New York.

Irenaeus of Lyon, 1974, ‘Contre les hérésies. Livre III’, in I.A. Rousseau & L. Doutreleau (eds.), Sources Chrétiennes 211, pp. 20–491, Cerf, Paris.

Parker, J.N., 1894, The Celestial and Ecclesiastical hierarchy of Dionysius the Areopagite, Harvard University, Skeffington.

Pattemor, S., 2004, The people of god in the Apocalypse: Discourse, structure, and exegesis, Cambridge University Press, New York.

Prigent, P., 1981, L’apocalypse de saint Jean, Commentaire du Nouveau Testament XIV, Delachaux et Niestle, Lausanne.

Pseudo-Macarius, 1978, Homily 1: The great Letter of Pseudo-Macarius, An allegorical interpretation of the vision written down by the Prophet (Ezek 1:4–2:1), 2–3, transl. G.A. Maloney in Intoxicated with God, Dimension Books, Denville, NJ.

Smith, J.E., 1979, An exegetical commentary on Ezekiel, College Press, FL.


1. The number 24 represents the pleroma of the Prophets of the Church of the Old Testament, together with the pleroma of the Apostles of the Church from the New Testament. The idea of an assembly of the divine beings around God is a very old and common one in the Near East biblical environment, ‘puhur ilani – the gods assembly’, or the ‘divine council – tuliayaz siunes’, being the central element of the epic descriptions of the Mesopotamian or Hittite eschatology. ‘mprt bn ‘ilm – the assembly of the son of El’ or ‘mphrt ‘il gbl qdsm – the assembly of the holy gods of Gebal’ are just few examples portraying the same image of the heavenly assembly or Church the supreme god El presiding over it, as we find in Revelation 4:1–11. The image is also found in the Bible relating the cherubim in 1 Samuel 4:4 and 2 Samuel 6:2: ‘the Lord (YHWH) of Hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim’ (Alomia 1987:33–60, 476). Also, the Prigent’s consideration: ‘Mentionnons une interprétation qui a le grand mérite de la simplicité et est déjà attestée par Victorin de Pettau: il s’agit des 24 livres de l’AT ou plus exactement des 24 écrivains auxquels sont imputés les livres sacrés. En effet, tandis que la tradition chrétienne dominante (Origène, Cyrille, Epiphane, Jérôme) retient le chiffre de 22 or 17, la tradition juive s’attache avec prédilection au chiffre de 24; ainsi 4 Esdras 14 :44’ (Prigent 1981:83).

2. For an important exhaustive and contextual analysis of the Throne of God’s understanding in the Bible and in the Book of Revelation, see the important PhD thesis of Gallusz (2011:440). The whole first part of this elaborated thesis emphasising the celestial characteristics of the Throne of God in the Biblical and Old Testament Jewish literature.

3. When we are told that the Lord was in the midst of the camp it is assumed that this refers to the dwelling of the Lord, that is to the tabernacle (Ex 25:8; Nm 3). The Lord spoke to Moses inside the tabernacle from between the cherubim (Ex 25.22), because this is where the Lord had settled from the moment the tabernacle was built (Ex 40.34–8). This is exactly the same as was said of the first temple when it was consecrated by Solomon (1 Ki 8:10). In each case, a cloud, the glory of the Lord, filled the place and nobody was able to enter for a while (Barker 1990:137).

4. As cited in Cohn (1896).

5. Metodiu de Olimp, Aglaofon sau despre înviere, II, x, colection Părinţi şi Scriitori Bisericeşti (Church Fathers and Writers) vol. 10, ed. IBMBOR, Buckarest, 1984, p. 178; our translation from the Romanian integral edition of Metodius works following the Migne edition and that of G. Bonwetsch, ‘Methodius’, in: Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller 27 (1917). Also available online at https://archive.org/details/methodiusherausg00meth/page/n4. This gives the Slavonic material in German translation (only) interspersed with the Greek fragments. Aglaophon or On the resurrection (Ἀγλαοφῶν ἢ περὶ ἀναστάσεως), in three books. (CPG 1812) It refutes the idea of a purely spiritual resurrection. The Greek is extant in fragments, including a long quotation from book 1 by Epiphanius in the Panarion. The Old Slavonic version includes all three books, but abbreviates book 3. Ed. Bonwetsch, 217–424, giving a German translation of the Old Slavonic. A small piece is translated in the ANF at http://www.tertullian.org/fathers2/ANF-06/anf06-122.htm#P5754_1736951. The Greek can be found in PG18, 265–329, and Richard’s Opera Minora. UPDATE: There is now a complete Italian translation by Zorza and Mejzner.

6. See also Christman (2005:15–16). In bringing together the notion of the Church scattered throughout the world and the four winds, Irenaeus may also be dependent upon Matthew 24.31 and Didache 10.5.

7. The same thing affirms, as Mr Bogdan Bucur (2008) resumes, the early Christian writers, saying that ‘the orienting principle (ἀρχή) of the hierarchy is the “Face of God,” which Clement, like other early Christian writers, identifies as the Logos, the Son’ (Excerpta 10.6; 12.1; Paed. 1.57; 1.124.4; Strom. 7.58; Tertullian, Adv. Prax. 14) (p. 179).

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