Mount set the agenda for two millennia of Christian mysticism. In Christian territory, the vision of God is possible, but under certain conditions, having to do with both purity and interiority. The beatitude also points to the origin of the Christian ideal of seeing God: the Jewish background of the Sermon on the Mount. Like Christianity, rabbinic Judaism was born in the first century. Therefore, studying the early development of mysticism in the two religions from a comparative perspective should help.

In the first stages of Jewish mysticism, which Gershom Scholem mistakenly referred to as 'Jewish Gnosticism',30 one can identify three main visual trajectories:

1 The vision of God's Body, usually referred to as Shi'ur Qoma

2 The vision of God's Palace (or palaces: Hekhalot literature)

3 The vision of God's Chariot, or Merkavah (referring to Ezekiel, chapter i).

The exact dating of the late ancient Hebrew texts developing these themes is notoriously difficult. We are condemned to remain in the longue duree, where the most one can do is call attention to shared trajectories and to structural similarities of the main themes in early Jewish mysticism with various patristic texts. Nevertheless, it seems that such similarities developed mainly during our period, in particular within Christian milieus less touched by Platonist patterns of thought - which permitted a completely spiritual perception of the visio mystica. What counts in our perspective is to insist that mystical traditions, even if they start earlier, continue during our period.

A preliminary investigation of structural and thematic similarities between Jewish and Christian mystical traditions in late antiquity brings enough circumstantial evidence to show the plausibility of contacts between them.31 Only a systematic study of sources could detect the extent to which patristic references reflect knowledge of rabbinic sources or traditions. A final caveat: similarities and parallels do not necessarily point to influences, as we deal with two traditions both rooted in biblical exegesis. Moreover, the sustained research that is needed will have to deal with the Sitz im Leben of mystical traditions amongJews and Christians in late antiquity. Texts outside of context remain meaningless. The significant questions relate to the function of these texts in religious praxis. What we should seek to understand better, ultimately, is a puzzling chapter in the history of religious dynamics between Jews and Christians.

30 G. Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah mysticism and Talmudic tradition.

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