I’m going to approach this post a little differently from my last one. Here, I am not expressly arguing for any comparisons. I am merely presenting some research that has been done by a scholar whose work I enjoy reading. Feel free to come to your own conclusions. The following comes from a book by British scholar Crispin Fletcher-Louis, entitled All the Glory of Adam: Liturgical Anthropology in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Brill, 2002). I posted this recently on my blog Heavenly Ascents, but I thought it would be appropriate to share again here for this audience.
Fletcher-Louis had the following to say about the early Jewish belief that all of humanity was meant to be divine, a potential that could be fully realized in the elect:
Studies driven by New Testament concerns have tended to focus attention on the singular angelomorphic hero of old or the future messiah whose identity prefigures early Christian beliefs about Jesus. However, the fact that so often the angelomorphic identity is grounded in that of Adam before his exit from Eden, the existence of a continuity of angelomorphic identity through the generations of God’s elect and the focus on Israel as an angelomorphic people of God speaks for a theological perspective which should not be missed: there seems to be a claim which is usually implicit, but, as we shall see, is at other times explicit, that true humanity, as it is restored among the elect, is both angelomorphic and divine. In the rush to explain the origins of early Christian beliefs about Jesus sight can be lost of the fact that the peculiarly divine, angelic or exalted status of a particular righteous individual is fundamentally an expression of a universal theological anthropology. (Crispin Fletcher-Louis, All the Glory of Adam, 12)
(Note: angelomorphic = being or appearing in the form of an angel/divine being)
Later on, he begins to explore how individual human beings are described as angelic or divine in the texts, both biblical and extra-biblical:
There are many texts from the Second Temple period which describe the righteous in angelic or divine terms. Three figures stand out in the heroes gallery of angelic fame: the king, Moses and, above all, the priest. The characterization of humans in such angelic terms has its roots in the biblical text, but it is clearly being developed in the material from the 3rd-2nd centuries B.C. Many of the texts we have examined (e.g. Sirach, I Enoch) were read if not cherished at Qumran and these exhibit a particular interest in both Moses and the priesthood… (All the Glory of Adam, 32)
This next one is really great. After he has analyzed a number of texts that attribute to humans an angelic identity, or that suggest a belief that humans could be transformed into angels, Fletcher-Louis notes that some texts go beyond granting select humans an angelic glory:
More startling are those statements to the effect that the transformed humanity are “gods”. This is a more persistent and widespread feature of the texts than would permit us to conclude such language is merely an accommodation to Hellenism in which some Jews on the periphery of “orthodoxy” indulged. Already in the biblical texts Moses is “as God [elohim, theos] to Pharaoh” (Exo. 7:1) and the king is hailed as (a) god in Psalm 45:6 (cf. Zech 12:8). Exodus is probably behind Sirach’s ascription of the [elohim] status to Moses in Sirach 45:2. In Jubilees Joseph is acclaimed “god, god, mighty one of God” and in Joseph and Aseneth Jacob is “a god [theos]” to Aseneth.
The existence of god language for humanity within Jewish texts is more remarkable than angel language because of the way in which in the Second Temple period angelology replaced the polytheism of the pre-exilic period. However, just as many biblical and post biblical texts continued to speak of many “gods” (elim, elohim, theoi) with the understanding that these were “angelic” beings on a distinctly lower level of reality than God himself, so it seems there remained the freedom to speak of human as “divine” in similar terms and in certain circumstances. In texts such as those gathered around Moses and Exodus 7:1 there is stressed the fact that Moses’ “divinity” is no independent of that of God himself but is strictly bestowed by the creator of all. This may offend traditional Jewish and Christian views of divinity as a strictly independent, uncreated reality, but it should be remembered that in the ancient world the begetting and creating of gods (theogony) was a much more acceptable notion then than it is now.
The presence of “god” language for humanity in texts as far apart as Sirach, Jubilees, Philo and the rabbis testifies to the degree to which such language was widely spread and accepted in late Second Temple Judaism. (All the Glory of Adam, 85-86)
What is even more significant, in my view, is that Fletcher-Louis places the “principal socio-religious life setting” of these beliefs squarely in the theology of the Jewish Temple and its Priesthood (Ibid., 5).