[This article was contributed by Apollos]
Since a bit of a discussion has sprung up about the nature of heaven under Meleti’s recent article on Other Sheep/Great Crowd, I thought I’d pose a question that has recently come to my mind.
We do not have very much detail about what heaven is like. It is true we are given visions pertaining specifically to the glory of Jehovah, and much has been made of this in the April 2013 study edition of the Watchtower.
The vision of Ezekiel 1 has for some time been described to us as a “celestial chariot” representing Jehovah’s heavenly organization. The idea is that we are privileged to get a view of his heavenly organization, which in turn should build appreciation for being part of his earthly organization. It prompted me to read the account again to try and understand the vision better and how we get to its meaning.
As I read it (and I did so several times) I could not see without preconception how we get to the concept of a “chariot” being ridden – at least not in the sense that I’ve ever understood a chariot. Yes there are wheels involved, and somewhere above the wheels and the cherubs there is a firmament, on top of which sits Jehovah on his throne. But to be riding a chariot would there not have to be some sort of indication that the throne and firmament moved with the wheels? Even having read it several times it is possible I am missing something since the text is not the easiest to absorb.
What interests me is that when trying to find some independent support for the idea I found that the concept of gods riding celestial chariots could be traced to other ancient religious beliefs. That makes me think that it would be inappropriate to label Ezekiel’s vision as such unless that is truly what is being described.
Here is one set of examples from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_deity
A “sun chariot” is a mythological representation of the sun riding in a chariot. The concept is younger than that of the solar barge, and typically Indo-European, corresponding with the Indo-European expansion after the invention of the chariot in the 2nd millennium BC.
- In Norse mythology, the chariot of the goddess Sól, drawn by Arvak and Alsvid. The Trundholm sun chariot dates to the Nordic Bronze Age, more than 2,500 years earlier than the Norse myth, but is often associated with it.
- Greek Helios riding in a chariot, (see also Phaëton)
- Sol Invictus depicted riding a quadriga on the reverse of a Roman coin.
- Vedic Surya riding in a chariot drawn by seven horses
Of course Satan often counterfeits that which is real, so we have to tread carefully. If Ezekiel’s vision can genuinely be shown to be depicting God riding a chariot then so be it. We could conclude that other myths are Satan’s attempt to confuse that which is true. But this is not the argument that we apply to the cross, the trinity, the soul, etc. We assume that if a concept is found in paganism then that is where it originated and that it subsequently infiltrated Christianity. Our touchstone therefore becomes the Bible in every case. We must be able to verify independently from scripture any particular truth to ensure that it remains untainted. Can we do so in this case?