Seven Heavens

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In religious or mythological cosmology, the seven heavens refer to the seven divisions of the Heaven, the abode of immortal beings, or the visible sky, the expanse containing the Sun, Moon and the stars.[1] This concept dates back to ancient Mesopotamian religions and similar concept is also found in some Indian religions such as Hinduism, and in some Abrahamic religions such as Judaism, Islam and Catholicism,[2] and also in some minor religions such as Hermeticism and Gnosticism. Some of these traditions also have concept of seven earths or seven underworlds, which also includes Jainism.

Mesopotamian religion[edit]

The idea of seven heavens was originated in ancient Mesopotamia. It was probably a symbolic concept.[3] In Sumerian language, the words for heaven (or sky) and earth are An and Ki.[4] Sumerian incantations of the late second millennium BCE make references to seven heavens and seven earths. One such incantation is: "an-imin-bi ki-imin-bi" (the heavens are seven, the earths are seven.)[1][5]

The notion of seven heavens may have been derived from the "magical" properties of the number seven, like the seven demons or the seven thrones. The number seven appears frequently in Babylonian magical rituals.[6] The seven Jewish and the seven Islamic heavens may have had their origin in Babylonian astronomy.[1]

In general, heaven is not a place for humans in Mesopotamian religion. As Gilgamesh says to his friend Enkidu, in the Epic of Gilgamesh: "Who can go up to heaven, my friend? Only the gods dwell with Shamash forever". Along with the idea of seven heavens, the idea of three heavens was also common in ancient Mesopotamia.[7]

Hinduism[edit]

According to some Puranas, the Brahmanda is divided into fourteen worlds. Among these worlds, seven are upper worlds which constitute of Bhuloka (the Earth), Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, Maharloka, Janarloka, Tapoloka and Satyaloka, and seven are lower worlds which constitute of Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala and Patala.[8]

Judaism[edit]

According to the Talmud, the universe is made of seven heavens (Shamayim)[9]

The Jewish Merkavah and Heichalot literature was devoted to discussing the details of these heavens, sometimes in connection with traditions relating to Enoch, such as the Third Book of Enoch.[10]

Islam[edit]

A depiction of "Muhammed's Paradise". A Persian miniature from The History of Mohammed.

The Qur'an frequently mentions the existence of seven samaawat (سماوات), plural of samaa'a (سماء), which is customarily translated as 'heaven'. The word is cognate to Hebrew shamayim (שמים). Some of the verses in which Qur'an mentions seven samaawat,[11] are as follows:

"So He completed them as seven firmaments in two Days, and He assigned to each heaven its duty and command. And We adorned the lower heaven with lights, and (provided it) with guard. Such is the Decree of (Him) the Exalted in Might, Full of Knowledge."[Quran 41:12 (Yusuf Ali)]

"Allah is He Who created seven Firmaments and of the earth a similar number. Through the midst of them (all) descends His Command: that ye may know that Allah has power over all things, and that Allah comprehends, all things in (His) Knowledge."[Quran 65:12 (Yusuf Ali)]

"See ye not how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another,"[Quran 71:15 (Yusuf Ali)]

According to some hadiths, the highest level of Jannah is firdaws, [12] and Sidrat al-Muntaha, a Lote tree, marks the end of the seventh heaven.

Seven-level underworlds[edit]

A cloth painting depicting seven levels of Jain hell. Left panel depicts the demi-god and his animal vehicle presiding over the each hell.
  • According to Jain cosmology, there are seven levels of Naraka or hell. These are further divided into 8,400,000 other hellish locations.[13]
  • Inanna visited the Sumerian 7-gated underworld.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Hetherington, Norriss S. (2014) [1st. pub. 1993]. Encyclopedia of Cosmology (Routledge Revivals) : Historical, Philosophical, and Scientific Foundations of Modern Cosmology. Routledge. p. 267, 401. ISBN 1-3065-8055-2. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  2. ^ Origen, De principiis III,2,1
  3. ^ Barnard, Jody A. (2012). The Mysticism of Hebrews: Exploring the Role of Jewish Apocalyptic Mysticism in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Mohr Siebeck. p. 62. ISBN 3-1615-1881-0. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  4. ^ "Sumerian Words And Their English Translation". History World. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Horowitz, Wayne (1998). Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography. Eisenbrauns. p. 208. ISBN 0-9314-6499-4. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  6. ^ Collins, Adela Yarbro (2000). Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apoocalypticism. Brill. ISBN 9-0041-1927-2. 
  7. ^ Lange, Armin; Tov, Emanuel; Weigold, Matthias (2011). The Dead Sea Scrolls in Context: Integrating the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Study of Ancient Texts, Languages, and Cultures. Leiden: Brill. p. 808. ISBN 9-0041-8903-3. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  8. ^ Dalal, Roshan (2010). Hinduism:An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. p. 224. ISBN 0-1434-1421-6. 
  9. ^ "Angelology". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  10. ^ Scholem, Gershom (1965). Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and the Talmudic Tradition. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America. OCLC 635020. 
  11. ^ Pickthall, M.M.; Eliasi, M.A.H. (1999). The Holy Qur'an (Transliteration in Roman Script). Laurier Books Ltd. ISBN 8-1873-8507-3. 
  12. ^ Rustomji, Nerina (2013). The Garden and the Fire: Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-2315-1183-3. 
  13. ^ Jansma, Rudi; Jain, Sneh Rani (2006). Introduction to Jainism. Prakrit Bharti Academy. ISBN 8189698095. 

References[edit]

  • Davidson, Gustav. Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen Angels. New York: The Free Press, 1967 (reprinted 1994). ISBN 0-02-907052-X.
  • Ginzberg, Louis. Henrietta Szold (trans.). The Legends of the Jews. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909–38. ISBN 0-8018-5890-9.

External links[edit]