Heaven in Judaism
Shamayim (שָׁמַיִם), the Hebrew word for "heaven" (literally heavens, plural), denotes one component of the three-part cosmos, the other elements being erets (the earth) and sheol (the underworld). Shamayim is the dwelling place of God and other heavenly beings, erets is the home of the living and sheol is the realm of the dead. and, in post-Hebrew Bible literature (including the Christian New Testament), the abode of the righteous dead.
The Biblical authors pictured the earth as a flat disk floating in water, with the heavens above and the underworld below. The raqiya (firmament), a solid inverted bowl above the earth, coloured blue by the cosmic ocean, kept the waters above the earth from flooding the world. From about 300 BCE the three-tiered cosmos was largely replaced by a newer Greek model which saw the earth as a sphere at the centre of a set of seven concentric heavens, one for each visible planet plus the sun and moon, with the realm of God in an eighth and highest heaven, but although several Jewish works from this period have multiple heavens, as do some New Testament works, none has exactly the formal Greek system.
In the course of the 1st millennium CE Jewish scholars developed an elaborate system of Seven Heavens, their names being Vilon (וִילוֹן) or Araphel (עֲרָפֶל), Raqia (רָקִיעַ), Shehaqim (שְׁחָקִים), Zebul (זִבּוּל), Maon (מִעוּן), Makon (מִכּוּן), and Araboth (עֲרֵבוּת), where the ophanim, the seraphim, and the hayyoth and the throne of the Lord are located. Medieval 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.
- Aune, David E. (2003). "Cosmology". Westminster Dictionary of the New Testament and Early Christian Literature. Westminster John Knox Press.
- Fretheim, Terence E. (2003). "Heaven(s)". In Gowan, Donald E. The Westminster theological wordbook of the Bible. Westminster University Press.
- Pennington, Jonathan T. (2007). Heaven and earth in the Gospel of Matthew. Brill.