This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2014) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
In religious or mythological cosmology, the seven heavens refer to seven levels or divisions of the Heavens (Heaven). The concept, also found in the ancient Mesopotamian religions, can be found in Judaism and Islam; a similar concept is also found in some Indian religions such as Hinduism. Some of these traditions, including Jainism, also have a concept of seven earths or seven underworlds both with the metaphysical realms of deities and with observed celestial bodies such as the classical planets and fixed stars. The seven heavens corresponds to the seven luminaires/classical planets known to antiquity. Ancient observers noticed that these heavenly objects (the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) moved at different paces in the sky both from each other and from the fixed stars beyond them. Unlike comets, which appeared in the sky with no warning, they did move in regular patterns that could be predicted. They also observed that objects in the sky influenced objects on earth - As Above, So Below - as when movements of the sun affect the behavior of plants or movements of the moon affect ocean tides. Others believe the seven heavens are related to the seven stars of Orion, the Big Dipper, Little Dipper and the Pleaides/Seven Sisters according to ancient western astrology.
The concept of seven heavens as developed in ancient Mesopotamia symbolised both physical and metaphysical concepts. In the Sumerian language, the words for heavens (or sky) and earth are An and Ki. The ancient Mesopotamians regarded the sky as a series of domes (usually three, but sometimes seven) covering the flat earth.:180 Each dome was made of a different kind of precious stone.:203 The lowest dome of the heavens was made of jasper and was the home of the stars. The middle dome of heaven was made of saggilmut stone and was the abode of the Igigi. The highest and outermost dome of the heavens was made of luludānītu stone and was personified as An, the god of the sky. The celestial bodies were equated with specific deities as well.:203 The planet Venus was believed to be Inanna, the goddess of love, sex, and war.:108–109:203 The sun was her brother Utu, the god of justice,:203 and the moon was their father Nanna.:203 Ordinary mortals could not go to the heavens because it was the abode of the gods alone. Instead, after a person died, his or her soul went to Kur (later known as Irkalla), a dark shadowy underworld, located deep below the surface of the earth. 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.)
The understanding that the heavens can influence things on earth lent heavenly, magical properties to the number seven itself, as in stories of seven demons, seven churches, seven spirits, or seven thrones. The number seven appears frequently in Babylonian magical rituals. The seven Jewish and the seven Islamic heavens may have had their origin in Babylonian astronomy.
In general, the heavens 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 the heavens, 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.
- Vilon (וילון), Also see (Isa 40:22)
- Raki'a (רקיע), Also see (Gen 1:17)
- Shehaqim (שחקים), See (Ps 78:23, Midr. Teh. to Ps. xix. 7)
- Zebul (זבול), See (Isa 63:15, 1 Kings 8:13)
- Ma'on (מעון), See (Deut 26:15, Ps 42:9)
- Machon (מכון), See (1 Kings 8:39, Deut 28:12)
- Araboth (ערבות), The seventh Heaven where ofanim, the seraphim, and the hayyoth and the Throne of God are located.
The Second Book of Enoch, also written in the first century CE, describes the mystical ascent of the patriarch Enoch through a hierarchy of Ten Heavens. Enoch passes through the Garden of Eden in the Third Heaven on his way to meet the Lord face-to-face in the Tenth (chapter 22). Along the way he encounters vividly described populations of angels who torment wrongdoers; he sees homes, olive oil, and flowers.
I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.
The description is usually taken as an oblique reference by the author to himself. The passage appears to reflect first-century beliefs among Jews and Christians that the realm of Paradise existed in a different heaven than the highest one—an impression that may find support in the original Greek wording (closer to "caught away" than "caught up").
In the second century, Irenaeus also knows seven heavens (see his Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching 9; cf. Against Heresies 1.5.2).
Over the course of the Middle Ages, Christian thinkers expanded the ancient Mesopotamian seven-heaven model into a system of ten heavens. This cosmology, taught in the first European universities by the Scholastics, reached its supreme literary expression in The Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheri.
The Quran and Hadith frequently mention the existence of seven samāwāt (سماوات), the plural of samāʾ (سماء), meaning 'heaven, sky, celestial sphere', and cognate with Hebrew shamāyim (שמים). Some of the verses in the Quran mentioning the samaawat are Quran 41:12, Quran 65:12 and Quran 71:15.
There are two interpretations of using the number "seven". One viewpoint is that the number "seven" here simply means "many" and is not to be taken literally (the number is often used to imply that in the Arabic language). But many other commentators use the number literally.
One modern interpretation of "heavens" is that all the stars and galaxies (including the Milky Way) are all part of the "first heaven", and "beyond that six still bigger worlds are there," which have yet to be discovered by scientists.
In other sources, the concept is presented in metaphorical terms. Each of the seven heavens is depicted as being composed of a different material, and Islamic prophets are resident in each.
- The first heaven is described as being made of water and is the home of Adam and Eve, as well as the angels of each star. According to some narratives, Muhammad encountered the angel Habib here.
- The second heaven is described as being made of white pearls and is the home of Yahya (John the Baptist) and Isa (Jesus).
- The third heaven is described as being made of iron (alternatively pearls or other dazzling stones); Joseph and the Angel of Death (named Azrael) are resident there.
- The fourth heaven is described as being made of brass (alternatively white gold); Idris (conventionally identified with Enoch) and the "Angel of Tears" resides there.
- The fifth heaven is described as being made of silver; Aaron holds court over this heaven. Sometimes, the guardian of hellfire is assigned to this place.
- The sixth heaven is described as being composed of gold (alternatively garnets and rubies); Moses can be found here.
- The seventh heaven, which borrows some concepts from its Jewish counterpart, is depicted as being composed of divine light incomprehensible to the mortal man (alternatively emerald). Abraham is a resident there and Sidrat al-Muntaha, a large enigmatic Lote tree, marks the end of the seventh heaven and the utmost extremity for all of God's creatures and heavenly knowledge.
According to some Puranas, the Brahmanda is divided into fourteen worlds. Seven are upper worlds, Bhuloka (the Earth), Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, Maharloka, Janarloka, Tapoloka and Satyaloka, and seven are lower worlds, Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala and Patala.
- Origen, De principiis III,2,1
- Hetherington, Norriss S. (2014) [1st. pub. 1993]. Encyclopedia of Cosmology (Routledge Revivals) : Historical, Philosophical, and Scientific Foundations of Modern Cosmology. Routledge. pp. 267, 401. ISBN 1-306-58055-2. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- Campbell, Robert. "Aristotle's 'On the Heavens'". Ancient History Encyclopaedia.
- 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 3-16-151881-0. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- "Sumerian Words And Their English Translation". History World. Retrieved 2 June 2015.
- Nemet-Nejat, Karen Rhea (1998), Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia, Daily Life, Greenwood, ISBN 978-0313294976
- Lambert, W. G. (2016). George, A. R.; Oshima, T. M. (eds.). Ancient Mesopotamian Religion and Mythology: Selected Essays. Orientalische Religionen in der Antike. 15. Tuebingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck. p. 118. ISBN 978-3-16-153674-8.
- Stephens, Kathryn (2013), "An/Anu (god): Mesopotamian sky-god, one of the supreme deities; known as An in Sumerian and Anu in Akkadian", Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, University of Pennsylvania Museum
- Black, Jeremy; Green, Anthony (1992), Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary, The British Museum Press, ISBN 0-7141-1705-6
- Wright, J. Edward (2000). The Early History of Heaven. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 29. ISBN 0-19-513009-X.
- Choksi, M. (2014), "Ancient Mesopotamian Beliefs in the Afterlife", Ancient History Encyclopedia, ancient.eu
- Horowitz, Wayne (1998). Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography. Eisenbrauns. p. 208. ISBN 0-931464-99-4. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- Collins, Adela Yarbro (2000). Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apoocalypticism. Brill. ISBN 90-04-11927-2.
- 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 90-04-18903-3. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
- "Angelology". Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
- Scholem, Gershom (1965). Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and the Talmudic Tradition. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America. OCLC 635020.
- Edward Langton (11 July 2014). Good and Evil Spirits: A Study of the Jewish and Christian Doctrine, Its Origin and Development. Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 248–. ISBN 978-1-62564-991-1.
- E. W. Bullinger A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek "2, 14, To this "Third heaven" and "Paradise" Paul was caught away, 2 Cor. xii. 2, 4, (not "up", see under "catch") in "visions and revelations of the Lord", 2 Cor. xii. 1. One catching away—with a double revelation of the New heaven and the..."
- Pickthall, M.M.; Eliasi, M.A.H. (1999). The Holy Qur'an (Transliteration in Roman Script). Laurier Books Ltd. ISBN 81-87385-07-3.
- "What Is Meant By ‘Seven Heavens’?," Al-Islam.org
- name="State University of New York Press">Colby, Frederick S (2008). Narrating Muhammad's Night Journey: Tracing the Development of the Ibn 'Abbas Ascension Discourse. State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-7518-8.
- Richard Webster. "Living in Your Soul's Light: Understanding Your Eternal Self". Missing or empty
- Peter D'Epiro & Mary Desmond Pinkowish (1998). What Are the Seven Wonders of the World? And 100 Other Great Cultural Lists: Fully Explained. Doubleday. pp. 219–220. ISBN 0-385-49062-3.
- Abdullah, Yusuf Ali (1946) The Holy Qur-an: Text, Translation and Commentary, Qatar National Printing Press. p. 1139,n.3814
- Dalal, Roshan (2010). Hinduism:An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. p. 224. ISBN 0-14-341421-6.
- Jansma, Rudi; Jain, Sneh Rani (2006). Introduction to Jainism. Prakrit Bharti Academy. ISBN 81-89698-09-5.
Learning materials related to Seven Heavens at Wikiversity