“Two Powers in Heaven” is Back!
Surely one of the most significant books for the study of Christian origins of the last 40 years is by the later Alan F. Segal, Two Powers in Heaven. Early Rabbinic Reports About Christianity and Gnosticism, SJLA, 25 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1977). Segal probed early rabbinic references to Jewish “heretics” (“minim”) who were perceived as holding to two divine figures, thus violating the traditional Jewish concern for the uniqueness of the one God. The book was originally a limited-run, expensive hardback, and for some time has been difficult to acquire. The great news is that it is now available in a modestly priced softcover reprint thanks to Baylor University Press. You can see the item in the BUP online catalogue here.
In an analysis that I found (and still find) persuasive, Segal identified two types of such “heretics” in these rabbinic reports: (1) an earlier type in which two “complementary” divine figures are involved, and (2) a later type in which two opposing divine figures are pictured. Segal cogently proposed that the latter type was likely Jewish “gnostics”, who referred to a good/high deity and an inferior/evil creator-deity (“demiurge”), and that the earlier type was likely Jewish Christians, who pictured Jesus as sharing divine glory and status with “God” (“the Father”).
For any scholar seriously interested in the questions about the emergence of early Jesus-devotion, and particularly the ancient Jewish context, Segal’s book remains highly important. (Yes, Segal was a personal friend, but I stand by the judgment that this book is as signficant as I’ve indicated.)