Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Exorcism II: A Jewish Ritual Against Demonic Possession

As a follow-up to my earlier entry on demon possession, I have found this exorcism text in Shashon Yesod ha-Olam (Lily, Foundation of the World), a late

[a lilith trapped by a magic circle, as portrayed on an incantation bowl. View it and the full bowl at ccat.sas.upenn.edu/.../Lilith/ancPics.html]

medieval Hebrew magical manual. Still in manuscript form, we are fortunate that the Israeli scholar Jeffrey Chajes has translated it for us:

…[t]o remove a demon from the body of a man or woman, or anything into which a male or female demon has entered…Take an empty flask and a white waxen candle and recite this adjuration in purity:

I adjure you, the pure and holy angels Michael, Gabriel, Shuviel, Ahadriel, Zumtiel, Yechutriel, Zumtziel…by 72 names I adjure you, you all the retinues of [evil] spirits in the world – Be’ail Lachush and all your retinue; Kapkafuni the Queen of Demons and all your retinue; and Agrat bat Malkat and all your retinue, and Zmamit and all your retinue, and those that were made on the eve of the Shabbat [This refers to a rabbinic dictum (Avot 5:6) that demons were spawned on the twilight of the sixth day of creation, though in his translation Chajes cites Tikkunei Zohar for this tradition] – that you bring forth that demon immediately and do not detain the mazzik [destructive spirit] of so-and-so, and tell me his name in this circle [circles are important protection against demons and warlocks - Sefer ha-Chasidim 2, Zera ha-Kodesh, Megillat Setarim] that I have drawn in your honor….Immediately they will tell you his name and the name of the father and the name of his mother aloud [demons procreate - Chag. 16a, Eruv. 18, Alef-Bet ben Sira; knowing the name of a spirit is critical to gaining power over it – Testa. Of Solomon]; do not fear.

Recite this adjuration in such a way:

I adjure you the demon so-and-so, by the utterance of the watchers and the holy ones
[Dan. 4:14] by YHWH God of the Heavens, with these names I adjure you the demon so-and-so, son of so-and-so and so-and-so, that you now enter this flask immediately and immediately the flask will turn red [Chajes reports that bottling up the spirit was commonplace and also appears in Islamic exorcism rituals - the inspiration for "I Dream of Jeanie"]. Immediately say to him these five [divine] names YHW….That demon will immediately cry a great and bitter cry from the great pressure; do not believe him until he swears by YUD HA VAV HA explicitly [more divine names in permutation, thereby binding him to do no further harm]. Then leave him alone and pay him no further heed (Shashon Yesod ha-Olam, translation appears on p. 67 of Chaje’s Between Worlds).

The passage gives a deceptively straightforward description of what will unfold. Later eye-witness accounts of exorcisms inevitably describe an involved struggle, a constant back-and-forth between the spirit and the exorcist until the demon finally submits.

To learn more, consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism :

Barack Obama, Rapture, End of Days, Israel, prophecy, revelation

Monday, March 19, 2007

Jewish Exorcism I: Defeating Demons

[A satyr has his own flute turned against him by his victim, an illustration by E.M. Lilien]

I want to return now to my earlier discussion of evil spirits who torment and possess mortals and examine Jewish traditions of exorcism.

In keeping with the vague description of Saul's torment by an evil spirit in I Samuel, the earliest post-Biblical sources do not make a clear distinction between demonic attack and demonic possession, so the earliest sources that describe driving away demons [1] do not specify whether the spirit is actually physically in control of the victim. As I mentioned in an earlier entry, references in demonic attack in Jewish sources of antiquity most closely associate the demonic with illness and disease, but Jewish sources do not explicitly describe anything we today would describe as a physical "possession." curiously, the only indication we have that Jews believed demons actually seized the body of their victim comes from sources "outside" authoritative Jewish tradition - the Jewish historian Josephus, who gives an accounts of demonic possession in his homeland [Wars 7; Antiquities 8:2,5], and in the Christian gospels (assuming we can rely on them to give us an accurate account of life in 1st Century Eretz Israel), Jesus reportedly exorcised quite a number of people (Mark 5 is a classic). Perhaps the relative silence of Talmuds and Midrash on the topic indicates there was a popular belief in and about possession that our Sages did not approve of. At the very least, demonic possession did not seem to be much of a concern of the Rishonim (the earliest authorities), because rabbinic literature itself gives scant attention to the problem.

Still, we have some tidbits of information. For example, from antiquity there have been Biblical texts considered effective in combating spiritual attack. The classic text in Jewish circles from earliest times (it appears, for example, in a collection of anti-demonic hymns among the Dead Sea Scrolls) to this day is Ps. 91:

1. You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, 2 Say to the LORD, "My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust." 3 God will rescue you from the fowler's snare, from the destroying plague, 4 Will shelter you with pinions, spread wings that you may take refuge; God's faithfulness is a protecting shield. 5 You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness, nor the plague that ravages at noon. 7 Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, near you it shall not come. 8 You need simply watch; the punishment of the wicked you will see. 9 You have the LORD for your refuge; you have made the Most High your stronghold. 10 No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent. 11 For God commands the angels to guard you in all your ways. 12 With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 13 You shall tread upon the asp and the viper, trample the lion and the dragon. 14 Whoever clings to me I will deliver; whoever knows my name I will set on high. 15 All who call upon me I will answer; I will be with them in distress; I will deliver them and give them honor. 16 With length of days I will satisfy them and show them my saving power.

Other texts considered effective have been Pss. 16 and 121, and the Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing, Num. 6:4-7).

To the best of my knowledge, there is no preserved ritual or liturgy for a demonic exorcism of an individual from antiquity. Perhaps the most intriguing source for what an early exorcism might have looked like are the texts that appear on "Demon Bowls" or "Incantation Bowls." These clay cauldrons were covered with spells, symbols, and illustrations. The function of these bowls could vary. Many were apotropaic - they were meant to be preventative protection against spiritual attack of a home and its inhabitants. We can see this from the wording, which often invokes a shotgun-like blanket protection against every conceivable demon, spirit, illness, warlock, witch, curse and/or evil eye. On the other hand, some were clearly formulated to exorcise a demonic force already present in the home. In one such bowl, the exorcism mimics the legal language of a divorce decree:

Be informed herewith that Rabbi Joshua bar Perahia has sent the ban against you....A divorce-writ has come down to us from Heaven, and therein is found written your advisement and your intimidation, in the name of Palsa-Pelisa ["Divorcer-Divorced"],who renders to thee thy divorce and thy separation, your divorces and your separations. Thou, lilith, male lili and female lilith, Hag and Snatcher, be under the ban...of Joshua bar Perahia,who has thus spoken: A divorce-writ has come for you from across the sea.... Hear it and depart from the house and dwelling of this Geyonai bar Mamai, and from Rashnoi his wife, the daughter of Marath.You shall not again appear to them, either in a deram by night or in slumber by day,because you are sealed with the signet fo El-Shaddai,and with the signet of the house of Joshua bar Perahia and by the Seven who are before him. Thou, lilith, male lili and female lilith, Hag and Snatcher, I adjuire you by the Strong One of Abraham, by the Rock of Isaac, by the Shaddai of Jacob, by Yah [is] his name..., by Yah his memorial...I adjure you to turn away from this Geyonai bar Mamai, and from Rashnoi his wife, the daughter of Marath. Your divorce and writ and letter of separation... sent through holy angels... the Hosts of fire in the spheres, the Chariots of El-Panim before him standing, the beasts worshipping in the fire of his throne and in the water... Amen, Amen, Selah, Halleluyah! [Text translated by Raphael Patai and appearing in his The Hebrew Goddess, 1978]

There is no way, given our present knowledge, to know whether this was typical of ancient approaches to exorcism. In all likelihood, there were many methods employed by early Jewish exorcists, from "divorces" to fumigation, sacrifices, purgatives and medicinals, performative rites, and reciting psalms - no doubt often used in combination.

If someone is aware of a detailed account of an ancient Jewish demonic exorcism or of a liturgy of the same, I would be very interested to see it.

In a following entry I will describe exorcisms directed against dybbuk or spirit possession.
[1] "Demon" is a catchall term for the many Hebrew terms for spirits such as sheidim, mazzikim, and lilin (djinns, imps, and night spirits). Yet the word is problematic, because these Hebrew terms do not carry same the infernal, satanic, essence of evil connotation of the English word "demon." While these spirits usually spell trouble for humans, they are as much like fairies as they are like devils. Nevertheless, "fairy" has too mild a connotation in itself. Therefore I choose the word "demon" as a global term for all spirits in Jewish tradition that are not angelic.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Samael: Demon Prince, Consort of Lilith

[Samael/Satan appears before the Divine Presence, in Die Bucher der Bibel by E.M. Lilien]

The derivation of the name of this mightiest of demons is hard to determine. Some say it comes from shamam "desolation," but that seems wrong as the first letter of Samael's name is a sin, not a shin. Others offer that it means "Left hand of God," which is highly suggestive of later Jewish thought on the nature of the demonic, but the relationship between the name and the word s'mol is more an assonance then linguistically justified. Some secondary sources translate it as "Gall of God," evidently associating it with Samael's purported role as the Angel of Death (see below, also see: Angel of Death I: Malach ha-Mavet, Severe Agent of... ), but how this translation is justified linguistically is beyond me [perhaps a reader out there will know]. Whatever the case, Samael has had many and complex incarnations in Jewish literature:

In several rabbinic texts “Samael” is the name of the Angel of Death. At least once in the Zohar he is declared the “shadow of death,” a kind of consort to Death (1:160b).

In other texts he is regarded as synonymous with Satan, but almost as often he is treated as a separate entity (BhM 1:58-61; Ex. R. 21:7). Elsewhere Samael is called “Chief of all the satans” (Deut. R. 11:10; 3 Enoch). (SEE: Did Satan Fall?: The Devil is in the Details )

In Midrash Konen, Samael is the prince of the third gate to Gehenna, the gate that opens on Jerusalem (2:30). One text designates him the guardian angel of Rome, the nemesis of Israel. This springs from a tradition that he is the guardian angel of Esau, the progenitor of Rome (Bereshit Rabbah 77.3; Zohar I:166a).

He sits in the celestial palaces with Satan and Dumiel and plots the overthrow of Israel (SH 8a-b). When he rejoiced over God’s decree that the Ten Martyrs should die at Roman hands, God punished him by afflicting Rome with all the diseases of Egypt.

Samael has made many earthly appearances. In Pirkei de Rabbi Eleazer (13) he is described as the greatest angel in heaven, who out of jealousy over the creation of humanity, decided to tempt Eve. Appearing in the form of the serpent, he actually copulated with her (Targum Jonathan, Gen. 4:1; Zohar 1:37a). It is he, in his role of Esau's guardian angel, who wrestles with Jacob by the river Jabbok (Tanh. Vayishelakh 8; Zohar I:146a).

In the early Kabbalistic work Treatise of the Left Emanation, Samael is the animus of Adam; the evil doppelganger of the first man that came into being with the first human transgression -

"The first prince and accuser, the commander of Jealousy and Enmity...he is called 'evil' not because of his nature but because he desires to unite and intimately mingle with an emanation not of his nature... it is made clear that Samael and Lilith were born as one, similar to the form of Adam and Eve who were also born as one, reflecting what is above. This is the account of Lilith which was received by the Sages in the Secret Knowledge of the Palaces. The Matron Lilith is the mate of Samael. Both of them were born at the same hour in the image of Adam and Eve, intertwined in each other (Excerpt from Early Kabbalah)

As this passage suggests, Jewish mysticism has a dialectic notion of 'evil'; all things emanate from God, so Samael is one of God's "severe agents," yet he grows beyond the attenuated form God intended because he feeds upon the evil we humans do.

The Zohar has the most extensive, if sometimes confusing, descriptions of Samael. The Zohar builds upon the image of Samael found in the Treatise on the Left Emanation: he is the demon king and consort of Lilith; together they are the evil counterparts of Adam and Eve. He is the tempting angel from whom the Evil Inclination emanates. When he "copulates" with Lilith, the male and female principles of the “left side emanation” are united and achieve their full potential and demon souls are spawned, so he is in effect the evil left-side counterpart of Tiferet in the Sefirotic system.

In both Zohar and later Chasidic thought Samael is increasingly de-personalized, becoming the organizing force of the kelipot, the garments of evil that enshroud the divine sparks contained in all things.

Learn More!

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism is available at Amazon:


Barack Obama, Rapture, End of Days, Israel, prophecy, revelation

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Another nice review of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism appeared on the Starz wbsite:

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis

I feel like this spiritually advanced research book opened up a whole new world for me. I have been a seeker for a long time and have heard Jewish phrases and tradition along the way, but have felt very much like an outsider and you can imagine my delight when I opened the pages of this book and my thirst was finally quenched. I found myself learning and nodding all the way through.
This encyclopedia is well displayed, with meaningful descriptions and cross referencing it was easy to flip from one topic to another. I used the text in 2 basic ways and both worked beautifully. I was able to take topics and words I had heard before and found them easily and then I also had an enjoyable time starting at the beginning and reading this awesome find like it was a novel. I would recommend this impressive labor of love to seekers everywhere who are looking for a deeper understanding of Thirty-five Hundred years of accumulated hidden wisdom.

Riki Frahmann

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Dybbuk: Spirit Possession

What is a Dybbuk (sometimes spelled Dibuk, or Dibbuk - also referred to as a ruach ra or ibbur ra)? The word means "clinging" and in the metaphysics of Jewish reincarnation (gilgul), it is a ghost or disembodied soul that is able to penetrate a living body and interfere with the normal consciousness of the possessed person.

[Scene from the Yiddish language film, Der Dibuk, found on the Brandais University website, at www.brandeis.edu/.../Catalogue/images/dyb.jpg]

Jewish belief in demonic possession goes back to the Bible (Sam. 16:1-13):

Then the spirit of God left Saul, and an evil spirit from God terrified him….

Taking their cue from this report of King Saul's debilitating haunting, most Jewish sources that discuss demonic possession focus on the assumption that demons primarily inflict illness, so early Jewish amulets and exorcisms were generally concerned with medicinal treatments.

The idea that a soul of the dead could possess a person really gets its first airing in medieval Kabbalah. The Zohar, for example, offers accounts of the Biblical figures Nadav and Avihu, who having died prematurely for an offense, temporarily possess their nephew Pinchas in order to effect a tikkun, a rectification of their souls.

If there is even one organ in which the Holy One does not dwell, then he [the person] will be brought back into the world of reincarnation because of this organ, until he becomes perfected in his parts, that all of them may be perfect in the image of God. (Tikkunei Zohar)

The Zohar limits examples of this phenomena to the ancient past. And so far as I can tell, the first contemporary accounts of spirit possession do not appear for another 200 + years (Yoram Bilu cites the 16th Cent. as the period when dybbuk cases began). In most of these accounts, the dybbuk is a soul whose offenses have brought some intolerable punishment or caused the soul to wander, unable to complete its next cycle of transmigration. Occupying a living person either brings some relief from its torments or serves the dybbuk as an instrument to correct the offenses it committed while alive.

Eventually, many tracts documented incidents of dybbuk possession, such as Sefer ha-Hezyonot, Sha'ar Ruach ha-Kodeshm, Shalshelet ha-Kabbalah, Emek ha-Melekh, Maaseh Buch, and Sefer Nishmat Hayyim:

The spirit which took possession of a young man was the spirit of one who, in his life, had sinned egregiously and that thereafter could find no peace. It had entered the youth’s body after having been forced to flee its previous abode, the body of a cow which was about to be slaughtered (Maaseh Buch).

Even though the spirit is in need of tikkun, its evil nature leads it to act out and torture its victim in sundry ways:

[The dybbuk named] Samuel raised her [the victim's] legs and lowered them one after the other, with great speed, time and again. And with those movements, which he made with great strength, the blanket that was upon her fell off her feet and thighs, and she uncovered and humiliated herself before everyone's eyes. They came close to cover her thighs; but she had no self-consciousness in the course of any of this. Those who were acquainted with her knew of her great modesty...(The Great Event in Safed, Sec. 21, as translated in J.H. Chajes' "City of the Dead.")

The resolution of this affliction is an exorcism, usually performed by a rabbi, kabbalist, or other recognized spiritual authority. In a later post I will give an outline of such an exorcism and perhaps give a first-hand account from one of these works.

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism is available at Amazon.com:
In two weeks I will be travelling west to do some speaking engagements -

March 19th: Albuquerque, NM "Understanding Jewish Mysticism, Myth, and Magic"
10AM Sunday
Congregation Albert, 3800 Louisiana NE, (505)-883-1818
$10 - breakfast provided Contact Congregation Albert Men's Club for more information

March 20th: Albuquerque, "Witches, Visionaries, and Priestesses: Jewish Women Mystics"
7-8:30PM Monday
Noble Path Books, 120 Amherst NE (Nobhill west of Carlisle, at the corner of Amherst and Campus).

March 24th: Denver, CO "Witches, Dreamers, and Priestesses: Jewish Women Mystics"
5-7PM Saturday Isis Bookstore 5701 E Colfax Ave, Denver CO 80220 - (303) 321-0867

Monday, March 05, 2007

Jewish Reincarnation? Gilgul of the Soul(s)

Scenes from the life of a congregational rabbi, #3: I just had a great experience speaking at a local high school. This school has after-school clubs, and this particular club is the "Interfaith Club." What a concept! Since the eighties, religious groups have been allowed to form "clubs" after hours

["The Floating Clouds" from Die Bucher der Bibel by E.M. Lilien]

in the public schools. But given that America is 80% Christian, effectively that's meant that only Christian religious clubs have the critical mass of students to succeed in most schools. This idea of an interfaith club gives everyone else someplace to belong - I love it.

So anyway, one of the students mentioned he had once heard a Hasidic rabbi speak and that rabbi alluded to reincarnation/transmigration/metempsychosis in Judaism, and the student wondered if that was really true.
Well, yes it is. There is a long standing belief in reincarnation, but largely confined to the mystical traditions of Judaism. The rationalists, such as Maimonides, Crescas, and Albo, either ignored or dismissed this concept. As a result, many modern Jews [we are mostly the children of Maimonides rather than the Zohar] are unaware of this aspect of Jewish metaphysics.

Technically speaking, gigul [reincarnation] and/or ha'atakah [transmigration] is not part of Jewish eschatology (The study of end things) because transmigration of the soul is not the ultimate fate of the soul. Gilgul is what the soul undergoes prior to returning to God at the end of time.

While Kabbalist insist reincarnation is mentioned in the Bible (Eccl. 1:4), that much of Job is really talking about it when it discusses divine justice, and that the entire book of Jonah is actually an allegory for the experience of the transmigrating soul (according to the GR'E), so far as I can see there is no explicit or unambiguous mention of this doctrine in any Jewish literature prior to the Middle Ages. The rationalist Saadia Gaon (10th Cent.) mentions that some Jews believe in reincarnation, but then ridicules the idea (Sefer Emunah v'Daat 6) as absurd. This suggests that the concept had some occult existence in the Jewish world for some time prior to Saadia, but we cannot say for how long with any certainty.

Reincarnation really only gets explicit mention in a Jewish source in the 12th Century, in Sefer ha-Bahir. By the time the Sefer Zohar is composed a century later, an elaborate metaphysic of migrating souls is at last being expounded. For me, the most striking aspect of Jewish reincarnation doctrine is the deft way the Kabbalists interpret and justify certain Biblical commandments, such as halitzah (A widow being required to marry her dead husband's brother), and aspects of Jewish law, such as the requirement for burial rather than cremation, as springing from a need for humans to facilitate the movement of souls from one body to another. According to the Kabbalists, transmigration can involve as few as three (Job 33:29) and as many as a 1000 incarnations. Each incarnation is made necessary because the "soul work" incumbent of every soul has not yet been fulfilled.

Complicating the picture is the Jewish belief that the human soul is poly-psychic, that it is actually composite, being made up of a neshamah ('soul'), ruach ('spirit'), and nefesh ('life force') (to paraphrase Shrek, "It's like an ogre - it has layers"). Each of these elements undergo different fates once they leave the body of the deceased, and different mystics have offered a vast array of schemes as to what happens to what part of each soul. Later works, such as Sha'arei ha-Gilgulim, are complex, almost to the point of unreadablity, in their efforts to make explicit all the possible permutations for the fate(s) of all these soul sparks.

Because of the complex structure of the soul, most people have souls that are composed of soul sparks from several different prior lives. Some writings insist human souls always stay within human bodies (though they may switch gender), while others teach that human souls can migrate into animals, plants, and even inanimate matter (none of which is good, for that make the tikkun, the proper rectification of that soul fragment, harder to achieve).

In a future entry I will discuss how souls can also migrate into those already living and fully ensouled - the concepts of ibbur (spirit impregnation) and dybbuk (spirit possession).
Zal G'mor: To learn more, consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism: http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Word of God: Take two Tablets and call it "Morning"

[A piece of Basalt with the Ten Commandments in paleo-Hebrew found near where I grew up - Los Lunas, New Mexico! From the Ancient Hebrew Center website at www.ancient-hebrew.org/6_18.html]

I was just a speaker at a Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship speaking about the Yetzer ha-Ra. During my presentation, I told the maaseh (tale) from Talmud tractate Yoma about how the Sages trapped the Evil Desire (See: "The Yetzer ha-Ra" entry). In that legend, God drops a tablet from heaven with the word emet [truth] inscribed upon it, which the Sages have to interpret. One perceptive attendee started to ask about how this legend of truth falling from heaven could could be reconciled with Christian thought.

It seems an off-kilter question for a moment, and I was about to say "It can't and doesn't have to be," but then I realized that the motif of God's Word being inscribed in heaven is actually a cross-cultural, trans-religious concept.

The idea of heavenly words of creative power appears early in the Ancient Near East. In Mesopotamian myth there is the Tuppi Shimti, the "Tablet of Destiny." This amulet-like device is worn by the chief god, giving him (or her) supreme and immutable authority over the divine order:

"She [Tiamat] elevated Kingu, made him chief among them [the elder gods]....She gave him the Tuppi Shimti, fastened it upon his chest: As for you, your command will be immutable, [your word] shall endure!"
(Enuma Elisha, tablet 1- based on a translation appearing in The Concept of Fate in Ancient Mesopotamia in the 1st Millennium).

When control of the Tuppi Shimti passes to the younger god Marduk, he acquires the power to create the cosmos, for it is the "bond of supreme power [it holds creation together]...the leashes of the great heavens" (ibid., table 4; K 6177 + 8869, text B). Incidentally, the Tuppi Shimti also seems to be a magical device, or perhaps it is the primordial prism through which magic flows (Bin Shar Dadme, 1, lines 66-69)

Now compare this to the passage in Genesis Rabbah 1:8, which describes the Torah as both God's architect and blueprint for constructing the universe (SEE "Little Lower than Divine" entry) and you can see there is a cognate relationship between the Pagan and Jewish legends of heavenly books of creation.

OK, so, lets keep going - the Tuppi Shimti is a kind of book, but of course in light of the state of ancient Mesopotamian technology, that meant it was a plaque, made either of clay or, more likely, stone. Now, returning to the Jews, think of the Aseret Dibrot, the Ten Commandments - two stone tablets given to Moses from the hand of God (Ex. 32:15-16).

I think it is clear that there is a kind of shared tradition here, or at least a shared motif, this mythic image of the creative Divine word concretized (literally) in a heavenly stone/book. Of course, the stand out and unique aspect of the Jewish version is that the heavenly book/stone is brought down to earth - we eventually get the "Tablet[s] of Destiny," and the creative power which is inherent in it.

Variations of this motif continue to appear in Jewish tradition - There is the rabbinic legend that God created the cosmos by casting a chunk from the Throne of Glory into the Abyss, causing order to coagulate around it (Is. 28:16; Yoma 54b; Mid. Teh. [Buber] 140; Midrash Konen 2:24). This stone became known as the Even ha-Shetiyah, "Foundation Stone." Rabbinic thought sees it as a model of the cosmos:

When God came to create the world, God created it in the same way that a human fetus is created. Just as a human fetus begins in the navel and pushes out in one direction and the other, to all four sides, similarly, God began creating the world from the foundation stone of the Temple, and from there founded the world (Tanhuma, Pekudei 3).
According to some versions, this "stone" was Hokhmah, "Wisdom" (Prov. 3:19). Then there is the stone in the Yoma story, which, keep in mind, is a story about the divine order [Again, the inscribed stone being the "tablet of destiny"?] within creation that eventually passes into [wise] human hands.

So what does all this have to do with the Christian question asked of me? Well, if you consider the Greek mindset, its inclination to elevate the spiritual as prior and superior to the material, then it is clear that the Tuppi Shimti / Aseret Dibrot / Even ha-Shetiyah is still present in Christian thought, it's just presented sans the rock: "In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God, was God...and through him all things came to be...." (John 1:1-3). This "Word," of course, gets its own material existence, later rather than earlier, and not as stone, but as a person - Jesus. This radical revision of the heavenly book/stone strikes me as an intellectual parallel to how Christians also re-worked the Jewish tradition of the Primordial Man (See the earlier entry, "Adam Kadmon"). So in the Christian variation, the Book also comes to earth, but not to be possessed by all men - instead it is embodied in one man. As in the Jewish version, we are supposed to all benefit from it, but only indirectly, through the sole agency of Jesus. Obviously, we Jews prefer the more direct access to divine power that comes through Torah (but I turn polemical, so let's return to congruences).

So the word of God has many - what, "concretizations," "incarnations"...."in-lithic-fications"? - I guess "reifications" is the best way to describe it. Anyway, Pagans, Jews, Christians, we all share the notion that the world-shaping "Divine Word[s]" is more than a concept; it has a deeper, harder, more constructive reality than mere thought - it is thought actualized; heavenly ideas with earthly weight.