I Need Help With The King Of Heaven And Earth

Now, this may not come as a big surprise to my theistic friends until they see that I have something quite specific in mind. I’m looking of the earliest Jewish and/or Christian sources for the divine epithet that in translation means rather literally like “King of heaven and earth” or “King of the heavens and the earth.”
To be clear, I’m not looking for something that in translation means “Creator of heaven and earth.” Nor am I looking for half of the epithet perhaps hidden in something like מלך על כל הארץ of Zechariah 14:9 or the other half, מלך שמיא in Daniel 4:34. And while I find the possible echo of the epithet in 1 Chronicles 29:11 abnormally interesting, I’m not really looking for anything like that either. Even though the Mesopotamian epithet šar šamê u ereti spawned this search, that isn’t what I’m looking for just now.
It is possible that what I am looking for is in Tanahk or the Christian New Testament – on Saturday, I would have sworn that it was – but I sure can’t find it. If any of you can, I would be more than happy to face the embarrassment of my failure. To be sure, the idea may (or may not) be in those literatures but for this exercise mere ideas don’t count. I want the phrase itself.
To stimulate your thinking, the earliest Jewish source I have found so far for something at least in the near neighborhood is שתמליכהו בשמים ובארץ in the Jerusalem Talmud, for example, y. Zera 1a, and that formulation in itself makes me shake my head a little. מלךא דשמיא וארעא from the Sephardic mourners’ Kaddish is much closer but very likely more recent. The earliest Christian source I’ve so far found is Sextus Julius Africanus, “Interpretation of the things that happened in Persia through the Incarnation of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ”, ed. by Ignaz von der Hardt in J. C. von Aretin, Beiträge zur Geschichte und Litteratur, II:3 (Munich: 1904), 52-69 and I worry that that source may be spurious. I feel a little better about Leo I, Sermo 3 in Epiphania Domini, 1-3. 5: PL 54, 240-244. I haven’t actually studied any these sources in the way that I should. I’m in the gathering stage right now.
I will appreciate any help with the King of heaven and earth.

3 thoughts on “I Need Help With The King Of Heaven And Earth”

  1. A quick search brings up LXX Judith 9:12:
    δέσποτα τῶν οὐρανῶν καὶ τῆς γῆς
    “lord/king of heaven and earth”
    This is just an electronic search, I haven’t looked at a critical edition to see the sources.

  2. Thanks Brooke! δέσποτα – Hummm. Would this ever translate מלך? While this phrase is abnormally interesting, I wonder if we have anything more here than a “good trick” with neither literary nor cultural connection with the Akkadian divine epithet. But then the larger literary context is Assyrian hegemony and at least one MS, Alexandrinus, reads Βασιλευς. Hummm!

  3. Good catch: I’ve got δεσποτης translating אדון, אדוני, אלוה, יהוה, משל. And that’s it. (“But…but…Alexandrinus!” I add, supportively.)

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