In The Mystery of God: Early Jewish Mysticism and the New Testament
, C. C. Rowland and Christopher R. A. Morray-Jones see a link between NT beliefs and the Ascension of Isaiah on one hand, and the Ascension of Isaiah and gnosticism on the other. For example, the authors see a kind of major dualism expressed in alienation of the highest heavens from lower ones in Ascension of Isaiah, where God says about them in Chp. 10:
13. For they have denied Me and said: "We alone are and there is none beside us."
A dualistic outlook becomes most explicit in 10:13 where the lower powers in heaven utter the cry so typical of the Demiurge in any Gnostic texts: 'we alone are and there is none beside us' (eg. Hypostasis of the Archons 141:22; Apoc. John 59:20, cf. Isa 45:22). Here within the framework of an apocalypse we have every indication of the rudiments of that dualistic theology which was to become so characteristic of the fully fledged Gnostic systems of the second and third centuries.
The writers point to Isaiah 45 as a comparison, which says: "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other."
They also say that they don't see this kind of thing as gnosticism infiltrating Jewish apocalyptic thought like what is in Asc. Isaiah.
They see the work as docetic:
"there is every indication that this event[the nativity] is interpreted in a docetic mannter. In 9:13 the angel ...speaks thus of the descent of the Beloved: ...'...he had descended and become like you in appearance and they[the lower heavenly beings] will think that he is flesh and a man.' ... Mary was pregnant for only two months before the birth takes place. There are no labour pains... Thus he sucked the breast merely so that 'he would not be recognized' (11:17)... By disguising himself as a human being the Beloved thereby escaped the attention of the heavenly powers (11:16)Do you agree that this implies Docetism?
The writers say that apocalyptic writings are different from gnosticism because "they usually keep a firm grasp on the concept of divine sovereignty" like in Asc. Isaiah "where the soteriology functions on the basis of the ultimate recognition by the lower powers of the sovereignty of the Beloved.
In The Ascension of Isaiah and Docetic Christology
, Darrell D. Hannah proposes that Asc. Isaiah is not Docetic.https://www.jstor.org/stable/1584546?seq=3#page_scan_tab_contents
If parallels are sought for this ['he sucked the breast like an infant .... that he might not be recognized' ~ Asc. Isaiah] there are much closer ones than .... angelic docetism.
He points to Clement Alexandrine saying that Christ ate food to keep people away from the false teaching of Docetism:
in the case of the saviour it were ludicrous .... that the body as a body demanded the necessary aids in order to its duration. For He ate, not for the sake of the body, which was kept together by a holy enegery, but in order that it might not enter into the minds of those who were with Him to entertain a different opinion of Him; in like manner as certainly some afterwards supposed that He appeared in a phantasmal shape
Clement Alexandrine, Stromata
That's curious. Jesus didn't need food because of his divinity, but just did it to show his humanity?
Hannah adds: "Current scholarhip is agreed that Clement was no docetist", noting how in the passage above Clement A. opposes Docetism directly.
Hannah notes how in each of the lower heavens, Christ appears only as an angel and the demons don't recognize him, and so in that sense at times Christ was able to assume an appearance different from his divine reality. Hannah sees a relationship to the 2nd c. AD "Epistula Apostolorum", an anti-docetic work where Jesus says: "as I was about to come down from the Father of all.... I was in the heavens, and I passed by the angels and archangels in their form, as if I were one of them among the dominions and powers".
Hannah translates the blue words, which Rowland finds Docetic, as: "he has descended and become like you in form, and they will think he is flesh and a man". Hannah comments:
In 3:13 we find reference to the Beloved's transformation as well as the statement "and the form into which he must be transformed, the form of a man.
He notes that taking on something's form could mean linguistically that it really is such a being. Further, Hannah argues that since the suffering and death of Jesus was seen as real by the author of the Ascension of Isaiah, then the birth was seen as real too.
Hannah says that since Beliar/Satan is said in Asc. Isaiah to take on the Antichrist Nero's form, it suggests that in such a case, Satan became the person of a man by possession, rather than by mere appearance. Since Beliar was an anti-Christ and became a real person, then the Christ for whom he is a foil would be a real person too.
I suppose that if one denies that Asc. Isaiah is docetic, one would think that the phrase he uses is still easily misleading - "become like you in form, and they will think he is flesh and a man" - as if they are only thinking
that he is flesh. My guess is that Hannah is right though. After all, my initial sense was that the Epistle to the Laodiceans denied His humanity when it said: "Paul an Apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ