why seventh heaven?

I was watching the Cosby Show the other day and Cliff made the remark that he was in “seventh heaven.” I understand what it means to be in “seventh heaven,” but where did this expression come from? What’s the first six heavens? Thanks.

The Seven Levels of Heaven are a tenet of Muslim theology:

While we’re at it, what’s “cloud nine”?

Cursory Googling suggests that “cloud nine” is a mystery on par with “the whole nine yards”.

The “seventh heaven” may also be associated with Gnostic theology that assigns sacred significance to the geocentric astronomical concept of concentric spheres for the seven known planets, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn:

The question of possible Gnostic influence on some early Muslim writings, perhaps via Sabian teachings, is interesting but I know very little about it.

I think the idea probably originates with the Greek philosophical idea of seven “planets”: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn.

In Jewish and Christian thought, there doesn’t seem to have been a consistent mythology of the heavens. Paul says he knows “a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven” (2 Cor 12:2). According to 2 Enoch , God is in the tenth heaven.

From the Johnny Dollar show

Here’s a progression of different levels of clouds and when they first appear in print.

1935–cloud eight
1954–cloud seven
1956–cloud thirty-nine
1956–cloud seven
1957–cloud nine

These are from the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang.

A fairly modern expression.

“Seventh Heaven” seems to appear in English in British writing around the early 1800’s.

Dante used the notion of a 7-tiered heaven in *The Divine Comedy * in 1300.

Each tier corresponded to one of the planetary spheres in the Ptolemaic model of the universe.

Though Dante was obviously influenced by the Ptolemaic model, his Paradiso is composed of nine heavens. Ten if you count the Empyrean. They are, in order, 1)Moon, 2)Mercury, 3)Venus, 4)Sun, 5)Mars, 6)Jupiter, 7)Saturn, 8)Starry Heaven, 9)Crystaline Heaven. And then there’s the Empyrean, which surrounds all and is the home of God.

In other words, I don’t think Dante has anything to do with the etymology of “Seventh Heaven”. People who use the phrase aren’t saying “I’m so happy, I feel like I’m on Saturn!”

The notion of multiple levels of heaven is an old idea that predates both Islam and Christianity. For example, if you read very carefully, keeping the other Gospels’ ideas from interfering, Paul’s Christology has Christ descending from a higher level to level one (the lowest sphere of heaven, but still above our earthly realm), where He fulfilled his role of Savior, then returned to the Seventh Heaven (or possibly above), having never descended all the way to earth.

What happened on Earth also happened in the lowest Heaven, at least symbolically.

Great story, but unless I missed something, I read the entire thing with no mention of ‘cloud nine’. It wasn’t till I Googled ‘Johnny Dollar Cloud Nine’ that I found out the answer. (Every time JD is knocked out, he goes to ‘cloud nine’.)