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Enoch as Precursor


David W. Suter
Saint Martin's College

(David Suter is Professor of Religious Studies at St. Martin's College in Lacey, Washington, USA.--JRD)

THE LEGEND BEHIND THE MAN. In Biblical and Jewish legend, Enoch is the seventh antediluvian patriarch, the father of Methuselah, grandfather of Lamech, and great-grandfather of Noah. Compared to the other antediluvian patriarchs (and particularly to his son, Methuselah), he is a mere youth, living only 365 years, to be "taken" by God as a consequence of "walking with God" (Genesis 5:21-24). His length of life suggests that he is a solar hero, a detail to be connected to the presentation of a solar calendar in the Astronomical Book attributed to him, and the note that he was "taken" by God develops into material in post-Biblical legend that treats him as an associate of the angels and one able to ascend to the throne of God in the sanctuary of heaven. According to post-Biblical legend, he is the "scribe of righteousness" and inventor of writing. In both the Enoch literature and Jubilees, he is given priestly characteristics, even though he is not a descendant of Levi: in 1 Enoch 13-14, he intercedes for the fallen Watchers before the throne of God in a narrative parallel to the intercession of the archangels before God on behalf of suffering humanity in 1 Enoch 9. In Jubilees 4:25, he is described as offering incense before God in a sanctuary, a priestly office. In 1 Enoch 13 he is also treated as a _promantis_, or medium for oracles. This role fits with his function as "scribe of righteousness," since the literature combines his role as _promantis_, engaging in a ritual of oneiromancy (seeking an oracle through dreams while sleeping beside a sacred spring), with the Hellenistic role of chresmologue, or interpreter (in writing) of oracles, through the use of forms of writing used in mantic ritual to bring the petition before the divinity and to convey the answer to the one who seeks the oracle.

ENOCH AS PSEUDONYM. The Book of Enoch is a collection of writings from the Hellenistic and early Roman periods pseudonomously attributed to Enoch. This book exercised considerable influence in early Judaism and Christianity but fell from favour in Rabbinic Judaism and Christian orthodoxy. It reemerged in the nineteenth century, when it was discovered as a part of the Ethiopic Bible and published. Because of its survival in Ethiopian Christianity, it is know as the Ethiopic Book of Enoch, or 1 Enoch (to distinguish it from the Slavonic Book of Enoch, or 2 Enoch, and the Hebrew Book or Enoch, or 3 Enoch). It has since been discovered in a Greek version in early Christian manuscripts from Egypt and the Chronicle of George Syncellus, and in the 1950s, an Aramaic version was identified in a number of fragmentary manuscripts from Cave 4 at Qumran (published by J. T. Milik in _The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4)_.

Prior to the 1960s 1 Enoch, with its stories of angel marriages, accounts of ascents to heaven and trips through the cosmos, and obsession with a solar calendar, tended to be dismissed as offbeat and peripheral in terms of understanding Judaism of the period -- not to mention early Christianity. However, its discovery amongst the Qumran documents, where it seems to represent an inherited body of literature for the group or groups that produced the distinctive sectarian literature of the Dead Sea Scrolls, has propelled it to the forefront as evidence for the origins both of sectarianism in early Judaism and (since it seems to antecede Daniel in its canonical form) for the origins of apocalypticism. It is in this role of precursor to the Qumran literature, to apocalypticism, and (for that matter) to sectarianism in early Judaism that I wish to examine the Book of Enoch in this lecture.

THE DIVISIONS OF THE BOOK OF ENOCH. Scholars have divided the Ethiopic version of the book into the following sections based on internal literary characteristics:

  • The Book of the Watchers (chapters 1-36)
  • The Similitudes of Enoch (chapters 37-71)
  • The Astronomical Book (chapters 72-82)
  • The Book of Dreams (chapters 83-90)
  • The Epistle of Enoch (chapters 91-108)

Of these sections, the Similitudes (also known as the Parables) is found only in the Ethiopic version, and its apparent absence from the Aramaic version has fuelled debate over its provenance. Milik has argued that it is Byzantine and Christian in origin, comparing it to the Sibylline Oracles. Other scholars, however, have tended not to follow Milik here, treating it as Jewish and belonging to the first century BCE or CE. I have argued that its cosmology, understanding of the mystical ascent, and treatment of the figure of Enoch has characteristics that anticipate the Merkabah literature, Jewish mystical literature (including 3 Enoch) from the early Rabbinic period focusing upon the ascent into the chambers (Hekhaloth) of the seventh heaven to experience the divine throne chariot (Merkabah) of Ezekiel 1-2. Milik has identified among the Enoch literature at Qumran a Book of Giants, which he believes is related to the other four sections present there to form an Enochic "pentateuch" or collection of five books in imitation of the Mosaic Pentateuch. In later Christian versions, he claims, the Book of Giants is replaced by the Similitudes. The Book of Giants, on the other hand, may have survived among the Manichees.

BOOKS AND MANUSCRIPTS AT QUMRAN. Milik's identification of the Book of Giants is of value, but his treatment of the Enochic literature as a pentateuch is as dubious as the provenance he assigns to the Similitudes (the list of manuscripts below will show that only one manuscript, 4QEnc, preserves four identifiable books, while Milik must theorize that the following two manuscripts included the same four books to conclude that there is evidence for a standard collection by 100 BCE that, with the addition of the manuscripts of the Astronomical Book, formed a pentateuch). The Qumran manuscripts give evidence of a diverse body of material being gathered into larger collections. The Book of Giants seems to be a part of one Enoch manuscript, 4QEnc, in addition to several separate manuscripts, while the Astronomical Book is more extensive than what has survived in the Ethiopic version, being copied in its own manuscripts, 4QEnastra-d. The following is a list of the Qumran Enoch manuscripts with an indication of content and the date assigned by Milik based upon his assessment of the paleography and orthography:

  • 4QEna: Book of the Watchers (first half of second century BCE)
  • 4QEnb: Book of the Watchers (middle of second century BCE)
  • 4QEnc: Book of the Watchers, Book of Giants (4QEnGiantsa ), Book of Dreams, Epistle of Enoch (last third of first century BCE)
  • 4QEnd: Milik believes this manuscript to be closely related to 4QEnc, containing the same books and done by a student of the scribe who copied 4QEnc, although only fragments of the Book of the Watchers and the Book of Dreams have survived
  • 4QEne: the Book of the Watchers and the Book of Dreams have survived, although Milik believes that it contained the Book of Giants and the Epistle also (first half of first century BCE)
  • 4QEnf: Book of Dreams (150-125 BCE)
  • 4QEng: Epistle of Enoch (middle of first century BCE)

For an indication of the fragmentary character of these manuscripts, one should note that Milik estimates that, in comparison to the Ethiopic version, 50 percent of the Book of the Watchers is represented by the fragments, 30 percent of the Astronomical Book, 26 percent for the Book of Dreams, and 18 percent for the Epistle, and it seems likely that in giving percentages, he indicates the material covered by the passages preserved prior to their fragmentation. On the other hand, he believes the relationship between the Aramaic version and the subsequent versions to be sufficiently close to use them cautiously in the reconstruction of the Aramaic text. Matthew Black has produced an eclectic translation, useful to the specialist and non-specialist, in _The Book of Enoch or I Enoch: A New English Edition_, in which he reworks some of Milik's reconstructions of the Aramaic version.

THE ASTRONOMICAL BOOK. While the remainder of this lecture will concentrate on the Book of the Watchers and its relation to the Dead Sea Scrolls, a remark concerning the Astronomical Book is in order at this point. Milik dates the earliest manuscript of the Astronomical Book to the late third century BCE and believes that it may be as early as the Persian period in its origin. He also argues that, along with the Testament of Levi and Tobit, the Astronomical Book may be Samaritan in origin, based upon a possible reference to the book in the work of the Jewish historian, Eupolemos (preserved in Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, ix. 17. 2-9), whose History of the Jews was written in the mid second century BCE. R. Doran, the translator of this fragment in Charlesworth, _Old Testament Pseudepigrapha_, questions the identification of the passage from Eupolemos as Samaritan, however. The indication is, at least, that in exploring the origins of the Enochic material, one needs to look to the Astronomical Book as well as the Book of the Watchers. It is also significant that the Astronomical Book puts forth a solar calendar, a central feature of the Qumran literature.

DATING THE BOOK OF THE WATCHERS. The Book of the Watchers Milik dates to the third, and in the case of chapters 6-19, to the fourth century BCE. His starting point is his dating of 4QEna on paleographic and orthographic bases; however, even if one wishes to debate the paleography (which can provide only a relative date at best), there is every indication from the citations of the story of the fall of the Watchers in the Qumran literature and related items (note CD II. 16-17; TLevi 14:1-16:2; 4QAramaicLevia 5 iii 1-8; TNaph 4:1; Jubilees 4:15-26; 5:1-12) that not only is the Book of the Watchers among the earliest non-Biblical literature in the collection (various scholars have treated it as prior to the emergence of the distinctive sectarian literature included in the Scrolls), but also that at an early point it enjoyed the status of a mantra. When coupled with the use of the story of the fall of the Watchers in the Book of Dreams, which must be dated to the Maccabean Revolt given the historical events behind its allegory, a third-century date seems likely for the Book of the Watchers, particularly when one notes the connection of chapters 6-16 to the sanctuary at Dan (and its surrounding region), which appears to have been renovated and expanded under Ptolemy II after falling into disuse during the Persian period (George Nickelsburg, in "Enoch, Levi, and Peter: Recipients of Revelation in Upper Galilee," _JBL_ 100 [1981], pp. 575-600, argues persuasively for the connection of 1 Enoch 6-16 with the upper Jordan valley and the sanctuary at Dan, although his suggestion that the continued association of the region with revelation and visions can be traced to the existence of apocalyptic circles in the area is open to revision, as I will argue below).

Milik relates the journeys of Enoch and their connection to the spice trade (note 1 Enoch 24-25) to the Zenon Papyri, the records of a steward to the finance minister to Ptolemy II, which include itineraries of a journey made by Zenon to the region in 259 BCE and receipts related to the spice trade. All in all, it seems reasonable to me to date the Book of the Watchers to the mid third century BCE, but not necessarily as early as the Persian period. I find Milik's effort to argue that Genesis 6:1-4 is derived from the Book of the Watchers, instead of the other way around, unlikely, given the treatment of the sons of the gods in Genesis as divine beings and in the Book of the Watchers as angels, created beings representing a new way of thinking about the heavenly world (note the comments of Javier Teixidor, _The Pagan God_, pp. 14-15 and 38, on this transformation in pagan religiosity and its implications for 1 Enoch).

THE BOOK OF THE WATCHERS: PRECURSOR OF APOCALYPTIC. If one can date the Book of the Watchers to the third century BCE on the basis of its preservation in the Qumran manuscripts, that means as an apocalypse it is earlier than Daniel, dated by scholars to the Maccabean revolt and traditionally the centrepiece of discussions of the origins of apocalypticism. While Daniel feeds into theories about the nature of apocalypticism based on social distortion created by the Hellenistic reform and the efforts of Antiochus IV Epiphanes to suppress Judaism, the Book of the Watchers antedates the Hellenistic reform and does not support the argument that the Hellenistic reform spawns, among other things, the creation of apocalyptic literature (although it may shape it in one way or another).

Michael Stone (in _Scriptures, Sects, and Visions_) has argued that the distinct theology of Enoch involving revelations of cosmological secrets represents the earliest appearance of a form of esoteric wisdom in sharp contrast to the didactic wisdom known from the canonical books of the Hebrew Bible. I am prepared to argue that the names and titles used to address the deity, coupled with the distinctive cosmology of the book, reflect the forms of address associated with Ba'al Shamin in Syria and Phoenicia, where that deity is emerging in a form of pagan monotheism (as described by Teixidor in _The Pagan God_) in which the sky deity becomes increasingly transcendent, presiding over the sun, moon, and stars. The reflection of the titles and theology of Ba'al Shamin fits with the northern location of the references to Dan and the Hermon region studied by Nickelsburg, as noted above.

What one can conclude about the origins of apocalypticism from the Book of the Watchers is that it is rooted in a form of wisdom not represented in the canonical literature and emerges in a dark age in which it is difficult to identify a specific crisis to serve as a birth mother for this genre of literature. As both Nickelsburg and I have argued, it seems to convey a polemic against the priesthood associated with irregularities in priestly marriages and other issues (see Nickelsburg, "Enoch, Levi, and Peter," and my article, "Fallen Angel, Fallen Priest: The Problem of Family Purity in 1 Enoch 6-16," _HUCA_ 50 [1979], pp. 115-35). Nickelsburg bases his argument on the use of technical terms associated with the priesthood in connection with the angels in the temple of heaven in 1 Enoch 14, and in the choice of Dan, the ancient competitor of Jerusalem, as the point of access to the temple of heaven, while I have concentrated on the way in which issues related to the purity of the priesthood seem to have been transferred to the angels. We should also note that Nickelsburg treats 1 Enoch 6-11 separately from 12-16, relating the story of the violence of the giant offspring to the wars of the Diadochi, or successors to Alexander the Great (see "Apocalyptic and Myth in 1 Enoch 6-11," _JBL_ 96 [1977], pp. 383-405).

Among other things, the eschatology of the Book of the Watchers is striking in that it is expressed in relation to an event from the mythical past, Noah's flood, rather than in terms of the future from the perspective of the writer. The flood would thus seem to function as an eschatological symbol, but one does not get a feeling of eschatological immediacy from reading the book. Instead, one gets the impression that the book deals with impurity and purification (the significance of the flood as an "eschatological" event) and the restoration of fertility (the significance of the symbol of the plantation in chapter 10). If the story of the Watchers functions as a polemic on priestly marriages, the problem seems to be that the impurity of the priesthood renders the temple impure, threatening its role as the conduit for the flow of blessing into the land. Purification (the flood) will lead to the restoration of fertility (the plantation). While the story of the fall of the Watchers takes the situation of the community of the righteous seriously, as reflected in the violence caused by the giants, it seems less interested in establishing a timetable and calculating the coming of deliverance than does Daniel, suggesting that it is not written in a time of eschatological crisis. In terms that Richard Landes uses to differentiate apocalyptic texts or prophets, Daniel is a "rooster," announcing the immanent approach of the dawn, while the Book of the Watchers is an "owl," anticipating the distant dawn from the depths of the night.

What seems closer to the heart of the Book of the Watchers than eschatology is the importance of revelation of the heavenly world and the temple of heaven. 1 Enoch 14 is the earliest of apocalyptic writings that include an ascent to heaven, and the whole of chapters 6-16 appears to conceive of heaven as a sanctuary, served by angelic priests. The continued interest in the heavenly world is reflected among the Qumran documents by the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and later by the connection of the Similitudes to the Hekhaloth tradition. While the Book of the Watchers establishes the form for the apocalypse as a revelatory text, its shared interest in the heavenly world suggests that its interests transcend any single genre, and that it must be studied in relation to developing traditions related to utopian or eschatological temples (the Temple Scroll) as well as the temple of heaven in order to determine how these "virtual" realities are related to the sanctuaries and communities of early Judaism.

THE BOOK OF THE WATCHERS AND THE ORIGIN OF EVIL. Another way in which Enoch is a precursor is in its role in the discussion of the origins of the sectarianism that has dominated the study of Judaism in the period between the Maccabean revolt and the Roman destruction of the temple. However, to anticipate that discussion, it is helpful first to take a look at the myth of the origin of evil presented in the book and note its use in the Qumran literature alongside an alternative myth.

The story of the fall of the Watchers in chapters 6-16 of the Book of the Watchers explains evil as the consequence of the decision of heavenly beings to descend to earth and take human wives. The problem as expressed in 15:3-7 is that the angels are immortal and consequently have no need for wives to produce offspring. The marriages are thus a problem because they mix heaven and earth, flesh and spirit, realms that are intended to be separate in the divine order of things. The angels have left the sanctuary of heaven (note the explicit treatment of heaven as a sanctuary in the Aramaic version of 1 Enoch 9:1) and rendered the earth impure through their marriages (the Greek version to 1 Enoch 10:9, in a transliteration, treats the giants as mamzerim, or "illegitimate offspring"). The earth must therefore be purified through the waters of the flood. As I have noted, the story implies a polemic against the Jerusalemite priesthood on the basis of impurity of marriages in violation of the priestly marriage rules in Leviticus 21. In both the story of the Watchers and the implied polemic, the implication seems to be that originally good creatures have created pollution through their departure from the sacred order of things.

The story of the Watchers is picked up in the earlier layers of the Qumran literature, where it is used as a paradigm for the origin of evil through the departure of good creatures from their place in the divinely appointed order as a consequence of "walking in the stubbornness of their hearts." The Damascus Document is particularly important in understanding the role of this story in the early layers of the Qumran literature since it introduces a catalogue of great sinners with the Watchers, who fell because they walked in the stubbornness of their hearts (CD II. 16-17). CD also includes a description of the "three nets of Belial" (CD IV. 14-V. 11), which develops a polemic against the priesthood over issues of marriage, violence, and greed in ways that echo the story of the fall of the Watchers. Other passages pick up the story as a polemic against the priesthood (see my discussion in "Fallen Angel, Fallen Priest," pp. 124-31), while 4QMMT appears to indicate that one of the key issues in the schism implied in that document was the prohibition of marriages between priests (who are most holy) and the daughters of ordinary Israelites (who are holy). This detail suggests that the illegitimate mixture implied in the polemic by the marriages of angels and women is the mixture of priest and Israelite.

An alternative explanation of the origin of evil is the two-spirit doctrine from the Community Rule, 1QS III. 17-IV. 26. God has created two spirits, one good and one evil, and has placed them over humanity to determine how human beings will walk. While God loves the one and hates the other, they are both the consequence of the divine intent for creation, and human beings are predestined to follow one or the other. Instead of explaining evil as the result of a good creature going bad and tracing it to the mystery of human choice, it is now traced to creation and the mystery of God's choice to create a moral context for human life. The two-spirit doctrine shows up elsewhere in the distinctively sectarian documents from Qumran (note 4QVisions of Amramc or 1QH VI. 11-12, for example).

The contrast between these two myths is curious, as is their alternative use in the exhortation sections of two rules for communal life, CD and 1QS. The dramatic shift in theodicies suggests some important transformation, but it is also significant that Jubilees provides a transitional text in utilizing both stories, which implies that the transition from one to another was in some way an evolutionary process. In its initial chapters, Jubilees repeats the traditions associated with Enoch in a way that makes it apparent that it is familiar with the entire corpus of the books of Enoch included in Aramaic Enoch. It includes the story of the fall of the Watchers (4:15, 22; 5:1-10), but then introduces Mastema, "enmity," as the prince set over the sins of humanity (10:8-9). Mastema requests a portion of the spirits that have come forth from the dead giant offspring of the Watchers to serve as his assistants, thus linking the two stories in spite of the contrasting nature of their theodicies. One manuscript from Qumran (4Q390 Frag. 1. 11; Frag. 2. I. 7) contains references to the angels of Mastemoth, suggesting an affinity to the material in Jubilees.

ENOCH: PRECURSOR OF SECTARIANISM. My suggestion is that the shift in theodicies, or myths of the origin of evil, represents significant evidence for the emergence of sectarianism in the wake of the Hellenistic reform and Maccabean revolt. The Book of the Watchers comes from the third century BCE and explains evil as the consequence of good creatures gone bad. The polemic against the priesthood points to tensions within third century Jerusalemite society, but it also implies that there are priests who have not departed from their place in the divine order (as Martha Himmelfarb notes), indicating that the condemnation of the priesthood is not wholesale. The choice of Enoch as a vehicle for these ideas suggests that the polemic originates in the scribes, influential persons from the centre of Jerusalemite society. While tensions are present that seem to be related to the emergence of sectarian movements in the following century, it might be better to label the Book of the Watchers as protosectarian, containing the seeds of such a development but not evidence for actual schism.

The two-spirit theodicy, on the other hand, develops a radical moral dualism between the two spirits and indicates that human beings are predestined to walk according to one or the other. The approach thus maintains a strict monotheism with an emphasis upon God's sovereignty over the whole of creation (anticipated in some respect by Isaiah 45:7), but at the same time it provides for a sharp division between two groups of humanity. Schism has occurred. From this perspective, Enoch eventually falls to the wayside within the literature of Qumran because its theodicy no longer reflects the reality of the emergence of sectarian groups during the period of the Maccabees.

How to describe the social reality that underlies the polemic is more difficult, given the scarcity of sources for this period. Gabriele Boccaccini's argument for an Enochic Judaism as an antecedent to the emergence of the sectarianism reflected in the Qumran literature is an interesting proposal, although I resist putting the label of a "Judaism" on each identifiable literary movement. I would prefer to see Enoch as a scribal hero who represents the interests of the cultural establishment (the ones who tell the myths that sanction the power of the political authorities) over against the political establishment (the high priest). The "scribes" are always ready to criticize the establishment as anyone who has participated in the politics of a modern academic institution knows only too well. The concern for the purity of the priesthood suggests an additional affinity to priestly interests. This priestly connection appears to me to flow into the interest in the Scrolls in the sons of Zadok, and in my mind tends to support Lawrence Schiffman's efforts to connect 4QMMT to Sadducean halakhah (although one must concede at the outset that there is a great distance between the priestly interests expressed in the Enochic and Qumran literature and the Sadducees as described in first century CE sources).

SMALLER ISSUES. There are several smaller issues related to Enoch and the Qumran literature to which I would like briefly to direct attention before closing. The first is the implications of the Qumran texts for the tradition of source-critical analysis of the Book of the Watchers that goes back to R. H. Charles. In editing the Qumran manuscripts of Aramaic Enoch, Milik repeatedly notes that the Qumran manuscripts take us back close to the point of origin of the Book of the Watchers and militate against such source analysis. I tend to agree, based in part on the observation that, now that we have the Aramaic forms of the names of the angels, the list of angels in chapter 8 appears to be derived from the one in chapter 6. What seems more likely to me is a basis of the Book of the Watchers in different oral traditions concerning the sins of the Watchers.

The second issue is in the relation between the Greek and Ethiopic versions and the Aramaic texts from Qumran. Milik has used the former in reconstructing his edition (a procedure that both moves scholarship forward and creates some problems). Clearly, the Aramaic version gives us some valuable information that has dropped out of subsequent versions (the information, for example, that in chapters 6-11 heaven is conceived of as a sanctuary, making its angelic hosts priests, consistent with chapters 12-16). At the same time, the existence of the Aramaic version does not short-circuit the necessity of exploring the Greek and Ethiopic versions in light of the contexts in which they have been preserved to determine how they have been shaped by their subsequent preservation (see here Robert Kraft's essay on "The Pseudepigrapha and Christianity").

Third, the manuscripts need to be studied for what they can reveal about the literature beyond the actual transcription of the text. The spacing of the text upon the page can also be of significance for the interpretation of the text, along with a host of other issues related to the size and quality of the parchment, the quality of the scribal hand, and the production of the manuscript. The example I have in mind involves two deep indentations in 1 QEnc, fragment g (see plate XII in Milik, Books of Enoch), which set off 1 Enoch 13:10. The indentations suggest to me an early scribal understanding of the organization of the text to place an emphasis upon the "record" of the reprimand of the Watchers that follows in 14:1. The "record" suggests that Enoch, as the scribe of righteousness, is pictured as a chresmologue, following Hellenistic practice in using written documents both in the process of seeking an answer from an oracle (he reads the petition he has written out as he falls asleep by the waters of Dan) and in communicating the answer (the "record" of the reprimand). Both Milik and Nickelsburg have noted the presence of official jargon in the wording of 14:1, and James VanderKam has identified Enoch's practice in 13:7 as oneiromancy, but no one seems to have compared the use of writing implied in 1 Enoch 12-16 to mantic practice in Hellenistic oracles. The details here suggest to me, not the existence of apocalyptic circles in upper Galilee, as Nickelsburg has suggested, but a functioning oracle at Dan, the northern Israelite shrine, which seems to have been renovated under Ptolemy II. My conclusion is that in treating Enoch as precursor to the Qumran literature, we need to identify a literary movement connected to scribal interests that, prior to the Hellenistic reform of the second century, is open to Hellenistic cultural influence and practices present in Phoenicia and Syria. This movement sets the stage for the emergence of the distinctive sectarian literature associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls, but the Hellenistic reform and the Maccabean revolt will lead to transformations in what is inherited from the precursor.

(c) 2001
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.


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