Pseudepigrapha Saturday: 1 Enoch

Introduction to the Text:

I provided a brief introduction to 1 Enoch previously:

The Ethiopic Book of Enoch is the earliest of three works attributed to him. It is rooted in Genesis 5:24 where Enoch “walked with God… and then he vanished because God took him”. Written in portions between the 2nd century B.C.E. and 1st century C.E., the text explores the unknown mysteries of the universe revealed to Enoch alone. Further complicating the date, it is composite literature composed of multiples strata.

1 Enoch consists of five Books: The Book of the Watchers, the Book of the Similitude, the Book of Astronomical Writings, the Book of Dream Visions, and the Book of the Epistle of Enoch. As mentioned previously, various fragments demonstrate its composite nature. (Source)

Essentially 1 Enoch is a tradition “of Enoch’s spiritual relocation… when he was taken away by God, saw the secrets of of the mysteries of the universe, the future of the world, and the predetermined course of human history” [1].

In this post, though, I will briefly consider the scribe or righteousness. More so, I will raise a question and note provide an answer.

1 Enoch,Writing, and Scribes:

In a recent contribution to Evil and Death: Conceptions of the human in Biblical, Early Jewish, Greco-Roman and Egyptian Literature, Ekaterina Matusova suggests that the “great rivers” in 1 Enoch 17:5-6, generally attributed to Greek influence, are part of a substratum of Mesopotamian  influence [2]. What I’d like to question is other areas where the influence may not necessarily have been Greek .

In 1 Enoch 13:4-7a, Azaz’el and his followers, fallen angels, requests Enoch to write for them:

“And they begged me to write for them a memorial prayer in order that there may be for them a prayer of forgiveness, and so that I may raise their memorial prayer unto the Lord of heaven. For, as for themselves, from henceforth they will not be able to speak, nor will they raise their eyes unto heaven as a result of their sins which have been condemned. And then I wrote down their memorial prayers and the petitions on behalf of their spirits and the deeds of each one of them…”

This portion of text is intriguing because, if I am reading it correctly, writing is directly associated with the act of Enoch as an intercessor. Azaz’el does not request intercession; rather, he requests a written petition. Matthew Black translates “they besought me to draw up for them a memorial and petition” [3]. In either case, it is evident that writing is integral to Enoch’s intercessory role.

I wonder from where this influence arrived. Is writing integral to Enoch’s intercessory role due to Greek influence, Biblical tradition, or Mesopotamian thought? While I am unable to answer, or even provide a thorough answer, it is something to consider. For in 1 Enoch 15:1, Enoch is called “righteous man, scribe of righteousness”. Based at least on these two reference, it seems that the author(s), namely the scribal community, intend to speak something about themselves through how they speak of writing, or something about how they fit within certain cultural standards of scribal practice.

Perhaps I’ll explore the topic of writing, reading, and scribal practices in 1 Enoch in the near future.

 

[1] E. Isaac,“1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse of) ENOCH”, in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume I (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1983), 5.

[2] Ekaterina Matusova, “The Post-mortem Divisions of the Dead in 1 Enoch 22:1-13”, eds. Beato Ego and Ulrike Mittmann, in Evil and Death: Conceptions of the human in Biblical, Early Jewish, Greco-Roman and Egyptian Literature (Berlin: de Gruyter: 2015), 149-177.

[3] Matthew Black, The Book of Enoch or 1 Enoch (Leiden: Brill: 1985), 32.

What Do I Take For Granted?

As I read through Shakespeare, the Bible, and the Form of the Book yesterday, a portion of the text revealed to me an pre-supposition of mine when I read the Hebrew Bible. Regarding book printing during Shakespeare’s time, Paul Werstine writes about what happened when a proofreader discovered an error:

Therefore, when a proofreading discovered what he took to be an error in a sheet being run off the press, he might well order the press stopped for as long as it took to correct the apparent error, but would not order destroyed the sheets that had already been printed with the error in them because paper was too valuable (119).

While there definitely is something important being said about the actual writing/printing process, that is not my focus. My focus is, rather, the value of writing and paper. Or, in the case of the Hebrew Bible, scrolls. Things to write upon were not nearly as accessible in the ancient world as they are now. So any mention of “writing” or “scroll” in the Hebrew Bible should not be glossed over. In fact, the mention of “writing” or “scroll” should be highlighted, for it was not a common thing to have a scroll. Scrolls were precious because they were valuable. What is valuable often becomes the centerpiece, if you will, to a table that is society and culture. And in the case of the ancient world, writing was absolutely a centerpiece to society and culture.