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What the Book of Enoch Says, and Doesn’t Say, about Ancient Judaism and Christianity

March 20 2015

The book known as 1 Enoch is not considered canonical by either Jews or Christians, with the exception of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which preserved the book in the church’s own liturgical language. However, 1 Enoch is based on several ancient Jewish texts, some of which have been discovered. Simon J. Joseph explains:

During the Second Temple period, Enoch became the central figure around whom a complex body of literature arose, a collection or library of texts now known as the book of Enoch or 1 Enoch. The book of Enoch includes five works dating from the 4th century BCE to the first century CE. . . .

A prominent theme of this apocalyptic tradition is the origin of evil. The people who produced these texts posited that evil, violence, and corruption were the result of a primordial angelic revolt against the divine order. This revolt corrupted human civilization with forbidden knowledge and diseases caused by the demonic offspring of the Watchers—the name for this group of fallen angels. These supposed protagonists of the Enochic tradition claimed to have secret knowledge and effective techniques for coping with and countering the effects of the fallen angels and their offspring. The solution to the problem of evil is an eschatological (end-time) program intended to counter the effects of the fallen angels’ corruption of the divine order by restoring the fallen creation and reaffirming God’s created order.

A few scholars have taken these works as evidence of an Enochic sect of Judaism that left a lasting impact on Christianity. Joseph argues that this hypothesis is incorrect, and that it reveals a foible of contemporary scholarship on ancient Judaism and early Christianity:

We have no ancient record of any group who self-identified as Enochic Jews. The term is a modern ideological construct. There is no reference to Enochic Judaism in our ancient texts. The book of Enoch is itself a construct, a Christian composition preserved only within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The book of Enoch is thus not, in its extant form, a Jewish book at all. . . .

The desire [of scholars] to construct a new kind of Judaism can be seen as an attempt to both recover and invent a form of ancient Judaism that represents neither normative Judaism nor orthodox Christianity but is yet somehow both Jewish and Christian. . . . Scholarly caution requires both the exploration of possible connections between texts and communities as well as the humility to admit when they are only tentative and suggestive.

Read more at Marginalia

More about: ancient Judaism, Apocrypha, Bible, Christianity, History & Ideas, Religion

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy