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.

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

Israel Should Try to Defang Hamas without Toppling It

Feb. 22 2019

For the time being, Hamas has chosen to avoid outright war with the Jewish state, but instead to apply sustained, low-intensity pressure through its weekly border riots and organizing terrorist cells in the West Bank. Yet it is simultaneously engaged in a major military build-up, which suggests that it has not entirely been deterred by the previous three Gaza wars. Yaakov Lappin considers Jerusalem’s options:

In recent years, the Israel Defense Force’s southern command, which is responsible for much of the war planning for Gaza, identified a long-term truce as the best of bad options for Israel. This is based on the understanding that an Israeli invasion of Gaza and subsequent destruction of the Hamas regime would leave Israel in the unenviable position of being directly in charge of some two-million mostly hostile Gazans. This could lead to an open-ended and draining military occupation. . . .

Alternatively, Israel could demolish the Hamas regime and leave Gaza, putting it on a fast track to a “Somalia model” of anarchy and violence. In that scenario, . . . multiple jihadist armed gangs lacking a central ruling structure would appear, and Israel would be unable to project its military might to any single “return address” in Gaza. This would result in a loss of Israel’s deterrent force on Gaza to keep the region calm. This scenario would be considerably worse than the current status quo.

But a third option, in between the options of leaving Gaza as it is and toppling Hamas in a future war, may exist. In this scenario, the IDF would decimate Hamas’s military wing in any future conflict but leave its political wing and police force in place. This would enable a rapid Israeli exit after a war, but avoid a Somalia-like fate for Gaza with its destructive implications for both Israelis and Gazans. . . .

On the one hand, Hamas’s police force is an intrinsic support system for Gaza’s terrorist-guerrilla forces. On the other hand, the police and domestic-security units play a genuine role in keeping order. Such forces have been used to repress Islamic State-affiliated cells that challenge Hamas’s rule. . . . Compared to the alternative scenarios of indefinite occupation or the “Somalia scenario,” a weakened Hamas might be the best and most realistic option.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security