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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 the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen