Beginning Enoch and the Mosaic Torah

I started Enoch and the Mosaic Torah: The Evidence of Jubilees, which was edited by Gabriele Boccaccini and Giovanni Ibba.  I read three essays so far and, in this post, I’ll mention some things that I learned from each essay.

1.  The first essay that I read was James C. VanderKam’s “The Manuscript Tradition of Jubilees”.  I was interested to learn that there is no actual Greek manuscript of the Book of Jubilees.  But VanderKam still believes that Jubilees was translated from Hebrew into Greek because Jubilees was in Ethiopic, and “Ethiopic biblical literature was translated from Greek”, plus there are “clues in the Ethiopic text [that] betray a Greek base for the translation” (such as “transliterated Greek words and names”, and errors that can be explained by appeal to a Greek manuscript behind the Ethiopic) (page 12).  Moreover, relatively late Greek writers who “used Greek sources” cite or allude to Jubilees.

Another issue that intrigued me was the name of Noah’s wife.  VanderKam refers to a Syriac document (I think) that calls the wife of Noah “‘Amizara”, who was the daughter of Noah’s uncle.  But Genesis Rabbah 23:3 identifies Noah’s wife with Naamah, the sister of Tubal-Cain in Genesis 4:22.  A relative of mine believes that Noah’s wife was Tubal-Cain’s sister, and his reason for that view (at least in part) is that he thinks that Tubal-Cain provided metal for Noah’s Ark.  Speaking for myself, I’ve wondered why Genesis 4:22 out of the clear blue sky says that the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah, even though Genesis 4 does not mention anyone else’s sister.  Well, some believe that Naamah became the wife of Noah.  But there were other ideas about the name of Noah’s wife, as well.

2.  The second essay that I read was Michael Segal’s “The Composition of Jubilees”.  Segal argues against the widespread scholarly view that Jubilees was a “unified composition”, for he maintains that the book has diversity and stages.  He mentions a variety of contradictions within Jubilees, but I’ll refer to a few.  There is a view within Jubilees that Judah did not sin when he slept with Tamar (Genesis 38) because she technically was not his daughter-in-law, since her marriages with Judah’s sons had not been consummated.  But there is also a legal passage in Jubilees that affirms that Judah was forgiven, which implies that he sinned.  Jubilees manifests different views on whether God was at odds with the evil angel Mastema at the Exodus or actually used Mastema to afflict Egypt.  One passage of Jubilees says that Bilhah was not punished for sleeping with Reuben because Reuben raped her (though, as Segal notes, Testament of Reuben 1:7 says that Reuben was punished with a wound in his loins), whereas the legal passage (Jubilees 33:9b-20) affirms that neither was punished because the law (presumably the one banning sleeping with one’s father’s wife) had not been completely revealed to everyone.  I should note (and this is me, not Segal) that this line of argumentation is puzzling within Jubilees, which depicts the patriarchs as aware of many laws that God later gave to Israel (i.e., festival laws).

Segal does not agree with James Kugel’s view that an author did “overkill” by integrating into his work “multiple interpretive solutions” (Segal’s words), for Segal does not see an attempt on the part of Jubilees’ author to weave different traditions into a “cohesive and coherent story” (page 35).  Rather, for Segal, what happened was that a “rewritten biblical text” (such as I Enoch) was “adopted” and “placed within a new chronological framework”, then that was “supplemented by a juxtaposed legal passage” (page 35).

3.  The third essay that I read was by John Bergsma: “The Relationship between Jubilees and the Early Enochic Books (Astronomical Book and Book of the Watchers)”.  Bergsma argues that “Jubilees accepts the basic story of” the Book of the Watchers but modifies it according to a different theological view.  Whereas the Book of the Watchers blames the fallen angels of Genesis 6 and the evil spirits of the giants for evil, Jubilees places more blame on the humans for giving themselves to evil, even as Jubilees acknowledges that supernatural forces played a role in evil on earth.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to Beginning Enoch and the Mosaic Torah

  1. chicagoja says:

    Enoch and Jubilees should be required reading for anyone studying the Bible. All of the scriptures, those included in the Bible or not, are different writer’s perspectives on the same events, with all of the resulting inconsistencies. if you’re interested in a high level overview, I would recommend “Genesis of the Grail Kings” by Laurence Gardner.


  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Thanks for your comment, Chicagoja. I agree with you.


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