Enoch, Jubilees, and the Mosaic Torah

I read two essays that I really enjoyed in Enoch and the Mosaic Torah: The Evidence of Jubilees.  The first one was Gabriele Boccaccini’s “From a Movement of Dissent to a Distinct Form of Judaism: The Heavenly Tablets in Jubilees as the Foundation of a Competing Halakah”.  The second one was Hindy Najman’s “Reconsidering Jubilees: Prophecy and Exemplarity”.

1.  Boccaccini discusses the Enochic perspective, the Mosaic perspective, and the combination of the two in Jubilees.  It has been argued (by George Nickelsburg, for example) that the Enochic perspective dismissed the Mosaic Torah in favor of an “Enochic revealed wisdom” (Nickelsburg’s words, as quoted on page 200).  Boccaccini does not go that far, but he does maintain that the Enochics consisted of priests who “felt excluded from, or marginalized within, the Zadokite priesthood” (page 201).  For these Enochic priests, according to Boccaccini, the world was so corrupted by evil that it was impossible to follow any laws, even the Mosaic Torah.  Meanwhile, the Zadokite priests offered sacrifices in the Temple and affirmed “that this world was the perfect and eternal order regulated by the Mosaic Torah” (page 200). 

With the Maccabees, Boccaccini contends, the Enochic and Mosaic perspectives were both strengthened.  The Enochic perspective was validated because their enemies, the Zadokites, had been replaced, and thus were shown to be illegitimate.  But the Mosaic Torah became the national law of Israel.  According to Boccaccini, both perspectives were fused in Jubilees, in which the world was still deemed to be corrupt and in need of eschatological renewal, but the corruption was believed to exist among the Gentiles and thus did not impact God’s covenant with Israel.

I appreciated Boccaccini’s essay because he clearly delineated competing ideologies that could account for the Enochic and Mosaic perspectives and what is in Jubilees.  But I still have questions.  First of all, did the Enochic perspective truly believe that no laws could be followed in a corrupt world?  I would not be surprised if even I Enoch maintains that there are moral norms that should be followed!  Second, was it the case that the Mosaic Torah was not the law of Israel until the time of the Maccabees?  I have a slight problem with this idea, for II Maccabees depicts the Torah as Israel’s ancestral constitution, which Hellenizers sought to undermine, plus I Maccabees shows the Israelites observing customs even before the Maccabean rise to power, such as the Sabbath.

2.  Najman interacts with the question of whether Jubilees was intended to replace the Mosaic Torah.  He argues that it was not.  Rather, according to Najman, Jubilees aimed to put the Sinai revelation in a “pre-Sinaitic context”—-to show Israelites how to “observe the law properly” by teaching them the traditions that Enoch transmitted.  In short, Jubilees was halakah that was clarifying how to observe the Torah.

I should note, however, that both Boccaccini and Najman present the situation during the Hellenistic period as rather complex.  Boccaccini quotes John Collins, who argues that a Jewish movement that does not focus on the Mosaic Torah was not “without precedent” (Collins’ words), for biblical wisdom literature does not talk explicitly about the Mosaic Torah and Israel’s history, and “Judaism in the early second century BCE was not uniformly Torah centered, even among those who were familiar with the Torah and respected it as one source of wisdom among others” (Collins’ words).  And Najman on page 230 expresses problems with the notion that there was “an authoritative or canonical Pentateuch in the second century”, though he acknowledges that “there is evidence for a stabilizing, circulating, and authoritative text much like what is eventually called the Pentateuch.”

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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