- Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature
The focus of this excellent monograph in the field of Enochic studies is the Book of the Watchers (chaps. 1-36 of 1 Enoch), which itself is an expansion of [End Page 290] the enigmatic tale about the "sons of God" in Genesis 6:1-4. Through its seven chapters, the monograph traces the "fate of this apocalypse from its composition around the third century B.C.E. and its widespread influence among pre-Rabbinic Jews . . . to its rejection by the Rabbinic movement, adoption by early Christians, suppression by later church leaders, and eventual loss to the West"(pp. 1-2).
After an introduction that succinctly sets out the plan of the book, the first chapter asks how the fallen angels and their teachings function within the Book of the Watchers. In this chapter attention is also drawn to the complex literary relationship that exists between Gen. 6:1-4 and Watchers. Following on the observations made in the first chapter about the redaction history of the Watchers, chapter two investigates the text as the product not of a single author, but instead as the product of a series of authors and redactors. Chapter Two ends by suggesting that the author and audience of Watchers should not be assumed to be on the fringes of Judaism; so Chapter Three seeks to map the reception-history of it among pre-Rabbinic Jews.
In a similar vein, Chapter Four seeks to understand the reception history of the Watchers in early Christian circles. Yoshiko Reed asks the salient question to which the chapter is dedicated:"If pre-Rabbinic Jewish and proto-Christian interpretations of this text are so similar, why would the Book of Watchers eventually be preserved in Christian circles but not Jewish ones?"(p. 123). The focus of Chapter Five is upon Justin Martyr's understanding of the instruction motif in Watchers and how it played a central role in the "Christianizing"of the angelic descent myth. The sixth chapter considers the reasons why the Christian attitudes toward the Watchers myth increasingly came to parallel Rabbinic attitudes in the fourth and fifth centuries after Christ. The final chapter explores the re-emergence of Jewish interest in Enoch (and thus the Watchers myth) in the early Middle Ages. Lastly, the book's findings are summarized in a brief epilogue (pp. 273-277).
Fallen Angels traces a specific tradition (the Watchers) over a long time period (several centuries). The difficult task of tracing the complex interaction between Judaism and Christianity over time is done with sophistication. The study leads Yoshiko Reed to raise two important caveats. First, her study demonstrates that the so-called "parting of the ways" between Judaism and Christianity is an oversimplification of a very complex relationship; scholars must acknowledge this. Second, the canonical bias of the academy must be redressed, because to ignore or undervalue traditions that come out of so-called ""Pseudepigraphal texts"is to impoverish our understanding of antiquity. As Yoshiko Reed states in her conclusion, "Much is lost when we treat the 'extrabiblical' status of a text as somehow inherent to the text itself and assume that such works were, from the very moment of their composition, fated to circulate only on the fringes of society"(p. 274). [End Page 291]
Anyone interested in the Book of Watchers, the development of the Enochic literature, or the complex development of Judaism and Christianity needs to interact with this significant study.