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From: 1 Enoch 1

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Introduction 0.0. Prolegomena The Jewish apocalyptic, or revelatory, traditions collected in 1 Enoch were composed between the fourth century B.C. E. and the turn of the Common Era in the name of the patriarch mentioned in Gen 5:21-24. The language of their composition was Aramaic, but the collection as a whole has been preserved only in a fifth- to sixth-century c.E. Ethiopic (Ge'ez) translation of an intermediate Greek translation (see §2). The place of their composition appears to have been Palestine, although some of the traditions have roots in Babylon. The sheer size, as well as the contents, historical contexts , and ongoing influence, of this collection make it arguably the most important text in the corpus ofJewish literature from the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Roughly as large as the Book of Isaiah, it comprises an extraordinarily broad range of material that we might define in modern categories as religious, scientific, intellectual , and social. In it we are given a unique window into the diverse world of Palestinian Judaism in the three centuries before the Common Era. Through it we can view Israelite religion in transition: the Mosaic Torah is not yet a universal norm; the familiar forms of biblical prophecy and proverbial wisdom blend with speculation about the shape and future of the cosmos; and Hellenistic ideas and myths give nuances to Israelite traditions. Platitudes about God's justice clash with the realities of a world that appears to attest the absence or impotence of the God of Israel. The answers and formulations that arise in this context and are attested in this writing will have a profound impact on the shape of emergent Christianity, as it is documented in the NT. At the same time, the road taken by the Enochic authors and their Christian successors will become increasingly alien to many of the rabbinic teachers and their communities as they consolidate their religion after the destruction ofJerusalem in 70 c.E. Ironically, however, the seeds sown in Enochic speculative wisdom will blossom in later Jewish mysticism. It is a rich collection from which thoughtful students ofJewish and Christian religion can learn much about how things were and how they came to be what they are. In a "postmodern" twenty-first century, the Enochic world seems strange, fantastic, and even weird: fallen angels mating with mortal women, the ghosts of dead giants roaming the earth, flights to heaven, and bizarre visions about sheep and wild beasts. One should not be deceived, however. When read with care and empathy, the unfamiliar imagery comes alive to reveal a humanity much like our own. They struggle with violence, lies, disappointment , and lack of meaning, and they are pulled in opposite directions by hope and despair and the competing forces of high religious symbols and explosive human emotions. How does one enter that world? Two predominant aspects of 1 Enoch invite two approaches for interpretation . The book as text calls for literary analysis, and its genesis in time and place invites historical investigation. 0.1. Literary Approach My interpretation of 1 Enoch is beholden to no single literary method or theory, though I find much that is helpful in formalism. That is, the surface structure of a text provides clues for the text's interpretation, and to take seriously the shape, pattern, and order of a text is to honor the text as it presents itself. Because they are not likely to be accidental, they provide entry to an author's mind and purpose. This is not to claim that an author is always consciously aware of the shape or pattern that we discern;1 the poetic process is more complex and mysterious than we often acknowledge. Writers in the ancient world did not necessarily create their texts as modern scholars often prepare their learned disquisitions-moving from a thesis to a carefully articulated outline to a full-blown text. Nonetheless, when such order presents itself, it invites the careful reader to make sense of it. This approach from the textual data themselves bears more fruit, I believe, than reading a text through our own axiomatic, theological, literary, and philosophical categories. Thus my way into the text has been inductively literary . What shape and pattern can I discern, and what For an instructive example, see David Rabe's comment on the writing of his play Hurty Burly (New York: Grove Press, 1985) 161-71. 1 sense can I make of these? On the microlevel my tools...


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