Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Biblical Exegesis in "The Book of Watchers"

I got my review copy of Archie Wright's, The Origin of Evil Spirits: The Reception of Genesis 6.1-4 in Early Jewish Literature, from Faith & Mission (the academic journal for SEBTS) last week. I'm hoping that doing this review will 1) force me to become more familiar with 1 Enoch and its related secondary literature; 2) help me gain a better understanding of the cosmology that (possibly) underlies Ephesians.
I'm not certain how much I will comment on this book here, but I can foresee at least a few posts. Anyway, I found Wright's description of the relationship between 1 Enoch 1-36 ("The Book of Watchers") and Genesis 6:1-4 very stimulating, so here it is:

"Genesis 6.1-4 tells the story of the bene elohim and their encounter with the daughters of humanity which resulted in the birth of the gibborim. The passage is positioned in the biblical narrative as a prelude to the judgment of the Flood. However, on the surface nothing in the biblical text of Genesis 6.1-4 demands that the reader understand those verses in a negative light, that is, as depicting some action or event that is considered inappropriate or dubious. It is necessary to evaluate the traditions (e.g., the negative aspects of the 'angels of the nations') that underlie Genesis 6.1-4 in order to assess properly why the text is commendable as the starting point of the Watcher tradition. This is to say, the Watcher tradition represents a type of biblical synthesis and exposition; it is the 'superimposition' of negative traditions onto the relatively neutral position of Genesis 6.1-4" (6).

I'm not sure how original Wright's idea is (as previously noted, I'm quite unfamiliar with work related to 1 Enoch). But, I do find it a helpful description of what seems to be going on in 1 Enoch 1-36. Also, two things in this statement are particularly interesting to me: 1) his suggestion that the "angel of the nations" tradition lies behind Gen 6:1-4 and hence 1 Enoch 1-36; 2) his suggestion that 1 Enoch 1-36 is a "'superimposition' of negative traditions" on the biblical text.

3 comments:

Josh McManaway said...

Mark,

I haven't read that article yet, but the article on Acts 2:42 is really well-written as well. I'll be sure to pick up this article now because I'm certainly lacking when it comes to secondary Jewish literature.

Josh McManaway said...

Actually, I made a mistake. The article I referenced is in last summer's (2006) Faith and Mission. I suppose I had both in my bookbag (the most recent and last summer's) and I thought I was reading the Acts 2:42 article out of the most recent one...if you're even interested.

Mowens said...

Josh,
Thanks for visiting my blog and welcome to the blogosphere. I'll try to take a look at those articles. Blessings.

Mark