Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Stellar Portrait of God

Over the past couple of years I have developed a growing interest in the literature of second temple Judaism. Unfortunately, this interest has not translated into a consistent effort to read these writings. Either because of a lack of time or discipline (more likely the latter), I simply have not gone beyond reading a little bit of 1 Enoch and some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Anyway, I have (again) picked up J. Charlesworth's "The Old Testament Pseudipigrapha: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments" and hopefully the dust will never return to this fascinating volume.

Maybe reading passages like 1 Enoch 9-10 will provide a steady dose of intrinsic motivation for me. Here is part of E. Isaac's translation of 1 Enoch 9-10:

(9:3) "And they [the angels Michael, Surafel, and Gabriel] said to one another, "The earth, (from) her empty (foundation), has brought the cry of their voice unto the gates of heaven. And now, [O] holy ones of heaven, the souls of people are putting their case before you pleading, 'Bring our jugment before the Most High.' " And they said to the Lord of the potentates, "For he is the Lord of lords, and the God of gods, and the King of Kings, and the seat of his glory (stands) throughout all the generations of the world. Your name is holy , and blessed, and glorious throughout all the generations of the world. You have made everything and with you is the authority of everything . . . And now behold, the Holy One will cry, and those who have died will bring their suit up to the gate of heaven. Their groaning has ascended (into heaven), but they could not get out from before the face of the oppression that is being wrought on earth . . . (10:1)And then spoke the Most High, the Great and Holy One! And he sent Asuryal to the son of Lamech, (saying), "Tell him in my name, 'Hide yourself!' and reveal to him the end of what is coming; for the earth and everything will be destroyed. And the Deluge is about to come upon all the earth; and all that is in it will be destroyed. And now instruct him in order that he may flee, and his seed will be preserved for all generations. " And secondly the Lord said to Raphael, "Bind Azaz'el hand and foot (and) throw him into the darkness!"

What primarily intrigues me about this passage are its parallels with the Apocalypse. One finds numberous verbal parallels ("Lord of Lords," "Kings of Kings," "binding"). Perhaps more interesting are the conceptual parallels. Note the similarity between the plea of the "souls of the people" (1 Enoch 9:3) and the "cry of the martyrs" in Rev 6:10. If the martyrs in Rev 6:10 are given "white robes" and told to "rest" by an angel (as seems likely given the use of the verb didwmi throughout Rev), then this would also parallel the portrayal of the angels in 1 Enoch 9, who serve as something of intermediaries between the human and the divine. Note also that the angel Raphael in 1 Enoch 10 :4 acts as a messenger of judgment, which parallels the role of angels throughout the Apocalypse.

Undoubtedly, the author of this text was heavily influenced by the writings of the Old Testament. 1 Enoch 9-10 is a fascinating text and its portrait of God can ALMOST be described as edifying.


C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

You should go to the Seminary library and check out
GWE Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1 (Hermenia,
Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001

Mark Owens said...

Since I'm not expert on 1 Enoch, I'm sure his work would be helpful. Thanks.

Michael F. Bird said...

Wait till you get to the part with the angels who Gentiles "like horses"!

Michael F. Bird said...

Correction, that is "genitals like horses" I've spent too much time studying Jesus and Gentiles!