Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mystical interpolations into 2 Enoch

I've just started reading a newly-published book, New Perspectives on 2 Enoch: No Longer Slavonic Only, edited by Andrei Orlov and Gabrielle Boccaccini (Brill, 2012), which is very interesting. The first chapter gives us the first fragments of 2 Enoch in another language than Slavonic, "No Longer 'Slavonic' Only: 2 Enoch Attested in Coptic from Nubia," by Joost L. Hagen. He discovered that previously excavated Coptic fragments from Qasr Ibrim, which now exist only in photographs and in transcriptions by J. M. Plumley, the director of the excavations from 1963 to 1976, are fragments of 2 Enoch 36:3-42:3, including the very interesting Shiur Qomah passage from 39:1, about seeing the face, eyes, and right hand of the Lord. He dates these fragments to between the 8th-10th centuries, which would make them the earliest witness to 2 Enoch. They represent the shorter recension of 2 Enoch. His article obviously raises questions about how 2 Enoch was transmitted from a posited Jewish source all the way to medieval Bulgaria, where the Slavonic translations were first made.

The second article is by Christfried Böttreich, "The 'Book of the Secrets of Enoch' (2 En): Between Jewish Origin and Christian Transmission. An Overview." I'm only going to discuss one issue he raises. He goes through the entire book and notes places where there are some clear Jewish mystical or Christian interpolations (among a lot of other things he discusses). He pinpoints 2 En 20:3, 21:6-22:3, and 39:3-8 as Jewish interpolations. In 2 En. 20:3 the text says: “And on the tenth heaven is God, and it is called in the Hebrew language Aravot.” At 2 En. 21:6, Enoch sees the eighth heaven: “Which is called in the Hebrew language Muzaloth, the changer of the seasons. . . which are above the seventh heaven. And I saw the ninth heaven, which in the Hebrew language is called Kukhavim where the heavenly houses of the 12 zodiacs are.” These two inserts interrupt the existing scheme of seven heavens which 2 Enoch has already described, so they seem like obvious interpolations. I have always wondered whether these interpolations were in fact direct translations from Hebrew to Slavonic, since they give Hebrew names to the 8th, 9th, and 10th heavens.

Böttreich dates the origins of 2 Enoch to first century Alexandria, and in my opinion gives some pretty convincing arguments for this dating, but this dating cannot refer to every word in the Slavonic Enoch, and obviously not the sentences I just quoted. He is puzzled by these passages and how (and by whom) they could have gotten into the Slavonic version of the book. He writes, "I have no idea how to explain this stratum of Jewish mystical interpolations (like 2 En 20:3; 21:6-22:3; 39:3-8) which obviously depends on Hebrew sources by inserting the additions in Greek into a Greek text transmitted by Christian contemporaries." The same questions exist with regard to Ladder of Jacob 2:5-22 (prayer of Jacob) or Apocalypse of Abraham 17:7-21 (prayer of Abraham) - both also preserved in Slavonic translations only. So who could have inserted these passages?

I was just looking at the 2 Enoch passages for the chapter I've just been writing on the Enoch traditions and the tradition that the fallen angels taught sorcery to women (which doesn't exist, by the way, in 2 Enoch), and I started to wonder if the inserts could have been made by Jews who had converted to Christianity - either at some point during the Greek transmission or the Slavonic translations. Whoever inserted them had to know Hebrew - and who better than a learned Jew who had decided to become a Christian? I don't know if anyone else has suggested this for 2 Enoch, but I'd be interested to know if it's possible, historically-speaking.

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