Lawrence Besserman

title.none: Reed, Fallen Angels (Lawrence Besserman)

identifier.other: baj9928.0705.019 07.05.19

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Lawrence Besserman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Reed, Annette Yoshiko. Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature. New York: Cambrdige University Press, 2006. Pp. xii, 318. $75.00 (hb) ISBN-10:0-521-85378-8, ISBN-13: 978-0-521-85738-1 (hb). ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.05.19

Reed, Annette Yoshiko. Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature. New York: Cambrdige University Press, 2006. Pp. xii, 318. $75.00 (hb) ISBN-10:0-521-85378-8, ISBN-13: 978-0-521-85738-1 (hb). ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Lawrence Besserman
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Yoshiko Reed's outstanding study of the pseudepigraphical Enoch (or "Enochic") literature first saw life as a dissertation in the Department of Religion at Princeton University, under the supervision of three leading scholars of Judaism and Early Christianity: Martha Himmelfarb, Peter Schafer, and John Gager (in the order that they are named in the "Preface"). The book under review, based on the dissertation, is an impressive work of scholarship that elucidates the so-called "Book of Enoch" and its nachleben. In particular, the book focuses on I Enoch 1-36, known as the "Book of the Watchers" (=fallen angels; hereafter BW), which was written probably sometime in the 3rd century BCE and constitutes a sizeable portion of the longer, composite Book of Enoch.

Building on the work of R. H. Charles, J. T. Milik, and others, the author breaks new ground as she traces the influence of BW in pre-Rabbinic Jewish and Jesus-movement circles, documents its subsequent rejection by Rabbinic authorities and its adoption by early Christians, then its suppression by later Church authorities, and finally its reemergence in Jewish circles as an influence on Merkabah mysticism. Other ambitious but mainly tangential goals include trying to shed light on "Jewish and Christian reflection on the Problem of Evil, the relationship between 'biblical' exegesis and 'parabiblical' literature, the social dynamics of canonization, and the place of noncanonical texts and traditions in the interaction between Judaism and Christianity" (2). No small feat--and to varying degrees, Yoshiko Reed has contributed something to our knowledge and understanding of each of these grand themes.

As the author notes, BW includes the earliest exegesis and expansion of Genesis 6:1-4, that strange pericope of archaic myth recounting how "the sons of god" came down to earth and mated with "the daughters of men." In chapter 1, Yoshiko-Reed reads 1 Enoch 6-11 as a redacted unity whose "repetitions and contradictions" regarding the fallen angels are integral to its meaning. She argues that the overdetermination of reasons for evil in the redacted BW is understandable and felicitous, and that in its time this was a presumably effective literary construct. There is a strong likelihood that she is right. As Henri Frankfort observed, Ancient Egyptian religion adduces multiple and even contradictory explanations for especially difficult theological questions (suffering of the righteous, origins of evil, etc.); the Egyptians seem to have felt that the more explanations the better--contradictions notwithstanding. The phenomenon is not limited to the religion of Ancient Egypt. In BW, evil is traced back to angelic teaching as well as to the sexual crimes of angels and women; but this overdetermined interpretation of the origin of human evil is not proof of textual corruption.

The book treats primary texts in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Ge'ez, and Latin, and develops a sophisticated argument regarding "intertwined" oral and written traditions. Instead of assuming that Judaism and Christianity were decisively split apart by the second century CE, the author examines "the continued interpenetration of Jewish and Christian traditions long after the second century" (13). The author's helpful outline of the scope her study of the reception-history of BW is as follows:

After analyzing the motif of illicit angelic instruction in the "Book of the Watchers" (Ch. 1), I will consider traditions about the fallen angels first in pre-Rabbinic Judaism and the Jesus Movement (Chs. 2-3) and then in early Rabbinic Judaism and proto-orthodox Christianity (Chs. 4-5). Next, I will turn to the reception history of the "Book of the Watchers" in late antique Christianity (Ch. 6), and I will conclude with a consideration of early medieval Judaism (Ch. 7) (p. 14).

Keeping to plan, Yoshiko Reed patiently surveys (among other themes) the recurrent dispute among interpreters as to whether the culprits in Genesis 6:1-4 were angels or the "sons of nobles" or "powerful men"--i.e., whether to read the pericope euhemeristically or not. BW is quoted in the Epistle of Jude, possibly alluded to in Matthew 22.13a, in 1 and 2 Peter, and perhaps in several other New Testament passages. Yet Augustine authoritatively rejected the interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 in BW and other early Christian sources that assigned the blame for evil to angelic descent, opting instead for the interpretation of "sons of God" as human beings: "There is therefore no doubt that, according to the Hebrew and Christian canonical scriptures, there were many Giants before the deluge, and that these were citizens of the earthly society of men" (De Civitate Dei 15.23; quoted by Yoshiko Reed on p. 218; her emphasis). The Christian rejection of the angelic interpretation of "sons of God" coincided with the Christian rejection of the entire body of Enochic pseudepigrapha. But as Yoshiko Reed convincingly demonstrates, Christian rejection of Enoch pseudepigrapha was more gradual than the rejection of these texts in Rabbinic circles.

In chapter 7, to explain the reemergence of the BW's myth of the fallen angels in post-Talmudic Judaism, Yoshiko Reed (building on the work of J. C. Reeves and others) argues for the mediated influence of Manichean traditions. Both Jewish and Christian groups are plausible candidates for the mediating role (disputing Gershom Scholem's still widely cited but shaky hypothesis regarding the direct influence of Enochic traditions on later mystical writings). Here the crucial text is 3 Enoch, a work which itself "represents a late example of the Hekhalot [mystical] literature" (246). As the author concludes, "the Jewish and Christian reception- histories of the Book of the Watchers still remain intertwined, even into the early Middle Ages" (272). That fact, and illuminating observations (throughout the book) about the relationship between Jewish and Christian angelology in different periods, lend weight to the following methodological caveat that Yoshiko Reed offers in the last sentence of the book:

I have attempted to embody in this book my belief that the "Parting of the Ways" is an illusion that can be sustained only through a selective reading of the evidence, as well as my conviction that the scholarly fields of Patristics and Rabbinics each suffer from their present isolation from one another. And, if I have succeeded, then I hope that my conclusions speak to methodological concerns beyond the bounds of this narrow inquiry.

Yoshiko Reed's success in illuminating the fate of I Enoch in Rabbinic and Patristic writings and in later Christian and Jewish sources is truly praiseworthy; and one can only hope that her interdisciplinary methodology will inspire further studies in the field of Jewish and Christian biblical and religious studies.

The book is handsomely produced and well-written. I noticed only a few minor slip-ups: on p. 46, in the sentence beginning "Even as..." and ending "between heaven and earth," drop the word "thus" and the meaning becomes clear. On page 213, line 5, add "the" before "Generation of Enosh." On page 241, line 3 read "were" for "was" (or read "stage" for "stages"). On p. 254, n. 72: BG = "Book of the Giants", and should be included in the list of abbreviations on p. x. A final bibliographic note: in a 1971 article that escaped Yoshiko Reed's widely cast net--and little if anything else seems to have been left out of her bibliography, which runs to eighteen pages in what looks like 10-point type--the late R. E. Kaske suggested that the Old English poem Beowulf was influenced by the Book of Enoch. Noting the Beowulf-poet's depiction of the monster Grendel and his mother as descendants of Cain and vaguely related to the giants who rebelled against God, Kaske quotes Bede and other early medieval Latin authors whose understanding of Genesis 6:1-4 seems to be informed by I Enoch. Thanks to Yoshiko Reed, the nachleben of I Enoch is now better understood. As others follow in her footsteps, we will undoubtedly learn even more about its fascinating history and influence. 3