According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Phillip J. Long - Discussion of 1 Enoch, Part 2

Enoch and the Essene Hypothesis

by Phillip J. Long
May 25, 2016

The book known today as 1 Enoch [is] not a single book, but rather a series of short books written over a period of time. They share some themes and interests, most obviously revelations given to Enoch. Since four of the five major sections of the book were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, it would appear the Qumran community valued the books. But just because a book appears in a library is not sufficient evidence to conclude the owner of the book agrees with the contents. (For example, how many books in your personal library reflect what you actually believe?)

Gabriele Boccaccini argues in favor of a close relationship between the books of Enoch and the Qumran community. While there is no evidence to suggest the Essene community produced the documents which later became known as 1 Enoch. Boccaccini rightly notes the importance of this literature to the community, which he describes as a “a parent-child relationship.” (Boccaccini, Beyond the Essene Hypothesis, 12). He believes “the mystery of Essene and Qumran origins is largely hidden in the Enoch literature” (Boccaccini, 13).

There are problems with this proposal, however. As Boccaccini admits, the presence of an anti-Zadokite Enoch in a pro-Zadok Essene library is troubling. Other elements which are important in the sectarian literature of Qumran are missing. “The Enochian texts offer some theological surprises to the thoughtful reader who is sensitive both to what is there and what is not there” (Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch, 5). No sacrificial cult in Jerusalem, for example: “Soteriology is knowledge in Enoch, divinely revealed secret knowledge” (Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch, 6).

Reconstructing the community which might have created this literature is clearly difficult. Commenting on the possibility of reconstructing 1 Enoch’s community, Nickelsburg rightly warns, “We see darkly in a tarnished and scratched mirror, and our interpretations of the images often present only one of several possibilities” (Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch, 3). In Boccaccini’s reconstruction, the influence of Hellenism on the religion and practice of Israel is the impetus for the creation of this literature. As Hellenism made inroads into Jewish society in Palestine, those who argued for traditional Jewish values found themselves in a struggle for the hearts of the people.

That Israel is God’s elect is clear from the Hebrew Bible, but how that election relates to Jewish boundary markers was not always clear. The Hebrew Bible demonstrates clearly that God will judge between the righteous and the sinner, the elect and the non-elect. The Community which produced the material in 1 Enoch seems to have looked forward to a judgment of God which would sort out the true elect from the false.

*Bibliography: Gabriele Boccaccini. Beyond the Essene Hypothesis: The Parting of the Ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1998).

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The Book of Watchers – 1 Enoch 1-5

by Phillip J. Long
May 27, 2016

1 Enoch 1-5 is an introduction to the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 6-36). Nickelsburg argues the superscription to the book is an allusion to Deuteronomy 33:1 and he translates it to make the allusion more clear.

Deuteronomy 33:1 - This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the people of Israel before his death.

1 Enoch 1:1 - The words of the blessing with which Enoch blessed the righteous chosen who will be present on the day of tribulation, to remove all the enemies; and the righteous will be saved.

Chapter 1 describes a “day of tribulation” (יום צרה, εἰς ἡμέραν ἀνάγκης) during which the ungodly will be destroyed and a great cataclysm. The chapter is rich with apocalyptic language here: mountains and high places falling down, earth split asunder, etc. This tribulation is a time when the “God of the universe” will come forth from his dwelling and “march upon Sinai and appear in his camp” (1:4). This awesome event will cause all to tremble, even the Watchers, the angelic beings who constantly observe the actions of God.

This arrival of God is for judgment, as 1:9 states: “He will come with ten millions of his holy ones in order to execute judgment upon all.” This verse is used by Jude in the New Testament, but here in 1 Enoch it is the theme for the whole Book of the Watchers. With respect to the plot of the book, the judgment is the coming Flood, but it is clear the writer of 1 Enoch is thinking beyond the Flood to a future judgment of God on the wicked in his own day. Like Noah and his family, the elect of the writer’s day will be preserved from this coming judgment: “to the righteous he will grant peace.” The phrase “the elect” will be repeated throughout the Book of Watchers.

Chapters 2-5 are speculative wisdom not unlike Job 38-41. The writer invites his readers to examine the orderliness of creation and observe that God does not change. The natural order is a progression of seasons which follow very precise patterns and laws. In 5:4 he turns this into a condemnation of the wicked: “But as for you, you have long transgressed and spoken slanderously….” Verse seven then turns to the righteous, who will have “joy and peace in the earth.”

After the judgment, wisdom will be given to the elect who will all live and not return again to sin, being preserved from the plagues and wrath (5:7). This is not necessarily immortality since verse eight says they will live out the complete designated number of their days. Verse 9, however says their lives and happiness will “increase forever.” Isaacs says some manuscripts modify this to “and their lives shall be increased in peace,” taking away some of the ambiguity OTP, 1:15 note v, on verse 10). Nickelsburg agrees with this translation.

Like many of prophetic books, 1 Enoch begins by sounding several key themes. First, judgment is coming on the wicked. Like the Flood, this will judgment will be a cataclysm which destroys all. But second, the elect will be preserved in from this coming tribulation. Like Noah’s family, Enoch’s community may suffer, but they will be ultimately preserved and vindicated when the final judgment arrives. These are themes found in many apocalyptic texts; in the New Testament, Revelation promises judgment is coming and the preservation of the elect through that time of persecution.

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The Fallen Angels – 1 Enoch 6-8

by Phillip J. Long
May 31, 2016

Chapter 6 begins the actual Book of the Watchers. In the biblical story of the Nephilim, the sons of God saw the daughters of men were are beautiful so they married them and had children (Gen 6:1-4). These children were called the Nephilim, the “mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.” In Genesis, the story shows how far the wickedness of humans had become: humans interacted sexually with spiritual beings. No details are given on how this might be possible, but the next verse in Genesis says “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This brief story is tantalizing: who are these “sons of God” and what were the Nephilim? 1 Enoch offers an expansion of this biblical story in chapters 6-11.

In 1 Enoch, the sons of God are the “sons of heaven,” angelic beings led by Shemihazah. The name Shemihazah (שׁמיחזה, šemîḥăzāh) means “My name has seen” and is sometimes vocalized as Semyaz of Semyaza (Nickelsburg, 179). “Name” refers to God, so the name refers to constantly watching God. This is ironic since God will see this rebellion and render judgment on the Shemihazah. Some readers want to find some reference to Satan as the leader of “fallen” angels. As the story progresses, however, Azazel emerges as the ringleader (but later Enoch will intercede on behalf of Azazel). This is an example of how foolish (and impossible) it is to project modern Christian angelology on 1 Enoch. Azazel is not the modern version of Satan at all!

This is FAKE
The two hundred angels take an oath to descend to Mt Hermon, find women to marry and have children with them. 1 Enoch 6:7-8 lists the names of the leaders of these angels. Most have names have some reference to God (Remashel, “evening of God” or Kokabel, “star of God” ). The most interesting of these names is Dan’el, a name associated with the Ugaritic literature and often offered as an explanation of the legendary character of Daniel.

In chapters 7 and 8 the angels make good on their oath and take women as wives. They teach humans “magical medicines, incantations, the cutting of roots and about plants.” The origin of folk-medicine is therefore ascribed to these angelic beings. The children of the angels are giants standing three hundred cubits (an improbable 1800 yards tall!) These giants eat so much food the humans cannot feed them anymore. The giants proceed to eat humans as well as all other kinds of animals.

The text notes especially that they drank the blood of animals, “sinning against them.” In the biblical flood story, the Noahic covenant includes a command about consuming blood. 1 Enoch 7-8 is a reflection upon this command which was probably given because the antediluvian world did in fact consume blood.

In addition to teaching humans to interpret a wide range of signs, they teach humans medicinal magic. The angel Azazel teaches humans metal-working, including making of ornaments and weapon making. Azazel also teaches them to make eye-shadow and other physical ornamentation. This may be a polemic against pagan practice of using make up in their religious ceremonies. Other angels teach the humans how to track the stars (astrology and divination) and the signs of the moon. These angels are responsible for teaching humans all sorts of the sinful practices. Humanity cries out as a result of this oppression, a cry which “goes up to heaven.”

This detailed expansion of the biblical stories blames wicked angelic beings for revealing mysteries to humans which will result in sin. It is not Adam’s rebellion in the garden that is responsible for human evil, but wicked angelic beings who do not remain in their appointed place. What is more, the great Flood is not the result of human sin, but the rebellion of these angelic beings.

This is a significant re-writing of the worldview of Genesis 6. What is the author’s motivation for this shift of blame?

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Reading 1 Enoch in Ethiopic

by Phillip J. Long
June 1, 2016

This is a brief follow-up to my earlier post on finding a translation of Enoch. Several people have offered suggestions in the comments to supplement my opinion that the “best value” translation is the Fortress Press reprint of Nickelsburg and Vanderkam from the Hermeniaseries. But if you want to read the Ethiopic text of of 1 Enoch, the resources available tend to be very expensive and hard to find.

James Hamrick has created a number of Reading Guides for reading 1 Enoch. He is a Graduate Student at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, blogs at The Ancient Bookshelf. He has posted a few these to He uses the text from R.H. Charles and creates a worksheet with a vocabulary list. Hamrick does not offer any grammatical comments, but for a beginning student these worksheets will make for good practice.

Hamrick posted similar documents for Ethiopic Jubilees as well as a set of Ge’ez Flashcards.

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The Archangels Render Justice -1 Enoch 9-11

by Phillip J. Long
June 2, 2016

In 1 Enoch 9 we learn the rest of the angels are watching the progress of the events on earth. Michael, Sariel (Isaacs follows the Ethiopic, Surafel; manuscripts have Uryan of Ur’el Raphael (Rufa’el) and Gabriel. They hear the cries of the humans and respond in a prayer to God himself. After praising God they point out to him the activities of Azazel on earth. They blame him for teaching humans the “eternal secrets” and Shemihazah for allowing the other angels to sleep with the humans and produce the hybrid giants.

The Lord responds to this prayer in chapter 10 by sending out a number of angels with specific tasks. An angel named Sariel (Ethiopic, Asuryal) is sent to the “son of Lamech” (Noah) to warn him of the coming flood. This angel is to instruct the son of Lamech on how to flee from the flood and “preserve his seed for all generations.”

In verses 5-8 the angel Raphael is sent to bind Azazel hand and foot and to throw him into the darkness. Both Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4-5 refer to angels who fell as “bound in chains in darkness.” Compare this also to Matthew 22:13 where the unprepared guest is ousted from the wedding banquet and is bound and thrown to “the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

In 9: 9-10 Gabriel is sent to destroy the children of the angels (now called “Watchers”). These giants are described as “bastards and children of adultery.” Verse 10 says these giants hoped to live for five hundred years, which may be taken as how long they hoped to live before judgment came upon them, although it may simply refer to the length of their lives. There is no reference to the long lives of humans in 1 Enoch before the flood, so the five hundred-year life-span may be what is in mind.

In verse 11 Michael is sent to warn Semyaz he is about to be judged and bound for seventy generations under the mountains, until the day of judgment, in a pit of fire. Again, a similar theme is found in Jude 6 and Revelation 20:10-15.

After the time of judgment the world will be cleansed and the righteous will flourish: 10:18-19 mentions agricultural blessings; 10:21 describes the earth as cleansed from all pollution. God’s speech concludes in Chapter 11 with a brief description of the “storehouse of blessing” which will be opened after the time of judgment, a time when “peace and truth shall become partners again in all the days of the world and in all the generations of the earth.”

Looking back to the inspiration for this story in Genesis, the evil world is destroyed by the Flood, but this does not eradicate sin (Gen 9:20-29). 1 Enoch describes the world after the Watchers are destroyed as a time of peace and truth “for all eternity.” A similar apocalyptic pattern of coming judgment followed by a time of ultimate peace is certainly found in Revelation 20-22.

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