According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, 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

Monday, June 27, 2016

Phillip J. Long - Discussion of 1 Enoch, Part 6

The Book of the Heavenly Luminaries – 1 Enoch 72-82
https://readingacts.com/2016/06/17/the-book-of-the-heavenly-luminaries-1-enoch-72-82/

by Phillip J. Long
June 17, 2016

This section is a lengthy discourse on celestial bodies with the goal of calculating the length of a year correctly.

  • Chapter 72 – The Sun
  • Chapter 73 – The Moon
  • Chapter 74 – Systems of Rotation
  • Chapter 75 – The Stars and Their Positions
  • Chapter 76 – The Twelve Winds
  • Chapter 77 – Four Directions, Seven Mountains, Seven Rivers
  • Chapter 78 – Names for the Phases of the Sun and Moon
  • Chapter 79 – Conclusions on the Seasons
  • Chapter 80 – Parallels Between Sinners and Seasons

In Chapter 81 Enoch is told to read from the “tablets of heaven” and to report this reading to his son Methuselah. These books seem to contain all that will happen to all the flesh of the earth, although this “determinism” is based on astrological prediction. Enoch passes this knowledge onto his son in chapter 82. There is a clear statement in 82:4-6 that the true astronomical year ought to be 364 days. The computations which Enoch learned are true because they were communicated to him by the angel Uriel himself.

This section of 1 Enoch is quite esoteric and seems more or less unrelated to the study of the New Testament. John Collins observes the point of this section is to “prevent sin by calendrical error . . . right observance is determined by an understanding of the heavenly world” (Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 62). The major issue at the heart of this section of 1 Enoch is the length of the year. Everything in the unit serves as a proof for a 364-day calendar rather than a 360-day calendar.

While an arcane and difficult topic for the modern reader, the issue was of critical importance in the first century since it has ramifications for proper worship. The problem of the calendar is therefore important for the New Testament studies as well as Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship because of the dating of Passover. If one holds Passover according to the wrong calendar, does it count? Is it a sin to celebrate Passover on the wrong date? The Qumran community thought keeping the wrong date to be sinful and condemned the priestly aristocracy for using a 360-day calendar, while the Qumran community used a 364-day calendar. That 1 Enoch supports a 364-day calendar may account for the popularity of the book at Qumran.

I need to make another important observation about this calendar. There is nothing special about the calendar in 1 Enoch (or at Qumran for that matter)! It is simply a solar calendar. It is not “God’s Calendar” nor is it an apocalyptic roadmap for the future.


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The Dream Visions – 1 Enoch 82-83
https://readingacts.com/2016/06/21/the-dream-visions-1-enoch-82-83/

by Phillip J. Long
June 21, 2016

1 Enoch 83-90 is a new section since there is a break from the astronomical speculations of the previous section, although it is related to chapter 82 as a continuation of Enoch’s dialogue with Methuselah (83:1). These two chapters serve as an introduction to the Animal Apocalypse, a slightly veiled allegory of history up to the Maccabean period.

Enoch received these visions before he was married and still living with his grandfather, Mahalalel (Gen 5:12-17). After Enoch receives a vision the coming flood (83:2b-2), he relates his dream to his grandfather Mahalalel. This is Enoch’s first vision, and like Samuel and Eli (1 Sam 3), Enoch requires guidance from his grandfather to understand the vision.

Within the world of the story, the vision refers to the coming flood. But the description goes beyond Genesis 7 to convey “a picture of cosmic collapse and annihilation” (Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch, 349). As is typical in the Enoch literature, the imagery of the flood is conflated with the ultimate judgment of God.

1 Enoch 83:3-4 I saw in a vision the sky being hurled down and snatched and falling upon the earth. When it fell upon the earth, I saw the earth being swallowed up into the great abyss, the mountains being suspended upon mountains, the hills sinking down upon the hills, and tall trees being uprooted and thrown and sinking into the deep abyss. (OTP 1:61)

Mahalalel explains that sin is so great the earth must “sink into the abyss” (primordial chaos), but there is a possibility God would allow a remnant to remain on the earth. He therefore counsels Enoch to pray for the earth (83:6-9), which he does (83:10-11, 84:1-6). Enoch first praises God and acknowledges his greatness (83:2-4). These two verses resonate with many texts in the Hebrew Bible, although it is remarkably similar to Daniel 2:37-38 (describing Nebuchadnezzar) and 7:14 (describing the rule of the Son of Man), but also Isaiah 66:1-2 (heavens as God’s throne, the earth as his footstool).

1 Enoch 84:2 Blessed are you, O Great King, you are mighty in your greatness, O Lord of all the creation of heaven, King of kings and God of the whole world. Your authority and kingdom abide forever and ever; and your dominion throughout all the generations of generations; All the heavens are your throne forever, and the whole earth is your footstool forever and ever and ever.

Enoch’s request on behalf of the present generation. Even if the angels must come under judgment, Enoch prays that God would allow a remnant of humans survive the devastation. He asks God to raise up the righteous and true flesh “as a seed-bearing plant” (84:6). Within the world of the story, this obviously refers to the world after the flood and the family of Noah as a righteous family to repopulate the world: 1 Enoch 10:3; 65:12; 67:3 each describe Noah as a preserved seed.

But the image of a plant which survives the coming judgment resonates with description of the righteous remnant in Isaiah 6:13. At the time 1 Enoch 83-84 was written, the final judgment is still in the future. The prayer is that God will once again preserve the righteous remnant in that coming apocalyptic judgment.


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The Animal Apocalypse, Part 1 – 1 Enoch 85-90
https://readingacts.com/2016/06/22/the-animal-apocalypse-part-1-1-enoch-85-90/

by Phillip J. Long
June 22, 2016

The Animal Apocalypse is one of the most remarkable sections of 1 Enoch. As Daniel Olson says, the Animal Apocalypse “an original theological interpretation of human history.” Olson argues in his recent dissertation this allegory was written early in the Maccabean period as propaganda to support Judas’s actions. Olson dates the section precisely: it was “probably written about 165 BCE and then updated in mid- 161, following the battle of Adasa in March (1 Macc 7:39-50; 2 Macc 15:15-17).” Nickelsburg places 1 Enoch 90:9b-10, 12-16 in italics as a possible interpolation made around 163-161 B.C. The allegory therefore presents a history up to a point in Maccabean Revolt, but the intervention of the Lord of the sheep did not occur in history, nor does the judgment described in 90:20-27 reflect a historical event in the Maccabean period. Similar to Daniel 11, the history is only accurate up to the point when the author begins to speculate about a future intervention by God to restore Israel.

The story begins and ends with Eden. Enoch sees a white bull and a heifer (Adam and Eve) to whom two bulls were born, one black and the other red. The black bull gored the red one, killing it (Cain and Abel). The heifer came after the black bull but the first white bull quiets her and she gives him another white bull (Seth), along with many other bulls and black cows. The third bull (Seth) is white, a reference to the purity of the line of Seth.

Beginning with chapter 86, the Apocalypse offers a history of the pre-flood world. The stars mingle with the cows in the following chapter, giving birth to elephants, camels and donkeys. The cattle become frightened and they begin to bite and gore one another, referring to the fallen angels (Genesis 6; 1 Enoch 6-11). In 1 Enoch 87 a snow-white person comes down from heaven and rescues Enoch out of the chaos and tells him to watch the elephants and other animals. Four heavenly beings seize the fallen stars in chapter 88 and place them in the Abyss, bound hand and foot.

In the earliest part of the vision the identifications are obvious and straightforward, but as the allegory becomes more detailed there is more difficulty determining what the original writer had in mind. The basis for much of the imagery of the animal apocalypse seems to be Ezekiel 34 (sheep and shepherds) as well as the frequent imagery in the Psalms of Israel as the sheep of God’s pasture (95:6-7, for example). 1 Enoch 89:2-9 refers to the Flood. One of the four angels teaches the white bovine how to build an ark and this bovine becomes a man and builds it. The rising waters destroy all the animals, the ark lands and a man and three cows exit the ark.

The rest of Genesis and slavery in Egypt is summarized by 89:10-27. Israel are represented by sheep who are surrounded by wolves and rescued by the Lord of the Sheep (Israel in Egypt and the Exodus). This dazzling Lord leads the sheep out of a swamp and into the desert. In the desert the Lord begins to open the eyes of the sheep (89:28-38). One of the sheep leads the nation becomes a man and is taken up into heaven, a clear reference to Moses (v. 36).

The sheep are then led across a stream (the Jordan) into “a good place,” a “pleasant and glorious land” (89:39). In 89:39-50, the sheep settle in the land. When the sheep become dim-sighted another sheep is appointed to lead them, and their eyes open again (the “Judges cycle”). The sheep are oppressed by a variety of animals (Gentiles). The kings of Israel are rams, Solomon himself is a “little ram” who built a house for the Lord of the Sheep (89:50).

After passing over the Davidic kingdom briefly, 89:51-67 offers significant detail for the divided Kingdom after Solomon. In verse 59 seventy shepherds are summoned and commanded to watch over the sheep. These shepherds are held responsible for what the sheep do, implying these are the seventy elders or priesthood of Israel (Exod 24:1, Ezek 8:11, 1 Enoch 34:1-31). R. H. Charles called the identity of the seventy “the most vexed question in Enoch” (Charles,Commentary, 2:255). He suggested the seventy were angels since they received their orders from God; humans would have been represented as animals in this context. Charles overlooks the fact some of the characters in the story were humans (Noah, for example, was a bovine who became human when given the commission to build the ark) and he seems to ignore the fact these seventy are judged for their mismanagement of the sheep, as were the elders of Israel.

The exile is briefly narrated in 89:68-72. The sheep are delivered to oppressors and many are killed. A writer records in a book how many have perished. This book was read aloud to the Lord of the Sheep and then sealed. Verse 72 is probably the return from exile and the rebuilding of the city and temple under Ezra and Nehemiah. In 89:73-77 the city and temple are rebuilt, but the sheep are weak and poor-sighted (the post-exilic community in Judah).

The first section of the Animal Apocalypse closely follows the story of the Hebrew Bible from Eden through the exile, although it is remarkable how little is said about David and Solomon. Taken as a propaganda piece for Judas and the future Hasmoneans, the first part of the Animal Apocalypse is more interested in presenting Judas as a legitimate successor to other leaders who were empowered by the Lord of Sheep to lead the people out of slavery and into the glorious land (Moses, Joshua).


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The Animal Apocalypse, Part 2 – 1 Enoch 85-90
https://readingacts.com/2016/06/23/the-animal-apocalypse-part-2-1-enoch-85-90/
by Phillip J. Long
June 23, 2016

The next period of history (1 Enoch 90:1-5) from 426/416 to 265/255 B.C. (Nickelsburg, 395). Thirty-seven shepherds pasture the sheep, then twenty-three shepherds pasture the sheep, fifty-eight seasons total (rather than seventy, as expected). The number could be thirty-five (OTP 1:69 note b, following Charles). If so, then the numbers break down to 12+23+23 = 58. This section seems to track the history between the return from exile and the Maccabean period, although it is very difficult to know what to make of the “fifty-eight seasons” other than a general description of the various Ptolemy and Seleucid kings which fought over Palestine.

Like Daniel 11, the apocalypse grows more detailed in the Maccabean period (90:6-12). A “great horn” grows on one of the lambs and rallies the sheep against the oppressors, likely Judas Maccabees. In 90:13-19 the sheep (Israel) battles the beasts (Gentiles in general, Seleucid in particular). The Lord of the Sheep intervenes in wrath; he strikes the ground with his rod and a great sword is given to the sheep to kill the beasts of the earth. This could refer to the victory of the Maccabean Revolt. If so, it is highly exaggerated. If the Lord of the Sheep is God or a messianic figure, then he did not directly intervene in the revolution against Antiochus IV Epiphanies. Verse 19 is the key: “a great sword was given to the sheep.” This divine passive indicates a human agent was given permission by God to successfully make way against the Gentiles (cf. Rev 6:4).

In 90:20-27 the apocalypse now shifts the future as a great throne is set up in the pleasant land (Israel). We are told only that “he sat upon it,” with the implication that the Lord of the Sheep who struck the earth with his rod is the subject. The Lord begins the judgment of the sheep and their shepherds (Ezekiel 34:1-10, the Lord will judge the shepherd of Israel.) In verse 20 the books are opened and seven shepherds are punished for killing more sheep that they were ordered to (verse 22). Perhaps this refers to the various nations who have oppressed Israel: Assyrian, Babylon, Persia, Ptolemys, Seleucids, etc. In Nahum, for example, Assyria is not judged for their role in the destruction of Samaria since this was ordained by the Lord, but rather for going far beyond the decreed destruction by killing and torturing more victims than necessary. The same theme may be found in Obadiah, concerning Edomite atrocities in 586 B.C. These are cast into the fiery abyss (verse 24), the seventy shepherds are found guilty as well and cast into the abyss to the right of the house (verse 26, presumably Gehenna, to the east of the Temple.)

The Lord of the Sheep renovates the old house (the Temple, or the city of Jerusalem) into a new, greater house (90:28-36). The old Temple is torn apart and replaced with a more beautiful building and ornaments, recalling Ezekiel 40-48. As Nickelsburg points out, traditions about a New Jerusalem are widespread in Second Temple Judaism, including Revelation 21:1-4.

1 Enoch is certainly part of these traditions. The vision cannot refer to the early second temple, which was not at all a beautiful building. This is a prophecy of a restored Solomonic temple or perhaps a reference to the Herodian renovations. It would seem odd, however, for the Herodian temple to be praised so highly. The sheep are white and their wool is “thick and pure” (90:32) and their eyes are opened to see good things. For the first time there is “none among them who do not see” (90:35). All of the sheep which survived and all of the other animals worship the sheep. This may refer to a mass gentile conversion after Israel is established in the land (Charles, 2:258, cf. Isa 14:2; 66:12, 19-21).

Finally, in 90:37-38 a new snow-white bull is born with huge horns. All the sheep and animals of the world fear this new bull. He began to transform all the animals into snow white cows, not stopping until they are all transformed. Although the vision did not focus on David, Nickelsburg “the presence of such a messianic figure here should not be surprising” (1 Enoch, 406). In fact, this ideal shepherd may be drawn from Ezekiel 34. There a new, good shepherd appears in the future, replacing the bad shepherds who had failed to care for God’s sheep.
One problem is that the messianic figure in this section is not a sheep (live David and Solomon), but rather a bull. This figure is a new Adam or Seth, the last characters in the apocalypse to be described as bulls. A “new Adam” soteriology ought to sound familiar to Christian readers. As Nickelsburg says, “The closest analogy is in the two-Adams theology of the apostle Paul (Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch, 407). Even if the reference is to Seth, then this bull is a “son of Adam,” or “son of man.” What is remarkable is that all the animals are transformed into snow-white cattle. This is an unexpected universalism: in the eschatological age, the nations will “convert” and worship the God of Israel.

Enoch awakes from his vision and rejoices in the Lord (90:39-42) and weeps greatly because of the vision which he has seen.


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Introduction to the Epistle of Enoch – 1 Enoch 91-92
https://readingacts.com/2016/06/27/introduction-to-the-epistle-of-enoch-1-enoch-91-92/

by Phillip J. Long
June 27, 2016

This last section of 1 Enoch contains wisdom-like literature which condemns various sinners. The section also contains a “testament” in which Enoch urges his grandchildren to live a moral lifestyle. Included as chapter 93 is an apocalyptic section commonly known as the Apocalypse of Weeks. Both chapter 91 and 92 have superscription in some manuscripts indicating the beginning of the fifth book, therefore chapter 91 may be a conclusion to the dream visions of the previous section. Nickelsburg calls chapter 91 a “narrative bridge” concluding the Dream Visions.

Like Jacob in Genesis 49, Enoch gathers his children to listen to his word (91:1-4, 19) and describes to them the increase of violence in the world which will result in great plagues and finally in judgment (91:5-11). In this judgment all sinners and blasphemers will be cut off. Chapter 91:12-17 seem misplaced since they describe the eighth and ninth weeks; the Apocalypse of Weeks in chapter 93 cuts off after the seventh week. Charles re-arranges the text so that the Apocalypse of Weeks is in order, OTP leaves the text out of order without comment. This is confirmed by Aramaic fragments from Qumran discovered since Charles published (Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, Second Edition, 62).

Chapter 92 also forms an introduction to this final section (verse one). Enoch tells his readers they ought not to be troubled by difficult times, the Holy and Great One has declared “specific days for all things (92:2). The Righteous One will wake from his sleep, and walk in righteousness forever. God himself will give the Righteous One eternal uprightness and authority to judge. The righteous will “walk in eternal light,” while the “sin and darkness will perish forever” will never be seen again.

This short chapter seems to speak of a messianic age, assuming the phrase “Righteous One” ought to be taken as the same as in the book of Similitudes (Righteous One, Elect One, “that son of man,” etc.)
. There will come an individual who will establish God’s rule on earth and judge fairly between the righteous and the sinner.