The Animal Apocalypse (1 Enoch 83-90)


by Sarah Hardcastle

[Sarah Hardcastle is a third-year undergraduate in the M.Theol. programme at the University of St. Andrews.–JRD]

The Animal Apocalypse is one of the dream visions of Enoch, in which Enoch sees the entire history of humankind played out before him from Adam and Eve to the final messiah. However, the author of the Animal Apocalypse chose to depict all the characters as animals.

The Animal Apocalypse bears all the hallmarks of an anti-Zadokite piece of literature. It contains such themes as the illegitimacy of the Second Temple, evil in the world due to angelic sin, and support for the Maccabees. Boccaccini believes that the authors of the Enochic literature were antecedent to the Essene group, who followed a priestly anti-Zadokite tradition in the Second Temple period. This fits in well with the main themes of the text and the date of the composition (165-160 BCE).

The question of why the Jews lost interest in the Animal Apocalypse is not a simple question. It may have something to do with the fact that the text does not really mention the Mosaic Torah or the Covenant. Perhaps in later times this made it appear much less appealing, especially if it was being proclaimed by the Christians. Also a strong theme in the Animal Apocalypse is that wisdom is to be found only through revelation and not simply through the reading of the scriptures.

There are also internal signature features that provide a strong argument for the text being originally Jewish. The evidence for the date of composition points to 160-165 BCE, a time well before Christianity. Although there are no fragments in Hebrew, there are some in Aramaic that were found as part of the Judean Desert manuscripts. There is also concern shown about the Temple and in particular national interest shown through the imagery, constant reference to the house (Jerusalem), and hostility toward Gentile foreign invaders.

In conclusion, therefore, I believe that this an originally Jewish text that was written between 160-165 BCE by Enochic authors who were part of the pre-Essene group who were speaking out against the Zadokites who they felt were leading the people away from God.

(c) 2002
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

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