The Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36)


by Albert Lukaszewski

[Al Lukaszewski is a doctoral student in his third year of study at the Divinity School of the University of St. Andrews.]

The Book of the Watchers is the second earliest book of 1 Enoch. As it is attested at Qumran, it is commonly considered to be a Jewish pseudepigraphon written around 200 B.C.E. The present paper addresses the study of the Book of the Watchers in three regards: an assessment of the case for the Book of the Watchers as a Jewish pseudepigraphon, the theological themes of the Book, and the relationship between Enochic and Mosaic Judaism.

One of the major criteria used to classify pseudepigrapha as Jewish is their use of the Mosaic Torah or the traditional interpretation thereof. However, the Book of the Watchers does not do this. Rather, the Enochic tradition seems to have represented an alternative to the Mosaic Torah and, as such, did not embrace it as centrally authoritative. One must determine what is meant by Judaism with respect to the Book of the Watchers. Several textual characteristics, combined with the Qumran scrolls, strongly argue for Jewish authorship in Aramaic during the late Hellenistic period. The Book may then be seen to reflect a parallel, independent tradition which developed from a source common to the redactor of Genesis 5 and 6.

The author of the Book uses the concept of a transcendent, divine king who is set to judge between good and evil to accent the wickedness of the Watchers. The result of this is not only an aetiological statement about evil upon the earth, but a statement on Enochic ethics. Thus the reader is presented with a code of behaviour that does not differ substantially from that of Mosaic Judaism. While the latter details a considerably more comprehensive system of obedience, the code of the former does not contradict this system.

Because of the manifest lack of overt references to the Mosaic Torah, 1 Enoch is seen by many to attest an alternative form of Judaism to the commonly known Mosaic form of Judaism. These two systems of Judaism thus show a polyvalence in Second Temple Judaism. The major areas on which the two conflict are: the importance of covenant, the nature of the commandment, the religious patriarch who received the commandment, the nature of obedience, and the qualifications for membership among the elect. These differences eventually led to the Book being virtually ignored by later Judaism and being used extensively by the apostolic and post-apostolic church fathers.

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

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