Angelic Descent and Apocalyptic Epistemology The Teachings of Enoch and the Fallen Angels in the Book of the Watchers

clj efore exploring the jewish and christian transformations of the Enochic myth of angelic descent, we must first ask how the fallen angels and their teachings function within the Book of the Watchers itself. Our inquiry into the reception-history of this apocalypse necessitates a focus on the redacted form of the text, the form in which (most) Jews and Christians would encounter it. In light of its complex literary history, however, the contents of the apocalypse cannot be addressed apart from some discussion of the strands from which it has been woven.

As noted above, the Book of the Watchers appears to integrate at least five originally independent units into the larger narrative framework of an apocalypse. Some of these units are themselves composite, constructed from threads of even more ancient texts and/or traditions. In the apocalypse's present form, the combination and arrangement of these parts have resulted in the integration of traditions about two events with no connection in the book of Genesis: Enoch walking with God and being taken by Him (Gen 5:21 -24) and the "sons of God" choosing wives from the "daughters of men" (Gen 6:1 -4).

The first unit, 1 En. 1 -5, establishes Enoch's status as a visionary with unique access to heavenly knowledge and records his exhortations about the value ofcosmological phenomena as models for ethical behavior. The second, 1 En. 6-11, wholly concerns the fallen angels. Beginning with a paraphrase of Gen 6:1 -4, this unit recounts the Watchers' descent from heaven, the tragic results for humankind, and the divine response to the earthly crisis - with no reference to Enoch at all. The next unit, 1 En. 12-16, begins with an expansive retelling of Gen 5:24,which posits that Enoch ascended to heaven "before these things."1 This assertion occasions a lengthy account of Enoch's commission

1 I.e., before the descent of the Watchers.

to rebuke the Watchers, first by the archangels and then by God Himself. The last two units (1 En. 17-19; 20-36) similarly focus on Enoch. Consistent with the cosmological concerns of the first unit, they detail the special revelations that the antediluvian sage received during his tours of earth and heaven.

Most notable for our purposes are the two units that most focus on the fallen angels: 1 En. 6-11 and 1 En. 12-16. The former is commonly thought to be the earlier of the two. Not only do chapters 6-11 make no mention of Enoch, but they are written as third-person narrative. In style, they thus recall biblical retellings such as Jubilees and the Genesis Apocryphon, even as they differ from the pseudonymous first-person and second-person addresses that dominate the rest of the Book of the Watchers. These and other factors have led scholars to propose that 1 En. 6-11 represents one of the most ancient strata in the Book of the Watchers, possibly even preserving a "literary unit of distinct origin" or a part of "an independent midrashic source."2 Citing the many repetitions and contradictions in its account of angelic descent, many have speculated that 1 En. 6-11 contains even more ancient texts or traditions.3

The next unit, 1 En. 12-16, appears to be a later composition. This unit uses the trope of prophetic rebuke to insert Enoch into the story of the Watchers.4 It was likely placed in its current context to serve as a transition between the account of angelic descent in 1 En. 6-11 and the account of Enoch's otherworldly journeys in 1 En. 17 and following.5 Moreover, its lexical and thematic parallels with 1 En. 6-11 suggests that it interprets some form of the earlier unit.6

By virtue of the inclusion and juxtaposition of these two units, the Book of the Watchers preserves earlier traditions about angelic descent alongside later attempts to understand them and to come to terms with the precise role of the Watchers in the origin and spread of earthly evils. The apocalypse thus preserves multiple stages in the interpretation of the angelic descent myth, such that its redaction-history is, in more ways than one, the beginning of the story of its reception and reinterpretation.

The present chapter will progress in three sections, mirroring different stages in the redactional growth of the apocalypse. We will begin with 1 En. 6-11, focusing on the function of the motif of illicit angelic instruction within

2 Nickelsburg, "Reflections," 311; Dimant, "1 Enoch 6-11," 323.

3 Charles, Commentary, 13; Nickelsburg, "Apocalyptic and Myth," 384-86; Dimant, "1 Enoch 6-11," 323-24,329; idem, "Fallen Angels," 23-72; Hanson, "Rebellion," 195-233.

4 Jansen, Henochgestalt, 114-17.

5 Newsom, "Development," 313.

6 Newsom, "Development," 315, 319; Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 38; cf. Tigchelaar, Prophets, 156.

this composite unit and considering the significance of the topics of teaching associated with the Watchers. Then, we will turn to the interpretation of these chapters in the next unit, 1 En. 12-16, examining the literary and epistemo-logical functions of the instruction motif within the description of Enoch's commission to rebuke the Watchers. This will be followed by an analysis of the significance of the fallen angels and the instruction motif within the Book of the Watchers as a redacted whole. In conclusion, we will consider the status that the apocalypse, in its final form, claims for itself vis-a-vis the material about Enoch and the "sons of God" in Genesis.

In using the redactional growth of the Book of the Watchers to shed light on its final form, this chapter departs from most previous scholarship on the traditions about the fallen angels in this apocalypse. Consistent with R. H. Charles' foundational work on 1 Enoch, modern research into the Enochic myth of angelic descent has commonly focused on the earliest unit, 1 En. 6-11, and has approached these chapters from source-critical and form-critical perspectives. By isolating material that features different themes and angelic figures, scholars have sought to recover the originally independent traditions that lie behind this section of the Book of the Watchers.7

These studies have contributed much to our understanding of the formation of the Book of the Watchers. Yet their excavative interests have perhaps distracted from the task of explaining how the integration of multiple traditions about the fallen angels contributes to the meaning of the apocalypse as a whole. Inasmuch as source-critical and form-critical inquiries have tended to resolve the redundancies and inconsistencies in 1 En. 6-11 by speculating about earlier versions of the angelic descent myth, they tacitly dismiss the redacted product as a muddled combination and conflation of originally coherent "legends."

The limitations of such approaches have been highlighted by John J. Collins. Collins acknowledges the composite character of the Book of the Watchers, but he questions the anachronistic imposition of "a modern ideal of clarity or consistency" on this third-century bce apocalypse.8 For Collins, the "breaks in the continuity, inconsistency in the explanation of evil and duplications of angelic functions" in 1 En. 6-11 are not merely byproducts of its literary history. Rather, the composite form and elusive imagery of 1 En. 6-11 reflect the broader aims that shaped the production of early Jewish apocalypses and should be

7 Charles, Commentary, 13; Nickelsburg, "Apocalyptic and Myth," 384-86; Dimant, "1 Enoch 6-11," 323-24,329; eadem, "Fallen Angels," 23-72; Hanson, "Rebellion," 195-233.

8 Collins, "Methodological," 315-16; idem, "Apocalyptic Technique," 94-97, 102; so also Tigchelaar, Prophets, 172-73; Garcia Martinez, Qumran and Apocalyptic, 69.

understood alongside other literary strategies common to the genre. Like the typological interpretation of events and the emphasis on recurring patterns in human history, the juxtaposition of multiple approaches to the fallen angels in 1 En. 6-16 aims to "conceal. . . the historical specificity of the immediate situation beneath the primeval archetype," helping to relieve contemporary anxieties through an "allegorization of crisis" that combines the mythological past, the conflicted present, and the eschatological future.9 Collins' critique of source-critical and form-critical approaches to the Book of the Watchers leads us to move beyond questions about the origins of its composite parts, to consider also the purpose and effect of their present arrangement.

The challenge of engaging the Book of the Watchers as both a composite text and a redacted whole proves particularly pertinent for the present inquiry. To understand how later readers reconciled the different (sometimes dissonant) versions of the angelic descent myth in the revelations here associated with Enoch, we must first understand how they operate within the Book of the Watchers. Most significant, in this regard, is Collins' suggestion that the inclusion of multiple traditions in 1 En. 6-16 reflects "the essential polyvalence of apocalyptic symbolism which enables it to be reapplied in new historical situations."10 In what follows, I will argue that one cannot understand the Book of the Watchers' approach to angelic descent apart from an analysis of the new meanings generated by the juxtaposition of multiple traditions. Even as the redactors preserve a range of different approaches to the fallen angels, the arrangement of these traditions functions to communicate a coherent message. Not only does this polysemy enhance the paradigmatic quality of the Book of the Watchers, but it surely facilitated the adoption of the Enochic myth of angelic descent by a variety of later Jews and Christians for a surprisingly broad range of different aims.

In 1 En. 6-11, we find a composite unit whose exuberant polysemy evades any easy explanation. This unit includes three descriptions of the Watchers' transgressions, each with a different focus. The first, 1 En. 6-7, most closely follows Gen 6:1 -4:chapter 6 begins with a paraphrase of Gen 6:1 (v.1), followed by a description of the Watcher Semihazah convincing a group of angels to swear an oath to travel to the earth and beget children with the "daughters of men" (vv.3-6). Chapter 7 tells of their cohabitation and defilement with

9 Collins, "Apocalyptic Technique," 99-101.

10 Collins, "Apocalyptic Technique," 98.

human women, to whom they teach magical and medicinal arts (v.i) and from whom Giants are born (v.2). The great violence of the Giants is then described (v.3; cf. Gen 6:11), culminating in the outcry of the earth against them (v.4).

The next chapter, 1 En. 8, offers a second summary of angelic sin, which forefronts the extrabiblical tradition that the Watchers corrupted humankind through their teachings. This chapter is structured around a list of fallen angels that identifies the specific type of knowledge transmitted by each (vv.i -3). Although Semihazah appears in the list, another Watcher, Asael, is most prominent. Here, it is his act of instruction that precipitates the spread of violence and promiscuity amongst humankind. Like the preceding summary, this account of angelic sin concludes with a description of the violence of the Giants and the human outcry against them (v.4).

In the description of the response to this outcry by heavenly archangels in

I En. 9, the reader encounters yet another summary of the sins of the fallen angels (vv.6-10). This summary is spoken by the archangels to God and is framed as their intercession in response to the outcry of the earth and/or the humans on it. The sins of the Watchers are thus described in the context of a petition for their punishment. Special attention is given to both Asael and Semihazah, while the rest of the Watchers remain unnamed. As in 1 En. 6-7 and 1 En. 8, this summary concludes by recounting the outcry of humankind against the Giants.

Scholars have typically explained the narrative redundancies and thematic inconsistencies in 1 En. 6-11 by isolating different strata and reconstructing multiple underlying "legends."11 Nickelsburg, for instance, begins from the observation that 1 En. 6-11 contains verses that depict Semihazah as the chief of the Watchers together with verses that depict Asael as their leader.12 He correlates these two figures with what he sees as two distinct approaches to the origins of antediluvian sin and suffering.13 He reads the Semihazah material as an early midrashic elaboration of Gen 6-9 that forefronts the Watchers' sexual sins and the violence caused by their progeny.14 In his view, this material was later supplemented with material about Asael, which reflects an "independent myth about the rebellion of a single angelic figure" and blames the deterioration of earthly life on the revelation of forbidden knowledge.15

II See further Reed, "Heavenly Ascent," 50-52.

12 See chart in Nickelsburg, "Apocalyptic," 384; cf. Dimant, "1 Enoch 6-11," 324,326,333.

13 Nickelsburg, "Apocalyptic," 397-404; idem, "Reflections," 311; idem, 1 Enoch 1, 171. Also Dimant, "1 Enoch 6-11," 326-27; Hanson, "Rebellion," 220-26.

14 1 En. 6:1 -8; 7:2-6; 8:4-9:11; 10:1 -3; 10:11 -11:2; Nickelsburg, "Apocalyptic," 386-404; idem, Commentary, 166-68.

15 1 En. 8:1 -2; 9:6; 10:7-8; Nickelsburg, Commentary, 171.

Other scholarly reconstructions differ in their details, but virtually all share [1 ] the view of the motif of illicit angelic instruction as a secondary development within the Enochic myth of angelic descent and [2] an overarching interest in untangling the various traditions behind 1 En. 6-11.16 In my view, it is likely that 1 En. 6-11 was shaped by oral traditions about angelic descent and specific fallen angels, and it is significant that these traditions reflect far more than mere exegesis of Gen 6:1 -^Nevertheless, perhaps too many discussions of 1 En. 6-11 have treated the Semihazah and Asael material in isolation, preferring the logical cohesion of hypothetical sources or oral "legends" to the rich polysemy of the extant text. As Collins rightly notes, "we cannot purposefully discuss the meaning and function of the Semihazah story apart from the Asael material" and, furthermore, "the fact that these distinct traditions are allowed to stand in some degree of tension is already significant for our understanding of the function of this book."17

Here tooCollins' correctives prove particularly relevant for our inquiry into the Nachleben of the Book of the Watchers. Especially insofar as we have no evidence that the Semihazah and Asael material in 1 En. 6-11 ever circulated independently, we must take seriously their combination in the present form of these chapters. Moreover, the material about antediluvian history in 1 En. 6-11 is no more polysemous than the material about the Flood in Genesis, and there is little reason to assume that the ancient readers of the Book of the Watchers were any less sophisticated than "biblical" exegetes in appreciating, negotiating, and interpreting multiple levels of meaning. For the present inquiry, the prehistory of 1 En. 6-11 thus proves less significant than its present function in the Book of the Watchers and the range of meanings generated by its polyvalent account of angelic descent.

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