The book of the watchers in historical and social context

Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it was commonplace for scholars of Second Temple Judaism to locate the production of all apocalypses in "conventicles," small groups of antiestablishment prophets or visionaries who cultivated secret wisdom, isolated from the community at large.8 Taking Daniel as the model for the genre as a whole, scholars speculated that powerlessness and persecution drove the composition of apocalypses; behind every apocalypse lurked a disenfranchised group whose members' dissatisfaction with their lot in the present forced them to turn their attention to imagining otherworldly realms and the distant future.9 Past research thus privileged those apocalypses that focus on eschatological vindication and combed these texts for clues about the alienation, crisis, and suffering of their authors.

Since the discovery of Enochic fragments at Qumran, scholars have begun to question the idea that a single Sitz im Leben informs the many, diverse texts that fit the genre "apocalypse."10 The idea that apocalypses answer specific situations of crisis and deprivation fits well with many historical apocalypses. This type of apocalypse first flowered during the Maccabean Revolt (Dan 7 -12, "Animal Apocalypse" [BD], "Apocalypse of Weeks" [EE]) and returned to prominence again after the destruction of the Second Temple (4 Ezra, 2 Baruch,

8 E.g., Ploger, Theocracy; Hanson, Dawn; for a survey of scholarship, Cook, Prophecy, 1 -17.

9 E.g., Hanson, "Prolegomena," 407-8; Dawn, 10-12; cf. Carroll, "Twilight," 3-35; Cook, Prophecy, esp. 12-17.

10 E.g. Davies, "Social World," 252; Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, esp. 1 -21, 27-40.

Revelation).11 Throughout the Second Temple period, however, we also find apocalypses that are not dominated by the historical and eschatological con-cernscommonly associated with "apocalypticism." These works, often termed "ascent apocalypses" because of their inclusion of otherworldly journeys, focus their revelations on the spatial plane instead of the temporal plane, and they do not appear to respond to particular instances of religious persecution or political crisis.12 This category includes our two earliest extant apocalypses, the Astronomical Book and the Book of the Watchers, both of which - as we have seen in the previous chapter - embody an apocalyptic epistemology that celebrates the didactic dimension of cosmological, geographical, and ourano-graphical knowledge.

Such insights have led scholars increasingly to distinguish between the literary, theological, and social phenomena to which the term "apocalyptic" can be applied. The historical apocalypses may be "apocalyptic" in both genre and eschatology, and the latter may often reflect their origins in oppressed groups, sects, or communities with fervent expectations of the Eschaton. The evidence of the ascent apocalypses, however, demonstrates that eschatological concerns were not determinative in the emergence and development of the genre, thereby cautioning against the conflation of the literary production of apocalypses and the social phenomenon of apocalypticism.13 Sociological insights about the cross-cultural phenomenon of millennialism prove helpful in understanding some apocalypses,14 but such models cannot be uniformly and ahistorically applied to the diverse apocalypses composed by Jews in the Second Temple period.15 In short, we can no longer assume that all apocalypses derive from disenfranchised groups in distress, however well this explanation fits the two apocalypses now in the Christian canon (Daniel; Revelation).

In the Book of the Watchers, we find relatively little interest in history and no sharp sense of Eschaton's imminence. Furthermore, the eschatology that we do find is more akin to biblical prophecy than to the full-blown "apocalyptic eschatology" of later works such as Daniel, the "Animal Apocalypse," and the "Apocalypse of Weeks."16 Likewise, the Book of the Watchers' use of mythic

11 Stone, "Book of Enoch and Judaism," 491 -92;Nickelsburg, "Nature," 96-99; idem, "Revealed Wisdom," 74-77.

12 Collins, "Jewish Apocalypses," 36-43; Himmelfarb, Ascent.

13 Stone, "Book of Enoch and Judaism," 196; Knibb, "Prophecy," 156-58; Davies, "Social World,"

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