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5.0 out of 5 stars
Wild, Weird, Wonderful ........and a little Wacky too!, 10 Oct 2009
This is an erudite translation by an esteemed scholar of an earlier generation of a key, formative text labelled by one reviewer 'Wild, weird and wonderful' .......
And a little wacky too! - a product of the apocalyptic fervour and fevered Gnostic speculation of its time
There are several `books within a Book' represented within:-`Apocalypse of the Weeks', `Fragments of Book of Noah', `Dream-Visions', `Heavenly Luminaries' and `Similitudes', recorded in as many as 6 different phases over a substantial 200 year period, dating from Hellenistic/Pre-Maccabean - 230 B.C.E. - through temple desecration by Seleucids in 168 B.C.E. (the `Abomination of Desolation' of Dan.12.11) to as late as 20 B.C.E, implying a correspondingly diverse range of authorship.
This was a frenetic but absolutely seminal period when much of the infrastructure of subsequent angelology and demonology was laid down, influencing 'orthodox' Christian (and Islamic) theology almost as much as Gnostic beliefs (but not quite) as well as the popular imagination to this day (- witness the countless titles not to mention Angelic Divas/cults in the contemporary market-place, not necessarily on the margins either, as the fertile contributions rolling off the fundamentalist pulp-fiction presses demonstrate!).
You could say that current (as well as past) end-times hysteria and its cosmological and prophetic parameters has its origins in this period.
This apocalyptic brew continued to simmer dangerously throughout the first century (spawning Apocalypses like Ezra for instance), boiling over in the Jewish insurrection and third temple destruction by the Romans between 66-70 CE. This, unsurprisingly, vividly coloured the writings of the New Testament and interpretations of the Parousia, Mark, the earliest Gospel, being written about this time.
So the New Testament reflects the influence of many Jewish pre-Christian apocryphal traditions of which Enoch is but one (Jubilees is another) And their old testament canonical counterparts too like Daniel and Ezekiel, which in turn fed each other! These in turn draw on the cultures and alien religions in which the authors find themselves stranded (notably Persian/Babylonian/Zoroastrian/Hellenistic).
Inspite of this, or may be because of this, Enoch itself shows remarkably little impact on Pauline thinking. The oft-cited reference to women covering their heads `because of the angels' in 1Corinthian 11.10, has more to do with a Qumran (Essene) tradition that interprets the end of Dr 23.15 as ascribing to Angels the role of `Guardians of Order and Decorum in Public Worship' (like Guardian Angels) than to the shenanigans of a bunch of depraved fallen angels having their wicked way with womankind.
Neither is there any evidence that it particularly influenced Jesus' teaching (as claimed in more `sensationalist' renditions of Enoch) The titular `Son of Man' parallel is not unique to Enoch. It occurs 104 times in Ezekiel and in Daniel 7.13, a key passage, which Jesus actually quotes in Mk 14.61-62
However, the presence of Enoch is felt in apocalyptic and antediluvian references contained within 1Peter, Jude and Revelations (the latter - a veritable tribute band to Enoch as well as Ezekiel and Daniel!). 1Peter and Jude, drawing from a common tradition, (and themselves Gnostically influenced) have virtually parallel passages about sending fallen angels into Enochian `gloomy dungeons' (the `dark abyss' in another translation) and visitations of divine wrath upon man/womankind (2Peter 2.3-7 and Jude v6-7).
The backcloth to both book's apocalyptic rage and ranting is, as usual, the presence of `false teachers' in their midst -`like beasts they will be destroyed' seethes 1Peter, - `wild waves of the sea foaming up their shame' fulminates Jude, now getting into his stride - `wandering stars (an allusion to Enochian feckless fallen angels), for whom the blackest darkness has been reserved for ever'! Sssshiver......!
Great stuff! But it reflects a serious melting pot of ideological conflict - the paranoid ferment of distrust and factionalism going on at the time with different groups ranged right across the Gnostic spectrum, pitted against each other competing for attention (and members). In that sense these are fascinating `living' historical documents (not 'inspired' fossil records to be shoe-horned into an acceptable corpus with every other 'inspired' biblical text). What an awful trial it must have been compiling that New Testament Canon. No wonder it took three hundred and thirty years to do it.
And did they get it right? Probably not - there is undoubtedly `fringe' (if not down right wacky) material in there too. Paul's rant against uncovered female hair (and women for that matter) in 1Corinthians 11.3-16 cited above (including advising them to shave their heads - a la Sinead O'Connor - if they couldn't comply!), isn't even fringe material (pardon the pun), but, in due deference to the much maligned 'wannabe-apostle', was conditioned by time, place and culture just the same as anybody else.
To base your modern church order on it, as some do, and seek to intimidate females into covering their heads for `fear of the angels' (especially as Paul doesn't even use the word `fear'), reflects the very literalism the Gnostics were trying to eschew and is, I'm afraid, pretty wacky too.
Once again a Gnostically influenced text has inspired published responses (36 at the last count), as wide and rich as the Gnostic spectrum itself, veering from the dry, meticulous (but reliable) to the downright lunatic fringe, (the latter however having by far the greater entertainment value). Bring it on Gnostics!