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Archive for the ‘Enoch’ Category

Today, I received my 2 bound copies of my master’s thesis: “Apocalyptic Imagery as Resistance Discourse: An Analysis of the Son of Man in Daniel 7 and 1 Enoch in Relationship to Matthew 25:31.” By employing several analytical tools from postcolonial/imperial-critical analysis in tandem with several of Joseph Fantin’s observations from Relevance Theory in order to argue that the “Son of Man” discourse is an apocalyptic discourse that is constructed by the marginalized under imperial persecution and thereby may be understood as a discourse of resistance (similar conceptually to the concept of Negro spirituals sung in the 17th century like “Babylon’s a-falling” wherein the slaves envisioned an alternative reality over against their present experience in safely nestled in religious imagery so as to be “coded” to use James Scott’s concept of hidden/public transcripts). I argue that this is the case independently and historically for the “Son of Man” figure in Daniel 7, the Parables (Similitudes) of Enoch, and Matthew 25:31. However, of importance to my argument, I view the author of the Parables of Enoch to have taken Dan 7 and dynamically transformed the imagery, that is, s/he took imagery that functioned religio-politically and re-envisioned or “reactualized” the image and developed it further. Indeed, it seems Matthew later did the same thing with the Enochic imagery. What the Parables do with Dan 7 radically furthers the development and in some sense the discourse evolves in a new and different direction. My position is that this is equally the case for Matthew 25:31, namely, that Matthew takes Enochic imagery bearing a normative function and applies it to Jesus. In doing so, I believe that Matthew portrays Jesus in Enochic exaltation language which activates various concepts related to the Enochic portrayal with regard to Jesus, albeit in his own way. Therefore, the Matthean discourse is not merely the Enochic discourse, rather, in some sense, I think Matthew grounds the imagery and conceptual expectation of Enoch in a person, Jesus. Thus, I think in doing so he does not merely say “this is that” but….rather… that, really, is this (Jesus). It seems plausible that if Dan 7 may be perceived, as I have argued, as an imperial resistance discourse, and that the Son of Man in the Parables functions in this way also, that by Matthew relatively clearly employing that imagery and language (i.e. the Son of Man seated on his throne of glory”) with the referent of Jesus, that in some sense, that manuever may well have been understood by some, those familiar with the Enochic material, as a discourse of resistance against imperial persecution. Jesus becomes the figurehead whom symbolizes the overthrow of the wicked, the institution of justice, and the marginalized becoming elite.

Therefore, in each chapter I reconstruct a plausible discursive world (conceptual/linguistic world) in which these literary figures arise in order to properly frame the ideological and religious significance of the discourses within the communities in which they arose. Unfortunately, I was severely constrained by the word limitations of a thesis in a school that pressures people who shouldn’t be writing a thesis in the first place into doing it. This practice over stretches the faculty and limits those students whose work is advanced enough to warrant much more depth.

Enjoy an excerpt from my conclusion:

This thesis has sought to investigate the literary construction within its milieu of the Son of Man figure within Daniel, the Book of Parables, and Matthew 25:31. Our aim has been to reconstruct the cognitive environment relevant to each document along with its socio-political context in order to analyze the Son of Man figure in that regard. We have determined that each text arose in environments deeply impacted by the phenomena of empire. We have discerned that one aspect of the Son of Man discourse arising in Dan 7, the Book of Parables, and Matthew 25:31 may be understood as functioning among its hearers as a discourse of imperial resistance offering an alternative reality to the hearing community from that envisioned by the dominant imperial powers of the day, in each unique case. Furthermore, we have shown through the use of relevance theory, the likelihood that Matthew 25:31 appropriated and invested with new meaning the “Son of Man” figure as constructed by both Dan 7 and the tradition undergirding the final form of the Book of Parables and applied this new construction to Jesus, in an imperial context, in such way that some of his hearers would have perceived the “Son of Man” as a challenge to the normative power structure enjoyed by the living emperor.

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David Winston Suter, “Weighed in the Balance: The Similitudes of Enoch in Recent Discussion,” Religious Studies Review Vol. 7, No. 3 (July 1981): 217-221.

In this article, as the title implies, takes up SOE (=Similitudes of Enoch) within scholarly dialogue up through 1981 (so admittedly the state of affairs nearly thirty years ago. Suter gave lucidity to the discussion, tracing various trajectories in the conversation from Milik through his own position. Chiefly, in the end he argued that SOE is firmly rooted in the mid to late 1st century CE roughly contemporaneous, but not antecedent to the Jesus movement(s). For Suter, the SOE is too late to be of any influence on the Son of Man tradition in NT gospels. He offered great insight in solidifying the untenable position offered by Milik that the SOE was late 3rd century Christian tradition (270 CE).

This is a helpful but dated article establishing the shape of the discussion toward the twilight of the 20th century pertaining to NT studies and Second Temple Judaism studies.

Several interesting quotes (either for their literary artistry or academic significance):

  1. “In recent scholarly estimation, the Similitudes (or Parables) of Enoch (1 Enoch 37-70) has suffered a fate akin to Bright One, son of Dawn in Isaiah 14, who was cast down to Sheol” (217).

Come on, that is a beautifully crafted sentence for biblical studies.

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Article Bibliographical Information: Collins, J.J. “Jewish Apocalyptic against Its Hellenistic near Eastern Environment” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research No. 220, Memorial Issue: Essays in Honor of George Ernest Wright. (Dec 1975), 27-36.

Collins’ article is lucid in his articulation of the phenomena of apocalypticism in the Near East from the Persian period forward. Prior to endeavoring toward a discussion of Jewish apocalyptic per se, Collins reviews some of the developments in previous discussion from Gunkel through Hanson regarding the influence of the ancient Near Eastern environment upon Semitic thought, especially with regard to apocalypticism. He underscored the lack of attention to the post-exilic period in this regard and also drew out the implications of Alexander’s conquest(s) for the proliferation of ideas among ancient peoples (26).

Collins identified a strand of shared experience among diverse peoples in the Hellenistic Near East that in some sense relates the apocalyptic ideologies which arose, namely, that most of the ancient peoples (quite independently of one another) shared “the idea of the kingship of the national deity” over against the new socio-political circumstances brought about by the advent of the Greeks and then Romans in the Hellenistic age (26). Essentially, he argues that various trajectories within broadly apocalyptic motifs arise from this conflict among varying peoples (e.g. Persian, Egyptian, Jewish).

He argues “[t]he most obvious result of the conquests of Alexander was the demise of the native monarchies in the various Near Eastern states” (28). This new state of “disorientation” of the deposition of native monarchs gave rise to various explosions or uprisings of native peoples in resistance (the Jews were only one of several peoples who resisted Hellenistic rule). Collins aptly points out that kingly figures were aroused in the future hopes of the colonized (my use of the term not Collins’). Among the Egyptian in the Demotic Chronicle, during the early Ptolemaic period, he quotes: “It is a man from heracleopolis who will rule after the Ionians. “Rejoice, O Prophet of Harsaphis.” That means: The prophet of Harsaphis rejoices after the Ionians. For a ruler has arisen in Heracleopolis” (Citing C.C. McCown, “Hebrew and Egyptian Apocalyptic Literature,” Harvard Theological Review (1925) 18:357-411]. This and many other examples offered by Collins shapes the contours of a common resistance motif among Near Eastern peoples during the period in which, in their unique and subtly differing ways, they projected a king-deliverer or “savior” of sorts to restore the centrality of the native monarch/peoples.

Collins’ also cogently argued that other peoples resisted the rule of the “colonizer” by means of desecrating religious icons (e.g. statues in Hellenized temples) which he points out “were prompted by religio-nationalistic motives rather than desire for booty” (28). Thus, he concludes that before the Maccabean period, “…throughout the Near East from Egypt to Persia, Hellenistic rule was met by national resistance. Messianism, as the desire for the restoration of native monarchy, was by no means a peculiarity of the Jews but was a feature of the entire Near East in the Hellenistic period” (29). He then showed a precedence for a “four-kingdom” motif (similar to that envisioned in Daniel) envisioning (always) the Greeks as the fourth kingdom, which would be replaced either by the Roman Empire (Aemilius Sura), the kingdom of God (Daniel) or a new millennium (Bahman Yasht) [ibid.]. The schema then must have been “consciously borrowed” (29) though it took on various indigenous national features in each independent case.

Next, Daniel is proposed as the “best clue for the social function of this literature” (31). This is the case primarily because the “elite” or wise class intends for the apocalyptic to inform the masses. He states: “In the context of Daniel, it was clearly intended to inspire resistance to the Hellenistic king, a purpose shared by such non-Jewish works as the Demotic Chronicle, Potter’s Oracle, aand Bahman Yasht” (31, emphasis added). Moreover, the phenomena itself of Jewish apocalyptic “…grew out of a situation of political alienation brought about by the loss of national independence in the post-exilic period” (31-32). Two points he raise further relate to the pesher mode of interpretation that often have been overlooked: 1) an indirect (or concealed) projection of scriptural interpretation into eschatological terms in order to “reapply the language of the older scripture without giving a direct commentary” (32). Now, in part I have interpreted Collins on this point, but I think it a safe assessment to parallel this to recent postcolonial-critical terms, namely, the rise of an ambivalent discourse against the dominant discourse (of the colonizer) which is couched in religious terms and yet is thoroughly religious and thoroughly political simultaneously. Or a reading of one’s native scriptures and interpreting it in such a way to describe present events in eschatological terms. That seems to be Collins’ argument. His second point argues “the interpretation of scripture is part of a broader phenomenon of prophecy by interpretation” (32). Hence, revelation is mediated by means of interpretation as opposed to directly. That is, Daniel’s prophecy is one mediated through interpretation of revelation via the angelic being (cf. also 1 Enoch).

In passing he makes an interesting comment that already is haunting the crevices of my mind: “[pointing back to the oracles of nechepso and Petosiris (pointing back to the Chaldean astrology)] Especially, in the latter work astral phenomena are repeatedly interpreted with reference to political upheavals” (32, emphasis added).

In conclusion, Collins’ sees apocalyptic as a phenomenon in its own right with two dimensions: 1) continuity and direct influence from other Hellenistic Near Eastern motifs and ideas, and [yet] 2) that they are not merely borrowed from other peoples, but have “a point of contact in the native tradition” (34). Further he states of the messianism: “The expectation of an ideal future king in both Egypt and Judah in the Hellenistic age is due, not to influence in either direction, but to the loss of native kingship in both countries” (34). Thus, the rise of the common apocalyptic (messianic) Zeitgeist “was the demise of national monarchies…[which] caused disruption in the traditional order and therefore led to a loss of meaningfulness and to alienation” (34).

Assessment/Reflection: I have sought to capture the essence or highlights of this profound work by weaving salient quotes from the article in order to underscore Collins’ argument. For such a brief article, Collins traversed a vast amount of terrain. From a postcolonial standpoint, Collins’ is a veritable goldmine. The surplus offers a cogent account in the Near East during the time leading up to that of the NT of the matrix of socio-political and religio-political resistance to oppressors of the indigenous peoples by means of apocalypticism. It is difficult to see how, through say Simon Samuel’s motif of ambivalent hybrid discourse, the apocalyptic phenomenon is not by its very nature postcolonial. Moreover, his article raises the questions of messianisms evidently present throughout the Near East, this is a point that further work could really draw out in reconstructing the milieu of the NT documents and bear import in the way their authors construct Jesus apocalyptically.

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