Response to Gabriele Boccaccini

By Wink, Walter | Cross Currents, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Response to Gabriele Boccaccini


Wink, Walter, Cross Currents


It is gratifying to receive affirmation of my historical integrity from a hardnosed historian like Gabriele Boccaccini, even in a work so filled with theology. That does not keep him, however, from making several helpful corrections to my work. Our disagreements are centered on 1 Enoch. He rightly notes that Enoch is not identified with Metatron in 1 Enoch 70-71, as I wrongly state. He dates I Enoch 14 a hundred years earlier than I had (285 B.C.E., not 185). He faults me for overlooking the last twenty years of scholarly research on Second Temple Judaism, and in the Enoch literature in particular. He is right; I failed to take into account the writers he listed. Having done remedial reading of those authors, however, I find them pretty much holding the same views I do.

Earlier scholars picked earlier dates for the Similitudes of Enoch [chapters 37-71 in 1 Enoch). R. H. Charles assigned a date for the Similitudes between 94 and 64 B.C.E.; Pfeiffer preferred 100-80 B.C.E. But members of the SNTS Pseudepigrapha Seminar which met in 1977 in Tubingen and again in 1978 in Paris dated it from the first century C.E. Its absence from the fragments of 1 Enoch discovered at Qumran led J. T. Milik to date it anywhere from 70 to 270 C.E., a view that virtually no one accepts. Other scholars agree with a first-century C.E. date. David Winston Sutter ("Weighed in the Balance: The Similitudes of Enoch in Recent Discussion," Religious Studies Review 7 [1981]: 218) says that "a strong case can be made for a first-century dating either before or after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.," though not much before 70. Matthew Black insists we cannot rule out a pre-70 dating for at least some of the oldest translations in the book (this against Milik's late date) (The Book of Enoch [Leiden: Brill, 1885], 187). Lawrence H. Schiffman picks "the late first century" C.E. (Redaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls [Philadelphia: the Jewish Publication Society, 1994], 182-85). In their revision of Schurer's History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1979], 505, 520-21), Vermes, Millar and Black believe a pre-70 date is unlikely. The translator of 1 Enoch for the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (1983), E. Isaac, states the emerging consensus: "I am convinced that 1 Enoch already contained the Similitudes by the end of the first century C.E." The inability of scholars to reach a firm consensus about the date of the Similitudes counsels caution in picking a date. At the very least, we can say that Dr. Boccaccini's date at the end of the first century B.C.E. seems out of step with present scholarship.

Gabriele dates the Similitudes toward the end of the first century B.C.E. due to an allusion to a Parthian invasion in 56:5-7. But Parthian invasions took place frequently in that entire period: under Mithradates II (around 124-87 B.C.E.), then in 96, 53, 40, and 36, then in 12-9 B.C.E. in an almost lost allusion to a Parthian king who plotted against Rome (Ant. 16:253), again during the reign of Vologases (around 51-76 C.E.), then in 115-16, 164, 197, and 216-17 C.E. More specifically, Nero's general, Corbulo, set about recovering Armenia from the Parthians. The campaign proper ran from 58-63 C.E. The Book of Revelation registers the fear engendered by the Parthian cavalry, with their "Parthian shot" (a shot fired while in feigned retreat), alluded to in Rev. 9:10--"They have tails like scorpions, with stingers, and in their tails is their power to harm people for five months. …

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