Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature

By Sullivan, Kevin | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2006 | Go to article overview

Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature


Sullivan, Kevin, The Catholic Historical Review


Ancient and Medieval Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature. By Annette Yoshiko Reed. (New York: Cambridge University Press. 2005. Pp. xiv, 319. $75.00.)

The focus of this excellent monograph in the field of Enochic studies is the Book of the Watchers (chaps. 1-36 of 1 Enoch), which itself is an expansion of the enigmatic tale about the "sons of God" in Genesis 6:1-4. Through its seven chapters, the monograph traces the "fate of this apocalypse from its composition around the third century B.C.E. and its widespread influence among preRabbinic Jews ... to its rejection by the Rabbinic movement, adoption by early Christians, suppression by later church leaders, and eventual loss to the West" (pp. 1-2).

After an introduction that succinctly sets out the plan of the book, the first chapter asks how the fallen angels and their teachings function within the Book of the Watchers. In this chapter attention is also drawn to the complex literary relationship that exists between Gen. 6:1-4 and Watchers. Following on the observations made in the first chapter about the redaction history of the Watchers, chapter two investigates the text as the product not of a single author, but instead as the product of a series of authors and redactors. Chapter Two ends by suggesting that the author and audience of Watchers should not be assumed to be on the fringes of Judaism; so Chapter Three seeks to map the reception-history of it among pre-Rabbinic Jews.

In a similar vein, Chapter Four seeks to understand the reception history of the Watchers in early Christian circles. Yoshiko Reed asks the salient question to which the chapter is dedicated: "If pre-Rabbinic Jewish and proto-Christian interpretations of this text are so similar, why would the Book of Watchers eventually be preserved in Christian circles but not Jewish ones? …

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