Book Review: 1 Enoch 2 – A Commentary on 1 Enoch 37-71 and 72-82

Title: 1 Enoch 2 – A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 37-71 and 72-82

Authors: George Nickelsburg, James VanderKam

Bibliographic info: XXX +569 + 47

Cover: Hard Cloth with Dust-jacket

Publisher: Augsburg Fortress, 2011

Buy it at Amazon

With thanks to Augsburg Fortress for the review copy!

This is the much-awaited (by me at least!) second volume on 1 Enoch in the Hermeneia series. The first volume, written by Nickelsburg, and published in 2001, covered chapters 1-36 and 81-108 of 1 Enoch. Ten years later, Nickelsburg and VanderKam have finished the second volume, covering the remaining chapters of 37-82, with Nickelsburg being responsible for  chapters 37-71 (a.k.a. The Book of Parables, or Similitudes of Enoch) and VanderKam for chapters 72-82 (a.k.a. The Book of the Luminaries).

You may have noticed that chapters 81-82 are covered in both volumes of the 1 Enoch. Nickelsburg included them in the first volume because he believed they were part of a redactional section (chapters 79-82) which, while being out of context compared to the surrounding chapters, had a purpose of acting as a narrative bridge between chapters 1-36 and 91-105. VanderKam also included these two chapters considering that they do actually belong to The Book of the Luminaries unit of 1 Enoch.

Both Nickelsburg and VanderKam divide their commentaries on their respective portions of 1 Enoch into two main parts. The first part (see pp. 3-84 and 333-407) is the introduction to the text, and deals with such matters as provenance, dating, manuscript attestation, text-critical issues, etc. The chapters of 1 Enoch covered in this volume are variously attested in Greek manuscripts, Aramaic Qumran manuscripts, as well as the much more extant Ethiopic text. The introductions also provide an extended overview of the contents of the text of 1 Enoch under discussion, including such issues as to what extent did the text draw on written and oral sources, literary analyses of the text, the worldview and religious thought behind the text, as well as a host of other issues.

The second part of each section (pp. 85-332 and 409-569) is the commentary proper. I do not have a great deal of knowledge in the relevant fields invoked in this commentary (e.g. Ethiopic, Aramaic, the Dead Sea Scrolls), so I will refrain from betraying my ignorance by attempting to provide a critical look at the commentary provided by the authors. I will note one particularly interesting tidbit in the commentary (to me), which is Nickelsburg’s discussion (pp. 70-76) on the relation of the Enochic Parables to the New Testament (Nickelsburg dates Parables to approx. 40 BCE – 10 CE, with a preference to the earlier part of this range). Seeing the NT Gospels as echoing the “Son of Man” language of the Enochic Parables, he views this as indicating that the Gospel authors had knowledge of the Son of Man tradition as found in Parables (e.g. the Q text comparing “the days of the Son of Man” with “the days of Noah” demonstrates knowledge of the Enochic tradition, maybe even revealing knowledge of the Noachic interpolations in Parables).

The book rounds off with two appendices (pp. 570-73 and 574) which provide proposed proposed equivalents  and transliterations of  that appear in the commentary in their Aramaic and Greek manuscripts. The first one lists Greek and Aramaic retroversions of the Ethiopic text of 1 Enoch 37-71, and the second lists the Ethiopic words and their Aramaic equivalents which appear in the Qumran fragments for 1 Enoch 72-82. There is also a bibliography (pp. 575-94), as well as indices of ancient texts cited (pp. 595-610) and names (pp. 610-16).

Suffice to say, 1 Enoch is a particularly important text in regards to Second Temple Judaism as well as early Christianity. This volume, along with its predecessor, are the most thorough undertaking of investigation into this text that I have encountered (perhaps only rivaled by the initial, and so-far only, volume on 1 Enoch by Loren Stuckenbruck in the Commentaries on Jewish Literature series by Walter de Gruyter). If you are looking for the current definitive commentary on 1 Enoch, then look no further than Nickelsburg’s and VanderKam’s contribution to the Hermeneia series!

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