Thursday, March 14, 2013


Here is the abstract for the paper I will be presenting on Saturday at the SECSOR regional meeting in Greenville, SC. It is viciously abridged from a chapter of my dissertation (poor Philo of Byblos didn't make the cut!).

(Session: AAR: History of Judaism II - Second Temple Judaism I, Sat. March 16, 9:00am in the Crepe Myrtle room)

Culture Heroes and Angelic Instruction in the Book of the Watchers: A Comparative Study

The third-century BCE Jewish apocalypse known as the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1–36) ascribes the origins of certain domains of human knowledge to the illicit teachings of fallen angels, who brought corruption to the antediluvian world by taking human wives and teaching them forbidden arts of metallurgy, magic, and divination. Scholars generally suppose that the instruction material was a secondary addition to an earlier interpretation of Genesis 6, in part because the elements of supernatural instruction are seen as alien to the biblically-derived elements of rebellion and punishment. This paper argues instead that the Enochic instruction tradition is an extreme reflection an ambivalence and suspicion towards the supernatural origins of knowledge that is evident in other cultures, where primordial culture-bringers are often depicted as liminal figures, monsters, or targets of divine retribution. The fire-bringing Titan Prometheus is a more ambivalent figure in the earliest Greek sources than he becomes in Aeschylus, and the Greco-Roman daimones associated with the origins of metal-working, such as the Telchines and Idaean Dactyls, are also portrayed as evil wizards and flood-bringing monsters. In the Near East, the antediluvian fish-sages of Mesopotamian myth known as Apkallū appear both as monsters subject to divine wrath and as the very source of all human knowledge. In light of this evidence, it may be necessary to reconsider the secondary position given to the instruction material in the Book of the Watchers, because the suspicion it expresses about the origins of technology is consistent with more widespread portrayals of culture heroes in antiquity.

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