Is the Genesis Apocryphon a Unity? What Sort of Unity Were You Looking For?

in Aramaic Studies
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A source-critical or tradition-historical approach to the Genesis Apocryphon will quite justifiably emphasize the features of the Apocryphon that point toward what can be described as its lack of compositional unity. There exists, however, a level on which the Apocryphon can be shown to be a whole; that is its narrative unity. The latter is the result of the ways in which the final author/composer organized and manipulated the sources and traditions, whether written or oral, with which he worked. The acknowledgment that the Apocryphon is unified on this level opens the door to its treatment as an integral (if fragmentary) literary artifact, as I shall demonstrate in further studies.

Is the Genesis Apocryphon a Unity? What Sort of Unity Were You Looking For?

in Aramaic Studies




Daniel FalkParabiblical Texts: Strategies for Extending the Scriptures Among the Dead Sea Scrolls (Companion to the Qumran Scrolls, 8; Library of Second Temple Studies, 63; London: T&T Clark2007) p. 30 divides the text into only two segments a Noah cycle and an Abram cycle but most scholars opt for the (at least superficial) tripartite segmentation that is accepted by Eshel as well in several of her articles.


In Eshel‘Chain of Traditions’ p. 184 (see also Eshel ‘The Noah Cycle’ p. 79) based especially on her consideration of the fragmentary material in cols 0–1 she writes ‘It is therefore more reasonable to take the first six columns as telling a story from the perspective of Enoch’. Although I have chosen to operate on the basis of the surviving textual material of the Apocryphon with the generally accepted characterization of columns 0–5.29 as ‘Lamech material’ it is with the full knowledge that Eshel’s nomenclature might very well have been more accurate had more of those early columns and whatever might have preceded them survived. From the standpoint of the analysis of the issue of unity in which I am interested however I do not believe that it makes a great difference whether the leading character in that section was Enoch or Lamech or whether what preceded ‘book of the words of Noah’ derived from one two or even more than two sources.


FalkParabiblical Texts p. 30. It is actually somewhat ironic that Falk by arguing for only two ‘cycles’ with the Lamech section belonging to the story of Noah and serving to place it ‘in the context of the sons of God myth from Gen. 6.1–5’ begins to blur the line between two of the three stories that most scholars see in the Apocryphon thus overriding some of the dichotomizing effect that viewing each of the stories as focused on its hero individually can generate. Similarly Eshel ‘Chain of Traditions’ p. 185 by suggesting that ‘the topic of the Watchers was one of the main subjects of both the Enoch and Noah cycles’ may also be undermining the division into cycles to some degree. In each of these cases they are pointing toward factors that unify the apparently disparate units.


George W.E. NickelsburgJewish Literature Between the Bible and the Mishnah: A Historical and Literary Introduction (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2nd edn2005) p. 174. He offers more detailed analysis indicating clearly that he believes that we are dealing with written sources in ‘Patriarchs Who Worry About Their Wives: A Haggadic Tendency in the Genesis Apocryphon’ in Michael E. Stone and Esther G. Chazon (eds.) Biblical Perspectives: Early Use and Interpretation of the Bible in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls (STDJ 28; Leiden: Brill 1998) pp. 138–144 and 157–158.


Geza VermesScripture and Tradition in Judaism (Leiden: Brill, 2nd edn1973) p. 95 and my ‘“Rewritten Bible”: A Generic Category Which Has Outlived Its Usefulness?’ Textus 22 (2005) pp. 169–196.


Joseph A. FitzmyerThe Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave 1 (1Q20): A Commentary (BOr, 18/B; Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 3rd edn2004).


García Martínez‘4QMess Ar and the Book of Noah’ p. 41 made the following observation which dovetails nicely although unintendedly with our analysis of the epithets in the Apocryphon: ‘1QapGn VII 7 and XII 17 use the divine title ‮מרה שמיא‬ which never appears in Jub although it shows a great variety of divine titles. Among them God of Heaven (Jub 12 4; 20 7) and Lord of the World (Jub 2523) are the most similar ones to the Lord of Heaven. This title however is found in 1Enoch 10611 in a summary of the Book of Noah not elsewhere in 1Enoch’.


Kugel‘Which is Older’ p. 278. His conclusions dovetail well with a remark by Fitzmyer The Genesis Apocryphon p. 21 ‘One gets the impression that scanty details in Genesis 1Enoch or Jubilees are here utilized in an independent way and filled out with imaginative additions’. Falk Parabiblical Texts p. 29 writes similarly ‘The strongest arguments seem to favor the view that the Genesis Apocryphon draws on both Jubilees and parts of 1Enoch incorporating traditions from them and other sources in accordance with the author’s particular interests’.


Eshel‘Chain of Traditions’ p. 185. In Eshel ‘The Noah Cycle’ pp. 79–80 Eshel writes along similar lines ‘the Noah cycle seems to be an integral part of the composition not an independent work taken from a written source and introduced as a whole into the Genesis Apocryphon’. As will become clear I believe that those polar opposites are not the only alternatives available for our consideration. Since Eshel is of the opinion that the Apocryphon preceded and was employed by Jubilees there is no question of Jubilees being one of the Apocryphon’s sources. But cf. the convincing (to me at least) arguments of Kugel (above n. 25) for the priority of Jubilees.


Eshel‘Chain of Traditions’ p. 186.


Eshel‘Chain of Traditions’ p. 189.


Eshel‘Chain of Traditions’ p. 189.


FalkParabiblical Texts pp. 102–106.


FalkParabiblical Texts p. 102.


FalkParabiblical Texts p. 103.


FalkParabiblical Texts pp. 103–104.


FalkParabiblical Texts p. 104.


NickelsburgJewish Literature p. 173; idem ‘Patriarchs’ p. 158; Eshel ‘Chain of Traditions’ p. 190.


In Bernstein‘Re-Arrangement’ pp. 50–54.


Bernstein‘From the Watchers to the Flood’ pp. 60–61 and idem ‘Noah and the Flood at Qumran’ pp. 209 and 220–221. I should not however go quite as far as Falk who writes in Parabiblical Texts p. 67 that ‘the Genesis Apocryphon portrays Noah as a new Adam and a proto-Abraham’ contrasting this depiction with the less positive view of Noah that prevails (although not universally) in rabbinic literature.


FalkParabiblical Texts p. 93; Machiela The Dead Sea Genesis Apocryphon pp. 92–93; Eshel ‘Chain of Traditions’ p. 189.


FalkParabiblical Texts p. 77 counts ‘at least four dreams or visions by Enoch Noah and perhaps Lamech’.


Nickelsburg‘Patriarchs’ pp. 154–155.


Eshel‘The Noah Cycle’ pp. 81–82.


MachielaThe Dead Sea Genesis Apocryphon pp. 132–133 draws attention to the fact that Noah and Abram experience dream-visions and points out the diverse nature of their respective revelations; a similar observation is made by Falk Parabiblical Texts p. 89. If we allow ourselves to dream about what the now missing column 23 of the Apocryphon might have once contained we could perhaps suggest that the full treatment of Abram’s vision corresponding to Genesis 15 might have had eschatological contents parallel to Noah’s prophetic one in columns 13–15.


Nickelsburg‘Patriarchs’ p. 149. Falk Parabiblical Texts p. 89 also writes ‘The Noah and Abram sections are tied together by appeal to Enochic revelation’.


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