Inasmuch as new Coptic evidence for 2 Enoch lends confirmation to the priority of the shorter recension and adds plausibility to the theory of its Egyptian provenance, this discovery invites us to shift from the compilation of parallel motifs towards more integrative approaches to contextualizing this enigmatic apocalypse. This essay is an experiment in situating 2 Enoch within the intellectual culture of early Roman Egypt. It explores the possibility that the short recension reflects the translation of the Mesopotamian astronomy and Jewish cosmology of earlier Aramaic Enoch writings into Greek language and idiom in interaction with philosophical and “scientific” concerns with the cosmos current in early Roman Egypt.
In dialogue with recent research on the Roman discourse of exemplarity, this article explores representations of Abraham in selected sources from the first and early second centuries C.E. In the first part of the article, references to the patriarch in the writings of Philo and Josephus are considered in light of the transformation of Greek ideas about exempla by Roman authors like Polybius, Livy, and Valerius Maximus. In the second part, the inversion of Abraham's exemplarity in the Testament of Abraham is investigated in relation to the treatment of famous figures in the Apocolocyntosis and in Juvenal's 10th Satire. By juxtaposing the use of exempla in contemporaneous Roman and Jewish writings, the article explores their parallel reflections on the power of the past and shows how Romans and Jews alike appropriated of elements of Greek culture for the articulation of new expressions of local pride, ethnic specificity, and cultural resistance.
This article analyzes Josephus' approach to Abraham and astronomy/astrology in Ant. 1.154-168. This retelling of Genesis 12 describes Abraham as inferring the one-ness of God from the irregularity of the stars, thereby implying his rejection of "the Chaldean science" for Jewish monotheism. Soon after, however, Josephus posits that the patriarch transmitted astronomy/astrology to Egypt, appealing to the positive connotations of this art for apologetic aims. Towards explaining the tension between these two traditions, I first map the range of early Jewish traditions about Abraham and the stars, and then consider the Hellenistic discourse about astral wisdom as the domain of ancient "barbarian" nations, as it shaped Hellenistic Jewish traditions that celebrate Abraham's astronomical/astrological skill. I conclude with Josephus' own cultural context, proposing that the attitudes towards astronomy/astrology among his Roman contemporaries may help to account for the ambivalence in his characterization of Abraham as both Chaldean scientist and father of the Jews.
This essay uses a focus on meat and animals to illumine ancient and modern discourses about sacrifice and “civilization.” It suggests that attention to recent research on meat-production and the “sociology of the slaughterhouse” might open new perspectives on the range of ways in which the sanctified ritual slaughter of animals has been understood by its proponents, critics, and theorists—both ancient and modern. It begins by historicizing the rise of modern scholarly interest in animal sacrifice, with reference to dramatic shifts in the production and consumption of meat in modern European societies. Then, it looks to the Vedas and the Torah/Pentateuch to reflect upon the place of meat and animals in two of the best documented of ancient sacrificial systems. Lastly, it considers some trajectories in their Nachleben with an eye to the value and limits of dominant narratives about the cessation, interiorization, or spiritualization of sacrifice.
Recent decades have seen an intensive reassessment of older scholarly categories within the discipline of Religious Studies, spurring a turn toward more microhistorical approaches in the study of ancient Judaism and Christianity in particular. With an eye to the power and limits of scholarly practices of categorization, this article reflects upon the pairing of “Apocalypticism” and “Mysticism” in modern scholarship on premodern Judaism, focusing on two works commonly cited as exemplary of their connection—1 Enoch and 3 Enoch. Drawing insights from interdisciplinary research on the History of the Book/Material Texts, it experiments with situating scholarly acts of categorization in relation to other practices of constructing continuity, both ancient and modern. It highlights the potency of anthologies and related textual practices for naturalizing certain categories of comparison and certain trajectories of retrospective connection—for modern scholars no less than for ancient and medieval readers.
The full publication of 4Q208 and 4Q209 in 2000 has enabled a renaissance of research on the Enochic Astronomical Book, illumining its deep connections with Babylonian scholasticism and spurring debate about the precise channels by which such “scientific” knowledge came to reach Jewish scribes. This article asks whether attention to Aramaic manuscripts related to the Astronomical Book might also reveal something about Jewish scribal pedagogy and literary production in the early Hellenistic age, particularly prior to the Maccabean Revolt. Engaging recent studies from Classics and the History of Science concerning astronomy, pedagogy, and the place of scribes and books in the cultural politics of the third century bce, it uses the test-case of the Astronomical Book to explore the potential significance of Aramaic sources for charting changes within Jewish literary cultures at the advent of Macedonian rule in the Near East.