Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 11 (2011) - Review

Boccaccini, Gabriele and Giovanni Ibba (eds.), Enoch and Mosaic Torah: The Evidence of Jubilees (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009). Pp. xxi+474. Softcover. US$55.00. ISBN 978-0-8028-6409-3.

The twenty-eight essays collected in Enoch and Mosaic Torah: The Evidence of Jubilees represent revisions of papers given at the 2007 Enoch Seminar held at Camaldoli, Italy. The seminar, and thus now the essays, primarily focused on an intriguing issue in Enochic studies: Why does the early Enochic literature exhibit basically no interest in the Mosaic Torah? Placed beside Jubilees, this question attracts two further questions: Why does Jubilees contain both Enochic and Mosaic traditions, and what is the relationship between Enochic traditions and Jubilees given these factors? As Boccaccini summarizes in the preface, basically four possibilities emerged in discussions and are now represented in the essays: 1) Jubilees is a “direct product of Enochic Judaism with some Mosaic influences”; 2) Jubilees is a “conscious synthesis of Enochic and Mosaic tradition”; 3) Jubilees is “essentially a Mosaic text with some Enochic influences”; and 4) Jubilees and Enoch do not represent “competing forms of Judaism” (p. xvi). Like the seminar, the volume does not arrive at a single explanation for the relationship between the documents, but maintains the variety of positions.

Because of the number of essays and the size of the volume, commenting on each contribution is impossible. Thus, I will review the structure of the book and a few significant contributions. The essays are organized under four headings. The first section, “Jubilees and its Literary Context,” examines foundational issues related to studying the text, such as the textual tradition, the problem of genre, and Jubilees' relationship to other texts from the era—the types of categories one finds in an introduction in a modern commentary. These essays combine to form a “state of scholarship” on these matters.

The essays in the following section, “The Melding of Mosaic and Enochic Traditions,” address the issue presented in the volume's title: the problem of the Mosaic Torah and 1 Enoch. In an attempt to cast new light on the problem, Helge S. Kvantig (pp. 163–177: “Enochic Judaism—a Judaism without the Torah and the Temple?”) draws on some of the basic aspects of Carol Newsom's methodology about competing discourses within society. Kvantig claims that Nehemiah 8–10 represents the dominant, “master narrative” of this era (pp. 165–167), while the traditions in Enoch represent a different discourse. Thus, differences between these traditions may not represent attacks, but different ways of speaking and seeing the world. Gabriele Boccaccini's essay, “From a Movement to a Distinct Form of Judaism: The Heavenly Tablets in Jubilees as the Foundation of a Competing Halakah” (pp. 193–210), reasserts his thesis from Beyond the Essene Hypothesis.[1] Jubilees represents an Essene document that combined the Enochic heavenly tablets with the Mosaic Torah, albeit with some corrections of Enoch in the process. Boccaccini concludes that Jubilees was the “creed and public manifesto,” the “religious and political platform” of the Essenes (p. 209), which in the end did not dominate the post-Maccabean era, but led to separation into the Judaean desert (pp. 209–210). Hindy Najman's work (pp. 229–243: “Reconsidering Jubilees: Prophecy and Exemplarity,”) contributes distinct and new ways forward through the complicated issues of pseudepigraphy and relationships between ancient texts and the construction of communities behind the texts. Instead of arguing for separate Judaisms (e.g., Zadokite and Enochic Judaism as Boccaccini proposes), she draws on Foucault's concept of “discourses” (pp. 238–240). As one would speak about Marxist or Freudian texts—though they may have not written a particular work—one could say that Jubilees (and Isaiah, 1 Enoch, etc.) “participates in an already inspired discourse associated with a founder” (p. 239).

The third section of essays attempts to place “Jubilees between Enoch and Qumran.” In large part, this section is so named and positioned because of Boccaccini's theory that Jubilees manifests the development of the Essene halakah that leads toward Qumran sectarianism. Thus, the essays cover topics such as purity laws, the calendar, the festivals of Pesah and Massot. However, additional essays in this section examine key theological, cosmological, and anthropological ideas.

The three essays in the final section (“Where does Jubilees belong?”) provide some degree of conclusion to the collection. In “Jubilees, the Temple and the Aaronite Priesthood” (pp. 397–410), David Suter describes Enoch's role, as sage and scribe in Jubilees' distinctive and selective anachronistic reconstructions of purity, priesthood and cult, as the patriarchs practice selective features of the Mosaic torah. In Jubilees, for the first time, Enoch becomes an authority on sacrifice (p. 410). Applying Thomas Kuhn's theories about the role of paradigms, David Jackson (pp. 411–425: “Jubilees and Enochic Judaism,”) presents a series of “exemplars” in Enoch, created to produce paranesis and to provide a methodology for the interpretation of the cosmos (pp. 413–414). Jubilees, then, picks up this paradigm and integrates it into a reading of what becomes the “first canon” (p. 424). This basic method of integration exemplified in Jubilees, he suggests, leads to the flurry of interpretation in the Qumran literature (p. 424). Eyal Regev's contribution, “Jubilees, Qumran and the Essenes” (pp. 426–440), the final essay of the volume, argues that Jubilees is a product of a reform movement and not a distinct sect, because it seeks to “change society rather than withdraw from it” (p. 430). He thinks, however, that similarities between Jubilees, MMT, and the Temple Scroll suggest some relationship between the groups responsible for these three texts, all of which he believes predate the founding of the yahad (p. 438). Regev also declares that he does not think that the Essenes are the parent group of the Qumran community (p. 438).

While traces of Boccaccini's thesis from Beyond the Essene Hypothesis are detectable in the organization of the book, as he promises in his introduction different opinions are allowed to stand. For that the editors should be commended. The essays in the volume are of a high quality, and therefore anyone doing research in Jubilees, 1 Enoch and this period in general should consult this work. Several essays are quite technical (e.g., William Gilders' essay, which adds an appendix on the “Occurrences of ‘Covenant’ in Ethiopic and Hebrew Jubilees” (pp. 178–192). In reading the essays, one will notice the enduring value of James VanderKam's work on Jubilees. Further, Nickelsburg's basic assessment of 1 Enoch and the Mosaic tradition still dominates the landscape. Even though the collection certainly contains essays on the relationship between Enoch and Mosaic Torah, one might conclude that the title does not exactly represent the content. As noted, a large portion of the book is simply about Jubilees. While several interesting explorations about the relationship between Enoch and the Mosaic Torah appear in the essays, of course the problem still stands. More work remains. Nevertheless, this volume will bring the reader up to date on key and basic issues related to the study of Jubilees.

Rodney A. Werline, Barton College, Wilson, NC

[1] Gabriele Boccaccini, Beyond the Essene Hypothesis: The Parting of the Ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005).