• Enoch's Imaginary Ancestor

    Seth Sanders (see profile)
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    This paper examines a foundational tradition of Second Temple scholarship: that the figure of Enoch was inspired by the mythical Babylonian diviner-king Enmeduranki because both revealers were the seventh of ten figures before the flood. It finds that no preserved pre-Chris- tian texts present Enmeduranki this way, and no evidence that anybody in the ancient world believed in this connection. Astonishingly, this theory – dating from 1903, it is literally the first Babylonian-Second Temple connection ever made – has survived repeated disconfirma- tion and been repeated uncritically for 115 years. Why did nobody critically reexamine the data for over a century? Scholarship on this topic has key features that modern scholars themselves associate with folklore: the handing down of a chain of unchallenged authoritative traditions to create a compelling narrative of the past. It is part of a larger way that the story of Judaism has been told as one of nativization. These studies in continuity provide internalist narratives that present what could be seen as sharp Jewish departures from prior Hebrew traditions as instead part of an inclusive patrimony, a reworking of a shared past. In this view, patterns shared with other cultures recede into matters of “influence” and “background” to Judaism, a creative reuse of an older and sometimes otiose culture to fertilize a new and changing one. In response, the paper concludes by looking to a better documented medium connecting Judean and Babylonian cultures, and a theoretical model that goes beyond borrowing and influence. Rather than an obscure borrowed “tradition,” the heavenly sage was a shared piece of Aramaic- based high culture common to Judean and Mesopotamian scholars. The figure exemplified a type of scribal thought in which the mastery of language meant mastery of a linguistically structured universe.
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