THE BOOK OF THE WATCHERS
Last time we began by speaking about “the Jewish scene in the time of Jesus” and the necessity to understand who else was on this scene besides the followers of Jesus, and to grasp the ideas and the concepts that existed on the scene at this time. We would all understand that the New Testament writers were influenced by these ideas and concepts, simply because they belonged to this period and to this community. No New Testament text can be understood properly outside of this context—we miss so much if we read it without knowledge of the historical and cultural background; without being aware of the prevailing theologies of the day; without understanding who else, besides “Jesus folk,” was on this scene.
As promised, today we will be discussing the first part of the book of Enoch: The Book of the Watchers. Just to remind you, the First Book of Enoch, or Ethiopic Enoch, is in fact a compilation of several books, each of which appears with its own title and usually its own conclusion. These books, known as the Book of the Watchers (chaps. 1-36), the Similitudes (also known as Parables, chaps. 37-71), the Book of the Luminaries (chaps.72-82), the Book of the Dreams (chaps. 83-90), and the Epistle of Enoch (chaps. 92-105), are combined into a single work in the Ethiopic version, in which alone the whole is preserved.
So the book of Watchers is the first part of 1 Enoch. There is a remarkably large portion of common content with the Hebrew Bible in this book: e.g. Adam and Eve; Cain and Abel; the marriage of the angels with the daughters of men. However, it is precisely the differences and the additions in the retelling of the well-known biblical narratives which draw our attention, and can possibly point to some specific patterns and concepts in Second Temple Jewish thought. The most striking example of this discrepancy we find in the infamous beginning of chapter 6 of the book of Genesis. While this story occupies just a few verses in Genesis, it becomes the main narrative in the Book of the Watchers, where Chapters 6-9 tell the story (in fact, two interwoven stories) about the fall of the evil angels. Let us read together a few verses from 1 Enoch 6-7 in order to see how the writer expands upon Genesis 6:1-4:
1 Enoch 6:1 And when the sons of men had multiplied, in those days, beautiful and comely daughters were born to them. 2 And the watchers, the sons of heaven, saw them and desired them. And they said to one another, “Come, let us choose for ourselves wives from the daughters of men, and let us beget for ourselves children.”… 5 Then they all swore together and bound one another with a curse. 6 And they were, all of them, two hundred, who descended in the days of Jared onto the peak of Mount Hermon.[ 53]… 1 Enoch 7: 1 These and all the others with them took for themselves wives from among them such as they chose. And they began to go in to them, and to defile themselves through them, and to teach them sorcery and charms, and to reveal to them the cutting of roots and plants. 2 And they conceived from them and bore to them great giants. And the giants begat Nephilim…
THE SIN OF THE WATCHERS
Before proceeding any further, I would like to mention once again, and also recommend to my readers, a wonderful book by a brilliant scholar, Dr. Michael Heiser, “Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ”. This particular article draws heavily on this book.
In my last post I mentioned that, even though the supernatural interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 (that the “sons of God” were angels or some kind of divine beings) is not very popular in either modern Christianity or modern Judaism, this was not the case in Second Temple Judaism. According to the book of Enoch, the Watchers (“the sons of God” of Genesis) “are clearly celestial (nonhuman) beings whose actions are regarded not only as morally evil, but spiritually destructive”. The Book of the Watchers describes the revolt of the heavenly Watchers, which leads to evil on the earth and foretells God’s judgment. The Watchers produce giants on earth by their union with human women, and these giants are evil. Then, in Chapter 10, God finally intervenes, and the familiar story of Noah begins.
However, Second Temple Judaism saw in Genesis 6:1-4, not only the story of a supernatural rebellion, but one of the central passages in biblical theology and in understanding God’s plan in history. Here is a very important quotation from Michael Heiser’s introduction to his book, explaining why this topic is so important: “If one were to ask a modern Christian, ‘Why is the world and all humanity so thoroughly wicked?’ the chances are very high that an answer of ‘the Fall’ would be forthcoming. We have been conditioned by church history (ancient and modern) to look only to Genesis 3 for such theology. But if you asked a Jew living in the Second Temple Period the same question, the answer would be dramatically different. Yes, the entrance of sin into God’s good world occurred in Eden, but the unanimous testimony of Second Temple Judaism is that the Watchers are to blame for the proliferation of evil on the earth.”
Since the New Testament writers belonged to Second Temple Judaism, this understanding of the Watchers being responsible for the spread of evil on earth had to be part of their theology. “Consequently, for New Testament writers, the coming of Jesus… meant not only reversing the curse of death brought upon humanity by the sin of Adam, but also the undoing of depravity.” Next time, we will try to read the New Testament through Second Temple Jewish eyes, and to see the traces of this concept on its pages.
If you like my articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books, you can get them through my page on this blog, https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/julia-blum/
 Boyarin, Daniel. The Jewish Gospels (Kindle Location 1103). The New Press. Kindle Edition.
 Heiser, Michael S. Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ (Kindle Locations 302).
 Ibid., Kindle location 101-107
 Ibid. Kindle location 931-933