Jewish Lore in Manichaean Cosmogony: Studies in the Book of Giants Traditions.
Well before the major modem discoveries of Manichaean manuscripts, the 18th-century French Huguenot scholar Isaac de Beausobre conjectured that the Manichaean "Book of Giants" was somehow related to a Jewish apocalypse known as the Book of Enoch (Histoire critique de Manichee et du Manicheisme [Amsterdam: J. F. Bernard, 1734-39], 1:430). Among other things, Enoch described the fall of an exalted class of angels (the "Watchers") and their begetting of a giant offspring from the "daughters of men." Although not initially greeted with much enthusiasm, de Beausobre's theory was later vindicated by W. B. Henning's publication of the fragments of the "Book of Giants" found among the Turfan Manichaean manuscripts ("The Book of the Giants," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 11 : 52-74]). Henning immediately recognized that the basic narrative of the work was an elaboration of the "Book of Watchers," one of the books comprising the Book of Enoch. Apparently, Mani had interpreted the fallen watchers as rebellious demons who had escaped from heaven and produced a race of "giants" and "abortions."
As momentous a find as the Turfan texts was J. T. Milik's publication of the Qumran fragments of the Book of Enoch (The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4 [Oxford: Clarendon, 1976!). Although none of the later Christianized versions of the work knew of a "Book of Giants," Milik proved that the original Aramaic version of Enoch did include the very work that the Manichees were later to include in their canon of sacred texts. All of the pieces of this improbable story had now fallen into place. The remaining task facing Manichaean studies was to establish how Mani succeeded in incorporating narrative from a Jewish apocalypse into his own religious system. Reeves' study is a welcome contribution to this subject.
After a survey of the scattered witnesses to the "Book of Giants," the second chapter of Reeves' work offers a transliteration and analysis of the Qumran fragments of the "Book of Giants." He subjects Milik's restorations to a fresh analysis, suggests his own narrative ordering of the fragments, provides new translations, and includes, where relevant, parallel material from the Manichaean versions of the work published by Henning and W. Sundermann (Mittelpersische und parthische kosmogonische und Parabeltexte der Manichaer [Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1973!). In chapter 3, the author examines another possible source for the "Book of Giants," the excerpts from a Manichaean work preserved in a homily of Severus of Antioch. In opposition to F. Cumont and M.-A. Kugener (Recherches sur le manicheisme [Brussels: Lamertin, 1908-12], 83-172), Reeves contends that the contents of Severus' excerpts do not tally at all well with what is now known about the "Book of Giants" from Qumran and Turfan.
The final chapter charts the stages through which an originally Jewish legend was ultimately assimilated into Mani's cosmogony. Here Reeves sets out to show how, over time, the legend's explanation of evil became progressively more dualist. Although one early form of the tradition included the fallen angels among the agents responsible for evil and corruption, later competing forms of the tradition tended to exonerate the heavenly world of any guilt. By comparing the narrative sequence of Enoch with Theodore bar Konai's account of Manichaean cosmogony, Reeves illustrates how the increasingly dualist flavor of the legend made it an ideal "scriptural" foundation for Mani's religious doctrines. Although not mentioned by Reeves, another explanation for Manichaean interest in the "Book of Giants" may have to do with the work's broad appeal. Legends about primordial giants are part of the mythic lore of many ancient religions; indeed, the Qumran Aramaic text of the "Book of Giants" names the Babylonian figures Gilgamesh and Humbaba. As is clear from the divergent Manichaean recensions of the "Book of Giants," the work's international appeal made it quite adaptable to the native traditions of various peoples.
Reeves is to be commended for a thorough and learned treatment of a dauntingly complex problem. Perhaps future research will further clarify some of the problems only touched upon in his study. One issue concerns the textual history of die Manichaean "Book of Giants." Reeves characterizes Mani's book as a 'copy" (p. 32), a "version" (p. 32), and a "recension" (p. 185) of the original work. But as he makes clear, the textual transmission of the "Book of Giants" is extremely fluid, and some terminological clarification is needed. Did the "Book of Giants" exist independently of the rest of the Enoch literature before Mani appropriated it? An answer to this question would have profound implications for Milik's highly controversial theory about the "Pentateuchal" structure of the Enoch corpus and the origin and dating of the Enochic -Similitudes." As Reeves suggests (pp. 207-9), the link with Jewish Christianity is also intriguing. Differing versions of the fallen watchers story were very well known in Jewish/Christian circles. Now that Mani's connection with the Elchasaites has been established, it would certainly be useful to investigate further the role of Jewish Christianity in interpreting and mediating the Enoch literature to Mani and his followers.
Although all of these questions must await future study, Reeves' work has impressively demonstrated one inescapable point about a religion once thought to be an eastern form of Gnosticism heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism. More than anyone had previously imagined, Mani's thinking was deeply rooted in the apocalyptic literature and traditions of Judaism of the Second Temple Period.
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|Publication:||The Journal of the American Oriental Society|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Apr 1, 1994|
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