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orion Ref: Henoch 108 (Catchwords and Memory Joggers)

Dr Altman & the Group:

Thank you for your insightful comments to my last posting: ref: oral
tradition in the Ethiopic 1 Henoch 108. I am in full agreement with your
comments about the potentialities for memorisation of very long texts. I
certainly was not arguing that point when I wrote:

"although it would stretch credibility a little to imagine that a person or
persons could possibly "memorise" the whole of 1 Henoch and pass it down
without the help of a written text.."

>Why not? It could be another explanation for the obvious "patchwork" you

 I did not in any way mean to imply that this was an impossible feat for a
human being to accomplish the feat of memorising the text of I Henoch we
ready today  (years ago I met a fourteen year old boy of only average
intelligence who had set the entire Koran to memory by the time he was 11)
I suspect  this kind of thing was more prevalent the ancient past
especially in the Middle East where literacy was not perhaps as common as
it seems to be today...The point I was trying to make  was:  Throughout
chapter 108, "catchword" linkages very definitely suggest that  "orality"
played a part in its transmission from the Aramaic (and to or from the
Greek) to the Ethiopic (or through  whatever intervening  transport
languages or mechanism you envisage to get it to the Ethiopic that today we
now read) nevertheless  I do not necessarily think the entire text of I
Henoch (as we have it today in the Ethiopic)  can be used to prove that the
WHOLE of what we read today was necessarily brought to Ethiopia "orally" as
a single memorised block of material as a transport mechanishm (i.e. by way
of a sort of large sermon) --------just that the larger discernable
patches of it (e.g. chapter 108 especially) bear traces of orality in their
catchword linkages. In other words, "orality" played a part in its
formation into its present "hotchpotched" state.

I was trying to emphasise the process of FORMATION of the book as we read
it today seems to be thrown together from discretely memorised (oral) and
written/translated patches (sometimes using catchwords). Throughout the
entire text of I Henoch in the Ethiopic,  we seem to be here dealing with a
combination of both oral and written sources, possibly in more than one
language (Aramaic and Greek seem to lay behind most of the text); this
would certainly parallel what happend generally when the early Christian
"gospel"  material was finally being written down in the form we read today
(probably sometime in the mid 60s and 70s AD).

Also, I cedrtainly did not mean to infer that Qumran's spacing at the end
of subsections (leaving a blank area at the end of a column etc.) was
unique to the Qumran literature among ancient scribal examples when I

"This scribal lacuna is a stylised method of separating one text or text
section (or column...) from another in the Qumran literature..."

you wrote:

>spacing to show the end of a section, book, paragraph, etc. also dates
back to Sumer and Akkad and is not exclusive to the Qumran texts, merely
the continuation of an ancient practice...

All I meant to point out by that was that this deliberately stylised space
(which I nicknamed a "deliberate scribal lacuna", which perhaps is not the
technical term used for this deliberately left-blank space, sorry)  placed
after 107:2 in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q204 column II) shows that 107:2
clearly marked the end of a section in the text, and could well have formed
the ending of the entrie scroll's text.  The verse that follows immediately
in the Ethiopic (107:3)  would therefore be an attempt (on the part of the
scribe? the oral tradition's contributors?) to build upon the  thoughts
expressewd in 107:2 by rounding out the section to a perhaps more
satisfying close.  The point I was trying to convey was that this
blank-space in the Aramaic of Q204  suggests even more strongly that the
whole of chapter 108 is a "spurious"  addition to the collection which was
not originally present in an earlier (Aramaic) version of the text.


I will address the problem of "what is Essenoid" (Essene/Esseenic), "what
is Christian" , "what is pre-Christian" etc. in more detail in another
posting---clearly this whole subject is far too vast and complex  for quick
emails within a group discussion such as this. In Chapter 108 of the
Ethiopic I Henoch, we seem to be dealing with a patchwork of scraps, some
of  which may contain core material as old as the earliest portions of the
"book", which I would classify as "Essenoid" in the broadest sense of the

 Even a few so called "accepted canonical Christian writings" contained in
our New Testament may not have been originally "Christian," but may
originally have been "pre-Christian Essenoid correspondence" and had
Christian accretions added on to them as the text was copied and circulated
for use in Christian circles (i.e. the churches etc.)----an immediate
(albeit loose)  parallel immediately springs to mind: the socalled (Greek)
Epistle of James in the New Testament which shows evidence that an earlier
Essenoid (pre-Christian or non-Christian)  text or Essenoid oral tradition
may very well underlie the present Greek text of "James" with its few (and
somewhat interruptive) references to "the Lord Jesus Christ" somewhat
forced upon the text and its (albeit in a Greek translation) Qumran-like
language (and thought "millieu") scattered  throughout:   "e.g. 2:23 "And
Abraham believed and it was reckoned for him as Righteousness" etc.. Some
of the language of that letter actually echoes sentiments expressed
Ethiopic I Henoch 108 in places (James 4:8b Cleanse your hands, you
sinners! Purify your hearts, you double minded ones! Lament, and Mourn and
Weep!! or 1:12 Blessed is the man who hath endured temptations; for he hath
withstood the test and will receive the crown of life that [God] hath
promised to those who love him...and also in 1:23 (which echoes I Henoch
generally) "Those who look into the perfect Law...being not hearers who
forget, for doers (a translation of the Heb. 'ossim ? ) who act, they will
become blessed by their actions...")

I will try not to type so fast in future, so that these mis-understandings
(of emphasis) can be kept to a minimum, for I think they are detracting
from our discussion at hand, which was originally: "How are we to
understand Ethiopic I Henoch 108 generally?".

Donald Goodell
Pleasanton, California
(for private responses or lengthy comments, feel free to contact me at the
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