Friday, July 03, 2020

Enoch Seminar 2020 Day 4

ENOCH SEMINAR 2020 DAY 4 took place yesterday. James McGrath has posted another informative summary of the events: Enoch Seminar 2020 #OriginsOfEvil2020 Day 4.

The final session, yesterday evening, was a recap of the conference. It was recorded and you can view it on Facebook here.

I responded briefly to James's paper (a version of which you can watch here) in the Zoom comments. I also sent him my comments in advance of the session. Here is what I posted on Zoom:
Thanks James!

I have a couple of thoughts I have already shared with James about his fascinating paper.

First, I think it is entirely plausible that the Mandaeans preserve some much older polytheistic material, especially names, in their literature. You provide good evidence for that. You mention the Elephantine Judean community. If you haven't yet, you should also look at the Demotic-Aramaic Papyrus Amherst 63, which also may be from Elephantine. Some of the Israelite/Canaanite material in it might arguably be transitional in the direction of the Mandaean material.

Second, I have not found any arguments for a pre- (or non-) Christian Jewish Gnosticism in antiquity persuasive. The development of Gnosticism seems much easier to me once you add Pauline theology (notably its demotion of Jewish law) into the mix of Judaism and Platonism. And, tellingly, as far as I have been able to find, none of the surviving Gnostic texts deal with the halakhic and national/ethnic issues that the demiurgic myth would inevitably have raised. (I have adapted this comment from the first blog post linked below. The other two links develop the argument in greater detail.)
I am glad to have the chance to draw this point to the attention of specialists in Gnosticism. I don't think any argument for pre-/non-Christian Jewish Gnosticism can hold up without addressing it.
The mood of the room among the Gnosticism scholars seemed to be that, yes, demiurgic Gnosticism was a Christian innovation. That was reassuring.

For more on Papyrus Amherst 63, start here (cf. here) and follow the links.

This remarkable fully-online conference was a remarkable success. I am glad to have been able to participate. I look forward to more like it.

Past PaleoJudaic posts on Enoch Seminar 2020 are here and links.

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