Friday, April 10, 2009

2 Enoch in Coptic!

Jim Davila reports message from Andrei Orlov, whose own site on 2 Enoch is here (and on my sidebar):

No longer ‘Slavonic’ only
2 Enoch attested in Coptic from Nubia

During his work preparing the publication of Coptic manuscripts from Qasr Ibrim in Egyptian Nubia, Joost Hagen, doctoral student at Leiden University, The Netherlands, very recently came across some fragments he could identify as part of the text of the so-called ‘Slavonic Enoch’ (2 Enoch), the first time a non-Slavonic manuscript of this intriguing text has been found.

The fragments were discovered at Qasr Ibrim, one of the capital cities of Christian-period Nubia (southern Egypt, northern Sudan, 5th-15th cent. AD), during excavations by the British Egypt Exploration Society (EES) which started in 1963 and have brought to light an astonishing number of finds, textual and other. Joost Hagen has been entrusted by the EES with the edition of the manuscript material in Coptic, the language of Christian Egypt and one of the literary languages used in the Christian kingdoms of Nubia.

The ‘Slavonic Enoch’ fragments, found in 1972, are four in number, most probably remnants of four consecutive leaves of a parchment codex. The fourth fragment is rather small and not yet placed with certainty, also because there is as yet no photograph of it available, only the transcription of its text by one of the excavators. For the other three fragments, both this transcription and two sets of photographs are available. The present location of the pieces themselves is not known, but most probably they are in one of the museums or magazines of the Antiquities Organization in Egypt.

The fragments contain chapters 36-42 of 2 Enoch, probably one of the most interesting parts of the work one could wish for, with the transition between two of its three main parts: Enoch’s heavenly tour and his brief return to earth before the assuming of his task back in heaven. Moreover, they clearly represent a text of the short recension, with chapter 38 and some other parts of the long recension ‘missing’ and chapters 37 and 39 in the order 39 then 37. On top of that, it contains the ‘extra’ material at the end of chapter 36 that is present only in the oldest Slavonic manuscript of the work, U (15th cent.), and in manuscript A (16th cent.), which is closely related to U. For most Coptic texts, a translation from a Greek original is taken for granted and the existence of this Coptic version might well confirm the idea of an original of the Book of the Secrets of Enoch in Greek from Egypt, probably Alexandria.

Archeologically it seems likely that the Coptic manuscript is part of the remains of a church library from before the year 1172, possibly even from before 969, two important dates in the history of Qasr Ibrim; a tentative first look at palaeographical criterea seems to suggest a date in the eighth to ninth, maybe tenth centuries, during Nubia’s early medieval period. This would mean that the fragments predate the accepted date of the translation of 2 Enoch into Slavonic (11th, 12th cent.) and that they are some several hunderd years older than the earliest Slavonic witness, a text with extracts of the ethical passages (14th cent.).

Although this Coptic manuscript is fragmentary, it proved to be possible to reconstruct part of the missing text using (translations of) the Slavonic versions, and several theories formulated about the book of 2 Enoch by Slavists and theologians have already been confirmed or proven wrong. Recently, the priority of the longer recension has been advocated (again). But the discovery of this first non-Slavonic witness, at the same time the oldest manuscript known so far, calls for renewed discussion about this matter. Unless the two recensions had indeed already split up in Greek, the short recension, and the oldest Slavonic manuscript U, have to be taken more seriously from now on.

At the Enoch Seminar in Napels, Joost Hagen hopes to present his recent discovery in the presence of the very people who can hopefully contribute to an answer to these questions.

Mr Joost L. Hagen MA (1978) studied Egyptology at Leiden University, the Netherlands, specializing in Coptic Egypt and with (among others) the following minor subjects: papyrology, biblical and rabbinic Hebrew, modern standard and christian Arabic and Old Nubian. In 2003, his MA thesis, entitled “O LORD, Thou preservest man and beast”: The Encomium for the feast day of the Four Creatures, attributed to John Chrysostom (in Dutch, unpublished), was accepted with the grade 8.5 out of 10.

At the Eighth International Congress of Coptic Studies in Paris, 2004, he presented part of this research, published in 2007 as ‘ “The Great Cherub” and his Brothers: Adam, Enoch and Michael and the names, deeds and faces of the Four Creatures in the Encomium on the Four Creatures, attributed to John Chrysostom’, in N. Bosson and A. Boud’hors (eds.), Actes du huitième congrès international d’études coptes, Paris, 28 juin-3 juillet 2004, Vol. 2, 467-480.

In winter 2004 / 2005 he spent half a year at the Institut für Ägyptologie und Koptologie of the Westfälische Wilhelms-universität Münster, Germany, where he developed an interest in the so- called “Gospel of the Saviour”, about which he also lectured during a 2007 conference on apocryphal gospels in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany: ‘Ein anderer Kontext für die Berliner und Straßburger “Evangelienfragmente”: Das “Evangelium des Erlösers” und andere “Apostelevangelien” in der koptischen Literatur’, article in press).

In September 2005, he started a four-year research project at Leiden University to prepare his doctoral dissertation about the role of Coptic in Christian Nubia, entitled Multilingualism and cultural change in late-antique and medieval Nubia: The evidence of the Coptic texts from Qasr Ibrim. In the course of this research, now in its final stages, he regularly visited the Qasr Ibrim archive in Cambridge, England, and the Egyptian and Coptic Museums in Cairo and the Nubia Museum in Aswan, Egypt.

In 2006, he participated in the first Summer School in Coptic Papyrology in Vienna. He assisted his supervisor, Dr. Jacques van der Vliet, in preparing his Dutch book about the Gospel of Judas (published in 2006), and regularly gives popular lectures about the Gospel of Judas himself. He is a member of the International Society of Nubian Studies (since 2006) and the International Association for Coptic Studies (since 2008).

I guess this means that now I can study 2 Enoch, or at least fragments thereof, myself!

1 comment:

a_ntv said...

Very interesting.
And manuscripts U and A include also chapters 69-72 about Melkisedek, that now are more probable not to be later additions.