Andrei Orlov, Associate Professor of Theology at Marquette University, has already established himself as a significant voice in the study of Second Temple Jewish traditions, especially those associated with 2 Enoch and other Slavonic Pseudepigrapha. Dark Mirrors adds further evidence to support this assessment. It is a collection of six distinct essays prefaced by an introduction and split in two sections: three essays focused on Azazel and three on Satanael. These essays do not provide a broad or synthetic discussion of early Jewish demonology; they are focused on the symmetry between these two leading figures of evil and their good counterparts—thus, the mirrors metaphor—in a few Jewish texts (Apocalypse of Abraham, 2 Enoch, 3 Baruch, and the Book of Giants) and one Christian text (Gospel of Matthew). Four of these essays were published previously.
Orlov’s brief introduction focuses primarily on patterns of symmetry in Jewish literature. He points out various examples of symmetry that are widely recognized (e.g., the Endzeit mirrors the Urzeit), but his interest lies in how the primary figure of evil imitates the attributes of principal good angels and God himself, especially sacerdotal attributes. An overarching thesis in these essays is that the background for Azazel is Enochic in origin (the fall of the Watchers traditions that grow from Genesis 6), while the background for Satanael is Adamic (the fall of Adam and Eve traditions that originate from Genesis 3). He also notes that later Jewish and Christian texts often conflate traditions associated with Azazel and Satanael, in spite of their origins being rather distinct.
The first three essays on Azazel are quite cohesive because each of them draws evidence from the Apocalypse of Abraham and each demonstrates important background for the sacerdotal characteristics of Azazel. In “‘Likeness of Heaven’: Kavod of Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham,” Orlov convincingly argues for significant symmetrical correspondence between the roles and attributes of the deity and Azazel. The depiction of Azazel, for example, has theophanic characteristics, such as appearing in the midst of fire (Apoc. Ab. 13), like the depiction of God (Apoc. Ab. 18). Orlov’s observation that the depiction of Adam and Eve entwined under the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil with Azazel in the middle as a twelve-winged being is mimicking the tradition that God rests under the Tree of Life is sound, but his suggestion that it also may be a parody of God enthroned between the seraphim (cf. Isa 6) seems to go beyond the evidence. The second essay, “Eschatological Yom Kippur in the Apocalypse of Abraham: The Scapegoat Ritual,” argues that this document depicts Azazel as a fallen angel who, like the goat who is his biblical namesake (Lev 16), takes Abraham’s sins upon himself in an eschatological counterpart to the Day of Atonement ritual in order that Abraham can enter the celestial Holy of Holies. The third essay, “The Garment of Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham,” continues closely on this Day of Atonement theme by demonstrating that this transfer of Abraham’s sins to Azazel is depicted in this document as Abraham receiving the garment of light that belonged to Azazel, which may also reflect the cultic garment of the high priest, while Azazel receives the garment of corruption that belonged to Abraham (Apoc. Ab. 13:7-14).
The three essays dealing with Satanael are more diverse in scope. “The Watchers of Satanael: The Fallen Angels Traditions in 2 (Slavonic) Enoch” shows how traditions originating from Azazel in 1 Enoch, such as being the leader of the Watchers, are applied in 2 Enoch to Satanael, a rival figure. He further argues that 2 Enoch is evidence of a paradigm shift from Jewish apocalypticism to Jewish mysticism as he skillfully traces evidence of later Watcher traditions through the Shi‘ur Qomah and Hekhalot literature, covering ground he knows well from his own dissertation research. The shortest of the articles, “Satan and the Visionary: Apocalyptic Roles of the Adversary in the Temptation Narrative of the Gospel of Matthew,” is a very intriguing discussion of the Matthean temptation narrative in light of how Jewish apocalyptic traditions inform an interpreter’s understanding of several actions. Although Orlov poses possibilities more often than drawing conclusions here, the possibilities are interesting (e.g., the request that Jesus worship Satan may reflect transformational mysticism, where the visionary who prostrates himself before the deity is transformed to reflect the deity). The last article, “The Flooded Arboretums: The Garden Traditions in the Slavonic Version of 3 Baruch and the Book of Giants,” returns to the thesis that Watcher traditions related to Azazel are being transferred to Satanael in later literature like 3 Baruch. His focus is especially on testimony in 3 Baruch 4 and the Book of Giants that the heavenly rebellion occurred in the garden which was destroyed by the flood, which Orlov argues is a polemical merging of the Enochic Watchers tradition of evil’s origin with the Adamic traditions.
I have two relatively minor criticisms of the volume as a whole. Whenever diverse essays are pulled together in order to form a volume, a writer must address the challenge of how these essays will function together for the reader to shed light on a given subject. The introduction in this volume could have done much more in addressing the big question: Why do these Azazel and Satanael traditions about a leading evil figure grow in the Second Temple Period? To put it another way: What is the generative idea that caused individuals to write about these figures? Attention should have been given these broader questions in the introduction in order to help the reader understand the role these traditions play in wider landscape of Jewish and Christian theology. My second criticism that has nothing to do with Orlov. I have never understood why publishers of technical writing like this would place pages upon pages of important reference material as endnotes at the back of a book rather than spread this material out as footnotes at the bottom of each page. Such a decision either results in readers frustrated by flipping pages between text and the corresponding note, or pages of notes never read and rarely consulted. Neither of these criticisms, however, dim my appreciation for Orlov’s provocative essays and the light they shed on some dark characters of early Jewish and Christian literature.
2013.03.02_Gieschen on Orlov Dark Mirrors_Final_0.pdf