Concentration on the relationship between Matthew and rising Formative Judaism has caused possible links between Matthew and Enochic Judaism to receive minimal attention. The occasional discussions of Matthew and Enochic traditions often center upon “the Son of Man” in The Parables of Enoch (see Leslie W. Walck’s The Son of Man in the Parables of Enoch and Matthew [Jewish and Christian Texts in Context and Related Studies 9; London: Continuum, 2011]). In Enoch and the Gospel of Matthew, Amy E. Richter attempts to explore other possible connections between the First Gospel and Enochic traditions, arguing that the Evangelist not only knew the tradition of the fall of the watchers but composed his work to relate the story of Jesus to the Enochic explanation of evil. Richter avers that the four women in the genealogy, facets of the infancy narratives, and the presence of other Enochic themes reveal that Jesus repairs the consequences caused by the watchers’ fall. This monograph is a revision of the author’s dissertation at Marquette University under Deirdre Dempsey and Andrei Orlov.
The opening chapter (pp. 1–20) previews the book’s argument and notes its significance. Richter highlights that, unlike the Book of Parables, there is no debate of whether the Book of Watchers predates Matthew. Attention then turns to previous studies on Matthew and apocalyptic literature. While some equate “apocalypticism” with eschatology and therefore only explore eschatological passages, the 1979 SBL definition of “apocalypse” and developments since have highlighted that apocalyptic works explain present circumstances in light of the future and heavenly realities. This broader understanding has led Donald A. Hagner, David Orton, O. Lamar Cope, David Sim, and Robert Branden to find apocalyptic elements in Matthew. Unlike Sim, who explores a possible literary relationship between 1 Enoch 10:4a and Matt 22:13a and finds that Matthew used a form of this text, Richter does not posit a direct literary relationship between 1 Enoch and Matthew.
A brief overview of the “Enochic template” of the watchers appears in chapter 2 (“Transgression”; pp. 21–41). Richter notes four themes in the story of the watchers: the transgression of a boundary, interaction between angels and women, the production of monstrous offspring, and continuing disastrous consequences that include violence, pain, sickness, and idolatry. In this chapter, Richter also enumerates three stages of the origin of evil and its redemption, as there is (1) a loss in which evil comes, (2) a foreshadowing of this being fixed, and (3) the ultimate redemption. The second chapter explores the first stage while the third and fourth chapters will describe the second and third stages, respectively.
Chapter 3 is the most substantial chapter of the book (“Transgression Reassessed”; pp. 42–126), as Richter draws attention to echoes between the stories of the four women in the genealogy of Matthew (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah) and the story of the watchers. After examining other explanations for the presence of these women in the genealogy, Richter offers her own proposal: all four women “foreshadow the overturning of the transgression of the watchers” (p. 50) because each woman recalls the story of the watchers by being suspected of transgression, using the illicit arts that the watchers taught, interacting with celestial beings, and having a child whose paternity is questioned or who is exceptional but reverses the story of the watchers by producing positive results. The examination of each figure summarizes her story and discusses connections with the Enochic typology (first the use of illicit arts, then other themes). Richter also highlights connections between these women and other passages in Matthew, as the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 recalls Tamar and Rahab and Ruth’s story connects to the eschatological hope and community discussed in Matthew.
The focus of chapter 4 (“Transgression Redressed”; pp. 127–193) is to show how Matthew 1–2 demonstrates that Jesus is the one who overturns the effects of the fall of the watchers. Richter identifies five connections to the Enochic template. First, the link between the genealogy and the birth narrative suggests that the undoing of the consequences of the watchers’ fall will continue. Next, Richter calls attention to the similarities between the discussion of Jesus’ paternity and Lamech’s concerns at the birth of Noah in 1 Enoch 106–7 as well as two important differences: Jesus is conceived without sexual interaction and offers permanent cleansing. Richter is more tentative in discussing the third link between Matthew 1–2 and the Enochic template, positing that various Jewish traditions depicting the Holy Spirit as an angel make it possible that Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit would be by an “angelomorphic” figure that transgresses the boundary between the angelic and human but reverses the Enochic template in that it is nonsexual and leads to salvation. The longest part of the chapter is Richter’s discussion of the dreams in Matthew 1–2 and traditions concerning Enoch and Balaam. Richter traces the similarities between these stories (auditory dreams; a response that is faithful but surprising; eschatological implications) as well as the notable differences (Matthew looks to the present rather than the distant future; Jesus is dreamed about rather than the dreamer), observing additional connections between Matthew and the Enochic traditions in that both discuss a righteous figure, “generations,” and eschatological affairs. The final section of this chapter deals with the Magi, whose use of the illicit arts (especially astrology) leads them to see who Jesus is and worship him. Other connections to Enoch in the magi story appear in the depiction of the star as a guiding angel and the gifts.
In chapter 5 (“The Legacy of the Watchers’ Transgression versus the Legacy of ‘God with Us’; pp. 194 –211), Richter quickly underlines six further ways in which Matthew shows Jesus repairing the consequences of the fall of the watchers. These six areas are: (1) Jesus has “righteous pedagogy” that is free from sexual contact in contrast to the illicit pedagogy of the watchers that follows sexual relations; (2) Jesus rejects illicit sexual relationships while the watchers have illicit sexual relationships; (3) Jesus speaks of a new family arrangement based on the fatherhood of God while the watchers created a family of monsters; (4) Jesus brings peace and the watchers cause violence; (5) Jesus heals diseases and casts out demons, the origin of which the Enochic template traces to the fall of the watchers; and (6) true worship comes through Jesus, overcoming the idolatry that arises from the evil spirits. These discussions are admittedly brief, as this chapter aims to show that the connections to the Enochic template introduced in the opening chapters continue in the narrative and demonstrate the potential for further study of connections between 1 Enoch and Matthew.
In addition to summarizing the book’s argumentation, the conclusion (pp. 212–13) highlights the important role that women have in revealing how Jesus fixes the consequences of the watchers and states Matthew has “a polemical purpose” by showing that Jesus can do what even Enoch could not. A bibliography appears (pp. 215–34), but there are no indices.
Richter’s work is well-written and argues a fascinating thesis that warrants consideration. Her interest reveals numerous points of contact between Matthew and 1 Enoch that readers have most likely never previously considered. Embedded within her larger argumentation are also many insights into Matthew that merit further examination, particularly her discussion of the function of tassels in healings in Matt 9:20–22 and 14:36 (pp. 133–37), the meaning of “Nazorean” in Matt 2:23 (pp. 168–69), and the place of women within Jesus’ teaching ministry (pp. 198–200). In addition to writing lucidly, she inserts three tables to review her discussions. Her explanation of the story of the watchers is a helpful overview of the story, accessible for people with minimal knowledge of these traditions. Richter also shows scholarly restraint, recognizing places where her suggested connections are not as clear-cut and arguing for Matthean knowledge of Enochic traditions rather than literary dependence.
While a laudable and valuable work, it is not without weakness. As expected with a thesis like the one featured in this study, certain connections between the Enochic template and Matthew are more compelling than others. At times, one gets the feeling that Richter latches onto any possible association with the Enochic traditions. It is also unclear if Matthew intentionally engages the Enochic traditions or whether the connections noted are “echoes” of the Enochic story that may not be related to Matthew’s overall purposes but reflect his knowledge of the Enochic tradition. Moreover, Richter argues that Matthew shows Jesus to be greater than Enoch, but does this necessarily constitute a “polemic”? Could this not rather be an attempt to merge Enochic Judaism into “Matthean” Judaism? Finally, a question that Richter raises but does not directly address is what should one make of the absence of an explicit reference to Enoch in Matthew. Does this silence undercut Richter’s point or could it further support her claims?
These criticisms should not detract from this study, which stands as a welcome entry to the field of Matthean studies. Although this reviewer finds the emphasis on the non-Jewish ethnicity of the four figures in the genealogy recently offered in Jason Hood’s The Messiah, His Brothers, and the Nations (Matthew 1:1–17) (LNTS 441; London: Continuum, 2011) more compelling than Richter’s argument, her proposal should appear in future works examining this oft-discussed topic and may not be mutually exclusive with Hood’s proposal. Perhaps even more significant is Richter’s call for further exploration of the relationship between Matthew and 1 Enoch, as Richter’s work proves it to be a fertile ground ripe for cultivation.