The Heir of Righteousness and the King of Righteousness: The Priestly Noachic Polemics in 2 Enoch and the Epistle to the Hebrews
The Journal of Theological Studies
It has previously been noted that 2 (Slavonic) Enoch, a Jewish pseudepigraphon written in the first century CE, contains traces of polemics against the priestly Noachic tradition. In the course of the polemics the role of Noah as the pioneer of animal sacrificial practice to whom God reveals the commandments about the blood becomes transferred to other characters of the story, including the miraculously born priest Melchizedek. In light of the polemics detected in 2 Enoch, it is possible that another work written at the same period of time, namely, the Epistle to the Hebrews—a text which like 2 Enoch deals with the issues of blood, animal sacrificial practice, and the figure of Melchizedek—might also contain implicit polemics against Noah and his role as the originator of such practice. It has been noted before that the author of Hebrews appears to be openly engaged in polemics with the cultic prescriptions (δικαιώματα λατρείας) found in the law of Moses and perpetuated by the descendants of Levi. Yet the origin of animal sacrificial practice and the expiatory understanding of blood can be traced to the figure of Noah, who first performed animal sacrifices on the altar after his disembarkation and who received from God the commandment about the blood. By renouncing the practice of animal sacrifices and invalidating the expiatory significance of the animal blood through the sacrifice of Jesus, who in the Epistle to the Hebrews is associated with the figure of Melchizedek, the authors of the Epistle to the Hebrews appear to be standing in opposition not only to Moses and Levi, but also to Noah. Here again, as in 2 Enoch, the image of Melchizedek serves as a polemical counterpart to Noah and the priestly Noachic tradition, which the hero of the Flood faithfully represented.