The “Book of Og”

I recently got an email requesting that I comment on something called “The Book of Og.” I’m not sure what is being claimed about this book. You can be sure, though, that this book is NOT a book that goes back to the biblical period (i.e., the OT time period when Og was taking a beating). If someone is selling a book claiming such a “discovery” (and its consequent “translation”) buyers are getting ripped off. Here are a few pages from a couple of scholarly works on this book in case anyone is interested.1

Reeves on sources for a lost book of the giants-Og

Wilkens 2pp from Remarks on the Manichaean Book of Giants

But, in a nutshell, here’s what I am guessing my emailer wanted to know.

The “book of Og” is mentioned in an early medieval text called the Gelasian Decree, which condemns the book of Og as heretical. The book of Og has been identified via several scholarly studies as the Manichaean version of the Book of Giants (aka, “Mani’s Book of Giants”) known from the Dead Sea Scrolls. (See the footnotes in the PDF pages for those studies, most of which are in German). What this means is that Mani, an Armenian prophet (religious figure; 216-274 AD), had access to the book we now know as the Book of Giants from Qumran and produced his own version of it according to his own theology. Mani was the founder of Manicheanism, a gnostic religion. Fragments of Mani’s book of the Giants are known in Middle Persian (an Iranian language used during the Sassanian Empire, 224–654 AD), Sogdian (a language used in eastern Iran from 100-1000 AD), and one old Uyghur fragment (9th-14th centuries AD). The Sogdian and Uyghur material is later than Mani’s Middle Persian since they are translations of Mani’s work (Middle Persian was Mani’s native language).

In other words: (1) The “Book of Og” = Mani’s version of the Book of the Giants known from Qumran. and dates at the earliest to Mani (third century AD); (2) Since Mani’s book is a reworking / adaptation of the Book of the Giants, a good portion of the Mani’s work dates to the time of that Qumran book, sometime in between the late 3rd-2nd century BC, long after the Mosaic period. As readers of my book Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ may recall, the Book of the Giants is “Enochian material” (i.e., its content has a close relationship to 1 Enoch). Note that the Dead Sea scrolls material from Qumran is the earliest witness to 1 Enoch and the Book of the Giants. There is no textual evidence for either book older than Qumran (3rd-2nd century BC). For those interested in the dating, the most thorough scholarly study on the Book of Giants is Stuckenbruck’s critical edition with commentary. If you want to read the Book of Giants this is the trustworthy resource, not something self-published or produced by a non-academic press. Here is Stuckenbruck’s summary of the date of the Book of Giants (=BG) from Qumran:

The date of the original composition of BG cannot be established with certainty. For Milik, this question was made contingent on his claims based on codicology and palaeography, on the one hand, and on his dating of other writings, on the other. With respect to the physical evidence, Milik suggests a terminus ante quem for the earliest manuscript, 4QEnGiantsb (4Q530), which he assigns to “the first half of the first century B. C.”. In addition, he argues that the early Herodian script of 4QEnGiantsa (4Q203), which he believes formed part of the scroll 4Q204 (4QEnochc), suggests a date for that manuscript sometime during the last third of the 1st century B. C. E. Mainly due to archaizing orthographic features in 4QEnochc, Milik finds justification for asserting that it was copied from “an old manuscript, doubtless belonging to the last quarter of the second century B.C. (date of lQIsa and 1QS)”. For a terminus ab quo Milik looks to the account of Enoch’s works in Jubilees 4:17–24 in which BG is not included. Thus, in dating Jubilees to 128–125 B. C. E., Milik proposes that BG was composed later. Milik then attempts to narrow the gap and appeals to a phrase in the Damascus Document col. ii, l.18 (“and whose bodies were as mountains”—אשר … וכהרים גויותיהם) which he thinks may well betray a dependence on “a work devoted more particulary to the descendants of the Watchers”, that is, on BG. By further assigning to the Damascus Document a composition date of 110–100 B. C. E., Milik arrives at the conclusion that BG must have been written sometime between 128 at the earliest (Jub.) and 100 B. C. E. at the latest (Dam. Doc.).

Milik’s argument for dating BG is beset with difficulties. There is, of course, the question of the degree to which the manuscripts can be dated accurately by means of palaeographical analysis. However, apart from the way he dates the Damascus Document, palaeography is not the most decisive part of his reasoning. More important is his emphasis on the silence concerning the existence of BG in Jubilees. Three problems with Milik’s use of Jubilees for dating BG can be identified: (1) Milik’s assumption that BG, in a strict sense, is an Enoch pseudepigraphon (see section III. B above); (2) the related assumption that Jubilees would have alluded to BG were it already composed110; and (3) the dating of Jubilees itself. Regarding the last point, Milik appeals to Jubilees 34:2–9 and 38:1–14, wherein he finds historical allusions to the military activities after the death of Antiochus VII Sidetes in 129 B. C. E. led by John Hycanus I in the Transjordan, Idumaea, and Samaria. This interpretation has, for good reasons, been contested. For one thing, this later date would require one to suppose that the author of Jubilees is casting the Hasmonaean Hyrcanus in a positive light. Even more problematic are the supposed allusions to Hyrcanus. On the contrary, James Vanderkam, after a detailed study of the place-names in Jubilees 34:4 and of the historical allusions throughout the work, cannot identify any event after 161 B. C. E.; the accounts in 34:2–9 and 38:1–17 were influenced by the Maccabean victories during that year over Nicanor at Bethhoron and over the Edomites (so 1 Macc. 7:39–50 and 5:3, 65).

As for the Damascus Document (CD col. ii, ll. 18–19)—the difficulty of dating this work aside—, there is little therein which suggests that the passage actually alludes to or cites BG. While the passage clearly refers to the Watchers (עירי השמים) and their sons (בניהם) the description of the latter recalls the description of the Amorites in Amos 2:9 (“his height like the height of cedars”; cf. l.19—“whose height was as the height of cedars”). García Martínez has argued that the second parallel phrase (“whose bodies were as mountains”), which Milik derives from BG, is sufficiently explicable as a “poetic extension” of the first. Even if, however, one grants that the Damascus Document is citing a recent tradition concerning the giants, we may ask why this tradition should necessarily be BG (cf. 1 En. 7:2) or why such a tradition should necessarily be a literary one. Milik’s proposal that BG was composed between the respective productions of Jubilees and the Damascus Document rests on a series of questionable hypotheses which are extrinsic to any of the data within the Qumran BG fragments themselves.

Beyer’s dating of BG to the latter part of the 3rd century B. C. E. offers an alternative to Milik’s view. His date involves the debatable hypothesis that (1) BG was originally composed in Hebrew and the related assumption that (2) BG would already have been copied alongside other Enoch literature as “das jüngste Stück des hebräischen Henochs” in the 3rd century B. C. E.. Nevertheless, the advantage of Beyer’s proposal is the literary dependence of BG on the Book of Watchers which it implies (see section III.B). If composition of the latter occurred sometime during the 3rd century B. C. E., then here we might have a reasonable terminus ab quo.

Regarding the earliest possible date of composition, García Martínez suggested a way forward by calling attention to the significance of the relationship between 4Q530 col. ii, ll.17–19 and the text of Daniel 7:9–10. At that time, the pertinent BG material was, of course, still unavailable. García Martínez reasoned that if Milik’s claim of literary dependence on the Danielic text were to be substantiated, then the composition of BG may be assigned to an “upper limit by the middle of the 2nd century B.C.”. On the basis of my comparison of 4Q530 col. ii, 16–20 (’Ohyah’s dream) with Daniel 7 (see Chapter Two), it is difficult to maintain a literary dependence of the former on the latter without accounting for some important differences. On the contrary, it appears that BG actually preserves a theophanic tradition in a form which lacks traditio-historical developments that one finds in Daniel 7: While this conclusion does not necessarily mean that BG must have been composed before the passage in Daniel, the comparison of the texts strengthens the possibility that BG may have been written sometime between the Book of Watchers and Daniel, that is, sometime between the late 3rd century and 164 B. C. E.

Loren T. Stuckenbruck, The Book of Giants from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary (ed. Martin Hengel and Peter Schäfer; vol. 63; Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 28–31.

  1. The sources of these two items are, respectively: John C. Reeves, Jewish Lore in Manichaean Cosmogony: Studies in the Book of Giants Traditions (Monographs of Hebrew Union College; Hebrew Union College Press, 1992; Matthew Goff, Loren  T. Stuckenbruck, and Enrico Morano (eds.), Ancient Tales of Giants from Qumran and Turfan (WUNT 360; Mohr Siebeck, 2016).

The post The “Book of Og” appeared first on Dr. Michael Heiser.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *