By Seth L. Sanders, Jonathan Ben-Dov
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Extra resources for Ancient Jewish Sciences and the History of Knowledge in Second Temple Literature
Enoch received this wisdom by divine revelation: it was disclosed to him by angels or in visions. There are parallels in Egyptian, Babylonian end other early scientific traditions for presenting science in the form of revelation from the gods, and it is tempting, at first sight, to suppose that in the Books of Enoch this is no more then a literary convention. But there may be more to it than meets the eye. At some point in the evolution of the Enochic literature an author or redactor must have known that the knowledge which he was presenting was not disclosed by angels but had come from contemporary, non-Jewish sources.
The Jerusalem Temple in the Second Temple period was probably a locus not just of ritual, but of a vigorous intellectual life, and may have housed a school or schools. This should, in principle, cause no surprise: great temples had from hoary antiquity been centres of learning in the Near East. Qumran was founded by renegade Jerusalem priests. The founders of Qumran were associated with the school, or the circle, in the Jerusalem Temple which had preserved and studied the Enochic literature, and they brought copies of the texts with them from there to Qumran.
In the Middle Ages and early modern times, as Ruderman has shown, it gathered pace. In the nineteenth century, as a result of political emancipation, many Jews again rediscovered the natural world. The result, in the twentieth century has been some of the greatest achievements of scientific thought. From Enoch to Einstein is a long and tortuous road. At times the traces are scuffed and the track almost disappears. 39 Whether or not it is meaningful to talk about Jewish science cannot be discussed here.