Apocalyptic spatiality in 1 Peter and selected 1 Enoch literature: a comparative analysis
Abebe, Sofanit Tamene
The present work is an exegetical analysis that outlines the spatio-temporal aspects of the Jewish apocalyptic framework that has shaped the later 1 Enoch texts (1 Enoch 91–108) on the one hand, and as will be demonstrated, the First Epistle of Peter on the other. Using critical spatial theory to analyse spatial categories in these traditions, I will consider how reality is portrayed in these traditions and in what ways the Jewish apocalyptic framework shapes the authors’ perspectives, emphases and moral visions. Towards this end, I will analyse the later 1 Enoch traditions (the Exhortation, the Apocalypse of Weeks, the Epistle of Enoch and the Eschatological Admonition) and their respective constructions of symbolic space. I will argue that their respective visions of reality is constructed on the basis of an axis linking heaven and earth through the disclosure of divine revelation by the Enochic authors. The revelatory basis on which the Enochic authors’ form their text serves to identify their readers as those who are divinely constituted through election and given access to a new spatial reality. Through a programmatic recalling of cultic spatial practices and significant events from Israel’s sacred past, 1 Peter depicts the Christ-elect addressees as constituting the space where the divine dwells. Behind this disclosure lies the basis for his call of allegiance and orientation towards serving God and imitating Christ as well as his concern with maintaining divine presence. Such a spatial construal provides the means to reconstitute the addressees as the mobile axis linking heaven and earth and bring the notion of moral purity to the centre of 1 Peter’s lived space. In doing so, 1 Peter construes the readers’ corporate and corporeal existence in Roman Asia Minor within the Jewish matrix of exile as a mode of existence on an apocalyptic stage newly configured by Christ. Without resorting to a genealogical or literary dependence of one tradition on the other, such a comparative reading provides a fresh understanding of the comparanda that is grounded in the ancient authors’ construction of lived space within a Jewish theological matrix. This will serve to ground my engagement with recent scholarly evaluations of the ancient authors’ socio-historical and political stance such as the response to hostile others including imperial realities and institutions. Taking the conversation beyond the confines of counter-imperial readings, the present work examines the respective authors’ critical engagement with hostile others and evaluation of persecution from a wider angle that takes into account the texts’ theocentric–and Christocentric, in the case of 1 Peter– understanding of reality along a temporal and spatial axis.