Sin, Atonement and Israelite Identity in the Words of the Luminaries in Relation to 1 Enoch's Animal Apocalypse

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In the Words of the Luminaries, the authors not only request repentance and divine forgiveness, as seen in other ancient Jewish penitential prayers, but also introduce a unique approach to the issue of sin – they state that they have been blessed with God's holy spirit and that their sins have already been atoned. In making this statement, they continue their ancestors' religious tradition but also experience spiritual progress. This treatment of the theme of sin and repentance in the Words of the Luminaries resembles Qumranic sectarian theology. However, the Words of the Luminaries also emphasizes an Israelite corporate identity. This is a prayer for the sake of the entire people of Israel, and the worshippers see themselves as the direct continuation of Israel's past generations. Similar characteristics of divine wisdom and grace, as well as an optimistic representation of the Israelite people, are also found in the Animal Apocalypse (1 Enoch 85–90). For example, in the Animal Apocalypse the lambs' eyes are opened as they lead the rest of the sheep. There are other similarities between the Words of the Luminaries and the Animal Vision, such as a historical outlook from Adam to Israel's salvation and the opening of one's eyes as a sign of divine wisdom. Theological and lexical similarities between the two documents suggest that the Words of the Luminaries reflects a religious revitalization or reform movement in a state of transition, before developing into a sectarian segregated ideology.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalHebrew Union College Annual
StatePublished - 2013


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