Slavonic Apocrypha and their Significance for Biblical Scholarship

The article is dedicated to the role the Ukrainian apocryphal tradition played in the history of Biblical scholarship; special attention is paid to Ivan Franko’s contribution to the formation of the epistemological foundation of the discipline. Examined in this connection is one of the key texts published by him in his Codex Apocryphus (following the earlier edition of the same manuscript by A. Popov) — the Ruthenian redaction of the Slavonic Apocalypse of Enoch (also known as 2 Enoch); the actual MS was copied in 1679 in Poltava, and entitled The Book of the Secrets of Enoch. The discovery of this text heralded not only the shape of academic discourse concerning Biblical Apocrypha in general, and Slavonic tradition in particular, but also epitomized the importance of the Ukrainian/Ruthenian heritage in the development of the discipline. The Greek protograph, from which the Slavonic Enochic corpus derived, is no longer extant; its Vorlage must have been based on either a Hebrew or Aramaic composition. Regrettably, despite the efforts of generations of scholars, no surviving witnesses to this Semitic text were ever found, nor were any traces of its Greek descendants discovered in archival collections containing manuscripts produced in Byzantine scriptoria. Thus the Slavonic Enochic corpus appears to be the last representative of a long chain of now lost parabiblical compositions which were transmitted over centuries in multilingual and multicultural environments, with Byzantium being the filter through which Enochic traditions reached men of letters of the Slavonic world. As for the content of The Book of the Secrets of Enoch, it unfolds as the testimony of a visionary who is raised to the highest heaven, where he encounters God and learns about the mysteries of the creation of the universe. Thus the narrative encompasses two storylines. The first has a cosmographic character and provides a detailed description of each of the heavens through which the visionary passes before reaching the throne of God. The second is devoted to parabiblical cosmogony and anthropogony, through which man is described as an icon of the universe, with Seven being the ultimate numerical symbol of Creation.