Judean wisdom: Anonymous on Abraham’s contributions (before the mid-first century BCE)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Judean wisdom: Anonymous on Abraham’s contributions (before the mid-first century BCE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified June 2, 2023, https://philipharland.com/Blog/?p=6275.

Ancient authors: Anonymous author of unknown work, as summarized by Alexander Polyhistor (early first century BCE) and later cited by Eusebius of Caesarea, Preparation for the Gospel 9.18.2. (early fourth century CE) (link to Greek text; link to full English trans.).

Comments: The anonymous author of this fragment proposes that Abraham was descended from one of the giants (offspring of angels and human women in Genesis 6) and that this involved the transference of astrological knowledge to humanity through Abraham to both the Phoenicians and the Egyptians. Unlike 1 Enoch, where the knowledge shared by these angels to humanity was considered inappropriate revelation, the author of our present passage seems to view those revelations more positively and uses that as an opportunity to portray Israelites or Judeans as the source of human knowledge about astrology. Lurking in the background is competition with other peoples considered wise foreigners or “barbarians.”

Source of the translation: E.H. Gifford, Eusebius: Preparation for the Gospel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1903), public domain, was used as the base for a new translation by Harland, based the critical edition of the Greek by K. Mras, Eusebius: Die Praeparatio evangelica, 2 vols. (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1954).


Fragment, on Abraham’s connection with the giants and dissemination of astrological knowledge (Eusebius, Preparation 9.18.2)

In certain anonymous works, however, we found that Abraham traced back his origin to the giants. They were destroyed by the gods for their impiety when living in Babylonia. Yet one of them, named Belos, escaped death, settled in Babylon, and lived in a tower which he had built, which was called Belos from the Belos who built it. After Abraham was taught astrological knowledge [presumably knowledge gained from the giants via Belos], he first went to Phoenicia and taught the Phoenicians astrology, and then he went to Egypt.

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