Bishop Gregory (hgr) wrote,
Bishop Gregory



A new translation and introduction
by Basil Lourié


Papias, bishop of Hierapolis (after 69 AD-middle of the 2nd cent. AD) in his lost work Interpretations of the Sayings of the Lord (written about 115 AD, according to the actual scholarly consensus) was quoting many ancient Christian and Jewish pre-Christian traditions which are now partially accessible through the preserved fragments . One of such traditions goes back to a Jewish source standing at odds with almost the whole corpus of pseudepigrapha's testimonies on the Watchers and relying on the authority of the prophet Daniel.
According to this peculiar tradition, the Watchers are the warriors of Michael who were helping to the mankind and, in particular, transmitted to it the Law and the prophetic knowledge.
Papias gives us no information about his literary source. It is easy to see, however, that this source had nothing to do with either canonical Book of Daniel or any other known Danielic pseudepigraphon .

Literary tradition

The testimony of Papias subsists within the series of the fragments of his Interpretations of the Saying of the Lord in the Commentary on the Apocalypse [of John] by Andrew, bishop of Caesarea (563-637) written in the 7th century . Both Papias and Andrew were writing in Greek.
Andrew of Caesarea's text is the most popular commentary on Apocalypse in the Eastern Church, and so, it is preserved in many Greek manuscripts and in Armenian, Georgian and Church Slavonic versions . Among these versions, the Armenian one is of special interest (the Slavonic one being an exact rendering of the known Greek text and the Georgian one being so far unpublished and unstudied ). It contains, in the part dedicated to the verse 12:9, two paragraphs (according to its editio princeps of Jerusalem, 1855), almost completely lost in the known Greek recension and its Slavonic version. This part was republished in 1981 by Folker Siegert who added two Vienna manuscripts to the three of Jerusalem already used by the Armenian editors . Among the earliest manuscripts, one is dated by 1306, another one is datable by the late 13th or the early 14th century. All the five manuscripts are identical in the part relevant to our Papias quote.
The quality of the Armenian version is excellent. It was prepared in about 1179 during the short period when the Armenian Church was on the edge of the union with that of Byzantium. The translator is Constantine bishop of Hierapolis, who was acting on demand of the Catholicos (the head of the Armenian Church) Nerses of Lambron. Therefore, this translation itself was an act of the high Church politics. This is important to know because this is an argument for evaluating the quality of the manuscript of the Greek original. The quality of such manuscript must be high.
In a paper dedicated to the differences between the Greek and the Armenian texts of Andrew of Caesarea, I reached the conclusion that the known Greek recension is secondary in comparison with the lost Greek original of the Armenian one. Two paragraphs of the original text of Andrew representing an archaic and hardly understandable in the late Byzantium exegesis were excluded from Greek but preserved in Armenian. Among these two paragraphs only the first contains a quote from Papias, while the second one is an original text of Andrew himself . Therefore, it is only the first paragraph that will be dealt with below.
There is one phrase, within our Papias quote, that is preserved also in Greek, while in the known Greek recension of Andrew of Caesarea it would be impossible to determine that its source is Papias rather than Andrew himself. However, this phrase, attested in both Greek and Armenian, does not belong to the Danielic pseudepigraphon we are interested in.


We shall limit ourselves to an analysis of the Danielic tradition only, without its framework in Papias.

Peculiar features

Although the intercession of the angels in the revelation of the Law to Moses at Sinai is a well-known early Christian tradition going back to a pre-Christian Jewish milieu, any specific role of Michael in this process is almost unknown (we shall browse exclusions). As to the Watchers, their intercession at Sinai is not only at odds with the mainstream Jewish and Christian traditions, but goes against the well-established and prevailing in both Jewish and Christian worlds tradition identifying them with the Giants. This tradition starting from 1 Enoch ("Book of Giants", 3rd cent. BC) and going through the Qumranic texts, ends with the Middle Age Byzantine historiographers, thus becoming a part of the trivial mediaeval knowledge … By the way, this is, to my opinion, the reason why our fragment was cut off from the Greek text of St Andrew's Commentary.
No doubts, there were, in the Second Temple Judaisms, some movements where the Watchers-Giants were not painted only in black. For instance, in Jub 4:15 they taught the mankind "to make justice", in contrast to 1Enoch where they taught to do only the bad things. Nevertheless, in Jub 7:21 the standard story of their fall with the women took place, and this "place" is before the Flood, that is, long before Moses…
However, in our Papias' fragment the Watchers' image is not only absolutely positive, with no connection to Giants, but even crucial for the Old Testament as a whole - because the Watchers, together with Michael, become the intercessors in the revelation of the Law to Moses. This is an independent tradition that should be traced.

Other testimonia of the same tradition in the early Christianity

There are two early Christian texts, both in Greek, that are certainly representing the same tradition. Beside this, there is third Greek Christian text, not so early (5th cent.), that has to be read in the light of two previous sources and could shed, in turn, some light on them both.
The first testimonium belongs to Origen, fragment 109 of his Commentary on Lamentations preserved in the catenae. The author explains the only place in the Christian Greek Bible (that is, not in Aquila or Symmachus) where the term "Watchers" (egregoroi) occurs, Lam 4:14 LXX: "Her watchmen (egregoroi) staggered in the streets, they were defiled with blood in their weakness, they touched their raiment with it" (Brenton's translation). The relevant part of the commentary runs as follow: "Watchers the Scripture calls angels, as (it is) in Daniel. And they were those by whom probably the Law has been given to Moses, according to for if the Law spoken by angels… (Heb 2:2)" .
Origen (ca. 185-ca. 254) mentions the watchers in the situation of the reception of the Law by Moses and refers to Daniel. He refers here to the Epistle to the Hebrews, namely, to the theology of angelic intercession that the author of the Hebrews was trying to complete by his own concept of the priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek. As I have shown elsewhere, such a theology was identical or close to that of the Qumranic Songs of the Sacrifice of Sabbath , and so, the latter turns out to be compatible with the theology of our Danielic pseudepigraphon.
Our second source is the Greek title of a pseudepigraphic work called Apocalypse of Moses or Life of Adam and Eva. This title, lacking from all the Oriental and Latin versions of the work, has no internal relation to the text and is considered as a later addition peculiar to the Greek recension . However, for us it is an independent source representing some ancient tradition, regardless to its own date. The title in question is: "Story and Life of Adam and Eva the first-created, revealed by God to Moses his servant, when he received from the hand of the Lord the tablets of the Law of the Covenant , being taught by archangel Michael".
No mention about the Watchers here, nor about Daniel. But, in this case, Michael is mentioned as an intercessor between Moses and God at Sinai.
Finally, Michael, Daniel and even the angels and the citation of Heb 2:2 are gathered together around the figure of Moses at Sinai in the commentary of Theodoret of Cyrus (ca. 393-466) on Gal 3:19 (where the Law is said to be "ordained by angels"). This text is especially informative if checked against its more archaic background which is the same as that is transparent in the above quoted commentary by Origen.
After having quoted Heb 2:2, Theodoret continues: "Because God of all established them Michael, and this is what blessed Daniel taught us. And to great Moses He [scil., God] promised to send together [with him] to the people an angel (Exodus 32:34)" .
Let us compare this quote with our first testimonium from Origen. An angelic intercession at Sinai is explained with the same double reference to Heb 2:2 (quoted explicitly in both cases) and to a "Daniel" (not quoted verbatim, in both cases as well). This is a distinctive mark of a common exegetical tradition. So, if we are still in the same exegetical vein, we have to identify "Michael" and "angel" of Theodoret with the "Watchers" of Origen - taken into account that, according to our Papias, these "Watchers" are the guard of the same Michael! "Watcher" is replaced by "angel". Such a replacement is an example of the so-called concealment (of one notion by another), a phenomenon which affected very much the whole tradition under study.
It is most probably that Theodoret in the 5th century was the last Father (Andrew of Caesarea taken aside) who was referring to an obscure Danielic source attributing to Michael and his angels-watchers an intercessory role in the revelation of the Law at Sinai.

Now we can reconstruct the skeleton of our source as the following scheme:
1. claiming to the authority of Daniel, it
2. describes the revelation of the Law to Moses at Sinai, when
3. Michael and
4. his angelic warriors - Watchers
5. are the intercessors, and where
6. the Watchers are the helpers of the men, with no connection to the fallen Giants.

Biblical Connection: Dan 4:14 MT

Despite the fact that our Danielic source could not be identified with any part of any recension of the canonical Book of Daniel, it has some connection with this book, and especially with one verse, Dan 4:14 MT, the relevant part of which is lacking from the Septuagint (cp. its corresponding verse Dan 4:17 LXX), although translated into Greek by Aquila and Symmachus, as well as by Pseudo-Theodotion .
In its Aramaic original Dan 4:14 MT runs as follows (I quote the King James version): "This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men". Aramaic cirin "watchers" is rendered as egregoroi by Aquila and Symmachus, transliterated as ir by Pseudo-Theodotion and reinterpreted as aggelos in the Septuagint in two neighbouring verses Dan 4:13, 23 LXX (= 4:10, 20 MT).
Although Dan 4:14 does not mention Moses neither the Law revealed at Sinai, its topic is very close: the word pitgam (Old Persian loanword in both Aramaic and Hebrew) has a rather vague meaning including that of "commandment" .
It is impossible to our Danielic source to be in any dependence on Dan 4:14 MT. On the contrary, the verse Dan 4:14 is a pale reflection of a previous tradition which may be common or even identical with that of our source.
Indeed, the Book of Daniel is one of the most diffuse books of the Bible. Some traditions of the Persian Judaism were crystallising here while some other were not (cp., for this, Eze 14:14, 20). Its different parts are almost independent, and this is the cause why its text varies between the recensions… It is hardly probable that the selection(s) of the Book of Daniel, in all its recensions, was (were) somewhat exhaustive. It is even not clear if there were some other recensions of Dan containing some different stuff.
Therefore, one can cautiously conclude that our Danielic source could be either a Persian Judaism tradition with no connection to the canonical Book of Daniel or a tradition which was included into a lost recension of the latter.

"Watchers" vs. "Blinds": Biblical, Ugaritic and Qumranic

To go deeply we could try to realise in what extent our Danielic source was depending on a tradition that turned out to be in conflict with the most of the biblical and para-biblical literature.
We have already noticed that our source where the Watchers are good angelic beings contradicts to the mainstream tradition where they are the fallen Giants. But this is not all.
When comparing above a testimonium from Theodoret with another one from Origen we have seen an elimination of the term "watcher" replaced by the neutral term "angel". We have seen as well the same policy in the Septuagint translation of Dan 4. But the ultimate roots of this policy are most probably within the Hebrew Bible - at least, such a hypothesis was put forward by Robert Murray , and I am glad to add a little to his argumentation.
There is a need to recollect some points from Murray's article. He is working in a well-known field, although with new tools. As it is known, the mentions of (quasi-)divine beings were often excluded, by one means or another, from the Hebrew Bible. E. g., Deut 32:43 where the "sons of God" - preserved in LXX and confirmed by Qumran - are deleted from MT. Sometimes, such names - as it was supposed by quite a few scholars - are not deleted, but simply distorted to obtain another meaning with a minimal alteration of the pronunciation. It is possible that the phenomenon of Aramaic-Hebrew bilinguism [or maybe dyglossia] interfered here. The processes like these affected very much the history of the Aramaic term for "watcher".
According to Murray, there was, in ancient Hebrew, a word *cyrus [pronounced as car / cer (pl. carim / cerim)] having the etymological meaning "protect" and designating some protecting deities. As it is especially important, "car / cer could denote benevolent beings, and so be applied to good angels, obedient to God" (p. 315) - not to the fallen Giants, let us add. Then, "like mal'ak, car / cer was adopted in Aramaic, where we find it vocalized cir and soon understood as 'one who keeps awake' [that is, etymologized as a genuine Aramaic word]" (ibid.).
During the process of suppression of the names of the pagan deities this word became a subject of different changes. Sometimes it has been replaced by its (consonantial) homograph "town" (e. g., Mic 5:13), sometimes has been replaced by somewhat similar words with similar meaning relating to angelic/divine beings, e. g., оir ("messenger" or maybe "intercessor" - like in Isa 63:9 where it is rendered by the LXX as presbys in a verse very remarkable for us: "not an ambassador, nor a messenger, but himself saved them" (Brenton's translation)).
Finally, and this is the most original part of Murray's argument, sometimes the concealment was controlled by the purposes of the satire - "to help laugh them [polytheistic deities] out of people's hearts". So, a "mocking substitute" of carim / cerim appears: it is ciwrim "blinds". "This would be the origin of the satirical sequence 'they have eyes and see not', etc. (Ps 115, 5-7; 135, 16-18). Perhaps it was 'Second Isaiah' who began the game" (cp. Isa 42:7, 42:16-19, 43:8 and cf. 44:18) (p. 312-313). The case of ciwrim turned our to be analogous to that of another protecting divinities, psН (another root with the meaning "protect"), as it is especially evident in 2 Sam 5:6: "…the ciwrim and pisНim which the Jebusites said would defend them… both refer to protecting deities" (p. 312).
But the most evident case is Lam 4:14 which we have seen earlier commented by Origen: "They have wandered as blind men in the streets" (KJV) of the MT is "rendered" here as "Her watchmen [or "watchers"] staggered in the streets" (Brenton) by the LXX (p. 312-313). The only explanation of this fact is that the Hebrew original of the LXX has had "watchers" instead of "blinds".
What we have to keep from this brief review? One point of a relatively minor significance and one point of a great one.
First, our term cir "watcher" turned out to be somewhat akin to the term оir "messenger": sometimes they are used as synonyms, as it takes place in Isa 63:9. This fact corresponds to the intercessory role of the Watchers in our Danielic source. Even if suppressed and "concealed", this role is familiar to the biblical literature.
Second, that the blindness could be, in some contexts, an appropriate epithet for the Watchers who are, by definition, never sleeping and must be always clairvoyant. Let us go further.
The idea that some deities must by punished by the blindness is certainly older than its "satirical" applications. So, we have already in Ugarit (1Aqht 167-168), in a prayer of Daniel (Danel) against cAnatu: "let Bacal make thee blind (cwr.) from now and forever" .
A close tradition is testified in a Danielic document from Qumran, 4QpsDanc. It is a very short fragment (lines numbered according to Garcia Martinez who published all the Pseudo-Danielic fragments from the Cave 4 jointly):
36. […]
37. to] put an end to iniquity
38. ] those who shall err in their blindness (cwr)
39. ] those who shall arise
40. the ho]ly ones and shell return
41. … in iniquity […]
According to F. Garcia Martinez and his predecessors , this text covers the topic related to the resurrection and the judgment; so, those mentioned in the l. 38 are not the same as those mentioned in the l. 39. "The holy ones" in the l. 40 are angelic beings; we have already seen in Dan 4:14 MT that this term may be synonymous to our "Watchers". Similarly, both terms, "Watchers" and "Holy Ones", are enumerated side by side, as beings of the same rang, in 1QGenAp ii, 1. It is not certain, but however probable that in 4QpsDanc those "who shall err in their blindness" are some angelic beings.
Indeed, the Watchers are not treated very favourably in the Qumranic literature, even outside 1 Enoch and Jubilees. In CD ii, 18 and, most probably, in 1QGenAp ii, 1 they are angelic beings fallen with women. But there is, among the DSS, a much more significant text, 4QMessAr .
This document explores the theme of a rivalry between the Messiah and the Watchers. After having said (4QMessAr ii, 16) that "His [Messiah's] deed will be as the one of the Watchers", the document continues:
18. […] … […] Holy One and the Watchers […] saying
19. […] they have spoken against him
The lacunae prevent us from any detailed understanding of these verses. However, the most natural understanding of the general sense would be a conflict of the Messiah with "Holy One and the Watchers". I have called this conflict "rivalry" because, as it is clear from the l. 16, both Watchers and Messiah play on the same field.
We have seen a "Watcher" (singular) and "Holy One" in a quasi-messianic role (that of an intercessor between God and humans) in Dan 4:14 MT. And, finally, in our Pseudo-Danielic source we have the Watchers accompanying an angelic being (thus, a "Holy One") whose name is specified as Michael. But the evidences of the tradition where Michael is indeed a messianic figure, sometimes no less than Christ Himself, are abundant .
The circle is locked. Two different concepts of "Watchers" correlate to two different messianic (or, at least, mediator) concepts.


Editions and translations:

Folker Siegert, Unbeachtete Papiaszitate bei Armenischen Schriftstellern, NTS 27 (1981) 605-614 (critical edition and German translation).

Joseph Alexanian in: The Apostolic Fathers. Greek Texts and English Translations of Their Writings. Second Edition / J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, Editors and Translators. Michael W. Holmes, Editor and Reviser (Baker Book House, 1992) 589-590 (English translation).

В. Лурье, Цитата из Папия в составе армянской версии Толкования на Апокалипсис св. Андрея Кесарийского: перевод и историко-экзегетическое исследование [B. Lourie, A quote from Papias within the Armenian version of the Commentary on Apocalypse of St Andrew of Caesarea: translation and study in the history of the exegesis], in: Писания Мужей Апостольских / Под общ. ред. А. Г. Дунаева (Москва: Издательский совет Русской Православной Церкви, 2002) 511-532 [Writings of the Apostolic Fathers / Ed. by Alexey G. Dunaev (Moscow: Editorial Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, 2002) 511-532 (contains a reprint of Siegert's edition and a Russian translation).


Basil Lourie, An Unknown Danielic Pseudepigraphon from an Armenian Fragment of Papias in the Light of the Qumranic and Some Other Pseudo-Danielic Literature (in print).

Note: the Greek words in parentheses are our retroversion of some terms from Armenian.

And Papias in his sermon [said] as following: ‡"The heaven did not bear his [Dragon's] earthly thoughts, because it is impossible to the light to have communion with darkness (cp. 2 Cor 6:14)‡ . He [Dragon] was cast out into the earth (Rev 12:9) to live here, and, when the mankind came where he was, he did not allow [them] to act according to the natural passibility (kata to physikon patheton) , but led them astray into many evils. But Michael and his warriors who are the Watchers (egregoroi) of the universe did help to the mankind, as and Daniel taught , by giving the Law and by making the prophets wise."

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