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Mirjam Bokhorst to be awarded a PhD for ‘Enoch and the Temple of Doom’

17 February 2020
1 Enoch 2:1-5:6; 6:4-8:1

‘Henoch und der Tempel des Todes’: this is the original title of the thesis written by the theologian Mirjam Bokhorst, which she will defend during a PhD ceremony to be held in the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (FGGW) at the UG on 27 February. Bokhorst is German, but her family has Dutch roots. She has spent the past five years working on a double PhD degree, and chose the FGGW because of the ‘inspirational supervisors with great expertise and the stimulating and challenging, yet friendly and relaxed research environment offered by this faculty.’

Dead Sea Scrolls and the Book of the Watchers

Bokhorst chose her research subject after having focused on Ancient Jewish texts during her degree programme: ‘I was particularly interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other texts from this later period, which are not in our Bible. These texts are exciting because there are a lot of theological shifts and they contain so many different views of God, the temple in Jerusalem and the people of Israel. It gradually becomes clear which texts will become biblical. The Book of the Watchers, which was the main subject of my research, is one of the texts from this later period. It has a very special history. The text was originally written in Aramaic and was translated first into Greek and then into Ethiopian. Very little of the Aramaic version has survived and the Greek translation does not cover the full text, so we have to work with the Ethiopian version. For a long time, the canonicity of the text was contested, so that the manuscripts contain a large number of textual variants. This made it a very exciting philological challenge.’

New interpretation of the passage about Enoch’s vision of the heavenly temple

Bokhorst explains that she had not intended to focus her thesis on the vision of the temple in ‘Enoch’s vision of the two houses’: ‘I was rather planning to study the vision of the realm of the dead in the text, and to compare it with Greek and Mesopotamian visions of the underworld. But I got stuck in Enoch’s vision of the heavenly temple, because I didn’t understand it and wasn’t convinced by the interpretations offered by research until now. I eventually found a new interpretation of this passage, which I think better explains the vision of the two houses and which is backed up by other ancient Jewish and Mesopotamian texts.
The most striking finding from my research is my observation that, contrary to current research opinion, the two houses in Enoch’s vision should not be interpreted as two separate parts of a single temple complex, but as two opposing temple designs.’

Double PhD degree

Bokhorst studied theology in Groningen and Göttingen (Germany): in 2011, she gained an MA in Theology at the UG, and in 2014, she gained a so-called Diplom Theology in Göttingen. She started her PhD research at both universities in 2014, in order to obtain a Double PhD Degree. This means that the PhD candidate conducts research at two universities and receiving receives binational supervision for the thesis: ‘I did most of my PhD research in Göttingen, but I also spent 13 months in Groningen from January 2016 to January 2017. I was in regular contact with my primary supervisor Mladen Popović via Skype,’ explains Bokhorst.

Good experience

‘I’d had a very good experience at the FGGW of the UG while taking my Master’s degree and I already knew that Mladen Popović and Jacques van Ruiten would be excellent, inspirational supervisors, and that the FGGW would provide an stimulating, challenging, yet friendly and relaxed research environment. In addition, I already felt at home at the Faculty and in the Netherlands, so the idea of spending some time in Groningen for my PhD research was very appealing.’

PhD ceremony

On Thursday 27 February, Mirjam Bokhorst will defend her thesis entitled ‘Enoch and the Temple of Doom. ‘Enoch’s Vision of the Two Houses’ (1 Enoch 14:8–25) Between Scriptural Interpretation and the Use of Traditions. With an introduction to the sources, a new edition and translation of 1 Enoch 14–16’ in the presence of her primary supervisors and co-supervisors. Her supervisors are Prof. Mladen Popović, Professor for Old Testament and Ancient Judaism, with special attention for Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, director of the Qumran Institute and Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the UG, and Prof. Reinhard Gregor Kratz, a specialist in the Old Testament at the University of Göttingen. Prof. Jacques van Ruiten, Professor of the Reception History of the Bible: Historical hermeneutics at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the UG, and Dr Annette Steudel, associate professor specializing in Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls at the University of Göttingen, are Bokhorst’s co-supervisors.
Bokhorst is due to start a Habilitation research project at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany (yes, Maarten Luther’s city!) in April 2020. What does this involve? ‘A habilitation research project is similar to a post-doc and entails a new research subject and the publication of a second book. Once I have completed this, I will be a ‘private lecturer’ and able to become a professor in Germany,’ says Bokhorst. We wish her the best of luck on 27 February and with her next research project.

  • When: Thursday 27 February 2020
  • Time: 2.30 p.m.
  • Where: Academy Building
Last modified:21 February 2020 1.15 p.m.
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