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3. Cosmology as Science or Cosmology as Theology? Reflections on the Astronomical Chapters of Pirke DeRabbi Eliezer

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Chapter Summary

Pirke deRabbi Eliezer (PRE) is an unusual work dating to early Gaonic period. Commonly classified as midrash, it differs in style and content from earlier Rabbinic midrashim. The content is largely astronomical, but interwoven are passages of aggadah, and implied at various points is astrological doctrine, concerned with the influence of the heavenly bodies on human affairs. Friedlander himself cites parallels from the Second Temple Enochic texts specifically to PRE's astronomical data. A better case can be made for linking PRE's scientific tradition with that in the Enochic corpus than that in the Rabbinic. The relationship of PRE to antecedent Rabbinic literature can be explored more concretely by comparing and contrasting its treatment of Genesis1 with that contained in Bere͗shit Rabbah. The Enochic calendar became idealised: it was the calendar which God had intended at creation, and which would, perhaps, be restored at the end of time.

Keywords: Bere͗shit Rabbah; cosmology; Enochic calendar; Pirke deRabbi Eliezer (PRE); Rabbinic midrashim



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