Researching this year’s NaNoWriMo novel is proving to be … interesting.
I started out with the Apocrypha. For those who don’t know, the Apocrypha are some books that aren’t in all the manuscripts of the Bible, and so they’re not sure whether they’re authentic enough to be counted as actual Biblical books despite the fact they’re quite often referenced at other points in the Bible. Some of the Apocryphal books are included in the Bible used by the Catholic church, and some are not.
Since I was brought up in a Baptist church (I gather that Baptist churches here are pretty different from Baptist churches over in the US, but I don’t know any details), I’d never read the Apocrypha before. But I was reliably informed by the Oxford Companion to the Bible that what I needed to know about angels was the Apocrypha, so I hunted down a copy and started to read it.
The story of Raphael and Tobias, as referenced in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (which I studied for English last year) – now I finally know what they’re going on about. Who on earth Uriel actually was. All this stuff.
But something was still missing.
Enoch. The Oxford Companion to the Bible told me that there were functions and characteristics applied to angels in the books of Enoch – which I had never heard of, except a few vague references in the form of fiction. I looked through the Apocrypha, but there was no Enoch.
Confused, I flipped through the Companion to find the individual entry for ‘Enoch’ and found that the books are ‘extrabiblical’. Basically, they’re even more apocryphal than the Apocrypha, to the point when they’re pretty much only found in the Ethiopic Bible and not anywhere else.
It seemed I was going to have to take a trip to the Kindle Store.
When I’m looking for obscure mythology or extrabiblical texts, I tend to go for the Kindle Store rather than trying to find a paperback. It’s quicker, for a start, and often I need something like that as research, so quite urgently. It’s usually a lot cheaper – things like that are frequently made available either for free or cheaply. And quite often, things like that just aren’t easily available in paper, because they’re out of print in my country or just generally.
I managed to get myself a 77p edition of the first book of Enoch, and it’s proving an… educating read. Good source of names for fallen angels, I guess.
I face a tricky question when reading it, though. As a Christian, I believe that a lot of what’s in the Bible is true. The Apocrypha, however, aren’t actually a part of the Bible I’ve come to see as the Word of God, so do I read it as fact or fiction? My main decision was to take it with a pinch of salt but not dismiss it as fiction. But extrabiblical texts, regarded with suspicion? Should I just read them as fictional, or is that actually disrespectful?
It’s difficult. (I have to admit, though, some aspects of the Book of Enoch are making me laugh. They sound so dramatic when they refer to the angels ‘committing fornication’ that it provokes giggle fits left, right and centre.) I’m telling myself I don’t need to make that kind of decision, as I’m reading it for research. Reading it is bound to make some sort of impression on me, though.
Sigh. Research is stressful.
On top of all this angels and apocalypses, I’ve got the logistical issues of trying to send two young characters from a point very far away in Russia to a certain building in London, in 1863 or thereabouts, when there was no Trans-Siberian railway and very little in the way of roads (except for trade routes). And they’re young girls. It’s going to be an interesting November.