Some Parascriptural Dimensions of the “Tale of Hārūt wa-Mārūt”

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John C. Reeves



Early commentators and traditionists embed and amplify Q 2:102—an enigmatic allusion to angelic complicity in the transmission of esoteric knowledge to humankind—within a rich layer of interpretive lore frequently bearing the rubric “Tale of Hārūt and Mārūt.” A close study of this verse alongside its external narrative embellishments uncovers a wealth of structural and contextual motifs that suggestively link the “Tale” with biblical and parascriptural myths about “fallen angels” and their perceived role in the corruption of antediluvian humanity. The present article catalogs a representative number of these motifs, speculates about their mode of transmission, and offers some guidelines for analyzing the different versions of the “Tale” that surface centuries later in medieval Jewish interpretive and mystical literature. Particular attention is devoted to unpacking the identity of the woman who is responsible for the seduction of the angels.

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