In the aerobic metabolism of aromatic substrates, oxygenases use molecular oxygen to hydroxylate and finally cleave the aromatic ring. In the case of the common intermediate benzoate, the ring cleavage substrates are either catechol (in bacteria) or 3,4-dihydroxybenzoate (protocatechuate, mainly in fungi). We have shown before that many bacteria, e.g. Azoarcus evansii, the organism studied here, use a completely different mechanism. This elaborate pathway requires formation of benzoyl-CoA, followed by an oxygenase reaction and a nonoxygenolytic ring cleavage. Benzoyl-CoA transformation is catalyzed by the iron-containing benzoyl-CoA oxygenase (BoxB) in conjunction with an FAD and iron-sulfur centers containing reductase (BoxA), which donates electrons from NADPH. Here we show that benzoyl-CoA oxygenase actually does not form the 2,3-dihydrodiol of benzoyl-CoA, as formerly postulated, but the 2,3-epoxide. An enoyl-CoA hydratase (BoxC) uses two molecules of water to first hydrolytically open the ring of 2,3-epoxybenzoyl-CoA, which may proceed via its tautomeric seven-membered oxepin ring form. Then ring C2 is hydrolyzed off as formic acid, yielding 3,4-dehydroadipyl-CoA semialdehyde. The semialdehyde is oxidized by a NADP(+)-dependent aldehyde dehydrogenase (BoxD) to 3,4-dehydroadipyl-CoA. Final products of the pathway are formic acid, acetyl-CoA, and succinyl-CoA. This overlooked pathway occurs in 4-5% of all bacteria whose genomes have been sequenced and represents an elegant strategy to cope with the high resonance energy of aromatic substrates by forming a nonaromatic epoxide.