THE MYSTERY OF ENOCH September 13, 2013

And Enoch walked with God and then he was gone, for God took him.

I am investigating a mysterious disappearance. As I am a mere academic, there’s no actual blood involved, but it’s still a puzzling case. Briefly, I am trying to explain why the Book of Enoch vanished as thoroughly as it did, and when it did.

We are living through a “Renaissance of Enoch Studies.” For some forty years now,  Enochic literature has been the subject of a substantial and really fine scholarly literature, much of it emanating from the international Enoch Seminar founded in 2000. That group has produced an impressive series of essays, most recently a volume entitled New Perspectives on 2 Enoch: No Longer Slavonic Only, edited by Andrei Orlov and Gabriele Boccaccini (Brill 2012). If the title sounds abstruse, the subject matter is extremely important for anyone interested in Second Temple Judaism, Christian origins, apocalyptic, not to mention rabbinic and Islamic origins. Under the name Idris, Enoch is a venerated Qur’anic prophet. As Metatron, he became an archangel in medieval Jewish apocrypha. Enoch was also a key figure for early Manichaeans.

The Enochic literature has a lengthy history, far too much to be summarized here. Enoch himself is mentioned briefly, cryptically, in Genesis, where his main achievement is disappearing to be with God, seemingly without dying (Gen. 5. 22-29). That potentially gave him an impressive role as an intermediary between human and divine worlds. Even better, his age was given as 365 years, opening the way to astronomical and astrological speculations.

Adding to Enoch’s attraction, Coptic sources credited him with a virgin sister, who was identified with the Sibyl, the prophet who supposedly spoke the Sibylline Oracles. These Oracles were of immense interest to Jews and Christians alike. She was thus assimilated into the Enochic “family.”

From the third century BC onwards, Enoch became the subject of several writings using his name, probably written in Aramaic. Indeed, scholars now speak of Enochic Judaism as a significant form of religious dissidence, connected with the movement represented at Qumran, where several of these works survive. Probably by the first century AD, various segments were brought together to form a work called 1 Enoch. The book as we have it has five sections:

The Book of the Watchers                  chapters 1-36

The Parables of Enoch                        chapters 37-71

The Astronomical Book                     chapters 72-82

The Book of Dream Visions               chapters 83-90

The Epistle of Enoch                          chapters 91-108

The list of titles gives some idea of the incredibly varied nature of the material. 1 Enoch as we have it is a library rather than a book, a grab-bag of the obsessions of the Jewish world in the third and second centuries BC.

1 Enoch, though, was only a part of a much larger body of Enochic literature. 2 Enoch claimed that 360 books were written in the prophet’s name; Muslim historian al-Tabari claimed knowledge of “thirty scrolls.” In modern times, scholars have rediscovered 2 Enoch, probably dating from the first century AD. This survived in Slavonic translation (although Coptic fragments have also been found). The site has useful resources on both 1 Enoch and 2 Enoch. Besides those two major early texts, other works attributed to the prophet include 3 Enoch (Sepher Hekhalot).

The most accessible study of the Enochic literature is found in James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (two vols., 1983-85). This includes translations and extensive commentary for 1, 2 and 3 Enoch, amounting to over three hundred pages in all.

1 Enoch in particular was enormously influential in its time. Generations of New Testament scholars have been intrigued by the book’s use of the “Son of Man” terminology, recalling Jesus’s own use of that phrase. For centuries, the book’s most intriguing section was the so-called Book of the Watchers, which described how the Sons of God descended to Earth to breed with human women, producing a range of bizarre and frightening monsters. 1 Enoch also gave scriptural foundation for the fascination with angels and archangels like Michael and Gabriel.

Christian writers long treated 1 Enoch as inspired, or at least worthy of respectful attention. Famously, the New Testament Epistle of Jude cites it as scripture.  The second century Epistle of Barnabas used Enoch’s writings as inspired, and so did a series of Church Fathers including Athenagoras and Clement of Alexandria. So also, on occasion, did Origen, although he later became skeptical. Barnabas, Athenagoras, Clement and Origen all had Alexandrian connections, but the book’s popularity was not limited to Egypt. Enoch’s wider reputation is suggested by its use in Irenaeus, Tertullian and others. Commonly, such authors cited Enoch’s account of the fallen angels. About 200, Tertullian called Enoch simply, “the oldest prophet.”

Writers of this age rarely shared the concerns of modern believers about the rigid distinction between canonical and non-canonical works, particularly in an age when writings circulated as individual texts. Although Biblical texts were collected, nobody expected the kind of clear standardized uniformity that would become so familiar with the onset of printing. Also, no one authority could possibly impose absolute criteria over a Christian world that already stretched deep into three continents. Despite its critics, Enoch long continued to be read.

From the ninth century though, the book all but vanished, at least from the West. It remained fully canonical in the Ethiopian church, and in 1773 traveler James Bruce brought copies of the Ethiopian text (in Ge’ez) back to Europe. When it was eventually translated in the nineteenth century, scholars began to realize the work’s significance.

But given all its early endorsement, why did 1 Enoch drop out of favor so rapidly? What does this say about the criteria the churches used to frame their Biblical canons? Also, was Enoch’s apparent disappearance as total as it appeared? I’ll address these questions in my next week’s post.





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  • John Turner

    Fantastic post, Philip.

    I’m interested in the subject partly (though originally because of the reference in Jude) because of the importance of Enoch in early Mormon scripture and thought.

  • philipjenkins

    Absolutely! He is hugely important in mystical speculation across faiths.

  • Peter Stone

    Great post. These so called Apocryphal writings have fascinated me for some time, especially the ones that either where accepted or nearly accepted by the early Church.

  • philipjenkins

    Watch out for my post tomorrow, Monday, and several more over the coming weeks.

  • Rafa Kim

    Proof of Enoch 1,2 can be found in both the Bible and Koran.
    It is intimately tied with the oath of the luminaries that is discussed in Enoch 1.

    Koran 56:75
    Nay, I swear by the PLACES of the STARS-
    And lo! that verily is a tremendous OATH, if ye but knew –

    This Oath is explained in this part of Jeremiah

    Jer 31:35-38

    Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the FIXED
    ORDER of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea
    so that its waves roar– the LORD of hosts is his name:

    36 “If
    this FIXED ORDER departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall
    the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.”

    Thus says the LORD: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the
    foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all
    the offspring(Seed) of Israel for all that they have done, declares the

    We know the sun, moon and stars move from their place at
    the time of the End. This is detailed in the Old, New Testaments and the

    we can see that because the Luminaries move from their place in the
    time of the End, logically, this means that someone has measured the
    Heavens and Explored the Earth Below.

    God has written a logical riddle to expose knowledge. (a scripture)

    So who Measured the heavens and explored the foundations of the Earth?

    Let me show you the Chapter titles in the various books in Enoch 1 (Idris).

    The Book of the Watchers
    first section of the Book of Enoch describes the fall of the Watchers,
    the angels who fathered the Nephilim (cf. the bene Elohim, Genesis
    6:1–2) and narrates the travels of Enoch in the heavens. This section is
    said to have been composed in the fourth or 3rd century BC according to
    Western scholars.[68]
    I–V. Parable of Enoch on the Future Lot of the Wicked and the Righteous.
    The Fall of the Angels: the Demoralization of Mankind: the Intercession
    of the Angels on behalf of Mankind. The Dooms pronounced by God on the
    Angels of the Messianic Kingdom.
    XII–XVI. Dream-Vision of Enoch: his
    Intercession for Azazel and the fallen angels: and his Announcement of
    their first and final Doom.
    XVII–XXXVI. Enoch’s Journeys through the Earth and Sheol:
    XVII–XIX. The First Journey.
    XX. Names and Functions of the Seven Archangels.
    XXI. Preliminary and final Place of Punishment of the fallen Angels (stars).
    XXII. Sheol or the Underworld.
    XXIII. The fire that deals with the Luminaries of Heaven.
    XXIV–XXV. The Seven Mountains in the North-West and the Tree of Life.
    XXVI. Jerusalem and the Mountains, Ravines, and Streams.
    XXVII. The Purpose of the Accursed Valley.
    XXVIII–XXXIII. Further Journey to the East.
    XXXIV–XXXV. Enoch’s Journey to the North.
    XXXVI. The Journey to the South.

    The Astronomical Book
    LXXII. The Sun.
    LXXIII. The Moon and its Phases.
    LXXIV. The Lunar Year.
    LXXVI. The Twelve Winds and their Portals.
    LXXVII. The Four Quarters of the World: the Seven Mountains, the Seven Rivers, Seven Great Islands.
    LXXVIII. The Sun and Moon: the Waxing and Waning of the Moon.
    LXXIX–LXXX.1. Recapitulation of several of the Laws.
    LXXX.2–8. Perversion of Nature and the heavenly Bodies due to the Sin of Men.
    LXXXI. The Heavenly Tablets and the Mission of Enoch.
    LXXXII. Charge given to Enoch: the four Intercalary days: the Stars which lead the Seasons and the Months.

    So who Measured the heavens and explored the foundations of the Earth? ENOCH (IDRIS).

    The Koran issues a challenge in 74:27-31

    And what can make you know what is Saqar (Hell-fire)?
    It lets nothing remain and leaves nothing [unburned],
    Blackening the skins.
    Over it are nineteen [angels].
    We have not made the keepers (literal translation: companions) of the
    Fire except angels. And We have not made their number except as a trial
    for those who disbelieve – that those who were given the Scripture will
    be convinced and those who have believed will increase in faith and
    those who were given the Scripture and the believers will not doubt and
    that those in whose hearts is hypocrisy and the disbelievers will say,
    “What does Allah intend by this as an example?” Thus does Allah leave
    astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And none knows the
    soldiers of your Lord except Him. And mention of the Fire is not but a
    reminder to humanity.

    This ‘Mystery of the Nineteen’ in the Koran is debated between scholars but, to date, the meaning is unknown.

    God has told you it confirms previous scriptures….

    Their names are given in Chapter 6 of Enoch 1:

    names of the leaders are given as “Samyaza (Shemyazaz), their leader,
    Araqiel, Râmêêl, Kokabiel, Tamiel, Ramiel, Dânêl, Chazaqiel, Baraqiel,
    Asael, Armaros, Batariel, Bezaliel, Ananiel, Zaqiel, Shamsiel, Satariel,
    Turiel, Yomiel, Sariel.”

    19 Angels bound to burn in Hell for their sins. Their names are given in a slightly different form again in chapter 69

    Book of Enoch – Chapter 69
    And after this judgement they shall terrify and make them to tremble
    because they have shown this to those who dwell on the earth. 2 And
    behold the names of those angels [and these are their names: the first
    of them is Samjaza, the second Artaqifa, and the third Armen, the fourth
    Kokabel, the fifth Turael, the sixth Rumjal, the seventh Danjal, the
    eighth Neqael, the ninth Baraqel, the tenth Azazel, the eleventh
    Armaros, the twelfth Batarjal, the thirteenth Busasejal, the fourteenth
    Hananel, the fifteenth Turel, and the sixteenth Simapesiel, the
    seventeenth Jetrel, the eighteenth Tumael, the nineteenth Turel, 3 the
    twentieth Rumael, the twenty-first Azazel. And these are the chiefs of
    their angels and their names, and their chief ones over hundreds and
    over fifties and over tens].

    Twenty-one names are given, but Azazel and Turel have been repeated. There are in fact nineteen angels spoken of here.

    God has told you that knowledge is everything and to READ! It was the first revelation to our prophet (pbuh).

    ‘READ! Your Lord is the Most Bountiful one who taught by the pen, who taught man what he did not know.’

    Enoch 1 will explain the creation of the souls of the Righteous before the foundation of the World. (pre-creation).