About the Book of Enoch

(also referred to as "Ethiopic Enoch" or "1 Enoch")

The Book of Enoch (also known as 1 Enoch) was once cherished by Jews and Christians alike, this book later fell into disfavor with powerful theologians–precisely because of its controversial statements on the nature and deeds of the fallen angels. The Enochian writings, in addition to many other writings that were excluded (or lost) from the Bible (i.e., the Book of Tobit, Esdras, etc.) were widely recognized by many of the early church fathers as "apocryphal" writings.

The term "apocrypha" is derived from the Greek word meaning "hidden" or "secret". Originally, the import of the term may have been complimentary in that the term was applied to sacred books whose contents were too exalted to be made available to the general public. In Dan. 12:9-10 we hear of words that are shut up until the end of time and, words that the wise shall understand and the wicked shall not. In addition, 4 Ezra 14:44ff. mentions 94 books, of which 24 (the OT) were to be published and 70 were to be delivered only to the wise among the people (= apocrypha). Gradually, the term "apocrypha" took on a pejorative connotation, for the orthodoxy of these hidden books was often questionable. Origen (Comm. in Matt. 10.18; p. 13.881) distinguished between books that were to be read in public worship and apocryphal books. Because these secret books were often preserved for use within the esoteric circles of the divinely-knit believers, many of the critically-spirited or "unenlightened" Church Fathers found themselves outside the realm of understanding, and therefore came to apply the term "apocryphal" to, what they claimed to be, heretical works which were forbidden to be read.

In Protestant parlance, "the Apocrypha" designate 15 works, all but one of which are Jewish in origin and found in the Septuagint (parts of 2 Esdras are Christian and Latin in origin). Although some of them were composed in Palestine in Aramaic or Hebrew, they were not accepted into the Jewish canon formed late in the 2nd cent. ad (Canonicity, 67:31-35). The Reformers, influenced by the Jewish canon of the OT, did not consider these books on a par with the rest of the Scriptures; thus the custom arose of making the Apocrypha a separate section in the Protestant Bible, or sometimes even of omitting them entirely (Canonicity, 67:44-46). The Catholic view, expressed as a doctrine of faith at the Council of Trent, is that 12 of these 15 works (in a different enumeration, however) are canonical Scripture; they are called the Deuterocanonical Books (Canonicity, 67:21, 42-43). The three books of the Protestant Apocrypha that are not accepted by Catholics are 1-2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh.

The theme of the Book of Enoch dealing with the nature and deeds of the fallen angels so infuriated the later Church fathers that one, Filastrius, actually condemned it openly as heresy (Filastrius, Liber de Haeresibus, no. 108). Nor did the rabbis deign to give credence to the book's teaching about angels. Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai in the second century A.D. pronounced a curse upon those who believed it (Delitzsch, p. 223).

So the book was denounced, banned, cursed, no doubt burned and shredded–and last but not least, lost (and conveniently forgotten) for a thousand years. But with an uncanny persistence, the Book of Enoch found its way back into circulation two centuries ago.

In 1773, rumors of a surviving copy of the book drew Scottish explorer James Bruce to distant Ethiopia. True to hearsay, the Book of Enoch had been preserved by the Ethiopic church, which put it right alongside the other books of the Bible.

Bruce secured not one, but three Ethiopic copies of the book and brought them back to Europe and Britain. When in 1821 Dr. Richard Laurence, a Hebrew professor at Oxford, produced the first English translation of the work, the modern world gained its first glimpse of the forbidden mysteries of Enoch.

Most scholars say that the present form of the story in the Book of Enoch was penned sometime during the second century B.C. and was popular for at least five hundred years. The earliest Ethiopic text was apparently made from a Greek manuscript of the Book of Enoch, which itself was a copy of an earlier text. The original was apparently written in Semitic language, now thought to be Aramaic.

Though it was once believed to be post-Christian (the similarities to Christian terminology and teaching are striking), recent discoveries of copies of the book among the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran prove that the book was in existence before the time of Jesus Christ. But the date of the original writing upon which the second century B.C. Qumran copies were based is shrouded in obscurity. It is, in a word, old.

It has been largely the opinion of historians that the book does not really contain the authentic words of the ancient biblical patriarch Enoch, since he would have lived (based on the chronologies in the Book of Genesis) several thousand years earlier than the first known appearance of the book attributed to him.

Despite its unknown origins, Christians once accepted the words of this Book of Enoch as authentic scripture, especially the part about the fallen angels and their prophesied judgment. In fact, many of the key concepts used by Jesus Christ himself seem directly connected to terms and ideas in the Book of Enoch.

Thus, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Jesus had not only studied the book, but also respected it highly enough to adopt and elaborate on its specific descriptions of the coming kingdom and its theme of inevitable judgment descending upon "the wicked"–the term most often used in the Old Testament to describe the Watchers.

There is abundant proof that Christ approved of the Book of Enoch. Over a hundred phrases in the New Testament find precedents in the Book of Enoch.

Another remarkable bit of evidence for the early Christians' acceptance of the Book of Enoch was for many years buried under the King James Bible's mistranslation of Luke 9:35, describing the transfiguration of Christ: "And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, 'This is my beloved Son: hear him." Apparently the translator here wished to make this verse agree with a similar verse in Matthew and Mark. But Luke's verse in the original Greek reads: "This is my Son, the Elect One (from the Greek ho eklelegmenos, lit., "the elect one"): hear him."

The "Elect One" is a most significant term (found fourteen times) in the Book of Enoch. If the book was indeed known to the apostles of Christ, with its abundant descriptions of the Elect One who should "sit upon the throne of glory" and the Elect One who should "dwell in the midst of them," then the great scriptural authenticity is accorded to the Book of Enoch when the "voice out of the cloud" tells the apostles, "This is my Son, the Elect One"–the one promised in the Book of Enoch.

The Book of Jude tells us in vs. 14 that "Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied…" Jude also, in vs. 15, makes a direct reference to the Book of Enoch (2:1), where he writes, "to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly…" The time difference between Enoch and Jude is approximately 3400 years. Therefore, Jude's reference to the Enochian prophesies strongly leans toward the conclusion that these written prophesies were available to him at that time.

Fragments of ten Enoch manuscripts were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The famous scrolls actually comprise only one part of the total findings at Qumran. Much of the rest was Enochian literature, copies of the Book of Enoch, and other apocryphal works in the Enochian tradition, like the Book of Jubilees. With so many copies around, the Essenes could well have used the Enochian writings as a community prayer book or teacher's manual and study text.

The Book of Enoch was also used by writers of the noncanonical (i.e. apocryphal or "hidden") texts. The author of the apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas quotes the Book of Enoch three times, twice calling it "the Scripture," a term specifically denoting the inspired Word of God (Epis. of Barnabas 4:3, 16:5,6). Other apocryphal works reflect knowledge of the Enoch story of the Watchers, notably the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and the Book of Jubilees.

Many of the early church fathers also supported the Enochian writings. Justin Martyr ascribed all evil to demons whom he alleged to be the offspring of the angels who fell through lust for women (from the Ibid.)–directly referencing the Enochian writings.

Athenagoras, writing in his work called Legatio in about 170 A.D., regards Enoch as a true prophet. He describes the angels which "violated both their own nature and their office." In his writings, he goes into detail about the nature of fallen angels and the cause of their fall, which comes directly from the Enochian writings.

Many other church fathers: Tatian (110-172); Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (115-185); Clement of Alexandria (150-220); Tertullian (160-230); Origen (186-255); Lactantius (260-330); in addition to: Methodius of Philippi, Minucius Felix, Commodianus, and Ambrose of Milanalso–also approved of and supported the Enochian writings.

The twentieth-century discovery of several Aramaic Enochian texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls prompted Catholic scholar J.T. Milik to compile a complete history of the Enochian writings, including translations of the Aramaic manuscripts.

Milik's 400-page book, published in 1976 by Oxford (J. T. Milik, ed. and trans., The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976) is a milestone in Enochian scholarship, and Milik himself is no doubt one of the finest experts on the subject. His opinions, based as they are on years of in-depth research, are highly respected.

One by one the arguments against the Book of Enoch fade away. The day may soon arrive when the final complaints about the Book of Enoch's lack of historicity and "late date" are also silenced by new evidence of the book's real antiquity.

About the Book of the Secrets of Enoch

(also referred to as "Slavonic Enoch" or "2 Enoch")

An entirely different Enoch manuscript has survived in the Slavonic language. This text, dubbed "2 Enoch" and commonly called "the Slavonic Enoch," was discovered in 1886 by a professor Sokolov in the archives of the Belgrade Public Library. It appears that just as the Ethiopic Enoch ("1 Enoch") had escaped the sixth-century Church suppression of Enoch texts in the Mediterranean area, so a Slavonic Enoch had survived far away, long after the originals from which it was copied were destroyed or hidden away.

Specialists in the Enochian texts surmise that the missing original form which the Slavonic was copied was probably a Greek manuscript. This may have been, in turn, based on a Hebrew or Aramaic manuscript.

Many Aramaic fragments of 1 Enoch have been recovered in the past few decades from the Qumran caves which preserved the scriptures of the Essenes, showing the importance of Enoch to the Essene community. It is also possible that the core of the Slavonic Enoch, The Book of the Secrets of Enoch, was known to the Essenes.

The Slavonic text bears evidence of many later additions to the original manuscript. Such editorializing is common in religious texts, and it can include, unfortunately, the deletion of teachings considered "erroneous."

Because of certain calendrical data in the Slavonic Enoch, some claim the text cannot be earlier than the seventh century A.D. Most scholars see Christian influences in the Slavonic Enoch and therefore assign it, at the earliest, to the first century A.D.

But some see these passages not as evidence of Christian authorship, but as later Christian interpolations into an earlier manuscript. Enochian specialist R.H. Charles, for instance, believes that even the better of the two Slavonic manuscripts contains interpolations and is, in textual terms, "corrupt."

Most scholars agree that the Slavonic Enoch is an eclectic and syncretistic text, perhaps compiled by Christian writers but probably having origins in an earlier tradition. It may be dependent upon the Ethiopic Enoch, although it is recognized as a separate part of the literary tradition concerning the patriarch Enoch.

The Slavonic Enoch thus could preserve another part of a profound teaching on the fallen angels known to the early Judaic peoples but mainly lost to us. For this reason, the Slavonic Enoch is valuable, despite its editorial shortcomings.

So although the fingerprints of many centuries of later editors are left upon this manuscript, they do not necessarily invalidate the authenticity and antiquity of this book and its teaching. The ring of truth echoes from many of its pages.

One of the most fascinating passages of the Slavonic Enoch is the account of the dramatization of eternity found in Chapter 33. As the world was made in six days, so its history would be accomplished in 6,000 years, and this would be followed by 1,000 years of rest, when the balance of conflicting moral forces has been struck and human life has reached the ideal state. (A reference of this conflict is also found in The War Scroll, a future battle between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness. These writings were recently discovered in Qumran Cave 1, which are part of the collection of The Dead Sea Scrolls). At the close of this 7,000 year cycle would begin the 8th Eternal Day, when time should be no more.

As with the Ethiopic text of The Book of Enoch, the chapters of this book may be spartan editions of several separate and larger books. Many scholars have seen in The Book of Enoch separate books titled: The Ancient Book, The First and Second Book of the Watchers, The First Book of Secrets (or The Vision of Wisdom), The Vision of Noah and History, and The Book of Astronomy. There could be a similar set of resources, differently compiled, behind the Slavonic Enoch.

Enoch tells us here that he wrote 366 books. Why, then, should we not postulate some one or two or ten of his "lost" books behind this Slavonic Enoch?