Book of Enoch

I bought a book called the Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments Vol. 1 by James H. Charlesworth because it contained modern translations of Old Testament pseudepigrapha, particularly (click to read): 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, and 2 Baruch based on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

A few years ago, I visited the Grand Rapids Public Museum when the Dead Sea Scroll were on display and admired the Aramaic fragments of 1 Enoch. Those fragments behind the glass case date to 200 B.C. and were copies of an original work that may have been done much earlier in Hebrew. The paper was faded, brown and decaying but still readable after 2000 years! Of course the exhibit had fragments of Isaiah and other books in the canon. At that time, I didn't understand the significance of 1 Enoch.

1 Enoch is commonly known as the Book of Enoch. There are two other books attributed to "Enoch, son of Jared" but they were written long after Jesus in 300-600AD. The Book of Enoch (or 1 Enoch) was written over two hundred years before Jesus was born. This is remarkable considering its Christology! The only fully extant copy of 1 Enoch is an Ethiopic translation from 1500's but many fragments like the ones I saw at the museum are dated before the Maccabean Revolt (160s BC). The Book of Enoch has been lost since the 800 AD when it was rejected from the biblical canon, but was rediscovered in the early 1800's, and is now available for all to read! It's really interesting too.

The Book of Enoch is pseudepigrapha of "Enoch, son of Jared" who walked with God, and he was not,  for God took him. Although the author claims to be antediluvian Enoch who was the great grandfather of Noah, the book is concerned with exilic Israel around 300 B.C. There are segments of the book where the author claims to be Noah as well. The author is clearly not Enoch or Noah, but seems to be using them as literary devices rather than to be deceptive to his audience.

Scholars claim that all the New Testament writers were familiar with 1 Enoch, and were highly influenced by its Christology! The most obvious example is where the book of Jude quotes the book of Enoch directly! Scholars also believe that 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch derived their content from 1 Enoch, and may explain why these three books were so loved by the Apostolic and Church Fathers.

The book was highly regarded by the Apostolic and Church Fathers but gradually by 500 AD, it lost regard in the Church. (The mere fact that it is a pseudepigrapha makes it suspicious, so this may have been inevitable). It's lost of status almost caused Jude and 2 Peter to be removed from the New Testament canon also for referencing 1 Enoch. Fortunately, the Church in Ethiopia still regarded it after 500 AD, and it was translated and used in Ethiopia until it was rediscovered in 1821AD. It's still a mystery if 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch could be included in the canon -- but the New Testament is not deficient for their absence (if you wondered).

Tertullian wrote that 1 Enoch was rejected from the Old Testament canon because of its Christology. As I read through the five books (a total of 108 chapters), I was consistently amazed at 1 Enoch because it mirrored the teachings of the New Testament writers, but was written hundreds of years beforehand! Israel officially says that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ is a traitor, so all of 1 Enoch's teachings about the Son of Man naturally would cause the Jewish canon (Old Testament) to reject it. It's hard to comprehend how 1 Enoch could reveal so much prophecy about Jesus Christ unless it was inspired, but alas it is not in the canon. So it is what it is...

Throughout 1 Enoch, there are discussions about the Day of the Lord (or Judgment Day), when the Son of Man who was the Elect One of God, the Antecedent of Days who was predestined before the beginning of time to come to earth for Judgment Day at the end. The Son of Man was the most preferred self-title that Jesus used to describe himself. Books I and II focus on the judgment or the unrighteous and leaders, and on the Son of Man's return to at the end to make things right. 1 Enoch mirrors Revelation by saying that all people will be raised to life at the Day of the Lord and will be judged to either eternal death or eternal life; it likewise teaches that there will be a New Earth and New Heaven and the old will pass away. It also mirrors the teaching about the Judgment of Satan and his fallen angels. 

The references to Jesus Christ (the Son of Man or Elect One of God) are the most important and definitely uncanny, especially since 1 Enoch has much more mysterious content. 1 Enoch is renown for its information about the Fallen Angels who mated with woman and produced the giants known as Nephilim. The Nephilim are 450ft giants but are later described as powerful spirits, so its hard to unravel the symbolism from what is literal. In 1 Enoch both the Fallen Angels and Eve are blamed for the Fall from Eden, and also claims that the Fallen Angels give gifts of knowledge to mankind. Enoch describes how the Fallen Angels will receive judgment without mercy, unlike righteous people who will receive grace. Enoch even pleads for the Fallen Angels but God tells him to stop and not be discontent with what He has ordained. In fact, there are many examples of predestination in the throughout all five books that I won't reference here.

In Book III, Enoch spends many chapters describes a complex prophecy using a calendar of 364 days, gates, cardinal directions, ends of the earth, and the astronomical luminaries that I really didn't understand or find any value in them. But, Book IV was very interesting because it retold the whole history of Israel from Adam until the Maccabean Revolt (160s BC) using bulls, calves, elephants, camels, donkeys, sheep, rams, bears, etc. If you are familiar with Israel's history, it is easy to identify what the animals represent (unlike the symbolic prophecies in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation). So its point isn't to give a prophecy, but to retell Israel's history in a captivating metaphor. The author of 1 Enoch obviously could not have expected the reader to believe that it had been written by the very antediluvian Enoch.

Book IV (The Last Book), had very humorous and interesting dialogs between Enoch, and Enoch's grandson Lamech, about Enoch's great-grandson Noah.  Lamech is worried that his newborn son Noah is a Nephilim because of his radiant appearance (and afro), so Lamech seeks Enoch's wisdom. Enoch reveals that a Great Flood is coming and Noah is radiant because he is chosen by God for the righteous purpose of delivering a remnant of people from perishing in the Deluge. This is to the relief of Lamech. This Epistle of Enoch also contains fragments of the Book of Noah, where Noah writes about the Deluge. 

1 Enoch is used by many scholars to understand the background thought of the New Testament writers, and of the cultural thought at the time and place of Jesus. The book has many marvelous incites that are also reflected in 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch. I especially recommend reading 4 Ezra (also known as 2 Esdras). Even if these documents aren't worthy of being in the Canon, they are valuable to anyone who is serious about understanding the scriptures!

By: Wyatt Houtz

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