What place does the book of Enoch play in modern Christianity?
In the early days of humanity, just seven generations out of Adam there lived a man who stood out from the crowd. He was the father of The oldest man according to the Bible to have ever lived and great grandfather to Noah. And though he is only briefly mentioned in Genesis, his name has had more influence on Christianity than arguably any of the other patriarchs to ever walk the earth. It is speculated that he might have even been the one to reveal God’s Devine law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Oh, and he is one of only two people that the Bible claims never died a natural death.
Though our canonized text only mentions him four times, Enoch the Patriarch has made a lasting impression on our world, more so than many of us even begin to know. Though he was said to be taken to heaven, he wasn’t just taken by God to never be heard from again. No, he was taken to have divinity itself revealed. And lucky for us, he supposedly wrote it all down!
The book of Enoch isn’t considered canon in most churches but the patriarch’s words echo throughout our “official” bible’s pages like TNT in the Grand Canyon. From Jude to Jesus, the book of Enoch has been referenced seemingly more often than not and has been taken quite seriously up until its disappearance during the canonization process 1,800 years or so ago.
Luckily for us, the book of Enoch found its way back to the surface and into the hands of curious minds to be pondered over once more. So let’s take a look behind its dusty cover to see what secrets our ancient interstellar traveler trudged up as he was lifted from the earth and tossed through the heavens. And while I know that might sound a bit outlandish, you might be more than a bit surprised at just how familiar this story feels once we start unpacking some of what this mystery contains.
Before we begin tearing apart all the great mysteries the book of Enoch contains, let’s take a moment to get ourselves up to speed on its history so we can better understand just how far the text has come.
In 1773, James Bruce, a famous Scottish traveler returned to Europe after spending the previous 6 years in the Ethiopian Empire. While he was there in Ethiopia, he had embarked on a mission to rediscover an ancient text that was said to be a precursor to much of what the Bible herself contained. Preserved by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as a canonical piece of scripture, he was fortunate enough to obtain three copies of this mysterious text to bring back with him from his travels.
These texts sat idly by until Richard Laurence, the archbishop of Ireland came across one of the manuscripts and translated it into English in 1821. Though this translation was deemed unreliable due to its single-copy basis, this was still the first time this book had been translated from its original language of Ge’ez, an ancient Ethiopian Semitic language. From 1851 to the mid-1950s, more manuscripts were discovered, compiled and used to refine the accuracy of the English translation and now we have what is believed to be a complete work at our disposal.
Many people at that time did not believe the book of Enoch was pre-Christ. Due to its similar New Testament themes. Being that the book of Enoch is not considered canon in our modern biblical translations, it has received a bit of a bad rap over the years. Many deem it as pseudepigraphical writing: That is, a book penned by an author that came much later but stole a name from history to give themselves a bit more credibility. And there is probably some truth to this. Many of our Old Testament books have multiple writers as well. For example, It is highly unlikely Moses wrote all of the Exodus himself. And let’s not even get into the theory that Paul did not, in fact, write all of the Pauline epistles like they so claim. I’ll leave that one for you to go research on your own time for now.
But whether it was penned by the seventh Patriarch himself or was adapted from stories passed down through the ages is honestly not of much concern to where we are headed today. Because the influence is still there throughout our bible if even just below the surface.
Due to its many common themes with the New Testament, the book of Enoch had long been a topic of debate. Some saw it as a Devine revelation proclaiming the good news that was to come while others saw it as a post-Christ work of folklore written to add validity to the Christian revolution. But in 1976 a breakthrough happened that put to rest many of these claims. Upon the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, researchers found fragments of documents that seemed a bit too familiar. When they deciphered what they said they soon realized they were looking at an ancient fragment of a copy of the book of Enoch. Using the Paleographic dating technique where experts compile a document’s writing style based on known works throughout history, researchers were able to trace the origin of these documents back to around 200 BCE. This is, of course, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ and offered a whole new perspective on ancient Jewish literature as well as New Testament understandings.
So here we have a document passed down through the ages and tightly woven in with our entire way of believing, yet it is so keenly rejected from our faith. But who are we to not at least attempt to explore its depths? So let’s get digging in search of just how much of an influence it had.
The book of Enoch is divided into 5 sections. Let’s go over each of these in order starting with the first: The Book of the Watchers.
The Book of the Watchers goes into detail describing how Enoch, a just and righteous man, was given a vision to show him the hierarchy of the heavens. It speaks of 199 fallen angels who came to earth to take human wives as referenced also in the book of Genesis. It was by these angels that sin was introduced to the earth. This is also where we get the idea that angels fell from heaven to earth and became demons or principalities – or something depending on who you ask. It goes on to state how each of these angels taught mankind how to fashion weapons, make liquor, and to perform the secret magic known only to the heavens.
This is also where God tells the angel, Uriel to go and warn Noah of the flood that is to come, the same flood that was revealed to his great grandfather, Enoch in his vision. It then goes on to describe how all of the rebellious angels along with their leader, Azazel would be bound and cast into a pit of darkness. Azazel is blamed for the sins of mankind and is cursed to bear the weight of those sins for all eternity. We see this referenced in Leviticus 16 on the Day of atonement, also known as Yom Kippur where two goats are slaughtered: one for the Lord and the other for you guessed it, Azazel.
The next section you come to in the book of Enoch is known as the Book of Parables. This section is an expansion on the first but ventures further past how things got to where they are and dive into the end-time events similar to the book of Revelation. There is no doubt that much of what John wrote about was inspired by this section of texts. As a matter of fact, there are almost word for word quotes found in both the book of John and Revelation that were lifted from these chapters in Enoch.
This is also the same section that we first see an idea of a coming Savior, specifically the familiar term “Son of Man”. This is the very reason the Book of Enoch has been tossed out of most Jewish circles. And while you would think that a text mentioning the coming Savior would have the backing of pretty much every Christian that walked the earth, this is also the section that might have got it thrown out. See, the book of Parables speaks of 70 generations that will pass before the appearance of the Son of Man and it just so happens that in the book of Luke, if you count each name representing a generation from Enoch to Jesus there are 70 names listed. So it seems Enoch hit the nail squarely on the head, but then that also would mean the entire events of Revelation would have already happened because both the book of Enoch and Jesus Himself said: “not an age will pass before I return”.
This would mean that the prophecies in Revelation would have already had to come to pass. This view is now commonly known as Preterism. Preterism commonly believes the biblical prophecies were fulfilled with the fall of Emperor Nero and the end of the Christian persecution in 70AD. And since many Christian doctrines reject preterism all together, the Enochian texts never stood a chance.
These next few books we will hit on rather quickly:
The Astronomical book speaks of Enoch being taken to the heavens and shown how seasons, days, and months worked. This entire calendar was based on a solar rather than a lunar cycle and aligned up with the creation narrative in Genesis.
The next section was the book of Dream Visions. The book of Dream Visions was a segment of well, dreams and visions given to Enoch which portrayed the entire future of Israel up until the Maccabean Revolt in 167 BCE. The first section of this book described in detail the soon to come flood and the replanting of humanity. The second part is played out like a fable depicting future events as animals. It goes into great detail about the rise and fall of the Jewish temples as well as the rise of the coming Messiah represented by a sword-wielding sheep. No seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up.
Finally, we come to the last section known as the Epistle of Enoch. This section rehashes much of what the other four sections have already covered with a rather humorous description of the birth of Noah and how his father panicked when he saw his son thinking his white hair and beautiful eyes could not possibly be his offspring and that his wife must have had an affair with one of the watchers previously mentioned. As a fellow white-haired man I feel a bit attacked by his response and yet simultaneously flattered.
All in all, our bible has hundreds of inspired passages.- if not direct quotes pulled from the book of Enoch. From the language Jesus used regarding His divinity to the tribulation to come in Revelation, there are more than enough influential ideas to go around. It is obvious to see how the book of Enoch inspired many of our New Testament ideas, but it also caused a few splinter religions to form around it as well. Wherever there is an idea of divinity people seem to find a way to obscure it. In this case, it’s based on the idea of invoking the powers of the angels listed. It is said within its pages that these angels taught mankind how to use magick reserved for only the heavenly entities themselves. And well, when presented with the opportunity for power many of our finest buckle at the knees to have a taste.
Naturally, some were drawn to this idea and created religious covens based off of these invocations. Religions like the “Order of Enochian Magick” and “The Hermetic Order of Sol” were just a couple of the many groups that have used this text to try and gain god-like power for their benefit. So that leaves us with one glaring question: “With so much strange and yet inspired word, what are we to do with this book?” If even Jesus quoted it from time to time then surely we should give it at least some attention, right?
I think the best answer to that is a double-edged sword. Like all scripture, both Canon and not, it’s vital we take a long, hard look at the contextual clues left behind. What is literal vs figurative? How were these themes used to portray specific ideas at this time? How do these words relate to other parts of the bigger picture?
While Enoch is by and large a book that has deep roots in our faith, it is hard to say for sure what was written when, what has been added on, and who authored what. This doesn’t mean its deemed useless, but more so that it should be pondered over a bit closer before it’s taken to heart.
But with all that being said, I find the most beauty from this book in understanding less about what it has to say and more about what it caused others to believe. There is s level of joy that comes with understanding the thematic elements of New Testament teachings and where they drew their influence from. It makes things like this podcast extra special to me because all in all, writing this episode is similar to what the disciples did as they wrote down their accounts that became our Bible. It is an echo of something more ancient, a glimpse at something deeper, and a new way to reveal the same God that was then as He is now.
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