The Book of Enoch

The Book of Enoch is now usually designated 1 Enoch, to distinguish it from the later Apocalypse, The Secrets of Enoch, known as 2 Enoch. The former is also called the Ethiopic Enoch, the latter the Slavonic Enoch, after the languages of the earliest versions extant of each respectively. No manuscript of the original language of either is known to be in existence.

According to Canon Charles, the various elements of which our book in its present form is made up belong to different dates. The following table will show the dates of the different parts of the book. Canon Charles believes that these are approximately

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correct, without committing himself to the certainty of this in each case:

xci. 12-17 “The Apocalypse of Weeks.” The oldest pre-Maccabaean portions.
liv. 7-lv. 2
lxv.-lxix. 25
cvi., cvii. Fragments of “The Book of Noah.” Pre-Maccabaean at the latest.
lxxxiii.-xc. “The Dream-Visions,” 165-161 B.C.
lxxii.-lxxxii. “The Book of the Heavenly Luminaries.” Before 110 B.C.
xci. 1-11, 18, 19-civ. “The Parables,” or “Similitudes.” circa 105-64 B.C.
i.-v. The latest portion, but pre-Christian.

[paragraph continues] Chapter cv, which consists of only two verses, cannot be dated; while cviii. is in the nature of an appendix, probably added subsequently, to the whole work.

While these dates may be regarded as approximately correct, it should be pointed out that differences of opinion exist among scholars on the subject. Schurer holds, for example, that, with the exception of chapters xxxvii.-lxxi. (the “Parables,” or “Similitudes”), the entire book belongs to the period 130-100 B.C.; the “Parables” he assigns to a time not earlier than Herod the Great. Beer thinks that the “Dream-Visions” (chapters lxxxiii.-xc.) belong to the time of John Hyrcanus (135-105 B.C.), and he includes under the pre-Maccabaean portions only xci. 12-17, xcii. xciii. 1-14; and holds that the rest of the book was written before 64 B.C. Dalman maintains that it cannot be proved that the important section xxxvii.-lxxi. (the “Similitudes”) is “the product of the pre-Christian period,” though he fully

[p. xv]

recognizes its Jewish character. Burkitt regards the writer as “almost contemporary” with the philosopher Posidonius (135-51 B.C.). There is thus some diversity of opinion as to the date of the book among leading authorities. That it is, as a whole, pre-Christian, may be regarded as definitely established. More difficult is the question whether any portions of it are pre-Maccabaean; Charles gives various reasons for his belief that considerable parts are pre-Maccabaean; we are inclined to agree with him, though it may be questioned whether the last word on the subject has been spoken.


As the various parts of the book [*1] clearly belong to different dates, diversity of authorship is what one is naturally led to expect; and of this there can, indeed, be no shadow of doubt. The author of the earliest portions was a Jew who lived, as Burkitt has shown, in northern Palestine, in the land of Dan, south-west of the Hermon range, near the headwaters of the Jordan. This is important, as it tends to show that the book, or books, is really Palestinian, and one which, therefore, circulated among Jews in Palestine. “If, moreover, the author came from the north, that helps to explain the influence the book had upon the Religion that was cradled in Galilee.” [*2] Of the authors of the other three books of which “Enoch” is made up (viz. “The Dream-Visions,” “The Book of the Heavenly Luminaries,” and “The Similitudes”) we know nothing save what can be gathered from their writings as to their religious standpoint.

Charles holds that though there is not unity of authorship there is, none the less, uniformity; for,

[p. xvi]

according to him, all the books were written by Chassidim, [*1] or by their successors, the Pharisees. This contention has been strongly assailed and much weakened by Leszynsky in a recent work on the Sadducees. [*2] While frankly recognizing the composite character of the book, Leszynsky holds that the original portions of it [*3] emanate from Sadducaean circles; and that the special object of the book originally was the bringing about of a reform of the calendar. He points to the ascription of the book to Enoch as supporting his contention, for Enoch lived 365 years, [*4] i.e. is years correspond to the number of days in the solar year; the basis of reckoning time was one of the fundamental points of difference between the Pharisees and Sadducees, for whereas the former reckoned time by the lunar year (360 days), the latter did so by the solar year. Here a significant remark of Burkitt’s is worth recalling; in writing about the false titles given to all the Apocalyptic books, he says: “There is another aspect of pseudonymous authorship to which I venture to think sufficient attention has not been given. It is this, that the names were not chosen out of mere caprice; they indicated to a certain extent what subjects would be treated and the point of view of the writer.” [*5] Further, the fact that “Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took him,” [*6] i.e. that he ascended into the heavens, is also significant; for he would thereby be just the one to know all about the heavenly luminaries; he was just the most appropriate author of a book which was to deal with astronomical questions. “The Sadducaean character of the original work,” says Leszynsky, “is seen most clearly in the discussion regarding the calendar; chapters

[p. xvii]

lxxii.-lxxxii. are rightly called the Book of Astronomy: [*1] ‘the book of the courses of the luminaries of the heaven, the relations of each, according to their classes, their dominion and their seasons, according to their names and places of origin, and according to their months . . . with regard to all the years of the world and unto eternity, till the new creation is accomplished which endureth till all eternity’ (lxxii. 1). That sounds almost as though the author of the Book of jubilees had written it. That it is not a merely scientific interest which impels the writer to give expression to his astronomical theories may be seen from the words at the conclusion of the section: ‘Blessed are all the righteous, blessed are all those who walk in the way of righteousness, and sin not as the sinners in the reckoning of all their days, in which the sun traverseth the heaven, entering into and departing from the portals for thirty days . . .’ (lxxxii. 4-7). Herein one can discern quite clearly the tendency of the writer. He desires the adoption of the solar year, while his contemporaries wrongly followed a different reckoning, and therefore celebrated the feasts at the wrong time. The ‘sinners who sin in the reckoning of the year’ are the Pharisees; and the righteous ones who are blessed, the Zaddikim, [*2] who walk upon the paths of righteousness (Zedek) as the name is made to imply, are the Sadducees.” [*3] The point may appear small to us, but we may compare with it the Quartodeciman controversy in the Church during the second century. It is, at any rate, a strong point in favour of the Sadducaean authorship of “The Book of the Heavenly Luminaries.”

The pre-Maccabaean portions (assuming that some portions of it are pre-Maccabaean) of the book of Enoch must certainly be ascribed to the Chassidim;

[p. xviii]

but it is not on that account necessary to ascribe all the later portions to the Pharisees. Three points especially militate against this: some of the teaching concerning the Messiah; the, generally speaking, universalistic spirit, which is quite un-Pharisaic, and the attitude towards the Law, which is not that of the Pharisees. It is not to be denied that some portions (e.g. cii. 6 ff.) are from the hands of Pharisees; nor can it be doubted that the whole collection in its present form has been worked over by a Pharisee, or Pharisees; but that all the post-Maccabaean portions in their original form emanated from Pharisaic circles does not appear to have been proved. It seems more likely that, with the exceptions already referred to, the various component parts of the book were written by Apocalyptists who belonged neither to Pharisaic nor yet to Sadducaean circles.


The Book of Enoch exists only in the Ethiopic Version; this was translated from the Greek Version, of which only a few portions are extant. [*1] The Latin Version, which was also made from the Greek, is not extant, with the exception of i. 9, and cvi. 1-18; the fragment containing these two passages was discovered by the Rev. Al. R. James, of King’s College, Cambridge, in the British Museum. The book was originally written either in Hebrew or Aramaic; Charles thinks that chapters vi.-xxxvi., lxxxiii.-xc. were Aramaic, the rest Hebrew. It is, however, very difficult to say for certain which of these two languages was really the original, because,

[p. xix]

as Burkitt says, “most of the most convincing proofs that the Greek text of Enoch is a translation from a Semitic language fit equally well with a Hebrew or an Aramaic original”; his opinion is that Aramaic was the original language, “but that a few passages do seem to suggest a Hebrew origin, yet not decisively.” [*1]


The reader who comes to peruse the Book of Enoch for the first time will find much that appears to him strange and unattractive; he must not, however, be repelled by this; for in due time he will come to other arts of the book which he will soon see to be of real value from many points of view. But even regarding the less attractive parts, he will find that when these are carefully studied they contain more that is of interest than appears upon the surface. Unfortunately, the opening portion (i.-xxxvi.), which is naturally read first, contains a good deal of the least important parts of the whole book; some passages are even repellent. It is well to remember the point, already referred to, that there are at least four quite independent books included in the “Book of Enoch,” exclusive of certain “Noah” fragments and other pieces (see below); the student is, therefore, advised to treat these as separate works, and to read them as such. There is no reason to begin with the book which happens to come first, especially as the first thirty-six chapters do not all belong together. [*2] But, in any case, it will be found most useful to have some general idea of the contents of each of the different books before beginning to read them. For this purpose a brief resume of each is given here.

[p. xx]

i. The Book of Enoch (chapters xii.-xxxvi.). The book begins With a Dream-Vision of Enoch. In this dream Enoch is asked to intercede for the watchers of heaven, i.e. the angels, who had left their heavenly home to commit iniquity with the daughters of men. He writes out the petition (cp. the title “Enoch the Scribe”) the fallen angels make, and then retires to await the answer, which comes to him in a series of visions. These visions are not quite easy to follow; they are evidently incomplete and somewhat confused; in all probability the text has suffered in transmission. At any rate, the petition is refused; Enoch declares to the fallen angels the doom which, as he has been taught in the visions, is to be their lot; the final words of the message which he is bidden to give them are: “You have no peace” (xii.-xvi.). There follow then accounts of the different journeys which Enoch makes, being conducted by angels of light, through certain parts of the earth, and through Sheol. After the account of the first journey (xvii.-xix.) a short enumeration is made of the archangels, seven in number, and their functions (xx.). In the second journey is described the place of final punishment of the fallen angels: “This place is the prison of the angels and here they will imprisoned for ever.” From thence Enoch is taken to Sheol; then to the west, where he sees the luminaries of heaven. After that the angels show him “seven magnificent mountains,” upon one of which is the throne of God; he sees also the Tree of Life, which is to be given to the holy and. righteous after the great judgement. From thence he comes back to the centre of the earth and sees the “blessed place,” Jerusalem, and the “accursed valley” (xxi.-xxvii.). The book concludes with what appear to be fragments of other journeys, to the east, to the north, and to the south. Of special interest here is the mention of the Garden of Righteousness, and the Tree of Wisdom (xxviii.-xxxvi.).

Much that is written in these chapters may appear

[p. xxi]

pointless and uninspiring; but we must bear in mind the purpose that lies behind it all. The fallen angels were believed to have brought sin on to the earth; all the wickedness of the world the Apocalyptist traces back to them. This cause of sin must be wholly destroyed before righteousness can come truly to its own. Therefore the Apocalyptist has a practical aim in view when describing in much detail the final place of punishment of the fallen angels; for here, too, are to come all those who by sin are the offspring of this race. No less does he delight in telling of the abode of joy prepared for the righteous. That all these descriptions were constructed out of the imagination of the Apocalyptist, based largely, no doubt, upon popular tradition, did not detract from their practical value for the people of his day. He was a preacher of righteousness who looked forward in absolute conviction to the final overthrow of sin; and all his visions have as their motive-power the yearning for and belief in the triumph of righteousness over sin. One of a like mind wrote later on, in a kind of preface to his book, these significant words, which sum up the essence of the teaching of this book:

And destroy all the spirits of the reprobate, and the children of the Watchers. because they have wronged mankind. Destroy all wrong from the face of the earth, and let every evil work come to an end: and let the plant of righteousness and truth appear: and it shall prove a blessing: the works of righteousness and truth shall be planted in truth and joy for evermore.

ii. The Parables (chapters xxxvii.-lxxi.). There are three Parables. or Similitudes, and they all have as their underlying thought the destruction of evil and the triumph of righteousness, as in the preceding book. But here some new and important elements are introduced which give special value to this book.

The first parable (xxxviii.-xliv.) is a prophecy of coming judgement upon the wicked, and especially the kings and mighty ones on the earth. On the

[p. xxii]

other hand, the Apocalyptist sees in his vision the abode and resting-places of the righteous who are continually praising the “Lord of Spirits “; this is the usual title given -to God in this book. Here occurs the first mention of the “Elect One” (cp. Luke xxiii. 35). In the presence of the Lord of Spirits are also the four Archangels and innumerable companies of other angels. Here he learns many secrets of the heavens; a fragment on Wisdom (xlii.), which recalls some passages in Ecclus. xxiv., comes in the middle of the secrets, and is clearly out of place. The second parable (xlv.-lvii.) continues the same theme and further develops it. Of special importance is the sitting of the Elect One on the throne of glory as Judge (xlv. 3), and the mention of His title, “Son of Man” (xlvi. 2). The thought of the vindication of the righteous is marred by their joy at vengeance upon the wicked. A particularly striking passage is chapter xlviii. 1-7, which speaks of the inexhaustible fountain of righteousness reserved for the holy and elect in the presence of the Son of Man and of the Lord of Spirits. The Apocalyptist prophesies further of the repentance of the Gentiles (chapter l.), an universalistic note of significance, and speaks of the Resurrection of the dead in a notable passage:

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