The Content and History of the Book of Enoch
A composite apocalypse credited to the legendary antediluvian scribe, who was one of only two humans in Hebrew scripture who was reported to have returned to God without dying. The sections of the book of Enoch were written between the 3rd. century BC and the end of the 1st. century CE. Its astronomical section champions a solar calendar. Since fragments of all segments except the Parables of Enoch [chapters 37-71] have been found at Qumran in both Hebrew and Greek, scholars continue to debate whether this section was a later Jewish or early Christian insertion. The book consists of five quite distinct major sections:
- The Book of Watchers (1 Enoch 1 – 36)
- The Book of Parables (1 Enoch 37 – 71) (Also called the Similitudes of Enoch)
- The Book of the Heavenly Luminaries (1 Enoch 72 – 82) (Usually abbreviated to The Book of Luminaries. Also called the Astronomical Book)
- The Dream Visions (1 Enoch 83 – 90) (Also called the Book of Dreams)
- The Epistle of Enoch (1 Enoch 91 – 107;108?)
According to much modern scholarship, these five sections were originally independent works, themselves a product of much editorial arrangement, and were only later redacted into what we now call 1 Enoch. A great deal of the undercurrent to the narrative of the sections was claimed to be concerned with the era of the Maccabees and it is for that reason that these scholars date the sections as having originated during or after the 2nd century BC. 1 Enoch 6-11, part of the Book of Watchers, is thought to have been the original core of that Book, around which the remainder was later added, not least because Enoch is not mentioned in it. However, this view is opposed by many scholars who maintain the literary integrity of the Book of Enoch.
A great deal of the undercurrent to the narrative of the sections has been claimed to be concerned with the era of the Maccabees and it is for that reason that these western scholars date the sections as having originated during or after the 2nd century BC, although these assertions have not proved convincing to all concerned, for what they say is lack of any legitimate evidence of Maccabean-era authorship. 1 Enoch 6-11, part of the Book of Watchers, is thought to have been the original core of that Book, around which the remainder was later added, not least because Enoch is not mentioned in it.
The Book of Parables appears to be based on the Book of Watchers, but presenting a later development of the idea of final judgement – rather than being a final judgement of the fallen angels, the Book of Parables instead presents a final judgement of earthly kings. The Book of Parables contains several references to a Son of Man, as well as messianic themes, and has only been found in Christian editions of 1 Enoch, so several scholars have taken the view that this section dates from more Christian times. However, since the term was also just a Jewish way of saying human, and since the final chapters of the section appear to identify Enoch himself as the Son of Man in question, the work may be earlier, and a number of academics have proposed that the Book of Parables may be as early as the late 1st century BC.
The Book of Dreams contains a vision of a history of Israel all the way down to the revolt of the Maccabees, leading scholars to date it to Maccabean times. Before the discovery at Qumran (among the Dead Sea Scrolls) of fragments from 1Enoch, there was some dispute about whether the Greek text was an original Christian production, or whether it was a translation from an Aramaic text redacted in Jewish circles. The chief argument for a Christian author was the occurrence of references to the Messiah as the Son of Man, however such references can also appear in Jewish texts around the turn of the era. The Ethiopian Church considers its Ethiopic version to be the original, since it is the only complete version, while the other languages only have different fragments of the work. Despite this, the majority of western scholars now claim a second or 3rd. century BC Jewish authorship for its earliest parts. Before the Qumran discovery, scholars had been unwilling to date it any earlier than the next earliest known reference. The Greek language text was known to, and quoted by nearly all, Christian Church Fathers. A number of the Church Fathers thought it to be an inspired work, particularly Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, based on its quotation in New Testament-Jude 1:14–15 (KJV).
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these [men], saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
However, some later Fathers denied the canonicity of the book and some even considered the letter of Jude non-canonical because it refers to an “apocryphal” work.
The Jewish council at Jamnia/Yavneh c. 90 CE removed this book from its Scriptures. Partly due to this, the book was discredited after by the (Christian) Council of Laodicea in 364 CE. The Greek text was subsequently lost.
Some excerpts are given by the 8th century monk George Syncellus in his chronography, which are published in Dillmann’s translation, pp. 82-86. In the 9th century it is listed as an apocrypha of the New Testament by Patriarch Nicephorus.
Outside of Ethiopia, the text of the Book of Enoch was considered lost until the beginning of the 17th. century, when it was confidently asserted that the book was found in an Ethiopic translation there, and the learned Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc bought a book that was claimed to be identical to the one quoted by the Epistle of Jude (and the Epistle of Barnabas – Epistle 14:5) and by the Church Fathers: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen and Clement of Alexandria. Hiob Ludolf , the great Ethiopic scholar of the 17th and 18th centuries, soon proved it to be a forgery produced by Abba Bahaila Michael.
Better success was achieved by the famous Scottish traveler James Bruce, who in 1773 returned to Europe from six years in Abyssinia (then pat of Ethiopia) with three copies of a Ge’ez version . One is preserved in the Bodleian Library, another was presented to the royal library of France (the nucleus of the Bibliothèque nationale), the third was kept by Bruce. The copies remained unused until the 1800s, Silvestre de Sacy, in “Notices ur le lire d’ Enoch” in the Magazin Encyclopédique, included extracts of the books with Latin translations (Enoch chap 1,2,5-16,22,32). From this a German translation was made by Rink in 1801.
The first translation of the Bodleian/Ethiopic MS was published in 1821 by Professor Richard Laurence, afterwards archbishop of Cashel. Titled “The Book of Enoch, the prophet: an apocryphal production, supposed to have been lost for ages; but discovered at the close of the last century in Abyssinia; now first translated from an Ethiopic MS in the Bodleian Library. Oxford, 1821.” With a second edition being released in 1833 and a third edition in 1838. Laurence in 1838 also released an edited Ethiopic text named “Libri Enoch Prophetae Versio Aethiopica“. The text divided into 105 chapters was even then considered unreliable.
Professor A. G. Hoffmann released a translation in 1833 based on this work called “Das Buch Henoch in vollständiger Uebersetxung, mit fortlaugendem Commentar, ausführlicher Einleitung und erläuternden Excursen” but due to the use at least in part of Laurence’s later work there where a number of mistakes that are prevalent. Two other translations came out around the same time one in 1836 called “Enoch Retitutus, or an Attempt” (Rev Edward Murray) and in 1840 “Prophetae veteres Pseudepigraphi, partim ex Abyssinico vel Hebraico sermonibus Latine bersi” (Gfrörer). However both are considered to be poor – the 1836 translation most of all and is discussed in Hoffmann, Zweiter Excurs, pages 917-965.
The first reliable edition appeared in 1851 as “Liber Henoch, Aethiopice, ad quinque codicum fidem editus, cum variis lectionibus” which is based on the Ethiopic text edited by A. Dillmann, with an accurate translation of the book with reliable notes released in 1853 titled “Das Buch Henoch, übersetzt und erklärt” which was considered an impeccable edition until the 1900’s. A famous edition was published in 1912 by the famous R.H. Charles. European scholars and academics consider the Ethiopic version to be translated from Greek which was in turn translated from the Aramaic (possibly Hebrew for chapters 37-71). This is vehemently disputed by Ethiopian scholars and clergy, who insist that, since the only complete text of Enoch to surface so far is in Ethiopic, whereas the Aramaic and Greek copies exist only in separate and incomplete fragments, it proves their claim that this was the original language written by Enoch himself. In the Ethiopian Orthodox view, the following opening sentence of Enoch is the first and oldest sentence written in any human language, since Enoch was the first to write letters:
“Word of blessing of Henok, wherewith he blessed the chosen and righteous who would be alive in the day of tribulation for the removal of all wrongdoers and backsliders.”
In the early period of Ethiopian literature, before the introduction of Arabic influence, there was considerable translation activity of much Greek literature into Ge’ez by Ethiopian theologians. Because of this, there are many texts for which both the Ge’ez translation and the Greek original are known; however, in this case, the language and thought of Ge’ez Enoch are thoroughly Semitic, and show no indication of having been transmitted through Greek.
Since Bruce’s discovery, an Old Church Slavonic translation has been identified, Greek fragments (En. 89:42–49, Codex Vaticanus Cod. Gr. 1809) as well as two separate fragments of a Latin translation. Fragments of papyri containing parts of the Greek version were recovered by a French archeological team at Akhmim and published five years later in 1892. Seven fragments from the Book of Enoch in Aramaic have also been identified in the Qumran Cave 4, among the Dead Sea scrolls and are in the care of the Israel Antiquities Authority. They were translated and talked about by Jazef. T. Milik and Matthew Black (The Books of Enoch, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976). With a more modern translation being released by Vermes and Garcia-Martinez (Vermes 513-515; Garcia- Martinez 246-259 ) . Milik described them as being white or cream in color, blankened in areas, made of leather which was smooth, thick and stiff. It was also partly damaged with the ink blurred and faint. The individual finds are:
Parts of Book Of Watchers. – 4QEna (4QEn201), 4QEnb (4QEn203)
Book of Watchers and The Dream Visions. – 4QEnd (4QEn205), 4QEne (4QEn206)
Book of Watchers, The Dream Visions, and Epistle of Enoch. – 4QEnc (4QEn204)
The Dream Visions – 4QEnf (4QEn207)
The Epistle of Enoch – 4QEng (4QEn212)
Book Of Luminaries – 4QEnastra, 4QEnastrb, 4QEnastrc, and 4QEnastrd
As well as the above find, a number of Greek versions of 1 Enoch were found in Qumran Cave 7 by Muro, Ernest A. Jr. They are chapter 103:3-4 in 7Q4, 7Q12 and Chapter 103:7-8 in 7Q8. These where written on papyrus with lines of a grid written on them, they are much smaller than those discovered in Cave 4. About Enoch at Qumran we intend to deepen below. In my opinion the best English translation is still the 1912 R.H Charles.