Notes from a talk on 1 Enoch

The First Book of Enoch
Talk given at House on the Rock Family Church, Windgap PA
07 June 2016
Rev. Anthony Perkins 

Main References:

  • H. Charles, R. H., & W.O.E. Oesterley, (1917). The Book of Enoch (1917).
  • Michael S. Heiser. The Unseen Realm (2015). Supernatural (2015). The Naked Bible Podcast, episode 93 (March 28, 2016).
  • George W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch (2001)
  • James C. VanderKam. “1 Enoch, Enochic Motifs, and Enoch in Early Christian Literature”
  • Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Complete Set, 2016)

What is it and why do we care about it?

First off, you don’t have to; no orthodox Christian tradition (with the possible exception of some Gnostics) require an understanding of it. It is only part of the Canon for the Ethiopian and Eritrian Orthodox Tewahedo Churches (two of the independent “Oriental Orthodox” churches).

1.  But… as you know from Jude, it is quoted and paraphrased in the part of the Bible we call the “New Testament”.

  • Jude 6:6. You have studied this yourselves. How does he use it?
  • 1 Peter 3: 14-22. “Just as Jesus was the second Adam for Paul, Jesus is the second Enoch for Peter.” (Heiser, I dare you… 193) Enoch and his story was known well enough to St. Peter and his audience that he could use his story to help explain Jesus Christ and the economy of salvation. Because of this; “Early baptismal formulas included a renunciation of Satan and his angels.” (ibid)
  • 2 Peter 2:4. The imprisonment of the “Watchers” is described in Enoch and other Second Temple literature, but not in the OT (Charles, VaderKam. (However, this could refer to events as in Luke 10:17-18; St. Cyril of Alexandria)
  • [Also Christology – see later and theosis (perhaps we can hit this in discussion?)).

2.  Moreover, it is part of a Second Temple worldview (one of several!) that provided many of the stories, symbols, and expectations of the Jews during the time of Christ (to include Him and His disciples). For many of them, it would have been all but impossible for them to read what we call the Old Testament separate from its Second Temple interpretation. It is the same for us. Major parts of that Enochian worldview that were influential in the Second Temple and early Christian period include:

  • A rich cosmology that included angels (major) and a developed geography of the heavens, the earth, and the nether regions; and the idea that redemption meant angelic apotheosis.
  • The Watchers shared secret knowledge and corrupted mankind (this was seen as a bigger influence than the fall of Adam).
  • The Watchers “went into” women and created the half-breed Nephalim. They were powerful and perverse. The flood was designed to end their corruption. The spirits of the Nephalim are demons.
  • The Messiah would be somehow divine (“two powers in heaven” as in Daniel 7).
  • At the Tower of Babel (or perhaps later), God assigned Watchers to the nations, but kept “Israel” as His own nation (Genesis 4:1-11; Deuteronomy 32:8-9; Psalm 81/82; this is NOT in Enoch). When the Messiah comes, He will gather the nations back to himself (this is in Enoch, although it is not unique to it).

3.  It is possible that I Enoch et. al. may well provide truths that OUR context(s) miss. For instance, traditional Christian cosmology and its assumptions about the “supernatural” have been moved to the back shelf, largely because of their misuse (e.g. by Gnostics). How supernatural is the world? Are there demons? Fallen angels? Fallen gods? Imprisoned gods? Who is it that we are at war with? The Enochian Second Temple worldview doesn’t get all these things right, but it is MUCH closer than our own culture (and some of our attempted re-creations).

4.  Athough it does not add anything to basic (salvific!) orthodox Christology, the treatment of the “Two Powers in Heaven” shows how ready at least some of the Jews were for Jesus Christ the Logos to Incarnate. The development of these MAY have been part of the “fullness of time” (pure speculation on my part).   This from Nickelsburg;

“Although Jude 14–15* is the only NT quotation of 1 Enoch, the influence of traditions from this collection is widespread. Most pervasive are the Son of Man christologies that have influenced the Synoptic Gospels and their sources, the Fourth Gospel, the Pauline epistles, the Epistle to the Hebrews, perhaps the Epistle of Jude, and the Book of Revelation. Many of these texts attest the conflation of Son of Man, messianic, and Servant traditions that characterized 1 Enoch’s portrait of the Chosen One/Son of Man and its recurrence in 4 Ezra.”
George W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch (ed. Klaus Baltzer; Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible; Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2001).  Page16. ExportedfromLogosBibleSoftware,11:28AMMarch24,2016.


To summarize, the men who learned from Christ and who shared the Good News with us in the form that we call the “New Testament” were influenced by Second Temple works like 1 Enoch… these works spelled out a worldview and mythology that provided the concepts through which they knew Christ and shared the Gospel. It was natural that they would paraphrase and quote from the more reputable and well-known sources (Justin Martyr was great at this).

Modern examples of the necessity of understanding context.

A positive example: Orthodox Christians cannot read John 6:25 – 59 and Luke 24:13 – 35 as being anything but Eucharistic. The Eucharist – and our reading and experience of the Divine Liturgy – provides the context for our reading of these and other Gospel passages.

  • Literary scholars might see the Divine Liturgy as a commentary on these and other parts of the Bible (just as Enoch – and even the New Testament – can be treated as a commentary/midrash of the Old Testament)
  • Opponents of Eastern Orthodoxy and its Sacramental world view might see the Divine Liturgy as a corruption of the Gospels and a misappropriation of sacred scripture (just as many Jews saw Enoch – and the New Testament – as a corruption of the Old Testament).
  • But if you wanted to understand an Eastern Orthodox homily on the Gospel, salvation, etc., you would need to know not just the Gospels, but the Divine Liturgy and the whole sacramental worldview in which his mind operates.

More challenging (heretical) examples:

  • We can do the same with the Book of Mormon: is it enough to know the Bible to understand an LDS homily on the Bible?)
  • And with the Koran: is it enough to know the Bible to understand the Muslim use of familiar Biblical symbols and stories?

One more example from Orthodox Christian experience:

  • The work of Dionesius the Areopogite (and others in the mystical tradition) may to the Eastern Orthodox as the book of Enoch (etc.) was to the Second Temple Jews and early Christians.  Most everyone knows its “angelology” (even if they do not know where it comes from), but not everyone knows or agrees with its mysticism, its “net-platonism”, or the mystical theology that has developed around it (but no one considers this to be a matter of heresy).

To put it another way, We know that we have to learn the language of the New Testament … but outside of mathematics, language is superficial and misleading without its culture. More accurately, learning the cultural context is a very important part of learning a language.

[Even with this argument, I have to make the point that it is NOT completely necessary – especially when it comes to things like the Book of Enoch; not only do we have personal experience and the accepted dogmas, doctrines, etc. of “Mere Christianity”, the basics of the Gospel and the way it is incarnated in the Church are clear enough that we do not need to know the contextual framework of its first evangelists, although the psychological problem of “mirror-imaging” can create some bizarre exegesis (and theology) when we connect dots and extrapolate without that context.]


But is the Book of Enoch legitimate? Should it be treated as Scripture? Is it useful?

The (non) Reception of Enoch by the Church

Here are what three of the early Church Fathers had to say about it (FWIW, the discussion of the legitimacy of the book of Jude is partly a proxy over Enoch):

THE STATUS OF ENOCH’S WRITINGS. TERTULLIAN (written before apostasy, when he was catechist in Alexandria, before he apostatized): Since Enoch in the same book tells us of our Lord, we must not reject anything at all which genuinely pertains to us. Do we not read that every word of Scripture useful for edification is divinely inspired? As you very well know, Enoch was later rejected by the Jews for the same reason that prompted them to reject almost everything which prophesied about Christ. It is not at all surprising that they rejected certain Scriptures which spoke of him, considering that they were destined not to receive him when he spoke to them himself (e.g. John 1:11) But we have a witness to Enoch in the epistle of Jude the apostle. ON THE DRESS OF WOMEN 3.3.

WHETHER ENOCH IS A PROPHET. ST AUGUSTINE: Does not the canonical epistle of Jude the apostle openly declare that Enoch spoke as a prophet? It is true that his alleged writings have never been accepted as authoritative, either by Jews or Christians, but that is because their extreme antiquity makes us afraid of handing out as authentic works those which may be forgeries (sic). THE CITY OF GOD 18.38.

WHETHER ENOCH IS APOCRYPHAL. ST BEDE: The book of Enoch … belongs to the Apocrypha, not because the sayings of that prophet are of no value or because they are false but because the book which circulates under his name was not really written by him but was put out by someone else who used his name. For if it were genuine, it would not contain anything contrary to sound doctrine. But as a matter of fact it contains any number of incredible things about giants, who had angels instead of men as fathers, and which are clearly lies. Indeed, it was precisely because Jude quotes him that for a long time his letter was rejected by many as being uncanonical. Nevertheless it deserves to be included in the canon because of its author, its antiquity and the way in which it has been used, and particularly because this passage which Jude takes from Enoch is not in itself apocryphal or dubious but is rather notable for the clarity with which it testifies to the true light. ON JUDE.

Bray, G. (Ed.). (2000). James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (pp. 254–255). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Discussion: Why were Saints Jude and Peter feel willing to use non-Torah books to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah and incarnate God?

My take: it is useful, but it is not necessary. I consider it one of the “meats” St. Paul refers to.

Now let’s actually look at the Book of Enoch.

Apocryphal. Genre is similar to St. John’s Revelation (which is NOT an outlier!). It is most obviously a midrash on Genesis 6 and Daniel 7 (and, of course, the end days, and the angelic realm from OT visions and apocalypses). It is a mix of prose, psalm, apocalypse, and science.

  1. The Book of the Watchers (1-36)   3rd century BC
  2. The Book of Parables (37-71) 1st century BC
  3. Astronomical Book (72-82)   3rd century BC
  4. The Book of Dreams (83-90) 2nd century BC
  5. The Epistle of Enoch (91-108) 2nd century BC


The Book of the Watchers (Chapters 1-36)

This is the best (IMO) and most accessible of the books. It begins with a psalm of prophecy, then becomes prose. The Watchers come down, mate with women, and distribute knowledge. They set themselves up as gods. Enoch is asked to intercede for them. He writes out their petition and receives God’s answer in visions.   Enoch declares to the fallen angels their doom. He is then led by angels of light on a tour of the heavens and Sheol. The names of some of the 200 Watchers and good angels are given.

This will give you a flavor:

6.1 And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. 2 And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’ 3 And Semjâzâ, who was their leader, said unto them: ‘I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.’ 4 And they all answered him and said: ‘Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.’ 5 Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. 6 And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon.

And [the women whom the Watchers married and took] became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells (cubits): 3 Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, 4 The giants turned against them and devoured mankind. 5 And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another’s flesh, and drink the blood. 6 Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones.

8.1 And Azâzêl taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all colouring tinctures. 2 And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways.

Charles, R. H., & Oesterley, W. O. E. (1917). The Book of Enoch (Enoch 6:1–6). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.


The Book of Parables (I recognize them as psalms; Chapters 37-71)

There are three Parables that continue the theme of the triumph of righteousness. “Of special importance is the sitting of the Elect One on the throne of glory as Judge (45.3), and the mention of His title, ‘Son of Man’ (46.2). The thought of the vindication of the righteous is marred by their joy at vengeance upon the wicked. A particularly striking passage is chapter 48.1–7, 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 1), an universalistic note of significance, and speaks of the Resurrection of the dead.

Charles, R. H., & Oesterley, W. O. E. (1917). The Book of Enoch (p. xx). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Here’s a taste (from chapter 48):

2 And at that hour that Son of Man was named

In the presence of the Lord of Spirits,

And his name before the Head of Days.

3 Yea, before the sun and the signs were created,

Before the stars of the heaven were made,

His name was named before the Lord of Spirits.

4 He shall be a staff to the righteous whereon to stay themselves and not fall,

And he shall be the light of the Gentiles,

And the hope of those who are troubled of heart.

5 All who dwell on earth shall fall down and worship before him,

And will praise and bless and celebrate with song the Lord of Spirits.

6 And for this reason hath he been chosen and hidden before Him,

Before the creation of the world and for evermore.

Charles, R. H., & Oesterley, W. O. E. (1917). The Book of Enoch (Enoch 48:2–6). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Astronomical Book (Chapters 72-82)

Uriel gives a discourse on marking time, and how the sun is better than the moon (Sadducees vs. Pharisees).

Here is a taste (from chapter 72):

35 And this is the law and the course of the sun, and his return as often as he returns sixty times and rises, i.e. the great luminary which is named the Sun, for ever and ever. 36 And that which (thus) rises is the great luminary, and is so named according to its appearance, according as the Lord commanded. 37 As he rises, so he sets and decreases not, and rests not, but runs day and night, and his light is sevenfold brighter than that of the moon; but as regards size they are both equal.

Charles, R. H., & Oesterley, W. O. E. (1917). The Book of Enoch (Enoch 72:35–37). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

The Book of Dreams (Chapters 83-90) 

“This book consists of two dream-visions; the first deals with the judgement brought upon the world by the deluge on account of sin; the origin of sin is again traced to the angels who fell. It concludes with a hymn of praise to God in which a prayer is offered that all flesh may not be destroyed (83–84). The second dream-vision is much longer; it gives in brief outline the history of the world to the founding of the Messianic Kingdom.” It ends with the conversion of the Gentiles and enthronement of the Messiah.

Here is a taste (from chapter 88):

88.1 And I saw one of those four [angels] who had come forth first, and he seized that first star [Azezel]which had fallen from the heaven, and bound it hand and foot and cast it into an abyss: now that abyss was narrow and deep, and horrible and dark. 2 And one of them drew a sword, and gave it to those elephants and camels and asses [nephalim]: then they began to smite each other, and the whole earth quaked because of them. 3 And as I was beholding in the vision, lo, one of the four who had come forth stoned (them) from heaven, and gathered and took all the great stars whose privy members were like those of horses, and bound them all hand and foot, and cast them in an abyss of the earth.

89.1 And one of those four went to that white bull [Noah] and instructed him in a secret, without his being terrified: he was born a bull and became a man, and built for himself a great vessel and dwelt thereon; and three bulls dwelt with him in that vessel and they were covered in.

(and from chapter 89)

59 And He called seventy shepherds, and cast those sheep to them that they might pasture them, and He spake to the shepherds and their companions: “Let each individual of you pasture the sheep henceforward, and everything that I shall command you that do ye. 60 And I will deliver them over unto you duly numbered, and tell you which of them are to be destroyed-and them destroy ye.” And He gave over unto them those sheep. 61 And He called another and spake unto him: “Observe and mark everything that the shepherds will do to those sheep; for they will destroy more of them than I have commanded them.

(and from chapter 90)

20 And I saw till a throne was erected in the pleasant land, and the Lord of the sheep sat Himself thereon, and the other took the sealed books and opened those books before the Lord of the sheep. 21 And the Lord called those men the seven first white ones, and commanded that they should bring before Him, beginning with the first star which led the way, all the stars whose privy members were like those of horses, and they brought them all before Him. 22 And He said to that man who wrote before Him, being one of those seven white ones, and said unto him: “Take those seventy shepherds to whom I delivered the sheep, and who taking them on their own authority slew more than I commanded them.” 23 And behold, they were all bound, I saw, and they all stood before Him. 24 And the judgement was held first over the stars, and they were judged and found guilty, and went to the place of condemnation, and they were cast into an abyss, full of fire and flaming, and full of pillars of fire. 25 And those seventy shepherds were judged and found guilty, and they were cast into that fiery abyss.

Charles, R. H., & Oesterley, W. O. E. (1917). The Book of Enoch (p. xxii). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

The Epistle of Enoch (Chapters 91-108)

This book is concerned with the question of the final reward of the righteous and the final punishment of the wicked. … The important point, which is a development, is the idea of the punishment of the wicked taking place on this earth, the very scene of their unrighteous triumphs.

Charles, R. H., & Oesterley, W. O. E. (1917). The Book of Enoch (p. xxiii). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

Here is a taste (from chapter 104)

104.1 I swear unto you, that in heaven the angels remember you for good before the glory of the Great One: and your names are written before the glory of the Great One. 2 Be hopeful; for aforetime ye were put to shame through ill and affliction; but now ye shall shine as the lights of heaven, ye shall shine and ye shall be seen, and the portals of heaven shall be opened to you. 3 And in your cry, cry for judgement, and it shall appear to you; for all your tribulation shall be visited on the rulers, and on all who helped those who plundered you

Charles, R. H., & Oesterley, W. O. E. (1917). The Book of Enoch (Enoch 104:1–3). London: Society for Promoting Chris