2 Enoch (Slavonic)
I cannot picture a home more different for this text, from that of 1 Enoch. We travel from the heat and savannas of Africa, to the boreal forest and bitter winters of the Slavic heartland in Eastern Europe. The guardians of this work are Russian Orthodox Christians. However, although they thought enough of this work to preserve it and copy it, it has never been a part of their canon – an altogether different fate than that of 1 Enoch.
Historically, the fledgling Russian Orthodox Church (Slavonic), took in and translated many writings of Greek (Byzantine) composition, and this may be an example. We are indebted to the anonymous monks and scholars who did so, as the work has not survived in a Greek form.
It is a peculiar and happy phenomenon that many such “rare works survive on the fringes of civilization (p.94).” But as with 1 Enoch, 2 Enoch remains an artifact divorced from its original context – we cannot be sure of its original language, composition date or provenance. We don’t even know what group of people first revered it, as it neither presents the Christian concept of Jesus Messiah, nor any specific Jewish ideas beyond monotheism.
However, “now that it is known that parts of 1 Enoch existed in Aramaic in pre-Christian times, it is more credible that 2 Enoch stands in another stream of Enoch traditions stemming from similar sources, and perhaps even of comparable antiquity (p.94).”
The oldest manuscript we have, dates to the 14th century.
The titles of the manuscripts vary, generally declaring this “The Book of the Secrets of Enoch,” with one appending to that “from the Pearl of Great Price [!] (fn. 1a).”
In the work, reference is made to books that Enoch wrote in heaven; 2 Enoch may tell the story of those books, which may constitute 1 Enoch and were apparently available in the community that wrote 2 Enoch – but they were meant to be hidden away until the end-time, with a key role for the last generation.
Enoch dreams, a dream that leaves him weeping – part of a tradition that apocalyptists are upset by evil in the world. Two celestial beings then visit him, standing at the head of his bed and calling him by name, accepting his obeisance. That would be at odds with Biblical norms. (cf. JSH 1:,30, 33.) Angels traveling in pairs is an ancient concept. But not immutable – consider the NT Gabriel.
I am intrigued lately by the peculiar image of celestial beings issuing fire from their mouths – a power even given to some mortals, as in Rev. 11:5.
The angels announce Enoch’s upcoming journey to heaven. No one must search for him until he returns. Cf. 2 Kings 2:16.
They lift him up to the first heaven, through the atmosphere and then past (?) the ether, or stratosphere. As far back as Homer (what reference?), this stratification of the heavens was recognized – and the canonical Paul suggests a belief that the ether was Satan’s realm (Eph. 2:2). Yet Paul elsewhere uses the same Greek word for the realm where the saints will be caught up to meet Christ at His coming.
In this place is an ocean much vaster than its earthly counterpart. It is also the storehouse of snow, ice, dew and clouds. (J, 5).
In the second heaven, fallen angels are confined. From the third, he can see Paradise, with the Tree of Life, where the Lord walks. Paradise linked to the Garden of Eden is a Jewish, not a Christian tradition. There seem to be similarities between this part of the journey and the story of Gilgamesh, particularly the visit to Utnapishtim (cf. fn. b, p. 115.) Might we suppose a common ancient tradition lies behind both these passages?
To feed the hungry, clothe the naked, lift up the fallen, etc – apparently this and similar combinations of pious injunctions may have been a stock theme in the Hebrew milieu. Per our editor, Matthew 25 presents a “radically Christianized version.” (p. 119). So Mosiah 2:17 and 4:14, rather than being signs of Christian anachronism, may draw from this earlier tradition.
In a place of torture (the third heaven?) writhe the souls of the worst of men, their sins being virtually identical to the list Paul gives in 1 Timothy.
Interesting that our editors note the title by which Enoch is several times addressed – youth. Cf. Moses 6:31, “I am but a lad ...”
11: Fourth heaven: Home of the solar and lunar tracks. The footnote is rich in detail on the concept of heavenly bodies and their contemplation as living beings, an old tradition. Origen (On First Principles 1.7.3) cited the precision of their movements as proof of the highest reason. Later theologians such as Jerome attacked this idea and “it become unorthodox.”
12: Enoch sees “solar elements” – phoenixes and khalkedras, the latter being some kind of brass serpent. Some connection to nehushtan?
15: Song of the birds at sunrise.
18: In the fifth heaven, the unfallen Watchers mourn their fallen colleagues.
20: From the seventh heaven [in the tenth heaven?}], the Lord is seen afar off.
21: Ninth heaven, Kukhavim. [Kokaubeam?]
22: Carried to the tenth heaven by Michael, Enoch beholds the face of the Lord, in quite vivid language that apparently made later scribes, with their Hellenistic, unseeable God baggage, uncomfortable. Our writer did not consider God unknowable or inconceivable but indescribable, because to do so is forbidden.
In Jewish circles, Michael was the favored angel, as here; the early Christians favored Gabriel.
The Lord consults His assembly; Enoch to be made an angel, that he might be forever in the presence of the Lord. Humans as such, acc. to the ancient Mesopotamians, could not gain permanent access to the community of divine beings. Our editor believes that the early Hebrews inherited this same belief; thus, Psalm 115:16-7.
But Enoch, stripped of his earthly clothing, and anointed and clothed in glorious garments, can now remain in the presence of the Lord.
23:6: A nod to pre and post-earth existence. One angel tells Enoch all the secrets of creation and life, and commands that he write it. Then, God Himself tells all.
24: Presents the striking doctrine, eschewed by later Christianity, that certain “invisible things” co-existed eternally with God before He made from them the visible. Cf. D&C 131.
He was restless, with the need to create.
Per the fn. p. 143, this section could be one of the earliest attempts to reconcile the Creation story with science (as it was then understood).
At this point, p. 149, the fn. refs. The Gospel of Bartholomew, a Gnostic work with strong affinities for this text, such as a role for Enoch and the creation of the angels from fire. That gospel (4:24) also preserves the notion that Satan fell because he refused to adore Adam – a concept which passed into the Quran. Overall, in 2 Enoch, the role of Satan is contradictory and confused – “fragments of Satan stories loosely mixed.”
There seems to have been a belief among some Christians that the Garden of Eden (Paradise) was in a heavenly realm, from which Adam was thrust down to earth (32). Again, this passed into the Quran (Sura 2:35-26).
36: Enoch to return to earth for a time, to reveal what he has learned.
He describes hell and its ghastly gate-keepers, comparable, per our editor, to the Scorpion Men of Gilgamesh 9:2 (p. 98 in my edition). Continuation of the strictly legalistic theme of this text.
44: A beautiful chapter: We are all made in God’s image, by His own two hands, and to malign each other is to malign Him.
Moral exhortations follow, including the dictate to be kind to animals. (58-9).
Enoch prepares to return to heaven; offers final counsel. The Lord is in the heights and in the depths (cf. Psalm 139).
Methusalem now takes on the role of priest for the people. Then Melchizedek.
3 Enoch (aka The Book of The Palaces and The Chapters of Rabbi Ishmael).
This work opens a window into the world of an extinct school of Jewish mysticism, called Merkabah – recast today as Kaballah. Although some orthodox scholars studied Merkabah, it made many uncomfortable, could be a danger to rabbinic Judaism and “strong efforts were made to contain it. (p. 234.)” It proposed alternate means of revelation besides Torah; and in some cases, seemed to unduly exalt such figures as Metatron and Enoch. Enoch, on the other hand, is not mentioned in Talmud, and with hostility in Midrashim.
Merkabah delves very little into eschatology or cosmology. It may have had its origin just prior to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70., when a “powerful symbol of the divine presence was removed” and “eschatological hopes were dampened.”
Has affinities with Gnosticism.
This work was written in Hebrew circa the 5th or 6th Century A.D., though attributed to the earlier Jewish scholar, Rabbi Ishmael (d. before the Bar Kokhba War A.D. 132).
Literary style includes “extreme redundancy,” typical of Merkabah literature, meant to induce ecstasy.
Its God is transcendent and virtually unapproachable, like a monarch of that era. It also suggests that souls are pre-existent to mortality, descending from a storehouse in heaven. (p. 245). Teaches that Enoch was translated.
May present parallels to the New Testament-era Colossian heresy of “Gnosticizing Judaism.”
Numerous texts exist, from the Vatican to the British Museum.
Synopsis: R. Ishmael journeys to the highest heaven, passing the angels (archons) that stand as sentinels, reciting a certain formula and showing a symbol (p. 237); and is graciously welcomed into the presence of God.
Reaching the seventh heaven, R.I. must enlist the aid of Metatron against the sentry angel Qaspiel, who would bar him entry. The Holy One sends Metatron. [Does He not have the ability to restrain that one Himself?]
Metatron, i.e., Enoch, addressed as “youth.” (2)
What qualifies R.I. for entry into heaven? Psalm 144 is invoked: the Lord is his God.