Enoch (Hebrew: חֲנוֹךְ meaning “initiated”) is a name in the Hebrew Bible used by two separate figures who lived during the generation of Adam. The first Enoch was the son of Cain. The second Enoch was a descendant of Seth, the third son of Adam, and great-grandfather of Noah (Genesis 5:22-29). The Bible cryptically states that this second Enoch “walked with God, and was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24), thus suggesting that Enoch avoided death at the age of 365. Therefore, some consider Enoch to be one of the “Two Witnesses” in the Book of Revelation due to the fact that he did not die. This esoteric passage lead the second Enoch figure to be associated with various mystical texts, such as the Book of Enoch and movements in both Judaism and Christianity. Later, Enoch was referred as a prophet in Islam and called Idris (إدريس).
Enoch is often confused with Enos. Enos was grandson to Adam (Genesis 5:5-6), and great great grandfather of Enoch (Genesis 5:9-18).
Today, Enoch is commemorated on July 26 as one of the Holy Forefathers in the Calendar of Saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian Catholic Church.
In classical Rabbinical literature, there are divergent opinions of Enoch. After Christianity and Judaism had completely separated, the prevailing view regarding Enoch was that of Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, which thought of Enoch as a pious man, taken to heaven, and receiving the title of Safra rabba (Great scribe). However, while Christianity was in the process of detaching itself from Judaism, the Jewish view was often highly negative. In these views, for example held by Abbahu, Rashi, and Ibn Ezra, Enoch was held to frequently lapse in his piety, and thus removed before his time, by a divine plague, in order to avoid further lapses.
Among the minor Midrashim, esoteric attributes of Enoch are expanded upon. In the Sefer Hekalot, Rabbi Ishmael is described as having visited the seventh heaven, where he meets Enoch, who claims that earth had, in his time, been corrupted by the demons Shammazai, and Azazel, and so Enoch was taken to heaven to prove that God was not cruel. Similar traditions are recorded in Ecclesiasticus. Later elaborations of this interpretation treated Enoch as having been a pious ascetic, who, called to remix with others, preached repentance, and gathered (despite the fewness of people on the earth) a vast collection of disciples, to the extent that he was proclaimed king. Under his wisdom, peace is said to have reigned on earth, to the extent that he is summoned to heaven to rule over the sons of God. In a parallel with Elijah, in sight of a vast crowd begging him to stay, he ascends to heaven on a horse.
The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says “By faith Enoch was transferred, that he should not see death, and was not found, because God had transferred him; for before his transference he had the witness that he had pleased God well.” (Hebrews 11:5)
The Epistle of Jude (1:14-15) makes mention of Enoch in a statement which has much perplexed interpreters. It should be noted that the author does not cite his source although it is commonly believed to have originated in the Book of Enoch. It is hypothesized that Jude fails to cite his source as the Book of Enoch was not considered authority by the early church but rather a part of Jewish literature. The question is whether Jude took this passage from any book written by Enoch, which might be extant in his time, or whether he received it by tradition or by revelation. It is possible that he read it in a book attributed to Enoch, which though pseudepigraphal, might contain several truths; among others, this might be one which Jude favored with a supernatural degree of discrimination and might use for the purpose of instruction.
Justin, Athenagoras, Irenaeus, Clemens Alexandrinus, Lactantius, and others borrowed an opinion out of this Book of Enoch, that the angels had connection with the daughters of men, of whom they had offspring (Nephilim: ‘the giants of the past’). Tertullian, in several places, speaks of this book with esteem; and would persuade us, that it was preserved by Noah during the deluge. The Book of Enoch, however, was rejected by Origen, Jerome and Augustin as spurious.
Specimens of an Ethiopian work known as the Book of Enoch have been brought into Europe, and translations of parts of it have been published. It is likely that this Ethiopian book is the same or similar to the Book of Enoch known in the Europe in the late Classical and medieval periods. Though there is now no known text in Latin or Greek, similarities between the Ethiopian book and references in other extant European texts suggest that the Ethiopian book is related to a now lost Latin or Greek text.
The Qur’an presents Enoch in a similar manner, referring to him as Idris (which is Arabic for Enoch), meaning the instructor, regarding him as a man of truth and a prophet, as well as a model of patience. Muslim traditions credit Idris as the inventor of astronomy, writing, and ]]arithmetic]]. Enoch is often described as having been compelled to defend his life with the sword, against the depraved children of earth. Among his lesser inventions, in popular Muslim tradition, were said to be scales, to enable just weights, and tailoring.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Enoch is viewed as having founded an exceptionally righteous city, named Zion, in the midst of an otherwise wicked world. In their view, Enoch prophesied that one of his descendants, Noah, and his family would be the ones to survive a Great Flood and thus carry on the human race and preserve the Gospel after the wicked inhabitants of Earth were destroyed. The book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price has several chapters that give an account of Enoch’s preaching, visions and conversations with God. In these same chapters are details concerning the wars, violence and natural disasters in Enoch’s day, and notable miracles performed by Enoch.
Three years previous to his death Adam called a meeting of his descendants. At this meeting, held at Adam-ondi-Ahman, Adam blessed all of his righteous posterity and prophesied of events to come. Enoch is credited with being the scribe at this meeting taking note of Adam’s blessings and prophesy.
The Book of Enoch
The Book of Enoch refers to extensive apocryphal works attributed to Enoch, that originated between the second century B.C.E. and the first century C.E. These recount how Enoch is taken up to heaven and is appointed guardian of all the celestial treasures, chief of the archangels, and the immediate attendant on God’s throne. He is subsequently taught all secrets and mysteries and, with all the angels at his beck, fulfills of his own accord whatever comes out of the mouth of God, executing His decrees. He teaches, conducts souls to the place of felicity, and is known as “Prince of God’s face,” “Prince of the Torah,” “Prince of Wisdom,” “Prince of Reason,” and “Prince of Glory.” Enoch was also seen as the inventor of writing, and teacher of astronomy and arithmetic, all three reflecting the interpretation of his name as meaning initiated.
While many of these secrets, which are subsequently given away in the books, are elaborations of parts of the Sefer ha-Yashar, others are elaborations on brief esoteric details in the Torah, such as the tale of the Nephilim (giants), which becomes a major theme in the Book of Enoch. Much esoteric literature of the period, like the Book of Enoch, either explicitly or implicitly, identifies Enoch as the Metatron, the angel that communicates God’s word. In consequence, Enoch was seen, by this literature, and the ancient kabbalah of Jewish mysticism, as having been the one which communicated God’s revelation to Moses, in particular, the revealer of the Book of Jubilees.
Association with other figures
- Due to Enoch’s association in Jewish legend with learning and writing, the Ancient Greeks identified him as Hermes Trismegistus, a syncretic deity. Consequently, they also regarded him as the discoverer of the zodiac and of astronomy in general. Enoch also appeared in tales describing heroes being permanently taken by the Gods, such as Ganymede. In historical criticism, these stories are seen as being the influence behind more elaborate traditions such as Enoch travelling to heaven via a flying horse (compare pegasus).
- Scholars link Enoch with the ancient Sumerian king Emmeduranki. The specific lifespan of Enoch, 365 years, corresponding to the duration of the solar year, is linked to Emmeduranki’s association with the sun god Utu.
- In Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, the angel Metatron is revealed to have been Enoch when he lived on Earth.
- In Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle trilogy and the earlier Cryptonomicon, the character Enoch Root or Enoch the Red is alive through several centuries and may be suspected of being a supernatural being.