Podcast episode

Episode 51: Enoch and the Book of Watchers

‘And Enoch walked with God, and was not; for God took him.’

Fateful words from the book of Genesis 5:24. What ever happened to the pre-flood patriarch Enoch? Jews in the second-temple period tell us, in a large and complex body of writings known as the Enochic texts, fragments of which are extant in Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and a host of later languages. When we put all the disparate evidence together, we get a picture of a type of second temple Judaism not particularly concerned with Moses or the Mosaic law, but very alive to the imminent end of the world, the judgement by God of the righteous and the wicked, angels and fallen angels, cosmic ascent and hallucinatory visions, and much else besides.

This episode begins to explore this literature, looking in particular at the first section of 1 Enoch, a text commonly known as the Book of Watchers. This very old apocalyptic text (dated by some as far back as the third century BCE) contains all of the characteristic elements of apocalyptic mentioned above, and also fills in the gaps of the Genesis account, giving us a window on what Enoch was really up to. There are fallen angels, evil giants, flaming crystal palaces in the sky, and visions-within-visions. This is not the Judaism you find in the Bible.

Works Discussed in this Episode:

  • 1 Enoch: We are quoting in this episode from Charles, R. H., 1913. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English. Clarendon, Oxford.
  • J.T. Millik thinks 2 Enoch is a medieval East Roman work from a monastic milieu: Milik, J. T. and Black, M. edd., 1976. The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumrân Cave 4. Clarendon, Oxford, p. 109 ff.

Recommended Reading:

  • Black, M., 1970. Apocalypsis Henochi Graece. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands. An edition of what is known of 1 Enoch in Greek; more stuff has since been discovered, but this has yet to be replaced as a one-stop-shop for Greek Enoch.
  • Boccaccini, G. and Collins, J. J. edd., 2007. The Early Enoch Literature. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands.
  • Knibb, M. A., 2009. Essays on the Book of Enoch and Other Early Jewish Texts and Traditions. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands.
  • Knibb, M. A. and Ullendorff, E., 1978. The Ethiopic Book of Enoch: A New Edition in the Light of the Aramaic Dead Sea Fragments. Clarendon, Oxford.
  • Nickelsburg, G. W., 2001. 1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 1–36; 81–108. Fortress, Minneapolis.
  • Nickelsburg, G. W., 2005. Jewish Literature between the Bible and the Mishnah: A Historical and Literary Introduction. Fortress, Minneapolis.
  • Nickelsburg, G. W. and VanderKam, J. C., 2004. 1 Enoch: A New Translation. Based on the Hermeneia Commentary. Fortress, Minneapolis.
  • Nickelsburg, G. W. and VanderKam, J. C., 2011. 1 Enoch 2: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 37–82. Fortress, Minneapolis.
  • Reed, A. Y., 2005. Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, and New York.


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