New College, University of Edinburgh
CSCO

The Book of Enoch the Prophet

The Enochic corpus known as 1 Enoch or Ethiopic Enoch is a composite pseudepigraphic work written in the name of the antediluvian patriarch Enoch from Genesis 5:21–24. The corpus is extant in its entirety only in an Ethiopic (Ge’ez) version that was translated from a Greek translation of an Aramaic original between 4–6th century CE in Ethiopia. 1 Enoch is divided into five distinct books and two appendices (chs 106–108): The Book of Watchers (chs. 1–36); The Book of Parables (chs. 37–71); The Book of Luminaries (chs. 71–82); The Dream Visions (chs. 83–90); The Epistle of Enoch (chs. 91–105); The Birth of Noah (chs. 106–107); and Eschatological Admonition (ch. 108). According to Loren T. Stuckenbruck the final chapters alone exhibit five independent literary units with the entire corpus likely exhibiting twenty or more literary traditions spanning a period of nearly 400 years.[1]

The present era of modern research on 1 Enoch was inaugurated in 1976 with J. T. Milik’s publication of the Aramaic fragments of the text discovered in Cave 4 of Qumran in 1952. Scholarship on 1 Enoch is flourishing and a recent bibliography on the subject occupies 277 pages.[2] This is largely focused on historical and textual studies within the context of Second Temple Judaism or motifs within the New Testament.[3] In Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Book of Enoch belongs to the Old Testament canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwaḥdo Church and has received sustained focus as a theological text in traditional scholarship. This is evidenced by the ancient Ethiopian commentary traditions, that is, the Andǝmta,[4] and its Ge’ez predecessor the Tǝrgwame on 1 Enoch which originated in Gondar and has a manuscript tradition dating between thirteenth and sixteenth centuries CE. Dividing 1 Enoch’s 108 chapters into 42, the Enochic andǝmta appropriates the narrative of 1 Enoch to its immediate context. In the commentary on 1 En. 108 for example, the andǝmta adopts a theological interpretation that identifies the ‘world of the text’ with the commentators’ contemporary one. In this chapter, Enoch addresses his son Methuselah and “the righteous who come after him and keep the law in the last days” (1 En. 108:1b) to exhort them to be patient as they await the punishment of their persecutors (vv. 2-3, 7-8, 10). The andǝmta elaborates on these verses and in the process brings out what it sees as a hidden paraenesis and admonishes its Christian audience in these words:

Those who are faithful will receive the ultimate reward of their faith. The faithful congregation will receive compensation for good character and faith in the Kingdom of God; in heaven, should they continue in works of righteousness and in keeping the Ten Commandments. God’s justice is righteous; they will shine (42:14).[5]

In other parts as well the andǝmta draws ‘modern’ correlations between the ancient world of 1 Enoch and its own readers. The Enochic evil giants and the holy angels, for example, are taken as contemporary holy men and others who oppose their holy ways or by being sinful stand in essence in opposition to the life of faith. The fight that ensues in 1 Enoch between the giants and God’s elect are applied to the life of the monk and are taken to symbolise the holy person’s struggle with worldliness and temptation. In many other instances the andǝmta synthesises various Enochic imageries and motifs in light of the Old and New Testaments to grapple with the question of what it means to worship God in a world plagued by evil and suffering. Perhaps in using our theologies to address the contemporary evils of environmental degradation, corruption, greed and persecution we must do what the andǝmta does and allow “the word of the blessing of Enoch by which he blessed the chosen and the righteous,” (1 En. 1:1) to enrich our conversation.

 

Written By Sofanit Abebe

 

Notes:

[1] Loren T. Stuckenbruck and Gabriele Boccaccini (eds.), Enoch and the Synoptic Gospels: Reminiscences, Allusions, Intertextuality, Early Judaism and Its Literature 44 (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016), 11. For a discussion of the textual history of 1 Enoch, see Stuckenbruck, “The Early Traditions Related to 1 Enoch from the Dead Sea Scrolls: An Overview and Assessment,” in The Early Enoch Literature, Gabriele Boccaccini and John J. Collins (eds), SJSJ (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 41–63 and Stuckenbruck, 1 Enoch 91-108, 1, 5–16. See also Michael A. Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch. A New Edition in Light of the Aramaic Dead Sea Fragments, vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 21–37.

[2] James Charlesworth and Ephraim Isaac. O Livro de Enoque Etíope ou 1’Enoque. Translated by Orlando Jannuzzi Filho (Sao Paulo: Entre os Tempos, 2015), 249–526.

[3] See the noteworthy exception, Stuckenbruck, The Myth of the Rebellious Angels: Studies in Second Temple Judaism and New Testament Texts. WUNT 335 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014), 161-86 and Philip F. Esler (ed.), The Blessing of Enoch: 1 Enoch and Contemporary Theology (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, forthcoming).

[4] Denotes the Amharic Ethiopian Commentary tradition which is “a vast corpus that contains traditional interpretations of religious texts [and]  includes the exegesis of biblical, patristic, liturgical, canonical and monastic texts. The term Andǝmta is an Amharic word related to the particle andǝm ‘or’.  Andǝm is a key technical term: it introduces an alternative meaning to a word or concept that needs more than one explanation.” Tedros Abraha, “Andǝmta,” ed. Siegbert Uhlig, Encyclopaedia Aethiopica (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2003-14), 258.

[5] My translation from the edition published in 2011 by Tensae Printing Press in Addis Ababa.

Share Post:
  • CSCO Team,
  • 2nd June 2017

Comments

Add comment