The “Jesus of History” vs the “Jesus of Faith” part 3:3 – The Book of Enoch
Enoch was a name given to an ancient Jewish text that was written, according to religious historian Michael Baigent, by several authors. It stands as a testament to prior mystical traditions influencing Judaism, although many Jewish rabbis would not accept it. Early Christians in Ethiopia, on the other hand, accepted it as part of the Old Testament, especially the parts that tell of the coming of Jesus and a reference to it in the New Testament in a Letter of Jude (14). Ultimately, the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 sidelined the Book of Enoch and it was eventually banned by late-fourth and early-fifth-century theologians such as Jerome and Augustine.
According to Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, Enoch was the seventh generation of Adam and Eve and the father of Methuselah, who lived 969 years and was the grandfather of Noah. In those days it was common to live several hundred years. Enoch didn’t hang around quit as long. As the story goes, “And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Genesis 5:23-24). The story of Enoch, of course, is a travelogue of his visit to heaven–which greatly influenced the writers of the New Testament and contributed to much of the dogma of Christianity and especially Catholicism.
Michael Baigent gives a brief summary of Enoch’s visit to heaven in his book The Jesus Papers–Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History:
[The Book of Enoch] uses many of the motifs that are now familiar to us: Enoch has a visionary dream (13:8); he asks for an explanation of the Tree of Life (25:1-3); he mentions three eastern portals through which stars pass on the eastern horizon (36:3), in accordance with the Babylonian and Assyrian astrolabes, which date from around 1100 B.C.; and he also speaks of the actions of men as being weighed in the balance, like the Egyptian concept of afterlife judgment (41:1).
We are once again on familiar ground: we have esoteric matters taught to a seeker by means of dream visions of the Far-World—and in a Jewish context. As we have seen, these dream visions occur as part of an initiation, and the dreamer goes to a quiet, dark place, such as a cave or a temple crypt, and uses the techniques he or she has been taught to enter the stillness from which the Far-World is accessible. So we would expect, somewhere in the Book of Enoch, to find a reference to the experiential, the initiatory. We are not disappointed. (underscores mine)
“And it came to pass,” the text explains,”‘that my spirit was translated and it ascended into the heavens: and I saw the holy sons of God” (Enoch 71: 1). This report has all the appearance of being an account of something that truly occurred to the writer—a mystical experience that could be induced by someone seeking initiation into the esoteric tradition of Judaism.
Enoch was taken up “from amongst those who dwell on the earth … he was raised aloft on the chariots of the spirit” (Enoch 70:2). This image seems to be a Judaic equivalent of the Egyptian winged Ba. But there is no doubt that this event concerned an initiation, since the text explains what happened to Enoch after he had been raised to heaven but before his spirit became transfigured:
“And the angel Michael seized me by my right hand, and lifted me up and led me forth into all the secrets, and he showed me all the secrets of righteousness. And he showed me all the secrets of the ends of the heaven.” (Enoch 71:3 – 4)
The anonymous ancient writer continues, describing what then occurred: “And I fell on my face,” he recounts, “and my whole body became relaxed, and my spirit was transfigured” (71:11).
This is precisely the type of experience that we would expect to find among the Therapeutae, for example. And crucially, just in case we have failed to spot it, the text makes a point of explaining that this ascent into the heavens occurred while Enoch was still living – as the text puts it, “during his lifetime.” This is virtually identical to the explanation in the Egyptian Pyramid Texts that the king has “not departed dead” but has “departed alive.” It is hard not to see the two statements as describing an essentially similar experience, an experience deriving from an initiation into the mysteries of the Far-World.
These visionary texts cannot be any other than records of initiations—records gathered together under the name of Enoch in much the same way as in Egypt those attributed to Hermes Trismegistus were collected together in the Books of Hermes.
I don’t agree with the author’s conclusion that Enoch’s visit to heaven was an “initiation into the mysteries of the Far-World.” We’re talking about several thousands of years before the Egyptian Mystery Schools even existed. I rather attribute Enoch’s visit to the realms of light to the fact that heaven was still accessible by virtue of the yet uncluttered veil between heaven and earth in human consciousness and to certain vibrational factors that were still in place at the time that made visits Home possible. It rather seems more likely that this ancient story played an inspirational and intriguing role in the Egyptian’s efforts to visit the Far-World themselves, just as Enoch reportedly had done. Again, looking back to ancient times and events and attempting to understand and interpret them using a much evolved (or devolved) state of consciousness and set of values, is presumptuous at best and misdirecting at worst.
Given the visionary nature of this text, it is, at first sight, curious to discover that seven pieces of the Book of Enoch form part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. All were found in 1952 in the Qumran cave in the marl cliff face near the ruins of the community, now called Cave 4. So, on the face of it, it seems as though the Zealot group that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls and was so important a part of Jesus’s political milieu and the messianic Jewish group that gave rise to Christianity were both well aware of the Book of Enoch. But an analysis of it reveals an interesting fact.
The Book of Enoch, as we have said, is a compilation of texts from different authors. In fact, scholars have separated the text into five sections, each distinctive and different from the others. The section that contains the report of the mystical ascent and transfiguration is the second section, which is also known as “the Parables.” This mystical, initiatory section is completely absent from the texts found at Qumran.
The Dead Sea Scroll texts contain fragments, written in Aramaic, from sections one, four, and five only of the Book of Enoch. Not only is the mystical section missing, but so too is the following section on astronomical and calendar matters — in particular, the section providing the basis of the solar calendar, which, we will remember, was evidently used in the Jewish Temple of Onias in the Egyptian delta.
We can see here the same clash of traditions that we find expressed in the story of Jesus when he rejects the Zealot position on the payment of taxes to the emperor. Jesus took a mystical approach; the Zealots took a worldly approach. The Zealot Book of Enoch clearly rejects this mystical approach. This stands in further evidence that — as we have said before — Jesus could not have learned his skills among the Zealots of Galilee.
Mystical texts like the Book of Enoch, texts that would have been very dear to the Therapeutae, would also have been very dear to those who taught Jesus. With the Book of Enoch, we finally have a text that appears to issue directly from the Jewish milieu within which Jesus was nurtured and from a group concerned with initiation into secret teachings, with an ascent to heaven, and with an experience of the Divine Light. Of this there can be no doubt, for according to the Book of Enoch (96:3), “A bright light shall enlighten you.”
All of this, of course, is supposition and speculation on the part of Michael Baigent, admittedly so. Joseph B. Lumpkin, author of The Books of Enoch published in 2009, shares some interesting insight into this ancient story and the book itself:
Of all the books quoted, paraphrased, or referred to in the Bible, the Book of Enoch has influenced the writers of the Bible as few others have. Even more extensively than in the Old Testament, the writers of the New Testament were frequently influenced by other writings, including the Book of Enoch. However, things are never easy when such a span of time is involved. Over the elapsed two-thousand years, three major works attributed to Enoch have been discovered. . . .
. . . However, recent discoveries of copies of the book among the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran prove the book was in existence long before the time of Jesus Christ. These scrolls force a closer look and reconsideration. It becomes obvious that the New Testament did not influence the Book of Enoch; on the contrary, the Book of Enoch influenced the New Testament. The date of the original writing upon which the second century B.C. Qumran copies were based is shrouded in obscurity. Likewise lost are the sources of the oral traditions that came to be the Book of Enoch.
It has been largely the opinion of historians that the book does not really contain the authentic words of the ancient Enoch, since he would have lived several thousand years earlier than the first known appearance of the book attributed to him. However, the first century Christians accepted the Book of Enoch as inspired, if not authentic. They relied on it to understand the origin and purpose of many things, from angels to wind, sun, and stars. In fact, many of the key concepts used by Jesus Christ himself seem directly connected to terms and ideas in the Book of Enoch.
It is hard to avoid the evidence that Jesus not only studied the book, but also respected it highly enough to allude to its doctrine and content. Enoch is replete with mentions of the coming kingdom and other holy themes. It was not only Jesus who quoted phrases or ideas from Enoch, there are over one hundred comments in the New Testament which find precedence in the Book of Enoch.
Other evidence of the early Christians’ acceptance of the Book of Enoch was for many years buried under the King James Bible’s mistranslation of Luke 9:35, describing the transfiguration of Christ: “And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son. Hear him.'” Apparently the translator here wished to make this verse agree with a similar verse in Matthew and Mark. But Luke’s verse in the original Greek reads: “This is my Son, the Elect One (from the Greek ho eklelegmenos, lit., “the elect one”). Hear him.” The “Elect One” is a most significant term (found fourteen times) in the Book of Enoch. If the book was indeed known to the apostles of Christ, with its abundant descriptions of the Elect One who should “sit upon the throne of glory” and the Elect One who should “dwell in the midst of them;” then the great scriptural authenticity is justly accorded to the Book of Enoch when the “voice out of the cloud” tells the apostles, “This is my Son, the Elect One,”… the one promised in the Book of Enoch. . . .
. . . . The Books of Enoch, and especially 1 Enoch, seems to be a missing link between Jewish and Christian theology and is considered by many to be more Christian in its theology than Jewish. It was considered scripture by many early Christians. The literature of the church fathers is filled with references to this book. The early second century apocryphal book of the Epistle of Barnabus makes many references and quotes from the Book of Enoch. Second and third century church fathers like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origin and Clement of Alexandria all seemed to have accepted Enoch as authentic. Tertullian (160-230 A.D.) even called the Book of Enoch, “Holy Scripture”. The Ethiopian Coptic Church holds the Book of Enoch as part of its official spiritual canon. It was widely known and read the first three centuries after Christ. This and many other books became discredited after the Council of Laodicea. And being under ban of the authorities, it gradually disappeared from circulation.
In 1773, rumors of a surviving copy of the book drew Scottish explorer James Bruce to distant Ethiopia. He found the Book of Enoch had been preserved by the Ethiopian church, which put it right alongside the other books of the Bible.
What emphasizes itself to me in all of this is the longing in the human heart to return Home to an Edenic heaven we somehow lost sight and experience of, and the human mind’s futile endeavors to devise ways of exploring higher levels of consciousness, as exemplified, for example, in the mind-altering drug culture. We rather believe that heaven is “up there” somewhere in the heavens, whereas Jesus clearly stated that the kingdom of heaven is within us and all around us–and that will be the topic of my next post in this series. Until then,
Be love. Be loved.
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