The "Lost" Book of Enoch and Its Memory in Judaism, Islam and Christianity
For many centuries the Book of Enoch was considered to be "lost" in the West. But the memory of its supposed author remained vivid in Rabbinic Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
(a) Rabbinic Judaism maintained a sort of ambivalent view of Enoch, preserving both traditions which praise Enoch and traditions which rebuke him. Reference to Enoch are found in Kabbalist literature--in Sefer ha-Zohar by Moses de Leon and in Perush 'al ha-Torah by Menahem Recanati (13th century).
Enochic traditions (3 Enoch) were also known from the Sefer Hekaloth of R. Ishmael (ed. princeps 1864, and 1873).
(b) In Islam Enoch was often identified with the prophet Idris, who is mentioned twice in the Qur'an and in the Muslim tradition is associated with the origin of writing and astronomy.
(c) Christianity (with the exception of the Ethiopic Church) eventually rejected the "canonicity" of the book of Enoch, but venerated the memory of the ancient patriarch. It was quoted in the "canonical" Letter of Jude and in the "non-canonical" Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Among the Church Fathers, Tertullian defended the authenticity of 1 Enoch; others denied it.
Some important portions of the ancient Greek version of the Book of the Watchers resurfaced in the World Chronicle written by George Syncellus at the turn of the 9th century.
The ancient Rituale Romanum refers to Enoch together with Elijah in a prayer for the dying: Libera, Domine, animam servi tui (ancillae tuae), sicut liberasti Henoch et Eliam de communi morte mundi. Amen. (Breviarius romanus, titulus V, caput 7: Ordo commendationis animae).
The Book of the Secrets of Enoch (2 Enoch) was preserved among the Slavs.
Both in the Christian tradition (Roger Bacon) and in the Muslim tradition, Enoch is often identified with Hermes Trimegistus.
The Rise of modern scholarship on Enoch (16th cent.)
The interest in Enochic Studies first developed in Italy in esoteric circles during the Renaissance. In 1460 Cosimo de' Medici acquired the ms of the Corpus Hermeticum and in 1463 Marsilio Ficino completed its first translation. The Corpus Hermeticum, collected in the 11th century by Michael Psellos, was seen as a compendium of the most ancient human wisdom and was attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, who in turn was associated or identified with Enoch.
The "Christian Cabalists" were the first ones who actively tried to recover the "lost" Book(s) of Enoch. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola claimed he possessed the "seventy secret books of Ezra." In De Verbo mirifico (1494) Johannes Reuchlin also mentioned the Book of Enoch and in De arte cabalistica (1517) seemed to imply that Pico had it. What Pico had was actually a Latin translation of Menahem Recanati's cabalistic commentary, completed in 1486 by Guglielmo Raimondo Moncada (Flavius Mithridates).
While the Christian Cabalists were more scholarly-oriented toward the continuous search for manuscript evidence, other intellectuals were more engaged in magical and visionary experiences. In 1484, humanist Ludovico Lazzarelli, also a translator of the Corpus Hermeticum, endorsed Giovanni da Correggio as a prophet and messiah; claiming to be a sort of Enoch redivivus, he wrote an Epistula Enoch in his support. In 1530 the Venetian alchemist Giovanni Agostino Panteo published 26 charachters purporting to be the Enochian alphabet. Expectations of the "return" of Enoch were very strong in millenaristic circles around Europe. In 1524, Martin Luther himself intervened to disprove these beliefs. The most notable incident occurred in 1533-34; after Melchior Hofmann predicted that Christ would return to earth, the anabaptist Jan Matthys ruled the city of Munster, Germany as the "New Jerusalem," declaring that he was the prophet Enoch.
First evidence of the existence of an actual book of Enoch in Ethiopia came in 1553 by Guillaume Postel. He wrote in his De originibus that in Rome (most likely, in 1547) he had met an Abyssinian priest who illustrated him the content of 1 Enoch. The works of Panteo and Postel inspired British alchemist John Dee to team with visionary Edward Kelley in the search for the lost book. In 1583 they claimed to have received from the archangel Michael portions of the Book of Enoch written in the angelic (or "Enochian") alphabet that Enoch himself used to communicate with the angels.
The Enoch Fragments of Syncellus and their publication (I): The 17th century
At the beginning of the 17th century, the Enoch Fragments of Syncellus were first collected by Isaac Casaubon in 1602 and published by Joseph Justus Scaliger in 1606. They were discussed by Johannes Drusius in 1612 and translated into English by Samuel Purchas in 1613.
Rumors about the existence of a complete copy of the Book of Enoch in Ethiopic strengthened. In 1610 the Spanish Dominican Luis de Urreta claimed to have found the title in a list made by Antonio Greco and Lorenzo Cremonese, who in the second half of the sixteenth century had been sent to Ethiopia by Pope Gregory XIII and the librarian of the Vatican Library, Card. Sirletus. Urreta's position was popularized in the works of authors such as Samuel Purchas (Purchas His Pilgrimes, 1613), Nicolao Godinho (De Abassinorum rebus, 1615), George Sandys (A Relation of A Journey, 1615), and Peter Heylyn (Microcosmos, 1625).
Following these reports, the French intellectual and collector Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637) made strong efforts to recover the book but without success. The ms he purchased in 1636 thanks to the mediation of Gilles de Loches (Aegidius Lochiensis), did mention Enoch but was not a copy of the "lost" book of Enoch.
In 1652 Jacques Goar published the editio princeps of Syncellus' Chronography (Greek text & Latin translation). The fragments were also included in works by Athanasius Kircher (Oedipus Aegyptiacus, 1652-54), and Gottfried Vockerodt (De societatibus et re literaria ante diluvium, 1687),
In 1667 John Milton's poem Paradise Lost gave a prominent role to Enoch and the myth of the Fallen Angels.
For his antiquity the character of Enoch continued to be associated (or even identified) with other mythical figures of ancient wisdom. Kircher viewed him as the founder of Egyptian Wisdom and identified him with Hermes Trismegistus. The Jesuit Joachim Bouvet (1656–1732), a leader of the Figurist movement of Jesuit missionaries in China, claimed that Enoch and Fu Xi, the supposed author of the I Ching (or Classic of Changes), as well as Zoroaster and Hermes Trismegistus, were really the same person.
The Enoch Fragments of Syncellus and their publication (II): The 18th century
In the 18th century, the interest of scholars remained focused on the Enoch fragments of Syncellus, which provided the only textual evidence for 1 Enoch. They were included in the works of Scipione Sgambati (Archivorum veteris testamenti, 1703), and Johann Albert Fabricius (Codes pseudepigraphus Veteris Testamenti, 1713-23). The Fragments were translated into French (Pierre Jurieu, Histoire critique des dogmes et des cultes, 1704), German (Johann Christian Nehring, Neun Bücher Sibyllinischer Prophezeyungen, 1719), and partly, in English (A Universal History, vol.1, 1747; translated into Italian in 1765).
In 1710 Pompeo Sarnelli authored the first commentary on the surviving portions of the Book the Watchers. Nicolas Antoine Boulanger and Paul-Henri Thiry d'Holbach used the Syncellus fragments in their work on Enoch (1762). The 1820 Italian commentary by Daniele Manin was the last commentary of the Book of the Watchers based on the Greek of Syncellus. The "rediscovery" of the Ethiopic text and new Greek fragments during the 19th century deprived the Enoch Fragments of Syncellus of the centrality they had for two centuries in the early Enoch scholarship.
The Rediscovery of the whole Ethiopic Text of 1 Enoch (end of the 18th cent.)
In 1773 the explorer James Bruce finally reached Ethiopia and brought back three copies of the Ethiopic version of the whole 1 Enoch. One copy was presented to King Louis XV of France and ended in the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris; a second was given to the Bodleian Library in Oxford; and the third was retained by Bruce for himself, being added to the Bodleian collections only after his death in 1794. These were the first mss to be studied and published.
The mss, brought by Bruce, however, were not the only manuscripts of Ethiopic Enoch present in Europe at that time. At Rome there was indeed a copy of 1 Enoch, in the library of Card. Leonardo Antonelli; its provenance remains unknown. In 1775 the manuscript was examined by orientalist Agostino Antonio Giorgi, but remained unpublished. Shortly after Antonelli's death, it was purchased by Angelo Mai and became part of the collections of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.
The First Printed editions and Translations of 1 (Ethiopic) Enoch (19th cent.)
Silvestre de Salcy was the first scholar to publish a translation (in Latin) of portions of the Paris manuscript of 1 Enoch, with notes in French (1800). His notes were translated into German in 1801.
Eventually, Richard Laurence published in 1821 the first English translation of the whole 1 Enoch, followed by the editio princeps of the Ethiopic text in 1838. Both works were based on the manuscript at the Bodleian Library. In 1831-33 Eduard Rüppell’s expedition to Ethiopia produced Germany’s first exemplar of the book at the Stadtbibliothek in Frankfurt am Main. Two German translations (Hoffmann, 1833-38; and Clemens, 1850) and a Latin translation (Gfrörer, 1840), contributed to make the book available to the scholarly community.
In the 1830s and early 1840s, the character of Enoch held a prominent place in the revelations of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter-Day Saint movement. In the Life of Moses (6-7) Enoch is introduced as a prophet of repentance, a seer, and the builder of a city "that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion" (7:19).
If at the turn of the 18th century there were only a few Ethiopic manuscripts available in Europe, during the 19th century the number of manuscripts available increased dramatically as the result of new expeditions in Ethiopia and acquisitions from antique dealers. By the end of the 19th century, copies of 1 Enoch were present in libraries in England, France, Germany, Italy and the United States.
The Critical Study of 1 Enoch (1850-1950)
In 1851 August Dilmann published the first eclectic edition based on 5 manuscripts, and in 1853 a German translation with commentary. New translations appeared: in French (Brunet, 1856), English (George H. Schodde, 1882), and Hebrew (Lazarus Goldschmidt).
The knowledge of 1 Enoch was advanced by the availability of a greater number of Ethiopic manuscripts and by the publication in 1892-93 of a new Greek text (containing chs. 1-32). The ms (found in 1886-87 in Egypt) gave scholars not only a text larger than the one provided by the fragments of George Syncellus, but also a better understanding of the history of transmission of the text from the Semitic original to the Ethiopic. The English translation of Robert Henry Charles in 1893 was the first to use critically all this new material, thus opening a new stage in the history of research.
It was now possible to produce the first critical editions of the Ethiopic text--by Flemming in 1901, and Charles in 1906. New translations appeared--Beer 1900 [German]; Flemming 1901 [German]; Martin 1906 [French]; Charles 1912, and 1913 [English].
The pre-Christian date of the entire document (including the Parables) seemed to be solidly established and accepted (Gry 1909).
In comparison to the numerous publications at the turn of the century, only a limited number of studies appeared between the two World Wars. Notably, the material from Enoch was included by Paul Billerbeck in his Kommentar zum Neuen Testament (1924) and in Riessler's collection of OT Pseudepigrapha in German (1928). The major new resource was the discovery (in 1929) and publication (in 1937 by Campbell Bonner) of the Chester Beatty Papyrus, which preserved the Greek text of chaps. 97-107. The scholarly discussion remained focused on issues of primary interest for Christian theologians, in particular about the figure of the Son of Man in the Book of Parables, for its implication on the origin and development of early Christology.
1 Enoch in Limbo (1951-1975)
In 1951 a dramatic announcement shook the world of Enochic Studies. Józef T. Milik confirmed the presence at Qumran of Aramaic fragments from all Enoch booklets except the Parables. The rediscovery of significant portions of the original text was the beginning of a new chapter in the history of research even though in the immediate it resulted into a major setback. Twenty-five years passed from that dramatic announcement to the actual publication of the Aramaic Enoch fragments. For all those years, 1 Enoch was in limbo. A few new translations appeared, one in Danish (1956), two in Hebrew (1956, 1958), and one in Modern Greek (1973). Not surprisingly, the only major study of the period was Matthew Black's edition of the Greek fragments in 1970. Waiting for the actual publication of the Aramaic texts was necessary—it was simply a matter of good sense.
The Publication of the Aramaic Fragments by Milik (1976-2000)
The edition of the Qumran fragments by Józef T. Milik in 1976 reopened the research on 1 Enoch. In 1978 Michael Knibb published of a new edition of the Ethiopic text, which for the first time compared it with the newly founded fragments (Knibb 1978). Three scholars led the renaissance of Enochic Studies--George W.E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam in the United States and Paolo Sacchi (and his students and collaborators Sabino Chiala and Gabriele Boccaccini) in Europe. In the 1980s numerous new translations (Fusella 1981 [Italian]; Corrente/Piñero 1982 [Spanish]; Isaac 1983 [English]; Knibb (1984) [English]; Uhlig 1984 [German]; Black (1985) [English]; Caquot (1987) [French]) laid the foundation for a reevaluation of the importance of 1 Enoch within Second Temple Jewish literature.
The Enoch Seminar and the Hermeneia commentaries (2001-present)
The year 2001 marks a turning point in Enochic Studies. In the Summer 2001 the main American and European specialists in 1 Enoch gathered in Florence, Italy at the invitation of Gabriele Boccaccini for the first meeting of the Enoch Seminar, and in the Fall of the same year the first volume of the Hermeneia commentary was published by George W.E. Nickelsburg.
The traditional Ethiopian Commentary by Magābē Mesṭir Gērāwarq), so far preserved only in manuscripts, has been published in 2011 by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tawāhedo Church. The book is printed in Addis Abeba by Tensaē Printing press. Reference is made to Magābē Mesṭir Gērāwarq, specialist of Ethiopic Poetry and the Old Testament through his picture right before the beginning of the verse by verse commentary. The text is in Ge’ez and the commentary in Amharic. Instead of 108 chapters, 1 Enoch is divided into 42 chapters.
- Beth Langstaff, The Book of Enoch and the Ascension of Moses in Reformation Europe: Early Sixteenth-Century Interpretations of Jude 9 and Jude 14-15," in Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 23.2 (2013): 134-174
- Ted M. Ehro, and Loren T. Stuckenbruck, A Manuscript History of Ethiopic Enoch," in Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 23.2 (2013) 87-133
- Martin Fiddell, "The Book of Enoch, the Angelic Alphabet and the Real Cabbala in the Angelic Conferences of John Dee (1527-1608/9)," in The Henry Sweet Society Bulletin 48 (May 2007) 7ff.
- Grant McColley, "The Book of Enoch and Paradise Lost," in Harvard Theological Review 31.1 (January 1938) 21-39.
- Nathaniel Schmidt, “Traces of Early Acquaintance in Europe with the Book of Enoch.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 42 (1922) 44-52.
@2014-17 Gabriele Boccaccini, University of Michigan