The readings for this hour both come from a collection which scholars call 1 Enoch.
In order of composition, 1 Enoch consists of five major parts:
the Astronomical Book,
the Book of the Watchers,
the Book of Dreams (including the Animal Apocalypse),
the Epistle of Enoch (including the Apocalypse of Weeks),
and the Parables of Enoch (in addition to various passages squeezed in at various points).
This collection is part of the canon in the Church of Ethiopia, and we also have pieces of it in Greek translations and the original Aramaic.
The work was quoted as scripture in the New Testament (Jude 1:14) and was tremendously influential, directly and indirectly.
It’s exclusion from the canon might have more to do with having been esoteric literature from the beginning, not intended to be accessed by children and the general public.
Even those who disagreed with its theology (e.g. the Book of Jubilees) did not deny its authenticity as the most ancient human writing.
I think Himmelfarb does much of what I would have wanted to do in a reading guide, so I will keep it short here and ask everyone to read her pages 15-30.
I will say more about the points relevant to eschatology.
If we have questions and time we can talk about related issues of the figure of Enoch, canon formation, Enochic Judaism, scribalism, and biblical interpretation.
The Book of the Watchers
The Book of the Watchers is the oldest typical apocalypse (the Astronomical Book is older, but not a fully developed apocalypse).
Much of what we said last week about Daniel and apocalypses in general applies to the Book of the Watchers.
- There are invisible places of reward and punishment.
If you knew what Enoch knows you would be more concerned about your afterlife than about this life.
Justice, though invisible, is radical.
- There are angelic agents of good and evil who are responsible for the world as we know it.
There are evil angels who corrupt humanity and the cosmos itself.
There are good angels who, though good, explain some of the bureaucratic inefficacy that impedes the justice one would expect from God.
- Evil is cosmic in origin and supernatural in its power.
Human action alone did not cause it and is not sufficient to overcome it.
Whereas Daniel had a relatively limited historical scope of the past and imminent future, the Book of the Watchers develops the temporal axis on the basis of primordial history.
Here is is worth learning two German words, Urzeit and Endzeit.
Zeit means “time.” End means “end.” You may have encountered Ur before if you studied Rahner.
It could be translated as “original,” “before,” “first,” or with Zeit as “primordial times.” The basic idea is that the end-time correlates closely with the first-time.
Epistemologically, this is one answer to the question, “how do we know?” We can know about the end-time by reasoning from the pattern and reversal of the first-time.
Of course this is all presented as a revelation, which is a different answer to the question of epistemology.
Urzeit - Endzeit correlations
- The current/second rise of wickedness has precedent in the former rise of wickedness.
The current evil is like the evil in the days of Noah.
Implicit in this view is that the current state of the world is worse than it has ever been since the flood.
Our problems are not ordinary problems.
This view is more rational in some periods (Antiochus Epiphanes, Domitian) than in others.
- The election of Noah is like the election of the current sect or group of wise people who know the truth.
We are Noah.
Note that the analogy lends itself to very small proportions; only a few are saved.
- Any day now there will be a judgment comparable to the judgment in the days of Noah.
God will destroy the earth, except the small remnant protected.
Note that there is a problem here because in Genesis God says three times, “Never again will I destroy the earth with a flood” (Gen 8:21; 9:11, 15).
As we shall see in 2 Peter, one answer to this is to emphasize, “with a flood,” so God will destroy the earth with fire instead.
- After the flood, the remnant inherited the earth.
So will we.
However, the restoration in Genesis seems not to be very positive.
The promise of a new creation has NOT been fulfilled in the days of Noah and his son.
Note in Book of the Watchers (BW) 10 the renovation commanded has not happened in the past.
- Images of new creation often look back further to the first creation.
God will put the earth back the way it was, literally or figuratively returning to Eden.
On this point you could consider doing further reading in the Animal Apocalypse.
The Animal Apocalypse portrays humanity degrading in quality from Adam down to the present.
In the future this pattern will reverse and we will be like Adam again.
Interestingly enough, even the Jewish people are part of the decline, and the separation of one nation from another will be undone and all children of Adam will be one nation.
The sequence is a bit more complicated in that Jews are vindicated before they are dissolved.
However, the end result is understandably controversial, and anticipates Paul’s conclusion, “there is no Gentile or Jew... all are one in Christ” (Gal 3:28).
- According to the Book of the Watchers, evil originated with rebel angels, not human choice.
(Himmelfarb suggests a moderate acknowledgement of some secondary human responsibility.)
If the origin of evil is supernatural, the resolution of evil must be supernatural.
(If the origin of evil were human, humans could overcome it.)
The battle between good and evil is much bigger than you or me, or even all of humanity.
Michael Stone once taught me that we can see this in Rabbinic Jewish and Christian understandings of the messiah.
For Rabbinic Jews, the messiah is fundamentally and solely human, and helps turn people away from sin.
For Christians, who developed from an apocalyptic milieu, the messiah had of necessity to be divine in order to conquer cosmic evil.
As Himmelfarb treats well, Enoch’s cosmic tour had significant influence on later Jewish and Christian texts.
Although the situation in the Book of the Watchers is not identical to later notions of Satan, heaven, and hell, there are major influences and similarities.
The Apocalyspe of Weeks
Whereas the Book of the Watchers is primarily a cosmic tour on the spatial axis with implications along the temporal axis, the Apocalypse of Weeks is primarily a historical apocalypse along the temporal axis with implications along the spatial axis.
It is also a short apocalypse with the major features of the apocalypses, which makes it a great teaching tool.
The narrative framework: The genre apocalypse always includes a narrative framework, the telling of the story of the revelation before we get to the content of the revelation.
The past: The Apocalyspe of Weeks (AW) reviews history as seven periods called “weeks.” Though somewhat cryptic, the references would have been clear to the original audience.
- Week 1: “born the seventh” = Enoch
- Week 2: “a man will be saved” = Noah
- Week 3: “man will be chosen as the plant of righteous judgment” = Abraham
- Week 4: “visions” = theophany at Sinai, “covenant” = Law of Moses, “tabernacle” = sanctuary of Aaron
- Week 5: “temple” = Solomon’s temple (the first temple)
- Week 6: “a man will ascend” = Elijah
- Week 7: temple burned and dispersion = Babylonian invasion and exile
The present (end of week 7)
- “perverse generation” = post-exilic priests (note the second temple is not even acknowledged)
- “the chosen will be chosen” = group of composition
- “will be given sevenfold wisdom” = a good example of revealed, as opposed to studied, knowledge
- Week 8: human agency, sword, judgment, temple built
- Week 9: law (same or different?) will be revealed to Gentiles and followed, wickedness vanishes
- Week 10: cosmic judgment for watchers, heaven, stars
- What is the contrast between licit and illicit knowledge in 1 Enoch?
- What is 1 Enoch’s answer to the view that injustice predominates God’s creation?
- Besides direct visionary knowledge or revealed knowledge, how does 1 Enoch indicate we can know about the end of the world?
- How does the Book of the Watchers explain suffering?
- What characterizes the “the chosen” in the Apocalypse of Weeks?
George W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001.
John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.
Martha Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses. New York: Oxford, 1993.
John J. Collins, ed., The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism Volume 1, The Origins of Apocalypticism in Judaism and Christianity. 3 vols. Vol. 1. New York: Continuum, 1998.