1 Enoch

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.

Spatial axis

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

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.

The present (end of week 7)

The future


  1. What is the contrast between licit and illicit knowledge in 1 Enoch?
  2. What is 1 Enoch’s answer to the view that injustice predominates God’s creation?
  3. Besides direct visionary knowledge or revealed knowledge, how does 1 Enoch indicate we can know about the end of the world?
  4. How does the Book of the Watchers explain suffering?
  5. What characterizes the “the chosen” in the Apocalypse of Weeks?

Further reading

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.