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The Book of Enoch

“Book of Enoch” (1 Enoch)

The “Book of Enoch” (1 Enoch) is a collection of texts composed between about 350 B.C.E. and the turn of the era. It is the earliest extant example of an apocalyptic blend of Israelite prophetic and wisdom theologies best known from the Book of Daniel, and it witnesses the variety within Israelite religion in the Greco-Roman period.

Two myths shape the Book of Enoch. The first, related to Genesis 6:1–4,* ascribes the origins of evil to the rebellion of certain angels who mated with women and begat a race of giants that devastated the earth and whose demonic spirits continue to produce sin and misery. According to the second myth, Enoch (as said in Genesis 5:21–24) was taken to heaven, where he learned the secrets of the universe and of the coming judgment.

The Enochic texts claim to be Enoch’s revelations transmitted through his son, Methuselah. The various parts of 1 Enoch were composed in Aramaic and translated into Greek, and from Greek into ancient Ethiopic, in which version alone the entire collection has survived.

Qumran Cave 4 yielded fragments of 11 Aramaic manuscripts of parts of 1 Enoch that cover perhaps one fifth of the Ethiopic text, as well as nine ­Aramaic manuscripts of “the Book of the Giants,” a text not included in 1 Enoch.1 The 1 Enoch manuscripts attest both to how closely the Ethiopic text corresponds to its Aramaic prototypes in some places and to where it differs in others. The Giants fragments indicate that the Enochic tradition was richer than 1 Enoch suggests. Missing at Qumran are fragments of the Book of Parables (1 Enoch 37–71), a Jewish text that provides a context for New Testament “Son of Man” christology. The absence of the Book of Parables from Qumran probably indicates that this expression of Enochic theology developed in circles different from those directly ancestral to the group that collected the texts at Qumran. The other Enochic writings were authoritative at Qumran, however, and were popular among early Christian writers as well. The Enochic texts remain a canonical part of the Bible of the Ethiopian Church.

—George W.E. Nickelsburg, The University of Iowa

* This refers to the episode in Genesis when “the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them,” thus creating a race of giants called the Nephilim.

1 For the Qumran fragments, see any comprehensive translation of the scrolls. For the whole of 1 Enoch, see George W.E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam, 1 Enoch: A New Translation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004). For a commentary, see George W.E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of Enoch, Chapters 1–35, 81–108 (Hermeneia: Minneapolis, 2001).

Interested in the history and meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls? In the free eBook Dead Sea Scrolls, learn what the Dead Sea Scrolls are and why are they important. Find out what they tell us about the Bible, Christianity and Judaism.

The Temple Scroll

The Temple Scroll

The Temple Scroll is the longest Dead Sea Scroll (over 28 feet, preserved almost to its entire length) and one of the most important. It was excavated by Bedouin in Cave 11 in 1956 (since then no more scrolls have been discovered at Qumran).*

The Dead Sea Scrolls can be divided into three main categories: Biblical, sectarian and other. The Temple Scroll is sectarian, that is, it belongs to the Dead Sea sect, identified by most scholars with the Essenes. It was composed, most probably, in the second part of the second century B.C.E., approximately 200 years before the destruction of the Second Temple.

The scroll is a halakhic (legal) composition, a rewriting of Pentateuchal passages, dealing with the laws as they were interpreted by the sect (mostly laws that differ from the laws of normative, Pharisaic Judaism).

In the Pentateuch the Lord speaks to Moses and Moses speaks to the people. Here the Lord speaks directly to the people in the first person singular, and the style tries to imitate the language of the Book of Deuteronomy, but numerous slips betray its late origin.

Five major subjects are dealt with in the scroll: the Temple, the king’s statutes, the feasts, the festival sacrifices, and laws of purity. More than half of the scroll, however, is devoted to the Temple and the Temple City, hence its name. The members of the sect did not participate in the cult of the Temple that existed in their period because they regarded it as unclean. The temple described in the Temple Scroll is an ideal edifice that was never built.**

According to the scroll, the sect had a calendar of its own that was different from the calendar of the rest of the Jewish people. In addition to the regular Jewish feasts, the sect celebrated festivals of the first fruits such as the Festival of the First Wine and the Festival of the First Oil.

The law code of the sect is characterized by its harsh and ultra-conservative laws. For instance, they prohibited sexual relations in Jerusalem, and they prescribed that lavatories were to be built at a distance of about a mile away from the Holy City.

—Magen Broshi, former curator of the Shrine of the Book, The Israel Museum in Jerusalem

*It was recovered in 1967 and published in 1977 (Hebrew edition) and 1983 (English) by Yigael Yadin

**See Magen Broshi, “The Gigantic Dimensions of the Visionary Temple in the Temple Scroll,” BAR, November/December 1987.

The War Scroll

The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness

The Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness (or in short, the War Scroll) is one of the first seven Dead Sea Scrolls to have been discovered. Its genre is unique, describing an eschatological war that is to put an end to evil in the world. It is a kind of military manual, intended for priests, describing their role in providing ceremonial, cultic, and even tactical leadership to the army of the Sons of Light.

The introduction (Columns 1–2) gives the historical background to the war and the sequence of its development. It will begin with a “War against the Kittim,” a short but intense battle against Israel’s eschatological enemy (Numbers 24:24). After six rounds during which the Sons of Light will alternate between gaining and losing the upper hand, God will intervene with his mighty hand to miraculously bring victory.

This battle will introduce a second stage in the eschatological war, the “War of Divisions,” one that will be launched after six years of war preparations during which Israel’s exiles will be able to return to Jerusalem. The fighting itself will be spread out over 35 years, with breaks every sabbatical year, until the entire world is conquered.
Columns 3–9 are a series of rules (called serakhim in Hebrew), describing the trumpets and banners to be used, the different infantry and cavalry units, various purity rules, as well as tactical matters. These rules, originally intended for the War of Divisions, were eventually adapted to fit the War against the Kittim, as in Columns 15–19. Columns 10–14 are a series of prayers, imported from other sources, to be recited on the battlefield.

From Cave 4, seven additional scrolls related to the eschatological war were found (4Q491–7), being either copies of the War Scroll or compositions closely related to it, or perhaps its sources. They further support the impression gathered from the War Scroll that it had at least two stages in its composition, a first dating to the Maccabean period (Columns 1–9), and a second (Columns 10–19) intended to adapt the composition to a new reality resulting from the Roman conquest of Judea in 63 B.C.E.

—Brian Schultz, Bar-Ilan University

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  • Gary says

    One thing is for sure then, as it is now that The Lord intervenes where He wants too and when He wants to.,And who He wants to,like me’.He revealed Himself to me in a vision and like Enoch,the Lord will take me too without death,and I’m very excited about that and you should be too,It will happen in my lifetime because I was still alive in my vision and that was 20years ago.I have been waiting since then,and the way things are lately,and I’m another year older,it wont be long now,,The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand.
    In Christ, Gary Miller.

  • Anna says

    Thank you for posting this information

  • Brett says

    Mr. Brian Schultz or Mr. George W.E. Nickelsburg, either one, how can you possibly make a statement that the Book of Enoch has a mythical story of Nephalim mating with earth woman when the universal understanding we have from numerous writings shows that it was the first and second century belief? How can we possibly stand at such a great distance away (1900 years +) and make such a statement? Where is the evidence that Enoch was written in 350 BC rather than prior to the flood as the book claims? The passing down of copies of copies of scrolls, and then codices, etc, is how it has happened throughout history, so how can we say that the Book of Enoch was not really written by Enoch? Especially since we have Jude, half brother of Jesus according to early Christian record, says the 1 Enoch 1:9 is a prophecy in Jude 1:14-15? We have Justin Martyr around 150 AD, and Tertullian 200 AD both give account of events we see in Enoch. Tertullian even speaks of Enoch. Irenaeus speaks of this fallen angel and human woman testimony too. We have Josephus and Philo speaking of it. The account is testified in Jubilees as well. So much evidence that I don’t see how you can say such a thing in good conscience. Where is your counter evidence to overcome such massive testimony of its authenticity?

  • ResLigtht says

    There is nothing in Genesis 5:21-24 that says that Enoch was taken up to heaven. He was taken into the oblivious condition of what is later referred to as sheol (Ecclesiastes 9:5,10), the realm of death, without experiencing the act of dying. Hebrews 11:5,13 shows that he did die.

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