Enoch: Its History and Role in New Testament Understanding


Second Temple Judaism was the context in which the New Testament texts were penned, and studying the non-canonical Jewish literature produced during this era can help bring greater understanding to those texts.1 Richard Bauckham strongly suggests that “Only someone who understands early Judaism for its own sake will be able to use Jewish texts appropriately and accurately in the interpretation of the New Testament.”2 At the same time, Jews who become more acquainted with the literature of the Second Temple period may find the New Covenant Scriptures more familiar than they may have previously thought.

One of the earliest apocalyptic texts written during the Second Temple period is
1 Enoch.3 Not only does this writing shed light on the development of Judaism during this critical time period, but it also showcases a prime example of apocalyptic literature.4 Some scholars, such as Ephraim Isaac, have proposed that 1 Enoch could be “the most important non-canonical apocalypse for students of the New Testament.”5 Although studying apocalyptic literature from the Second Temple period is not uncommon in scholarship today, John E. H. Thomson felt compelled to pen these words almost one hundred and thirty years ago: “Hence, to understand the time when Christ was in the world, and the influences then at work, we must master the apocalyptic books.”6

Portions of 1 Enoch may appear bizarre or extraneous, but its overarching message—exhorting the righteous to live holy lives while looking ahead to the Day of Judgment—is a familiar theme to New Testament readers. Exploring 1 Enoch’s history, the thematic summaries of the five booklets, and samples of its relevance to the New Testament writings, offers a unique window for discovering enshrouded gems within the New Testament.

Historical Background of 1 Enoch

Enoch is first mentioned in Genesis in the account of Adam’s genealogical history:

When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him. (Gen 5:21–24, NRSV)

Enoch, who was in the prime of his life by pre-flood standards, would be the first man documented to escape the fate of all mankind—death, according to the Jewish author of the Book of Hebrews.7 The mystery of the righteous figure Enoch inspired flourishing imaginations of the Jewish writers of Enochic literature.8 This literature found a welcome audience, as a number of Jewish and gentile believers in Yeshua of the first century read and esteemed the Jewish apocalypses, which elaborated upon humankind’s timeless concern about “the fate of the dead.”9 The impact that apocalyptic Judaism had on early Christianity has led some New Testament scholars to posit that “apocalyptic Judaism was the mother of all Christian theology.”10 John J. Collins, professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation at Yale Divinity School agrees that apocalyptic Judaism played an integral role in the developing stages of Christianity.11

As a genre, apocalyptic literature encapsulates the revelation of supernatural activity transmitted to a worthy human being who carried the message of the final judgment to come when the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished.12 Collins notes that apocalyptic writings are a “scribal phenomenon” written by pseudonymous authors who are esteemed as wise men or scribes, such as Enoch or Daniel.13 Collins also advocates for the idea that apocalyptic literature in general was not produced by a solitary movement; therefore, for instance, the writings of Daniel cannot be linked with the same group who produced the Enochic literature.14

One of the unique features often seen in Second Temple apocalyptic literature, such as 1 Enoch, is its pseudonymous character. Pseudepigrapha, as such writings are known, are a form of writing that assigns as its author a famous, usually righteous, person.15 Although many people have negative connotations surrounding the term, James VanderKam has a more positive association and claims that “it could be called a reverse form of plagiarism—writing something oneself and crediting it to someone else.”16 James Charlesworth points out that many of the Pseudepigrapha writers may have believed that they were God’s mouthpiece, inspiring others to live holy lives.17 While some have speculated that the use of pseudonymity was widespread in the Hellenistic age because of the author’s fear of persecution, Collins finds that theory unsatisfying, as he explains that not all apocalypses would have attracted persecution and some writers would not have balked at martyrdom. Instead, Collins suggests that using a pseudonym heightened the authority of the writing.18 William Adler, on the other hand, suggests that while a pseudonym did add weight to the authority of the writing, it was the appeal to secrecy that was the most enthralling.19 Devorah Dimant, professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa, points out that the Jews at Qumran were the original preservers of Jewish apocryphal and pseudepigraphical writings.20 This fact was unknown until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, before which the preservation of these texts had been attributed solely to the early church.

Also noteworthy is the perspective of Gershom Scholem, a scholar of Jewish mysticism and father of the modern study of Kabbalah, who argues that early Jewish mysticism traces its beginnings to biblical and pseudepigraphic traditions.21 Scholem wrote extensively about the connection between early Jewish mysticism and apocalyptic texts, namely 1 and 2 Enoch and the Apocalypse of Abraham, with mystical elements about Maaseh Merkavah “Works of the Chariot,” found in later Mishnaic and Talmudic sources.22

Thematic Summaries of the Five Booklets

As one of the most complete examples of apocalyptic writings, 1 Enoch has enjoyed a fair degree of study. 1 Enoch is a composite work, consisting of one hundred eight chapters, ranging in date from the third century BCE to the first century CE. The five main sections, or booklets, of the Enochic work include The Book of the Watchers; The Similitudes of Enoch, sometimes referred to as The Book of Parables; The Epistle of Enoch; The Astronomical Book; and The Book of Dreams, which includes “The Animal Apocalypse.”23

The Book of the Watchers

The authors of the Enochic literature drew from the Tanakh as their primary source.24 VanderKam explains that 1 Enoch is an example of rewritten scripture in that it “seizes upon some hero from the Hebrew Bible and expands upon scriptural stories about him.”25 This is evident in The Book of the Watchers, as it begins with the Genesis 6:1–5 text and creatively expands upon the story of when “the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them.” According to John Collins, the central feature of The Book of The Watchers is the account of the fallen angels.26 The Enochic rendition of the Genesis narrative identifies the “sons of God” as “Watchers,” whose desire for the beautiful human daughters led them to plan a supernatural rebellion.27 The saga develops as twenty of the chief Watchers, hell-bent on executing their devilish plan of intermingling with the mortal women, swear an oath and bind one another with a curse, before descending to the earth from the top of Mount Hermon.28 As a result of the unholy unions, violent, oppressive giants were born who wreaked havoc on all humankind.29 The author of The Book of the Watchers describes the giants with these words:

They consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another’s flesh, and drink the blood.
(1 Enoch 7:3–5)30

Not only did the Watchers defile themselves with human women and produce the angelic-human hybrid giants, but they also disclosed forbidden knowledge that led to the corruption of the human race.31 Among the sins committed by the Watchers recorded in 1 Enoch 8:1–2 are teaching humans how to make weapons of war, teaching women how to beautify themselves with jewelry and cosmetics, and teaching sorcery. The righteous Enoch enters the story by agreeing to petition God to forgive the angelic rebellion. Nevertheless, God denies his request and instead issues an irrevocable sentence that the fallen angelic Watchers are to remain in prison until the time of the final judgment when they will meet their ultimate punishment and destruction.

One of the most consequential outcomes of the angelic rebellion is the spiritual status of the giants. Annette Yoshiko Reed explains that since the intrinsic nature of the giants is contaminated by the “mingling of spirit and flesh,” upon the expiration of their physical bodies, their spirits roam the earth, carrying on the corruption of humankind that was begun by the Watchers.32 After considering the effect of the Watchers’ rebellion and the monumental effects that ensued thereafter upon humanity, Philip Esler opines that “the punishment they received is a just one because the Watchers abandoned and traded their heavenly abode for mortal women on earth.”33

Bauckham points to a focus on the origin of sin in The Book of the Watchers. Moreover, he leaves room for the possibility that the Enochic attribution to supernatural beings of bearing the brunt of responsibility for the defilement of humanity could be the first of its kind in Jewish literature.34 In sum, the Enochic tradition provides further explanation for the widespread virus of evil that became a pandemic among humanity.

The Similitudes (The Book of Parables)

In The Similitudes, Enoch receives a number of revelations in the form of parables, in which one of the main emphases is on the “great reversal” that will take place in the eschaton, when the wicked will be punished and the righteous will be blessed.35 VanderKam explains that in The Similitudes, Enoch is styled as a “son of man,” who plays a major role in the final judgment concerning the righteous and the wicked.36 Isaac elaborates that the focus on the “Messiah,” the “Son of Man,” “the Righteous One,” and the “Elect One,” sets The Similitudes apart from the other four Enochic booklets.37 Because of this uniqueness scholars suspected that Christians may have composed or reworked an earlier Jewish document; consequently, the book was initially discounted, even though Aramaic portions of this text from Qumran were available to study in the 1950s.38 For instance, E.P. Sanders omitted the Parables of Enoch from his seminars because he believed the book was “probably post-Christian in origin.”39 Moreover, every booklet from 1 Enoch has been found at Qumran, with the exception of The Similitudes.40

In recent decades, however, the Son of Man motif found in The Similitudes has sparked much attention within Second Temple scholarship, especially its relation to the New Testament’s use of the term by Jesus in the Gospels. This has fueled debate among New Testament scholars regarding the relevance of the “son of man” title for Jesus in Gospel writings.41 While some scholars dismiss the title for Jesus altogether, Daniel Boyarin, a Jewish scholar, elaborates on the Son of Man theme in Second Temple Judaism and argues that some Jews during the time of Jesus were looking for a Messiah with both human and divine qualities based on the Daniel 7 passage.42 Here, he expounds on the relationship between The Similitudes and Daniel 7 via the story of an earlier work, The Book of the Watchers:

The second book of 1 Enoch, the Similitudes of Enoch, is a product roughly of the same time as the Gospel of Mark—but there is a still earlier first book. Known as the Book of the Watchers, this first book of 1 Enoch is probably as old as the third century BC. Enoch 14, from the Book of the Watchers, is thematically directly related to Daniel 7, and very probably its progenitor, which is to say that the vision of Daniel was based on an even older literary apocalyptic tradition.43

Boyarin notes, “Versions of this narrative, the Son of Man story (the story that is later named Christology), were widespread among Jews before the advent of Jesus; Jesus entered into a role that existed prior to his birth, and this is why so many Jews were prepared to accept him as the Christ, as the Messiah, Son of Man.”44 According to Boyarin, “all of the elements of Christology are essentially in place there in The Similitudes. We have a preexistent heavenly figure, who is the Son of Man. We have an earthly life, a human sage exalted into heaven at the end of an earthly career, enthroned in heaven at the right side of the Ancient of Days as the preexistent and forever reigning Son of Man.”45

The Astronomical Book

Four copies of The Astronomical Book were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q208–11). According to scholars, The Astronomical Book, the earliest of the Enochic writings, dating from 200 to 150 BCE, records the journey in which Enoch learns about the inner workings of the sun, moon, and stars, beholding them as they pass through the heavenly gates.46 As Helyer highlights, the treatise presents a preoccupation with time, especially the concern about the solar calendar year of three hundred sixty-four days, as opposed to the lunar calendar year with only three hundred sixty days.47 Helyer goes on to explain that the author of the treatise appears to be in a dispute with a particular, unidentified group that abides by the lunar calendar, which, according to Enoch, “is an error of grave proportions.”48 Interestingly, copies of The Astronomical Book were found among other writings among the Dead Sea Scrolls that reveal a fixation around using the correct calendar; consequently, this has led to a consensus among scholars suggesting that the Qumran community likely shared its calendrical views.49

The Book of Dreams

The Book of Dreams features Enoch recounting two of his visions to Methuselah, his son. The first vision consists of a dire warning of the coming Deluge, punishing the world for its sinful deeds against God and humanity.50 Enoch’s second vision, “The Animal Apocalypse,” allegorizes Israel’s history from Adam to the end of days where the people of Israel and the nations are portrayed as different animals. The author has purposefully assigned specific animals to represent each group or person: “Oxen symbolize the patriarchs; sheep represent the faithful Israelites; beasts and birds of prey signify the heathen oppressors of Israel; a great honored sheep characterizes a rising Jewish leader; and a white bull with great horns is the Messiah.”51

One area of contention among scholars regarding “The Animal Apocalypse” is the potentially negative reference about the temple in 1 Enoch 89:73, which states: “And they began again to build as before, and they reared up that tower, and it was named the high tower; and they began again to place a table before the tower, but all the bread on it was polluted and not pure.”52 Collins reasons that this verse could imply “a rupture with what was arguably the most central symbol in Judaism at that time.”53 What perplexes Collins even more, however, is that Enoch, not Moses, takes center stage as Israel’s mediator of revelation. This conundrum leads Collins to question the esteem of the Mosaic covenant in the mindset of the Enochic author.54 Similarly, George Nickelsburg argues that “Enochic wisdom was an alternative to the Mosaic Torah.55 Lydia Gore-Jones, however, views the Enochic text through a Mosaic lens. She contends that the symbolic nature of the apocalypse stands firm on the Mosaic foundational bedrock, making distinctions between clean and unclean animals which are used in the categorization between Israel and the nations of the world.56

However one chooses to interpret the creative composition of “The Animal Apocalypse,” the author’s use of metaphorical language to inform Israel’s history is artistically accomplished.

The Epistle of Enoch

The writer(s) of The Epistle of Enoch, chapters 91–108, are thought to have drawn upon earlier Enochic works, such as The Book of the Watchers and The Astronomical Book, as their source for the compositions.57 The Epistle of Enoch begins with Enoch’s final instructions to his sons prior to his departure from the earth. In keeping with the apocalyptic flavor of the text, Enoch reminds his sons of the eternal bliss that awaits the righteous and of the woes of impending doom that lie in store for the wicked and the wealthy, exploitive sinners who oppressed the poor and needy on earth.58 George Nickelsburg explains that Enoch’s impartation to his sons borrows from biblical and post-biblical wisdom literature.59 Included in the Epistle of Enoch is “The Apocalypse of Weeks,” which repeats an accounting of Israel’s history, but ends with an eschatological hope that God’s purpose for Israel will finally be realized, and “The Book of Noah,” which narrates the peculiar details surrounding Noah’s birth.60

1 Enoch’s Relevance to the New Testament

Scholars have observed that 1 Enoch had an influence on the writers of the New Testament, as seen in all four Gospels, Second Peter, Jude, and Revelation.61 The strongest ally lending credibility to the Enochic text is Jude, the brother of Jesus. Bauckham insightfully notes that “the body of the letter is more like a homily than a letter: it consists of a midrash on a series of scriptural references and texts.”62 Jude shows competence in the Greek language, but according to Bauckham, “the author’s real intellectual background is in the literature of Palestinian Judaism.”63

In warning his flock about false teachers that have slipped in among them, Jude not only makes two observable allusions to 1 Enoch, but also directly quotes from The Book of The Watchers (1 Enoch 1:9), styling Enoch as a genuine prophet.64 Jude masterfully weaves incidents from the Exodus, wilderness journey, and Sodom and Gomorrah with the fall of the Watchers alluded to Genesis 6:1–4.65

Illustrating the gravity of the fate of the false teachers, Jude refers to the angelic rebellion, implicitly mentioned in Genesis chapter six, but more fully developed in the Watchers account: “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day” (Jude 6 NIV). In calling to mind the fate of the Watchers, Jude reminds his readers of the judgment of God in verses 14–15:

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (NIV)

Remarkably, when comparing the original Enochic text with Jude’s rendition, we see Jude applying a Christological interpretation of the original Enochic verses. While 1 Enoch states, “Behold he will arrive with ten million of the holy ones . . .” Jude exchanges “he” with “the Lord,” identifying Jesus as the one who is coming.66

Second Peter is another New Testament letter that alludes to the writing of 1 Enoch. The author of Second Peter also makes an allusion to the story of the Watchers’ rebellion: “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment . . .” (2:4). But unlike Jude, Peter does not directly quote the Enochic text. While some scholars have proposed that Peter did not agree with Jude’s validation of Enoch as a prophet, Watson suggests that the “Watcher story” could have been a widespread tradition that the writer of Second Peter picked up from another source, so that the lack of a direct quote does not imply antagonism toward 1 Enoch.67 Whether or not Peter was familiar with the Enochic tradition, scholars widely agree that he relied upon Jude as a source.68

Reception of 1 Enoch among Jews and Christians

Besides Jude, other Jewish authors reference 1 Enoch in works such The Book of Jubilees, written in the second century BCE, which relies exclusively on The Book of Watchers for the re-telling of the events leading up to the flood. Other Jewish texts that honored 1 Enoch include 2 Baruch, a Jewish pseudepigraphical work written after 70 CE; 2 Esdras, a Jewish apocalypse written after 70 CE; The Assumption of Moses, written around the first century CE; and the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, completed by the second century CE.69 Also noteworthy is the perspective of Gershom Scholem, a scholar of Jewish mysticism and the father of modern study of Kabbalah, who argues that early Jewish mysticism traces its beginnings to biblical and pseudepigraphic traditions.70 Scholem wrote extensively about the connection between early Jewish mysticism and apocalyptic texts, namely 1 and 2 Enoch and the Apocalypse of Abraham, with mystical elements about Maaseh Merkavah “Works of the Chariot,” found in later Mishnaic and Talmudic sources.71

The fact that Jude quotes directly from 1 Enoch in his epistle helps explain the great honor in which the writing was held by many Church Fathers.72 Among those who were inspired by the work and treated it as Scripture are Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian.73 Tertullian held to the belief that 1 Enoch was one of the Scriptures and referred to its author as “the oldest prophet.”74 But by the early third century, attitudes about 1 Enoch began to change and Tertullian no longer was supported by others who embraced the book with his same enthusiasm. The critics of the text, however, did not find problems with the work’s contents or even the groups that embraced it; rather, with the passing of time, they questioned its genuineness.75 By the fourth century, many books of the time were being inspected under a penetrating light that served to separate orthodox teaching from the heterodox ideas circulating at the time. While other Jewish Apocalyptic literature underwent vigorous inspection, 1 Enoch possibly held the title for the most scrutinized work of all.76

As a result, 1 Enoch fell out of favor in the mainstream church and Augustine and Jerome gave negative reviews of the once honored books.77 Although the Apostolic Constitutions eventually rejected it as not canonical, Jerome did consider it to be among the spiritually edifying apocryphal books.78 In the same timeframe, rabbinic Jews lost interest in 1 Enoch, as the book seemed to be in contrast to Jewish orthodoxy. Both Rabbi Judah the Prince, who compiled the Mishnah, and Jerome rejected the books of Enoch as canonical and placed them in the apocryphal category.79 An interesting development came about in the seventh century, when Jacob of Edessa made an appeal for 1 Enoch to be reconsidered as a genuine text. He explained that in the time of Athanasius, “the abuse of secret books by heretics required a blanket condemnation of all of them. But now that the crisis was past, the genuine books, notably Enoch, could be rehabilitated for legitimate purpose.”80 This shows that although the book was rejected by some early on, interest in the Enochic literature persisted throughout time.

There was, however, one branch of Christianity that accepted the Enochic text as Scripture and adopted it as part of their canon—The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.81 The Ethiopian Church translated multiple copies from Greek into Ethiopic (Ge’ez), the text forming the basis of all modern translations today.

According to Knibb, the existence of the Ethiopic version of 1 Enoch was hidden until 1773 when James Bruce returned from Ethiopia with three copies of the Ethiopic manuscripts. Richard Laurence published a translation of 1 Enoch in 1821 based on one of these copies, creating excitement across Europe. R.H. Charles released his own translation of the Ethiopic texts in 1913, after which enthusiasm for 1 Enoch began to fade to the background again. But in 1952, Aramaic fragments from the Enoch texts were found in a cave at Qumran. In 1976, Jozef Milik published a volume entitled The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4.82 Since this discovery, interest in 1 Enoch has seen a resurgence.

To date, 1 Enoch exists in its complete form only in the Ethiopic version. However, fragments of the text have been found in Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. Scholars debate about the original language of 1 Enoch. Some scholars believe that it was originally written in Hebrew, while some claim that Aramaic was the original language. Some scholars subscribe to a third idea that, like Daniel, it was composed partly in Aramaic and partly in Hebrew.83

Two New Testament Passages Read Through the Lens of 1 Enoch

Demonology is rarely addressed in the Tanakh, but it takes on more prominence by the time of the writing of the Gospels, indicating that these concepts had become well-developed during the Second Temple period.84 Since the Enochic writings portrayed demonic activity on the earth as a consequence of the rebellion of the fallen angels, knowledge of this literature helped pave the way for familiarity with the presence of evil spirits on the earth observed in New Testament narratives.85 With this in mind, Archie Wright conjectures that the concept of demonology had its origination in the Watcher story, then was elaborated upon in the book of Jubilees and, finally, was solidified by the New Testament writers.86

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus liberates victims of demonic oppression on four occasions. Vernon Robbins insightfully explains that Jesus’ exorcism in Mark “appears to be apocalyptic in its worldview.”87 The first exorcism recorded in Mark took place on the Sabbath when Jesus was teaching at the synagogue. While the people were amazed by Jesus’ authoritative teaching, one of the synagogue attendees, who was possessed by a demonic spirit, identified Jesus as “the Holy One of God!” and asked if he had come to destroy them (Mark 1:24 NIV). Jesus casts out the evil spirit and the people are astir with more astonishment, asking each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him” (Mark 1:27 NIV). Robbins explains that Jesus’ pronouncement earlier in the chapter (“The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”) carries an eschatological hope that is realized with the “new teaching” in Mark 1:27.88 Therefore, through an Enochic interpretative lens, the demonic realm has been given notice that the Kingdom of God is at hand, reminding them of the impending doom that awaits them at the final judgment.

Hints of the Watcher story can also be detected in the narrative of the Gerasene demoniac in Mark chapter five, where readers are reminded that demonic spirits roam throughout the earth. Nicholas Elder argues that “The Book of Watchers was extraordinarily influential in Second Temple Judaism and, therefore, should be interpreted as the formative conceptual framework for this Marcan demonological narrative.”89 Elder draws attention to the fact that Mark specifically chooses the term “unclean” or “impure” spirit, rather than “demonic” spirit in both the account of the possessed synagogue attendee in Mark 1:23 and the Gerasene demoniac in Mark 5. He contends that if Mark has the Watcher story in view, the language could offer a subtle insinuation, identifying the unclean spirits as the offspring of the Watchers, calling to mind the final judgment that awaits them:90

And in those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined forever. . . . And destroy all the spirits of the reprobate and the children of the Watchers, because of the harm they have caused humans. (1 Enoch 10:13; 15)

From the perspective of the unclean spirits possessing the man from the country of the Gerasenes, Jesus would be terrifying; their reign of terror would soon come to an end and off to the abyss they would go.

Another striking observation in the Gerasene account is the identification of Jesus. The Legion identifies him as “Jesus, Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7). Some scholars have deduced that the identity of Jesus in this account is interpreted in view of a gentile context, and that “Son of the Most High God” is either a gentile circumlocution for the divine name of the God of Israel or, in its Greco-Roman context, a title held in reserve for Zeus.91 Drawing from The Book of the Watchers as a third option for interpreting the text, Elder suggests that the title “Most High” is a circumlocution of the divine name used in 1 Enoch 10:1, “Then said the Most High, the Holy and Great One . . .”92 This is noteworthy because the context of 1 Enoch 10:1–6 describes the Most High ordering that the ring-leader of the Watchers, Azazel, be bound hand and foot and cast into utter darkness, “and on the day of the great judgment he shall be cast into the fire.”93 If Elder is correct in forming a connection between the Watcher story and the Gerasene demoniac account, this would help explain why Jesus granted Legion’s request and restrained himself from sending them straight to the abyss; he was honoring the set time of final judgment that was yet at a distance in the future.94

Another possible inference of Enochic influence on a New Testament text is Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus. Amy Richter presents a compelling case that reading the birth narrative in Matthew 1 against the backdrop of The Book of the Watchers reveals Jesus as the “repairer of the effects of the Watchers’ rebellion.”95 Heiser concurs by noting that “Only one person could undo what the Watchers had done: The Messiah.”96 In short, “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8 NIV).

Richter builds her case by showing that Jesus unravels the spool of destruction that was executed by the Watchers’ mutiny. God foils their plan and redeems humanity by sending Jesus in a heavenly-human birth. Richter supposes that since the Watchers had transgressed the fixed order by sexual corruption with human women, the prescribed remedy for the ultimate reversal would be a holy re-creation: “the child is the product of the heavenly (Holy Spirit) and earthly (Mary), but without sexual union between the heavenly Holy Spirit and earthly Mary.”97 In contrast to the Watchers who descended to earth, resulting in the corruption of human beings, Jesus came down to earth to redeem humanity, liberating captives from the shackles of sin.

Richter elaborates on this hypothesis by highlighting Matthew’s genealogical account and the scandalous reputations associated with the women in Jesus’ family tree. The women listed in the account are Rahab, a prostitute; Tamar, who was accused of prostitution; Ruth, who risked suspicions of unlawful sexual behavior; and the wife of Uriah, that is, Bathsheba, target of David’s sexual sin. Richter focuses on the “fifth woman,” Mary, whose fiancé suspects her of sexual infidelity.98 In all these instances, God redeemed and vindicated the women, giving each of them a privileged place in the family tree of the Messiah. Heiser proposes that these women are specifically named in Matthew’s genealogy to “foreshadow the reversal of the watchers.”99


The prospect of the influence of 1 Enoch on the writings of the New Testament has attracted a wealth of distinguished and thought-provoking scholarship. The diverse topics that erudite Enochic specialists have investigated have resulted in a stimulating selection of thematically linked concepts found within the New Testament. Enochic connections have ranged from quite profound to the fringe outer limits. Perusing samples of New Testament writings through an Enochic filter offers a supplementary approach to understanding the Scriptures. Moreover, this Jewish document represents an eschatological viewpoint that was accepted among some Jewish communities (e.g., Essenes) during the pre-gentile-Christian era. Furthermore, 1 Enoch is an ancestral heritage of the Jewish people that provides a unique historical window through which to observe the milieu of the Jewish writers of the New Testament during this trying time in Jewish history. While the stature of 1 Enoch and its direct and indirect implications for understanding the New Testament may be debated until the Messiah returns, this Second Temple Jewish document provides essential background to several New Testament texts, and can be spiritually edifying literature for believers in Yeshua.

Christen Coulter is currently pursuing a Master of Theology degree from Regent University. She recently graduated from The King’s University, earning her Master of Practical Theology degree with a concentration in Messianic Jewish Studies. Christen enjoys writing worship music and spending time with her husband and son.

1 Larry R. Helyer, Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2002), 23.

2 Richard Bauckham, The Jewish World Around the New Testament (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 104.

3 James C. VanderKam, An Introduction to Early Judaism (Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2001), 88.

4 Michael A. Knibb, Essays on the Book of Enoch and Other Early Jewish Texts and Traditions, vol. 22, Studia in Veteris Testamenti Pseudepigrapha (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2009), 17.

5 Bauckham, Jewish World, 104.

6 John E. H. Thomson, Books Which Influenced Our Lord and His Apostles: Being a Critical Review of Apocalyptic Jewish Literature (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1891), 17.

7By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death, ‘and he was not found, because God had taken him.’” (Heb 11:5 NRSV).

8 Loren T. Stuckenbruck, 1 Enoch 91–108 (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2007), 1.

9 Richard Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead: Studies on the Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 82.

10 The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City: Doubleday, 1983), 3.

11 John J. Collins, Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), 1.

12 John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 5–6.

13 Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 39.

14 Collins, Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy, 38.

15 Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, xxiv.

16 VanderKam, Introduction to Early Judaism, 56.

17 Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, xxiv.

18 Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 39–40.

19 The Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage in Early Christianity, eds. James C. VanderKam and William Adler (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 14.

20 Devorah Dimant, From Enoch to Tobit (Tubingen: Mohr Seibeck, 2017), 19.

21 Andrei A. Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition (Tubingen: Mohr Seibeck, 2005), 1.

22 Orlov, 2.

23 Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage, 32.

24 Helyer, 87.

25 VanderKam, Introduction to Early Judaism, 88.

26 Collins, Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy, 77.

27 Michael S. Heiser, Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ (Crane, MO: Defender, 2017), 2.

28 David Cielontko, “The Daughters of Men in the Book of Watchers,” Communio viatorum 60, no. 3 (2018): 256.

29 Cielontko, 253.

30 The Book of Enoch, trans. R. H. Charles (Crane, MO: Defender, 2016), 5.

31 Bauckham, Jewish World, 273.

32 Annette Yoshiko Reed, Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity: The Reception of Enochic Literature (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 46.

33 Philip F. Esler, God’s Court and Courtiers in the Book of the Watchers (Eugene: Cascade, 2017), 6.

34 Bauckham, Jewish World, 274.

35 VanderKam, Introduction to Early Judaism, 110.

36 VanderKam, Introduction to Early Judaism, 110.

37 Ephraim Isaac, “1 (Ethiopic Apocalypse of) Enoch: A New Translation and Introduction,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City: Doubleday, 1983), 1.

38 Enoch and Qumran Origins: New Light on a Forgotten Connection, ed. Gabriele Boccaccini (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 438.

39 Enoch and Qumran Origins, 438.

40 M. De Jonge, Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament as Part of Christian Literature (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2003), 63.

41 Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage, 32.

42 Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ (New York: New Press, 2012), 72.

43 Boyarin, 91.

44 Boyarin, 72–73.

45 Boyarin, 94.

46 VanderKam, Introduction to Early Judaism, 89.

47 Helyer, 79.

48 Helyer, 80.

49 Helyer, 80.

50 Isaac, 5.

51 Isaac, 5.

52 Book of Enoch, 79.

53 Collins, Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy, 76.

54 Collins, Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy, 76.

55 George Nicklesburg, “Enochic Wisdom: An Alternative to The Mosaic Torah,” in Hesed Ve-Emet: Studies in Honor of Ernest S. Frerichs, eds. Jodi Magness and Seymour Gitin (Atlanta: Scholars, 1998), 123–32.

56 Lydia Gore-Jones, “Animals, Humans, Angels and God: Animal Symbolism in the Historiography of the Animal Apocalypses of 1 Enoch,” Journal for the Study of Pseudepigrapha 24, no. 4 (June, 2015): 268.

57 Stuckenbruck, 1 Enoch 91–108, 5.

58 Isaac, 5.

59 1 Enoch the Hermencia Translation, trans. George W. E. Nicklesburg and James C. VanderKam (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012), 1.

60 Isaac, 5.

61 Isaac, 10.

62 Richard Bauckham, Word Biblical Commentary: Jude, 2 Peter (Waco: Word, 1983), 3.

63 Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 7.

64 George W. MacRae, Foreword to The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City: Doubleday, 1983), ix.

65 The Intertexture of Apocalyptic Discourse in the New Testament, ed. Duane F. Watson (Atlanta: SBL, 2002), 190.

66 Intertexture of Apocalyptic Discourse, 194.

67 Intertexture of Apocalyptic Discourse, 201.

68 Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 141.

69 Enoch and Qumran Origins, 442.

70 Andrei A. Orlov, The Enaoch-Metatron Tradition (Tubingen: Mohr Seibeck, 2005), 1.

71 Orlov, 2.

72 Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage, 23.

73 Isaac, 8.

74 Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage, 25.

75 Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage, 23.

76 Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage, 25.

77 Isaac, 8.

78 Knibb, 73.

79 Enoch and Qumran Origins, 442.

80 Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage, 26.

81 Knibb, 21.

82 Knibb, 22.

83 Isaac, 6.

84 Helyer, 71.

85 Vernon K. Robbins, “The Intertexture of Apocalyptic Discourse in the Gospel of Mark,” in Intertexture of Apocalyptic Discourse, 23.

86 Archie T. Wright, “The Demonology of 1 Enoch and The New Testament Gospels,” in Enoch and the Synoptic Gospels, eds. Loren T. Stuckenbruck and Gabriele Boccaccini (Atlanta: SBL, 2016), 243.

87 Robbins, 24.

88 Robbins, 23.

89 Nicholas A. Elder, “Of Porcine and Polluted Spirits: Reading the Gerasene Demoniac with the Book of Watchers,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 78, no. 3 (July, 2016): 430.

90 Elder, 434.

91 Elder, 438.

92 Elder, 438.

93 Book of Enoch, 6–7.

94 Enoch and the Synoptic Gospels, 7.

95 Amy E. Richter, “Unusual Births: Enochic Traditions and Matthew’s Infancy Narrative,” in Enoch and the Synoptic Gospels, 51.

96 Heiser, 53.

97 Richter, 53.

98 Richter, 53–54.

99 Heiser, 73.