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2 Enoch

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2 Enoch

The Second Book of Enoch (usually abbreviated 2 Enoch, and otherwise variously known as Slavonic Enoch or The Secrets of Enoch) is a pseudepigraphic (a text whose claimed authorship is unfounded) of the Old Testament. It is usually considered to be part of the Apocalyptic literature. Late 1st century CE is the dating often preferred. The text has been preserved in full only in Slavonic, but in 2009 it was announced that Coptic fragments of the book had been identified. Greek is indicated as the language behind the Slavonic version.[1] It is not regarded as scripture by Jews or any Christian group. It was rediscovered and published at the end of 19th century.

Most scholars consider 2 Enoch to be composed by an unknown Jewish sectarian group, while some authors think it is a 1st-century Christian text.[2][3] A very few scholars consider it a later Christian work.[4] This article discusses 2 Enoch. It is distinct from the Book of Enoch, known as 1 Enoch. There is also an unrelated 3 Enoch. The numbering of these texts has been applied by scholars to distinguish the texts from one another.

Manuscript Tradition

2 Enoch has survived in more than twenty Slavonic manuscripts and fragments dated from 14th to 18th centuries CE. These Slavonic materials did not circulate independently but were included into collections that often rearranged, abbreviated, or expanded them. Typically, Jewish pseudepigraphical texts in Slavic milieux were transmitted as part of larger historiographical, moral, and liturgical codexes and compendiums where ideologically marginal and mainstream materials were mixed with each other.

2 Enoch exists in longer and shorter recensions. The first editors[5][6][7] considered original the longer version, while since 1921 Schmidt[8] and many authors[3] challenged this theory considering more ancient the shorter recension. Vaillant[9] in 1952 showed that the additional parts found only in the longer version use more recent Slavonic terms. Other scholars[10] suggest that both of them preserve original material and the existence of three or even four recensions.

Two different ways to numbering verses and chapters are used for 2 Enoch: the more widely accepted is Popov's[5] one in 73 chapters, while De Santos Otero[10] proposed a division in 24 chapters.

The best family of manuscripts[11] are copies of the compilation of rearranged materials from chs. 40–65 from a 14th-century judicial codex "The Just Balance" ("Merilo Pravednoe"). The main manuscripts of the longer version are R, J and P.[12] The main manuscripts of the shorter version are U, B, V, N.[13] See also references.[14][15]

Most scholars believe that the Slavonic version was translated from one or more Greek lost versions, since the text attests to some traditions that make sense only in the Greek language, for example a tradition found in 2 Enoch 30 that derives Adam’s name from the Greek designations of the four corners of the earth. The Semitisms, such as the words Ophanim, Raqia Arabot, and others found in various parts of the text, point to the possibility of the Semitic original behind the Greek version.

In 2009, four fragments from chapters 36-42 in Coptic have been identified. They follow the short recension and are related to manuscript U.[16]


Dates ranging from the 1st century BCE to the 10th century CE have been proposed, with the late 1st century CE often preferred. The date of the text can be deduced solely on the basis of the internal evidence since the book has survived only in the medieval manuscripts (even if a reference of 2 Enoch could be found in Origen's De Principis i, 3:3). Composition shall be later than the Book of the Watchers in 1 Enoch (about 3rd century BCE). The crucial arguments for the early dating of the text have very largely been linked to the themes of the Temple in Jerusalem and its ongoing practices and customs. Scholarly efforts have been in this respect mostly directed toward finding hints that the Sanctuary was still standing when the original text was composed. Scholars noted that the text gives no indication that the destruction of the Temple had already occurred at the time of the book's composition. Critical readers of the pseudepigraphic would have some difficulties finding any explicit expression of feelings of sadness or mourning about the loss of the sanctuary.

Affirmations of the value of animal sacrifice and Enoch's halakhic instructions found in 2 Enoch 59 also appear to be fashioned not in the "preservationist," mishnaic-like mode but rather as if they reflected sacrificial practices that still existed when the author was writing his book. The author tries to legitimize the central place of worship, which through the reference to the place Ahuzan, which is a cryptic name for a Jewish Temple.

Scholars have also previously noted in the text some indications of the ongoing practice of pilgrimage to the central place of worship. These indications could be expected in a text written in the Alexandrian Diaspora. Thus in his instructions to the children, Enoch repeatedly encourages them to bring the gifts before the face of God for the remission of sins, a practice which appears to recall well-known sacrificial customs widespread in the Second Temple period. Further, the Slavonic apocalypse also contains a direct command to visit the Temple three times a day, an inconsistency if the sanctuary had been already destroyed.


The Second Book of Enoch can be divided in four sections:

  • In the first section (chapters 1-21) Enoch, when already at the age of 365, is taken by two angels and made to pass through the seven heavens, one by one. The first heaven is found to be the place where the angels control atmospheric phenomena. In the second heaven he finds the prison for the rebel angels. In the third heaven he finds both paradise (as in 2 Cor 12:2) and hell for the men. The fourth heaven is the place of movements of the sun and of the moon which are described in detail. In the fifth heaven Enoch finds some Grigori that are grieved and he persuades them to resume their liturgical service. In the sixth heaven he finds the angels in charge of governing the cosmos and peoples.
  • In the second section (chapters 22-37) Enoch, now guided by Gabriel, is allowed to enter in the seventh heaven where he sees the Lord face to face. Afterwards he is anointed by Michael and becomes similar in appearance to the angels. The Lord asks the angel Vereviel to dictate to Enoch 360 books containing all that is knowable. Later, the Lord himself tells to Enoch the secrets of the creation up to the flood, which are unknown even to the angels. Enoch is finally sent back on the earth for thirty days.
  • The third section (chapters 38-68) is a list of doctrinal and ethical instructions given by Enoch to his sons: the main moral principle is the love for all the living beings (similar to the ethics found in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs), particularly noticeable is the lack of interest for the sin of fornication and not once is the Law of Moses referred to; Enoch teaches the uselessness of intercessions. At the end of the thirty days Enoch is taken into the heaven forever.
  • The last section (sometimes referred to as the Exaltation of Melchizedek) outlines the priestly succession of Enoch. Enoch's son, Methuselah is asked by the people to act as priest but this solution is seen as temporary. Also temporary is the priesthood of Nir, grandson of Methuselah. Afterwards is narrated the miraculous birth of Melchizedek and his new priesthood (see Melchizedek in the Second Book of Enoch for a short summary). In manuscript B and in the long versions this section ends with a short narrative of the Deluge.

Exaltation of Melchizedek

Chapters 69-73 of 2 Enoch (sometimes referred as the Exaltation of Melchizedek or 2EM) outline the priestly succession of Enoch. There is not unanimous consensus whether this section belongs to the main body of the text or it is an early addition. Considering the not-fragmentary main manuscripts, 2EM is not included in P V N, it is included partially in J, while it is fully included in R U B, which anyway represent the best traditions of all versions. So we have both shorter and a longer versions of 2EM. Some early authors, as Charles,[7] have not included this section mainly because they based their edition on manuscripts P and N. The lack of this section in recent manuscripts is explained by others[3] because of the scandalous content (the virgin birth of Melchisedek) for Christian copyists. According to Vaillant, who edited the first critical edition of 2 Enoch,[9] there is no evidence that 2EM ever existed separately. Modern editions usually include also these chapters.

The recent discoveries of Melchisedek 11Q13 text at Qumran and of a related text at Nag Hammadi, have made possible to have an idea about the Melchisedek controversy, involving also 2EM and the Letter to the Hebrews, that developed in non-mainstream Jewish communities and in early Christians communities from the 1st century BCE to the 3rd century CE against the traditional Jewish identification of Melchisedek with Shem.[17]

A growing number of scholars recognize the antiquity of 2 Enoch, including also 2EM, and support a pre-70 CE dating for its original composition.[18] Sacchi[3] suggests that 2EM is actually an addition to the main body of the text (the style is slightly different), but a very early addition by someone of the same sect that wrote 2 Enoch (it uses the same language and same typical names as Ahuzan for Temple), dating 2EM after the 70 CE but before or about the Letter to the Hebrews. The differences between 2EM with the Letter to the Hebrews (in the Letter to the Hebrews, Melchisedek is primarily a heavenly figure, while 2EM depicts him as an earthly one) don't allow to prove the dependence of 2EM from Hebrews.[19]


The theological universe of 2 Enoch is deeply rooted in the Enochic mold of the Jewish Apocalyptic literature of the Second Temple period. Yet along with appropriations of ancient traditions about the seventh antediluvian hero, the text attempts to reshape them by adding a new mystical dimension to the familiar apocalyptic imagery. The figure of Enoch portrayed in the various sections of 2 Enoch appears more elaborate than in the early Second Temple Enochic treatise of 1 Enoch. Interesting is the anointing of Enoch, after he saw face to face the Lord, that makes him be similar in appearance to a glorious angel and that allows him to sit above other angels on the left of the Lord.

According to Orlov,[15] in this attempt, one may find the origins of another image of Enoch, very different from the early Enochic literature, that was developed much later in rabbinic Merkabah and Hekhalot mysticism: the image of the supreme angel Metatron, "the Prince of the Presence", found in the later 3 Enoch. The titles of the patriarch found in the Slavonic apocalypse appear to be different from those attested in early Enochic writings and demonstrate a close resemblance to the titles of Metatron as they appear in some Hekhalot sources. These developments demonstrate that 2 Enoch represents a bridge between the early apocalyptic Enochic accounts and the later mystical rabbinic and Hekhalot traditions.

See also


External links

Online English translations

  • The Book of the Secrets of Enoch, edited by R. H. Charles (partial preview)
  • The Book of the Secrets of Enoch (also referred to as "Slavonic Enoch" or "2 Enoch") - without 2EM
  • The Book of the Secrets of Enoch - without 2EM
  • Edited by R. H. Charles (1896 edition) with the "Melkizedekian Fragment" as an appendix
  • A version of the Melkizedek ending

About 2 Enoch

  • Jewish Encyclopedia: Enoch, Books of (Ethiopic and Slavonic)
  • Enoch Literature
  • Bibliography on 2 Enoch
  • Secrets of Creation in 2 Enoch
  • Melchizedek Legend of 2 (Slavonic) Enoch
  • Titles of Enoch in 2 Enoch
  • Patriarch Noah in 2 Enoch
  • On the Polemical Nature of 2 Enoch
  • [1]
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