What is 2 Enoch?

“In every respect 2 Enoch remains an enigma” (OTP 1:97). Dates for 2 Enoch range from pre-Christian to early medieval.  Józef Milik dated the book to the ninth or tenth century A.D. based on a neologism which describes Enoch’s copying of 360 manuscripts from the Angel Vreveil (Uriel? chapter 23).  Milik reconstructs a Greek term which accounts for a mistake by the Slavonic translator. This Enochterm is found no earlier than the early ninth century, therefore the author is a Greek monk from that century (Milik, 111-112).  On the other hand, Anderson suggests elements of the book go back to the turn of the era, perhaps written by the Theraputae described by Philo (although they seem to have revered Moses rather than Enoch, OTP, 1:96). It is hard to know if the book came from Jewish or Christian circles, it is “hardly in the mainstream of either” (OTP, 1:95).

Christfried Böttrich has argued for a three-stage composition of the book: A Jewish core, dated prior to A.D. 70 and deeply mystical; a Christian redaction interested in typological equivalents, and a final Byzantine redaction which was mainly interested in chronology (Böttrich, 40).

John Collins considers 2 Enoch to be a Jewish document dating to no later than the first century A.D. on the basis of the book’s interest in sacrifice. Since it was written in Greek and has allusions to Egyptian mythology as well as some affinity with Philo of Alexandria, an Egyptian provenance is likely (Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, Third Edition, 302-3).

The most compelling evidence for a Jewish origin of at least chapters 68-73 is the date of Enoch’s final translation into heaven – the sixth day of Tsivan, the beginning of the festival of the first fruit.  Anderson states there are a number of places in the apocalyptic literature when early historical events are linked to this festival.  It would be nearly impossible for a medieval Slav creating this text to have known about such a practice (Anderson, OTP 196, note c).  It is possible, however, a Slavic monk took the date from another source because it was so common.  On the whole, Anderson’s point is well made even though buried in a footnote.

Since the publication of Anderson’s translation, which includes both the shorter and longer recension side by side, there have been a number of studies on 2 Enoch including translations into Greek, English, Spanish and French. Of main interest are the Melchizedek traditions found in the book since it is quite different from both Jewish (Qumran) and Christian traditions (including a virgin birth probably based on Matthew 2 and Luke 2, but with several bizarre departures!)


Bibliography: Christfried Böttrich, “Recent Studies in the Slavonic Book of Enoch” Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 9 (1991): 35-42; Józef Milik, Enoch, The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4 (London:  Oxford, 1976).

7 thoughts on “What is 2 Enoch?

Leave a Reply