2 Enoch and the Sermon on the Mount – 2 Enoch 38-63


When Enoch returns to his family in chapter 38 he begins to instruct them in what he has learned while in heaven. He mourns for his children who have not seen the face of the Lord (chapter 39) and then urges them to pay close attention because all which he is about to say he learned directly from the Lord (40:1). He recounts heavenly wonders (the storehouses of the winds, etc.) and describes to them the horrors of hell (chapter 40, 42:1-2). He describes the wonders of Paradise in a series of “happy is he . . .” formulas akin to the Beatitudes found in the Sermon on the Mount (41:3-14). Of note among these beatitudes is the admonishment to “sow the right seed” (cf. Matt 13:1-9) and to clothe the naked and feed the hungry (Matt 25:34-39).

People can have more or less honor than others, chapter 43 has a list of the things which may bring honor to a person in this life. The best of all of these is the one who fears God – “he will be the most glorious in that age” (Chapter 43). Chapter 44 instructs the reader on how to speak without insult, since this too will be judged on the “great day of judgment.” God requires a pure heart rather than sacrifice, pure gifts rather than bribery (Chapter 45-46). This will all be judged when the Lord sends out a “great light” which will judge without favoritism. This is often thought to be a Christian interpolation, OTP 172, note c. If it is, it is not a very obvious one and is present in manuscripts of both recensions. It may simply refer to the final judgment without detailing who the judge will be. Enoch hands over the books he created in heaven with a special emphasis on the 364-day year once again (chapter 47-48).

Enoch forbids his children to swear oaths, but rather they should say “Yes Yes” or “No, No” (Chapter 49). This is obviously similar to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:34-37. As in the Gospels, the emphasis in 2 Enoch is on telling the truth in the first place. This is the most obvious of several links to the Sermon on the Mount in this section of 2 Enoch. There are significant differences as well. In chapter 53 Enoch warns his children not to rely on the fact their father is in heaven (“do no say, “our father is in heaven”) while the Lord’s Prayer begins by addressing God directly as father. Likely Jesus is working through the same common stock of rabbinical ethical teachings in the Sermon on the Mount which the author of 2 Enoch has in mind. It is also possible 2 Enoch is influenced by Matthew. The difference is the increased internalization of the commands of God found in Matthew 5-7. Murder is bad, but hatred and anger are worse. Adultery is bad, but lust is worse. This “internalized ethic” is missing from 2 Enoch.

  • Beatitudes (2 Enoch 41:3-14, Matt 5:1-11)
  • Murder (2 Enoch 60, Matt 5:21-26)
  • Oath Making (2 Enoch 49, Matt 5:34-37)
  • Vengeance (2 Enoch 50, Matt 5:38-48)
  • Treasures in Heaven/Alms (2 Enoch 51, Matt 6:1-4; 19-24)
  • Praising God (2 Enoch 52, Matt 6:5-13)

In chapters 54-57 Enoch announces he is about to return to heaven, so Methuselah asks for a blessing from his father. Enoch asks that all of the children be brought to him so that he may bless them all. This blessing reviews much of the previous material, exhorting his family toward proper ethical conduct using the beatitude form (chapters 58-63). There are a number of parallels to Jesus in this section as well. For example, 2 Enoch 61:1 has a version of the “golden rule” (cf. Matt 7:12). In 61:2 Enoch states there are “many shelters prepared for people, good ones for the good and bad ones for the bad,” which is roughly parallel to John 14:1-2. The obvious difference is that Jesus refers only to his own disciples, while Enoch refers to houses for all the dead, and far more for the wicked dead than the righteous. 2 Enoch 63 describes the doing of good to the poor without complaint. If one does this good deed, God will reward him. This idea is possibly in the background when Jesus responds to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:21 (and parallels).

If Christfried Böttrich is correct and there is a “Jewish core” in 2 Enoch which pre-dates the fall of Jerusalem, it may then be fair to ask why so much of this material is like the Sermon on the Mount. If the parallels were “Christian,” then one would think they would be closer to Jesus’ teaching than they are. As they appear in 2 Enoch, the various topics and beatitude forms are close enough to make us recall Jesus’ teaching, but not close enough to suggest direct dependence. It is probably the case that Jesus and the author of 2 Enoch both reflect the ethical teaching of the pre-A.D. 70 period. Philip Sigal argues that Jesus had an anonymous impact on the rabbinic halakah (Philip Sigal, The Halakah of Jesus of Nazareth According to the Gospel of Matthew [Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1986]))

It is well beyond the evidence to argue these parallels in 2 Enoch are drawn from Jesus’ teaching via rabbinic material, but it is possible to observe the topics and methods of ethical teaching in this section of 2 Enoch roughly parallel the topics and themes of the Sermon on the Mount. Another aspect which muddies the argument is the status of the Sermon on the Mount as an actual “teaching setting” of Jesus. While it is certain Jesus taught the material in Matthew 5-7, it is also fairly certain Matthew has arranged the material in the way it now appear. It is possible Matthew and 2 Enoch reflect a tradition of rabbinic debates on these topics. Matthew is following a distinctly Christian one (something like Q, perhaps), while 2 Enoch follows a more Jewish collection.

5 thoughts on “2 Enoch and the Sermon on the Mount – 2 Enoch 38-63

  1. Thanks for the insights revealed from these studies. Nice to get more of the larger context of those times!

Leave a Reply