The Apocryphal Books of Enoch
The Apocryphal Books of Enoch are not an official part of the Bible, but are seen as an extended text, a Biblical supplement with the story expanding on the character of Enoch, who is briefly mentioned in Biblical text. Biblical scholars are familiar with the Books and their content, such as its prophecies, its apocalyptic themes and its stories of the Angels and the Nephilim.
Enoch was the great grandfather of Noah, and is referred to in the Book of Genesis as having lived 365 years before being taken by God, Enoch having ‘walked with God: and he was no more; for God took him’ (Genesis 5:21-24), implying that God took Enoch alive into Heaven. As mentioned, the first Book of Enoch is considered non-canonical to most Christian groups, it is however considered canon by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Though knowledge of the Book was previously known, and fragments had been formerly published, the most complete version of the Book of Enoch we have originates from Ethiopian manuscripts, which was brought to Europe by the Scottish traveller and Freemason James Bruce in the eighteenth century.1 Since then, fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls have also aided study of the text.
There are three Apocrypha associated with Enoch:
Book of Enoch – or 1 Enoch – dated to the 3rd century BC and the 1st century AD. This book is rich in dreams and visions and stories of Angels. It starts with the fall of the Watchers; fallen Angels who decide to take human wives and father the Nephilim, giants who ‘devoured mankind’. The fallen Angels also taught men how to work metal and make swords and knives, and taught men magic, all leading to corruption and Godlessness. This led to Michael, Uriel, Raphael and Gabriel appealing to God to bring judgement on mankind and the fallen Angels in the form of the flood; Uriel is told to warn Noah of the coming flood, Raphael is dispatched to imprison Azâzêl (who taught men how to work metal) in a place known as God’s Cauldron, Gabriel is ordered to set the Nephilim against each other so ‘that they may destroy each other in battle…’, and Michael is told to bind the fallen Angels for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth.
Second Book of Enoch, also known as 2 Enoch, or the Book of the Secrets of Enoch, written in Old Church Slavonic – is dated to the 1st century AD. The content of 2 Enoch reveals Enoch being taken on a mystical journey through the ten Heavens, where Enoch comes face-to-face with God, Enoch being anointed by Archangel Michael and then himself takes on the appearance of an Angel. God then reveals the secrets to Enoch, who is then sent back to Earth for thirty days, before being taken back to Heaven forever. The story conveys themes of Jewish apocalyptic literature concerning the Second Temple period.
3 Enoch, a Hebrew text – dated to the 5th century AD. There are similar elements to 1 Enoch, such as Enoch taken to Heaven in a storm chariot, and Enoch being transformed into an Angel. Indeed, Enoch is transformed into the Angel Metatron.
Enoch has since influenced magicians who have attempted to converse with Angels. Indeed, John Dee (1527-1608/09) stated that his Angelic language that was produced as a result of his scrying techniques with Edward Kelley, had not been used since Enoch, hence the term that has developed of it being ‘Enochian Language’. This Holy language was, according to Dee’s Angels, also used by Adam. Much later, after acquiring Dee’s books, early Freemason and alchemist Elias Ashmole also attempted to converse with these Angels in a series of séances from 1671-1676. During the occult revival in the later nineteenth century, Wynn Westcott and S.L. MacGregor Mathers incorporated part of the Enochian language system into their work, and Aleister Crowley was also greatly influenced by the Angelic language that Dee and Kelley experienced, and wrote the work The Equinox.2 Indeed, the story of Enoch and his association with the Angels has provided creative insight for magicians and still does today. The Enochian language however has been famously analysed by Linguist Donald Laycock, drawing a conclusion that there are phonetic and semantic features that are reminiscent of English. Whatever one believes, Enoch and his Angels continue to inspire and his Books are fascinating documents that can enhance our understanding of Biblical texts.
- James Bruce was a member of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No.2, initiated on 1st August, 1753.
- See Donald Laycock, The Complete Enochian Dictionary, (San Francisco: Weiser Books, 2001).