The Book of Enoch

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introduction by R. H. Charles

The Book of Enoch



apocalyptic writings

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The Apocalyptic Literature

by R.H. Charles

Hope is, indeed, the main underlying motive-power which prompted the writers of the Apocalypses. And this hope is the more intensive and ardent in that it shines forth from a background which is dark with despair; for the Apocalyptists despaired of the world in which they lived, a world in which the godly were of no account, while the wicked seemed too often triumphant and prosperous. With evil everywhere around, the Apocalyptists saw no hope for the world as it was; for such a world there was no remedy, only destruction; if the good were ever to triumph it must be in a new world.



Mental visions are not always easily expressed in words; the seer who in a vision has received a message in some fantastic guise necessarily has the impress upon his mind of what he has seen when giving his message; and when he describes his vision the picture he presents is, in the nature of the case, more fantastic to the ear of the hearer than to the eye of him who saw it. Allowance should be made for this; especially by us Westerns who are so lacking in the rich imaginativeness of the Oriental. Our love of literalness hinders the play of the imagination because we are so apt to “materialize” a mental picture presented by another.
[...] on the one hand, the minds of the Apocalyptists were saturated with the traditional thoughts and ideas of the Old Testament, and, on the other, they were eagerly absorbing the newer conceptions which the spirit of the age had brought into being. This occasioned a continual conflict of thought in their minds; the endeavour to harmonize the old and the new would not always succeed, and in consequence there often resulted a compromise which was illogical and which presented contradictions. Inconsistency of teaching on certain points is, therefore, not surprising under the circumstances.

We do not find in this Literature that insistence on the literal carrying-out of the minutest precepts of the Law which was characteristic of Pharisaism. Veneration for the Law is whole-hearted; it is the real guide of life; punishment awaits those who ignore its guidance; but the Pharisaic interpretation of the Law and its requirements is alien to the spirit of the Apocalyptists.

As a whole, the Apocalyptic Literature presents an universalistic attitude very different from the nationalistic narrowness of the Pharisees.

text checked (see note) June 2011

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The Book of Enoch

Translated from the Ethiopian [Ge’ez] by Richard Laurence
(translation 1883; probably written, in Hebrew, in the third century BCE)

regarded as canonical by the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches


Wisdom found not a place on earth where she could inhabit; her dwelling therefore is in heaven.

Wisdom went forth to dwell among the sons of men, but she obtained not a habitation. Wisdom returned to her place, and seated herself in the midst of the angels. But iniquity went forth after her return, who unwillingly found a habitation, and resided among them, as rain in the desert, and as a dew in a thirsty land.


He taught men to understand writing, and the use of ink and paper.

Therefore numerous have been those who have gone astray from every period of the world, even to this day.

For men were not born for this, thus with pen and with ink to confirm their faith;

Since they were not created, except that, like the angels, they might remain righteous and pure.

Nor would death, which destroys everything, have effected them;

But by this their knowledge they perish, and by this also its power consumes them.




Who is there of all the children of men, capable of hearing the voice of the Holy One without emotion?

Who is there capable of thinking his thoughts? Who capable of contemplating all the workmanship of heaven? Who of comprehending the deeds of heaven?

He may behold its animation, but not its spirit. He may be capable of conversing respecting it, but not of ascending to it. He may see all the boundaries of these things, and meditate upon them; but he can make nothing like them.


And when you die, sinners say concerning you, As we die, the righteous die. What profit have they in their works? Behold, like us, they expire in sorrow and in darkness. What advantage have they over us? Henceforward are we equal. What will be within their grasp, and what before their eyes for ever? For behold they are dead; and never will they again perceive the light. [...]

But now I swear to you, righteous, by the greatness of his splendour and his glory; by his illustrious kingdom and by his majesty, to you I swear, that I comprehend this mystery; that I have read the tablet of heaven, have seen the writing of the holy ones, and have discovered what is written and impressed on it concerning you.

I have seen that all goodness, joy, and glory has been prepared for you, and been written down for the spirits of them who die eminently righteous and good. To you it shall be given in return for your troubles; and your portion of happiness shall far exceed the portion of the living.

text checked (see note) June 2011

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