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The Apocryphal Old Testament Collection of the most important non-canonical Old Testament books designed for general use.

2 Enoch - Introduction

2 Enoch, or ‘Slavonic Enoch’ (so-called to distinguish it from ‘Ethiopian Enoch’), or ‘The Book of the Secrets of Enoch’ (a title based on the titles in some of the manuscripts), has been preserved only in Slavonic in two distinct recensions, each attested by more than one family of manuscripts.

Attention was first drawn to it in modern times by an extract contained in two MSS in the Synodal Library in Moscow printed by A. V. Gorsky and K. I. Nevostruev in their catalogue of MSS in that library, published in 1859. 1 See A. V. Gorsky and K. I. Nevostruev, Opisanie slavyanskikh rukopisei Moskovskoi sinodalénoi (patriarshei) biblioteki, II. ii (Moscow, 1859), pp. 626–7. The MSS are now in the Library of the State Historical Museum in Moscow. The first edition of the work as a whole was that of A. N. Popov, who in 1880 printed the text from the Poltava MS (our P), written in 1679. In 1884 S. Novaković printed a much shorter text, with a number of obvious lacunae, from a 16th–17th cent. MS in the National Library in Belgrade (our N): this text is a Serbian redaction, but there are several clear indications that it was derived from a Russian original. Two years later M. I. Sokolov discovered another MS containing the work, also in Belgrade, and of the 16th cent., but in middle-Bulgarian (our R): the contents tallied much more closely with Popov's Poltava text than with that in the other Belgrade MS, and Sokolov concluded that this longer version represented the original and that the shorter text was an abbreviation of it.

The next few years witnessed fresh discoveries, both of MSS (including the earliest of all, that in the Uvarov collection, of the 15th cent. – our U) and of a number of fragments in the form of extracts and quotations preserved in other works. Despite the fact that the new evidence showed that the shorter version was known before the longer, and also that all the fragments were taken from it, Sokolov still maintained his opinion that the longer version was to be preferred, and accordingly chose as the basis for his edition of 1899 the Belgrade MS R, though his posthumous papers, edited by M. N. Speransky in 1910 , show that he eventually relented to the extent of recognizing U as a witness to the existence of an ‘intermediate version’ from which the shorter version was derived.

The German scholar Bonwetsch, in the Introduction to his translation of 1922, denied the existence of this ‘intermediate version’ and argued that U is much better explained as a primary witness to the text of the shorter version; but he still followed Sokolov in maintaining the priority of the longer version. However, he made the point that the shorter version cannot reasonably be regarded as the abbreviation of the contents of any one of the existing ‘longer’ MSS. Nevertheless, all the MSS, wide as the divergences are, were (according to Bonwetsch) derived ultimately from the same original Slavonic translation.

Meanwhile, N. Schmidt had in 1921 argued cogently, in a brief article of only six pages, for the priority of the shorter version; and in this view he was supported by A. Vaillant in his full critical edition of 1952 . But whereas Schmidt thought that the two Slavonic versions were traceable to two previously existing recensions in Greek, Vaillant, like Bonwetsch, preferred to think of them as Slavonic recensions and to trace them back to a single Slavonic translation, made probably in Macedonia in the 10th or 11th centuries. This translation, Vaillant thought, survives in all essentials in the ‘short recension’, attested by five MSS dating from the 15th to the 18th centuries (UBNVBa.), and by the fragments Mpr. Chr. Rum. and Tr. The ‘long recension’ in its pristine form (found only in the Belgrade MS R) Vaillant attributed to a reviser, who worked between the second half of the 13th cent. and the early part of the 16th – most probably towards the end of the 15th: this reviser was responsible for very many relatively minor corrections and alterations, and also for a number of substantial additions of new material. Finally, a second reviser, fairly soon afterwards, worked over his predecessor's text, paraphrased it sometimes rather freely, transposed an item here and there, and made a few more additions: this second reviser's activity is attested by the MSS J and P, both of which are unfortunately incomplete (as are also the MSS NVBa. of the ‘short recension’).

Vaillant's edition is therefore an edition of the ‘short recension’, his text being based on the oldest MS U. The variants of all the MSS and the fragments are, however, cited in his apparatus with the exception of the putative additions of new material made by the first reviser: these are collected together in an appendix at the end (the text here being that of R, printed over an apparatus showing the variants in J and P).

Our translation is a translation of the text of the ‘short recension’ as given in Vaillant's edition. In the footnotes will be found a selection of the more important of the minor variations; but only occasionally, for obvious reasons, are the major variants of the ‘long recension’ either given in full, or, indeed, mentioned. When R appears in the footnotes, it is to be understood that it is supported by both J and P where extant, unless it is stated otherwise.

About the date, authorship, and original language of the work opinions have differed widely. At one extreme R. H. Charles concluded that it was written about the beginning of the Christian era, by an Alexandrian Jew, and in Greek (though certain parts of it ‘were founded on Hebrew originals’). At the other extreme Mrs A. S. D. Maunder argued that it is a Bogomil work, written originally in Bulgarian, between the 12th and the 15th centuries. As a third, intermediate, view may be instanced that of Vaillant, who could refer to it as ‘Christian Enoch’ in contrast with ‘Jewish Enoch’ (i.e. 1 Enoch), though he was in no doubt that the author was a Jewish Christian, who was concerned to produce a Christian counterpart to the well-known Jewish Enoch, and wrote in Greek, probably in the second or early third century AD.

There is no certain indication, however, that 2 Enoch, even in the short recension, was known to any of the Greek or Latin Fathers. For example, it is customary to explain ‘I saw all material things’, quoted and attributed to Enoch both by Clement of Alexandria 2 Clem-Alex. Ecl. proph. ii. 1. and by Origen 3 Orig. Princ. IV. iv. 8. in the light of several passages in 2 Enoch xiii. 4 xiii. 5–8, 14–15, 20–22, 23–26, 27. But there are two difficulties here. In the first place, both in Clement and in Origen the words appear as an exact quotation (‘when Enoch said, I saw …’), whereas not one of the suggested passages from 2 Enoch xiii is verbally identical; and secondly, Origen not only ascribes the quotation to Enoch, but also says that it was ‘written in the same book’ as another of Enoch's sayings he has just quoted, and which appears to be taken from 1 Enoch xxi. 1. What the answer is we do not know. It may be that the words ‘I saw all material things’ did in fact stand in the Greek copy of 2 Enoch xiii used by Clement and Origen, and the Slavonic translator either omitted them or paraphrased them – in which case Origen will have been guilty of a lapse of memory in saying that they occured in the same book as 1 Enoch xxi. 1. Alternatively it may be that Origen was correct and that they did once stand in some texts of 1 Enoch, though they are not found today in any known text of that work. Or it may be that the words were not intended originally as an exact quotation at all, but merely as a loose reference (to 1 Enoch xix. 3, for instance), and Origen may have remembered them from his reading of Clement, or both may have been familiar with them independently from some collection of Enoch's sayings circulating in Alexandria or from contemporary oral traditions about Enoch. And there are a number of other possibilities. What we cannot have is certainty. And there is a similar uncertainty about all the other suggested patristic quotations.

But quite apart from the question whether or not 2 Enoch was known to the Fathers, it is highly probable, if we are to argue from analogy, that there was at one time a Greek text, of which the earliest Slavonic text was a translation. It is also highly probable that this Greek text was the original: there are a number of linguistic pointers in this direction; and the Septuagint, rather than the Hebrew, seems to have been the author's Bible. However, this by itself tells us very little about him. Some of the names, found only in 2 Enoch, such as Adoil 5 xi. 7. and Sofonima, 6 xxiii. 1, 2, etc. suggest at the very least a Jewish background. The author, then, may well have been a Jew of Alexandria (as Charles maintained) or of some other city of the Dispersion, who spoke and wrote in Greek, and who quite naturally regarded the Septuagint as his Bible. And yet there are no specifically Jewish features anywhere: Enoch's admonitions about gifts and offerings, 7 ii. 2–4; xiii. 46–47; xv. 6–7, 17–20; xvii. 7. for instance, and the descriptions of the priestly functions and activities of Methuselah 8 xx. 1–2; xxi. 7–15. and Nir, 9 xxii. 15, 22–24. are all very general, and they exhibit no points of contact in detail either with the sacrificial requirements of the Pentateuch or with any known Temple practices.

The case for a Christian origin depends partly on general considerations, partly on the lack of specifically Jewish features just mentioned, partly on alleged influence from the books of the New Testament (Charles's list of parallels can just as easily be explained as echoes of the New Testament in 2 Enoch as they can as echoes of 2 Enoch in the New Testament), but more particularly on how we understand the Melchizedek story in chap. xxiii at the very end.

According to this story Melchizedek is born, without the agency of a human father, from the body of Sofonima after her death: he has on his breast ‘the seal of the priesthood’, 10 xxiii. 18. and Nir is told that he will be ‘a priest of priests for ever’; 11 xxiii. 29. after the Flood the Lord will raise up another generation and Melchizedek will be ‘chief priest’ in that generation: 12 xxiii. 34. until then he is to be kept safe in the Garden of Eden. It is tempting to read this story as a development of what is said about Melchizedek in the Epistle to the Hebrews. In Hebrews Melchizedek appears ‘without father, without mother, without genealogy’, 13 Heb. vii. 3 . and his priesthood is the type of the priesthood of Christ, who is described more than once both as ‘a priest for ever’ 14 Heb. v. 6; vii. 21: cp. vii. 3 . and as ‘the mediator’ of a ‘new (or ‘better’) covenant’. 15 Heb. viii. 6; ix. 15; xii. 24: cp. vii. 22 . If we read the story in 2 Enoch so, then 2 Enoch cannot be much earlier than the end of the first century A.D. and its origin must be Christian. On the other hand, the details in Hebrews and 2 Enoch that are alleged to correspond are not sufficiently close to establish anything like a water- tight case for dependence: we know from the evidence of Qumran that Jews, no less than Christians, were interested in Melchizedek; and there is, therefore, no reason to suppose that both a Jewish author and a Christian author could not have developed this interest independently, one in 2 Enoch and the other in Hebrews.

And there is the further difficulty that we cannot be sure that the Melchizedek story is an integral part of the original 2 Enoch. Chapters xxi–xxiii are missing altogether in Morfill's and Forbes's translations; and Bonwetsch relegated all three chapters to an appendix – the reason being that they are not included in the MSS N and Ba. of the short recension (both of which end with chap. xviii), while of the MSS of the long recension P ends with chap. xx and J at xxiii. 2. Vaillant, however, printed all of them as part of his text, following UB and two of the fragments (short recension) together with R (long recension); and as explained above, we, in our translation, have followed Vaillant.

Finally, a point of some interest in this connection has been made by A. Rubinstein. Enoch, in his admonitions about sacrifice at xv. 8–9 lays it down, ‘And all you have for food, bind it by the four legs … The man who kills any beast without binding it – it is an evil custom’. For this binding of a victim before slaughter there is neither Biblical nor Rabbinic parallel. Yet later in 2 Enoch both Methuselah (at xxi. 9) and Nir (at xxii. 23) observe the provision. Chaps. xxi and xxii, therefore, even if not xxiii, have a very definite link with what goes before, although they are lacking in three of the MSS.


1 See A. V. Gorsky and K. I. Nevostruev, Opisanie slavyanskikh rukopisei Moskovskoi sinodalénoi (patriarshei) biblioteki, II. ii (Moscow, 1859), pp. 626–7. The MSS are now in the Library of the State Historical Museum in Moscow.

2 Clem-Alex. Ecl. proph. ii. 1.

3 Orig. Princ. IV. iv. 8.

4 xiii. 5–8, 14–15, 20–22, 23–26, 27.

5 xi. 7.

6 xxiii. 1, 2, etc.

7 ii. 2–4; xiii. 46–47; xv. 6–7, 17–20; xvii. 7.

8 xx. 1–2; xxi. 7–15.

9 xxii. 15, 22–24.

10 xxiii. 18.

11 xxiii. 29.

12 xxiii. 34.

13 Heb. vii. 3 .

14 Heb. v. 6; vii. 21: cp. vii. 3 .

15 Heb. viii. 6; ix. 15; xii. 24: cp. vii. 22 .

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