Background to The Book of Enoch

E'NOCH, the name of two different individuals in Scripture.-
1. The eldest son of Cain, who built a city which was called after his name.-
2. The son of Jared, and father of Methuselah. A peculiarly mysterious interest attaches to him on account of the supernatural manner in which his earthly career terminated. We are told by the writer of Genesis, that E. `walked with God 300 years ... and he was not ; for God took him.' What the statement `he was not' signified to the later Jews, is explained by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews: 'Enoch was translated that lie should not see death.' E. and Elijah are the only human beings on record who did not require to discharge the debt which mortals owe to nature.
It may naturally be supposed that E. was a character on whom the extravagant fancy of the later Jews would fasten with unusual pleasure. As they came more and more into contact with Grecian and other culture, they felt the necessity of linking on the arts and sciences of Gentile nations to their own history, if they would continue to preserve that feeling of supremacy which was so dear to their pride as the chosen people. Hence, E. appears as the inventor of writing, arith­metic, astronomy, &c., and is affirmed to have filled 300 books with the revelations which he received, the number 300 being obviously suggested by the number of years during which he is said to have walked with God.

ENOCH, Book or. This book, from which, curiously enough, St Jude quotes as if it were history, shews how richly mythical the history of the mysterious antediluvian Enoch had become ! It was probably written originally in Aramaic, by a native of Palestine, in the 2d c. B.C.. The precise date is not known. At subsequent periods, it would seem to have been enlarged by additions and inter­polations. It is divided into five parts ; and the first discourses of such subjects as the fall of the angels, and the journey of E. through the earth and through Paradise in the company of an angel, by whom he is initiated into the secrets of nature, &c. ; the second contains E.'s account of what was revealed to him concerning the heavenly or spiritual region; the third treats of astronony and the- phenomena of the seasons ; the fourth represents E. beholding, in prophetic vision, the course of Divine Providence till the coming of the -Messiah; and the last consists of exhortations based on what has preceded. The book was current in the primi­tive church, and was quoted by the Fathers, but was lost sight of by Christian writers about the close of the 8th century, so that until last century it was only known by extracts. Fortunately, however, the traveller Brace discovered in Abyssinia three complete -MSS. of the work, which he brought to England in 1773. These MSS. proved to be an Ethiopic version made from the Greek one, in use among the Fathers, as was evident from the coinci­dence of language. The Ethiopic version did not appear till 1838, when it was published by Arch­bishop Lawrence. An English translation, however, by the same writer, had appeared in 1821, which passed through three editions, and formed the basis of the German edition of Hoffmann (Jena, 1833--1838). In 1840, Gfrorer published a Latin translation of the work; but by far the best edition is that of Dr A. Dillmann, who, in 1851, published the Ethiopic text from five MSS.; and in 1853, a German translation, with an introduction and commentary, which has recently turned the attention of many German scholars to the subject.

Taken from the Chambers Encyclopedia of 1861 A.D.