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The Enoch’s Book of Parables: the Son of Man and the fate of the Unfaithful

261px-Fallen_angels_NishriAnd there I saw One who had a head of days,
And His head was white like wool,
And with Him was another being whose countenance had the appearance of a man,
And his face was full of graciousness, like one of the holy angels.
And I asked the angelwho went with me and showed me all the hidden things, concerning that Son of Man, who he was, and whence he was, (and) why he went with the Head of Days? And he answered and said unto me:
This is the son of Man who hath righteousness,
With whom dwelleth righteousness,
And who revealeth all the treasures of that which is hidden,
Because the Lord of Spirits hath chosen him,
And whose lot hath the pre-eminence before the Lord of Spirits in uprightness for ever.
And this Son of Man whom thou hast seen
Shall †raise up† the kings and the mighty from their seats,
And shall loosen the reins of the strong,
And break the teeth of the sinners.
And he shall put down the kings from their thrones and kingdoms
Because they do not extol and praise Him,
Nor humbly acknowledge whence the kingdom was bestowed upon them.
And he shall put down the countenance of the strong,
And shall fill them with shame.
And darkness shall be their dwelling,
And worms shall be their bed,
And they shall have no hope of rising from their beds,
Because they do not extol the name of the Lord of Spirits.
And these are they who judge the stars of heaven,
And raise their hands against the Most High
And tread upon the earth and dwell upon it.
And all their deeds manifest unrighteousness,
And their power rests upon their riches,
And their faith is in the gods which they have made with their hands,
And they deny the name of the Lord of Spirits,
And they persecute the houses of His congregations,
And the faithful who hang upon the name of the Lord of Spirits …

And in those days a change shall take place for the holy and elect,
And the light of days shall abide upon them,
And glory and honour shall turn to the holy,
On the day of affliction on which evil shall have been treasured up against the sinners.
And the righteous shall be victorious in the name of the Lord of Spirits:
And He will cause the others to witness (this)
That they may repent
And forgo the works of their hands.
They shall have no honour through the name of the Lord of Spirits,
Yet through His name shall they be saved,
And the Lord of Spirits will have compassion on them,
For His compassion is great.
And He is righteous also in His judgement,
And in the presence of His glory unrighteousness also shall not maintain itself:
At His judgement the unrepentant shall perish before Him …

And in those days shall the earth also give back that which has been entrusted to it,
And Sheol also shall give back that which it has received,
And hell shall give back that which it owes.
For in those days the Elect One shall arise,
And he shall choose the righteous and holy from among them:
For the day has drawn nigh that they should be saved …
And in those days shall the mountains leap like rams,
And the hills also shall skip like lambs satisfied with milk,
And the faces of all the angels in heaven shall be lighted up with joy …

There mine eyes saw a deep valley with open mouths,
and all who dwell on the earth and sea and islands shall bring to him gifts and presents and tokens of homage,
but that deep valley shall not become full … a deep valley with burning fire.
And they brought the kings and the mighty, and began to cast them into this deep valley.
And there mine eyes saw how they made these their instruments, iron chains of immeasurable weight.
And I asked the angel of peace who went with me, saying: ‘For whom are these chains being prepared?’
And he said unto me: ‘These are being prepared for the hosts of Azâzêl,
so that they may take them and cast them into the abyss of complete condemnation,
and they shall cover their jaws with rough stones as the Lord of Spirits commanded.
And Michael, and Gabriel, and Raphael, and Phanuel shall take hold of them on that great day, and cast them on that day into the burning furnace, that the Lord of Spirits may take vengeance on them for their unrighteousness in becoming subject to Satan and leading astray those who dwell on the earth … (Book of Parables, XLVI-LIV)

The so-called Book of Parables replaces today the old Book of Giants, where the author talked a bit about the matter – only briefly treated in the Book of Watchers – about the giants and their fate. The Book of Parables, in its present form, presupposes the entire enochic work. It belongs to the horizon where primitive Christianity was born and it is a great source for understanding contemporary Judaism at the rise of Christianity. Many of the themes in the New Testament and in the Gospels – especially as far as apocalyptic parts are concerned – were probably taken from the book of parables. The fathers of the Church cited the parts of Enoch’s books dealing with the origin of evil and the fall of angels, all taken from the Book of Watchers. They cited only those parts that were in line with the orthodox teaching of the Church.

The Son of Man here has an eschatological role, judging those people who basically worshiped who was not God and taught others to do likewise. They are basically the powerful and proud who deny the name. At the beginning of the text we found that the place where the wicked are kept awaiting judgment is spiritualized, while in the Book of Watchers it was said that this place was on the earth.

The head of the days alludes to God who is the beginning of the time and who is beside the Son of Man who is very similar to God. Evidently, this is a figure that, based on Daniel’s vision (chapter 7), will be taken from the gospels (eg Matthew chapter 24-25). The Son of Man will overthrow the fate of history (see Luke chapter 1.46-55).

In the description of the day of judgment, Revelation mentions the return of the dead by the kingdom of the dead (see Rev 20:13). The vision of hell as a deep valley is present also in Matthew (13: 42.50) and in Revelation (9:1-2). There is even a description of the chains with which the followers of Azazel – i.e. Satan – will be chained (see Rev 20:1).

I repeat once again that Enoch’s books were considered inspired by the early Christians (see Jude 14) and therefore the images, themes and words found there hava a profound and structural affinity with the New Testament. But the New Testament is also profoundly different – especially for the theology – from Henoch’s books. However images and themes found in Enoch are related to the time they were conceived and it is therefore anachronistic to think that the reality described – judgment and hell – are to be considered precisely in those terms!

What is hell and purgatory for people today is a very different question. The Theology explains to the faithful realities which are to be believed by faith!

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Simone Venturini

Writer and Researcher at Vatican Secret Archives, Professor of Bible at Pontifical University of the Holy Cross od Rome

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