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The book of Enoch: the Origins of Evil

The_Phillip_Medhurst_Picture_Torah_45._Enoch_translated._Genesis_cap_5_v_24._De_VosThe Book of Enoch, along with the Jubilees and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, is an important source for understanding the Jewish world at the dawn of Christianity. In particular, the book of Enoch was considered inspired – i.e. Holy Scripture – by the ancient Church. In fact, the Book of Enoch is quoted in the book of Jude – verses. 14-15 –  as well as in v.6 where it says: And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day (cf. Enoch 6, 12 ff.). It was also considered inspired by Christian authors like Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus and Tertullian. Starting from the the fifth century it wasn’t mentioned anymore in the Western Church, while it continued to survive in the Ethiopian church. In fact we have manuscripts of Enoch in Ethiopian,Greek but also in Aramaic, thanks to the discoveries of Qumran.

In addition to the very short book of Jude, there are so many other new testament’s texts that have parallels with the Book of Enoch. For this reason, some people think that there is an influence of the New Testament on the book of Enoch, This is impossible because of the greater antiquity of the Book of Enoch than the New Testament’s texts.

According to Genesis, Enoch is the mysterious character who didn’t die. He was caught directly in the sky (Genesis 5). The Enoch’s book developed from this brief information. Enoch had the opportunity to see the sky and then bring back the sky’s secrets to men.

As the Pentateuch the book of Enoch is composed of six sections:

  1. Book of Watchers – fallen angels (i.e. the watchers), and their sin from which derived all the sins of men
  2. Book of the Giants – the giants (i.e. the children of the watchers) and their names. The  extermination by the flood waters. It is also said that one of the watchers (Shemihaza) repented
  3. Book of Astronomy – explanation of the solar calendar of 364 days in relation to the moon
  4. Book of Dreams – visions of the flood and of the world history from creation to the coming of God’s Kingdom
  5. Epistle of Enoch – apocalypse of ten weeks
  6. Book of parables – the angelic hierarchy, astronomy and meteorology issues and presentation of a Son of Man who will act as the Messiah

The most important issue discussed in the book of Enoch is the origins of evil. The starting point of the reflections contained in the Book of Watchers is Genesis 6:1-4: And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,  That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.  There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

This is a  text a little confused and it seems mutilated. In fact it passes abruptly from the decree on the reduction of human life to the existence of the giants on the earth. Then the rest of the text does not say clearly that the heroes are the giants. In the book of Watchers it is clearly stated that the giants were the result of the union between the angels (i.e. sons of God) and the daughters of men. This union produced a disorder, a generalized contamination between men and in the nature. A disorder also due to the fact that the angels taught men the arts, science and astronomy.

Many men died and their souls cried out to heaven. So for the first time the concept of the immortal soul enters the Jewish thought. Within this conception, man is not the main cause of evil. The origin of evil is Azazel. Just because the origin of the disorder is not human, God alone can put an end to this state of affairs. Then ordered the archangels to bind the fallen angels into the abyss, and to let the Giants kill each other.

However, the giants’ souls could not be destroyed, because it was immortal. So the Giants spirits – that the evil spirits of the Gospels – go around the world to lead man towards evil. However, man is free to follow or not the inspirations of the evil spirits. Therefore, the right man is already saved, since he can now decide which side to take.

Unlike the Book of Watchers, the Epistle of Enoch evil it is entirely attributed to man without any divine origin. (To be continued)

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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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