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The Book of Enoch on Astronomy

image1-211x150The book of the courses of the luminaries of the heaven, the relations of each, according to their classes, their dominion and their seasons, according to their names and places of origin, and according to their months, which Uriel, the holy angel, who was with me, who is their guide, showed me; and he showed me all their laws exactly as they are, and how it is with regard to all the years of the world and unto eternity, till the new creation is accomplished which dureth till eternity.

And this is the first law of the luminaries: the luminary the Sun has its rising in the eastern portals of the heaven, and its setting in the western portals of the heaven. And I saw six portals in which the sun rises, and six portals in which the sun sets and the moon rises and sets in these portals, and the leaders of the stars and those whom they lead: six in the east and six in the west, and all following each other in accurately corresponding order: also many windows to the right and left of these portals. And first there goes forth the great luminary, named the Sun, and his circumference is like the circumference of the heaven, and he is quite filled with illuminating and heating fire.

The chariot on which he ascends, the wind drives, and the sun goes down from the heaven and returns through the north in order to reach the east, and is so guided that he comes to the appropriate (lit. ‘that’) portal and shines in the face of the heaven. In this way he rises in the first month in the great portal, which is the fourth those six portals in the cast. And in that fourth portal from which the sun rises in the first month are twelve window-openings, from which proceed a flame when they are opened in their season. When the sun rises in the heaven, he comes forth through that fourth portal thirty mornings in succession, and sets accurately in the fourth portal in the west of the heaven. And during this period the day becomes daily longer and the night nightly shorter to the thirtieth morning. On that day the day is longer than the night by a ninth part, and the day amounts exactly to ten parts and the night to eight parts.

And the sun rises from that fourth portal, and sets in the fourth and returns to the fifth portal of the east thirty mornings, and rises from it and sets in the fifth portal.  And then the day becomes longer by two parts and amounts to eleven parts, and the night becomes shorter and amounts to seven parts. And it returns to the east and enters into the sixth portal, and rises and sets in the sixth portal one-and-thirty mornings on account of its sign. On that day the day becomes longer than the night, and the day becomes double the night, and the day becomes twelve parts, and the night is shortened and becomes six parts. And the sun mounts up to make the day shorter and the night longer, and the sun returns to the east and enters into the sixth portal, and rises from it and sets thirty mornings.  

And when thirty mornings are accomplished, the day decreases by exactly one part, and becomes eleven parts, and the night seven. And the sun goes forth from that sixth portal in the west, and goes to the east and rises in the fifth portal for thirty mornings, and sets in the west again in the fifth western portal. On that day the day decreases by two parts, and amounts to ten parts and the night to eight parts. And the sun goes forth from that fifth portal and sets in the fifth portal of the west, and rises in the fourth portal for one-and-thirty mornings on account of its sign, and sets in the west.

On that day the day is equalized with the night, [and becomes of equal length], and the night amounts to nine parts and the day to nine parts.And the sun rises from that portal and sets in the west, and returns to the east and rises thirty mornings in the third portal and sets in the west in the third portal. And on that day the night becomes longer than the day, and night becomes longer than night, and day shorter than day till the thirtieth morning, and the night amounts exactly to ten parts and the day to eight parts. And the sun rises from that third portal and sets in the third portal in the west and returns to the east, and for thirty mornings rises in the second portal in the east, and in like manner sets in the second portal in the west of the heaven.  

And on that day the night amounts to eleven parts and the day to seven parts. And the sun rises on that day from that second portal and sets in the west in the second portal, and returns to the east into the first portal for one-and-thirty mornings, and sets in the first portal in the west of the heaven. And on that day the night becomes longer and amounts to the double of the day: and the night amounts exactly to twelve parts and the day to six. And the sun has (therewith) traversed the divisions of his orbit and turns again on those divisions of his orbit, and enters that portal thirty mornings and sets also in the west opposite to it. And on that night has the night decreased in length by a ninth part, and the night has become eleven parts and the day seven parts. And the sun has returned and entered into the second portal in the east, and returns on those his divisions of his orbit for thirty mornings, rising and setting.

And on that day the night decreases in length, and the night amounts to ten parts and the day to eight.  And on that day the sun rises from that portal, and sets in the west, and returns to the east, and rises in the third portal for one-and-thirty mornings, and sets in the west of the heaven. On that day the night decreases and amounts to nine parts, and the day to nine parts, and the night is equal to the day and the year is exactly as to its days three hundred and sixty-four. And the length of the day and of the night, and the shortness of the day and of the night arise–through the course of the sun these distinctions are made (lit. ‘they are separated’). So it comes that its course becomes daily longer, and its course nightly shorter. And this is the law and the course of the sun, and his return as often as he returns sixty times and rises, i.e. the great luminary which is named the sun, for ever and ever. And that which (thus) rises is the great luminary, and is so named according to its appearance, according as the Lord commanded. As he rises, so he sets and decreases not, and rests not, but runs day and night, and his light is sevenfold brighter than that of the moon; but as regards size they are both equal.  (Book of Enoch, Part XIII, chap. 72)

This text – known as the Book of Astronomy – reveals all the features of Judaism of the III sec. BC. This text is in clear contrast to the Babylonian and Egyptian system of time calculations. The number of doors from which the sun rises and from which the sun goes down contradicts the conception of the twelve signs of the zodiac, that was current throughout the East .

Also the number of the year’s days – i.e. 364 – contradicts the Babylonian and Egyptian system where the number of the years’ days was fixed at 365. Perhaps the diminution of time was due to the sin of the angels who had fallen from heaven, broking the initial harmony created by God. 

Enoch received the laws on courses of the luminaries of the heaven by the angel Uriel – Hebrew name which means God is my light – and that was one of the main angels alongside Michael, Raphael and Gabriel.

The calculation of all the turns the sun does – from its exit at the east to its entry at the west – starts from the first month. This is not called Nisan, because of the already mentioned controversy with the names of the months of Pharisaic origin. Qumran will also use this way to indicate the name of the months, as for the weeks of the week: first, second, third, etc. Among other things, Aramaic fragments of the existing versions of Enoch in Greek and Ethiopian have been found in Qumran, witnessing the great antiquity of this text dated at the III cent. BC.

According to the text, the sun makes its evolution around the earth on a chariot pushed by the blowing winds from east to west. Even the parts of light or darkness in which the day is subdivided is typical of essence ideology. On this distribution was also based the good or evil nature of a man born at some time of the year, rather than in another. For example, a person born in the summer had more parts of light in himself and therefore belonged to the children of light. A person born in the winter belonged instead to the children of the darkness. ( (Based on the book of G. Boccaccini – J.J. Collins, The Early Enoch Literature, Brill 2007)

Simone Venturini

Scrittore

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