The Most Important Biblical Character You've Probably Never Heard Of (2023)

If I were to ask you to name the most important characters in the Christian Bible, the people who helped shape the world today, you would likely answer "Abraham," "Moses," or "Jesus." If you're making a top 10 or even top 20 list, you might add Mary, the Mother of Jesus, King David, Paul of Tarsus, a sprinkling of the Twelve Disciples, Adam and Eve, or Elijah. These are important figures from history and tradition, whom the artists have chosen to honor. So it may come as a surprise to learn that one of the most influential people in the Bible is mentioned in only four verses, and that his story is more of a missing persons case than a biography.

Hidden among a long list of brief mad-lib-style genealogies in Genesis 5 (name, descent, and age) is the case of Enoch. Genesis 5:21-24 tells us that he was the father of Methuselah, he was a good person who “walked with God” for 365 years, and that “then” one day “was gone, because God took him. “When someone is kidnapped by the ruler of the universe, people tend not to send out a search party, so that's all the Hebrew Bible has to tell us. But the enigmatic conclusion to his life left people wondering.

Throughout history, there have been certain missing person cases that simply capture people's imaginations. The fates of Amelia Earhart, Anastasia Romanov, Jimmy Hoffa, and baby Lindbergh have spawned conspiracy theories, TV movies, Broadway productions, and treasure hunts. Enoch is one of those individuals. Hundreds of years after Genesis 5 was written, later generations of Jewish authors began writing stories in his name. Although they are neither in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) nor in the Christian Bible, they are as influential in religious history as any canonical text.

The literary expansion of the story of Enoch begins in the 3rd century B.C. The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible produced in Alexandria at the behest of Ptolemy II, translates "God took him away" as "God translated him." The language of "translation" refers to spatial relocation and implies that God took it and transported it to another place, presumably the Good Place. Around the same time, others began producing texts in Enoch's name and these texts are, to be frank, a pretty wild ride.

There are no less than three books written in the name of Enoch (1, 2, 3 Enoch🇧🇷 The first and most influential is1 Enoch, is actually a text made up of five or six short pamphlet-like works. The best known section is theBook of the Watchers🇧🇷 Here we discover, definitively, that our hero was taken to heaven, where an angelic guide took him on a tour of the celestial realm. In the course of this heavenly spectacle about the pens of the spirits of the dead, the cursed valley, and the names and roles of the Archangels, we also learn about the fate of the so-called Watchers.

This story is inspired by the biblical story of the flood in Genesis 6, which refers to angels (“sons of God”) having sexual relations with human beings. These sons of God, or Fallen Watcher Angels, rebelled against God and created their own offspring with human women. The descendants, the Bible says, are known as Nephilim or Giants. According to the book of the Watchers, the transgressions did not end there. The Watchers also taught humanity a great deal of forbidden knowledge, such as metallurgy, weapon making, cosmetic and jewelry making, root cutting, "magic", and astrology. Skills that we are glad to have, but that the divine Creator wanted to keep secret. An additional problem, likeDoctor Archie Wrightweatherexplained, is that the Giants were hyperconsumers: they ate a lot and, having exhausted the less offensive protein sources, ended up turning their attention and appetite towards humans.

The Genesis-based Enochic story of the sons of man and their enormous offspring is widely recognized as the source of both ancient Jewish and later Christian theories of evil. We must observe, like the teacherLoren Stuckenbruckfrom the University of Munich wrote in his bookThe myth of the rebel angels, that this was not inevitable. There is nothing in Genesis to categorically suggest that the giants were actually evil. In fact, there is a line of lore that blames the "daughters of men" for tempting them (which is why there is a strange passage in Paul's bookFirst Letter to the Corinthiansstelling women to keep their hair covered). Given the ambiguity of the Genesis account, Stuckenbruck writes, traditions about Enoch and the origins of evil may have arisen that predate our literary records and exploded in the third century BCE.

The reasons for the explosion of interest are easier to identify. After the return of the Israelites from exile in Babylon, in a period when Jews began to carve out a distinct identity for themselves as Jews, the region was conquered by Alexander the Great. Alexander and his successors practiced the kind of cultural imperialism that sought to impose its values, educational system, and language on its subjects. Consequence,1 Enochit shows both the traces of Hellenistic mythology and philosophy as well as the concerns and criticisms of these same influences. The story about the Watchers being punished for giving humanity secret knowledge, for example, is very similar to the Greek myth about Prometheus stealing fire from the Olympian gods and being punished in Hades. At the same time, as James VanderKam has written, Hellenistic culture and power are being totally rejected. The giants are "substitutes for the warriors of the author's time", that is, they are "the Hellenistic kings".

But the traditions about Enoch's journeys to heaven and his growing reputation as a visionary sage are not just about historical pressures and domination, they are also part of an emerging literary trend. The interest in writing under pseudonyms that arises in this period includes texts written on behalf of Biblical figures such as David and Moses. We should not assume that writing a text and attributing it to another person has to do with deception. What--Annette Yoshiko Reed, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at Harvard University, sometimes "the pseudonymous writer is not so much [a] creator or author as a pitchfork and guarantor of tradition." In her work, Prof.Eva Mroczek It isWhile the development of these traditions is more complicated than a simple takeover by authority, their expansion can be seen as a poetic interest in a "beloved character." Writing for Enoch is a kind of "character-driven literary creativity" that stems from an affection for his character and an enigmatic attraction to his story. Or, to grossly simplify and put it in modern terms: maybe it's more like fan fiction.

oBook of the Watchers it tends to attract the most attention for the way it influences later theories about hell, divine punishment, and the origins of evil. more orparables(osimilarities)of enochThey are equally influential. EITHERsimilaritiesthey speak of the importance of a messianic figure known as the "Son of Man" or "The Anointed One." This will ring a bell for those familiar with the New Testament Gospels and the use of the phrase “Son of Man” for Jesus. in bothsimilaritiesand the Gospel of Matthew, the Son of Man is a heavenly figure administering divine judgment at the end of the current age (which is understood to be imminent). If, until now, it seemed that Jesus' description of himself as the "Son of Man" was the biblical equivalent of ostensibly referring to himself in the third person, well, now you know it's a very different kind of boldness.

More generally, however, the apocalyptic sense of the end of the world exemplified by the Enochic traditions runs through the writings of Paul, the Gospels, and early Christianity. This type of apocalyptic key is not only found in the traditions about Enoch, you can find it in the biblical book of Daniel, the book of the apocrypha.jubilee, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, but the accumulated traditions about demons, the resurrection, the end of the world, unclean spirits, etc., that characterize the New Testament would not have been the same without Enoch. Jewish mystical traditions would not have emerged the way they did either. WhatPierluigi PiovanelliHe said: “These writings are among the most important literary artifacts for understanding the evolution of Jewish (and Christian) religious thought and practice, from magic to the millennium and from the millennium to mysticism, over more than eight critical centuries. 🇧🇷

Where Enoch's influence is most felt, or perhaps best appreciated, is in the Ethiopian forms of Judaism and Christianity. Most of the writing attributed to Enoch is preserved only in Ge'ez. There are some fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Aramaic and a jumble of Greek and Latin fragments, but1 Enochit only survives in its entirety in Ethiopia. Beth Israel, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church consider the text canonical and include it in their liturgies. It is thanks to these groups that we know the extent of Enoch's influence and importance.

In the fifteenth century, the Ethiopian emperor and theologianZar'a Ya'qob isto an interlocutor who dared to question the importance of Enoch: “Whoever you are, Christian or Jew, without the Book of Enoch you cannot claim to be: a Christian, it is impossible for you to be a true Christian, and a Jew, it is impossible! be a true Jew!” You are certainly right.

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