An Introduction to 2 Enoch

(Online version of a lecture given by G. Macaskill on 16 February 2007.)

The text that we refer to as 2 Enoch, Slavonic Enoch or even The Book of the Secrets of Enoch is a fascinating example of the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha and of the distinctive problems associated with them. In what follows I will discuss the ways in which the manuscripts witness to those problems as I outlined them in the Introduction to the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha. ‘Problem,’ of course, is a very negative term: it is important that we value the variations, contradictions, omissions and additions that we encounter, for they may reveal to us something of the various cultural contexts in which the book was transmitted. ‘Problems are opportunities,’ as countless motivational speakers would remind us! For the sake of one’s sanity, it is important to bear this maxim in mind when working with the Slavonic texts.

1. Manuscripts and recensions: macro variation

2 Enoch is attested by around 20 manuscripts and fragments (as well as those of the East Slavic juridical collection Merilo Pravednoe, which contains a heavily abbreviated version) all written in Church Slavonic. These date from the14th -17th centuries and therefore are too late to be categorised as Old Church Slavonic, mostly they are in the Old Russian, Bulgarian and Serbian dialects. The oldest of these manuscripts is the fourteenth century Merilo Pravednoe (‘The Scales of Justice’). This document, however, contains a heavily edited and reworked version of 2 Enoch and, therefore, while being the oldest witness to the work it is also the witness of a very late stage in its transmission. Thus, one of the view points universally agreed by scholars is that 2 Enoch significantly pre-dates the 14th century.

The manuscriptsbear witness to two primary recensions of the work, generally known as the longer and shorter recensions, although if we are to be precise there are, in fact four recensions: very long, long, short and very short.i André Vaillant, in his critical edition of the textii made the judgement that, for the most part, the shorter recension was original and relegated the material of the longer recension to an appendix, regarding it as the work of a later redactor. This judgement was probably too simplistic: the text may have been edited-down at points as well as accruing additions and both short and long texts witness to a late stage in the text’s transmission. The fact is that we have no way of bypassing the difficult task of setting texts side by side and attempting to decide which may be closer to the original.

2. Variation within text families: micro variation

Even between texts that belong to the same recension (long or short), there exists a significant level of variation. For the most part, these variations do not affect the meaning of the text in serious ways, but occasionally they do. Interestingly, the points at which we tend to encounter the greatest amounts of variation are where we encounter Semitic names or words. The most cursory of surveys of Andersen¿s translation will illustrate this point.

3. The Verifiable Route of Transmission of 2 Enoch

To quote the words of Andrei Orlov: ‘contemporary scholarship still does not furnish a consensus concerning the possible provenance of 2 (Slavonic) Enoch.’iii
If we confine ourselves to the period that is attested by textual witnesses, the route of transmission that we can identify is from Byzantine Christian circles into the Slavic environment, within which at least some of the manuscripts were altered at the hands of the Bogomils or a similar group. The evidence for this is fairly straightforward: all of our manuscripts for 2 Enoch are in Church Slavonic, but most works of this kind have been translated from Greek. That this is the case with 2 Enoch may be supported by the ADAM acronym in chapter 30, which works only in Greek.iv It is worth noting also the presence of close parallels to 2 Enoch in a 13th. century Byzantine text, the Disputation of an Orthodox with a Latin,v which are discussed by Böttrichvi and would seem to provide further support for the transmission of the work in Byzantine circles.viiAs for traces of Bogomil transmission, these may be found in chapter 31, where Andersen notes the presence of two Slavonic puns. In the first, the devil becomes a ‘demon’ (b?s?) because he ‘fled’ (b?¿e); his name is then changed from Satanail to Sotona, the latter appearing to be a second pun, playing on the word for ‘make’ or ‘create’ (s?tvoriti), which occurs in a difficult intervening phrase that seems to suggest that the devil created heaven ‘(or at least his own, the lowest, heaven).’viii This certainly points to alteration of the text in a Slavic context, and possibly to Bogomil thought, but it is noteworthy that the passage in question is found only in the longer recension.

4. Debating Origins

Since the beginnings of academic interest in 2 Enoch, at least in the Western context, scholars have been divided over its provenance. Some believe it to be a late Christian composition, while others believe it to be a Jewish work from the Second Temple Period.

i. Late Date Arguments
In this category could be placed the work of the astronomer A.S.D. Maunderix and that of Josef T. Milik.x Maunder argued that the calendrical details recounted in 2 Enochreflect Julianic details foreign to 1st century Judaism. On the strength of this, she went on to argue that the work was the product of Bogomilism during the 12th -15th centuries, seeing no evidence for a Greek or Hebrew original and noting the presence of dualistic features. Her arguments were thoroughly responded to by Charles, and have since received further challenge, not least from Andersen in the footnotes to his translation of 2 Enoch. As far as her calendrical arguments are concerned, Maunder neglected the possibility that the text may contain interpolations: it is striking that when certain details – generally now accepted as being secondary interpolations into the longer recension – are removed, we are left with a rather confusing and muddled account that attests to a unique form of the solar calendar peculiar to certain groups within Second Temple Judaism.xi  As far as her suggestion of thoroughgoing Bogomil authorship is concerned, we should note that not only did she fail to appreciate the widespread existence of dualistic ideas throughout history, but she also failed to grasp the incompatibility of her theory with the stress placed in 2 Enoch upon the unique status of God as creator.

Milik famously argued for the work being the product of a 10th century Byzantine monk. His argument primarily involved two facts: first, certain lexical features may point to authorship in this period. He notes, on this level, the presence of the word zmuyreniemi in 2 Enoch 22:11, which he sees as being derived from the Greek word surmaiographos, a 9th century neologism meaning ‘to write in miniscule (quickly).’xiiAlso, he suggests that the angelic names Arioch and Marioch are derived from Harut and Marut in Muslim legends found in the Qur’an.xiii Second, Milik notes that the Melkizedek story found at the end of the book involves a transfer of priestly status from Methuselah to Noah’s nephew Melkisedek. Milik saw this as reflecting a widespread custom in the Greek church of the medieval periods that practised such a transfer of monastic function.xiv

Milik’s lexical arguments have been challenged by John J. Collins, who notes that even if the Slavonic zmuyreniemi is derived from surmaiographos (although in fact most see the word as derived from the Slavonic equivalent for smyrna, meaning ‘myrrh’),xv one word can hardly be used to date the whole book.xvi As far as the angelic names are concerned, Collins argues that such an argument is indecisive ‘since the origin of these figures has not been established.’xvii The argument centred on transfer of priestly role has now been challenged by Orlov who sees some kind of polemical function in the transfer of priestly status to Nir and Melkizedek.xviii Even if Orlov is incorrect in ascribing polemic significance to this transfer, his work at least provides alternative explanations for it.

ii. Early Date Arguments
Most defences of an early date and Jewish authorship have centred on the presence of sacrificial and temple material throughout the work. As Collins notes, ‘The emphasis on sacrifice throughout the book supports Jewish authorship, since in no case is there any allusion to the sacrifice of Christ.’ xix  In addition to the numerous references to bringing sacrifices, there seems to be stress in 2 Enoch on the offering being brought in a particular way. 59:1 refers to the bringing of a sacrifice of ‘clean beasts’ or ‘clean birds’ as a healing act.xx It is then stressed that the animal killed as part of the cult or killed for food must be bound by all four legs. To fail to properly bind it is an ‘evil act.’ This same concern arises in 69:12 as Methuselah makes the offering of animals (which are specified in verse 9 as having ‘passed inspection’): the animals are explicitly bound by their 4 legs before Methuselah is commanded to slaughter them ‘in the required manner in the face of the Lord.’ Schlomo Pines has argued that the references here to binding by four legs reflect the practice of heretical Jewish minim.xxi   His argument is based on the reference to the practices of the minim in Tamid 31b. While interesting, the argument is based on rather slim evidence from both sides: the rabbinic evidence is late and in any case brief,xxii and the evidence within 2 Enoch can only with any certainty be understood as referring to the binding of all four legs (not necessarily together: the animal could be bound by both sets of two legs and still be described as being bound by four legs). There is, in short, insufficient information for us to identify the group behind 2 Enoch as the heretical minim. However, the text certainly betrays a concern for the right kind of sacrifices to be offered in a particular way.

In this connection, Christfried Böttrich also notes that the exhortation to attend ‘the temple’ morning, noon and evening in 51:4 suggests a functioning cult.xxiii This point is doubly interesting: the manuscripts vary at this point, with most reading ‘temple,’ and others ‘the house of God’xxiv and ‘the Lord’s church’xxv The latter is a ‘drift towards Christian terminology,’xxvi and obviously reflects a Christian re-appropriation of the temple imagery.

Is this line of evidence concerned with sacrifice, however, convincing? Two problems can, I think, be raised. The first is the possibility that what we have here is material that includes references to sacrifice as part of its fictional setting. In other words, this could be a Christian work that includes references to sacrifice in order to make it look like it belongs among the Old Testament stories. This, of course, would leave open the possibility that such material would be re-read in a Christianised fashion. For example, either of the following readings could easily be transferred to a Christian context, referring to ecclesiastical practices:
‘Happy is he who reverences the name of the Lord, who serves ceaselessly in front of his face, and who organizes the gifts, offerings of life and who will live his life and dies.’xxvii (42:6)
‘He who multiplies a/the lamp in front of the face of the Lord, the Lord will multiply his treasure-stores.’ (45:1)

It is interesting that in 2:2, a reference to ‘the sacrifices of your salvation’ has been changed to ‘the prayers of your salvation’ in the manuscripts of the longer recension,xviii evidence that may well point to the difficulty that a Christian audience could have with such material, but that also indicates the ability of 2 Enoch‘s tradents to spiritualise or Christianise such references (as with the reference to the temple in 51:4). If the alteration attests such a spiritualisation, then it is reasonable that prior to the alteration, such a reading could be made of this text: in other words, references to sacrificial practice could be ‘Christianised.’ Nevertheless, it must be stressed again that Davila’s study demonstrates that Christian writers did not always spiritualise the concept of sacrifice and it remains possible that a Christian could have authored this work with no intention that the language should be Christianised.

The second problem is that ‘one swallow doesn¿t make a summer.’ While there are numerous references to sacrifice, some deemed halakhic by scholars, the fact is that this one area of Jewish practice is the only distinctively Jewish practice found in the text. Orlov, for instance, lists four points of halakhah in the text,xxix but these are all examples of sacrificial practice and, with the exception of the leg-tying regulation, fairly standard. There are no further areas of halakhic interest or debate attested in the work. Moreover, from a fictionalising point of view, the one practice that is developed – sacrifice – is the one that would be most easily identified as ‘Jewish’ by a Christian authorship. In other words, it would be a fairly predictable element in a Christian composition trying to look like it originated with an Old Testament patriarch.

iii. Recent Developments
The most recent, and probably the most important, efforts to locate 2 Enoch have been those of Andrei Orlov. Having been developed in the context of various articles that emerged from his doctoral research, his arguments have now been brought together in the monograph, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition. xxx This book seeks to locate 2 Enoch in the history of ideas of the Metatron tradition attested in Rabbinic and Hekalot materials. A Second-Temple date is essentially assumed for 2 Enoch, which is then examined to see whether or not it may attest a transitional stage in the evolution of Enoch into Metatron and whether, therefore, it may also allow scholarship to identify the origins of the Metatron imagery as being in the early Enochic traditions, rather than in other potential donor traditions. Orlov identifies a number of points where the Slavonic work contains what he describes as ‘more rudimentary stages’ in the Metatron traditions, where roles that would later become solidified into titles are ascribed to Enoch. These include, among other elements, the depiction of Enoch as ‘the servant of the face,’ comparable to sar happanim imagery;xxxi as ‘the Youth;’xxxii and as the ‘governor of the world,’ an element with several dimensions.xxxiii These are set out alongside roles that, according to Orlov, are clearly drawn from earlier Enochic traditions: Enoch as ‘diviner,’ ‘mediator,’ ‘expert in the secrets of creation’ and ‘priest.’xxxiv
Orlov sees his identification of more rudimentary stages in the tradition as providing the methodologically sound proof that is required for an early dating of 2 Enoch. In addition, he identifies a complex of polemics – particularly anti-Noachic polemics – in the text. These, he argues, centre on priestly issues and concerns and therefore allow us to more narrowly specify the likely provenance of 2 Enoch as being in the Second Temple period, when such concerns were still live.xxxv

I will return to Orlov’s argument for a complex of polemics in next week’s lecture. At this stage, the general comment I will make about his case as a whole is that while I think he has provided some very important evidence for the antiquity of 2 Enoch – or at least of elements within it – further evidence is required to clinch the case that it originated in Second Temple Judaism. If we apply the principles outlined by Dr Davila in last week’s lecture, according to the criteria specified in his book, The Provenance of the Pseudepigrapha (Leiden: Brill, 2005), then we must look for clusters of traits explicable only in a Jewish context. I think the evidence for a unique 364-day solar calendar provides us with one element within this cluster; another, perhaps, is the portrayal of Enoch as the one who ‘carries away the sins of mankind’ (64:5), a sentiment unlikely to have come from the pen of a Christian writer. Such areas require further research, properly attentive to the evidence of the manuscripts.


2 Enoch illustrates for us some of the difficulties in working with the Slavonic texts. It exists in at least two recensions and exhibits significant variation at the level of individual words. Establishing the origins of the book is problematic: we can fairly well demonstrate that it was translated from a Byzantine source, but attempts to prove that it came from first century Judaism have failed to convince.


i See Francis I. Andersen, ‘2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of ) Enoch,’ in OTP 1.92-221Comments on the recensions are found on page 93.

ii A. Vaillant,  Le Livre des Secrets D’Henoch: Texte Slave et Traduction Française,(Paris: Institut d’Etudes Slaves, 1952).

iii Andrei Orlov, ‘The Melchizedek Legend of 2 Enoch,’ JSJ 31,(2000), 23-38. For the various views on the origins of 2 Enoch, see Orlov’s footnote 1, page 23 or the discussion in C. Böttrich, Weltweisheit, Menschheitsethik, Urkult: Studien zum slavischen Henochbuch. WUNT 2:50 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1992), 20-54.

iv See Andersen, ‘2 Enoch,’ 152.

v Or Panagiotae cum Azymita Disputatio. The Greek text of this work is found in A. Vasil’ev, Anecdota Graeco-Byzantina I (Moscow: Sumptibus et Typis Universitatis Caesareae,1893).

vi Weltweisheit, 139-142.

vii Again, however, the possibility exists that the Disputatio contains traditions later integrated into 2 Enoch. This warrants further research at a later stage; again, though, it is research that must await a proper critical edition of the Slavonic text.

viii Andersen, ‘2 Enoch,’ 154.

ix A.S.D. Maunder, ‘The Date and Place of Writing of the Slavonic Book of Enoch,’ The Observatory 41 (1918), 309-16.

x See J.T. Milik with the collaboration of Matthew Black, The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976.

xi The specific details in question are:

  1. The Julianic year of 364 ¼ days (14:1; 16:4,6). The actual total of the number of days mentioned in Chapter 16 is 364, though the way in which the figure is broken down into months varies among the witnesses.
  2. The calendrical cycle of 28 years (15:4)
  3. The ‘Metonic cycle’ of 19 years (16:8).
  4. The lunar epacts (16:5)
  5. The ‘Great cycle’ of 532 years (16:5), after which the moveable festivals fall on the same day of the month and of the week.

For all of these details, see Andersen, ‘2 Enoch,’ 125.

xii Milik, The Books of Enoch, 109.

xiii Ibid., 110.

xiv Ibid., 114.

xv See, e.g., Andrei Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition (TSAJ107. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 325, fn 95.

xvi John J. Collins, ‘The Genre Apocalypse in Hellenistic Judaism,’ in Apocalypticism in the Mediterranean World and the Near East: Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Apocalypticism, Uppsala, August 12-17, 1979  (ed. D. Hellholm; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1983), 533, n.7.

xvii Ibid., 533, n.7

xviii Andrei Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition, 305-320.

xix Collins, ‘The Genre Apocalypse,’ 533.

xx There is a possibility that this passage describes a magical ceremony rather than a cultic one (see Andersen, ‘2 Enoch,’ 185).

xxi S. Pines, ‘Eschatology and the Concept of Time in the Slavonic Book of Enoch,’ in Types of Redemption: Contributions to the Theme of the Study Conference Held at Jerusalem 14th – 19th July 1968, (Ed. by R.J. Zwi Werblowski and C. Jouco Bleeker, Leiden; Brill 1970); 74-75.

xxii Pines, indeed, acknowledges that the reference is relevant to his argument only ‘according to the most probable interpretation,’ a comment that reveals the subjectivity of the evidence. ‘Eschatology,’ 74-75.

xxiii C. Böttrich Das slavishe Henochbuch, (JSHRZ V/7; Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1996);812-3.

xxiv Ms V.

xxv Ms B.

xxvi Andersen, ‘2 Enoch,’ 179.

xxvii Andersen, ‘2 Enoch,’ 169.

xxviii See Andersen, ‘2 Enoch,’ 108-109.

xxix The Enoch-Metatron Tradition, 309.

xxx Andrei Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition, (TSAJ 107. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005).

xxxi Ibid., 153-6. The most relevant passages are 2 Enoch 38 and 39.

xxxii Ibid., 157-9. A number of passages have Enoch addressed as ‘Youth,’ although the form is rather close to the vocative of Enoch.

xxxiii Ibid, 159-165. This element is further examined under the headings ‘Heavenly Counterpart’ (165-76) and ‘Prometaya’ (176-80)

xxxiv Ibid., 180-207

xxxv Ibid., 330-333.

(c) 2007
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

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