The Epistle of Enoch (1 Enoch 91-108)
by Gillian Gilmour
[Gillian Gilmour is a third-year undergraduate in the M.A. Honours (Theological Studies) programme at the University of St. Andrews.–JRD]
This paper was constructed with a view to outlining the contents of the Epistle in brief and then detailing some of the academic discussion around that which I considered some of the most important and interesting issues. The Epistle is a highly diverse piece of work, even within the context of the Enochic literature, as it contains very divided sections, including the Apocalypse of Weeks, the story of the birth of Noah, and the multitude of woes to sinners.
Scholars are generally agreed that the order in which we have the Epistle now is not the order in which it was first written. Boccaccini offers a reconstructed sequence of chapters, and I find his reconstruction fairly persuasive. There is also a reasonable amount of scholarly debate over the question of whether the Apocalypse of Weeks was an original feature of the Epistle of Enoch, or whether it was an independent text which was incorporated into the Epistle by a later author. This also raises the question of the dating of the text since some scholars date the Apocalypse of Weeks to a different time than the Epistle. VanderKam dates both the Epistle and Apocalypse of Weeks to roughly 170 B.C.E., whereas Milik dates the earliest manuscript of the Epistle to the middle of the first century B.C.E.
One issue that I found fascinating, based in 1 Enoch 98:4, was the question of the origin of sin. When one first looks at the passage it appears to conflict drastically with the previous Enochic literature. Milik sees that this passage refuted the myth of the Watchers as being the origin of sin and that it places the origin of sin at the door of humanity alone. Boccaccini, however, interprets this passage slightly differently. He states that the author of the Epistle is, in fact, drawing a distinction between evil and sin, and that evil does originate with the watchers whereas sin is very much a human failing. I tend to find myself more drawn to Boccaccini’s argument as it does integrate more easily with previous Enochic literature.
The other issue that I was drawn to was the question of the parallel between the Epistle and the Gospel of Luke. Through looking at Aalen’s article ‘St Luke’s Gospel and the Last Chapters of 1 Enoch’ and Nickelsburg’s follow up article ‘Riches, the Rich, and God’s Judgement in 1 Enoch 92-105 and the Gospel according to Luke’, I would have to say that I am still sceptical about accepting that the author of Luke had close contact with the author of the Epistle as Aalen suggests. I do accept that the Epistle has been influential in some way, and that it was known of and perhaps used around the first century C.E., however, I have found no positive evidence to reach any wider conclusions than that.
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.