Book of Hénok

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The front cover for the Book of Hénok, by Hadrian Mar Elijah Bar Israel

The Book of Hénok (Ge'ez: መጽሐፈ ሄኖክ mätṣḥäfä henok) is a 4th Century B.C. Jewish text which according to holy tradition was written by Hénok, the great-grandfather of Noah.[1] The name Hênok comes from the ante-deluvian patriarch, and in Aramaic חנוך means “the teacher”. In Ge’ez, the name hēnoki ሄኖክ refers to “learning”. Thus the "Book of Hénok" may better be referred to as the "Book of Learning", the "Book of the Teacher", or even the "Book of the Learned".

The Prophet Hênok was a real man, of the seventh generation from Adam. He was one of the sons of Reuben, who was the firstborn of Israel . It is he who fathered the family which are known as the ha-ḥă-nō-ḵî הַחֲנֹכִ֔י Hanochites , which includes his son Methusala and his grandson Noah.

כד ויתהלך חנוך את האלהים ואיננו כי לקח אתו אלהים
And Hénok walked with God, but could not be found, for God took him away. (Genesis 5:24)
ויחי חנוך חמש וששים שנה ויולד את מתושלח ויתהלך חנוך את האלהים אחרי הולידו את מתושלח שלש מאות שנה ויולד בנים ובנות ויהי כל ימי חנוך חמש וששים שנה ושלש מאות שנה
…Hênok lived sixty-five years and fathered Methusalah. And Hênok walked another three hundred years after he fathered Methusalah, and he fathered [many] sons and daughters. And all of the days of Hênok were three hundred and sixty five years. (Genesis 5:21-23 )

We should not confuse the real work of the Prophet with those who continuously try to pervert the words and meaning in support of unrighteous ideologies. In the 20th century a number of people and organizations attempted to use Hênok to prove insane theories, including aliens, communication with “ascended masters” and other hooey which the Prophet himself did not envision and nobody had ever heard of until 19th century Europeans began their insidious perversions of Semitic culture and nuance.


Introduction

Christianity owes a great deal to the Hênokian tradition; and much of what has passed for Christianity throughout the ages is not found in the canonical Biblical books, but can be found in the book of Hênok. For instance, the idea of the intercession of the saints is attested in Hênok; as is the justification for the prayers for the dead, and even the idea that the angels have wings! But none of these are found anywhere in the canonical scriptures.

We know that the authors of the New Testament had access to the Book of Hênok, because we find the evangelists and Saint Paul quoting Hênok in a number of places. Jude 1:14–15 is a literal quote of Hênok 60:8. Hênok 50:1 is repeated in 1st Corinthians 15:51; 1st Thessalonians 5:3-5 reads almost identically to Hênok 50:2; Matthew 13:43 uses identical language to Hênok 52:5; Revelation 20:13 is a reiteration of Hênok 57:8; Philippians 2:10-11 is actually from Hênok 62:9; and so forth. This are only the instances where we find identical text; as far as inferences are concerned, it is difficult to gauge how much of Hênok actually made its way into the canonical scriptures.

The apostle Jude, who is referred to as the “brother of James” (Luke 6:16) and as "Judas not Iscariot" (John 14:22) certainly considered Hênok to be a canonical work; as he quotes Hênok 60:8 in his own epistle saying: “But also Hênok, who was the seventh from Adam, prophesied saying, "Behold Mar YAH cometh with myriads of holy, to execute judgement upon all, to admonish the wicked, because of their evil deeds and impious speech.

Canonical Status

The Book of Hénok is considered part of the Broader Canon by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The Nazarani Church also considers the Book of Hénok as part of it's Wider Canon, which although authoritative for the people of God, is not included in the annual readings of the church.

It is wise to note that the authors of the Peshitta New Testament did not include the book of Jude in their canon. It is possible that they did not do so because of its inclusion because of its inclusion of this text from Enoch.

Regardless of this, a number of ante-Nicaean fathers considered Hênok as a canonical work. Among them, Athenagoras of Athens, Clement of Alexandria, Commodianus, Hippolytus, Irenæus, John Cassian, Justin Martyr, Minucius, Lactantius, Origen, and Tertullian all included the book of Hênok among their lists of the books they included in the church canon.

Augustine of Hippo wrote extensively about Hênok in the 15th volume of the De ciuitate Dei contra paganos. "I must confess, that some things of Divine character were written by Enoch, the seventh from Adam, since this is testified by the Apostle Jude in his canonical Epistle; but they are deservedly excluded from the Jewish Scriptures, because they lack authority and cannot be proved genuine.” But this isn’t the biggest problem facing the book. The fact that Jude was not included in the Peshita is quite telling. In fact there seems to be an intentional desire NOT to perpetuate specifically Enochian traditions among the early Nazarani. For instance there are no prayers for the dead, nor the intercession of the saints in the earliest writings of the Nazarani.

But Hênok isn’t infallible scripture, and therefore cannot be spirit-breathed. Not like the twenty-two books of the Peshita (i.e. Aramaic) New Testament are infallible. No scientific or historical evidence has ever been found which contradicts the teachings of any book of the Peshitta. However the holy books of other all other religions, including the book of Hénok have turned out not to be true from a scientific and historical perspective.

Saint Paul commands us to “Despise not prophecy” For “Prophecy has never come at the pleasure of humanity, but rather when the Spirit of Holiness, but when holy men were scourged by God.”

“The prophet who prophesies peace, once the word of the prophet is confirmed, he will known as the prophet whom YHVH truly sent.” For instance we recognise the Prophet Samuel because: “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall on the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord.”

But regardless, we must not forsake Enoch entirely, because his prophecy forms a part of the history which is now behind us, and we must “remember the former things from times past, for I AM EL and there is no other. I AM ELOHIM and nothing resembles Me. Declaring the end from the beginning, that what has not happened in ancient times, My counsel will stand and I will do all My pleasure.” For “Every book which the Spirit writes is useful for teaching, reproof correction and righteous instruction.”

Cosmology

Hênok describes the layout of the heavens as revealed to him when he was taken up into the heavens and to the ends of the Earth, to bear witness to their machinations and to learn the future will of God. Although much of the science behind Hênok was wrong was not known until our century; so this was not the reason for the book being rejected. For instance, regardless of what Hênok says, the Earth is not a disk, and the stars do not enter into the night through gates in the heavens. In fact, from our modern perspective, parts of Hênok actually sound like fairy tales, because the author's view of the world, the heavens and the future was so naive. This cannot be said however of the canonical scriptures – not even one word of which has been disproved by science.

They did not know however at the time of the Nicæan council in 325 A.D., that Hénok would prove to be unscientific. Regardless of this the fact that Hênok was not included in the fifty books ordered by the Emperor Constantine for his parishes in Constantinople in 325 A.D. is not so surprising. Hênok teaches us to undermine ‘unrighteous authority’; and Constantine continued to refer to himself as ‘Sol Invictus’ (i.e. the Son of the Son) until his death, making him far less-than righteous in the eyes of the true believers.

Byzantine Rejection

The Byzantines didn’t want to risk losing their new found worldly honors with things like Verse 91:12 which talks about the new Zion being given a sword by which there shall be a judgement put upon those who oppress the righteous. Or with phrases such as “… those who build up unrighteousness and oppression, laying the foundation of deceit… shall be overthrown, and have no peace.” (Hênok 94:6) In short, Hênok was dangerous to those who wanted worldly power and saw appeasing a pagan emperor as the best way of attaining it.

The Byzantine’s hatred of the Semitic culture of our Messiah continued as their Empire grew, so much that the [Second Council of Constantinople] which met under the authority of the Patriarch Eutyches in 553 A.D. banned the book of Hênok, as well as anything else which was seen as being “contrary to what befits priests and the ecclesiastical status” . As the result o this, non-canonical books were burned, and the heretics who supported them were exiled and killed. From this, the use of the book of Hênok did not pass on to the western churches and was entirely forgotten by the mid 19th Century.

"Discovery" by Europeans

James Bruce (1730 –1794) is probably most famous for the decade he spent searching out the origins of the Blue Nile in Africa. It is known that he brought at least twenty-seven manuscripts back to Europe from Africa, even presenting one specially prepared version of the Book of Hênok as a gift to Louis XV King of France. His book, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, In the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772 and 1773 which was published in Five Volumes in 1790, was one of the first glimpses which Europeans had of the interior of the 'Great Continent', and of Ethiopia in particular. Especially important among the manuscripts which he brought back with him was a Ge’ez edition of the mätṣḥäfä hênok መጽሐፈ ሄኖክ or “Book of Hênok”. Bruce, who was fluent in Arabic, English and Ge’ez understood the true value of these manuscripts, and was keen to see them undergo study in the capitals of Europe.

Throughout most of the 19th and 20th centuries most western scholars believed that Hênok was a zealous fabrication of Ethiopian Christians. This was owing to its strong messianic themes, and also to the fact that many of the verses of Hênok are quoted in the New Testament.

Dead Sea Scrolls

The fact that the book of Hênok was discovered at Qumran is of paramount importance in understanding how to contextualize it. The community at that site is widely thought to be part of the wider group which eventually recognized Jesus as Messiah. Many have also claimed that the souls who occupied that community were actually the Essenes spoken of by Josephus in the 8th chapter of his book The Jewish Wars, as having lived “from time immemorial”. If this is true, we can then posit that the Book of Hênok may have been the 'secret wisdom’ of the Essenes, and thus the reason that they were claimed to know the "mysteries of the universe".

The view of a purely Christian origin was changed however in 1948 when eleven fragments of an Aramaic version of the book were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls in Cave 4 at Qumran. This proved once and for all the ancient Jewish provenance of the book, and changed forever our modern view of the origins of Christianity and of Judaism as they were known from the time of Jesus and His apostles. The modern consensus is that Hênok was written between 300 B.C to 150 B.C. and seems to mimic the 1st century B.C. Judaism, rather than the later Nazarani Judaism as recorded by the evangelists.

Arrival in Ethiopia

It is thought that the arrival of the Book of Hênok in Ethiopia occurred prior to the Syrian Christian missionary Frumentius who baptised the Emperor Ezana, making Ethiopia official ‘Christian’ in the fourth century A.D. It is possible that it may have even been brought to Ethiopia by the “faithful” chancellor of the Queen of Ethiopia in the 1st Century . Because of its ancient use among Ethiopia’s Jews, the book became grand-fathered into the Wider Canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, regardless of its rejection by others.

Sections

The five sections of the book are thought by many to have originally been independent works, which were collected together into a single anthology. In addition, scholars have identified more than a hundred possible ‘fragments’ which is to say smaller worked which became stitched together into a single book.

The five main sections are:

    • The Book of Watchers
    • The Book of Oracles
    • The Book of Astronomy
    • The Book of Dreams
    • The Epistle



References

  1. E. Fahlbusch E. & G.W. Bromiley (2004) The Encyclopedia of Christianity, page 411, ISBN 0-8028-2416-1