ENOCH, BOOKS OF, attributed to the seventh antediluvian biblical patriarch Enoch (Genesis 5.21-24), which show Iranian influence. Judging from the number of citations and allusions to Enochic “books” and “apocalypses,” many such works circulated among Jewish and Christian groups during the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine eras. Ancient estimates of Enoch’s books range from Ṭabarī’s “thirty scrolls” (I, pp. 173-74) to the assuredly fantastic “360 books” (variant “366”) of 2 Enoch (“short” 10.7). Only two indubitably Enochic books have been recovered to date, conventionally designated 1 Enoch and 2 Enoch (the so-called “3 Enoch” is a modern misnomer).

Since 1 Enoch’s complete text survives only in an Ethiopic translation, it is sometimes referred to as “the Ethiopic Book of Enoch.” Fragments of earlier versions have been discovered in Greek, Syriac, and Latin, but the most important textual witnesses to the origin and growth of 1 Enoch were found among the Qomrān Aramaic manuscripts, some of which reportedly date to the 3rd or even 4th century B.C.E. (Milik, 1976). In its present state, 1 Enoch includes at least five separate compositions loosely joined to one another and sharing a common perception of Enoch as an exemplary righteous individual who was granted access to heavenly mysteries regarding the governance of the cosmos, the progression of history, and the final judgment of the created order. If the Qomrān fragments are dated accurately, 1 Enoch is the earliest specimen of Jewish apocalyptic.

Since neither recension (“short” and “long”) of 2 Enoch survives except only in Old Slavonic, it is often referred to as “the Slavonic Book of Enoch.” Most scholars now hold that the “short” version is older and that the “long” version is an expansion incorporating interpolations that are mostly Christian. Nonetheless, these expansions might preserve some genuine ancient traditions (Andersen, pp. 93-94). Even in its present form, 2 Enoch shows clearly that it was originally Greek or even Semitic. Some have plausibly argued that it was written around the turn of the Christian era in Syria, Palestine, or Egypt (Morfill and Charles, p. xv; Forbes and Charles, pp. 426-29; Greenfield, p. xviii; Andersen, pp. 94-97). The book is distinguished by an intense interest in cosmogony and cosmology and foreshadows features of later Jewish Hekhalot literature and classical gnostic cosmogonies.

The difficulties in identifying Iranian influences upon the Enochic corpus are aggravated by disputes concerning the dating of Zoroastrian sources and doctrinal developments. The nascent dualism (between the divine and earthly spheres) of 1 Enoch, its developed angelology, concern with an other-worldly origin for evil and its eschatological consequences, and interest in the periodization of world epochs may reflect Iranian speculations but do not require such an explanation (Boyce, Zoroastrianism III, pp. 415-16, 420, 432-34). Winston calls attention to 1 Enoch (18.3ff.; 21.3ff.), descriptions of the punishment of seven stars who disobeyed God, suggesting that this motif of the seven rebellious luminaries reflects either the “usual list” of seven principal Zoroastrian daēvas or the Zurvanite idea that the seven planets are the seed of Ahriman (pp. 192-93). Perhaps a more plausible explanation would be that it is a survival of the Babylonian sebetti “the seven,” demonic beings sometimes identified with the Pleiades (von Soden, p. 1033). Winston (p. 191) also notes 1 Enoch 80.2 (“But in the days of the sinners the years will become shorter . . .,” Knibb, p. 269) as a possible instance of Iranian influence, a suggestion strengthened by the presence of the motif of eschatological “time-compression” in the Oracles of Hystaspes (Lactantius, Divinae Institutiones, 7.16.10).

Attention has also been devoted to possible Iranian influences in 2 Enoch. Concerning 2 Enoch 58.4-6 (“short” 15.4-6), in which the souls of animals accuse their human abusers before God’s throne, R. H. Charles observed that the closest parallels to such a conception are in Zoroastrian literature (Morfill and Charles, p. xv; Forbes and Charles, p. 464; Pines, 1971, col. 798). Other possible parallels have been identified by Winston (pp. 196-202), Pines (1970, 1971), and Boyce (Zoroastrianism III, pp. 427-32). Winston mentions the imagery of light and darkness (“long,” 30.8), creation depicted as the emergence of visible forms from an invisible (mēnōg?) prior state of existence (“long,” 24.2, 30.10, 48.5, 51.5, 65.1, 6), the creation of the first human being from seven elements (“long,” 30.8), the identification of the primal couple’s sin as a lack of knowledge (“long,” 30.16, 31.7), and a concern with cosmic periodization (“long,” 33.1-2), although the 7,000-year duration of the world given in 2 Enoch does not correspond with Zoroastrian systems. Pines has argued for a close similarity in the conception of time set forth in 2 Enoch and Zoroastrian works (see also Shaked, pp. 320-21). According to 2 Enoch (“short,” 17.1 ff.), the first created being is the so-called “age of creation,” brought forth for human benefit divided into years, seasons, months, days, and hours. At the end of the world’s duration, these temporal divisions will disappear and the “age of creation” will be transformed into the “great age” or “single age,” i.e., undifferentiated time. Pines proposed (1970, pp. 77-81; 1971, col. 798) that this scheme reflects a similar Zoroastrian conception of the relationship between Finite Time (zamān ī kanāragōmand) and Infinite Time (zamān ī akanāragōmand). Perhaps the most intriguing suggestion involves parallels between the narrative framework of Enoch’s journey through the heavens and that of the Zoroastrian Book of Ardā Wīrāz (q.v.; Boyce, Zoroastrianism III, pp. 429-32).

While Enochic works circulated widely among Jewish, Christian, and even Muslim communities within the Iranian cultural sphere, they seem to have exerted little if any influence upon native Iranian traditions. The only clear example of undoubted dependence is that of Mani and his adherents. Ever since the basic study of Isaac de Beausobre (Histoire critique de Manichée et du manichéisme, Amsterdam, 1734-39), scholars have speculated that Mani may have relied on one or more “books of Enoch.” The publication of Coptic and Middle Iranian Manichean texts has confirmed such suspicions (Henning, 1934; idem, 1943; Sundermann, 1973, pp. 76-78; idem, 1984). Lately new manuscript discoveries and studies (Milik, 1971; idem, 1976; Tubach) have proven Mani’s direct and fundamental dependence on Jewish Enochic sources such as 1 and 2 Enoch and the Qomrān Book of Giants for the development and even the genesis of Manichean ideology (Reeves, 1991; idem, 1992; see also AḴNŪḴ where the influence of Enoch books on Mani and Manicheism is discussed in more detail).


Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):

F. I. Andersen, “2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch,” in J. H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha I, Garden City, 1983, pp. 91-221.

N. Forbes and R. H. Charles, “2 Enoch, or the Book of the Secrets of Enoch,” in R. H. Charles, ed., The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Oxford, 1913, II, pp. 425-69.

J. C. Greenfield, “Prolegomenon,” in H. Odeberg, 3 Enoch or the Hebrew Book of Enoch, New York, 1973.

W. B. Henning, “Ein manichäisches Henochbuch,” SPAW, 1934, pp. 27-35.

Idem, “The Book of the Giants,” BSO(A)S 11, 1943, pp. 52-74.

M. A. Knibb, “1 Enoch,” in H. F. D. Sparks, ed., The Apocryphal Old Testament, Oxford, 1984, pp. 169-319.

J. T. Milik, “Turfan et Qumran: Livre des Géants juifs et manichéens,” in Tradition und Glaube: Das frühe Christentum in seiner Umwelt, Göttingen, 1971, pp. 117-27.

Idem, The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumrân Cave 4, Oxford, 1976.

W. R. Morfill and R. H. Charles, The Book of the Secrets of Enoch, Oxford, 1896.

S. Pines, “Eschatology and the Concept of Time in the Slavonic Book of Enoch,” in R. J. Z. Werblowsky and C. J. Bleeker, eds., Types of Redemption: Contributions to the Theme of the Study-Conference Held at Jerusalem 14th to 19th July 1968, Leiden, 1970, pp. 72-87.

Idem, “Enoch, Slavonic Book of,” in Encyclopaedia Judaica VI, Jerusalem, 1971, cols. 797-99.

J. C. Reeves, “An Enochic Motif in Manichaean Tradition,” in A. van Tongerloo and S. Giversen, eds., Manichaica Selecta: Studies Presented to Professor Julien Ries on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday, Lovanii, 1991, pp. 295-98.

Idem, Jewish Lore in Manichaean Cosmogony: Studies in the Book of Giants Traditions, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1992.

S. Shaked, “Iranian Influence on Judaism: First Century B.C.E. to Second Century C.E.,” in W. D. Davies and L. Finkelstein, eds., The Cambridge History of Judaism I, Cambridge, 1984, pp. 308-25.

W. von Soden, Akkadisches Handwörterbuch, Wiesbaden, 1965-81.

W. Sundermann, Mittelpersische und parthische kosmogonische und Parabeltexte der Manichäer, Berlin, 1973.

Idem, “Ein weiteres Fragment aus Mani Gigantenbuch,” in Orientalia J. Duchesne-Guillemin emerito oblata, Leiden, 1984, pp. 491-505.

J. Tubach, “Spuren des astronomischen Henochbuches bei den Manichäern Mittelasiens,” in P. O. Scholz and R. Stempel, eds., Nubia et Oriens Christianus: Festschrift für C. Detlef G. Müller zum 60. Geburtstag, Köln, 1988, pp. 73-95.

D. Winston, “The Iranian Component in the Bible, Apocrypha, and Qumran. A Review of the Evidence,” History of Religions 5, 1966, pp. 183-216.

(J. C. Reeves)

Originally Published: December 15, 1998

Last Updated: December 15, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VIII, Fasc. 5, pp. 453-455