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ENOCH , or, in Hebrew, anokh (from a Hebrew root meaning "consecrate, initiate") was the son of Jared, according to biblical tradition; righteous antediluvian; and the subject of substantial hagiography in the Jewish and Christian traditions.

In the Hebrew Bible

Genesis, in listing the descendants of Adam until Noah and his sons, mentions Enoch, the seventh, in ways distinct from the others: Enoch "walked with God"; he lived only 365 years, a considerably shorter time than the others; and at the end of his life he "was no more, for God took him" (Gn. 5:2124). Modern scholars agree that a fuller tradition about Enoch lies behind the preserved fragment. They disagree, however, on whether that tradition can be recovered from depictions of Enoch in postbiblical Jewish literature of Hellenistic times and from parallel depictions of antediluvian kings, sages, and flood heroes in ancient Mesopotamian literature.

In Jewish Literature of Second Temple Times

The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Bible, c. 250 bce), Ben Sira (c. 190 bce), and the Jewish Antiquities by Josephus Flavius (37/8c. 100 ce) all state that Enoch was taken by or returned to the deity. The Wisdom of Solomon (first century bce) explains that God prematurely terminated Enoch's life on earth so that wickedness would not infect his perfect saintliness. Philo Judaeus (d. 4550 ce) allegorizes Enoch so as to represent the person who is ecstatically transported (echoing the Septuagint) from perishable (physical) to imperishable (spiritual and intellectual) aspects of existence, and from mortality to (spiritual) immortality. Like the Greek version of Ben Sira, Philo describes Enoch as a sign of repentance for having changed from the "worse life to the better." Enoch is not found among the sinful multitude but in solitude. Philo contrasts Enoch's piety with that of Abraham, which is exercised within society rather than in isolation.

The portrayals of Enoch in contemporary writings displaying apocalyptic interests are considerably more laudatory of him and expansive of the underlying biblical text. Here Enoch is depicted as a medium for the revelation of heavenly secrets to humanity: secrets of cosmology, sacred history, and eschatology. The principal sources for these traditions are 1 and 2 Enoch, Jubilees, Pseudo-Eupolemus, and previously unknown writings among the Dead Sea Scrolls. They span a period from the third century bce to the first century ce.

Enoch's "life" and the secrets revealed to him are summarized in Jubilees 4:1626 and detailed in the Books of Enoch. Enoch receives these revelations first in nocturnal visions, and then in a heavenly journey lasting three hundred years, during which he dwells with angels and is instructed by them in hidden cosmological and historical knowledge. After a brief return to earth to transmit a record of his witness to his descendants, he is removed to the Garden of Eden, where he continues to testify to humanity's sins and to record God's judgments of these sins until the final judgment. Enoch is also said to officiate in paradise at the sanctuary before God. Elsewhere, certain religious laws are said to have originated with Enoch and his books. In some later parts of this literature, Enoch himself becomes a divine figure who dwells in heaven and executes justice. In most traditions, however, he is an intermediary between the divine and human, even after his transfer to paradise. Thus, Enoch combines the functions of prophet, priest, scribe, lawgiver, sage, and judge.

Ancient Near Eastern Parallels

For more than a century, scholars have argued that the biblical Enoch has his roots in Mesopotamian lore about similar antediluvian figures, and that the likenesses between Enoch and such figures reemerge in the depictions of Enoch in Jewish literature of Hellenistic times. Such parallels have most frequently been drawn with the seventh (or sixth or eighth) member of the Sumerian antediluvian king-list, Enmeduranna. According to some versions of this tradition, the king, associated with the city of the sun god Shamash, is received into fellowship with the gods and is initiated into the secrets of heaven and earth, including the art of divination, knowledge of which he passes on to his son. Other scholars, noting that no mention is made of Enmeduranna's transcendence of death, find Enoch's antecedents in the wise flood heroes Ziusudra and Utnapishtim, who are said to have been rewarded with eternal life in paradise. Most recently, scholars have argued that Enoch is modeled after the apkallu sages, who reveal wisdom and the civilized arts to antediluvian humanity, the seventh (utuabzu ) of whom is said to have ascended to heaven.

In Christianity

The church fathers exhibit considerable interest in Enoch's transcendence of death as a paradigm for Jesus and the Christian elect. However, some stress that it was only with Jesus' resurrection that Enoch's ascension was consummated. In the second and third centuries, Christian writers (among them, Tertullian and Irenaeus) place particular emphasis on Enoch's bodily assumption in support of belief in physical resurrection. Some (Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Jerome) identify him as one of the two witnesses of Revelations 11:313 who battle and are killed by the Antichrist, are resurrected a few days later, and are taken to heaven. Ephraem of Syria (fourth century) stresses that Enoch, like Jesus, in conquering sin and death and in regaining paradise in spirit as well as body, is the antipode of Adam. Because Enoch precedes the covenant of law (he is said to be uncircumcised and unobservant of the Sabbath), his faith and reward are of particular importance to Christianity in its polemic against Judaism and in its mission to the Gentiles.

In Rabbinic Judaism

Rabbinic exegesis is concerned less with Enoch's righteousness during life, questioned by some early rabbis, than with the nature of his end. The main issue of dispute is whether he died like other righteous people, his soul returning to God, or whether he was transported, body and soul (like Elijah), to heaven or paradise.

Some rabbinical circles, initially those responsible for the mystical, theosophical literature of Merkavah (divine chariot) speculation (our earliest texts are from the fifth to sixth centuries), adapted prerabbinic traditions of Enoch's transformation into an angel. This angel (now identified with the archangel Metatron) is said to rule the heavenly "palace," to have a role in the revelation of Torah and its teaching on high, and to guide the righteous in their tours of heaven. The tension between the mystical exaltation of Enoch and the more qualified praise of him and denial of his assumption continues through medieval Jewish literature.

In Islam

In the Qurʾān (19:5758, 21:85), Idrīs is said to have been an "upright man and a prophet," who was "raised to a high place." While Idrīs's identity within the Qurʾān is uncertain, Muslim writers, drawing upon Jewish sources that venerate him, have regularly identified him with Enoch (Arab., Akhnūkh). He is said to have introduced several sciences and arts, practiced ascetic piety, received revelation, and entered paradise while still alive.

See Also

Apocalypse, article on Jewish Apocalypticism to the Rabbinic Period.


There is no comprehensive work on the figure of Enoch in biblical and postbiblical religious traditions. For a thorough treatment of the biblical, Mesopotamian, and apocalyptic sources, see James C. Vanderkam's Enoch and the Growth of an Apocalyptic Tradition, "Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series," no. 18 (Washington, D.C., 1984). For a pastiche of some of the Jewish traditions with notes referring to most of the others, see Louis Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews, 7 vols., translated by Henrietta Szold et al. (19091938; reprint, Philadelphia, 19461955), vol. 1, pp. 125140, and vol. 5, pp. 156164. His notes, while comprehensive, are not always sufficiently critical. A collection of short treatments of Enoch in Jewish and Christian primary sources can be found in Society of Biblical Literature 1978 Seminar Papers, edited by Paul J. Achtemeier (Missoula, Mont., 1978), vol. 1, pp. 229276.

On the biblical tradition of Enoch, see, in addition to Vanderkam's book, the following representative commentaries: John Skinner's A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis, 2d ed. (Edinburgh, 1930), pp. 131132; Umberto Cassuto's A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, vol. 1, From Adam to Noah, translated by Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem, 1961), pp. 263, 281286; and Claus Westermann's Genesis (111) (Minneapolis, 1984).

For a comprehensive bibliographical review of recent scholarship on the Books of Enoch, see George W. E. Nickelsburg's "The Books of Enoch in Recent Research," Religious Studies Review 7 (1981): 210217. Important additions to that bibliography are Devorah Dimant's "The Biography of Enoch and the Books of Enoch," Vetus Testamentum 33 (January 1983): 1429, and Moshe Gil's "anokh be-erets e-hayyim" (Enoch in the Land of Eternal Life), Tarbiz 38 (June 1969): 322327 (with an English summary, pp. IIII). On the significance of the Enochic literature for the history of Judaism, see, besides Vanderkam's work, Michael Edward Stone's essay "The Book of Enoch and Judaism in the Third Century b.c.e.," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 40 (October 1978): 479492.

On the ancient Near Eastern background to the biblical Enoch and his postbiblical depictions, see Pierre Grelot's "La légende d'Hénoch dans les apocryphes et dans la Bible: Origine et signification," Recherches de science religieuse 46 (1958): 526, and Rykle Borger's "Die Beschwörungsserie Bit Meseri und die Himmelfahrt Henochs," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 33 (April 1974): 183196. Both refer extensively to earlier scholarship.

On Enoch in Merkavah and related traditions, see Jonas C. Greenfield's prolegomenon to 3 Enoch, or The Hebrew Book of Enoch, edited by Hugo Odeberg (New York, 1973), pp. xixlvii. For a Christian treatment of Enoch, see Jean Daniélou's Holy Pagans in the Old Testament, translated by Felix Faber (Baltimore, 1957), pp. 4256. For Idrīs in post-Qurʾanic Islamic literature, see Georges Vajda's "Idrīs," in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new ed. (Leiden, 1960).

New Sources

Dacy, Marianne. "Paradise Lost: The Fallen Angels in the Book of Enoch." Australian Journal of Jewish Studies 17 (2003): 5165.

Hannah, Darrell D. "The Throne of His Glory: The Divine Throne and Heavenly Mediators in Revelation and the Similitudes of Enoch." Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 94 (2003): 6896.

Nickelsburg, George W. E. 1 Enoch: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch. Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Minneapolis, 2001.

Suter, David Winston. "Why Galilee? Galilean Regionalism in the Interpretation of 1 'Enoch' 616." Henoch 25 (2003): 167212.

VanderKam, James C. "Biblical Interpretation in 1 Enoch and Jubilees." In The Pseudepigrapha and Early Biblical Interpretation, edited by James H. Charlesworth and Craig A. Evans, pp. 96125. Sheffield, 1993.

Steven D. Fraade (1987)

Revised Bibliography


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The son of Cain and the father of Irad, according to the yahwist genealogy in Gn 4.1724. The purpose of this genealogy is to depict the increase of sin and violence in the world from Cain to Lamech (Gn 4.8, 2324) that came as a result of the Fall (Gn ch. 3). By contrast, the Enoch of the Sethite genealogy of the Pentateuchal priestly writers in Gn 5.132, according to which he is the son of Jared (a variant of Irad) and the father of Mathusale (5.1824), seems to pertain to the paradisaic era of mankind. The priestly narrative makes no explicit mention of a fall in Adam, but indicates only that by the time of Noah the earth had become corrupt in God's sight and filled with violence (Gn 6.11). Enoch's lifetime belonged to the era when death had not yet touched mankind. adam, Seth, and the rest of his ancestors were still alive (5.520). During his life on earth, "Enoch walked with God" (5.24a). This recalls the Yahwist paradise tradition that speaks of Yahweh "walking in the garden"(3.8). Enoch, at the end of a perfect life cycle (365 years, by analogy with the solar cycle of 365 days), does not die. All that is said of Enoch is that "he was seen no more because God took him" (5.24b). Enoch, belonging to the seventh generation of mankind, seems to mark the apex of the paradisaic era. Thereafter, men will die; corruption will fill the earth.

The Book of Sirach is dependent on Gn 5.2124 in its praise of Enoch as one who "walked with the Lord and was taken" (Sir 44.16; 49.14). Sirach, like Gn 5.21, is extremely reticent with reference to any so-called ascension of Enoch. Whereas Elijah "went up" (2 Kgs2.11), or "was taken up" (Sir 48.9), of Enoch the Old Testament says only that God "took him" (Gn 5.21; Sir44.16; 49.14). Sirach also praises Enoch as "a wonder to succeeding generations by reason of his knowledge,"i.e., of divine mysteries (Sir 44.16). Here Sirach is perhaps dependent on the various noncanonical traditions that credit Enoch with the reception of special revelations, whether during his lifetime [Enoch (Ethiopic)] or at the time of his so-called ascension to heaven [Enoch (Slavic)]. Traditions concerning Enoch the visionary and revealer of mysteries are preserved in several apocryphal works including the Ethiopic Book of Enoch, written originally in Hebrew or Aramaic about the second century b.c. and preserved only fragmentarily in Greek and Ethiopic translations, and the Slavic Book of Enoch, originally written in Greek by a Jew in the first or second Christian century and probably later revised under Christian influence.

The Epistle of St. jude (v. 14) refers to Enoch as a revealer of mysteries and includes a direct citation from Ethiopic Enoch (60.8). The entire passage found in Judev. 415 reveals a dependence on Ethiopic Enoch (Jude v. 4 on 48.10; Jude v. 6 on 12.4; 10.46, 1112; Jude v. 14 on 60.8; Jude v. 1415 on 1.9). The author of Hebrews praises Enoch's faith and speaks of his transfer or removal (μετάθεσις, not ascension άνάλημψις), as a reward of his faith (Heb 11.5). This is a theme that appears frequently in Ethiopic Enoch and also in Jubilees 10.17. The dependence of Heb 11.5 on the apocryphal traditions, however, is not certain. Enoch is also mentioned in the genealogy of Lk 2.2324 in dependence upon Gn5.1824.

Bibliography: h. odeberg, g. kittel, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart 1935) 2:553557. c. bonner, The Last Chapters of Enoch in Greek (Haverford, Pa. 1937). j. t. milik, "The Dead Sea Scrolls Fragment of the Book of Enoch," Biblica 32 (1951) 393400. n. avigad and y. yadin, A Genesis Apocryphon (Jerusalem 1956). j. daniÉlou, Holy Pagans of the O. T., tr. f. faber (Baltimore 1957) 4256. d. s. russell, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic (Philadelphia 1964) 107118, 327330. r. h. charles et al., eds., The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the O.T. in English, 2 v. (Oxford 1913) 2:163164, 425469. t. w. manson, "The Son of Man in Daniel, Enoch and the Gospels," The Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 32 (194950) 171193.

[j. plastaras]


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ENOCH (Heb. חֲנוֹךְ). (1) Son of Cain, father of Irad. The world's first city was named after Enoch (Gen. 4:17f.). It has been suggested that the writer is punning on the root ḥnk, "to found," "initiate." (2) Son of Jared, father of Methuselah, seventh generation of the human race (Gen. 5:18–24; i Chron. 1:3). Sasson (in Bibliography) has suggested that as seventh in the line of Adam, Enoch's life of piety is in contrast with the seventh in the line of Cain, who is associated with bloodshed. In comparison with the life-span of his ancestors and descendants, his life is short and corresponds in years with the number of days in the solar year. It is further said of him that he "walked with God; then he was no more for God took him" (Gen. 5:23). This cryptic statement implies the existence of some fuller narrative about Enoch, now lost, perhaps connecting him with the sun god (see below). Legend has stepped in to fill the gap. Some scholars have pointed to a similarity with the Mesopotamian story of Enmeduranna, the seventh king before the flood, who was very close to the sun-god to whom his capital city was dedicated. Hess follows Borger (Bibliography) in suggesting that a better Mesopotamian counterpart of Enoch would be Utuabzu, adviser to Enmeduranki. Utuabzu, seventh in a list of sages before the Mesopotamian flood, like Enoch ascended into heaven.

[Nahum M. Sarna /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

In the Apocrypha

In Jewish apocryphal literature of the Second Temple period similar motifs to those of Enmeduranna are connected with Enoch (seventh in Seth's line); he too learned God's mysteries and had access to the heavenly tablets. It is therefore probable that the similarity between the later legends about Enoch and the figure of the Babylonian legendary king can be explained by the fact that Genesis preserves a partly expurgated narrative about Enoch and that some of the original mythological motifs continued to exist in oral tradition until they reached their present form in Jewish pseudepigrapha and medieval legends and mystical literature. Enoch became a hero in Jewish apocalyptic literature and two Jewish apocalyptic books are ascribed to him: the so-called Ethiopic and Slavonic Books of Enoch. The figure of Enoch was especially significant in the spiritual movement from which the *Dead Sea Sect originated. Thus his story and his writings are treated in the Book of *Jubilees, his prophecies are hinted at in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, and he plays an active role in the Genesis Apocryphon, one of the *Dead Sea Scrolls. Cave 4 at Qumran yielded Aramaic fragments many of which correspond to the apocalyptic i Enoch. The importance attached to Enoch in some Jewish circles in the Second Temple period aroused the opposition of the more rationalistic Jewish sages. Therefore in rabbinic literature Enoch is sometimes presented as evil and the biblical statement that he was taken by God is simply explained as a reference to his death. The first to claim that Enoch merely died was Ben Sira (Ecclus. 44:16; 49:14–16) – even Joseph, Shem, Seth, Enoch, and Adam had to die. It is interesting to note that all these biblical personages (with the exception of Joseph, but note "The Prayer of Joseph") became heroes of Jewish, Gnostic, and Christian mystical speculations. It is also important that while the Hebrew text of Ben Sira presents Enoch as a "sign of knowledge to all generations" – a hint at his mystical wisdom – by the time of the Greek translation (135 b.c.e.) Enoch had become "an example of repentance for all generations," reflecting the legend that there was repentance before the Flood. This legend, in a curious form, occurs even in Mormon holy scriptures (Moses 6:27–7:19).

[David Flusser]

In the Aggadah

Enoch was among the nine righteous men who entered paradise without suffering the pangs of death (dez 1, end). "He ascended to heaven on God's command, and was given the name *Metatron the Great Scribe" (Targ. Yer. to Gen. 5:4). During his lifetime Enoch was the guardian of the "secret of intercalation" and of the "miraculous rod" with which Moses later performed the miracles in Egypt (pdre 7:40). He is the central figure in some late Midrashim, such as Sefer Ḥanokh and Ḥayyei Ḥanokh (which are related to the legends found in the various pseudepigraphic Books of Enoch and other apocryphic works). Enoch lived in a secret place as a hidden righteous man and was called by an angel to leave his retreat to go to teach men to walk in the ways of God. He taught for 243 years, during which peace and prosperity reigned in the world. He made a powerful impression on all he taught, including kings and princes, and they acclaimed him as their king. As a reward for instructing mankind, God resolved to install him as king over the angels in heaven too. He ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot drawn by fiery chargers. When Enoch arrived in heaven the angels exclaimed: "How comes a man born of a woman amid the fire-consuming angels?" To which God replied: "Be not offended, for all mankind denied Me and My dominion and paid homage to the idols; I therefore transferred the Shekhinah ['Divine Presence'] from earth to heaven, and this man Enoch is the elect of men." God arrayed him in a magnificent garment and a luminous crown, opened to him all the gates of wisdom, gave him the name "Metatron," prince and chief of all heavenly hosts, transformed his body into a flame, and engirdled him by storm, whirlwind, and thundering (Sefer ha-Yashar to Genesis, p. 11a–13a). Notwithstanding these legends, third-century Palestinian rabbis deny the miraculous translation of Enoch, and state that he vacillated all his life between righteousness and sinfulness, whereupon God removed him from the world before he relapsed again into sin (Gen. R. 25:1). This derogatory evaluation of Enoch was, at least in part, a reaction against the use made by Christians of the legend of Enoch's ascension to heaven.

In Islam

A prophet named Idrīs is mentioned in the Koran in Suras 19:57–58 and 21:85. The commentators identify him with Enoch, whom God "took" (Gen. 5:22–25), namely, that he did not die. The Muslims shaped the character of Idrīs, the brother of "Noah," in keeping with Jewish aggadah, as already found in Ben Sira, Josephus, and the books of the Pseudepigrapha, in various languages, which are attributed to Enoch. The brother of "Noah" was well versed in books and was therefore named Idrīs ("the expounder of books"). Like the Jews, the Muslims occasionally identify him with Elijah, as well as with al-Khaḍir (see *Mūsā).

[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]


U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, 1 (1961), 263, 281–6; E.A. Speiser, in: The Anchor Bible, Genesis (1964), 41–43; Ginzberg, Legends, 1 (1925), 125–40; 5 (1925), 156–64. in apocrypha and aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, 1 (1925), 125–40; 6 (1928), 157–65; N. Avigad and Y. Yadin, Genesis Apocryphon (1956), 16–19, 40; Y. Yadin, The Ben Sira Scroll from Massada (1965), 38; E.E. Urbach, Ḥazal (1969), 295. in islam: Tha'labī, Qiṣaṣ (Cairo, a.h. 1348), 32; A.J. Wensinck, in: eis, 2 (1927), 449–50, s.v.Idrīs, incl. bibl.; G. Weil, Biblische Legenden der Muselmaenner (1845), 62. add. bibliography: R. Borger, in: jnes, 33 (1974), 183–96; J. Milik, Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4 (1976); J. Sasson, in: zaw, 90 (1978), 171–85; R. Hess, in: abd ii, 508; J. Fitzmyer, The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave 1 (20043); C. Rowland, in: ddd, 301–5.


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Enoch. Descendant of Adam (7th generation), in the Hebrew Bible. According to Genesis 5. 24, he was one who ‘walked with God and he was not; for God took him’. From this, he became central in apocalyptic speculation. Many legends became attached to him and several pseudepigraphical books bear his name.1 Enoch, or Ethiopic Enoch, contains a series of revelations to Enoch. The book is composite, and chs. 37–71, the ‘Similitudes’ or ‘Parables’, have attracted special attention because of their use of the term ‘Son of Man’.2 Enoch, Slavonic Enoch, or The Book of the Secrets of Enoch, recounts a tour by Enoch of the seven heavens.3 Enoch is a Hebrew Merkabah text to be dated perhaps to the 5th–6th cents. CE.

In Islam, the figure in the Qurʾān (19. 57 f., 21. 85) of Idrīs is usually identified by Muslims with Enoch.


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Enoch2 a Hebrew patriarch, father of Methuselah; he is said in the Bible to have lived for 365 years, and may be cited as a type of extreme longevity.

Enoch is also said to have ascended to heaven without dying, as in Genesis 5:24. By this story he is sometimes linked with Elijah, who ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot, and St John the Evangelist, whose later legend also says that he was taken up to heaven without dying.

Two works ascribed to him, the Book of Enoch and the Book of the Secrets of Enoch, date from the 2nd–1st centuries bc and 1st century ad respectively. A third treatise likewise dates from the Christian era.


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Enoch Name of several Old Testament figures. One was the father of Methuselah, and writer of Pseudepigrapha, such as the Books of Enoch. Another was the eldest son of Cain.


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Enoch1 in the Bible, the eldest son of Cain, and the first city built by Cain (Genesis 4:17), named after him.