Skip navigation to content

Enoch as Divine Mediator


(Summary of a lecture by J. Davila on 10 February, 1998)

This is the online version of my first lecture on a specific figure, meant to illustrate the methodology I outlined last week. I'll start by saying a little about our ancient sources for Enoch as a mediator figure. He is first mentioned in Gen 5:18-24, a wonderful teaser of a passage that leaves the impression the writer knew considerably more than is said. A much more detailed version of the story, which ties in traditions known from Gen 6:1-4 (another teaser), is found in the various Enoch traditions and works collected in the book of 1 Enoch. My inclination is to think that Genesis 5-6 is largely suppressing a myth found in full form in the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36), but not everyone would agree on this. Enoch appears in the Qumran literature, but mostly in Aramaic manuscripts of 1 Enoch. Philo never mentions him and Josephus alludes briefly to his assumption just once (Ant. 9.2.2). The use of 2 Enoch for the period before 100 C.E. is quite problematical, for reasons discussed by VanderKam. Because of my limited time and space, I will focus on just two Enoch texts in this lecture. The first is 1 Enoch 37-71, the "Similitudes" or "Parables" (better "Oracles") of Enoch. This work isn't found at Qumran, but almost all scholars, myself included, think it is a Jewish document written before 100 C.E. The second is 3 Enoch 1-16, a work that existed by the 9th century C.E., and that obviously contains earlier traditions (see below), but just how much earlier is unclear. Obviously, it's well outside our basic time frame, but I will be using it to establish a trajectory of Enoch traditions in Judaism to compare with related trajectories in early Christianity. <

For reasons that will become clear, I will start by tackling the mediatorial traditions in 1 Enoch 37-69 and then come to terms with chs. 70-71. In the former chapters, Enoch functions as an Exalted Patriarch in an attenuated sense; he is superhuman in that he experiences visions and ascents, but he isn't deified or promoted to angelhood. Thus, he fits the Legacy Pattern: he leaves a legacy of apocalyptic revelations that are still deemed to be relevant in the writer's present. These include predictions of the details of the eschatological judgment (e.g., descriptions of that Son of Man [the eschatological redeemer] [ch. 46, etc.] and an account of the resurrection of the dead [ch. 51]) and revelation of mysteries (e.g., information on the origins and fate of the cosmogonic monsters Leviathan and Behemoth [60:7-10] and the names of the fallen angels [ch. 69--potentially practical information for aspiring magicians!]).

However, the picture changes suddenly and radically with chs. 70-71. Enoch is identified with the Son of Man (71:14)--he himself is the eschatological redeemer who he has been describing! He is now an Exalted Patriarch in the strong sense--he has been exalted to the status of God's chief angel. Incidentally, some of the translators have tried to get around this, but with little success. Charles simply mistranslates the Ethiopic rather than accept its implications and Isaacs takes son of man in 71:14 to be a generic use, meaning just "human being" (as, for example, most of the time in the book of Ezekiel). But it won't work. The description of Enoch in 71:14 deliberately echoes the language of 46:3, a passage that describes the cosmic Son of Man. So Enoch's role is abruptly shifted into the Consummation Pattern: he is a principal angel of central importance at the final judgment.

When promoted to the status of Son of Man, Enoch also fits my category Future Ideal Figure. Indeed, he embodies three such figures:

(1) The one like a son of man in Daniel 7:13-14. He is called Son of Man, or that Son of Man (three different Ethiopic phrases are involved). A nice example is in 1 Enoch 46:1-3, where the echoes of the heavenly scene in Daniel are clear. Whatever we make of the original meaning of Daniel 7, that Son of Man in the Similitudes is clearly an eschatological redeemer. (Other references to the Son of Man in the Similitudes are: 48:2; 62:5, 7, 9, 14; 63:11; 69:26, 27, 29; 70:1; 71:14, 17).

(2) The (Davidic) Messiah. The title Messiah (i.e., Anointed One) is applied to the eschatological redeemer twice in the Similitudes (48:10 and 52:4). The language of the first passage echoes Psalm 2:2 and thus evokes the messianic traditions drawn in the Second Temple period out of the royal psalms.

(3) The Servant of God in Deutero-Isaiah. This mysterious figure appears in the four servant songs in Isaiah 40-55 (roughly, Isa 42:1-7; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12) and two titles of the echatological redeemer in the Similitudes allude to him: the Righteous One (1 Enoch 38:2?; 47:1, 4; 53:6), and the Elect/Chosen One (39:6; 40:5; 45:3, 4; 48:6; 49:2, 4; 51:3, 5; 52:6, 9; 53:6; 55:4; 61:5, 8, 10; 62:1). The Servant is called the Righteous One in Isa 53:11 and is called chosen in Isa 42:1. He is also a light to the nations in Isa 42:6 and 49:6 (cf. 1 Enoch 48:4) and the shame of the kings of the world before the Servant (Isa 52:15) is echoed in 1 Enoch 62:9-10. It's interesting to note that, although the grievous suffering of the Servant is central to the figure in Isaiah, these sufferings are ignored in the Similitudes.

More details on the use of these titles for the eschatological redeemer of the Similitudes can be found in the article by VanderKam in _The Messiah_ (ed. Charlesworth--see the annotated bibliography). It is debatable whether the identification of Enoch with the Son of Man was originally part of the Similitudes. Many scholars would argue that chs. 70-71 are later additions that tie the two figures together somewhat confusingly. This is perfectly possible and may indeed be the best explanation for the paradox of Enoch not recognizing himself when he is repeatedly shown the Son of Man in visions. But for my purposes it doesn't matter. The text we have before us does make the identification, so someone must have accepted it. It's even possible that a Jewish writer introduced the connection with Enoch to undercut any attempt of Christians to associate the Son of Man of the Similitudes with Jesus (cf. below on Matt 25:31-46).

There is undoubtably a close relationship between the Similitudes and 3 Enoch 1-16, although the exact nature of the connection remains murky; perhaps it is a combination of literary and oral transmission of traditions in Hebrew. Here are a few examples of parallels between the two works: there is a story or stories about precious metals and how they will not avail their users and those who make idols from them (1 Enoch 52; 65:6-8; 67:4-7 // 3 Enoch 5:7-14). One of the characters is a hostile angel named Azaz'el/Aza'el (1 Enoch 54:5; 55:4; 69:2 // 3 Enoch 4:6; 5:9); Enoch ascends to heaven in a storm chariot (1 Enoch 52:1; 70:1-3; // 3 Enoch 6:1; 7:1); Enoch is transformed into an angel (1 Enoch 71:11-17 // 3 Enoch 9:1-5; 15:1-2); Enoch as an exalted angel is enthroned in heaven (1 Enoch 55:4; 61:8; 62:1-5; 69:29 // 3 Enoch 10:1-3; 16:1); and he receives a revelation of cosmological secrets of creation (1 Enoch 69:16-26 // 3 Enoch 13:1-2). These are just a few examples taken from my unpublished notes on the problem. Others were pointed out by my student Bankole Davies-Browne last year in the otpseud class and the abstract of his paper is available on the otpseud web page. As I said last year, I think there is a dissertation waiting to be written on the relationship between the Similitudes and 3 Enoch. (Bankole, by the way, is writing a thesis on the Testament of Solomon, so 3 Enoch is still available.) I note also the important point that 3 Enoch is a descendant of the form of the Similitudes that included the exaltation of Enoch in 1 Enoch 70-71.


First, the titles used in the Similitudes are mostly dropped in 3 Enoch. Enoch is never called the Son of Man or the Righteous One. The title Messiah (Anointed) does appear, but only applied to the traditional Jewish Messiahs son of Joseph and son of David (45:5; 48A:10). Enoch is called Chosen only once (6:3; he is "choicest of them all" [MBWXR $BKWLM]). Nevertheless, some of the basic ideas in the Similitudes, especially the exaltation and apotheosis of Enoch, remain and are developed further. In 3 Enoch our hero has become the angel Metatron (a name whose origins and meaning are still debated, but the word looks Greek and may have something to do with God's throne). His titles include the "Angel Prince of the Divine Presence" (3:1 and often; M)LK &R HPNYM); "Youth" (2:2; 4:1 [N(R]; perhaps a priestly title [cf. Exod 33:11]; Metatron is the celestial high priest); and even the "Lesser Yahweh" (12:5; H HQ+N)!.

Enoch is an Exalted Patriarch in the strong sense--he is the chief angel next to God; his apotheosis is even more explicit than in 1 Enoch 70-71. But the emphais on him as a Future Ideal Figure is gone; nothing is said about his future activities. 3 Enoch also shows little interest in the Legacy Pattern: the stories about Enoch as an earthly figure don't seem to have an exemplary function, although there is some interest in the legacy of the exalted Enoch. Instead, the focus is on the Intervention Pattern. The narrator of 3 Enoch is R. Ishmael, one of the traditional heroes of the Hekhalot (Merkavah mystical) literature. Ishmael functions here as a prototype of the Merkavah mystic; he is led on an apocalyptic tour of the universe, with Metatron as his otherworldly guide who reveals to him celestial and eschatological secrets. (Thus the work is formally an apocalypse.) The basic structure of the Similitudes is preserved, but with the important difference that Enoch is now the angelic guide, not the human recipient. But there's more: Enoch, too, is a prototype of the mystic. He experiences a shamanic initiatory disintegration and reintegration (3 Enoch 8-15) which seems to have been an archetypal element of the experience sought by the mystics. (I've written an article on the shamanic role of the Merkavah mystics, which I plan to put online during our spring break [24 March to 10 April]. More on that later. Also, those of you who plan to be in southern California this August can hear my paper "Shamanic Initiatory Disintegration and Reintegration in the Hekhalot Literature" at the Second International Conference on Magic in the Ancient World at Chapman University.) In 3 Enoch little interest survives in the Consummation Pattern; only chs. 45 and 48A have anything to say about eschatology and their focus is more on the revelation of heavenly secrets. This refocusing of the apocalyptic tradition is typical of the early Jewish mystical literature. The eschaton is absorbed into the mystical experience of the initiate. Likewise, rabbinic Judaism developed a certain reserve about eschatological matters, perhaps as a result of the two disastrous revolts against Rome, although Jewish apocalypses continued to be produced in late antiquity (e.g., the Hebrew Apocalypse of Elijah).

Early Christianity was well aware of the Enoch traditions. The Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1:9) is quoted as prophetic scripture in the New Testament (Jude 14-15), and the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matt 25:31-46 appears to know the Similitudes and to identify Jesus with its Son of Man figure. So we may reasonably ask, how do the traditions of Enoch as a divine mediator illuminate our understanding of Jesus as divine mediator?

(1) THE SIMILITUDES. Early Christianity made use of some of the same titles and traditions about ideal figures, but often with rather different emphases.

(i) The title put to the most similar use is the Son of Man. The four canonical Gospels have Jesus and Jesus alone using it, apparently of himself. (The Gospel of Thomas, however, never uses it as a title and doesn't have Jesus apply it to himself, raising some doubt that the use really goes back to him). Apart from the four Gospels, it is rare in the New Testament (only Acts 7:56, but cf. Hebrews 2:5 and Rev 1:13). As used in the Gospels, the title is applied to the one like a son of man in Daniel 7, who is interpreted as the eschatological redeemer (a Future Ideal Figure) and identified with Jesus.

(ii) The title Messiah (Anointed--Greek XRISTOS, Christ) appears often in the New Testament and is the title most frequently applied to Jesus therein (although, again, the Gospel of Thomas ignores it). It is derived from the traditions about the Davidic kingship (another Future Ideal Figure). There is much more emphasis on this title for Jesus in early Christianity than for the Son of Man in the Similitudes. The latter is never even specifically tied to the Davidic royal line, and the identification with Enoch would seem to preclude such a connection.

(iii) Traditions about the Servant of God are also used in the New Testament. In fact, more or less direct quotations from the servant songs are frequently applied to Jesus and the early Christians (Matt 8:17; 12:17-21; Luke 22:37; John 12:38; Acts 8:32-33; 13:47; 26:23; Rom 15:21; 1 Peter 2:21-25). The quotations are used to explain the rejection of Jesus by his own people and to defend the mission to the gentiles. In addition, many details of the passion narratives in the four Gospels seem to be drawn from the servant songs (especially the third and fourth).

(2) 3 ENOCH: The deification of Enoch in 3 Enoch is stronger than in the Similitudes and thus more similar to the deification of Jesus. Jesus too is called God more or less directly (John 1:1) and stands as an exceedingly high divine agent subordinate only to God (Phil 2:9-11). There is an important difference: Jesus is unambiguously worshiped--there is a Jesus cult. The situation with Metatron is more complex. At his apotheosis he is worshiped by the other angels (3 Enoch 14) and one Jewish heretic mistakes him for a second authority in heaven (ch. 16), but the current text of 3 Enoch goes out of its way to repudiate the idea of a Metatron cult. So far out of its way, in fact, that I wonder if the writer does not protest too much. Could there have been a Jewish cult that venerated Metatron alongside God in late antiquity? I think this is possible, although it can't be proved at this stage. What can be proved is that the current text of 3 Enoch has received an orthodox reediting that purged it of magical and theurgical elements and which left parts of it incoherent. Philip Alexander showed this in his article on 3 Enoch (see the annotated bibliography) and more evidence for this has surfaced since that article was published (see the article by Sch<"a>fer cited below). If, in fact, 3 Enoch originally attested to a Metatron cult, the parallels with Jesus would be far more exact.

(3) SUMMARY: The traditions about the exaltation and apotheosis of Enoch are the best entry point for a comparison of Enoch and Jesus as divine mediators. The Jesus tradition and the Similitudes draw on some of the same typologies of ideal mediator figures and both traditions focus these types around the eschatological future. 3 Enoch relies almost entirely on a mystical Intervention Pattern, but it has a stronger deification tradition than that of the Similitudes, which is more comparable to the deification of Jesus.


Peter Sch<"a>fer, "Ein neues Fragment zur Metoposkopie und Chiromatik," _Hekhalot Studien_ (TYbingen: Mohr [Siebeck] 1988) 84-95

(c) 1998
Reproduction beyond fair use only on permission of the author.

Contact details

St Mary's College
The School of Divinity
University of St Andrews
South Street
St Andrews
Fife KY16 9JU
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)1334 462850
Fax: +44 (0)1334 462852