Enoch the Prophet

“By whom also He [Christ] went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.” – 1 Peter 3:19-20

“These are of the number of the stars [of heaven], which have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and are bound here till ten thousand years, the time entailed by their sins, are consummated.” – 1 Enoch 21:6

The Book of Enoch (1 Enoch), written in the name of the Prophet Enoch (see Genesis 5:22-24) had very wide acceptance in the early Church; it is quoted or alluded to numerous times by the authors of the New Testament and explicitly accepted as Scriptural by Sts. Barnabas, Irenaeus of Lyons, and Clement of Alexandria. Tertullian specifically wrote that the Jews had rejected it because it contained such clear prophecies of Christ. In fact, it remains part of the Old Testament canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to this day!
The verse quoted above in particular gets a lot of attention from the New Testament authors. St. Peter alludes to this verse again in 2 Peter 2:4; St. Jude paraphrases it in Jude 6; and St. Paul makes a reference to the larger story behind this verse in 1 Corinthians 11:10. So what’s the deal with this verse?

According to Genesis 6:1-4, some “sons of God” (angels) fell in love with and married beautiful “daughters of men” (human women), and even had children with them, who were “the heroes of old, men of renown.” The Bible cites these relationships as a major contributing factor to the Noahide Flood. It doesn’t mention a punishment upon the angels involved, but oral tradition does. This oral tradition was later written down in several Jewish writings; one of these writings is 1 Enoch. In 1 Enoch, the Prophet Enoch goes to these angels who were bound in their temporary punishment to proclaim to them the coming Final Judgment of God. The New Testament authors saw in this a parallel with Christ’s harrowing of hell and, especially for St. Peter, viewed Enoch as a prototype of Christ in this respect.

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4 comments

  1. Very interesting; I didn't know that. Differences between the LXX and Masoretic are another topic I want to explore here eventually. It would definitely help me a lot to learn — Even though I was [nominally] Roman Catholic, I was raised with the Masoretic as my standard OT version (as most Americans — and, of course, I didn't realize this until I was a Catechumen in the Orthodox Church), so in many ways reading the Bible now is like re-learning Scripture all over again.

    Thanks for pointing this out.

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