The First Book of Enoch

So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?”
Acts 8:27-31

And there, my eyes saw all those who do not sleep; standing in front of Him, and blessing, and saying: “Blessed are you, and blessed is the Name of the Lord, for ever and ever!”
Enoch 39:13

This week I read The First Book of Enoch. I Enoch is accepted as part of the Bible only by two apostolic churches, the Ethiopian Oriental Orthodox Miaphysite Church and the Eritrean Oriental Orthodox Miaphysite Church. Additionally, a very similar text (with slightly different verse ordering and some additional material) was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, placing the text to the last few centuries Before Christ.

Three aspects are most notable. First, the window I Enoch opens to the culture that created it. Second, the Messianic Jewish aspects of I Enoch. Third, my own thoughts on what the this First Book of Enoch is.

ethopian oriental orthodox church

Enoch seems obviously written in Africa. The geographic descriptions match an Ethiopian composition, including the Afrocentric geography (the eastern Red Sea 33:3. paradise in the cool North Pole, 77:3). Angels, always seen as terrifying and strange, here likewise appear as “white men” (87:2) — implying that is not the normal color of men.

The Book of Enoch appears to be the product of a civilization at the very beginning of literacy. Of all verse fraught with background in all compilations of the Bible, this must be the most notable

He [The fourth Fallen Angel] taught men the art of writing with ink and paper, and through this many have gone astray, from eternity to eternity, and to this day.

For men were not created for this, that the should confirm their faith like this, with pen and ink!
I Enoch 69:9-10

The First Book of Enoch must have been spoken against writing down the words of Scripture… and now only its written form survives!

Like God-fearing writers from the Deuteronomist to Pope Francis, the author of Enoch is concerned about the natural world

And they began to sin again birds, and again animals, and against reptiles, and against fish, and they devoured one another’s flesh, and drank the blood from it
I Enoch 7:5

The most touching is an extended “prophecy,” written in the form of a children’s story, of the Bible. The action begins at creation, and includes the murder of Abel by Cain

Behold, a bull came out of the earth, and that bull was white. And after it, a heifer came out, and with the heifer came two bullocks, and one of them was black and the other red.

And that black bullock struck the red one, and perused it over the earth, and from then one I could not see the red bullock
Enoch 85:3b-4

Moses is also mentioned. Not as a Law-Giver, given Enoch’s anti-literate bias, but as a sheep leading other sheep who wish to return to their wolf-guarded pen:

And that sheep, which led them, again went up the summit of that rock; and the other sheep began to be blinded, and go astray from the path which had been shown to them, but that sheep did not know.

And the Lord of the Sheep was extremely angry with them, and that sheep knew, and went down from the summit of the rock, and came to the sheep, and found the majority of them, with their eyes blinded, and going astray from his path.

And when they saw it they were afraid and trembled before it and wished that they could return to their enclosure.
Enoch 39:32-34a

all the way through the Kingdom and the Exile, to the end of the world (including, strikingly, the a description of purgatory as a cleansing fire, and the conversion of the gentiles, as well as the New Earth)

And I saw at that time, how a similar abyss was opened in the middle of the Earth which was full of fire, and they brought those blind sheep and they were all judged, and found guilty, and thrown into that abyss of fire and they burned. And that abyss was on the south of that house…

And I looked until the Lord of the Sheep brought a new house, larger and higher than the first one, and He set it up on the site of the first one that had been folded up. And its pillars were all new, and its ornaments were new and larger than those of the first one — the old one that had been removed. And the Lord of the Sheep was in the middle of it.

And I saw all the sheep that were left, and all the animals of the earth, and all the birds of the sky, falling down and worshiping those sheep, and entreating them and obeying them in every command…

And all those which had been destroyed and scattered, and all the wild animals, and all the birds of the sky, gathered together in that house, and the Lord of the Sheep rejoiced very much because they were good and had returned to His House

I Enoch 90:26, 29-30, 33

Until, finally, all are resurrected in the perfect bodies, imitations of the Incarnate Christ:

And I saw that the house was large, broad, and exceptionally full.

And I saw how a white bull was born, and its horns were big, and all the wild animals, and all the birds of the sky, were afraid of it, and entreated it continually.

And I looked until all their species were transformed and they all became white bulls.
I Enoch 90:36-38a

The New Heaven is repeated, in a form intelligeible to adults, after the main narrative resumes

And the First Heaven will vanish and pass way and a New Heaven will appear, and all the Powers of Heaven will shine forever, with a sevenfold light.

And after this, there will be many weeks without number, forever, in goodness and in righteousness, . And from then on sin will never again be mentioned.
I Enoch 91:16-17

This is one of many introductions to the Messiah given in Enoch. In the Hebrew Bible, the relation of the Hebrew Bible is most clear in parts of the Torah, where the Father is known as El(ohim) and the Son as the LORD. In the Book of Daniel, the terms are “Ancient of Days” and “Son of Man.” Enoch prefers “Lord of Spirits” or “Head of Days” for the disincarnate eternal Father, and “Son of Man” or “His Son” for the Son.

And in those days, says the Lord, they shall call and testify to the sons of Earth about the wisdom in them. Show it to them for you are their leaders and the rewards will be all over the earth.

For my Son and I will join Ourselves with them, forever, in the paths of uprightness during their lives.

And you will have peace. Rejoice — you sons of uprightness!

Amen.
Enoch 105:1-2

and

And I saw one who had a Head a Days and his head was white like wool. And with him there was another whose face had the appearance of a man and his face was ful of grace like one of the Holy Angels.

And I asked one of the Holy Angels who went with me and showed me all the secrets, about that Son of Man, who he was, and from where he was, and why he went with the Head of Days

And he answered me, and said to me: “This is the Son of Man who has righteousness and with whom righteousness dwells. He will reveal all the treasures of that which is secret, for the Lord of Spirits has chosen him, and through uprightness his lot has surpassed all others, in front of the Lord of Spirits, forever.
Enoch 46:1-3

and

ethiopian lastsupper

And the Lord of Spirits will remain over them, and with that Son of Man they will dwell, and eat, and lie down, and rise up, for ever and ever
Enoch 62:14

and

And at that hour that Son of Man was named, in the presence of the Lord of Spirits, and his name brought to the Head of Days.

Even before the Sun and the constellations were created, before the Stars of Heaven were made, His Name was named in front of the Lord of Spirits.

Enoch 48:2-3

and

But the wisdom of the Lord of Spirits has revealed Him to the holy and the righteous, and He has kept safe the lot of the righteous, for they have hated and rejected this world of inequity. And all its work and its ways they have hated in the name of the Lord of Spirits. For in His Name they are saved, and He is the One who will require their lives…

And on the day of their trouble there will be rest on the earth and they will fall down in front of Him and will not rise. And there will be no one who will take them with his hands and raise them for they denied the Lord of Spirits and His Messiah. May the Name of the Lord of Spirits be blessed!
Enoch 48:7,10

 

Abune_Merqoreyos

So, what is the First Book of Enoch? Like the Book of Daniel and the Revelation to John it is an apocalyptic book, but certain aspects (including an incredibly long astronomical section, and verses such as

And barrenness has not been given to a woman but because of the deeds of her hand she dies without children.
I Enoch 98:65

probably means it was rightly left out of the Bible compiled at the Synod of Hippo. At the same time, nothing in the text implies the author saw himself as outside of gentile Messianic Judaism in the decades or centuries leading to Christ.

Thus, the Book of Enoch is probably an ancient, African, equivalent to C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, a novel about death, the resurrection, and the end of the world. Both can help explain or elucidate the Christian and Jewish Scriptures. But neither, except for the Ethiopian and Eritrean Miaphysite Churches in the case of Enoch, are scripture themselves.

(Chapter and verse numbering comes form the New American Translation, Kindle Edition.)

The Revelation to John

He who writes these things, is hard to understand.

I’ve tried three times to write up my thoughts on Revelation, similar to the other books of the New Testament. I can’t. I thought the Gospel of John was hard to express in words. John’s final book, the Revelation made to him, is nearly impossible.

At least four ancient narratives are picked up, each of which involves a great deal of background. But as Genesis was “fraught with background” that was unsaid, the background of the Revelation is both said and unsaid.

vision-of-saint-john-the-evangelist-big

The Words

Four times John is in, or goes deeper, into the spirit. And each time is preceding by a revelation

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.

Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.

Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.
Revelation 1:8, 4:1b, 17:1b. 21:9b

adoration-of-the-lamb

The Living Creatures

Four living creatures, each reflecting an aspect of God — An Eagle, a Lion, an Ox, a Man, — surround the throne of God

Eagle

You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.
Exodus 19:4

Lion

For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,
And like a young lion to the house of Judah.
I, even I, will tear them and go away;
I will take them away, and no one shall rescue
Hosea 5:14

Ox

God who brings him out of Egypt,
is like the horns of a wild ox for him;
he shall devour the nations that are his foes
and break their bones.
He shall strike with his arrows.
Numbers 24:8

Man

When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!”John 19:26

And beyond these symbols — these Spirits and states and manifestations — are the narratives.

In Revelations one of these ends


four-living-creatures-man-lion-eagle-ox

The Stories, Until Then

There is the pre-story of the Bible… Ba’al and his quest for a mansion. The Hebrew Bible repeatedly emphasizes that Ba’al should not be worshiped before God, and does not hear the prayers of Israel… but if anything the narrative assumes he exists. Indeed, the the Ba’al-worshipper Danel is included along with Job and Noah as a rigtheous gentile.

And we see in Revelation Ba’al — still there, still huge, still astride the clouds and still with his rainbow. And we see Ba’al’s words unrecorded. God’s plan for him continues, unmolested by man’s fall and salvation, as presumably God’s plans for the Andromeda galaxy continue regardless. And Ba’al’s oldest enemies are there too– the Sea Monster and Death — though of course God ends them more completely than Ba’al could on his own. The Canaanite. story of Ba’al ends with a feast, with God Himself drinking wine. And in Revelation before the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, we see old Ba’al, a fellow creature, not speaking to us, or for us, by also created by the Father, our brother in existence

I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire. He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.”
Revelation 10:1-4

There’s the story of the Bible – the woman and her children, who sail the seas and live in the cities. The woman’s care for the newborn child is the beginning of the family, and of society. But while Eve was anxious, inaccurately reporting the word of God to the serpent, and falling prey to his lies, in Revelation that dragon does not prevail. Instead the woman — not the Eve of creation but her daughter Mary — is crowned with the stars, God’s celestial army as her adornment. The story of Mary ends with her coronation, clothed with the sun, with the stars her crown.

velazquez_corronation_of_the_virgin_mary_g5-e1306206113413

And there’s that last story, the story the Bible is arguably about. Not Ba’al and his friends, whose adventures are the backdrop of much of biblical literature. Not the woman and her children, whose adventures must continue after the end of the Bible. But the Serpant, the Dragon, that murderer from the first.

For him no feast, and no crown.

For the Bible is the story of the defeat Serpent, the death of the Dragon.

He was once part of society — in the garden, a four-way conversation between the LORD, the Man, the Woman, and God.

Later he’s reduced to spying on Job, in a two way conversation between him and God.

And then in the Gospels, simply him and the Lord alone.

And finally, silence.

He stood on the shore of the sea.
Revelation 13:1a

man on the shore of the sea

At the end of the Serpent’s life…

The woman, who was once deceived is protected by the Earth

But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.
Revelation 12:16

And the Sea Monster and Death, who were imperfectly defeated by Ba’al, is now perfectly defeated as the Dragon himself is tossed into the second death

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown…

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death
Revelation 20:10,14

After And Before, That Murderer from the First

And that serpent, who we once spoke to us to face-to-face, like a friend, is no more.

And he said to the woman, “Though God said, you shall not eat from any tree in the Garden…” And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the garden’s trees we…”
Genesis 3:1b-3

Someone she once thought was a friend is lost. But, perhaps to the woman, a greater prize is won. That murder, from the first, might be undone

And the LORD said to Cain

Why are you incensed,
and why is your face fallen?

For whether you offer well
or whether you do not,
at the tent flap sin crouches
and for you it is longing
but you will rule over it
Genesis 4:6-7

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Amen.

Impressions of “Biblical Games: Game Theory and the Hebrew Bible” by Steven J. Brams

biblical games steven j brams

Biblical Games is a fun book. Brams has written a basic introduction to game theory, designed to be a text used in a 400/500 level college class on the subject. But it’s also a fun introduction to the literature of the Hebrew Bible, and could be used as such in a theology class at a similar level. Plenty is missing and left out of both, but where else can you get such an unusual double-introduction?

Game theory is a way of mathematically modeling human interactions based on preferences. Game theory breaks down human behavior into a small number of games, such as the Battle of the Sexes game (trigger warning: assumes basic familiarity with human sexes).

Because the Hebrew Bible concerns human struggling in an incomprehensible world, there are plenty examples of these “games.” For example, in discussions the Battle of the Sexes game, Brams describes Samson and Delilah, David and Abigail, and Esther and Ahasuerus. While much is left out (the romantic comedy innuendo of the “golden scepter,” and the sadomasochistic subtext of Samson and Delilah, for instance), Brams treats his subjects seriously, which is far more than is done in most sermons and even much pop biblical criticism. No “dumb semite” theory here.

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Biblical Games twice examines the Binding of Isaac, once presenting a preference schedule that might explains what happened in the Hebrew Bible (that Abraham did not believe his son would truly die), and another that explains an alternative set of actions (if Abraham had refused to bind Isaac).  But that each is equally convincing seems to be a problem.  If human interaction can be “formalized” — put into mathematical terms — so easily, in such contradictory ways, is not the “formalization” simply an obscurantic tautology?

Other biblical themes — such as the “fraught with background” nature of the Hebrew Bible (where much more is hinted at or assumed than is spoken) are hinted at, which makes Biblical Games a good teaser to the Old Testament. Likewise, Brams briefly describes how God almost seems to be a composite character, in some ways fully divine, in some ways a human being, in some ways proceeding from a different source…

My greatest disappointment in Biblical Games is that in discussing God, both the author’s mathematics and theology fail. In the final chapter, where Brams discusses the “theory of moves” (pdf description), he for the first time hints at the terrifying implications of “stopping power.” But otherwise God is presented as just another player, traveling in time at 60 minutes/hour with all the rest.

A time-bound God is problematic because a basic conception of God (explicitly rejected by Brams) is that He is hyper-dimensional, at least present at all possible points in time at once (which would at the very least make Him a four-dimensional being, as opposed to three-dimensional beings traveling along the axis of a fourth dimension). This would have been a neat way to introduce hyperspatial geometry, the idea that a higher-dimensional object can be “unfolded” or “shadowed” into lower-dimensional space. The shadow of the tesseract, or four-dimensional cube, can be drawn in this manner…

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While the shadow of an unfolded tessaract on two-dimensional space looks like

UnfoldedCube

One imagines a fuller description of God would have lead to an additional, interesting chapter, but such was more forthcoming. For “cursed is he who is hung on a tree” (Deuteronomy 21:23), as was the Son of David (2 Samuel 18:9). But such a chapter must be kept to our imagination.

Biblical Games is a fun book. It’s not the final or most convening word on either game theory or the Hebrew Bible, but its a very readable introduction to both.