For a person referenced so little in the Bible, Enoch captured popular imagination in a way difficult to comprehend. Even in ancient times speculation about him was rampant. The seventh generation from Adam, and great-grandfather of Noah, Enoch lived a remarkably short 365 years before “he was not, for God took him.” Now, there are lots of obscure people in the Bible. Many of them have very little afterlife in later tradition. Enoch, however, became the putative author of a collection of booklets that goes by the name of 1 Enoch. This book fed speculation in antiquity and became a vehicle for many esoteric traditions that continue even into the present day. It might seem that there’s little information to go on for an entire book, but James C. VanderKam’s Enoch: A Man for All Generations finds plenty of material with which to work.
A careful scholar like VanderKam doesn’t delve much into speculation, and he rather cautiously examines many of the ancient texts that discuss Enoch and draws some basic conclusions. There’s a lot of information in this book. With my own fascination concerning the Bible and popular culture, what stood out to me was how Enoch went from the “mere” man who didn’t die to become, in some traditions, the Metatron, or “the lesser Yahweh.” Having been a fan of Dogma since teaching at the perhaps too sanctimonious Nashotah House, I’d never researched the late, great Alan Rickman’s character. I supposed the Metatron was a character like the Muse—some extra-biblical quasi-divine functionary thrown in for fun. I didn’t doubt such a figure was known in early Jewish or Christian writings, but I had no idea that Enoch had been promoted to that level.
Since I’ve been researching demons lately, the book of 1 Enoch has been a major source of interest. One of its sections, The Book of the Watchers, expands on that odd story from Genesis 6 where the sons of God lust after the “daughters of men.” Ever coy, the biblical passage doesn’t directly say that their offspring were giants, but this idea was developed by sources like 1 Enoch. And these fallen angels—the nephilim—in some traditions, become demons. Studying Enoch is a fine introduction to a mythological world every bit as rich as Dogma. These characters—Enoch, nephilim, watchers, and demons—populated the imagination of early readers of the Good Book as much as they do modern speculators’ worlds. Not bad for a character barely mentioned at all in the Bible.