2017-09-04

Meet Paul and Enoch; both come from the same place

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by Neil Godfrey

Warning: If you are looking for snazzy gotcha type parallels that demonstrate a genetic relationship between the letters of Paul and Enoch you will be disappointed. This post is not about direct imitation or identification of “a source” for Paul’s letter. The first page addresses form parallels; to see the content and ideas click “read more” to see the remainder.

Professor James M. Scott compares two letters, one by Enoch and the other by Paul, and identifies a few points in common that help us understand a little more clearly the thought-world of both figures. Of course our real interest is in understanding Paul since we tend to see him as having more relevance to our Christian heritage than the evidently mythical Enoch. 

Scott’s essay, “A Comparison of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians with the Epistle of Enoch” is a chapter in The Jewish Apocalyptic Tradition and the Shaping of New Testament Thought (2017, edited by Benjamin E. Reynolds and Loren T. Stuckenbruck). The central argument is that both Paul’s letter to the Galatians and the epistle of Enoch (1 Enoch 92-105) share the same apocalyptic motifs in a common letter format, and that it follows that Galatians belongs to the “apocalyptic tradition” as much as does the letter of Enoch. My interest is in the shared motifs per se, and what they indicate about Paul’s intellectual world.

1 Enoch is generally thought to be made up of five texts that have been stitched together, and one of these initially discrete texts consists of chapters 92 to 105, dated around 170 BCE. If you have sufficient time, patience and interest to read those chapters and have just a vague recollection of Paul’s letter to the Galatians you will wonder how on earth anyone could see the slightest resemblance between the two. Enoch’s letter is full of Old Testament style pronouncements of prophetic woes and doom on sinners while Paul’s letter is about struggles with Judaizers coming along to his converts in Galatia and undermining the pristine faith by telling them they had to be circumcised and follow a few other Jewish observances, too. But a glance at James Scott’s publishing history shows he has spent a lot of time studying all of this sort of literature so let’s continue in faith.

First, look at some “technical” similarities to see that, despite major differences, we are comparing a works of the same genre, a letter form. (The text follows Scott’s chapter closely, though of course the table format is mine.)

 

Genre
Self conscious reference to his own writing as a letter Galatians 6:11 See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 1 Enoch 93:2 these things I say to you and I make known to you, my sons, I myself, Enoch.

1 Enoch 100:6 And the wise among men will see the truth, and the sons of the earth will contemplate these words of this epistle

Author
The superscription of both letters names the author of the letter, and then, adds an impressive description of the author: Paul is an “apostle” sent by God; Enoch is a “scribe” who writes “righteousness and truth”.

Both Paul and Enoch present themselves as authors who communicate God’s will.

Galatians 1:1 Paul …. an apostle—[sent] not from men nor by man but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead ” This further description of who Paul is establishes from the outset the divine origin and agency of his apostolic commission, and thus, underscores his special authority. 1 Enoch 92:1 Written by Enoch the scribe (this complete sign of wisdom) (who is) praised by all people and a leader of the whole earth.
Addressees
Both Galatians and the Epistle of Enoch are circular letters meant to be passed along to multiple readers in more than one location over the course of time. Enoch’s letter purports to be written in the seventh generation after Adam to be read by Jews and gentiles in the last days.  Galatians 1:2 to the churches of Galatia 

 

1 Enoch 92:1 to all my sons who dwell on the earth, and to the last generations who will observe truth and peace.

 

Both Galatians and the Epistle of Enoch address their respective readers throughout in the second person plural.  Galatians 4:19 My dear children 1 Enoch 92-105  Enoch refers to his addressees as “my children
Salutation
In Galatians, the salutation is clearly identifiable.

The situation in the Epistle of Enoch is more complicated. The typical salutation or greeting is missing in 1 Enoch 92:1. Nevertheless, as Nickelsburg suggests, “it may be hinted at in the word ‘peace'” which comes at the end of the adscription in the same verse.

Galatians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

 

1 Enoch 92:1 to all my sons who dwell on the earth, and to the last generations who will observe truth and peace.

Nickelsburg also takes the final reference to “peace” in the Epistle (“And you will have peace,” 105:2) as “an epistolary conclusion.”

“Peace” is referenced at the beginning and ending both letters Galatians 1:3; 6:16 1 Enoch 92:1; 105:2
Very last word of both letters is “Amen” Galatians 6:18 1 Enoch 105:2

Okay, that’s done with the “formalities”. We may say that technically we are comparing apples and apples. James Scott’s next section is more interesting for an insight into how much we read in Paul’s letter was part of the wider thought-world of the day and not “just Paul”. Scott turns to their common “apocalyptic elements”.

First Function of the Special Revelation – To Legitimate the Author’s Message
“The respective authors both appeal to previous (visionary) revelation as the basis for the truth of the saving message that they now impart” Galatians 1:11-12, 15-16 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. . . 

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to/in me so that I might preach him among the nations, I did not confer with any human being….

1 Enoch 93:2 Concerning the sons of righteousness, and concerning the chosen of eternity, and concerning the plant of truth, these things I say to you and I make known to you, my sons. I myself, Enoch. The vision of heaven was shown to me, and from the words of the watchers and holy ones I have learned everything, and in the heavenly tablets I read everything and I have understood.

1 Enoch 103:1-2 And now I swear to you, the righteous, by the glory of the Great One, and by his splendid kinship and his majesty I swear to you that I know this mystery. For I have seen the writing of what must be. and I know the things that are written in them and inscribed concerning you I….

1 Enoch 104:1-2 I swear to you that the angels in heaven make mention of you for good before the glory of the Great One, and your names are written before the glory of the Great One, Take courage, then …

Legitimation continued: The prophetic ambience in both letters
Galatians 1:15-16 

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to/in me so that I might preach him among the nations, I did not confer with any human being…. 

Compare LXX Jeremiah 1:4-5

And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. and before you came forth from [your] mother, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

And LXX Isaiah 49:1, 6

Hear me, O islands; pay attention, O nations … From my mother’s womb He called my name …. And he said to me. .. “See, I have made you a light of nations that you may be for salvation to the end of the earth.”

“For readers who are familiar with the prophets, the Epistle of Enoch has what Nickelsburg has called a “prophetic ambience” because of the Epistle’s extensive use of three specific forms that appear with some frequency in the biblical prophetic corpus (i.e., woes, exhortations, and descriptions of events associated with the coming judgment). The Epistle of Enoch itself does not include the prophetic commissioning form, but an earlier part of the Enochic corpus, to which the Epistle alludes and on which it depends, does give an account of Enoch’s prophetic commission—cast in the form of a biblical call narrative—as the prophet of judgment to the sinful Watchers.” (Scott, p. 201)

Second Function of Special Revelation – To Constitute the Eschatological Community of the Elect, (Israel and gentiles)
“In both letters, salvation is open to all people, regardless of ethnicity. Indeed, there is an active mission to the nations. The key in each case is that people believe in and adhere to the revealed will of God as delivered through the revelatory mediator.” (Scott, p. 202)

“For Paul, the church is the eschatological community of the chosen constituted by revelation. Salvation is open to all people, and Paul has been commissioned to preach to the nations the message of the gospel that was revealed to him (Gal 1:12,15-16). In the case of the Galatian churches . . . they are . . . part of the family of God (3:26-4:7,28:6:10). This is a direct result of the fact that the Gospel was revealed to Paul, that Paul had proclaimed the Gospel to the Galatians, and that the Galatians, in turn, had believed his message. Paul argues vehemently that these gentiles in Galatia, like those in Antioch (cf. 2:11-14), are admitted to the family of faith as gentiles, whereupon they assume a new identity in Christ and become heirs to the promise to Abraham. For Paul, ethnic boundaries have collapsed . . .” (Scott, p. 202)

“In a similar way, the Enochic authors believed that they were members of the eschatological community of the chosen constituted by revelation. This revelation—although it was the possession of a select group of Israel that arose in the eschaton—was to be proclaimed to “all the sons of the earth” (1 Enoch 100:6), in the hope that they too would be saved at the end time of the final judgment. . . . First Enoch is presented as the sacred writing of a revelation in primordial antiquity, before the division of humankind into Israel and the Gentile nations, thus giving the Enochic books an inherently universal relevance. . . .

Israel becomes the basis for a righteous remnant: “the chosen will be chosen, as witnesses of righteousness”… After this … all humankind will look to the path of righteousness.  Thus revelation becomes the source of righteousness of the whole human race. (Scott, p. 203)

There is one core difference, however. In Galatians, faith in Christ leads to following the law of Christ through walking in the Spirit. In 1 Enoch, on the revelation of wisdom through Enoch is the salvific event. It is by believing in this revealed law and living in line with it that people can be included in the community of the elect, and thus, be saved at the final judgment.
Leapfrogging the Mosaic Law
In their own distinctive ways, both Galatians and the Epistle of Enoch subvert the relevance of the Mosaic Law by appealing to an earlier, definitive revelation as the sole basis of the eschatological hope for humankind. (Scott, p. 204)

Paul cites Scripture as witness to the divine revelation of the gospel: “The Scripture, having foreseen that God justifies the nations on the basis of faith, proclaimed the gospel in advance to Abraham” [Genesis 12:3]” …. Paul claims that he is passing on the same revelation from the time of Abraham, that salvation is now offered to all races.

Paul explains that the law of Moses was given at a much later time (430 years later) and had only a temporary function.

Enoch replaces Moses as the mediator of revelation of divine wisdom for both Israel and all humankind. Enoch existed prior to Moses, and wisdom was granted to him by revelation when he ascended to heaven and wrote down his revelations in a book to be transmitted through all generations.

There is thus no place for Moses’ law. “Nickelsburg compares the universalistic assertion that Enoch’s wisdom is made available to all humanity with biblical texts such as Genesis 12:3 and some of the oracles of Second Isaiah.”

Both revelations are comparable to the myth of the sending of Wisdom to earth.

The pre-existent Son was sent (Paul) just as pre-existent Wisdom was sent (Enoch).

In both cases we read the “definitive eschatological revelation”, one that goes back not just to Abraham, but to the foundation of the world.

Schweitzer argued that the “sending formula” in Galatians 4:4-5 is comparable to the wisdom traditions; e.g. the sending of wisdom in Wisdom of Sirach 9:9-10  (Both are “sent forth” “in order that” ….) 1 Enoch echoes the myth of the descent of wisdom in Proverbs 8, and interpreted in Sirach 24 and 1 Baruch 4. The wisdom now resides on earth in Enoch’s writings.
Spatial and Temporal Dualism
Temporal dualism: both distinguish “this age” from “the age to come” Galatians speaks of “this present evil age”, with those converted living in a twilight region pending the new age, “the fullness of time”. The present age is not broken down as elaborately as in Enoch, but there are nonetheless different phases, such as the limited ordained time of the Mosaic law.

There will be no Jew nor Greek, male nor female… (Do we detect here a time when Adam was sexually undifferentiated, before the creation of Eve?)

In the age to come God will destroy all that is now present and restore all things. The present age is broken down into a series of “weeks” or ages.

All humankind, currently represented by different animals, will all become one, all, like Adam, symbolized by white bulls.

 

Spatial dualism:
  • An angel from heaven preaching a different gospel must be shunned. Paul’s gospel was opposed to that of the false angels.
  • Before conversion believers were enslaved to “elements of the world”
  • There is a “present Jerusalem” on earth opposed to the “Jerusalem above” to which the converted belong.
  • Paul is a revelatory mediator between heaven and earth.

 

  • Angels from heaven mixed with humans and brought about disastrous consequences for humankind. Enoch’s message damned the fallen angels.
  • Enoch has visions of the cosmic elements that will execute judgment on the wicked.
  • The second temple is to be built but will be polluted from the start and eventually destroyed (1 Enoch 93:7-8). Another pure Temple will be built by the Great One (91:3).
  • Enoch is a revelatory mediator between heaven and earth.
False Teaching
Both letters are principally concerned with sinners and those who attempt to destroy the people of God. Galatians 4:8-11

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods; but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days, and months, and seasons, and years! I am afraid I have labored over you in vain.

Galatians 5:4-12

You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. . . . You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine; and he who is troubling you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. But if I, brethren, still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? In that case the stumbling block of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves!

Galatians 6:7

Do not be deceived

1 Enoch 98:4 to 99:2

Woe to you who annul the words of the righteous; you will have no hope of salvation.

Woe to those who write lying words and words of error, they write and lead many astray with their lies when they hear them …

99:1 Woe to you who commit erring acts, and who for false deeds receive honor and glory; you will perish, you will have no salvation for good.

Woe to you who alter the true words and pervert the everlasting covenant and consider themselves to be without sin; they will be swallowed up in the earth.

1 Enoch 104:9-11

Do not be deceived in your heart or lie ….

And now I know this mystery, that sinners will alter and copy the words of truth, and pervert many and lie and invent great fabrications, and write books in their own names. Would that they would write all my words in truth, and neither remove nor alter these words, but write in truth all that I testify to them.

The two-ways tradition is found in both Galatians 5:16-6:8

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. . . . . Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. . . . If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 

1 Enoch 99:10 (also 92:3; 94:1-4; 104:13; 105:2)

Then blessed will be all who listen to the words of the wise, and learn to do the commandments of the Most High; and walk in the paths of his righteousness, and do not err with the erring; for they will be saved.

Persecution
Both Galatians and the Epistle of Enoch give evidence of ongoing persecution that the eschatological community of the elect experiences. Much of Jewish apocalyptic literature, including 1 Enoch (especially the Epistle), is rooted in the experience of religious persecution and social oppression. (Scott, p. 214) Galatians 1:13, 23 – Paul reminds the Galatians that he himself once “persecuted” the church.

Galatians 4:28-29

Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now. 

Galatians 5:11; 6:12

But if I, brethren, still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? 

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that would compel you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

 1 Enoch 95:7; 96:3

Woe to you, sinners, because you persecute the righteous; for you will be handed over and persecuted because of injustice, and their yoke will be heavy upon you.

Fear not, you have suffered; for you will receive healing . . . 

In the above, to save time, I selectively quoted passages by Scott and paraphrased or truncated others. But the general gist of the argument remains, I think. Keep in mind, however, that I have selected the above details not to present the fulness of Scott’s argument but to draw attention to similar motifs, theological concepts, in both Paul and the letter of Enoch. (Scott further discusses a number of significant differences between the two letters but I have chosen to leave that side of his chapter aside for now.)

One detail not addressed directly and or in any depth by Scott is that the letter of Enoch is the work of an author posing as that antediluvian figure. The Enochic epistle may be said to be composed as carefully structured literary work; unlike, as the commentaries so often point out, Paul’s letter to the Galatians that is written in the heat of emotion.

We are veering away here from the main theme of this post, but I’ll conclude with the thought nonetheless. Recall Thomas Brodie Brodie argues that the emotional punches in Galatians are in fact carefully structured literary imitations or adaptations of other prophetic works, in particular Jeremiah. Recall above that Paul’s own call or commissioning narrative is based on Jeremiah’s experience: Sowing Doubt That An Emotional Paul Authored Galatians. (Brodie even argues that the figure of Paul was as much a literary persona as Enoch and that “schools” were responsible for the Pauline corpus — not unlike the model for the various Enochic writings that have been compiled into 1 Enoch.)

But doesn’t the letter to Galatians have “the ring of truth” in it? Maybe it does. But it doesn’t hurt to heed the response by Jacob Neusner to that common appeal. Neusner was addressing a similar rationale in relation to rabbinic sayings of Hillel and others:

While a saying assigned to Hillel or Shammai resonates in the ears of some “historians” with “the ring of truth,” one wonders why these same colleagues are deaf to the resonance of sayings assigned to Jeremiah or Moses. (Jacob Neusner, 1994. Rabbinic Literature & The New Testament: What We Cannot Show, We Do Not Know, Wipf & Stock, Eugene, Oregon. pp. 68f.)

 

 

 

11 Comments

  • Matt Cavanaugh
    2017-09-05 00:20:38 UTC - 00:20 | Permalink

    Superficial or tenuous similarities; not persuasive.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-09-05 00:43:21 UTC - 00:43 | Permalink

      Not persuasive for what? To what end? (You are not presuming that the post is arguing that Paul used Enoch as a source for Galatians, I trust?)

      It would also be more useful if you could explain what you mean by a “superficial similarity” and a “tenuous similarity” within the context of the argument and examples in the post. Just saying cold “it is superficial” is as meaningless as saying out of the blue that “it is deep”. Do you have an argument or just a gut reaction?

      • Tige Gibson
        2017-09-05 03:37:45 UTC - 03:37 | Permalink

        People are confusing form and framework with content.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2017-09-05 03:42:33 UTC - 03:42 | Permalink

          I have now added a warning at the top of the post. James Scott actually introduced his discussion with warnings against approaching the discussion of similarities with arguments for direct source relationships. I thought by stating what the similarities were actually illustrating I would not need such a warning. But I forgot that many of us read blog posts very quickly. Too much stuff to read on the web nowadays!

        • Neil Godfrey
          2017-09-05 03:46:25 UTC - 03:46 | Permalink

          Or perhaps you are suggesting people only read the form parallels that the post begins with without opening up the rest of the post and seeing the content nested in that form. Ah well….

      • Matt Cavanaugh
        2017-09-06 01:10:52 UTC - 01:10 | Permalink

        I read all the alleged parallels at least twice. I never assumed Scott was arguing that Enoch was a source for Galatians. I don’t see enough substantive similarities to establish that either Galatians is apocalyptic or that both works are products of the same “thought-world”. Both premises may well be true, but Scott’s parallels simply don’t resonate.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2017-09-06 09:17:36 UTC - 09:17 | Permalink

          Well no-one can argue with another’s feelings or aesthetic sense.

  • Tige Gibson
    2017-09-05 00:44:39 UTC - 00:44 | Permalink

    It’s really hard for me to see Paul as anything other than the inventor of the cult Christianity. Whatever Christianity was before just didn’t matter anymore. In order to survive and thrive on its own it needed these borrowed cult elements. What I see here is not just the borrowing, but the psychological motivation behind it showing through. Why this particular narrative was chosen? It wasn’t simply that Christianity could have folded back into Judaism otherwise, and Paul was sure that was inevitable, but the question was why was that a problem for him personally?

    He invented this to satisfy a personal need in himself, the same need he certainly felt the author of Enoch had. It isn’t exactly a problem with Judaism, that Judaism has always been an ethnocentric faith and Paul was a Jew, Paul could copy-paste the values and use the same framework for a new religion with him as the High Priest of the God Jesus. Christianity needed to mirror as much of Judaism as possible while denigrating Judaism. In this way the need for and attraction of Judaism is burned up. And as an intended side-effect, antisemitism. If you want to keep your followers you have to make it so they don’t want to go back.

  • Paxton Marshall
    2017-09-05 01:50:36 UTC - 01:50 | Permalink

    Some of comparisons seem a bit strained.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2017-09-05 02:22:03 UTC - 02:22 | Permalink

      See my comment on Matt. Can you clarify, please? Strained in what way?

  • Paul
    2017-09-13 05:13:16 UTC - 05:13 | Permalink

    The Book of Enoch was quoted by Jude. Reverting to the second century of Christianity,
    we find Irenseus and Clement of Alexandria citing the Book of Enoch without questioning its sacred
    character. Thus, Irenaeus, assigning to the Book of Enoch an authenticity analogous to that of Mosaic
    literature, affirms that Enoch, although a man, filled the office of God’s messenger to the angels.’
    Tertullian, who flourished at the close of the first and at the beginning of the second century, whilst
    admitting that the ” Scripture of Enoch ” is not received by some because it is not included in the
    Hebrew Canon, speaks of the author as ” the most ancient prophet, Enoch,” and of the book as the
    divinely inspired autograph of that immortal patriarch, preserved by Noah in the ark, or miraculously
    reproduced by him through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Origen (A.D. 254), in quoting Hebrew literature,
    assigns to the Book of Enoch the same authority as to the Psalms. In polemical discussion with
    Celsus, he affirms that the work of the antediluvian patriarch was not accepted in the Churches as
    Divine ; and modern theologians have accordingly assumed that he rejected its inspiration : but the
    extent to which he adopts its language and ideas discloses personal conviction that Enoch was one of
    the greatest of the prophets. There are many allusions to Enoch in the New Testament. See the Introduction in The Book of Enoch the Prophet, Laurence R., London, 1883. IMHO Enoch is a proto-Christian writing which was known to and used by writers such as Paul and the writers of the gospels, and the Revelation. The Book of Enoch teaches the pre-existence-of the Son of Man, the Elect One, the Messiah, who ” from the beginning existed in secret,” and whose “name was invoked in the presence of the Lord of spirits, before the sun and the signs were created.” Enoch should be read with the Wisdom of Solomon and Baruch as proto-Christian works. Therefore it should come as no surprise that Galatians contains echoes of this work. The absence of direct quotation does not mean Paul was not influenced by this book.

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