A Strange Thing in the Land: The Return of the Book of Enoch, Part 13


The “Enoch” of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Just in time for the latest episode in this examination into the book of Enoch comes the long-awaited translation of the Dead Sea Scroll book of Enoch. (J. T. Milik and M. Black, eds., The Books of Enoch, Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4, Oxford: Clarenden Press, 1976.) Father J. T. Milik, one of the first scholars on the scene when the scrolls were discovered, was assigned thirty-two fragments of the books of Enoch from Qumran Cave IV; and all scholars working on Enoch have eagerly waited during the last quarter century to see what new information would be added, what theories might be toppled, what hypotheses confirmed by these documents in Aramaic, the earliest of all known Enoch texts.

Here’s what they show:

These documents, dating from the third to the first centuries B.C., corroborate the other Enoch literature that we have. There was a real book of Enoch, which was once written in five parts. This seriously challenges those critics who have claimed for years that ancient sectaries threw everything into Enoch that they wanted to pass off as scripture.

It’s an added delight for Latter-day Saints to read that Professor Milik finds the Greek texts to be much superior to the Ethiopian texts—the Joseph Smith account in the Pearl of Great Price is closer to the Greek than to the Ethiopian. Latter-day Saints will also note with interest Professor Milik’s deduction that one text, the Gizeh text, was undoubtedly prepared to be buried with the deceased—a parallel with the usage intended for the Abraham text.

Furthermore, Professor Milik works with the fascinating hypothesis that Enoch had prepared an account of the creation and the law of God that naturally predates Moses’ account in Genesis and sees Genesis 6:1–4 [Gen. 6:1–4], long a puzzling passage to the biblical scholar, as a quotation from that earlier Enoch source. This is exactly what happens in the Joseph Smith source: Moses quotes Enoch on events shortly after the creation.

As we have already seen, the Enoch story runs into the oldest literature of the human race; and Professor Milik finds links with the mythological heroes of Sumer and Babylonia, with the astronomy of Egypt and Phoenicia, and the ideas about the earth of Mesopotamia. Even though Professor Milik does not seem to recognize the full importance of the “Enoch figure,” he provides some evidence that undercuts yet another scholarly supposition: that Enoch was invented out of the hopes and yearnings of Messianic Jews in the second century B.C.; in fact, however, these very people were shunning the Enoch material at that very time. Milik reviews some important texts that show the writers of the Aramaic text gradually losing their interest in Enoch material during the first century, then the Essenes turning away from it, the writers at Masada actually expunging the name of Enoch and putting Noah in its stead, while the Christians, on the other hand, treasured it highly and embellished it with so many astrological flourishes that they unintentionally undermined Enoch’s credibility for future generations.

In all of these ways, the Qumran IV Enoch fragments reinforce rather than reinterpret what we as Latter-day Saints already knew about Enoch. But these newly translated pieces add one genuinely new bit of information to our store—something that is probably the most objective test yet of Joseph Smith’s prophetic powers.

What always impressed me as the oddest detail of the Joseph Smith account of Enoch was the appearance out of the blue of the name of the only nonbiblical individual named in the whole book—Mahijah. (Moses 6:40.) Mahijah is the one who asks Enoch searching questions, and in answer is told about the place Mahujah, where Enoch began this particular phase of his mission. (Moses 7:2.) It was therefore with a distinct shock of recognition that, after having looked through all but the last of the Aramaic Enoch fragments without finding anything particularly new, and coming to those very last little fragments, I found the name Mahujah leaping out of the pages again and again. (Pp. 300, 302–5, 311, 314.) Could this be our Mahujah or Mahijah? As a matter of fact it could be either, not only because the semi-vowels w and y are written very much alike in the Aramaic script and are sometimes confused by scribes, but also because the name as written in 4QEn, MHWY, is the same as the MHWY-EL who appears in Gen. 4:18 as the grandfather of Enoch, transliterated in the King James Bible as Mehuja-el, which name also appears in the Greek Septuagint as Mai-el and in the Latin Vulgate as Mavia-el, showing that Mahujah and Mahijah were the same name.

So what? A coincidence—a giant or a Watcher called Mahujah or Mahijah. But far more than a coincidence when taken in its context. The only thing the Mahijah in the Book of Moses is remarkable for is his putting of bold direct questions to Enoch, thus giving the patriarch an opening for calling upon the people to repent, referring them to the book of remembrance, and telling them of the plan of salvation. And this is exactly the role, and the only role, that the Aramaic Mahujah plays in the story. The name is found in none of the other Enoch texts and neither is the story: it is peculiar to the version Joseph Smith gave us and the oldest known Enoch manuscripts. The following translation is from Milik and Black, lest the writer be charged with forcing the text.

Moses 6:39. When they heard him … fear came on all them that heard him.

4QEnGiantsb 1.20. [Thereupon] all the giants [and the nephilim] took fright

Moses 6:40. And there came a man unto him, whose name was Mahijah, and said to him: Tell us plainly who thou art and from whence thou comest?

and they summoned MHWY and he came to them. And the giants asked him and sent him to Enoch * * saying to him: “Go then * * and under pain of death you must * * * and listen to his voice; and tell him that he is to explain to you and to interpret the dreams**

 

6Q8 1.* * Ohya and he said to MHWY: “* * and (I?) do not tremble. Who showed you all (that), tell [us(?)]**” And MHWY said: “* *Baraq’el, my father, was with me.”

Moses 6:41. And he said to them: I came out from … the land of my fathers, a land of righteousness unto this day

4QEnGiantsc. [Ohyah, following MHWY’s report]: “* * … my accusers * * they dwell in [heaven]s, for they live in holy abodes … they are more powerful than I.

Moses 6:42. And … as I journeyed … by the sea east, I beheld a vision: and lo, the heavens I saw. …

Moses 7:2–3. As I was journeying … I … went up on the mount … I beheld the heavens open. …

4QEnGiantsb. [MHWY … rose up into the air] like the whirlwind, and he flew … and crossed Solitude, the great desert* * And he caught sight of Enoch, and he called to him and said to him: “An oracle * * *”

Moses 6:45. Enoch: We … cannot deny. … Moses 6:46. For a book of remembrance we have written among us, according to the pattern given by the finger of God … in our own language.

4QEnGiantsa 7.* *to you, MH[wy* *] the two tablets * * and the second has not been read up till now. 8. The boo[k of * * The copy of the second tablet of the Epistle * * written] by Enoch, the distinguished scribe’s own hand * * and the Holy One, to Shemihazah and all [his] com[panions].

Moses 6:47. And as Enoch spake forth the words of God, the people trembled, and could not stand in his presence.

4QEnGiantsa Frg. 4. * * Ohyah said to Hahyah, his brother * * * they prostrated themselves and began to weep before [Enoch(?)* *].

Moses 6:48. And he said to them … We are made partakers of misery and woe …

Moses 6:49. … carnal, sensual, and devilish, and are shut out from the presence of God.

4EnGiantsa Frg. 8. The longest fragment: The depravity and misery of the people described. Their petition is rejected: God has cast them out. All is “for the worst.”

Moses 6:52. If thou wilt turn unto me; … and repent … asking all things in his name, … it shall be given you.

(Closing line) And yet, loosen your bonds (of sin) which tie [you] up * * and begin to pray.

Moses 7:13. And … he [Enoch] led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled …

4QEnGiantsc. (Ohyah the enemy of Enoch): “… by the strength of my power, [I had attacked] all flesh and I have made war with them … they live in holy abodes, and … they are more powerful than I.”

and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness;

and all nations feared greatly.

[Thereupon* *] the roaring of the wild beasts came and the multitude of wild animals began to cry out * * And Ohyah spoke … “My dream has overwhelmed? [me] * * * and the s[leep] of my eyes [has fled] …

Moses 7:37. … these shall suffer. Moses 7:38. … these … shall perish in the floods, and behold, I will shut them up; a prison have I prepared for them.

4QEnGiantsa Frg.7. Then Ohyah [said] to Hahyah, his brother * * Then he (sc. God) punished … the [sons] of the Watchers, the giants, and all [their] beloved ones will not be spared * * * he has imprisoned us and you he has subdued (lit. TQAF, seized, confined).

Bearing in mind that the Aramaic fragments are few and very small and arranged in whatever order the editors think best, it is still possible to see that the themes of the Joseph Smith account emerge clearly amidst all the very obvious changes and vicissitudes that have occurred to the ancient texts.

The End