Enoch Translated

Review of George W. E. Nickelsburg. 1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, Chapters 1-36; 81-108, ed. Klaus Baltzer. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001. xxxvii + 616 pp., with passage and name indexes. $58.00.

Enoch Translated

Reviewed by John W. Welch

Several important volumes have been added recently to the Hermeneia series published
by Fortress Press. One of these is George W. E. Nickelsburg’s work on 1 Enoch,
a commentary on the book of 1 Enoch, chapters 1-36 and 81-108.
This book will be of considerable assistance to Latter-day Saint scholars and
should spare them time and effort. Because no early Jewish or Christian nonbiblical
texts have been of greater interest to Hugh Nibley and the Latter-day Saint academic
community than those in the body of Enoch literature have been, it is with great
excitement that I celebrate George Nickelsburg’s superb work on Enoch. He
has done us and all people interested in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha an enormous
service, for which we should be deeply grateful.

This book comes highly recommended, and a glance at its table of contents shows
its breadth. Nickelsburg begins with some interpretive and theological observations.
He positions the text in its historical context; gives a short account of 1 Enoch,
including the chapters not covered in this commentary; describes the manuscripts;
analyzes the text as a literary composition; places it in its apocalyptic setting
and worldview; relates it to the treatment of the Enoch figure in other ancient
settings; and identifies the main currents in the modern study of this fascinating
text. For example, Nickelsburg gives a good survey of the publications of 1 Enoch
in the nineteenth century (pp. 109-11).1 Latter-day Saint scholars
will find all of this very interesting. Nickelsburg also notes Nibley’s
Enoch the Prophet (p. 82 n. 60),2 although “a discussion of the
Mormon tradition lies beyond the scope of this commentary.”

Pending future treatment, of course, are the Enochic Book of Parables and
Book of Luminaries, which he treats here only in an introductory fashion (pp. 7-8).
Treating those segments separately is justifiable since they were possibly of
independent origin. Several writings in antiquity were related to each other only
by association with Enoch; some of them were brought together in the composite
book of 1 Enoch. This leaves open to considerable debate questions about
the character of these texts and about their relationship to each other, to various
Jewish sects, to interest groups, and to traditions, as well as to various kinds
of religious writing (testamentary, apocalyptic, legal, wisdom, and others), to
say nothing about issues regarding when and why 1 Enoch took its final form
and where its underlying traditions and sources came from. Nickelsburg provides
an excellent point of entry into this field of research and ongoing discussion.

After 125 pages of introduction, Nickelsburg proceeds line by line, word by word
through the text of 1 Enoch. Each unit is beautifully translated, heavily
annotated, and expertly explained. The careful reader will be rewarded at almost
every turn with interesting parallels to scriptural texts, allusions to ancient
Israelite concepts and practices, and expressions that are rich with spiritual
significance. For example, this book covers Enoch’s calling as a prophet
(1 Enoch 14:8-16:4); a vision of the tree of life (24:2-25:7);
a revelation of heavenly tablets (81:1); a history of the world from the time
of Adam down to the destruction of Jerusalem (85-89); and an overview of
the history of Israel from 587 B.C. to the end of time (89-90), placing blame
especially on the wicked “shepherds” and their subordinates, who handed
over their sheep to wild beasts to devour them (89:65-67). On this last
point, readers may think of 1 Nephi 21:1, a verse restored at the beginning
of Isaiah 49: “Hearken, O ye house of Israel, all ye that are broken off
and are driven out because of the wickedness of the pastors [shepherds] of my

Nickelsburg carefully explains the meanings of the names of the twenty evil watchers
who rebel against God (pp. 179-81). These names appear to have the
following literal meanings:

  1. “My name has seen,” i.e., God has seen the wicked
  2. “Earth is power”
  3. “Evening of God” or “burning ashes of God,” referring
    to “volcanic activities”
  4. “Star of God”
  5. “God is their light ” or “God is prudence “
  6. “Thunder of God”
  7. “God is my judge”
  8. “Shooting star of God”
  9. “Lightning of God”
  10. “God has made,” i.e., God’s creative activities
  11. “The one of [Mount] Hermon”
  12. “Rain of God”
  13. “Cloud of God”
  14. “Winter of God”
  15. “Sun of God”
  16. “Moon of God”
  17. “Perfection of God”
  18. “Mountain of God”
  19. “Sea of God” or “Day of God”
  20. “God will guide”

I found it interesting that this list names the leaders of the rebellious forces
that all banded together and “swore together and bound one another with
a curse” (1 Enoch 6:5) to shake God’s creation according to their
own will. These key figures are main powers in the Enochic heavenly panoply. Thus,
it seems significant that when “the prophet” (Zenos) spoke of the
Lord God visiting the house of Israel in the day of destruction that would accompany
the cataclysmic death of the Son of God, the Book of Mormon text in 1 Nephi
19 includes most of these heavenly elements as the instruments that will implement
the visitation of the Lord. In other words, the Book of Mormon text assumes that
these rebellious forces are again (or perhaps were actually always) in line under
the dominion of the Lord God of Israel. The Enochic elements directly or arguably
present in this prophecy include:

1. “God surely shall visit” (1 Nephi 19:11)
2. “opening of the earth,” “power” (1 Nephi 19:11)
3. “vapor,” understandable as volcanic clouds (1 Nephi 19:11;
compare 3 Nephi 8:20)
5. “righteousness” (1 Nephi 19:11)
6. “thunderings” (1 Nephi 19:11)
7. “they shall be scourged” (1 Nephi 19:13)
8. “fire” (1 Nephi 19:11)
9. “lightnings” (1 Nephi 19:11)
10. “God of nature” (1 Nephi 19:12)
12. “tempest” (1 Nephi 19:11)
13. “smoke” (1 Nephi 19:11)
14. “darkness” (1 Nephi 19:11)
17. “salvation of the Lord” (1 Nephi 19:17)
18. “mountains” (1 Nephi 19:11)
19. “isles of the sea” (1 Nephi 19:12, 16) or “at that
day” (1 Nephi 19:11)
20. “I [will] gather in” (1 Nephi 19:16)

Absent here, for some reason, are references to the potentates related to the
sun (#15), moon (#16), stars (#4), and Hermon (#11); but more than three-quarters
of the twenty heavenly chiefs named in 1 Enoch 6:7 seem to stand in the background
of the ancient Israelite prophecies used by Nephi in 1 Nephi 19. This would
indeed suggest some significant linkage between Nephi’s explanation of the
“sign” that should be given “unto those who should inhabit the
isles of the sea” (1 Nephi 19:10) and these beings in the Enochic heavenly
host, whose main activity, as is clear from 1 Enoch 8:3, also involved the
dispensing of “signs.” Although in 1 Enoch these rebellious watchers
acted in defiance of the plan of God and outside the scope of their authority,
both the cosmic view of 1 Enoch and the worldview of Zenos and the prophets
cited by Nephi would seem to see these principalities operating in or around the
assembly of God with power to communicate signs from the heavenly sphere to mortals
abroad on the earth.

The book ends with an extensive bibliography (pp. 561-71), citation
index (pp. 573-608), and name register (pp. 609-16), but no subject
index. Mining this text for a comprehensive list of its topics and passages of
interest to Latter-day Saints remains to be accomplished. Nickelsburg has provided
Latter-day Saint scholars with a remarkable tool. We welcome and appreciate his
thorough work.


  1. On which, see Jed L. Woodworth, “Extra-Biblical Enoch Texts in Early
    American Culture,” in Archive of Restoration Culture: Summer Fellows’
    Papers 1997-99
    (Provo, Utah: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute, 2000), 185-93.
  2. Hugh Nibley, Enoch the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1986).