Andrei A. Orlov

 Enoch as the Expert in Secrets

[an excerpt from A. Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition (TSAJ, 107; Tuebingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2005), pp. xii+383. ISBN 3-16-148544-0.]


…. Helge Kvanvig observes that the seventh patriarch’s role as a sage cannot be separated from his expertise in celestial mysteries since “in Jewish tradition Enoch is primarily portrayed as a primeval sage, the ultimate revealer of divine secrets.”[1]

The patriarch’s prowess in the heavenly secrets is deeply embedded in the fabric of the Enochic myth and is set against the expertise in the celestial knowledge that the fallen Watchers once possessed.[2]  John Collins observes that “most significantly, Enoch is implicitly cast as a revealer of mysteries. The Watchers are angels who descend to reveal a worthless mystery.[3] Enoch is a human being who ascends to get true revelation.”[4]

The traditions about the patriarch’s expertise in esoteric knowledge are attested in a variety of Enochic materials. In the Astronomical Book the possession and revelation of cosmological and astronomical secrets becomes a major function of the elevated Enoch. The origin of this role in Enochic traditions can be traced to 1 Enoch 72:1, 74:2, and 80:1, which depict the patriarch as a recipient of angelic revelations, including the celestial knowledge of astronomical, meteorological, and calendarical lore. He remains in this capacity in the majority of the materials associated with the early Enochic circle. In 1 Enoch 41:1 Enoch is portrayed as the one who “saw all secrets of heaven.” [5]

Jub 4:17 also attests to this peculiar role of the seventh patriarch. A large portion of 2 Enoch is devoted to Enoch’s initiation into the treasures of meteorological, calendarical, and astronomical lore during his celestial tour. The Slavonic apocalypse differs from the earlier materials in that it places special emphasis on the secrecy of cosmological revelations, thus demonstrating intriguing similarities with the later rabbinic developments with their stress on the secrecy of ty#)rb h#(m. Later Merkabah developments also underscore the role of Enoch as the “Knower of Secrets.”  Thus, according to Synopse §14 (3 Enoch 11:2), Enoch-Metatron is able to behold “deep secrets and wonderful mysteries.”[6] Martin Cohen, in his analysis of the Shi(ur Qomah materials, observes that this tradition depicts Metatron as “the revealer of the most recondite secrets about Godhead.”[7]

Several remarks should be made about the sources of Enoch’s knowledge. J. Collins’s research points to the passage in the Apocalypse of Weeks (1 Enoch 93:2) that succinctly summarizes the possible means by which the patriarch acquires the esoteric information.[8] In this text Enoch informs us that he received it according to that which appeared to him in the heavenly vision, and which he knew from the words of the holy angels and understood from the tablets of heaven.[9] The mention of these three sources underscores the fact that the revelations to the patriarch were given on various levels and through various means of mystical perception: seeing (a vision), hearing (oral instructions of angelus interpres) and reading (the heavenly tablets).

It is curious that the terminology pertaining to secrets began to play an increasingly significant role in the later stages of the development of the Enochic tradition. While in the earliest Enochic booklets, such as the Astronomical Book and the Book of the Watchers, the terminology pertaining to secrets and mysteries is barely discernible, it looms large in the later Enochic materials such as the Book of the Similitudes,[10] 2 Enoch and finally the Merkabah developments. This growing importance of terminology pertaining to secrets can be illustrated by 2 Enoch. While various manuscripts of 2 Enoch are known under different titles, most of them include the word “secrets.”[11] In some of these titles the term is connected with Enoch’s books – “The Secret Books of Enoch.” In other titles, “secrets” are linked either to God (“The Book[s] [called] the Secrets of God, a revelation to Enoch”) or to Enoch himself (“The Book of the Secrets of Enoch”). This consistency in the use of the term “secrets,” in spite of its varied attribution to different subjects, indicates that the authors or the transmitters of the text viewed the motif of secrets as a central theme of the apocalypse.  The Enochic notion of the secrets and its significance in 2 Enoch and Hekhalot writings will be the subject of particular investigation in a following chapter.

Finally, one must note that Enoch’s role as one who was initiated into the highest secrets of the universe might be implicitly reflected in his name. While several etymologies for the patriarch’s name have been proposed, many scholars suggest that the patriarch’s name might be related to the Hebrew root h9nk, in the sense “to train up,” “to dedicate,” or “to initiate” (Deut 20:5; 1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chron 7:5)….[12]



[1] Kvanvig, Roots of Apocalyptic, 27.

[2]  Pierre Grelot observes that  “Enoch is the originator of prophecy understood as revelation of divine secrets.” Grelot, “La légende d’Hénoch dans les apocryphes et dans la Bible: Origine et signification,” 15.

[3] 1 Enoch 16:3 “You were in heaven, but (its) secrets had not yet been revealed to you and a worthless mystery you knew.” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.102–103. On the motif of the Watchers’ illicit instruction see: A. Y. Reed, What the Fallen Angels Taught: The Motif of Illicit Angelic Instruction and the Reception-History of 1 Enoch in Judaism and Christianity (Ph.D. Dissertation, Princeton University, 2002).

[4] Collins, Seers, Sybils and Sages in Hellenistic-Roman Judaism, 49. In the same vein Christopher Rowland observes that “there does appear to be a contrast between the Watchers and Enoch. One of the great sins of Asael is that he has ‘revealed the eternal secrets which were in heaven, which men were striving to learn’ (1 Enoch 9.6). This charge seems a strange one in an apocalypse which sets out to do precisely that for which the angels were condemned. Indeed, in Jub 4:18ff. Enoch’s fame is based on the fact that he introduced many secrets, including astronomy (cf. 1 Enoch’s 8.3), which the angels are also said to have done. One can only assume that the major difference between Enoch and the angels is the fact that man receives the heavenly mysteries by means of revelation, whereas the angels are guilty of exposing the heavenly mysteries to man without God’s permission. Enoch reveals exactly what he is told to reveal, and, as a result, God only allows man to know sufficient for man’s well-being. The angels, however, usurp God’s right to reveal his mysteries and indulge in a profligate disclosure of the secrets of God.” C. Rowland, The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity (New York: Crossroad, 1982) 93–94.

[5] Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.128.

[6] P. Alexander “3 (Hebrew Apocalypse of) Enoch,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (ed. J.H. Charlesworth; New York: Doubleday, 1985 [1983]) 1.264; Schäfer et al., Synopse, 8–9.

[7] Cohen, Liturgy and Theurgy, 127.

[8] Collins, “The Sage in Apocalyptic and Pseudepigraphic Literature,” 345.

[9] Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.223.

[10] See 1 Enoch 71:1–4: “And it came to pass after this that my spirit was carried off, and it went up into the heavens…. And the angel Michael, one of the archangels, took hold of me by my right hand, and raised me, and led me out to all the secrets of mercy and the secrets of righteousness. And he showed me all the secrets of the ends of heaven and all the storehouses of all the stars and the lights, from where they come out before the holy ones.” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.165–6. See also 1 Enoch 40:2: “I looked, and on the four sides of the Lord of Spirits I saw four figures different from those who were standing; and … the angel who went with me … showed me all the secret things.” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.127. Cf. 1 Enoch 41:1–3: “And after this I saw all the secrets of heaven, and how the kingdom is divided, and how the deeds of men are weighed in the balance…. And there my eyes saw the secrets of the flashes of lightning and of the thunder, and secrets of the winds, how they are distributed in order to blow over the earth, and the secrets of the clouds and of the dew.” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.128–9. See also 1 Enoch 46:2: “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 whence he was, (and) why he went with the Head of Days.” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.131–2. Cf. 1 Enoch 68:1: “And after this my great-grandfather Enoch gave me the explanation of all the secrets in a book.” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.158.

[11] tainy.

[12] VanderKam, Enoch: A Man for All Generations, 11. On the etymology of Enoch’s name, see also Grelot, “La légende d’Hénoch,” 186; Kvanvig, Roots of Apocalyptic, 41–43.