Few scriptural puzzles challenge us as does Enoch. Now that the Old Testament and the Pearl of Great Price are again front and center, I would love to know how you analyze the problems and what you think of Joseph’s Enoch.
Enoch is now widely available in a handful of versions. The most complete is 1 Enoch, the Ethiopian Enoch; it’s available in numerous translations, notably those of R.H. Charles, J.T. Milik, Matthew Black and, the one I use, James H. Charlesworth in his The old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol I, Doubleday, 1983.
Dialogue published Douglas F. Salmon’s analysis in Vol 33 No 2, Summer 2000 and entitled “parallelomania and the Study of the Latter-Day Scripture: Confirmation, Coincidence, or the Collective Unconscious?” He concludes that Mormon scholars, especially Nibley who believed that Enoch “offers the nearest thing to a perfectly foolproof test–neat, clear-cut, and decisive of Joseph Smith’s claim to inspiration.” (Nibley, Enoch the Prophet, 94), ignore important issues. Salmon writes:
There are a lot of issues that are not discussed anywhere in the investigation. For instance, what is the methodology for selecting the parallels? Are the parallels examples of verbal agreement, or are they simply examples of similar thought patterns? Is the dual occurrence of a single word enough to establish a parallel, or is an entire phrase required? Does the phrase of the single word have to occur in a similar context in the text? What are the criteria for selecting the texts that are to be mined for parallels? If the religious community from whence the text comes important? Is it enough that the figure Enoch is mentioned in the text, or does it have to contain the actual words/writings of Enoch? Does the age of the manuscript of the selected text matter at all? Does the age of the tradition contained in the manuscript matter? Does the provenance of the manuscript matter? Is the original language of the manuscript and/or tradition important? (Salmon, 133)
Salmon concludes that using apocryphal literature “to prove the prophetic status of Joseph Smith is a misguided endeavor.” He notes the intriguing parallels between 1 Enoch and the Book of Moses but attributes them largely to a collective unconscious, a light of Christ recognition. I certainly agree that Mormon scholars–yes, Nibley too–prooftext far too much. Of course our Old and New Testament manuals offer little else to the lay member, but that’s another thread. Still I am not as quick as Salmon to downgrade Joseph Smith’s inspiration.
There is no convincing evidence that Joseph Smith had access to the first English translation of the book, by Lawrence in 1821. In fact, it wasn’t until 1853 that an English translation aroused much interest in Europe. The Enochian Son of Man or Righteous One, a preexistent Messianic figure, intrigues even when he seems more Jewish than Christian. The figures Mahijah in Moses and Mahujah in Enoch intrigue. The comparison the the fallen angels and the sons of God intrigues. The Enochian concept of tracing sin not to Adam but to Satan intrigues. Matthew Black’s alleged protestation to Hugh Nibley that Joseph Smith’s source for Enoch would some day be found intrigues. I could go on. However, additions to Joseph Smith’s version but not in any of the ancient Enochs perplex. What do you make of the many outright differences and the many potential parallels for which we must add the missing link?