Sunday, December 11, 2011

Enoch's Rapture

Alice C. Linsley

A reader recently made this comment:

What are your thoughts about Enoch's "removal". I've been perusing your site and I don't see it as having been covered before - not to say it hasn't (I just don't find it if it has).

Gen. 5:24 "and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him."

I realize you deal with data, facts and research, extrapolating from there, but this would certainly seem to be an intriguing passage, yes?

The common interpretation is that Enoch was translated into heaven/paradise like Elijah. Certainly, in the genealogical listings of early Genesis, Enoch's life stands out.

Sure, they're pointing out his strong faith and relationship with God, but his "death" or "end of life" is put differently than the other ancestors. Is this because his faith and walk with God was that set apart, or do you accept the interpretation that he was indeed "translated" in some fashion and this was the early author's way of trying to grasp/understand it and relate it for posterity?


I appreciate this question and the reader's understanding of my interest in facts. This is a topic I have avoided because it necessarily involves speculation. That is not to say that I haven't given this some thought.  I have considered three possible explanations.

1. Enoch was a deified ruler whose death was never recorded.  I don't see much biblical support for this view.  The days of Enoch are said to be 365 years (Gen. 5:23).  Whether he died or was translated to heaven, the time of his leaving was noted.

2. Enoch was a sent-away son and his death was never reported to his people back home.  Most of the heroes of the Old Testament were sent-away sons: Cain, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David are examples. These biblical figures point to Jesus, God's sent-away Son, who came to conquer and establish and eternal kingdom.

3. Enoch was a hermit ruler who lived in the wilderness and disappeared. His ermitic life began after his son Methuselah was born.  Having secured an heir to his throne, Enoch withdrew to the wilderness.  This is suggested by Gen. 5:22: "And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methusaleh."

Probably Enoch was "raptured" as was Elijah. This is said to happen to some hysechasts. It is called "stepping into the Light" and is something akin to the transfiguration of Jesus, or the glorified Jesus in the individual becoming all in all. This speaks of transcending this world.

I am not attached to one of these possible explanations. However, I believe that Enoch's righteousness and his disappearance should be taken literally.

The phrase "walked with God" is reminiscent of Genesis 3:8 where we are told that God walked in the garden to commune with the Man and the Woman.  To walk with God suggests the simpliest life, where the main thing - perfect communion with God - is kept the main thing.

St. Ephrem the Syrian expressed how Christ makes transcendence possible in a Hymn on the Nativity (VIII.4). He wrote:

Blessed be the Merciful One
who saw the sword beside Paradise,
barring the way to the Tree of Life;
He came and took to Himself a body
which was wounded so that,
by the opening of His side,
He might open up the way to Paradise.

At the end of his Ladder of Divine Ascent, St. John Climacus speaks of this as "ascending to Jerusalem, the vision of the perfect peace of souls" and encourages the monks to fix "your eye upon Heaven, you have set your foot upon its base and run, and gone up, and been exalted, and mounted the cherubim of the virtues; you have taken wing and ascended in jubilation, vanquishing the enemy. You have gone before us on the road and led the way, or rather, even now you lead us, and go on before us all, ascending with a light step to the very pinnacle of the holy Ladder, uniting yourself to love; and love is God, to Whom be glory unto the ages. Amen."

Related reading: Is Enoch a Royal Title?


Wading Across said...

Thanks for your prompt response! Frankly I thought my comment/question had gone 'poof', into the ether, and that you weren't even aware of it. Suffice to say, you were and more!

You've certainly given some things to chew on. As I have previously noted, many of the things you talk about are quite difficult for this old fundy to square, but none-the-less is willing to do more than just push it around the plate.

I wouldn't find it surprising that Enoch didn't truly get translated to heaven in a sort of transfiguration like Christ after his crucifixion. It is for every man to die once after all.

That said, even the ancient Jews wondered if Jesus was Elijah returned, so they must have truly believed that Elijah hadn't tasted death.

In fundy, dispensational pretrib eschatology (I have a mild interest in the topic - I actually lean historic premill, but that's neither here nor there), when the discussion of the two witnesses comes up, people typically assume Elijah to be one. Then they usually bring up Moses as the other, which in makes some sense, but not really. I - and probably a small portion of people - had always brought up Enoch as being the other possibility.

Sorry about the tangential rabbit trail... Anyhow, this does bring up plenty of interesting theological discussions and thoughts, not only about Enoch, but also about Adam and Eve as you've noted, concerning "walking with God". It does bring to mind in a similar correlation how we modern people express our discipleship, growth and maturity in faith and belief in Christ and God as our "walk".

I have long considered the probability that the ages of the forebears are quite symbolic. Especially considering that 365 years matchs the days of a year, 777 for holy completeness and Methuselah's death coinciding numerically with Noah's flood. As a child I noticed that it made for some pretty interesting coincidences. Either you or others have noted that there was probably a deeper meaning behind the number choices, as the 777 would seem to indicate.

On another tangential note I find it interesting that you call Cain a Biblical hero. I don't know that he's considered that anywhere in Jewish or Christian theology and history. He's always seen as someone turning their back on God, not only as a murderer. I can understand calling him a hero in the sense of an ancestral, genealogical forebear, but as I say, I don't recall ever having heard of him considered that in any sort of theological/historical context before. Some might take considerable umbrage at that. Granted, other Biblical heros were murderers, such as Moses, but we get a different picture of their walk that we don't get with Cain. Thus, Cain and his progeny is always painted in a starkly different theological consideration then Seth and his decendants.

Anyhow, your theory that perhaps Enoch's "taking" was actually one of hermetic solitude seems quite plausible to me. To be sure, history has recorded quite a few autocrats who decided that their faith was far more important than ruling.

Well, I think I've rambled around this underbrush enough and ferreted out enough rabbits; but, to be fair, you provided the warren of ideas!

Thank you for the post and some new cud.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Your comment showed up in my email inbox, but for some reason didn't show up at the blog.

"To be sure, history has recorded quite a few autocrats who decided that their faith was far more important than ruling."

Guatama, called "Buddha" is an example.

Cain was regarded as vindicated by God. He deserved to die for killing his brother, but God showed him mercy. Instead, he was expelled from the community/sent away. This is the way of tribal peoples. They rarely kill their own (death penalty). It is more common to expell the offender, which often meant death for the expelled. That is why Cain feared for his life, but God put a mark on him to warn away those who might attempt to harm him. Lamech, a descendant of Cain, recognized that Cain was vindicated, because he brags to his wives, "If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times." (Gen. 4:24)

Cain gets a bad rap because he is the ancestor of the Canaanites. However, the Canaanites are also descended from Seth, as the lines of Cain and Seth intermarried exclusively.

Thanks for asking this question about Enoch.

Neil Dingman said...

Interesting article. Out of curiosity have you compared Enoch and the Sumerian Enoch, Enmendurana? It appears at first glance, Enmendurana and the iconographic and narrative tradition of his patron deity Utu/Shamash seems to parallel or was partially integrated into parts of Genesis and the apocalyptic literature of the Bible. Thanks for blogging.

Alice C. Linsley said...


There are parallels, for sure. Both were pre-dynastic rulers and both were associated with the solar symbolism fundamental to ancient Afro-Asiatic religion. Both Enoch and Enmendurana are dated to around 2900-2800 BC.

If they are the same person, this would support the view that Enoch was a sent-away son who moved into Sumer and established a kingdom for himself.