The following sermon was submitted by ULC minister Daniel Morgan. All ULC Ministers are invited to contribute their own sermons for consideration/publication. To submit a sermon, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bible as we know it today did not exist as one writing originally. It is a collection of books that were carefully curated over time by the Church. But not all holy texts made the cut; some were banned and forgotten by most believers. One such lost story has a history of controversy within some Judeo-Christian communities.
The Books of Enoch are apocalyptic texts containing magnificent tales about the origin of demons, giants, magic, and the transformation of a holy man into the archangel among archangels.
Some consider the titular character to fulfill the role of the prophesied messiah long before the time of Jesus. Others see him as a man ascended to Heaven by God to learn the secrets of the end of time. To others still, he is the product of what more or less amounts to ancient fanfiction.
Beginning and the End
The story of Enoch takes place between those of the Garden of Eden and the Great Flood, both found in the Book of Genesis. He is mentioned in the traditional Bible as being the 7th of the 10 pre-flood patriarchs in Adam’s line.
Despite taking place so early in the timeline, the book actually begins with Enoch’s delightfully ominous description of the end times, detailing Earth being ripped apart and a final judgment of sinful men.
We are also immediately introduced to mysterious creatures called the Watchers. In the beginning, this group of 200 angels was charged with observing history, however they began lusting after human women and descended to Earth to take them as wives.
This is where the story picks up the pace and it almost reads like a prologue from Lord of the Rings. The wives of the Watchers birthed giants that devoured everything in their path. When resources ran dry, they just ate the people!
Growing up I always wondered where Goliath and other Biblical giants were supposed to have come from, given they are all portrayed in a villainous light. I suppose a perverted mix of angels and humans is as good an answer as any.
As these giants ransacked the lands, the Watchers taught the wives charms, spells, and the craft of herbology - likely continuing the sexist depictions of women as deceivers that were started by stories of Eve and Lilith.
Meanwhile, the Watchers gifted mortal men with knowledge of metallurgy, fashioning weapons and armor, and soon after, the men began warring with one another.
The Watchers saw how badly they had messed things up and went tattling on one another to God. They decided to pin all the blame on one of their own named Azazel, who is often depicted with goat-like features, giving us the term scapegoat (fun fact!).
Are There Lessons to be Learned?
The passage of time at this point in the story is rather confusing. In response to the warring men, destructive giants, and crafty women, God prepared to wipe the slate clean. If at first you don’t succeed, kill everyone. That is the phrase, right? Maybe I got that wrong.
Noah is given a divine warning about the imminent flooding of the planet and sets to work on an ark.
The plot jolts forward with Enoch suddenly appearing in Heaven with little to no lead-up. God immediately charges him with dealing out damnation to the Watchers who would spend the rest of eternity as demons. He also seemingly creates purgatory to collect the souls of all people until judgment day.
For many passages after this, God takes Enoch on quite the trip, giving him visions of the end of time. If you are familiar with the books of Daniel and Revelation, you will recognize a lot of the imagery here; it’s just odd to have it shown so early on as opposed to the end of the Bible as many of us are used to.
God and Enoch start calling people out - naming names and telling them they'll receive no mercy. God empowers Enoch, turning him into the leader of the archangels named (no joke) Metatron.
I won’t spoil anything else, there’s plenty of sea monsters and chariots flying through the sky to make for an interesting read, to say the least. If you are intrigued by prophecy, metaphor, and trippy visions, I can’t recommend these books enough.
What’s the Big Deal
The very colorful books of Enoch have caused quite a stir over the years. Early Christians considered the writings to be canon, and for the Ethopian Orthodox Christian Church, they still are. However the messianic elements of them conflicted with the metaphysical uniqueness of Jesus Christ, and that rubbed the powers that be the wrong way.
Apparently, the creation of giants by the Watchers was considered too blasphemous for innocent minds. It also doesn’t hurt that a good chunk of the books are just retellings of Biblical stories, albeit in a more exciting fashion.
What’s more, the books set out a solar calendar, which means believers would not celebrate holidays at the same time as the rest of the community, who used a lunar calendar. This contributed to a cultural split that further buried the texts in obscurity.
Enoch does show up in a few places in the Bible, though usually only briefly, and more as part of a boring genealogical list. I much prefer this story as detailed here. Whether or not you personally choose to add it to your head canon or not, it is still fascinating to read non-Biblical “Biblical” texts written around the same time from some of the same groups of people.
The full Books of Enoch texts can be found in the ULC online catalog.