The influence of the Dead Sea Scrolls on early Christianity has been debated in both popular and academic culture. Some popular writers have gone so far as to claim that Jesus himself was a prominent member of the Qumran community (Knight and Lomas 57). However, Gabriele Boccaccini provides a compelling analysis of the scrolls that establishes a distinction between the Qumran community and the larger Essene movement as described by Jewish historians Philo and Josephus (178), which he calls “Enochic Judaism” (185). Systematic analysis leads Boccaccini to “the conclusion that the community of the Dead Sea Scrolls was a radical and minority group within Enochic Judaism” (162). He shows that the broader movement of Enochic Judaism, and not the sectarian literature actually produced at Qumran, is a major contributing force to the movement that became early Christianity. “Mainstream Essenism provides a much more intriguing context for Christian origins than that offered by the sectarian literature at Qumran” (188). The following passage is critical:
The Enochic/Essene hypothesis confirms the work of New Testament scholars who recognize a close relationship between Essenism and Christianity but also see many major differences between the New Testament and the sectarian literature of Qumran. We can now share this view without speculative hypotheses, such as John the Baptist and Jesus visiting Qumran, or groundless tales about their being involved in secret Essene conspiracies. There was no need to go to Qumran in order to be familiar with the principles of Essenism. (194)
The Dead Sea Scrolls contain both sectarian literature actually produced at Qumran and other (generally older) texts collected but not written there. Among these latter texts are parts of 1 Enoch, which Boccaccini calls “the core of a distinct variety of second temple Judaism that played an essential role in Qumran (and Christian) origins” (195). So having left behind the question of whether Jesus himself was a resident of Qumran, or whether the Qumranites were the first Christians, we must still deal with the question of 1 Enoch’s influence on early Christianity. We must examine claims such as those made by Norman Cohn that although “1 Enoch does not figure in the Bible, not even in the Apocrypha, in the centuries immediately before and after Jesus it was widely known and enjoyed great prestige” (176).
This analysis will focus specifically on Enochic parallels in the New Testament. 1 Enoch’s influence on New Testament Apocrypha, Gnostic writings, early Church fathers, Jewish historians, and later Rabbinical Judaism, although significant, would far exceed the scope of this study and has been attempted elsewhere by a number of scholars (see especially the works of Nickelsburg and VanderKam listed in the bibliography).
The books known as 2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch and 3 (Hebrew Apocalypse of) Enoch also fall outside the scope of this analysis, having probable dates of composition well after most of the New Testament was written (F. I. Anderson 91, Alexander 223). Jubilees, while having a central role in Enochic literature, must unfortunately also be excluded from the present study.
By drawing parallels between 1 Enoch and parts of the New Testament, we can establish possible points of influence that Enoch may have had on NT authors. However, we must be wary of getting lost in “parallelomania” (J. Anderson 351), or the overzealous search for commonalities among disparate literary works. R. H. Charles, in his introduction to the translation that was the standard for many years, traces a great number of parallels between 1 Enoch and the New Testament (xcv-cii). However, recent scholarship has taken a much more conservative view:
Charles found two kinds of evidence for the effect of the book on New Testament writers: passages that “in phraseology or idea directly depend on or are illustrative of passages in 1 Enoch” and doctrines from 1 Enoch which shaped the matching New Testament teachings. But his list is misleading because only a small number of his parallels amount to serious candidates for direct or even indirect influence.... Charles may have been correct in claiming that some New Testament wording was influenced by 1 Enoch, but only in a few cases may we say with confidence that something in the New Testament shows influence from an item or theme in 1 Enoch. (VanderKam, Man 169)
This paper won’t examine all of Charles’s parallels, but will instead focus on those that have stood up to scholarly scrutiny. It will present evidence under five headings: Direct Quotation, Fallen Angels and the Origin of Evil, Genealogy, “Son of Man” Phraseology, and Revelation. It will argue that although lost to Europe for 400 years (Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1 109), 1 Enoch continued to exercise significant influence on the religious and intellectual world through the New Testament. “Among twentieth-century Christians, only the Ethiopian Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints consider the Enochic writings to be authoritative. Otherwise, to the extent they are even known, they are viewed at best as a curiosity” (Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1 82). However, such a low opinion is unwarranted, and this paper will attempt to show that study of 1 Enoch can illuminate our understanding of the New Testament and Christian origins.
Like many of its canonical counterparts, the book we call 1 (Ethiopic) Enoch was assembled from a variety of sources. James C. VanderKam, in his important essay “1 Enoch, Enochic Motifs, and Enoch in Early Christian Literature,” provides the following chronological listing (and abbreviations, which we will utilize hereafter) for the “booklets” that constitute 1 Enoch:
1. The Astronomical Book (1 Enoch 72-82= AB): 3rd century BCE.
2. The Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36= BW): 3rd century BCE.
3. The Epistle of Enoch (1 Enoch 91-108= EE): 2nd century BCE.
4. The Book of Dreams (1 Enoch 83-90= BD): 2nd century BCE.
5. The Book of Parables (1 Enoch 37-71= BP): 1st century BCE/CE. (33)
The relatively late date of the Book of Parables (or Similitudes) is primarily due to the lack of fragments of BP among those identified at Qumran (VanderKam, “Literature” 33). This will be important for our analysis of the influence of BP’s “Son of Man” phraseology on the Gospels, below.