Friday, June 16, 2017

Did Enoch See Death?

As you well know, there are some commentators, who reckon that Enoch was transferred from earth to heaven without seeing death. The new BDAG Lexicon and Louw-Nida both put forth this understanding of Heb. 11:5. William Lane (Word Biblical Commentary) also writes that Enoch did not experience death since he equates the articular infinitival clause TOU MH IDEIN QANATON with the expression in Heb. 2:9, namely, the idiom "taste death." Lane also quotes 1 Clement 9:3: "Let us take Enoch, who having been found righteous in obedience was translated, and death did not happen to him." Cf. Lane, Hebrews, 336-337.

Against this interpretation, however, seems to be John 3:13 and Heb. 6:19-20.

John 3:13 assures us that no man (prior to Christ) ascended to heaven except the Son of Man, who descended from heaven. Heb. 6:19-20 indicates that Christ prepared the way for others to enter the heavens by means of his death and subsequent resurrection. The phrase in Heb. 11:5, while seemingly problematic, may simply be informing us that God made sure Enoch died peacefully without being aware of the pangs of death.

It appears that Enoch did not see death in that God cut his life short and may have placed Enoch in a trance when his life was cut short. Therefore, his death could be identified as a transference.

Gen. 5:24 uses an expression that is commonly implemented as a poetic euphemism for death ("And he was not"); furthermore, the Targum Onkelos says that God caused Enoch to die. The Jewish traditions surrounding
Enoch's death, therefore, makes me wonder whether the Greek METAQESIS was ever used euphemistically.

Compare Genesis Rabba 25.1.

Rashi adds:

And Enoch walked: He was a righteous man, but he could easily be swayed to return to do evil. Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, hastened and took him away and caused him to die before his time. For this reason, Scripture changed [the wording] in [the account of] his demise and wrote, “and he was no longer” in the world to complete his years. — [from Gen. Rabbah 25:1]

ויתהלך חנוך: צדיק היה וקל בדעתו לשוב להרשיע, לפיכך מיהר הקב"ה וסילקו והמיתו קודם זמנו [וזהו ששינה הכתוב במיתתו לכתוב ואיננו בעולם למלאות שנותיו:

for God had taken him: Before his time, like (Ezek. 24:16):“behold I am taking from you the desire of your eyes.” - [from Gen. Rabbah 25:1]

כי לקח אותו: לפני זמנו] כמו (יחזקאל כד טז) הנני לוקח ממך את מחמד עיניך


Duncan said...


2 kings 2:1 LXX is interesting for comparison.

Duncan said...

Is this equivalent to a claim that Enoch died in his sleep? or was he caught in a hurricane? How in Hebrew language would this type of event be recorded?

Duncan said...

Wisdom 4:10 - Sirach 44:16.

Edgar Foster said...

I take Rashi's exegesis to be saying that Enoch's life was shortened. 2 Kings 2:1 mentions a hurricane (whirlwind), but how are you associating the whirlwind with Enoch?

I am not sure, other than verses like 2 Kings 2:1, how one would communicate being caught in a hurricane in Hebrew. Compare 2 Kings 2:11.

The texts from Wisdom and Sirach are good references too. Thanks, Duncan.

Duncan said...

εν συσσεισμω ως εις τον ουρανον. Is this a wizard of Oz event, being thrown into heaven?

At the moment I can only see Rashi's interpretation as one among many. Just as transferred (swapped) is no less ambiguous than Gen 5:24.

Duncan said...

What difference is there between thrown and ascended?

Are all of these later than John?

Edgar Foster said...

I don't believe we know the exact nature of the event outside of the fact that Elijah was caught up somehow. However, he later writes a missive to Jehoram, and for other reasons, I doubt that he or Enoch were taken to the heavens of Jehovah's presence.

I am not saying that Rashi's exegesis should be accepted wholesale, but the main concern for me is whether there's sufficient evidence that the language in Genesis regarding Enoch constitutes a poetic euphemism.

Jesus ascended, but was he thrown? One throws a ball up in the air, but the flight of the ball could be termed an ascension. Ascend describes the motion or trajectory of the act. One can ascend after being thrown just like a ball.

The story about Octavian is certainly not later than John, if it began to be told shortly after his death. Suetonius lived ca.69-121 CE.

Edgar Foster said...

Interesting use of ως in 2 Kings 2:1 like Rev 14:3.

Duncan said...

The use of ως in 2 Kings is a misunderstanding and/or misapplication of the Hebrew:-

He was either lifted into the "sky" or he wasn't but the Greek is trying to alter the Hebrew into saying it was LIKE him being thrown in to "heaven".

Edgar Foster said...

Even if ως is misapplied, I still find it an interesting use.

Ellicott has this note: Into heaven.—Heb., accusative of direction, as in 2 Kings 2:11. The LXX. renders, ὡς εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν “as into heaven,” perhaps to suggest that not the visible heavens, but God, was the real goal of the prophet’s ascension.

See also

Edgar Foster said...


Note page 70.

Duncan said...

"but God, was the real goal of the prophet’s ascension." - ?

In what way?

Edgar Foster said...

Ellicott floats the idea as a suggestion: he uses "perhaps" to qualify his language. What he might be suggesting is that "heavens" has different significations in the Bible; so was Elijah taken into the physical heavens only or did he come to be in the presence of God? We also know that heavens is used as a potential circumlocution for God at times. Therefore, Ellicott is urging, it is possible that LXX uses ὡς to indicate that Elijah was not only taken into the visible heavens (into the sky), but he traveled to the third heaven.

I don't necessarily agree with Ellicott, but his suggestion just demonstrates that the LXX translators might have had good reason for employing ὡς. We ultimately don't know exactly why LXX used it.