Many religious texts purport to reveal secret knowledge, and 1 Enoch is no exception. The second “book” in 1 Enoch, The Book of the Similitudes, is quite long– and a significant portion of it is dedicated to revealing knowledge purportedly given by God to Enoch.
This raises several fascinating questions– what is the content of the secret knowledge? Should this secret knowledge be considered “gnosis”? And does it make sense to call 1 Enoch a “gnostic” text?
These topics are all contentious. There are many different definitions of “gnosis” and “gnostic”. Further, even the contents of the secret knowledge in 1 Enoch could be understood in different ways. In this post, we’ll explore all of these topics and provide you with information so you can form your own educated perspective.
What are demons, what fate awaits them, and does their damnation fit their crimes? Most Christians, ranging from Roman Catholics all the way to evangelical protestants, have argued against it. However, in the Book of Enoch (often called 1 Enoch), we find a story in which the main character (Enoch himself) actually intercedes on behalf of fallen angels before God. Why does he do that, and what is the outcome? And what meaning could we draw from this story today as we wrestle with modern demons of our own?
Table of Contents
What is 1 Enoch?
1 Enoch is a Jewish text that predates the birth of Jesus. Although most Christian and Jewish groups don’t consider it part of their canon, it had a profound impact on both.
It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “See, the Lord is coming with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
Compare that with 1 Enoch 1:9 (translated by E. Isaac):
Behold, he will arrive with ten million of the holy ones in order to execute judgment upon all. He will destroy the wicked ones and censure all flesh on account of everything they have done, that which the sinners and the wicked ones committed against him.
Many major players in the development of early Christianity considered 1 Enoch to be worth engaging with; consider what Tertullian wrote:
I am aware that the Scripture of Enoch, which has assigned this order (of action) to angels, is not received by some, because it is not admitted into the Jewish canon either…
If (Noah) had not had this (conservative power) by so short a route, there would (still) be this (consideration) to warrant our assertion of (the genuineness of) this Scripture: he could equally have renewed it, under the Spirit’s inspiration, after it had been destroyed by the violence of the deluge, as, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian storming of it, every document of the Jewish literature is generally agreed to have been restored through Ezra.
But since Enoch in the same Scripture has preached likewise concerning the Lord, nothing at all must be rejected by us which pertains to us; and we read that “every Scripture suitable for edification is divinely inspired.”
Clearly, 1 Enoch was an important text, not only in the Jewish context in which it was developed, but for early Christianity. So what does it say? Continue below to keep reading!
The Gospel of Judas is an early Christian text that explores the significance of Jesus, Judas, and the crucifixion from a Sethian perspective. It is a book filled with supposedly “secret teachings“. When we read this text today, we might ask ourselves, “what should we take away from this?” We may wonder, “what would it look like for us to apply these concepts to our lives”?
Indeed, it would be silly– absurd, even!– to argue that the early Christians wrote it to protect “secret teachings”. After all, if one has secret teachings, the absolute worst thing one could do is write them down! Why would you write down something which you wouldn’t want to risk being distributed? This is particularly important considering that this text is a “gospel”– it is good news, meant to be shared.
So, let’s assume that the Gospel of Judas was, in fact, good news. What is the good news that it has to share? This article will share one possible explanation: that the good news of the Gospel of Judas has to do with exposing hypocrisy. How so? Click below to learn more!
In the Gospel of Truth, the Parable of Nightmares asks: How do you escape a nightmare?
The classic horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street directed by Wes Craven has as a key plot point the idea that one has to wake up. Of course, this is easier said than done– especially since nightmares can bleed into the real world. In the movie this takes the form of the monstrous Freddy Kreuger, Craven pointed to real-world inspirations for the concept.
For example, Craven discussed reading an L.A. Times article in which a family which escaped the brutal Killing Fields in Cambodia, but one of the children continued to have worsening and worsening nightmares, culminating in their death in the middle of the night. Articles like this might be what Craven was referencing. It’s a horrifying concept– being trapped in a nightmare is bad enough, but for that nightmare to ruin your waking life as well is that much worse. And if nightmares can even result in real death, perhaps there is a kind of reality to the nightmare itself?
The Gospel of Truth is an early Christian text that is considered non-canonical; it was likely written by Valentinians, though there is some disagreement among scholars. In this text is offered the Parable of Nightmares. What is this parable, what does it mean, and how can we learn to wake up? Click below to learn more!
The very concept of “secret teachings” can raise eyebrows among those who are only versed in canonical Christian texts; after all, isn’t part of the point of Christianity that there are no secrets, that all are equal before God?
As it turns out, this isn’t quite right. All three of the synoptic gospels claim that Jesus had secret teachings. Want to learn more about role of secret teachings in the canonical gospels, and the content of the secret teachings in the Gospel of Judas? Click below to read more!
Who was Judas Iscariot? Did Judas betray Jesus, or are there other understandings of the story?
In the canonical Gospel According to John, Jesus says: ““This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:12-14). If the greatest act of love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, what act is most strongly opposed to love? Perhaps it is betrayal– to lay one’s friend for one’s own life.
But what if there were more to the story? After all, in John 13, Jesus clearly knows what Judas is going to do and authorizes him to continue. John tells it in such a way that Satan literally “entered into” Judas (John 13:27), but this is far from universal– the gospel according to Luke reports Satan entering Judas, but there is no mention of this in the stories found in the gospels according to Matthew or Mark— both of which were before John and possibly before Luke.
Most early Christians did believe that Judas betrayed Jesus, of course. But what if there were early Christians who believed that, rather than betraying Jesus, Judas was the only one of the apostles who truly understood Jesus’ mission and helped him achieve it?
When scholars discovered the Gospel of Judas, the story they found shocked and troubled them. To this day, there are a variety of scholarly positions on how to understand this complex (and unfortunately fragmented) text. In this post, we’ll take a cursory dive into one position commonly held– that in this Gospel, Judas was not a betrayer, but was truly the only disciple who understood and helped carry out Jesus’ mission.