Monday, November 2, 2015

The Book Of The Secrets Of Enoch - Theosophical Review 1896

The Book Of The Secrets Of Enoch - Theosophical Review 1896

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Students of so-called apocryphal scriptures are well aware that the chances of recovery of many important documents, current prior to and in the early centuries of Christianity, depend almost entirely on their translation into languages other than Hebrew, Greek, or Latin; compromising documents in these more generally known tongues being more easily discoverable for destruction by the orthodox. Thus we have been able to recover some important so-called apocryphal and heretical gospels and scriptures, in Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopic translations, and now the Slavonic has proved the means of preserving one more important document of the kind. For more than 1,200 years it has been unknown save in Russia, and in Western Europe was not known to exist even in Russia till 1892. A German review then stated that there was a Slavonic version of the well-known Ethiopic Book of Enoch. The researches of Messrs. Morfill and Charles, however, have proved that this is not the case, but that they have lighted on an independent version of the Enochic writings, preserved in Slavonic for many centuries.

The find is an exceedingly valuable one, and those who have read the Ethiopic Enoch and marked such passages as the "thieves and robbers" incident, will eagerly peruse the Slavonic Enoch for further confirmation of the priority of a number of passages in the New Testament to the Christian era. Of course the editor, Mr. Charles, has to tread very warily on such dangerous and controversial ground, but though he leaves the drawing of deductions to others, he nevertheless states his facts.

He fairly establishes that the Slavonic translation comes from a Greek copy; the penultimate editor of the original document being a Hellenistic Jew writing in Egypt, probably in Alexandria, and the original document being undoubtedly Hebrew.

The date of the Greek version cannot possibly be later than 70 A.d., because the temple is referred to as still standing. The earliest date is about 30 B.C. It is quoted by name in the Testaments of Levi, Daniel and Naphthali, cir. 1 A.D. The portions which have a Hebrew background are at latest pre-Christian.

The following are some of the most interesting parallels between our document and the documents of the New Testament.

The above are a portion of the parallels with the New Testament cited by the editor, and it is undoubtedly possible to add still further to their number.

But We have not space to refer further in detail to the many points of interest in the text. We read there of the Watchers, Grigori or Egogores, dimly referred to by Eliphas Levi through kabalistic tradition, of Phoenixes and Chalkidri and other strange symbolical creatures. The main doctrines elucidated are: death caused by sin; the millennium; the creation of man with free will and the knowledge of good and evil; the Seraphim; the intercession of saints; and the seven heavens, to which the editor devotes sixteen pages of interesting commentary, shewing that it was an early Jewish and Christian belief, and that the "high places" of the Pauline Epistle is a mistranslation for "heavens."

Especially noticeable is the doctrine of kindness to the brute creation. Thus in chap, lviii. we read: "The Lord will not judge any soul of beast on account of man, but he will judge the soul of man on account of the souls of beasts in the world to come. For as there is a special place for mankind for all the souls of men according to their number, so there is also of beasts. And not one soul shall perish which God has made till the great judgment. And every soul of beast shall bring a charge against man if he feeds them badly." Much more then, we may remark, according to the doctrine, will the vivisector be charged by many souls of many beasts.

Though the existence of souls even prior to creation is inculcated, yet I can so far find no reference to reincarnation. The creation-days are given as protracted time-periods. The intellectual creation prior to the physical is distinctly taught. But space does not serve us further than to add that an Appendix contains the translation of a fragment of Melchizedekian literature found in one of the Enochic MSS. This brings out clearly the blood sacrifices and elemental worship of the early Hebrews. Among many curious incidents, it relates how the knife rose of its own accord from the altar into the hand of Methusalam, who took it and killed all the sheep and oxen brought by the people.

It is therefore abundantly apparent that The Book of the Secrets of Enoch is an important document, and so unexpected a find encourages us to hope that ere long the libraries of the Russian, Armenian, Syrian, and Abyssinian monasteries may be forced by Karma to disclose even more important records of the times when the Gospels were compiled, and so throw further light on the obscure origins of Christianity.

G. R. S. M

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