Who exactly was Enoch?

Who exactly was Enoch? Only a few phrases are mentioned about him in the Bible, but the Apocryphal texts have entire volumes of Enoch.

Yes, there are only a grand total of 14 verses in the Bible that name Enoch. The verses are divided between those that refer to Enoch, the son of Cain (Gen 4:17-18), and a later Enoch who was the son of Jared and the father of Methuselah (Gen 5:18-24). It is the second Enoch who is mentioned a few times later in the Bible, primarily in reference to the verse that Enoch “walked with God: then he was no more, because God took him” (Gen 5:24).

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the phrase “walked with God” meant that one lived righteously. Thus the suggestion seems to be that because of Enoch’s righteousness he did not die and suffer bodily decay like other humans. However, the meaning of “God took him” remains elusive. This very brief reference has since provoked the curiosity of many, and spawned a large amount of literature about Enoch between the years 300 B.C.E. and 300 C.E.. The idea that Enoch was taken to heaven was expanded in these apocryphal materials; they offered various legends, visions, discourses, and astronomical speculations centering around his departure from this earth and entrance to heaven. The material circulated among Jews and early Christians for a time, but fell out of favor and is not widely read these days.

Ann Naffziger

Ann Naffziger is a scripture instructor and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay area. She has has written articles on spirituality and theology for various national magazines and edited several books on the Hebrew Scriptures.