I’ve mentioned a few times that one of my many private research projects is the impossibly deep rabbit hole of Angelology. I’ve been at this for nearly two decades now, though admittedly I put it away for briefly to let it… rest? Breathe? Marinate in my subconscious for a while? Whatever you want to call it, it’s been a little while since I looked at any of my notes, and I’m a bit rusty. The nice thing about being entrenched in a subject, however, is that it’s easy to dive right back in when you know the basic touchstones to use as a refresher course. Trust me when I say that when it comes to a subject this deep, it’s good to return to the basics every so often, if only to ensure the foundation is as solid as you hope.
For those unfamiliar, the Books of Enoch are mystical works whose place in Jewish or Christian tradition is of some considerable debate, depending on which sect to which you ascribe. If you’ve heard of Nephalim or the Watchers, this is where those stories are expounded upon. The story behind the story of these books, of course, is somewhat lengthy and convoluted, so I would suggest the interested yet uninitiated start with Wiki and go from there (see the links provided later in this paragraph). It’s always best to have an idea of what you’re reading and in what context before you dive in, I think. In most cases, when you see The Book of Enoch on a shelf or online somewhere, it typically refers only to the first of the three books. This volume contains all three: 1 Enoch (The Ethiopic Book of Enoch), 2 Enoch, (The Slavonic Book of Enoch), and 3 Enoch (The Hebrew Book of Enoch). In the case of 2 Enoch, this features an extended version containing The Exaltation of Melchizedek. Sometimes it’s astounding to me to see what’s come to the surface in the last century or so. New information is a good thing. It challenges the perceptions and makes us look at ideas in new ways.
I said I wasn’t likely to blog about where my research takes me, but it never hurts to review the sources I use. After all, you never know what might be of interest to others. When it comes to this subject, the Books of Enoch are about as foundational as it comes. And when you dig as deeply as I do, especially when you have to rely on translations, it helps to have at least one translation you can rely upon, more than one if you can find them. A side effect of that is that sometimes new ideas can come to light simply by changing a word or a bit of phrasing. Sometimes that’s worrying, other times it’s an advantage.
The best way to review a book like this is to explain what it is and what it isn’t. If you’re looking for in-depth commentary on these texts, you won’t find it in this book. The good news is, there are literally entire libraries of such. The bad news is, you’ll have to sift through and separate the scholarly from the commercial and New Age fluff. What is here is a modern, clean, easy-to-understand translation. The comparison between this version and the public domain offerings are night and day.
A number of advances have been made in ancient linguistics studies in the past few decades, so it’s always helpful — and of interest to me — to have a more up to date translation than just the standard issue public domain versions that are now over a century old. These older versions are, according to many modern scholars, laden with errors that render them pretty useless. Dr. Ann Nyland is a scholar of ancient languages, and her translation of all three of the Books of Enoch is a completely new reworking from the source material.
This book is inexpensive, and it’s worthy every penny. I’d love to have the author’s commentaries here as well, but she has other books on this subject, and those have likewise been insightful to me. Being a modern translation for modern readers, there is some word choice that will stand out accordingly. I didn’t find this horribly distracting. And while much of this doesn’t read as a traditional narrative (nor should it), this is the most friendly translation of these texts that I’ve encountered yet. A surface read only takes an afternoon, due in large part to the translation smoothing the rough patches. The material itself… well, it plays to a niche audience these days, so odds are you know if you’re in that group or not. If you think you might be and need a place to start, Dr. Nyland is a name you’ll want to remember.