The Book of Daniel and The Book of Secrets of Enoch: A Response

This paper will compare and discuss The Book of Secrets of Enoch (2 Enoch) with The Book of Daniel, focusing on the section titled Daniel’s Visions.  Both of these books are Jewish pseudepigrapha; that is to say they are attributed to people other than their actual author to lend credibility to the works.  Interestingly enough The Book of Daniel is Jewish canon and can be found in the Khetuvim, or writings section of the TANAKH, while The Book of Enoch is not canonical for the majority of Jews or Christians, making it a work of Apocrypha.  These two books have many similarities and differences; this paper will touch on a few.

There are several differences between The Book of Daniel and 2 Enoch. To start, in 2 Enoch there is little said of Enoch’s life; the excerpts contained very little in way of personal history.  Enoch’s basis of legitimacy is only a short excerpt in Genesis (5:18-24) and even more directly based on two specific lines from Genesis (5:24) “Enoch walked with God. Then he vanished because God took him” (485).   Conversely, The Book of Daniel begins with Daniel and several cohorts, all “Israelite exiles, of the blood royal and of the nobility” (Daniel 1:3-4), and goes on to talk about Daniel’s exploits as an exiled Jew in Babylon.  The first half of The Book of Daniel is fully directed to establishing his credibility as a man of God and a true prophet; tales of astonishing the rulers of Babylon with the wisdom and knowledge of his “God of gods and Lords over kings” (Daniel 2:47-48).  Both books have a different style of establishing legitimacy; while The Book of Daniel does a much better job within the confines of his text, Enoch has the mention in Genesis, and being the seventh patriarch of Adam’s line is quite the pedigree.

Another major difference is in the structure of the experiences of the two men.  Enoch has one major experience, while Daniel has four.  For Enoch, he is awoken by “two very big men” and ascends still living, to heaven; not just one heaven, but a succession of seven or ten heavens.  Daniel’s three major experiences comprise of two dreams and two visions; he is admittedly asleep for one, and says the second is similar; another comes while he is praying, and the final comes on the bank of a river.  The structures of the 2 men’s experiences are vastly different; Daniel’s comprise mostly of visions of future political conflict and apocalypse in the form of major change, while Enoch seems more focused on a more individual apocalypse that comes at the end of one’s life.

Enoch’s experiences in the seven or ten heavens shows a very different picture than what most people would consider when picturing heaven.  In 2 Enoch, the patriarch is awoken from a troubled sleep by angels. These angels take him up to heaven on God’s request so that he may behold the many wonders of God’s realm.  Enoch’s Heaven actually consists of ten Heavens, each level having different inhabitants.   The levels begin to paint an alternating positive to negative picture of the various heavens.  The Third Heaven begins in this alternating manner, containing the “Tree of Life” and a Paradise reserved as “the Place of the Righteous and Compassionate,” but here we see a duality within the realm.  The northern side of Third Heaven is a “very terrible place” where Enoch sees “all manners of torture,” the angel guides tell him that this place “is prepared for those who dishonor God.”  Enoch’s tale leads up to the climax of Seventh Heaven, where Enoch has a full view of God’s realm and the Lord and his throne from afar.  From there it is a rush of Hebrew concepts until Enoch reaches tenth heaven in front of God’s face.  God then assigns the archangel Pravuil to help Enoch write some 366 books about what he saw and the ways of all things, as told to him by the Lord.

Daniel’s Visions are much more concise and easier to follow than those of Enoch. Though Daniel has a total of four experiences in the selection, and each is fairly concise and includes an interpretation of the vision by a nearby angel Daniel is able to ask.  In his first vision, Daniel sees four mythical beasts, then one ancient in years on a throne of fire.  He asks the closest angel for an interpretation and is given an apocalyptic tale of nations destroying each other and the strongest going against the Saints until judgment day when the one Ancient in Years comes to give it all back to the Saints.  In the next dream Daniel sees a two-horned ram get trampled by a he-goat with a big horn that breaks and becomes four horns.  Daniel is now visited by Gabriel, who explains the ram symbolizes the local kings and they will be trampled by the Greeks, represented by the he-goat, who will then break up into four kingdoms.  When the Greek kingdoms are “at the height of sin” a great ruler will come to destroy them all and this will begin the “time of the end.”  Daniel’s third religious experience was unlike the first two in that it was more of a vision than a dream.  While praying for his salvation and the salvation of the exiles to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, Daniel is visited again by the angel Gabriel and given a revelation that in “seventy weeks” his prayers will come true.  Daniel’s final vision comes to him along the Tigris River, where he meets a man dressed in linen with a belt of gold.  Daniel describes the man: “His body gleamed like topaz, his face shone lightning, his eyes flamed like torches, his arms and feet sparkled like a disc of bronze.”  This figure goes on to describe how he is at odds with “the angel prince of Persia” and his only ally is “your [Daniel’s] prince Michael.” The “one like a man” then begins to give Daniel a revelation of the future of the kings of Persia, going into great detail to describe the chain of events that will occur.  When he finishes Daniel asks how long the suffering will last and the one like a man replies “Happy is the man who waits and lives to see the completion of one thousand three hundred and thirty five days!”

As one can plainly see 2 Enoch is primarily about heaven, and the glory of the Lord. One would venture to say the lessons for people contained in the work would primarily be that there is an afterlife for humans, and that God’s glory is too great to comprehend.  It seems to be very much a story that would primarily be told as supporting evidence for God’s existence; the fact that Enoch is a Genesis patriarch lends to this idea. Alternately, The Book of Daniel appears to be more along the lines of a group of parables, stories told primarily to teach a lesson.  Daniel’s visions convey a sense of hope for those who are in bleak times.  When reading Daniel’s visions one gets the sense that these are more historical recounts in story form rather than actual prophesy.

In reading 2 Enoch, it is hard to decipher what type of experience is being had.  If it is taken literally, Enoch’s tale sounds considerably like that of an alien encounter as opposed to a religious experience.  Taking that into account, Enoch’s tale is not a revelation, vision, or dream, but an encounter of some kind.  The Book of Daniel appears to be accounts of two dreams and two visions had by Daniel. This begs the question of the difference between dreams and visions; Daniel’s Visions is an excellent text to illustrate the difference.  Dreams are, as Daniel calls them, “night visions;” the thing one sees while asleep. Visions, on the other hand, would typically be used to describe things seen by an individual while not asleep.  Daniel makes it fairly clear that his first vision is a dream, while the second dream is assumed because Daniel states it had “appeared to him . . . similar to my former vision.”  Daniel’s next two religious experiences both appear to be while he is awake, and therefore would be considered visions by definition.

Finally, what this reader found most surprising about the texts is that they are taken seriously in any way other than metaphorically.  The fact that The Books of Enoch aren’t considered canon by most groups is very easy to believe, as the story is completely unbelievable from any standpoint.  The Book of Daniel is much better, from a believability perspective.   It’s not too farfetched to believe such a man existed, aside from the notion that he apparently lived through the rule of several generations of rulers.  I can see why The Book of Daniel is placed in the same classification as parables and psalms in Judaism.  While one cannot deny the examples of piety and virtue and overall entertainment of the selections, it sometimes boggles this reader’s mind as to the thought processes of our ancestors.

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