The Book of Parables

The second major portion of the Book of Enoch is the ‘Book of Parables’ which now constitutes 1 Enoch 37-71.  This is something of a misnomer as the Book of Parables proper, composed of three ‘parables’ or visions received by Enoch, really only makes up chapters 37-59.  Chapters 60-71 appear to be the incorporation of another, independent source into the Book of Parables and thence 1 Enoch.  The material in chapters 60-71 is primarily designated as the Book of Noah.  It is sometimes labeled as portions or fragments of a Book of Noah.  It is not as simple, however, as just another book having been incorporated with all the others into 1 Enoch.  Its independence is attested to by the…

The Book of the Watchers

What is now the first section of the Book of Enoch or 1 Enoch, comprised of the first 36 chapters, is known as the Book of the Watchers.  There is not only internal evidence that this and the other portions of what is now 1 Enoch were originally separate documents recording internal traditions, but there is clear manuscript evidence that the Book of the Watchers circulated independently in Greek.  The text of this portion of the Book of Enoch is known in Ethiopic, as the rest of the book, as well as through Greek fragments.  Additionally, the text was found in both Greek and Aramaic among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran.  This variety of textual evidence allows us to…

The Book of Enoch

Within the varied literature of the Second Temple period, easily the most well-known subset of that literature is the Enochic literature.  Likewise, within the Enochic literature, the Book of Enoch or 1 Enoch is by far the most well-known document.  This is true at least in terms of awareness, though not necessarily reflecting actual familiarity with the contents of that text.  The Enochic literature is actually made up of a number of texts.  Sometimes these are numbered, i.e. 1, 2, 3 Enoch.  Other times they are recognized by the language in which the church has preserved them for us, as in Slavonic Enoch.  Some texts, such as Jubilees, do not actually have Enoch’s name in the title, but nonetheless, reflect…

The Antichrist, the Lawless One

One figure from Christian tradition who has certainly entered into contemporary popular culture is that of the antichrist.  Though this has primarily been through the medium of horror fiction, even that fiction represents a newer iteration of themes in art and popular speculation that go back through the medieval period in the West in particular.  In addition to this imagery, there have been, since before even the Protestant Reformation, again primarily in the West, continuous attempts to try to match information derived from passages in the Scriptures which speak of the last days and current events.  These include attempts to identify some living person as the antichrist.  There are three primary passages within the New Testament which speak of this…

On Tollhouses

Easily one of the most contentious issues among newcomers to the Orthodox faith, in particular on the internet, is the concept of “aerial tollhouses.”  Though variously elaborated, the core idea is that when the human soul departs the body at death, as it journeys toward the intermediate state where it will await the resurrection, either Paradise or Hades, it passes through metaphorical ‘toll booths’ staffed by demonic spirits who in some way test the soul for various sins.  Among devotees, matters of fine dispute such as the number of these tollhouses and the nature of each become subject to further discussion and debate.  This sort of literalization of the metaphor would be an example of one extreme.  The opposite extreme,…

War, Famine, Disease, Death, and Hades

The Apocalypse of St. John contains countless evocative images and creatures demonic and bestial.  One group of figures who have become well-known even outside of religious circles, entering into popular culture in a variety of ways, are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as described in the sixth chapter of Revelation.  This chapter is structured around one of several cyclical depictions within the text of Christ, here the Lamb, executing judgment to retake the creation and reestablish justice.  In St. John’s vision of the divine throne, Christ has taken the scroll which is the title of ownership for the whole creation, being the only one found worthy to do so.  This scroll is sealed with seven seals (Rev 5:1, 5-7). …

Pentecost and the Sun of Justice

Within the liturgical traditions surrounding Pentecost are nested brief references to Christ as the “Sun of Justice” or “Sun of Righteousness.”  These references, while easily glossed over, are not mere analogies nor are they inserted purely for their evocative, poetic value.  It is an image of Christ which comes from the prophet Malachi and it is brought to mind within the liturgics of Pentecost in order to, along with a number of other liturgical references to the Hebrew Scriptures, carry and convey a particular vision of what was happening in Jerusalem spiritually on the day of Pentecost in addition to that which was taking place on the visible, historical level as recounted in the second chapter of the Acts of…

Father of the Fatherless and Protector of Widows

The task of a judge in rendering judgment or judging, whether in a court context or the context of the book of Judges, is to establish or restore justice. Therefore, when Yahweh condemns the leadership of Israel and Judah, a chief charge is that they have judged unjustly (e.g., Is 10:1). To judge unjustly is to show favoritism, to create laws that are oppressive and do harm, or to ignore injustice rather than righting it. Yahweh, in the Old Testament, contrasts himself to this kind of judge, human judges with whom humans have had experiences. Yahweh does not respect persons and will accept no bribe (Deut 10:17). It is because of His own character and their responsibility to bring about…

Divine Justice

Concepts of justice in the contemporary world are varied. Likely the most prominent usage of the term is related to criminal justice. In the United States, the Department of Justice is considered to be the preeminent law enforcement authority in the land. This understanding of justice is focused on the punishment of criminals in proportion to their crimes. When an offender receives their due punishment, justice has been done. If a guilty person goes free or an innocent one is punished, this is injustice in the truest sense. In its ideal form, justice, as expressed in common statuary, ought to be blind. It ought not to take into account a person’s relative wealth, rank, or station in life. It ought…

Jephthah’s Daughter

The book of Judges is often seen to be problematic as a whole. Certainly, many elements of it need to be deeply couched in euphemism or omitted entirely if its narratives are going to be discussed in an all-ages environment. While large death tolls are described throughout, the descriptions of this violence become increasingly graphic as the book progresses. By the final chapters, the book has descended headlong into the madness of rape, dismemberment, murder, and civil war. Most works of fiction in various media that contain these same elements would be subject to criticism from the perspective of Christian morality. Yet, the book of Judges is a part of the Holy Scriptures. Understanding the book of Judges as a…