Glorification through Fear in 2 Enoch

Andrei Orlov
Kelly Chair in Theology and Professor of Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity at Marquette University. View Entries
My flesh trembles for fear of you.
Ps 119:120


2 Enoch is an early Jewish apocalypse written in the first century of the Common Era, which begins with the dream of the seventh antediluvian hero, Enoch. While he is sleeping, Enoch sees two angels arrive at his earthly abode in order to bring him into heaven. In the apocalypse, the patriarch’s visitors are depicted as enormously large creatures with shining faces. The story immediately transitions from the seer’s dream to a vision in an awakened state. The apocalypse reports that when Enoch is awoken by the angels he is terrified because he beholds his guests “in actuality.” The seer’s fear is no novelty here, as it represents a standard feature in Jewish and Christian apocalyptic accounts—human beings are frightened by their encounters with celestial manifestations.

What is novel, however, is that Enoch’s fear appears to lead to his transformation. Both recensions of the Slavonic text report the metamorphosis of the seer’s visage. Moreover, both recensions also connect these changes to Enoch’s fear. Thus, the longer recension of 2 Enoch 1:7-8 states that the appearance of the patriarch’s face “was changed because of fear."1 Even more striking is the manner in which Enoch’s metamorphosis is attested in the shorter recension. According to this recension, the face of the visionary was not simply changed, but it also became glorified. The shorter recension of 2 Enoch 1:7-8 provides this puzzling description: "I hurried and stood up and bowed down to them; and the appearance of my face was glittering because of fear (блеща ся привидѣниемъ лице мое от страха)."2 One distinguished scholar of 2 Enoch previously reflected on the uniqueness of the imagery of glorification through fear. He argued that "the reading of [the manuscripts] A and U, blestac(a), suggests that his [Enoch’s] face was shining (or blanched?). The verb really means ‘to be radiant,’ and it is not part of the vocabulary usual for the terror response to an epiphany of this kind …. It would be more appropriate for the visitors."3

Despite the oddity of this imagery, it appears that the seer’s glorification through fear is not an accidental slip of the author’s pen or a mistake made by the translators of this text during its long afterlife in various foreign cultural milieus; rather, it is a marker of the peculiar theophanic proclivities of the pseudepigraphon that can be detected in other parts of the text as well. In this respect, it appears not coincidental that it is the face of the visionary that becomes transformed by fear. Scholars have previously noted the importance of face imagery in the Slavonic apocalypse, arguing that such symbolism often establishes an important theophanic nexus. Thus, one of the high points of the patriarch’s story in the Slavonic apocalypse is his luminous metamorphosis in the seventh heaven, where his visage becomes glorified before the frightening face of God. The reference to metamorphosis through the seer’s fear in the beginning of Enoch’s story proleptically anticipates his future transformation in the seventh heaven.

The purpose of this chapter is to explore the imagery of fear found in 2 Enoch and its significance for the transformations that Enoch undergoes during his heavenly journey.

The Theophanic Motif of Fear in the Hebrew Bible

In order to clarify the unique role that fear appears to be playing in the glorification of the seventh antediluvian patriarch in the Slavonic apocalypse, we must first turn our attention to the Hebrew Bible, where there is a strong motif of fear in visionary accounts. Since the motif of fear, and especially the fear of God, is quite a popular topic in the Bible, we will limit our exploration to theophanic and angelophanic encounters, where human fear is provoked by a vision of an otherworldly being. Moreover, this analysis of various theophanic encounters in the Hebrew Bible will only concentrate on a few conceptual traits that exercised crucial formative influences on the traditions found in 2 Enoch.

It should be noted that fear is a common emotion found in early Jewish accounts, when visionaries encounter a divine or an angelic manifestation.4 Early Pentateuchal stories of the primordial patriarchs’ and prophets’ encounters with divine manifestations contain references to the fear that otherworldly realities instill in humans. For example, immediately after the protoplast’s transgression, Gen 3 reports Adam’s fear regarding God’s visitation to the Garden. The Book of Genesis also recounts the fear of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob during their encounters with divine and angelic manifestations. The fear of the visionary also becomes a prominent motif in prophetic and apocalyptic accounts in the Hebrew Bible, and especially in the book of Daniel.5 While there is a stunning plethora of biblical accounts that narrate frightening encounters with divine and angelic beings, it appears that one particular cluster of biblical motifs exercised the most crucial influence on the developments found in the Slavonic apocalypse. This cluster deals with the visionary traditions related to the most prominent visionary of the Hebrew Bible: the son of Amram—a paradigmatic seer who had several very special encounters with the deity. We first hear of Moses’ fear early in the prophet’s visionary career—during his first meeting with an otherworldly reality in Exod 3:6.6 In the later record of his encounters with the deity on Mount Sinai, which is attested in various passages from Exodus and Deuteronomy, the motif of Moses’ fear is juxtaposed with the imagery of the divine face. This juxtaposition of the danger motif with the tradition of the divine face found in biblical Mosaic accounts would prove to be very important for the authors of 2 Enoch, wherein the motif of the frightening luminosity of the divine visage occupied an important conceptual place. The formative Mosaic accounts provided specific references for the harmful effect that theophanic experiences have on those mortals who dare to approach the divine panim. Thus, for example, in Exod 33:20 the deity warns Moses about the danger of seeing his face: “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” The motif of peril is further reinforced by God’s instructions in Exod 33:22, where the deity commands Moses to hide himself in a cleft in the rock and promises to protect the prophet with his hands.

The Slavonic apocalypse also specifically devotes a lengthy account to the dangers of seeing the divine face. I have previously argued that these developments exhibit formative influences of the Mosaic traditions.7 Thus, scholars have noted that in 2 Enoch 39:3–6, as in the Mosaic account from Exod 33, the face is closely associated with the divine, and that the face is not simply understood to be a part of the Lord’s body, but as a radiant façade of his anthropomorphic form.8

Mosaic theophanic accounts found in the Hebrew Bible offer another conceptual contribution that proved to be formative for the theology of 2 Enoch; namely, that the seer’s face is glorified after his encounter with the divine panim and other people who encounter the seer’s glorious visage also fear because of the change of the seer’s countenance. Thus, Exod 34:29–35 portrays Moses after his encounter with the Lord. The passage reads:

Moses came down from Mount Sinai …. Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him … and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

The report that Moses’ face was glorified is not the only important detail of this passage. The fear that other humans experience when they encounter Moses’ metamorphosis is significant as well. 2 Enoch attests to a very similar constellation of motifs, wherein the imagery of the glorified visage of Enoch coincides with the danger motif. 2 Enoch 37 recounts the unusual procedure performed on Enoch’s face at the final stage of his encounter with the deity in the seventh heaven. After the patriarch’s transformation and after the utmost mysteries of the universe are revealed to him, Enoch must go back to the human realm in order to convey these revelations to the people of the earth. His glorious celestial visage, however, poses a problem for his communication with other human beings. Anticipating this, God calls one of his senior angels to chill the face of Enoch. The text says that the angel was “terrifying and frightful,” and appeared frozen; he was as white as snow, and his hands were as cold as ice. With these cold hands he then chilled the patriarch’s face. Right after this chilling procedure, the Lord informs Enoch that if his face had not been chilled, no human being would have been able to look at him. This reference to the dangerous radiance of Enoch’s face after his encounter with the deity represents a parallel to the incandescent face of Moses after the Sinai experience in Exodus.9

The Motif of the Seer’s Fear in Early Enochic Accounts

We previously noted that the primordial patriarchs’ and prophets’ fear is a recurring theme when they experience the deity in the biblical theophanic accounts of Genesis and Exodus. Often inspired by references to the fear of Adam, Abraham, Jacob, and Moses in these formative biblical accounts, Jewish pseudepigraphical texts strive to further enhance these motifs, often putting them in new visionary contexts.10

The motif of the seer’s fear was certainly not forgotten in early Enochic lore—a body of materials that represents one of the most extensive early compilations of Jewish visionary traditions. Already in one of the earliest Enochic booklets, the Book of the Watchers, the reader learns about the fear of the seventh antediluvian patriarch as he approaches the divine presence. Chapter 14 of this early Enochic work portrays the seer’s entrance into what seems to be envisioned as the heavenly temple, the sacred abode of the deity, a very special topos that is terrifying not only to human beings, but also to the celestial creatures. 1 Enoch 14:9-14 offers the following report of the seer’s progress into the celestial sanctuary:

And I proceeded until I came near to a wall which was built of hailstones, and a tongue of fire surrounded it, and it began to make me afraid. And I went into the tongue of fire and came near to a large house which was built of hailstones, and the wall of that house (was) like a mosaic (made) of hailstones, and its floor (was) snow. Its roof (was) like the path of the stars and flashes of lightning, and among them (were) fiery Cherubim, and their heaven (was like) water. And (there was) a fire burning around its wall, and its door was ablaze with fire. And I went into that house, and (it was) hot as fire and cold as snow, and there was neither pleasure nor life in it. Fear covered me and trembling took hold of me. And as I was shaking and trembling, I fell on my face.11

It is intriguing and significant that Enoch is not simply frightened by his otherworldly experience, but that he is literally “covered with fear.” Scholars have previously noted the unusual strength of these formulae of fear. For example, John Collins notes the text’s "careful observation of Enoch’s terrified reaction.”12 Another scholar, Martha Himmelfarb, notices the power of the visionary’s reaction to the divine presence, which, in her opinion, supersedes some formative biblical visionary accounts, including Ezekiel’s visions. She notes that “Ezekiel’s prostrations are never attributed to fear; they are reported each time in the same words, without any mention of emotion, as almost ritual acknowledgments of the majesty of God. The Book of the Watchers, on the other hand, emphasizes the intensity of the visionary’s reaction to the manifestation of the divine.”13 Moreover, in the Book of the Watchers, the fear of the visionary becomes a reaction not only to the divine or angelic manifestations but also to the sacred space itself. It reveals a pronounced sacerdotal dimension to human fear. This notion is also prominent in some biblical accounts,14 where the danger motif has often been extended to the sacred abode represented by the Holy of Holies. In this respect, it is then noteworthy that the theme of Enoch’s fear unfolding in the Book of the Watchers represents an intriguing constellation not only of visionary traditions, but also of sacerdotal traditions. Sometimes the sacerdotal dimensions of Enoch’s fear take primacy over its visionary dimension. In this respect, Martha Himmelfarb notes that

although Enoch catches sight of God on his throne of cherubim from his prostrate position, it is not the sight of God that causes his terror. Rather it is the fearsome experience of standing inside the house of hailstones that makes Enoch tremble and quake and finally fall on his face ….Thus the Book of the Watchers emphasizes the glory of God’s heavenly temple by making it, rather than the vision of God himself, the cause of Enoch’s fear.15

It is also important that, already in the Book of the Watchers, the divine manifestation became conspicuously labeled as the “face,” a portentous Mosaic allusion that remained a crucial conceptual point in the theophanic encounters found in the Slavonic apocalypse.16

Moreover, in early Enochic booklets, and especially in the Book of the Similitudes, one finds another tendency that became important in developments found in 2 Enoch: namely, the juxtaposition of the seer’s fearful reaction with the transformation of his physical body. Thus, for example, in the visionary encounter with the deity attested in 1 Enoch 60, the formula of fear coincides with a reference to the “melting” of Enoch’s being.17

Fearsome Face

Although it appears that already in the early Enochic booklets the fear of the seventh antediluvian hero might be linked with his metamorphosis, in the Slavonic apocalypse this connection receives an even more striking embodiment. Moreover, in 2 Enoch, this juxtaposition takes on a new conceptual dimension: it becomes one of the consistent markers of Enoch’s metamorphosis, which he undergoes in the course of his celestial journey.

The symbolism of fear therefore appears to be playing an important conceptual role in the Slavonic apocalypse. Scholars have previously noted the intensity of the formula of fear in this text. Thus, Martha Himmelfarb notices that the fear language is more intense in 2 Enoch than in other Jewish apocalyptic accounts, including even the early Enochic booklets. She reflects on the repeated expressions of fear that Enoch conveys to his celestial guide Gabriel, noting its unusual intensity:

The distress he expresses to Gabriel, "Alas, my lord, I am paralyzed by fear" (9:10), is a striking contrast to the absence of any emotion in the account of Levi’s vision of God in the heavenly temple in the Testament of Levi, and it goes beyond the Book of the Watchers in emphasizing the terror that the visionary feels upon finding himself in the heavens. The intensity of Enoch’s fear at being left without his guides serves to emphasize the magnitude of what takes place next.18

Although the language of fear permeates the whole narrative fabric of 2 Enoch, starting already from the very first verses of the apocalypse, the formulae of fear receive their utmost intensity in Enoch’s encounter with the divine face—the visionary event that would become the apex of the theophanic theology of the text. The immense fear that the visionary experiences during this momentous encounter became so embedded in Enoch’s soul—and even in his newly acquired angelic nature—that it was the very first subject of his revelation to humanity upon his brief return to earth. Thus, the very first lines of Enoch’s admonition to his sons report the frightening nature of his meeting with the divine face. Thus, the longer recension of 2 Enoch 39:8 conveys the following account:

Frightening and dangerous it is to stand before the face of an earthly king, terrifying and very dangerous it is, because the will of the king is death and the will of the king is life. How much more terrifying and dangerous it is to stand before the face of the King of earthly kings and of the heavenly armies, the regulator of the living and of the dead. Who can endure that endless misery?19

Without a doubt, this passage in many ways represents one of the conceptual nexi of the Slavonic apocalypse. As has been previously mentioned, the imagery of the face is of paramount significance for the conceptual framework of 2 Enoch, where the vision of the divine panim became the pinnacle of the seer’s otherworldly experience. With this fixation on the face imagery, the Slavonic apocalypse demonstrates close affinities not only with early Enochic booklets, where the terminology of the “face” is already present, but also, and more importantly, with the later Merkabah and Hekhalot accounts, wherein the seer’s contemplation of the face becomes the most significant aspect of revelation. Distinguished experts of early Jewish mysticism have previously reflected on the importance of this imagery, noting that it will become the “center of the divine event” and the teleological objective for the ascension of the yorde merkabah. Thus, Peter Schäfer points out that Hekhalot Rabbati, for example, considers the countenance of God as “the goal of yored merkabah and simultaneously revokes this statement in a puzzling way by stressing at the conclusion that one cannot ‘perceive’ this face.”20 One can see that here, like in 2 Enoch, early biblical Mosaic traditions were evoked and reformulated. Schäfer further observes that, for the visionary in the Hekhalot tradition, the countenance of God is the center “not only of overwhelming beauty, and therefore of a destructive nature, but at the same time the center of the divine event.”21 God’s face thus becomes the consummation of the heavenly journey, since, according to Schäfer, “everything God wishes to transmit to the yored merkabah … is concentrated in God’s countenance.”22

Moreover, in the Merkabah tradition, the visionaries not only receive and transmit their knowledge about the divine face, but their nature becomes transformed by the encounter with the divine visage. One can see the similar transformational patterns in the Slavonic apocalypse.

As we have already demonstrated from our study of 2 Enoch, the encounter with the fearful divine face transforms the face of the seventh patriarch into a luminous entity. We should remember that the text especially underlines this aspect of the seer’s transformation by informing its reader that the deity ordered a special angelic servant to chill the face of the patriarch before his return to the lower realm. It appears that the peculiar details in the description of this angelic servant again point to the prevailing tendency of our apocalypse, which often emphasizes the transformational power of fear.

The “Frightening” Angel

We have already mentioned that one of the prominent conceptual loci of the danger motif in the Slavonic apocalypse is connected not only with the imagery of the terrifying face of God, but also with Enoch’s own frightening visage that must be tamed before his descent into the earthly abode. It has been previously noticed that this theme in 2 Enoch is conceptually indebted to the formative Mosaic developments, and especially to the tradition about the prophet’s luminous visage found in Exod 34.23 While the similarities with the Mosaic account have often been noticed, scholars rarely explain the differences between the two accounts. One of the differences here is that, unlike Moses’ face, the visage of the seventh antediluvian hero became reversely transformed right before his journey back to the realm of humanity. More specifically, it was chilled by a special angelic servant. From the longer recension of 2 Enoch 37:1-2 we learn the following:

And the Lord called one of the senior angels, terrifying and frightful (страшнаа и грозна), and he made him stand with me. And the appearance of that angel was as white as snow, and his hands like ice, having the appearance of great frigidity. And he chilled my face, because I could not endure the terror of the Lord , just as it is not possible to endure the fire of a stove and the heat of the sun and the frost of death. And the Lord said to me, "Enoch, if your face had not been chilled here, no human being would be able to look at your face."24

The figure of the mysterious angelic “chiller” deserves closer attention. The text defines this celestial servant as a terrifying and frightening25 creature. On the surface, it is not entirely clear why the text put these characteristics in the description of this angelic character responsible for the reverse metamorphosis of the seer. Yet, in view of the peculiarities of other metamorphoses of the seer’s physique, and especially his face, that were found earlier in the Slavonic apocalypse, the definition of the transforming angel as a frightening creature becomes more obvious. It calls to memory the transformation of the seer before the divine face, when his nature was transformed by the frightening countenance of the deity. Further, it is also reminiscent of the transformation of Enoch’s face in the very first verses of our apocalypse. We should remember that the symbolism of the seer’s metamorphosis also coincides with the fear motif. In both accounts, the transformation of the visionary’s face is juxtaposed with his fear. The frightening nature of what is beheld appears to be one of the requirements for the possibility of human metamorphosis. In other words: fear is a necessary prerequisite for transformation. In Enoch’s encounter with the angelic “chiller” found in 2 Enoch 37, we detect a similar constellation of motifs: the fact that the transforming angel is a frightening creature points not merely to the danger motif associated with an otherworldly being, but also indirectly to the fear of the vision’s recipient. Enoch’s face has now undergone a reverse metamorphosis, turning his glorified visage into the face of a normal human being. Here again one encounters a prime example of the face’s metamorphosis through fear, affirming the earlier transformational pattern found in the first chapter of 2 Enoch.

Incorruptibility by Fear

The changes in the seer’s nature reappear in the narrative wherein the patriarch refuses to participate in the family meal. This story takes place during Enoch’s short visit to earth, when he is commanded to deliver God’s revelations to his children and the people of the earth. Although Enoch’s face was chilled by the frightening angel, his transformed nature had not yet been returned to its previous human condition. The text therefore makes clear that the patriarch is not a human, but an incorruptible celestial being who is no longer sustained and nourished by earthly provisions. Yet, the humans appear to be misguided by the chilled face of the patriarch, erroneously assuming that Enoch is still a human being who receives his nourishment in the conventional way. So the patriarch’s son Methuselah invites his father to take part in a family meal. The patriarch politely rejects his son’s offer, telling him that human food is no longer agreeable to him. It becomes clear that his human nature had been altered and that he now receives his nourishment in a different, non-human way. In Enoch’s address to Methuselah, we find an interesting tradition that is relevant to the subject of our investigation: Enoch attributes his transition to this incorruptible state to the fear that he experienced in the upper realm. The shorter recension of 2 Enoch 56:2 discloses the following tradition: "And Enoch answered his son and said, "Listen, my child! Since the time when the Lord anointed me with the ointment of my glory, and I experienced fear (и страшно бысть мнѣ), and food is not agreeable to me, and I have no desire for earthly food."26

This account, where the transformation of the seer is linked to his experience of fear during his encounter with the divine face in the seventh heaven, once again attests to the theological tendency of the Slavonic apocalypse—a tendency that strives to link the seer’s fear with his metamorphosis.

The Glorification of the Righteous through the Fear of God

We have already witnessed that the testimonies in 2 Enoch 1 and 2 Enoch 56 suggest that Enoch’s fear became one of the causes for his transition into a glorified state. Further proof for such a possibility is also hinted at in chapter 43, where the seventh antediluvian hero delivers his final ethical exhortations to his children before he departs to the upper realm. These instructions deal with the norms of righteous behavior, contrasting them with unlawful and evil practices. From the patriarch’s admonitions, the reader learns that those who fear the deity will be glorified. The shorter recension of 2 Enoch 43:3 reads: “But there is no one better than he who fears the Lord; for those who fear the Lord will be glorious forever (боящи бо ся Господа славнии будутъ в вѣк).”27 The longer recension conveys a similar tradition: "Even though these sayings are heard on every side, nevertheless there is no one better than he who fears God. He will be the most glorious in that age."28

At first blush, it might appear that this reference to humans being glorified because they fear God, found in the midst of Enoch’s ethical instructions, is not laden with any anthropological meaning, nor is it directly connected with the metamorphosis of a human being. Nevertheless, an exploration of the immediate context of the passage reveals its possible anthropological significance. It must not be coincidental that, immediately after this verse, Enoch begins his meditation on the “face” imagery—the symbolism that proved to be so crucial elsewhere in the Slavonic apocalypse, where the motif of fear coincided with human metamorphosis. Thus, 2 Enoch 44:1-2 reads:

The Lord with his own two hands created mankind; and in a facsimile of his own face. Small and great the Lord created. Whoever insults a person’s face insults the face of the Lord; whoever treats a person’s face with repugnance treats the face of the Lord with repugnance. Whoever treats with contempt the face of any person treats the face of the Lord with contempt.29

Here, the reader encounters the already familiar correlation between the face of the deity and the visage of the human being – the correspondence that proved to be so crucial in Enoch’s glorious metamorphosis.

The conventional division of these chapters often separates the passage about the glorification of those who fear God from speculation concerning the seer’s face, placing them in different chapters. Yet, it is possible that in the original design of the apocalypse, the authors of these two passages meant them to be read together, especially in light of the other theophanic encounters found in 2 Enoch. If this is the case, the familiar conceptual link between fear and glorification, which was revealed in the midst of speculation concerning the divine and the human face, is extended to elect human beings who are also predestined to undergo a similar metamorphosis.

Adam’s Fear

Our investigation of the conceptual developments found in the Slavonic apocalypse suggests that fear might be understood there not merely as a human reaction or emotion, but also as an experience that can lead a human into a glorified condition. This transition from the fallen human form to the state of a celestial citizen, achieved through fear, evokes some protological allusions. We have already mentioned that the very first biblical account of human fear occurs in Gen 3, where the protoplast fears the deity’s presence after his transgression in the Garden. Analyzing this Adamic account, some scholars have suggested that the fear of the first human might serve as a sign of the fallen condition of the protoplast. It has also been suggested that this same pattern, in which theophanic fear is connected with transgression and the loss of good standing before God, is likewise observable in Mosaic theophanic accounts that underline Israelite fear of the divine face after the idolatrous Golden Calf incident. Regarding these biblical accounts, Ian Wilson notes “it is possible that the Israelite fear of the divine face—and divine presence in general—stemmed from the biblical account of humanity’s fall in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3). Prior to the fall there is no evidence that the man and woman fear Yahweh’s presence in any way, but after the fall Yahweh’s approach prompts great fear in them (cf. Gen 3:8)."30

These connections are important for our study, as they might provide the key for understanding the transformational power of fear in the Slavonic apocalypse. While scholarship has previously attempted to connect the fall of the protoplast with the origin of theophanic fear, another important aspect of the tradition found in Gen 3 has been overlooked—namely, Adam’s nakedness, to which fear is also closely tied in Gen 3.31 The symbolism of nakedness found in that text points to an important set of anthropological and transformational motifs. Thus, in Jewish and Christian lore, the nakedness of the protoplasts was often linked to their loss of the so-called “garments of light” – glorious attire that the primordial humans had before their transgression in Eden.32 Such a loss might be already hinted at in the biblical account of the Fall, where the deity fashions the garments of skin for the primordial couple after their transgression.33

If it is indeed possible that the fear which Adam and Eve experienced after the Fall in Gen 3 is connected with the loss of their luminous anthropological attire, and that this made them feel “naked,” then this connection helps us understand some developments that are found in Jewish and Christian apocalyptic accounts, and especially some of the theophanic developments found in 2 Enoch. It is possible that, in these visionary accounts, theophanic fear serves not only as a reminder of the loss of the luminous garments, but also as a transformational possibility that can return a human seer back to his once-lost glorious condition. The fear that was first manifested at the loss of the glorious garments now serves as a sign of regaining the luminous attire. Eschatology here, as in many other Jewish apocalyptic accounts, attempts to mirror protology.34

The fear of the visionary thus serves as an important prerequisite for the reversal of the fallen nature of humanity and as the first step towards the restoration of its nature to the prelapsarian state.35 In this respect, it is instructive to remember the previously mentioned concept found in the longer recension of 2 Enoch 43:3, which tells that those who fear the deity “will be glorious forever."36


In conclusion, we must again draw our attention to the account of Enoch’s glorified face, as it is found in the first chapter of the Slavonic apocalypse. It is possible that this transformational account was designed by its authors not only to proleptically anticipate the seer’s glorious metamorphosis before the fearful face in chapter 22, but also to anticipate the eschatological transformation of the righteous.37 In this respect, it is intriguing that the peculiar structure of the initial chapters of 2 Enoch mirrors the macrostructure of the entire apocalypse. As we recall, after his encounter with the angels, found in the first chapter of the apocalypse, when the patriarch’s face became luminous, he was then ordered by his otherworldly visitors to go to his relatives and tell them “everything that they must do in your house while they are without you on the earth.”38 Enoch then summons his sons and delivers a brief set of ethical exhortations to them. Some themes evoked in the patriarch’s short admonition are reminiscent of those found in Enoch’s lengthy instructions given in the second part of the pseudepigraphon. The initial chapters thus anticipate the overall structure of the apocalypse, where the hero is first transformed before the divine face and then returns to earth and delivers these revelations to his children. By mirroring the content of the initial chapters and the entire text, the metamorphosis of Enoch’s face appears to fit nicely into the conceptual framework of the pseudepigraphon, anticipating the chief transformational event of the entire apocalypse: the glorification of the seer before the divine panim in 2 Enoch 22.39

1 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.106.

2 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.107. G. Macaskill, The Slavonic Texts of 2 Enoch (SJS, 6; Leiden: Brill, 2013) 43.

3 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.108. Cf. alsoBöttrich, Das slavische Henochbuch, 835, footnote c.

4 On fear as a human response to theophany, see J. C. VanderKam, From Revelation to Canon: Studies in Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Literature (Leiden: Brill, 2000) 343; J. Becker, Gottesfurcht im Alten Testament (Analecta Biblica, 25; Rome: St. Martin’s Press, 1965) 22.

5 See, for example, Dan 8:17-18: “So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I became frightened and fell prostrate. But he said to me, ‘Understand, O mortal, that the vision is for the time of the end.’ As he was speaking to me, I fell into a trance, face to the ground; then he touched me and set me on my feet”; Dan 10:7-9: “I, Daniel, alone saw the vision; the people who were with me did not see the vision, though a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone to see this great vision. My strength left me, and my complexion grew deathly pale, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words; and when I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a trance, face to the ground.”

6 Exod 3:6: “He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”

7 Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition, 254-303.

8 Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition, 280-281.

9 It should be noted that this constellation of motifs involving the glorified face of the visionary and fear was not forgotten even in the later Enochic traditions. 3 Enoch, for example, reports that the transformed Enoch was predestined to comfort the frightened Moses, telling him about his luminous face. Thus, 3 Enoch 15B:5 states: “At once Metatron, Prince of the Divine Presence, said to Moses, ‘Son of Amram, fear not! for already God favors you. Ask what you will with confidence and boldness, for light shines from the skin of your face from one end of the world to the other.’” Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 1.304.

10 Cf., for example, Exagoge 1:82; Apoc. Ab. 10:2; 16:1-2; 4 Ezra 5:14; 10:29-30; 12:3; 13:14; Lad. Jac. 2:1-3; 3 Bar. 7:5.

11 Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.98.

12 J. J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) 55.

13 M. Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993) 16.

14 On this, see B. J. Bamberger, “Fear and Love of God in the Old Testament,” HUCA 6 (1929) 39-53 at 43-47.

15 Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven, 16.

16 Thus, from 1 Enoch 14:20–21 one learns that “no angel could enter, and at the appearance of the face (gaṣṣ) of him who is honored and praised no (creature of) flesh could look.” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.99.

17 1 Enoch 60:2-3 reads: “And then I saw the Head of Days sitting on the throne of his glory, and the angels and the righteous were standing around him. And a great trembling seized me, and fear took hold of me, and my loins collapsed and gave way, and my whole being melted, and I fell upon my face.” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.142. The “melting” of Enoch’s body during the theophany is also attested in another passage from the Book of the Similitudes (1 Enoch 71:9-11) where the patriarch was transformed into the Son of Man: “And Michael and Raphael and Gabriel and Phanuel, and many holy angels without number, came out from that house; and with them the Head of Days, his head white and pure like wool, and his garments indescribable. And I fell upon my face, and my whole body melted, and my spirit was transformed; and I cried out in a loud voice in the spirit of power, and I blessed and praised and exalted.” Knibb, The Ethiopic Book of Enoch, 2.166.

18 Himmelfarb, Ascent to Heaven, 40. In her recent book, Himmelfarb reiterates the same position, noting the following in relation to 2 Enoch: “Overcome by fear, Enoch falls on his face, not once as in the Book of the Watchers but twice, clearly an effort to mark Enoch’s experience before the throne as even more terrifying than the one described in the Book of the Watchers.” M. Himmelfarb, The Apocalypse: A Brief History (Blackwell Brief Histories of Religion; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010) 77.

19 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.164. The shorter recension of 2 Enoch 39:8 attests to the similar vocabulary: “It is dangerous and perilous to stand before the face of an earthly king, terrifying (and very perilous) it is, because the will of the king is death and the will of the king is life. To stand before the face of the King (of kings), who will be able to endure the infinite terror (of that), or of the great burnings?” Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.165.

20 P. Schäfer, The Hidden and Manifest God: Some Major Themes in Early Jewish Mysticism (Albany: SUNY, 1992) 18.

21 Schäfer, The Hidden and Manifest God, 18.

22 Schäfer, The Hidden and Manifest God, 20.

23 Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition, 285-286.

24 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.160; Macaskill, The Slavonic Texts, 142. The shorter recension of 2 Enoch 37:1-2 provides a very similar description: “But the Lord called (one) of his senior angels, a terrifying one (грозна), and he made him stand with me. And the appearance of that angel (was) snow, and his hands ice, and he refreshed my face, because I could not endure the terror of the burning of the fire. And it is thus that the Lord spoke to me all his words.” Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.161; Macaskill, The Slavonic Texts, 143.

25 Slav. страшнаа и грозна, Macaskill, The Slavonic Texts, 142.

26 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.183. Macaskill, The Slavonic Texts, 193. In contrast to the shorter recension, the longer recension does not refer to the motif of transformation through fear: “Listen, child! Since the time when the Lord anointed me with the ointment of his glory, food has not come into me, and earthly pleasure my soul does not remember; nor do I desire anything earthly.” Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.182.

27 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.171; Macaskill, The Slavonic Texts, 163.

28 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.170.

29 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.171.

30 I. D. Wilson, “‘Face to Face’ with God: Another Look,” ResQ 51 (2009) 107-114 at 109. On this connection, see also Niehaus, God at Sinai, 27.

31 Gen 3:10: “He said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’”

32 See, for example, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 14: “He said to him (Adam): Why didst thou flee – before Me? He answered Him: I heard Thy voice and my bones trembled, as it is said, ‘I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked: and I hid myself’ (Gen 3:10). What was the dress of the first man? A skin of nail, and a cloud of glory covered him. When he ate of the fruits of the tree, the nail-skin was stripped off him, and the cloud of glory departed from him, and he saw himself naked, as it is said, ‘And he said. Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee?’” Friedlander, Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, 98.

33 Later rabbinic materials reaffirm the tradition of the first humans’ glorious garments. The targumic traditions, both Palestinian and Babylonian, render “garments of skin” in Gen 3:21 as “garments of glory.” This targumic interpretation is supported by an array of midrashic sources, including Gen. Rab. 20:12 and Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 14.

34 On the temporal and spatial symmetry in the Jewish apocalyptic literature, see J. M. Scott, On Earth as in Heaven: The Restoration of Sacred Time and Sacred Space in the Book of Jubilees (JSJSS, 91; Leiden: Brill, 2005) 212-219.

35 Such an idea appears to be hinted already in Exod 20:20, when Moses tells the Israelites that fear prevents sin: “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.”

36 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.171.

37 Such proleptic glorifications that anticipate the future glorious transformation of the seer can be found in some Jewish and Christian accounts, including the metamorphosis of Stephen in Acts 6:15.

38 Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.108.

39 In this respect it is noteworthy that in both accounts the glorious visage of the seer is put in correspondence with the glorious faces of angelic and divine subjects. Thus, 2 Enoch 1:5 makes a specific reference to the glorious faces of Enoch’s angelic visitors, which are compared with the sun: “Their faces were like the shining sun.” Andersen, “2 Enoch,” 1.106.

Andrei Orlov
Kelly Chair in Theology and Professor of Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity at Marquette University.