[The following review was written by Colby Townsend, an editorial consultant with Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture.]
Enoch has been a fascinating character in the Judeo-Christian tradition for millennia. It seems like there is a never-ending flow of ancient and modern texts on the ancient patriarch, his life, and times. In the LDS tradition, this fascination goes all the way back to the beginning with Joseph Smith’s work on revising the Bible, and the revelatory experience he had in receiving the Extracts of the Prophecy of Enoch, among other texts. Joseph Smith also used the codename “Enoch” in the Doctrine and Covenants when the brethren felt it necessary to veil the identity of individuals in the revelations, showing Joseph’s own personal connection with Enoch.
Aside from those early connections, and focused study on Enoch since Hugh Nibley’s work in the 1970’s, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have found solace in the stories found in the Pearl of Great Price about Enoch and his city Zion, how all people “were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18), and have sought this as a community of believers since the time of Joseph Smith.
With this backdrop, interested members of the Church will be excited to see the forthcoming title authored by Samuel Zinner, the first in the Ancient Scripture and Texts Series, co-published by the Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books. Those familiar with Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture will recognize the cover of Zinner’s new book, with a beautiful dark mahogany wood panel design. This is not just a simple copy and paste; the cover has been completely redesigned and has become its own, and will make a wonderful addition to any shelf.
Zinner has a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has spent years of research in Enochic traditions, as well as many other fields of research. He was part of the prestigious compilation German Scholars and Ethnic Cleansing, 1920-1945, published by Berghahn Books in 2004 (recipient of the “Choice Outstanding Academic Book of the Year Award” by the American Library Association).
He begins his study reflecting on the recently published commentary on 1 Enoch by George W. E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam in the Hermeneia Commentary Series. He enters right into the scholarly debate and discusses such topics as the scholarly dating of 1 Enoch, among numerous other texts, and how this can help in understanding this important Enochic work. It is important to note for the reader that the text of 1 Enoch is a composite text, originally five separate works woven into one text throughout a number of centuries (you can see my discussion in the annotated bibliography at the back of Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen, In God’s Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel [Provo: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014] for more information on this topic).
Zinner continues throughout the book providing a review and an update of current and past scholarship toward a better understanding of the Enochic corpora in the ancient world. He argues that 1 Enoch 42 needs to be rearranged on the basis of 4 Ezra and 1 Enoch 39:5. He spends a good portion of his time discussing the use of the “Son of Man” epithet and enters into a discussion with a broad and controversial area of scholarship on the Son of Man that has been going for several decades now, and this reviewer finds Zinner’s work to be very close to that of many Mormon scholars.
These sections will be of special note to members of the Church for their importance in understanding not only the use of the title “Son of Man” in the New Testament and Old Testament texts like Daniel, but also for understanding restoration scripture like the Book of Moses. Zinner explores Zion and Jerusalem as Lady Wisdom in Moses 7 and Nephi’s Tree of Life vision, and therefore offers a non-LDS perspective on a central LDS text. These essays will be found very welcome in Mormon scriptural studies.
Throughout the work there are discussions of various traditions that will be new to most readers. With the combination of Zinner’s personal experience and his vast knowledge of Judaism, Christianity, Mandaeanism, Kabbalah, Gnosticism, etc., this book is a gold mine to which one can return time and again for its rich references and bibliography. At just under three hundred pages, this book comes highly recommended for those interested in early Enochic and temple traditions. Members of the Church who follow the works of authors such as Hugh Nibley and Margaret Barker will find a welcome home in this book, and the time they spend in its study that will be richly rewarded.
Note: Textual and Comparative Explorations in 1 & 2 Enoch is scheduled for release later this month in conjunction with Interpreter’s “Temple on Mount Zion,” Conference, this Saturday, October 25.