Page images
PDF
EPUB

(3) The Elect One, or the Son of Man, existed from eternity, or before the world was.

I have already recited the passages, in connection with others designed to illustrate one or other of the preceding heads. But it will be proper, for the sake of distinct impression, to repeat them here, inasmuch as they are brief.

Chap. 48: 3. " Before the sun and the signs were created, before the stars of heaven were formed, his name was invoked in presence of the Lord of spirits.”—48: 5, “The Elect or Concealed One existed in his presence, [before the Lord of spirits), before the world was created, and for ever." Comp. John 1:1-3.

Chap. 48: 2, exhibits the eternity of the Son of Man and his praise, i. e. his eternity a parte post, as theologians express it : “ The Elect One stands before the Lord of spirits ; and his glory is for ever and ever; and his power from generation to generation."

It is difficult to refrain from the supposition, that the writer of such passages must have had some acquaintance with the Gospel and Apocalypse of John. If any one is disposed to reverse the matter, and to say, as Ewald does in respect to the Apocalypse, that John copied from the book of Enoch;' my reply would be, that John bears, upon the face of all his writings, the stamp of originality. I do not think that this can be said, with the same degree of probability, of the book of Enoch.

It is impossible for me, by any mere extracts that I can make, to place the reader in such a position, that he can take a full view of all the Christology of the book of Enoch, with all its bearings. A full view can be had only by perusing chap. xxxviii—Ixviii. inclusively, which contain what the writer calls his Parables. So often is the Son of Man, or Messiah, introduced here, and in such a variety of ways, that nothing but an attentive examination of the whole can make an adequate impression on the mind of the reader. How a Christology so special, full, and all pervading as this, could come from any Jew of the primitive age, unless he was a Christian, is more than I am able to explain ; it is more than I am able at present to believe.

The attentive reader will now perceive some ground for the difficulty that I have had, in acceding to the views of Dr. Laurence, with regard to the time when the book of Enoch was written. Not only do many passages, already laid before the reader, apparently contain matter which seems evidently to allude to events during and after the destruction of Jerusalem, but the whole contour of the Messianic part of the book indicates more knowledge of Christology than any uninspired Jew can reasonably be supposed to have possessed, during the reign of Herod, or at any time before Christianity was published. I believe I am safe in declaring that nothing like to this can be produced from any other writing among the Jews of that period.

I find myself therefore constrained to believe, that some writer, during the latter part of the first century, composed the work before us. I

say the first century, for all critics on this book are agreed, that it is entirely destitute of any indications of a later origin. Besides this, two undoubted productions of the first century, the epistle of Jude and the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, have appealed to it, and one of them certainly, or (as is generally supposed) both of them, have actually quoted it. A later origin therefore than the period named, seems to be out of all reasonable question. An earlier period than the latter part of the first century, seems also to be very improbable. At least the reasons already given for this opinion, appear satisfactory to my

But granting that the book was composed at the period which I have named, or even before the Christian era, I shall be asked :: Of what consequence or use is it to us? And what have we to do with a Christology, which, although in some respects elevated, even sublime, and entitled to attention, is accompanied' with much superstition, with extravagant demonology, and profound ignorance of the great phenomena of the natural world, and of the heavens ?

In regard to this last particular I might say, that the scriptural writers themselves have no special pre-eminence here. With them, speaking as they do in the popular language of the day, the earth is every where an extended plain ; the heavens a solid expanse or arch over our heads, through apertures in which the rain pours down that is kept in reservoirs there; the earth stands upon the great abyss of waters; Sheôl, or the region of the dead is a subterranean abode ; the sun and moon are the great luminaries of the heavens; and these, with all the fixed stars, make

own mind.

actual revolutions, every day, around the whole earth. Natural philosophy, astronomy, geology, chemistry, as sciences, and I may say, every science of such a nature, is entirely foreign to the Scriptures, inasmuch as they were writ. ten purely for moral and religious purposes, and not to give lessons in science. The difference between the scriptural writers and the author of the book of Enoch, consists not then in the fact that the former possessed superior scientific knowledge, but in the fact that they have no where introduced such idle and phantastic speculations about the natural phenomena of the heavens and the earth, as we find in the book of Enoch. What was it that kept them from the like speculations ? Not simply the spirit of piety; for the writer of Enoch developes the most unequivocal and deep reverence for God and divine things. Others may account for the difference then as they judge best; but I am not able to satisfy my own mind in any way so well, as by attributing this difference, in the present case, to that Spirit who guided the writers of the New Testament, and kept them from all vain and phantastic speculations on subjects of which they were ignorant, and in regard to which inspiration itself was not designed to enlighten them. The absence of ignorant conjectures in curious matters, is, in such a case, no proof of superior discretion and wisdom in the writers.

I allow, very readily, that the author of Enoch has exhibited not a little of superstitious conceit in his demonology. The very basis of the first part of his book, viz. the alleged carnal intercourse of angels with the daughters of men, is an actual impossibility, not to say absurdity. Yet such a belief was wide spread in the early ages of Christianity, not only among the Jews, but also among Christians. Almost all the early fathers fully believed that Gen. 6: 1, 2, teaches such a doctrine. It was and is a general belief among all the Jewish Rabbies--all who have not thrown off something of their ancient superstition. How could the author of the book of Enoch escape the general contagion of his time? Nor did the fact that he was an oriental man, (if such be the case, and most probably it is), at all guard him against this absurd superstition. The region of Middle Asia has been from time immemorial, and still is, peopled, in the view of its inhabitants, with Genii good and evil, with Amshaspends and Izeds, with the subordinate agents of Ormusd and AhriSECOND SERIES, VOL. HI. NO. I.

17

man, who have continual intercourse with man, for the purposes of good and evil. Did our author belong to that region ? Then we may easily account for it, why he believed in such phantasies as those which I have just been naming.

What now should have kept writers of the New Testament, in the manifold exhibitions that they have made of the power of evil spirits, from adopting and exhibiting such conceits as those in the book of Enoch? Those who believe in the inspiration of the writers, can easily answer the questions; those who do not, are bound to assign some credible and probable reason of such a phenomenon.

No one now pretends that the book of Enoch is an inspired book. Time was, when individuals probably thought so. The author of the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, in the first century, seems plainly to have regarded and quoted it as a holy book. Not less than ten times has he quoted it, and in the same way as the Scriptures themselves; see Fabr. Cod. Pseudep. i. p. 161 seq. "Justin Martyr had doubtless his eye upon it, when he appeals to the intercourse of evil angels with the daughters of men as a matter of fact; which he does in Apol. Min. p. 44. Irenæus (Lib. iv. c. 30) refers to the account of the same transaction as matter of fact, and probably takes it from the book of Enoch. Tertullian expressly contends for the authority of the book ; De Hab. Muliebri, c. 2. But Origen and almost all later fathers reject its claims to a place in the canon : as well they might. It never had a place either in the Jewish canon, or in that of the Christian Church catholic. But the Ethiopians, always fond of apocryphal stories, have inserted it among their Scriptures. How long this has been the fact, it is yet unknown.

No claim to any authority on the part of the book will now be made by any intelligent man. It is on no ground of this nature, that the Christology above exhibited has any claim to stand. The eternity of Christ; his divine nature ; his claims to divine worship; his universal, absolute, eternal dominion ; are not established by any quotations that I have made ; nor have I made quotations with the design of representing them as in the least degree authoritative. It is on another ground that they stand; and this may need a moment's explanation.

Dr. Priestly and many other writers have labored much to shew, that the doctrine of the Deity of Christ, and of the Trinity, are doctrines of later ages, the result of speculative philosophy, of Platonism, or of the Theosophy of the East, and that these views are altogether foreign to the primitive ages of Christianity. Here then is a book, written at all events during the first century or earlier, in which the claims of the Messiah to eternal existence, to divine worship, and to universal and perpetual dominion, are fully recognized and declared. It matters but little, as to our present object, whether the author was a Jew or a Christian, when he wrote it ; although the latter appears to me almost certain. At all events such views about the Messiah were entertained at the early period in question. There is no probability that the writer of this book has brought before us views in relation to this subject, altogether foreign to others of his day. It is not a particular theory on this subject, which he appears to be broaching and defending; as is evidently the case in regard to his chapter on the Motions of the heavenly Luminaries, and some other natural phenomena. His denunciations are aimed at the wicked, specially against persecutors ; his promises and encouragements are laid before the righteous in order to cheer them on their way; but in respect to both, he introduces the Son of Man as dispensing them, merely as though it were a matter of course, and would be deemed so by his readers.

I must conclude, therefore, that he was surrounded by readers, at any rate that he addressed readers, who, as he believed, would easily recognize the Messianic views which he inculcated, or rather which he as it were unconsciously introduced.

With such facts then before us, what becomes of the repeated declarations which have been made, and made with much assurance, that the doctrine of the eternity of the Saviour, and of his claims to divine worship, and to absolute and universal sovereignty, are all the figments of later ages, of the third or fourth century ? As men of candour and discernment, are not those who make such declarations deeply concerned to review them? The evidence afforded by the book of Enoch, of the popular views cherished among the Jews, or at any rate the Jewish Christians of his day, is so strong, I might say conclusive, that I know not how a fair and ingenuous mind can resist it. And if it be acknowledged, then many a book is undone which has been written

« PreviousContinue »