Enoch (in common with Elijah) occupies this singular position among the Old Testament men of God, that when removed from the earth he was carried directly to heaven. A man of this stamp could not but appear peculiarly well fitted to serve as a medium through which to communicate to the world revelations regarding the divine mysteries, seeing that he had even been deemed worthy of immediate intercourse with God.
Accordingly at a somewhat early period, probably as far back as the second century before Christ, an apocalyptic writing appeared purporting to have been composed by Enoch, which work was subsequently issued in an enlarged and revised form. This Book of Enoch was already known to the author of the Book of ‘Jubilees’ and of the ‘Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,’ and was afterwards a great favourite in the Christian Church.
As is well known, it is quoted in the Epistle of Jude (14, 15), while many of the Fathers use it without hesitation as the genuine production of Enoch, and as containing authentic divine revelations, although it has never been officially recognized by the Church as canonical. We still find the Byzantine chronicler, George Syncellus (about 800 A.D.), quoting two long passages from it (Syncell. Chron. ed. Dindorf, i. 20-23 and 42-47). But after that the book disappeared, and was looked upon as lost till, in the course of the last century, the discovery was made that an Ethiopic version of it was still extant in the Abyssinian Church.
In the year 1773, Bruce the English traveller brought three manuscripts of it to Europe. But it was not till the year 1821 that the whole work was given to the world through the English translation of Laurence. A German translation was issued by Hoffmann which, from chap. i. to lv. (1833), was based upon the English version of Laurence, and from chap. lvi. to the end (1838) on the Ethiopic version collated with a new manuscript.
The Ethiopic text was published first by Laurence in 1838, and subsequently by Dillmann in 1851, after having collated it with five manuscripts. Dillmann likewise issued (1853) a new German translation, in which there were material emendations, and on which all disquisitions connected with this book have been based ever since. It seemed as though there were reason to hope that more light would be thrown upon this book when a small fragment of it in Greek (extending from ver. 42 to ver. 49 of chap. lxxxix.), taken from a Codex Vaticanus (cod. gr. 1809), written in tachygraphic characters, was published in facsimile by Mai (Patrum Nova Biblioth. vol. ii), and deciphered by Gildmeister (Zeitschr. der DMG. 1855, pp. 621-624).
For, from what was stated by Mai, one was led to suppose that there was still far more in the codex than had yet been published. But, alas! a fresh examination by Gebhardt revealed the fact that the deciphered fragment was all of the Book of Enoch that it contained (Merx Archiv, vol. ii p. 243).”