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Enoch’s Vision of the Realms of the Dead

In discussing the research I’m doing on (human) journeys to the realm(s) of the dead, I have so far mentioned two in particular that occur outside of Christian circles and much earlier: the famous account of Odysseus’s vision of the dead in Homer’s Odyssey book 11 and Aeneas’s journey to the underworld in Virgil’s Aeneid, book 6.   These are very similar to one another (since Virgil was basing his account on Homer’s) but also very different: in particular, whereas in Homer every spirit has the same uninteresting and boring forever in Hades, in Virgil the righteous are given fantastic rewards and the wicked graphic torment, with the possibility of reincarnation to have another go at it.

.  Now I introduce a Jewish version of this kind of journey, found in the non-canonical book of 1 Enoch, which has many similarities to Virgil  (though not so much with Homer).  Here too the righteous are rewarded and the wicked punished.  But there are (a couple of) gradations from one kind of sinner to the next.  And moreover, in this case there is no reincarnation; instead, and quite significantly, the punishments after death are only temporary, leading up to the Last Judgment, when a permanent end will be determined.  For the righteous, the End will entail being raised from the dead, for all eternity (completely unlike either Homer or Virgil).  This in fact is the first book from Jewish antiquity that promotes the idea of a future resurrection (earlier even than the OT book of Daniel)

Here is what I say about 1 Enoch in my forthcoming trade book Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife.


The idea of a future bodily resurrection of the dead first occurs in a book that was not included in the Bible, but was nonetheless one of the most popular Jewish writings in the final two centuries BCE, a book known today as 1 Enoch.   The pseudonymous author of the book claims to be none other than Enoch, the first person never to have died.  According to Genesis 5:24, “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.”   Who better to pen an apocalypse, an account of the heavenly secrets that could explain earthly realities?  A man who actually lived with God above!   The book of 1 Enoch contains a number of special revelations given to this human resident of the heavenly realms.

There are in fact …

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Paul in Hell. The Apocryphal Apocalypse of Paul.
A Roman Vision of Heaven and Hell



  1. Avatar
    Leovigild  April 9, 2019

    So this part Book of Enoch, acc. to Wikipedia, dates to c. 300 BCE.

    The prediction is that the Watchers will be bound for 70 generations. Let’s say there are 3 generations per century, so a generation is 33 years. 70*33 = 2310 years.

    So Judgment Day is just around the corner (if not a tad overdue)!!!

    I hereby offer the rights to this movie script idea to anyone in Hollywood for a mere $5000.

  2. Avatar
    Nexus  April 9, 2019

    I was under the impression that the Book of Enoch was also popular during the first century CE. Jude quotes it, and it is part of the DSS.

    • Chris_Hansen
      Chris_Hansen  April 12, 2019

      It was very popular. Some scholars have argued that its popularity was only outranked by the Book of Isaiah. It is recorded in several manuscript traditions as well.

  3. Avatar
    fishician  April 9, 2019

    Some of these stories remind me of the man who was captured by a primitive tribe, and told he could choose either jujube or death. Not wanting to die he chose jujube. The tribe shouted its approval. “So, what is jujube?” The chief replies, “First, we torture you from dawn until sunset. Then we kill you!”

  4. Avatar
    AstaKask  April 9, 2019

    Seventy generations… how long is a generation in the Book of Enoch? Or isn’t it meant literally?

  5. Avatar
    mkahn1977  April 9, 2019

    When’s the book coming out?

  6. Avatar
    AntiochusEpimanes  April 9, 2019

    I have a question about the dating of 1 Enoch. You said that the dating of the book of the watchers is from 200-250 BC. If I understand correctly, most scholars think that the vision in Daniel 7:9-10 is related to the vision in 1 Enoch 14. But Daniel 7 mentions the little horn, who most scholars identify as Antiochus IV, 175-164 BC. If the 1 Enoch passage is based on Daniel, and if the 200-250 BC date for the book of the watchers is correct, this means that Daniel 7 must date earlier than that–and Daniel therefore predicted Antiochus. This is a quote from Ryan Stokes at JSTOR. Google ‘Enoch 14 Daniel 7’ (bottom pg, abstract) According to most scholars, Daniel’s vision account depends literarily on the supposedly more primitive visionary traditions found in 1 Enoch 14 in the book of Giants of the Dead Sea Scrolls. ( he then argues that it’s the other way around, these two accounts depend on Daniel 7.) Are you familiar with this, and can you comment? Do we have proof that Daniel predicted the future? 😉

    • Avatar
      AntiochusEpimanes  April 9, 2019

      To simplify my question:
      1 Enoch 14 dates 200 to 250 BC.
      Daniel 7 dates 165 BC.(and describes events up to this date)
      If 1 Enoch influenced Daniel 7, this make sense.
      If Daniel influenced 1 Enoch – we would have to re-date Daniel – which means he predicted the future.
      Unless some other source influenced both of these.

      • Bart
        Bart  April 10, 2019

        Right. But the point is that if Daniel is written later, then it did not influence 1 Enoch.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2019

      It is generally thought that Daniel was written *after* this part of 1 Enoch, so the Enoch passage is not dependent on Daniel.

  7. tompicard
    tompicard  April 9, 2019

    >A literal paradise indeed, a garden for eternal life.

    Does this chapter actually imply to you ETERNAL physical life on earth?

    I do not see that.

    reference to ‘all children’, and to generations, reference to period of human ‘youth’, life UNTIL giving birth to thousands, as well as life UNTIL 500 years [These are apparently hyperbole (common, I think, to all apocalyptic teachings)] but the point being there is no implication that life on earth is eternal, either in this chapter nor in any of Jesus’ teachings.

  8. Avatar
    JohnKesler  April 9, 2019

    “Even then evil ravages the earth, however, as out of the Watchers’ dead bodies emerge demons who continue to engage in nefarious activities.”

    My reading of 1 Enoch is that it’s from the *giants’* bodies that demons come:

    1 Enoch 15:8-10
    8 And now, the giants, who are produced from the spirits and flesh, shall be called evil spirits upon 9 the earth, and on the earth shall be their dwelling. Evil spirits have proceeded from their bodies; because they are born from men and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origin; 10 they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called.

    1) Do you think that this origin of demons is what Jesus and the NT authors believed? 2) If not, what other origin(s) of demons did they accept?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2019

      1. I wish we knew 2. The general *idea* is common in Jewish apocalyptic texts, that demons are some kind of corrupt spiritual beings with nefarious purposes; there were probably a variety of explanations for where they came from (the later Xn idea is that they were angels who “fell”)

      • Avatar
        pfylis  August 16, 2019

        This reminds me of the book “Unseen Realm” by Michael Heiser. Are you familiar with his work? If so, what is your opinion? Thanks.

        • Bart
          Bart  August 18, 2019


          • Avatar
            pfylis  September 18, 2019

            My question should have been what do you think of Psalm 82 and what is does it mean by “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty;

            He judgeth among the gods”? What gods? (Sorry about naming the book, I wasn’t thinking.)

          • Bart
            Bart  September 20, 2019

            Sometimes the word “Elohim” (= God, or more literally “gods”) refers to divine beings other than the LORD God. It can refer to angels, for example (or occasoinally even people). This passage probably means soemthing like “other citizens of heaven” or “his angels” or the like.

  9. Avatar
    forthfading  April 9, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Where is the lore and traditions we have about angels mostly found? I am referring to what traditional Christians believe, such as Lucifer being kicked out of Heaven and about the archangel myths.

    Thanks, Jay

    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2019

      The source for most Christians today is Milton’s Paradise Lost!

      • Avatar
        AndrewJenkins  April 10, 2019

        And it has been suggested that Milton was strongly influenced by the Koran (‘Milton in the Arab Muslim World’, Dr Islam Issa, Birmingham City University)…..

      • Avatar
        Kawfmin  April 14, 2019

        Yes, I was wondering where Milton got that notion, about Lucifer as a fallen angel. It seems quite similar to the notion in 1 Enoch, of angels descending from heaven and becoming a source of evil on earth. Though I don’t know if Enoch was known outside of the Ethiopian church in Milton’s time. Do we know what sources fed into “Paradise lost”?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 15, 2019

          I’m sure “we” do but I’m afraid “I” don’t!

  10. tompicard
    tompicard  April 9, 2019

    additionally regarding
    > It will be a utopian existence for all time, for those
    > who have lived righteous lives and
    > been RAISED FROM THE DEAD to their eternal reward.

    I read chapter 10, and found a reference to ‘eternal life’ but I cannot conclude that it meant raising of the dead, if by that it is meant buried corpses are revived.

    [ http://book-ofenoch.com/chapter-10/ rather than Michael Knibb ]

  11. tompicard
    tompicard  April 9, 2019

    thirdly ,
    I am not sure that the apocalyptic author of this work necessarily viewed the renewed world as what some of us may imagine as a utopian existence.

    Clearly it is a world
    ‘And all the children of the people will become righteous, and all the nations shall worship and bless [God] … And the earth shall be cleansed from all pollution, and from all sin, . .’

    but I dont think its implied it is a world of absolutely no sickness, natural disaster, and physical death
    I think the author is more thinking of internal suffering/sin

    but I will need to read more of the Enoch work to come to better conclusion

  12. Avatar
    Hngerhman  April 9, 2019

    Dr Ehrman –

    Why was Enoch not considered canon (Christian, but neither Jewish), despite its popularity in Judaism of the time as well as what appears to be its influence (direct on Jude; indirect via common themes) on early Christianity, and its citation by early church fathers?


    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2019

      It’s a great question. I don’t know why it wasn’t more widely used and considered Scripture. There is probably a good and well-known answer though!

      • Avatar
        Eric  April 11, 2019

        Was it not in the Septuagint?

      • Avatar
        Hngerhman  April 21, 2019

        Happy Easter!

        Dr Ehrman –

        Are there linkages between Jesus’s teachings (especially the Son of Man passages) in the gospels and 1 Enoch that are stronger than the same NT passages and the typically/traditionally cited OT passages?

        NB – I’ve found some unsatisfactory material, and so I’m still looking for a good treatment of the topic of why 1 Enoch wasn’t canon (primarily Jewish, but also Christian) despite its popularity and clear influence. If a blog member has a good direction to point, much appreciated in advance.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 22, 2019

          It’s a much debated topic — especially with respect to whether these portions of 1 Enoch (the Similitudes) pre-dated the Christian usage of the term or not.

  13. Avatar
    deanegalbraith@yahoo.co.nz  April 10, 2019

    Dear Prof Ehrman,

    Shouldn’t the phrase “out of the Watchers’ dead bodies emerge demons” instead read “out of the giants’ dead bodies emerge demons”, following 1 Enoch 15?

    Deane Galbraith

  14. Avatar
    Maciej Owczarzak  April 11, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman, having read Dr. MacDonald’s books about Homer’s influence on the Gospels and Acts, I find his arguments quite convincing, I don’t necessarily agree with every suggestion, but it’s hard to ignore all of it. I was wondering why you don’t have anything to say about his thesis, all I was able to find was a blog comment saying that you simply don’t agree with him. If you every look for a blog post idea, it would be great if you could consider responding to Dr. MacDonald thesis (maybe you could offer a better explanation for one of the strongest parallels?)

    • Bart
      Bart  April 13, 2019

      It’s simply because I”ve never been convinced by the idea that there is any intentional rewriting of Homer in the Gospels. I’ve known Dennis for many years and think highly of him as a scholar. He’s the real deal. But I think this idea is an overreach. Yes, of course, Homer was massively influential on later culture throughout the Greek and Roman worlds, and you can find parallels to the Iliad and Odyssey in lots and lots of narratives. But that doesn’t mean teh authors of those narratives had actually *read* Homer or modeled their narratives on them. These simply were common tropes, widely known and used. I would say, for example, that Virgil definitely modeled the Aeneid on both of Homer’s works; Mark, not at all. Huge difference when you compare Virgil and Mark.

  15. Avatar
    Eric  April 11, 2019

    1. This is just in your introduction to this post, but would you consider Virgil to be “long before” Christian sources, such as Revelation? Seems like maybe 100 years. Is that “long” in this context?

    2. Separate question — Do you think the Aeneid would have been widespread enough by the end of the first century among Hellenistic Jews to have had an influence on Revelation’s author?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 13, 2019

      It was published after Virgil’s death in 19 BCE (on his death bed he urged it to be burned since it wasn’t completley finished! Luckily Augustus overrulled him). But no, I don’t think the Greek speaking Jews and Christians of the time who produced our surviving literature would have read it.

  16. Avatar
    Rita Gomes  April 11, 2019

    Did this remind me of the plot in The Chariots Of The Gods? Erinnerungen an die Zukunft.
    I do not know if anyone has read in the group, the author claims that these children of God in Genesis were beings from other worlds

    • Bart
      Bart  April 13, 2019

      Yes, it all goes back to Genesis 6! But especially as developed in the Book of the Watchers now found in 1 Enoch.

  17. Avatar
    Kirktrumb59  April 12, 2019

    Yep. My limited and absolutely non-scholarly research indicates, again, that no one REALLY understand that weird, above-quoted Gen 6 (Nephilim, etc) passage. For what it’s worth, this (unedited) from a chabad.org (i.e., ultra-[Jewish] orthodox) webpage: “One thing benei elokim does not mean is ‘sons of G-d.’ In fact, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai would ‘curse’ anyone who translated the term benei elokim as the ‘sons of G-d.'”
    One sentence later: “Similarly, the term benei does not necessarily mean ‘sons,’ but is often just a title. Benei chorin, for example, means those who are free–not ‘sons of freedom.'”
    Still later: “Nephilim seems to be derived from the verb-root naphal, meaning ‘fall.’ From where did they fall? Are they the same as the benei elokim? And if so, why are they called by two names?”
    The webpage then continues with three Midrashic and “commentaries” explanations.

    All your answers here!!

    • Bart
      Bart  April 13, 2019

      Ah, thanks! Of course rabbinic understandings many centuries later may not tell us much about what the author had in mind — or what other Jews thought! But it’s always good to hear lots of views. And to understand where they’re coming from. My view is that lots and lots of people did understand what the phrase meant, but they couldn’t agree on it!

      • Avatar
        Kirktrumb59  April 15, 2019

        Jewish! Now segue into roughly 37 jokes about biblical/Talmudic and other interpretations/explanations/opinions, about almost anything. Maybe 68 jokes.

      • Avatar
        Lebo55  May 23, 2019

        I once asked my priest about the nephilim and he felt tat according to st john chrisystom that they were in fact human, their mentioned again in I think numbers, is it possible that the writers may have been referring to the canaanites when talking about the nephilim

        • Bart
          Bart  May 24, 2019

          I’m not sure what writers you’re referring to. But I would say that Chrysostom, writing centuries after 1 Enoch, would not necessarily share its views.

          • Avatar
            Lebo55  May 25, 2019

            I was referring to the writers or writer of the book of numbers when talking about the nephilim,

            ” According to Numbers 13:33, they later inhabited Canaan at the time of the Israelite conquest of Canaan.

            The Lord said to Moses, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites” … So they went up and spied out the land … And they told him: “… Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there.” … So they brought to the Israelites an unfavorable report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are of great size. There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim); and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

            — Numbers 13:1–2; 21; 27–28; 32–33. New Revised Standard Version.

            The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon (1908) gives the meaning of nephilim as “giants”, and holds that proposed etymologies of the word are “all very precarious”.[3] Many suggested interpretations are based on the assumption that the word is a derivative of Hebrew verbal root n-ph-l (נ־פ־ל) “fall”. Robert Baker Girdlestone[4] argued in 1871 the word comes from the Hiphil causative stem, implying that the nephilim are to be perceived as “those that cause others to fall down”. Ronald Hendel states that it is a passive form: “ones who have fallen”, grammatically analogous to paqid “one who is appointed” (i.e., overseer), asir “one who is bound” (i.e., prisoner), etc.[5][6]

            The majority of ancient biblical versions—including the Septuagint, Theodotion, Latin Vulgate, Samaritan Targum, Targum Onkelos, and Targum Neofiti—interpret the word to mean “giants”.[7] Symmachus translates it as “the violent ones”[8][9][10] and Aquila’s translation has been interpreted to mean either “the fallen ones”[8] or “the ones falling [upon their enemies]”.[10][11] source : Wikipedia

            Sorry for not being more clearer in my posts

          • Bart
            Bart  May 26, 2019

            There were lots of traditions about the Nephilim, and these came to influence later authors (not just the Bible)

  18. Avatar
    Lebo55  May 23, 2019

    The Ethiopian orthodox included this along with jubilees in their cannon, just curious would Jesus have been aware of this book as well as other kabbalah texts?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 24, 2019

      Jubilees is not Kabbalistic of course. But no, Jesus shows no knowledge of either Jubilees of later Jewish mystical texts.

      • Avatar
        Lebo55  May 25, 2019

        Thanks for the reply, your right that jubilees is not a kabbalah text, I did not mean to say that it was, I’m not very good with dates especially when it comes to B. C, kabbalah did exist before the time of jesus right, have you thought to write a blog on kabbalah ?

        • Bart
          Bart  May 26, 2019

          Not really; it’s well outside my range of expertise, and I generally like to stick to what I know about.

  19. Avatar
    PBS  May 26, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,

    What’s your assessment of Dr. Michael Heiser’s work on this & its related subjects (e.g. his volume “The Unseen Realm”)?

  20. Avatar
    jrohr  May 12, 2020

    Since the Book of Enoch predates Jesus by 200 years, I wonder what this makes of your thesis in “Heaven and Hell”, that the historical Jesus did not believe in heaven or hell? When I read the book, my understanding of your description was that Jesus didn’t hold such beliefs, because those hadn’t developed yet in Judaism. While apocryphal, the book demonstrates, though that even in Judaism, afterlife concepts had been developing, including punishment for some and reward for others. How do you know that this wasn’t a view shared by Jesus?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 13, 2020

      I don’t say in my book that there were no Jews in Jesus’ day who believed in the afterlife of souls involving rewards and punishments (and of course I deal with 1 Enoch). I argue that this was not *Jesus’* view, or the view of most other Jews at the time.

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