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In 2000 a strange book was published in New York, titled Enoch the Ethiopian: The Lost Prophet of the Bible. It claimed that Enoch was “greater than Abraham, holier than Moses.” It also offered “a major key to the African origins of Hebrewism, Judaism, and Christianity.” While the scholarly argumentation of this book is very thin, it was well received in the New Age African-American community, and the hip-hop site Zulunation enthusiastically recommended it to its members (colour plate 15). Who was this Prophet Enoch, and how did he get “lost”?
I stumbled upon the Enoch question ten years ago and have been fascinated by its cultural history ever since. A monograph on Enoch is in the making and slowly coming to its completion. Before focusing on Enoch, I had spent many years studying the fortunes of Dr. John Dee (1527-1609), Renaissance mathematician, “magus” of Queen Elizabeth I, mystical philosopher, and conjuror of angels. His career was rather curious: he started as a hopeful natural scientist but ended as an esotericist avant la lettre who, with the help of “scryers,” tried to contact angels in order to learn the prelapsarian Adamic language. He thought that the lingua adamica would enable him even to directly contact the Creator. In a private diary note, Dee penned the following appeal to God:
I have read in thy bokes & records, how Enoch enjoyed thy favour and conversation: and also that to Abraham, and sundry other, thy good Angels were sent, by thy disposition to instruct them, informe them, help them, yea in wordly and domesticall affaires, yea, and sometimes to satisfy theyr desyres, doutes & questions of thy Secrets. And furdermore considering the Shew stone which the high preists did use, by thy owne ordering.
As this quotation shows, it was Dee's ambition to acquire superhuman knowledge. As his role model he chose Enoch, about whom he could read in the Bible: “Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: … And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Gen. 5:21-25). Even the Qu’ran has something to say about Enoch, who is named Idris there: “And [remember] Isma’il [Ishmael], and Idris [Enoch] and Dhul-Kifl [Isaiah], all were from among As-Sabirin [the Patient Ones, etc.]. And We admitted them to Our Mercy. Verily, they were of the righteous” (Qur’an 21:85-86). In the New Testament, Saint Jude's letter mentions something very important: “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints. To execute judgement upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them …” (Jude 14-15).