I’m not quite sure what to make of the following information, but it is certainly odd enough. In Biblical literature, the world is destroyed in ancient times by the flood, and as apocalyptic theology developed, there came a notion that the other end of time would feature the inverse destruction, as reported in 2 Peter 3:6-7: “By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” This imagined inversion of the past in the future has a very long afterlife that feeds into fringe history themes in a surprisingly skewed way.
That the prophecy is not unique to Christians is demonstrated by its repetition in Flavius Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews (1.2.3), where he reports a version that attributes it to Adam:
They [the Children of Seth] also were the inventors of that peculiar sort of wisdom which is concerned with the heavenly bodies, and their order. And that their inventions might not be lost before they were sufficiently known, upon Adam’s prediction that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence and quantity of water, they made two pillars, the one of brick, the other of stone: they inscribed their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and exhibit those discoveries to mankind; and also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them. Now this remains in the land of Siriad [i.e. Egypt] to this day. (trans. William Whiston)
Note that the Jewish version professes uncertainty about whether fire or water would come first. This is in contradiction to 1 Enoch 10:13-16, where God clearly explains that fire is the second destruction, which will consume the Watchers. This idea is preserved as well in the tradition recorded by Syncellus, where the Watchers’ sacred mountain, Mt. Hermon, will be destroyed by fire on the Day of Judgment.
The idea of the twin judgments appears yet again in the Latin text of the Life of Adam and Eve (49.3-50.2), a Late Antique version of the Jewish Apocalypse of Moses that was originally composed in the first century CE. This time, however, the prophecy is attributed to the Archangel Michael, and delivered to Seth and his brothers by Eve:
On account of your transgression, Our Lord will bring upon your race the anger of his judgement, first by water, the second time by fire; by these two, will the Lord judge the whole human race. But hearken unto me, my children. Make ye then tables of stone and others of clay, and write on them, all my life and your father’s (all) that ye have heard and seen from us. If by water the Lord judge our race, the tables of clay will be dissolved and the tables of stone will remain; but if by fire, the tables of stone will be broken up and the tables of clay will be baked (hard). (trans. R. H. Charles)
Here, the same theme is repeated, but the details have all changed. That this version is later and distorted seems to be indicated by the logical impasse—Eve states definitively that water comes first and then fire, yet she instructs that two sets of tablets be made as though she didn’t know which would come first. The knowledge so preserved has changed, too: now it is merely the story of Genesis, suggesting how such knowledge of Eden escaped the Flood.
Yet another tradition assigned the prophecy to Enoch, which is probably the oldest version of the story, but it is attested only in later literature. In Armenia, adaptations and translations of Jewish and Christian texts carry this version. The History of the Forefathers (41), the Armenian author, writes of Enosh (whom he has almost certainly confused for Enoch):
Seventh, that he made writings and wrote on stela(e) of baked brick and bronze, and he prophesied that the earth will pass through water and fire on account of the sins of humans. And he cast the baked brick into the water and the bronze into the fire, in order to test (them), if the fire was to come first, the bronze would melt, and if the water was to come first, the brick would be destroyed. And by this means he learned that the water was destined to come, and then fire. And these are a work of hope. (trans. in M. E. Stone, Armenian Apocrypha Related to Adam and Eve [Brill, 1996])
The logical conundrum caused by the author’s knowledge that Enoch knew that the Flood would come first is hereby resolved by revising the creation of the pillars as a test to determine whether flood or fire would first destroy the world. It’s a clever solution, and one that helps to integrate this tradition more completely into the Enochian literature, but it speaks to the fact that the pillars of brick and bronze and/or stone weren’t originally part of Enoch’s flood prophecy. Perhaps, then, the story was truly, as Josephus reported, the story of the works of the Watchers (rationalized as the Children of Seth), but re-appropriated from forbidden, evil knowledge to something pious and worthy of preservation.
The same story, though not as developed, appears again in the Armenian Abel (4.3-4), but in the uncertain form where Enosh/Enoch/Children of Seth remain unaware of the Flood:
However, we found that Enosh, son of Seth, made the letter(s) and called the planets by name. And he prophesied that this world would pass away twice, by water and by fire. And he made two stelae, of bronze and of clay, and he wrote upon them the names of the parts of creation which Adam had called. He said, “If it passes away by water, then the bronze (will) remain, and if by fire, then the fired clay.” (trans. in M. E. Stone, Armenian Apocrypha Related to Adam and Eve [Brill, 1996])
Both Armenian texts call Enosh one of the “Sons of God”—the Watchers themselves in Genesis 6:1-4—and that these sons sinned through fornication, implying that the interpretation I suggested above is correct and the story was first told of how the Watchers tried to save themselves from condemnation (cf. Forefathers 45 and Abel 4.5).
The Byzantine writer of the Palaea Historica completes the transformation, and he makes Enoch offer the prophecy to the giants, the sons of the Watchers!
When the giants heard that the righteous Noah was building an ark for the Flood, they laughed at him. But Enoch, who was still around, was also telling the giants that the earth would either be destroyed by fire or by water. And the righteous Enoch was doing nothing else but sitting and writing on marble (tablets) and on bricks the mighty works of God which had happened from the beginning. For he used to say: “If the earth is destroyed by fire, the bricks will be preserved to be a reminder [for those who come after] of the mighty works of God which have happened from the beginning; and if the earth is destroyed by water, the marble tablets will be preserved.” (trans. Andrei A. Orlov)
That this is not an entirely late development is shown by the fact that in the fragments of the Book of Giants found at Qumran, the giants have a dream about a tablet dipped in water that dissolves and prophesies the Flood (2Q26), and Enoch sends from heaven a tablet outlining the coming of the Flood (4Q530, frag. 2).
Beyond the Jews, the story is repeated, in an interesting variation, by the Roman writer Ammianus Marcellinus:
There are also [in Egypt] subterranean passages, and winding retreats, which, it is said, men skilful, in the ancient mysteries, by means of which they divined the coming of a flood, constructed in different places lest the memory of all their sacred ceremonies should be lost. On the walls, as they cut them out, they have sculptured several kinds of birds and beasts, and countless other figures of animals, which they call hieroglyphics. (Roman History 22.15.30, trans. C. D. Yonge)
Here, though, the story has been applied as a myth to explain the origin of Egyptian writing, already mysterious in the 380s CE when he wrote. It is the beginning of the secularization of the Jewish myth, and this finds full flower in early medieval Arab pyramid legends, which we can quickly see are the same Jewish story in new clothes, specifically those of Hermes Trismegistus, the magician they identified with Enoch, on the strength of the Greek tradition that Hermes had written books about the history of the Watchers and their invention of alchemy (Zosimus, Imouth 9 preserved in Syncellus 12). Thus, from this, Hermes became the actor in the drama in his own right:
This Hermes is the one the Hebrews named Enoch […] he was the first to predict the Flood and anticipate that a celestial cataclysm would befall the earth in the form of fire or water, so, fearing the destruction of knowledge and the disappearance of the arts, he built the pyramids and temples of Upper Egypt. (Said al-Andalusi, quoting Abu Masar Al-Balkhi, Al‐tarif bi-tabaqat al-umm 39.7-16, my trans.)
Note the specific inclusion of “fire” and “water,” marking this as a derivative of the Jewish tradition, applied backward from Enoch to Hermes Trismegistus. From this we get a still more derivative version in which late medieval Arabic writers re-historicized Hermes back into the pharaoh Khufu, known from his Greek and/or Syriac transliteration in Manetho, Suphis or Surid. This king, before the Flood, had a dream which he priests told him involved the destruction of the world by water and fire: “After a thorough review, it was recognized that a deluge would occur after which would appear a fire out of the constellation Leo which will burn the world” (al-Maqrizi, quoting Ibn Wasif Shah, Al Khitat ch. 40, my trans.). Therefore, Surid and his priests “wrote on every surface of the pyramids, the ceilings, foundations, and walls, all the sciences familiar to the Egyptians.”
Here the stories intersect with fringe history, for it is at this point that fringe historians take up the story and consider that the stories of Surid, Hermes, and Enoch are independent and therefore confirmation of the reality of outside intervention (alien, Atlantean, or otherwise) in mythic event that developed gradually over time in cultures largely unrelated to Egypt.
Andrei A. Orlov, in reviewing the Jewish and Christian (but not Arab) documents, concludes that the original story was told of Enoch and later ascribed to Seth. I think, though, that it’s possible that the Watchers were the first actors in the prophecy and tablet story, and that in Judaizing the tale, they had Enoch interpolated into them. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense how Enoch could know about the fire and flood and yet waste his time making 50% more tablets and/or pillars than necessary. I think it’s also important to note that Enoch is a descendant of Seth himself, so the divergent versions (Enochian and Sethite) aren’t really that far apart.
Perhaps the first version was modeled on a Mesopotamian tale, like that of the Enuma Elish, in which Marduk gains the wisdom of the Tablets of Destiny and the sons of the gods—the Anunnaki—build towers in Babylon, or the mountain gods and slutty women recorded by the Phoenician Sanchoniathon, as preserved in Eusebius: “These begat sons of vast bulk and height, whose names were conferred upon the mountains which they occupied: thus from them Cassius, and Libanus, and Antilibanus, and Brathu received their names. Memrumus and Hypsuranius were the issue of these men by connexion with their mothers; the women of those times, without shame, having intercourse with any men whom they might chance to meet.” These are the mountains around Mount Hermon, and the sons of these gods were the inventors of the rudiments of civilization, including hunting, fishing, sailing, and medicine.
There is a tension in the story of 1 Enoch between the Watchers, who descend to earth and teach all manner of knowledge, including metallurgy and astrology, and Enoch, who also descends to earth with wisdom of the cosmos to record for all time. One type of knowledge is forbidden and evil—the type of scientific knowledge associated with the values of Babylon (cf. Berosus on Oannes) and Greece (cf. Prometheus’ teachings in Prometheus Bound)—and the type of knowledge that is good and wholesome, namely that of God and the angels. Anathea Portier-Young makes just this point in her chapter on 1 Enoch in the new anthology The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions, where she sees Enoch as representing truth and Judaism against a wider Mesopotamian-Hellenistic environment. In that context, it seems to me likely that all of the problems with the story stem from its author’s efforts to remake a lost pagan or pre-monotheistic polytheistic Hebrew story in Jewish guise.
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