ENOCH'S DEPARTURE
© 2009 Bob Freeman

   There are some false teachings that do violence to God's word and amount to spiritual poison for those that accept them. Otherwise, some claims that people erroneously purvey about scripture are relatively minor, but all false doctrine results from some human being's own ideas. For example, some people have decided that Enoch wasn't translated bodily into heaven to spare him from having to die. The objective here is to refute each part of the argument for that view and therefore retain the traditional teaching of the plain sense of Genesis 5:21-24:

And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

Before dealing with any arguments to the contrary, though, it might be best to point out why the traditional interpretation makes sense.

  1. After the statement that numbered all of Enoch's years, there are the words God took him. For every other man mentioned in the passage, we read the words he died after the statement of number of years each one lived.
  2. Enoch's father and son each lived over nine hundred years, so we would expect Enoch to live much longer than the three hundred sixty five years as stated. In other words, the stated facts indicate that he did not die of old age.
  3. The Hebrew word that is translated took in that verse is translated other places as get (receive), fetch, bring, marry, have, take away (by force), etc. The great majority of usages carry the idea of taking possession or ownership of persons or property, at least temporarily. The first usage is in Genesis 2:21 and refers to God's taking a rib from Adam's body and making it a woman.
  4. There is no mention in the Old Testament of Enoch's having done anything after the statement God took him.
Now we can deal with some of the objections to the traditional interpretation.

IN ADAM ALL DIE

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
I Corinthians 15:22.

   If we disregard all other pertinent comments in the scriptures, this one would cause us to reject as false any claim that a human being might depart this world without dying. However, in the same chapter, verse 51, we read:

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

By writing we shall not all sleep Paul doesn't mean that some people will suffer from chronic insomnia. He uses the word sleep to refer to the deaths of Christians because death won't have the hold on us that it has on unbelievers that die. He means, of course, that some will receive glorified bodies without having to die. God is not restricted by his just nature in the ways he can show us mercy, because he has suffered the penalties of sin by dying spiritually and physically in the person of Christ. And, besides proving that not all of God's people have to die, those two verses demonstrate that all doesn't always necessarily mean every single one.
 
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Enoch's Departure (cont)

NO MAN HAS ASCENDED UP TO HEAVEN

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
John 3:13.

This verse would appear to contradict
II Corinthians 12:2:

I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

That is, it would appear to contradict if we don't pay careful attention to the words. Ascending into heaven is not the same as being caught up or translated. Paul was referring to himself and he didn't ascend under his own power and authority. Also, he did not write that he had to be out of his body because no man has ascended into heaven.
   We could say that the rules changed after Jesus rose from the dead. However, there is still a distinct difference between ascending and being taken or caught up. And, that difference is sufficent to preclude our using John 3:13 as proof that Enoch wasn't translated into heaven by the power and authority of God.
   It's instructive to note also that Jesus spoke of the Son of man that is in heaven while standing next to Nicodemus. He was emphasizing the fact that he is God and, though also being a man, he has the power and authority to ascend into heaven and descend from heaven. He, as God, also exists in heaven and on earth at the same time because he and the Father are the one omnipresent God.

THEY ALL DIED IN FAITH

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Hebrews 11:13.

   This is another case where the rule and an exception are cited in the same chapter:

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Hebrews 11:5.

The expression that he should not see death is highly significant when we consider the later statement These all died in faith..... There is no indication here or in the passage in Genesis that Enoch was preserved in one situation so that he could die at a later time. And, since his life span was less than half that of other men of that day, he would have died of illness or trauma if he did die. God would have been cruel to transport him away from his family so that he could suffer an unpleasant death later.
   Note the statement for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. By including before his translation, the Holy Spirit implies very strongly that Enoch no longer pleased God as a mortal man. That implication has nothing to do with God's assessment of Enoch after he was translated into heaven, because all of God's people will please God in heaven.
   Much has been made of the ways the Greek word that is translated as translated or translation is used in other New Testament passages. Such references might be in order if there is some doubt as to what the words of the Old Testament passage meant; but, the Hebrew word translated took in Genesis 5:24 is the commonly used word for take or possess or carry in possession. The meaning of the word allows the possibility that a person being taken would be changed in some way or taken out of this world as a result of the action.
 
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Enoch's Departure (cont)

   The Greek word in question is used only in four places other than in describing what happened to Enoch:

And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.
Acts 7:16.

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Galatians 1:6.

For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
Hebrews 7:12.

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude 4.

Note that in only the verse in Acts does the word mean physically carried or transported. In the other three cases, no physical transportation is involved, but a change of sorts has taken place. This we should expect because the prefix of the Greek word is used to denote change. The English word metamorphosis is a transliteration of a Greek word meaning change of form. And, the word translated carried in Matthew 1:11 in the phrase carried away to Babylon means literally a change of abode. In contrast, the word used to describe Enoch's experience is a combination of the prefix meta, change, and a verb whose general meaning can be to put in place or relocate; thus, the entire word means change and relocate. The word is loosely transliterated into English as metathesis and refers to a form change involving movement. The classic examples are the transposition of parts of a word to form a new word and the exchange of molecular parts to form other molecules.
   Some that professed to be believers turned to legalism from grace (appeared to change their minds) and others demonstrated by their perversion of the doctrine of grace that God never knew them. And, as indicated in Hebrews 7:12, God changed the rules for appointing priests because it was his will that Jesus be born of the tribe of Judah when priests under the Old Testament were descendants of a Levite named Aaron. In that same verse, we are told that a change (same Greek word) was required of the Law. In fact, the priesthood of Christ is so different from that of the Levites that God abolished the Old Testament by replacing it with the New Testament.
   It might be sometime after the Lord returns when we know why the more common Greek word for carried was not used in the verse in Acts. However, Joseph's body had been embalmed and placed in a coffin (ark), as indicated in Genesis 50:26, since coffins were used in Egypt. And, it may be that his remains were removed from the coffin when placed in the tomb at Shechem. That would be a change of encasement for his remains. Either way, the process involved moving the mummy from a place where people worshiped the dead to a place bought to entomb people that had worshiped God.
   So, the Greek word used in reference to Enoch's being taken doesn't change what we can surmise from the passage in Genesis, but does call attention to the idea that he was changed in the process of being removed. It's reasonable to think that a natural human body could not function or even exist in heaven and that God changed Enoch's body to a spiritual body. We can't determine whether or not that new body is exactly the same type as Christ's glorified body. In I Corinthians 15:20, Paul refers to Christ as the firstfruits of them that slept, so Enoch could be the firstfruits of those believers that will be physically alive at the time of the rapture and will not have to die. God's translation of Enoch took place long before the resurrection of Christ just as God's merciful dealings with his people started long before the sacrifice of that same Christ.

CONCLUSION
   A good rule to follow when interpreting scripture is that if the plain sense makes good sense, then we should seek no other sense. This is not to say that some Old Testament passages don't have more than one application typically or symbolically. But, when an event is stated in well-defined terms and we don't have other scripture indicating clearly that the event could not have occurred as presented, then we must accept the original statements at face value. In the case of Enoch, an unbiased reading would give ample reason to conclude that God did take him out of this world. Furthermore, the New Testament reference implies that a change took place as part of the removal.

Bob Freeman

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