It may seem surprising that Enoch is the only antediluvian patriarch accorded a separate volume in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, an honor that even Adam and Noah do not receive. After all, Enoch is granted scarcely seven verses in the canonical text of the Bible (Genesis 5:18—24), which give hardly more than his genealogy and inform us that he walked with God, and that, at age 365—relative youth for the superannuated preflood patriarchs—he was taken by God. And yet Enoch holds preeminent positions in the intertestamental literature and in the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price (Moses 6—7) that are all out of proportion to his virtual neglect in the Genesis account. From these extrabiblical writings we gain a deeper insight into the greatness of Enoch as a man and as a prophet.
As Professor Nibley notes in his paper "The Enoch Figure," Enoch is "the colossus that bestrides the Apocrypha as no other." Significantly, Enoch's importance in the Old Testament pseudepigrapha is equaled by his central role in the book of Moses. In "A Strange Thing in the Land: The Return of the Book of Enoch" (which appeared serially in the Ensign in 1976—77), Professor Nibley demonstrates at great length the richness of the Old Testament pseudepigraphic Enoch literature and the astonishing similarities between these writings—a body of literature that is still coming to light, very little of which was known or accessible in Joseph Smith's day—and the Enoch section in the book of Moses, even down to names of individuals.
If this volume contained nothing but a portrait of Enoch and a description of the vast Enoch literature and had placed the Enoch section in the book of Moses within that framework, it would already have merited our reading. But it is Enoch's peculiar relevance to our own day that gives the Enoch literature—and this volume—its timeliness. This literature throws into sharp relief the relevance for our own day of Enoch, a prophet in a wicked world that was on a collision course with disaster—as our world also appears to be. In "The Book of Enoch as a Theodicy," Dr. Nibley describes Enoch's world as not unlike our own, devoted to dark pleasures and resolute and sophisticated in its waywardness. Enoch cannot save a whole generation from destruction, but he does gather a group of righteous refugees from the wicked world and builds with them the City of Zion, a haven that is impregnable to the attacks of the ungodly and is ultimately taken up to heaven. In the light of Enoch's life and mission, it is fitting that one of Joseph Smith's code names in the older editions of the Doctrine and Covenants (for example, section 78 verse 1) is Enoch.
Hugh Nibley is rarely better than when placing latter-day scriptures—the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price—in their ancient setting. He assumes a near mantic role as he searches out the discontents of Enoch's time—and our own—and lays bare the significance of Enoch as a tract for our times. In this volume we have another instance of Professor Nibley at his best.
Stephen D. Ricks