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The Authenticity of the Zohar
As Evidenced by the Book of Enoch
By James Scott Trimm

[Note: The point of this paper is the “authenticity” of the Zohar, that is that the Zohar was compiled by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in the late first century, and not a forgery produced in Europe in the Middle Ages. That is not to say that the Zohar should be considered authoritative or even canon, which is a separate issue entirely.]

Ever since Moses DeLeon (c. 1250 – 1305 C.E.) discovered the Zohar and revealed his discovery to the world, critics have attacked the authenticity of this book. The book itself claims to have been redacted by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in the late first century. Yet some have even accused even Moses DeLeon himself of having forged the book.

Clear evidence for the originality of the book lies in the fact that the Zohar makes much use of the first and second books of Enoch, both of which were lost to the Western World in ancient times, and were not recovered until fairly modern times. 1st Enoch was not recovered until the famous explorer James Bruce brought Ethiopic copies of the book to Europe in 1773. But it was not until 1800 that translations of any of the material was published. 2nd Enoch remained unknown until William Richard Morfil translated the recently discovered Slavonic text in 1896. It was not until the 19th century that the first and second books of Enoch and their contents became known to the Western world.

Now the Zohar mentions the Book of Enoch on ten occasions. While it is true that some of these citations have no exact parallel in either 1st or 2nd Enoch as they have come down to us, this is also true of the citations of the Book of Enoch found in the ancient “Church Fathers”. Nonetheless in the majority of cases these citations have at least some parallel in 1st or 2nd Enoch, and some of them make it clear that the authors of the Zohar were quite familiar with the contents of the Books of Enoch.

The first mention of the Book of Enoch in the Zohar is as follows:

‘The seventh precept is to circumcise the male child on the eighth day after birth and thereby to remove the defilement of the foreskin. The “living” (hayah) of which we have spoken forms the eighth grade in the scale, and hence the soul which has flown away from it must appear before it on the eighth day. And in this way it is made clear that this is really a “living soul”, emanating from that holy “living” and not from the “unholy region”. And this is alluded to in the words: Let the waters swarm, which in the Book of Enoch are explained thus: Let the water of the holy seed be stamped with the stamp of the “soul of the living”, (2Enoch 30:8?) which is the form of the letter yod impressed on the holy flesh in preference to all other marks.
(Zohar 1:13a)

This is certainly a reference to the following passage in 2nd Enoch:

On the fifth day I commanded the sea, that it should bring forth fishes, and feathered birds of many varieties, and all animals creeping over the earth, going forth over the earth on four legs, and soaring in the air, male sex and female, and every soul breathing the spirit of life.
(2Enoch 30:8)

While the passage cited must have read somewhat differently in the copy which the author of the Zohar held (there are many variations in the known manuscripts of 2Enoch) it is beyond coincidence that 2Enoch has a passage which parallels that of Genesis 1:20 as the passage cited surely did.

The next citation of Enoch in the Zohar is as follows:

MALE AND FEMALE HE CREATED THEM: the one included in the other. R. Abba said: ‘God did indeed send down a book to Adam, from which he became acquainted with the supernal wisdom. It came later into the hands of the “sons of God”, the wise of their generation, and whoever was privileged to peruse it could learn from it supernal wisdom. This book was brought down to Adam by the “master of mysteries”, preceded by three messengers. When Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden, he tried to keep hold of this book, but it flew out of his hands. He thereupon supplicated God with tears for its return, and it was given back to him, in order that wisdom might not be forgotten of men, and that they might strive to obtain knowledge of their Master. Tradition further tells us that Enoch also had a book, which came from the same place as the book of the generations of Adam.... [Tr. note: Here follows a highly allusive passage identifying Enoch with “the lad” (v. Prov. XXII, 6), i.e. Metatron.] This is the source of the book known as “the book of Enoch”. When God took him, He showed him all supernal mysteries, and the Tree of Life in the midst of the Garden and its leaves and branches, all of which can be found in his book.(1Enoch 24-25; 2Enoch 8:3) Happy are those of exalted piety to whom the supernal wisdom has been revealed, and from whom it will not be forgotten for ever, as it says, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and his secret to make them know it.” ‘
(Zohar 1:37b)

Again this passage is easy to locate in the 1st and 2nd books of Enoch:

3 And the seventh mountain was in the midst of these, and it excelled them in height, resembling the seat of a throne: and fragrant trees encircled the throne.
4 And among them was a tree such as I had never yet smelt, neither was any among them nor were others like it: it had a fragrance beyond all fragrance, and its leaves and blooms and wood wither not for ever: and its fruit is beautiful, and its fruit resembles the dates of a palm.
5 Then I said: 'How beautiful is this tree, and fragrant, and its leaves are fair, and its blooms very delightful in appearance.'
6 Then answered Mikha’el, one of the set-apart and honored angels who was with me, and was their leader.
1 And he said unto me: 'Chanoch, why dost you ask me regarding the fragrance of the tree, and why dost you wish to learn the truth?'
2 Then I answered him saying: 'I wish to know about everything, but especially about this tree.'
3 And he answered saying: 'This high mountain which you hast seen, whose summit is like the throne of Elohim, is His throne, where the Set-apart Great One, YHWH of Glory, the Eternal King, will sit, when He shall come down to visit the earth with goodness.
4 And as for this fragrant tree no mortal is permitted to touch it till the great judgment, when He shall take vengeance on all and bring (everything) to its consummation for ever.
(1Enoch 24:3-25:4)

3 And in the midst of the trees that of life, in that place whereon YHWH rests, when he goes up into Pardes; and this tree is of ineffable goodness and fragrance, and adorned more than every existing thing; and on all sides it is in form gold-looking and vermilion and fire-like and covers all, and it has produce from all fruits.
(2Enoch 8:3)

The next citation in the Zohar is as follows:

When Noah grew up, and saw how mankind were sinning before God, he withdrew himself from their society and sought to serve his Master, so as not to be led astray by them. He was especially diligent in the study of the book of Adam and the book of Enoch which we have mentioned, and from them he learnt the proper forms in which to worship God. This explains how it is that he knew it was incumbent upon him to bring an offering; it was these books which revealed to him the basis on which the existence of the world depends, to wit, the sacrifices, without which neither the higher nor the lower world can endure.’ (2Enoch 45; 59:2-6; 66:3)
(Zohar 1:58)

1 Whoever hastens to make offerings before YHWH's face, YHWH for his part will hasten that offering by granting of his work.
2 But whoever increases his lamp before YHWH's face and make not true judgment, YHWH will not increase his treasure in the realm of the highest.
3 When YHWH demands bread, or candles, or the flesh of beasts, or any other sacrifice, then that is nothing; but Elohim demands pure hearts, and with all that only tests the heart of man.
(2Enoch 45:1-3)

2 For man brings clean animals to make sacrifice for sin, that he may have cure of his soul.
3 And if they bring for sacrifice clean animals, and birds man has cure, he cures his soul.
4 All is given you for food, bind it by the four feet that is to make good the cure, he cures his soul.
5 But whoever kills beast without wounds, kills his own souls and defiles his own flesh.
6 And he who does any beast any injury whatsoever, in secret, it is evil practice, and he defiles his own soul.
(2Enoch 59:2-6)

3 Bow down to the true Elohim, not to dumb idols, but bow down to his similitude, and bring all just offerings before YHWH's face. YHWH hates what is unjust.
(2Enoch 66:3)

Again we read in the Zohar:

AND THE SONS OF NOAH THAT WENT FORTH FROM THE ARK WERE SHEM, AND HAM, AND JAPHETH. R. Eleazar asked why the Scripture inserts the words “who went forth from the ark”. Did, then, Noah have other sons who did not go forth from the ark? R. Abba said: “Yes: the children whom his sons bore afterwards; and the Scripture points out that these did not go forth from the ark.’ R. Simeon said: ‘Had I been alive when the Holy One, blessed be He, gave mankind the book of Enoch and the book of Adam, I would have endeavoured to prevent their dissemination, because not all wise men read them with proper attention, and thus extract from them perverted ideas, such as lead men astray from the Most High to the worship of strange powers. Now, however, the wise who understand these things keep them secret, and thereby fortify themselves in the service of their Master.’
(Zohar 1:72b)

Here the Zohar does not indicate anything in particular that is actually said in the Book of Enoch. The next reference to the Book of Enoch in the Zohar is as follows:

We find in the book of Enoch that after the Holy One, blessed be He, had transported Enoch to the supernal regions and shown him all the treasures of the King, both the celestial and the terrestrial (1Enoch 17-18; 2Enoch 5-6 ), He permitted him to behold the Tree of Life (1Enoch 24-25; 2Enoch 8:3) and that Tree of which Adam was warned (1Enoch 32:3-6), and showed him the place where Adam had dwelt in the Garden of Eden (1Enoch 32:3-6; 2Enoch 8), and Enoch perceived that if Adam had been obedient he would have so dwelt for ever, having eternal life and perpetual joy in the glory of the Garden. But because he broke the commandment of his Lord, he was punished.’(1Enoch 69:6)
(Zohar 2:55a)

This citation of the Book of Enoch references several things that are in fact found in 1st and 2d Enoch:

1. …the Holy One, blessed be He, had transported Enoch to the supernal regions and shown him all the treasures of the King, both the celestial and the terrestrial

This material is found in both 1st and 2nd Enoch:

1 And they took and brought me to a place in which those who were there were like flaming fire, and, when they wished, they appeared as men....
3 And I saw the places of the luminaries and the treasuries of the stars and of the thunder and in the uttermost depths, where were a fiery bow and arrows and their quiver, and a fiery sword and all the lightnings....
1 I saw the treasuries of all the winds: I saw how He had furnished with them the whole creation and the firm foundations of the earth.
(1Enoch 17:1,3; 18:1)

1 And here I looked down and saw the treasure houses of the snow, and the angels who keep their terrible store-houses, and the clouds whence they come out and into which they go.
1 They showed me the treasure house of the dew, like oil of the olive, and the appearance of its form, as of all the flowers of the earth; further many angels guarding the treasure-houses of these things, and how they are made to shut and open.
(2Enoch 5:1-6:1)

2. He permitted him to behold the Tree of Life

3 And the seventh mountain was in the midst of these, and it excelled them in height, resembling the seat of a throne: and fragrant trees encircled the throne.
4 And among them was a tree such as I had never yet smelt, neither was any among them nor were others like it: it had a fragrance beyond all fragrance, and its leaves and blooms and wood wither not for ever: and its fruit is beautiful, and its fruit resembles the dates of a palm.
5 Then I said: 'How beautiful is this tree, and fragrant, and its leaves are fair, and its blooms very delightful in appearance.'
6 Then answered Mikha’el, one of the set-apart and honored angels who was with me, and was their leader.
1 And he said unto me: 'Chanoch, why dost you ask me regarding the fragrance of the tree, and why dost you wish to learn the truth?'
2 Then I answered him saying: 'I wish to know about everything, but especially about this tree.'
3 And he answered saying: 'This high mountain which you hast seen, whose summit is like the throne of Elohim, is His throne, where the Set-apart Great One, YHWH of Glory, the Eternal King, will sit, when He shall come down to visit the earth with goodness.
4 And as for this fragrant tree no mortal is permitted to touch it till the great judgment, when He shall take vengeance on all and bring (everything) to its consummation for ever.
(1Enoch 24:3-25:4)

3 And in the midst of the trees that of life, in that place whereon YHWH rests, when he goes up into Pardes; and this tree is of ineffable goodness and fragrance, and adorned more than every existing thing; and on all sides it is in form gold-looking and vermilion and fire-like and covers all, and it has produce from all fruits.
(2Enoch 8:3)


3. and that Tree of which Adam was warned

3 And I came to the Pardes of Righteousness, I was shown from afar off trees more numerous than these trees and two great trees there, very great, beautiful, and glorious, and magnificent, and the tree of knowledge, whose set-apart fruit they eat and know great wisdom. That tree is in height like the fir,
4 and its leaves are like (those of) the Carob tree: and its fruit is like the clusters of the vine, very beautiful: and the fragrance of the tree penetrates afar.
5 Then I said: 'How beautiful is the tree, and how attractive is its look!'
6 Then Rafa’el the set-apart angel, who was with me, answered me and said: 'This is the tree of wisdom, of which your father of old and your mother of old, who were before you, have eaten, and they learned wisdom and their eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked and they were driven out of the garden.
(1Enoch 32:3-6)

4. and showed him the place where Adam had dwelt in the Garden of Eden

(This is found in the passages from 1st and 2nd Enoch already cited above)

5. and Enoch perceived that if Adam had been obedient he would have so dwelt for ever, having eternal life and perpetual joy in the glory of the Garden. But because he broke the commandment of his Lord, he was punished.’

1Enoch does in fact mention the event of Adam’s disobedience, thought the Zohar has either interpreted further information from the account, or the version held by its author contained further information:

And the third was named Gadreel:
he it is who showed the children of men all the blows of death, and he led astray Eve, and showed [the weapons of death to the sons of men] the shield and the coat of mail, and the sword for battle, and all the weapons of death to the children of men.
(1Enoch 69:6)

The next mention of the Book of Enoch is as follows:

There is here a profound mystery. According to the Book of Enoch, this “building” [the palace above the garden] is indeed constructed by the other spirit which was left in the “vessel,’, and which draws after him the spirit which roams about in the air naked and alone; and these two spirits are welded together, and if the person is worthy to be built up again, the two spirits become one indeed, an organ in which a superior soul may wrap herself. (1Enoch 13-14?)
(Zohar 2:100a)

In fact 1Enoch does in fact give us an account of this heavenly palace:

8 And behold a dream came to me, and visions fell down upon me until I lifted my eyelids toward the gates of the palace of heaven, and I saw a vision of the wrath of chastisement, and a voice came to me and it said: Speak to the sons of heaven, and reprimand them....
9 And I went in till I drew near to a wall, which is built of crystals and surrounded by tongues of fire: and it began to frighten me.
10 And I went into the tongues of fire and drew near to a great house, which was built of crystals: and the walls of the house were like a tessellated floor (made) of ice.
11 Its ceiling was like the path of the stars and the lightning’s, and between them were fiery cherubim, and their heaven was (clear as) water.
12 A flaming fire surrounded all their walls, and its gates blazed with fire.
13 And I entered into that house, and it was hot as fire and cold as ice: there were no delights of life therein: fear covered me, and trembling got hold upon me.
14 And as I quaked and trembled, I fell upon my face.
15 And I beheld a vision, And lo! there was a second house, greater than the former, and the entire gate stood open before me, and it was built of flames of fire.
16 And in every respect it so excelled in splendour and magnificence and extent that I cannot describe to you its splendour and its extent.
17 And its floor was of fire, and above it were lightning’s and the path of the stars, and its ceiling also was flaming fire.
(1Enoch 18:8; 14:9-17)

The next citation of the book of Enoch in the Zohar is as follows:

“The dust of the earth” is a reference similar to that explained in the Book of Enoch, that the associates saw the letters of which these words are composed, and a voice was heard, saying: “Awaken and sing, ye who dwell in the dust” (Isa..XXVI, I9). The first edifice of the world (of the pre-resurrection period) will be as refuse in comparison with the second edifice (of the post-resurrection period), for this last will be perfected according to the Divine plan. (2Enoch 47:5)
(Zohar 2:105b)

In fact 2Enoch does make use of the phrase “dust of the earth” but again it is unclear whether the author of the Zohar’s copy containe more information, or if he has used an unknown method of interpretation:

YHWH has placed the foundations in the unknown, and has spread forth heavens visible and invisible; he fixed the earth on the waters, and created countless creatures, and who has counted the water and the foundation of the unfixed, or the dust of the earth, or the sand of the sea, or the drops of the rain, or the morning dew, or the wind's breathings? Who has filled earth and sea, and the indissoluble winter?
(2Enoch 47:5)

The next citation of Enoch in the Zohar is:

We have found in the Book of Enoch the following: “An only son [Tr. note: Aaron.] will be born unto Him of the White Head, [Tr. note The Supernal Priest] and when they of the asses’ flesh [Tr.note: The mixed multitude, cf Ezek, XXIII, 20] shall come, they will mislead him through him who puts pearls into bells of gold without knowing what he does, and an image will be fashioned with a chisel.” (1Enoch 89?)
(Zohar 2:192b)

The reference is likely to 1Enoch which mentions offspring of a white bull:

12 But that white ox-calf which was born from him begat a black wild boar and a white sheep; and the former begat many boars, but that sheep begat twelve sheep.
(1Enoch 89:12)

And an apostate race of men represented by asses:

11 And they began to bite and to chase one another; but that white bull which was born among them begat a wild ass and a white ox with it, and the wild asses multiplied.
(1Enoch 89:11)

The next citation of Enoch in the Zohar is as follows:

Hence the words spoken by the Torah: “and I would be playing always before him” (Prov. VIII, 30), In the verse cited there is twice mention of “them that fear the Lord”; the first indicates the men themselves as they are here below, and the second their images as reflected in their words that ascend on high. This esoteric doctrine is found in the Book of Enoch, where it says that all the words of exposition uttered by the righteous on earth are adorned with crowns and are arrayed before the Holy One, blessed be He, who delights Himself with them. They then descend and come up again before His presence in the image of that righteous man who gave expression to them, and God then delights Himself with that image. The words, then, are inscribed in “a book of remembrance before Him”, so as to endure for evermore. “And they that thought upon His name” is an allusion to those that meditate on the words of Torah in order thereby to cleave to their Master through an insight into the Divine Name, so as to know Him and beceme equipped with the wisdom of His name in their heart. It is written: “And above the firmament that was over their heads was as the appearance of a sapphire stone, the likeness of a throne” (Ezek. I, 26). (????)
(Zohar 2:217a)

It is unknown whether the author in the Zohar has cited a lost passage of Enoch or he has applied an unknown method of interpretation to an unknown Zohar passage.

R. Eleazar said: ‘There is a mystery relating to the offering in the verse, “I have come to my garden, my sister, my bride... eat, 0 friends, drink, 0 beloved” (S.S. v, 1), which I have seen in the book of Enoch.’ Said R. Simeon: ‘Tell us what you have seen and heard.’ (1Enoch 77:3?)
(Zohar 3:240a)

This could be a reference to any number of passages in either 1st or 2nd Enoch however a likely passage is one from 1Enoch:

3 And the fourth quarter, named the north, is divided into three parts: the first of them is for the dwelling of men: and the second contains seas of water, and the abysses and forests and rivers, and darkness and clouds; and the third part contains the garden of righteousness.
(1Enoch 77:3)

In addition to the ten direct references to the Book of Enoch there are many passages where the authors of the Zohar draw from material in the Book of Enoch. The Book of Enoch gives a detailed account of the fall of angels only implied in Genesis. According to the Book of Enoch these fallen angels were led by two major fallen angels named Shemikhaza and Azzazel. These angels copulated with men and beasts to produce a race of giants later whipped out by the flood. They also taught men many things including secrets of sorcery. Finally they were judged by being chained in a pit until the time of judgment.

The Zohar mentions this fall as follows:

R. Isaac said: "Uzza and Azael fell from the abode of their sanctity
above, they saw the daughters of mankind and sinned with them and
begat children. These were the Nefilim, of whom it is said, THE
NEFILIM WERE IN THE EARTH (Gen. 6:4)."
(Zohar 1:37a)

“Of the Nefilim it is said: “and the sons of God saw the daughters
of men that they were fair” (Gen. 6:1f). These form a second
category of the Nefilim, already mentioned above, in this way:
When God thought of making man, He said: “Let us make man
in our image, etc.” i.e. He intended to make him head over the
celestial beings, who were to be his deputies, like Joseph over
the governors of Egypt (Gen. 41:41). The angels thereupon
began to malign him and say, “What is man that You should
remember him, seeing that he will assuredly sin before You.”
Said God to them, “If you were on earth like him, you would
sin worse.” And so it was. For “when the sons of God saw the
daughters of man”, they fell in love with them, and God cast
them down from heaven. These were Uzza and Azael; from them
the “mixed multitude” derive their souls, and therefore they also
are called nefilim, because they fell into fornication with fair
women.”
(Zohar 1:25b)

The Zohar account agrees with that of 1st Enoch except for abbreviating the name Shemikhazah with Uzza. In fact according to the Zohar Balam knew where Uzza and Azael were kept in chains, and went to them to learn his sorcery:

…after God cast Uzza and Azael down from their holy
place, they went astray after the women folk and seduced
the world also. It may seem strange that being angels they
were able to abide upon the earth. The truth is, however,
that when they were cast down the celestial light which
used to sustain them left them and they were changed to
another grade through the influence of the air of this world.
Similarly the manna which came down for the Israelites in
the wilderness originated in the celestial dew from the most
recondite spot, and at first its light would radiate to all worlds
and the “field of apples”, and the heavenly angels drew
sustenance from it, but when it approached the earth it
became materialized through the influence of the air of
this world and lost its brightness, becoming only like
“coriander seed”. Now when God saw that these fallen
angels were seducing the world, He bound them in chains of
iron to a mountain of darkness. Uzza He bound at the bottom
of the mountain and covered his face with darkness because
he struggled and resisted, but Azael, who did not resist, He
set by the side of a mountain where a little light penetrated.
Men who know where they are located seek them out,
and they teach them enchantments and sorceries and
divinations. These mountains of darkness are called the
“mountains of the East”, and therefore Balaam said:
“From Aram has Balak brought me, from the mountains
of the East”. Because they both learnt their sorceries there.
Now Uzza and Azael used to tell those men who came to
them some of the notable things which they knew in former
times when they were on high, and to speak about the holy
world in which they used to be.
(Zohar 3:208a)

In which place and from whom did Balaam derive all his
Magical practices and knowledge? Rabbi Isaac replied:
“He learned it first from his father, but it was in the
"mountains of the East”, which are in an eastern country,
that he obtained a mastery of all the arts of magic and
divination. For those mountains are the abode of the
[fallen] angels Uzza and Azael whom the Holy One cast
down from heaven, and who were chained there in fetters.
It is they who impart to the sons of men a knowledge of
magic.
(Zohar 1:126a)

Here it is helpful to examine the 1st century Book of Y’hudah (Jude) in the so-called “New Testament”. This book quotes from the Book of Enoch (Jude 1:14-15 = 1Enoch 1:9) and references the account of the fallen angels (Jude 1:6-7, 13) as a typology for a last days apostasy. Y’hudah goes on to call this apostasy “the error of Balam” (Jude 1:11). Clearly the book of Y’hudah and the Zohar point to a first century tradition that Balam obtained his sorcery as a follower of the fallen angels mentioned in the Book of Enoch.

An examination of the Zohar in light of the Book of Enoch demonstrates that the Zohar could not have been a forgery produced by Moses De Leon, nor any other European living in the Middle Ages. The authors of the Zohar express a knowledge of the Book of Enoch and its contents which was impossible anytime between its loss in ancient times and its nineteenth century restoration. In fact the authentic use of the Book of Enoch in the Zohar supports the claim that at least the core of the Zohar is what it claims to be, a document compiled by first century Rabbi, the authors of which demonstrate a working knowledge of documents well known in the first century, yet unknown in the middle ages, and also of first century traditions associating Balam with the Enoch account.




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