One more note on the possible connection of sexual immorality in Revelation to the Enochic literature. Note Rev 2.20, “But I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” The italicized phrase translates και πλανα τους εμους δουλους πορνευσαι. Now maybe there’s evidence of a collocation of being led astray and sexual immorality somewhere in the Hebrew Bible, or in non-canonical literature [update: see 4Q184 (SJF)]. But one place where it certainly is prominent is in 1 Enoch—and, in at least one section of 1 En., there are some intriguing linguistic parallels with the Rev text. Here’s Nickelsburg’s translation of 1 En. 8.1c-2a:

1c And the sons of men made [jewelry, makeup, etc.] for themselves and for their daughters, and they transgressed and led astray the holy ones. 2a And there was much godlessness upon the earth, and they made their ways desolate. (Nickelsburg, 188)

The italicized phrase here reads, in Greek mss. of 1 Enoch, και επλανησαν τους αγιους. Compare Rev 2.20, και πλανα τους εμους δουλους. Here Revelation has “servants” (δουλους) instead of Enoch’s “holy ones” (αγιους). Black’s translation of 1 En 8.1-2 is different, however, based on different textual witnesses. His reading of 8.2 is “and there arose much impiety on the earth and they committed fornication and went astray and corrupted their ways” (Black, 29). Here, the Gk. mss. contain και επορνευσαν και απεπλανηθησαν. This is more in line with our text in Rev 2.20. Black does question whether this reading could be secondary, though: “could απεπλανηθησαν be an interpretative expansion of επορνευσαν, understood as ‘become idolatrous’?” (Black, 127)


Related to this, Duff (2001) has an extended section (Duff, 89-92) about the parallelism between the “Jezebel” of Rev 2 and “Babylon” in Rev 17-18, highlighting both of them deceiving/”leading astray” (18.23), having “illicit sexual practices” (2.20-22 / 17.1-5), and “consuming defiling food” (2.20 / 17.6). Here are a few of the texts from Rev 17-18:

Rev 17.4 (NRSV): The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication…

6 And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.

Rev 18.23 …your merchants were the magnates of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery. 24 And in you was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slaughtered on earth.”

Reading over these texts, I’m struck by some possible parallels to imagery and language in 1 En—all concentrated in several chapters. Here’s basically an abridged 1 Enoch chs. 7-9 (all Nickelsburg translation), with some themes that reappear throughout Rev 17-18 in bold:

[Ch 7]

[The watchers] and all the others with them took for themselves wives from among them as they chose. And they began to go in to them, and to defile themselves through them, and to teach them sorcery and charms, and to reveal to them the cutting of roots and plants. 2 And they conceived from them and bore to them great giants… 3 They were devouring the labor of all the sons of men, and men were not able to supply them. 4 And the giants began to kill men and to devour them 5 …and they drank the blood. 6 Then the earth brought accusation against the lawless ones.

[Ch. 8]

1 Asael taught men to make swords of iron and weapons and shields and breastplates and every instrument of war. He showed them metals of the earth and how they should work gold to fashion is suitably, and concerning silver, to fashion it for bracelets and ornaments for women. And he showed them concerning antimony and eye paint and all manner of precious stones and dye. And the sons of men made them for themselves and for their daughters, and they transgressed and led astray the holy ones. 2 And there was much godlessness upon the earth, and they made their ways desolate. 3 Shemihazak taught spells and the cutting of roots. Hermani taught sorcery for the loosing of spells and magic and skill…

[Ch 9]

1 Then Michael and Sariel and Raphael and Gabriel looked down from the sanctuary of heaven upon the earth and saw much bloodshed upon the earth. All the earth was filled with godlessness and violence that had befallen it… 3 And now to [us], the holy ones of heaven, the souls of men make suit, saying, ‘Bring in our judgment to the Most High…’


One other note: the archangels’ petition to God (which comes just after the sections of Enoch that I just quoted) reads:

“You are the God of gods and Lord of Lords and King of kings and God of the ages, And the throne of your glory (exists) for every generation of the generations that are from eternity. And your name (is) holy and great and blessed from all the ages.” (1 En 9.4)

Rev 17.14, in the context of the lamb’s victory over the ten kings, also contains the epithets together, “Lord of lords and King of kings.” Nickelsburg has a good bit of discussion on the titles “God of gods,” “Lord of lords” and King of kings” occurring together here in 1 Enoch (Nickelsburg, 211-212). But he doesn’t find anywhere else in Jewish tradition where all of these phrases are together—the closest examples to it are Deut 10.17 (“God of gods and Lord of lords”) and Dan 2.47, “God of gods and Lord of kings” (armw !yhla hla !yklm). Actually, it turns out that “king of kings” doesn’t appear in the Hebrew Bible at all [Brettler 1989: 33]). Of course, Timothy 6.15 has “King of kings and Lord of lords.” And there’s also a Neo-Babylonian epithet of Marduk, “Lord of lords and King of kings” [reference?]. It could be argued that Revelation, fluent (probably) as it is with Persian imagery [reference?], (polemically?) appropriated this title. However, long ago Skehan (1948) pointed out that an Aramaic “King of kings, Lord of lords” (!wrm arm !yklm $lm) would have a gematria of 777. And, of course, there are other early Christian (Greek!) texts that show a proclivity for Hebrew/Aramaic gematria (Jn. 21.11 [Emerton 1958; Rastoin 2009]; and most likely Rev 13). Of course, it could be argued that there was some well-known Aramaic translation of that Neo-Babylonian Marduk text floating around (or just the epithet in some other context) that was known to the author of Rev… but to say that the author got this phrase from the Aramaic 1 Enoch might be a simpler explanation (especially in light of Revelation’s familiarity with Enochic tradition in many other places).