God grabs Enoch by the hair to take him up to heaven in this detail from a page of the 12th-century Stammheim Missal (the full page appears on the cover of this issue). Enoch is a minor figure in the canonical Old Testament—he’s mentioned briefly in Genesis in the genealogical list of Adam’s descendants leading to Noah. But Adam’s great-great-great-great-grandson is distinguished from the rest of the “begats” by the fact that, instead of simply dying like the rest, “Enoch was no more, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24).
The privilege of being taken up to heaven is of course not unique in the Bible: Jesus is the better-known case. As author Birger A. Pearson demonstrates, there are numerous parallels between the life of Jesus as told in the Gospels and the life of Enoch as told in a series of extrabiblical Books of Enoch, written mostly between the fourth century B.C.E. and the first century C.E.