Why did the Church Fathers believe in the return of Enoch and Elijah?


#1

Hello,
I am still thinking about this. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia

Return of Enoch and Elijah

The belief that these two men, who have never tasted death, are reserved for the last times to be precursors of the Second Advent was practically unanimous among the Fathers, which belief they base on several texts of Scripture. (Concerning Elijah see Malachi 4:5-6; Sirach 48:10; Matthew 17:11; concerning Enoch see Sirach 44:16)

Is it just because they were taken to heaven by God? And, more importantly, what about Elijah, who is said to have returned in the Person of John the Baptist by Christ himself?

Matthew 11:13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
14 And if ye will receive it, this is that Elijah who was to come.
15 He that has ears to hear, let him hear.

I can’t understand why the Fathers would ignore this. And for Enoch, the quotation of Sirach doesn’t mean for sure that he has to come again.

So where does this belief come from, knowing that the Fathers know their Gospel like no other? :slight_smile:

Thank you for your thoughts


#2

Partly because of a prophesy in the last chapter of Malachi mentions Elijah being sent at the end of the world. Also the understanding that John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord’s first coming and the Elijah is to prepare people for His second coming. Jesus in an obscure way says that Elijah is to come and restore all things, and compares John the Baptists’ ministry to that of Elijah.

Also Elijah and Enoch never died, and since the book of Hebrews says that man is appointed to die once and then the judgment, Enoch and Elijah still are appointed to die, and that fits in with the 2 witnesses.

The miracles of the 2 witnesses are very similar in nature as Elijah’s.


#3

He, John the Baptist, is that Elijah. Is it obscure by Jesus?

Men have to die, unless they receive a special grace, by the merits of Christ. So it is not an absolute.


#4

As the Fathers such as Jerome pointed out, is that the Baptist was not literally Elijah because that would mean he was reincarnated, and that is against Christian doctrine.

As for the passage in Hebrews about man has to die once, as for absolute, all I know is that’s how the Fathers understood it, and made the connection with Enoch and Elijah.


#5

We surely do not believe John being a reincarnation of Elijah :D. But I understand Jesus to say that Elijah came, even if not in person, Elijah being a great prophet and John the Baptist being the summed-up version of all the prophets, so to speak.

Alright for your second paragraph, but does anyone know why the Fathers made this connection?

27And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

It is like the passage where it is said that all have sinned, but Christ. Yes, still Christ saved Mary from sin, and she then remained sinless. So because a passage doesn’t say a thing in the negative, doesn’t mean it is free from exceptions.


#6

Great deep thinking question. I will look into that!


#7

Now you got me, I guess :wink: Moreover, the idea of diyng once and then comes judgement was precisely to reject some sort of metempsychosis or reincarnation, in parallel with a warning to live a worthy life, and finally to reiterate that Jesus sacrifice was once and for all done, unlike other sacrifices.
That all men have to die was strictly speaking proven wrong :D.


#8

They are the two witnesses in Revelation.


#9

Here is the footnote form the original Douay Rheims Bible of 1609, which has the best footnotes of any English Study in my opinion,

My two witnesses. Enoch and Elijah, as is commonly expounded. For that Elijah shall again come before the latter day, “it is a most notorious known thing (to use St. Augustine’s words) in the mouths and hearts of faithful men.” (See li. 20. de Civit. Dei. c. 29. Tract. .4. in Joan, and both of Enoch and Elijah, lib. J . de pec. merit, c. 3). So the rest of the Latin Doctors: as, St. Jerome, (ad Pammach. ep. 61. c. 11. and in Psal. xx). St. Ambrose in (Psal. xlv.) St. Hilary, (20. can. in Mat.) Prosper, (li. ultimo de Promissionibus, c. 13). St. Gregory, (li. 14, Moral, c. 11. ho. 12. in Ezech). St. Bede in (ix. Marci). The Greek Fathers also, as St. Chrysostom. (hom. 58. in Mat and ho. 4. in 2 Thessal. ho. 21. in Genes, and ho. ‘2-2. in ep. ad Hebr.) Theophylact and Oecumenus in (xvii. Matthan). St. John of Damascus, (li. 4. de Orthodoxa fide, c. 97). Furthermore, that they live also in Paradise, it is partly gathered out of the Scripture, Sirach 44:16, where it is plainly said of Enoch, that “he is translated into Paradise,” as all our Latin copies do read: and of Elijah, that he was taken up alive, it is evident, 2 Kings 2:11. And St. Irenaeus says, it is the tradition of the Apostles that they are both there (Li. 5. initio). " Dicunt Presbyteri (says he) qui sunt Apostolorum Discipuli, So say the Priests or Ancients that are the scholars of the Apostles.’’- See St. Justin Martyr, (q. So. ad Orthodoxos). Finally, that they shall return into the company of men in the end of the world, to preach against Antichrist, and to invite both Jews and Gentiles to penance, and so be martyred, as this place of the Apocalypse seems plain, so we have in part other testimonies of this, Malachi 4. Sirach 44:16. 48:10. Mat. 17:11. See also Hippolytus’s book of “Antichrist and the end of the world.” All which being well considered, the heretics are too combative and doubtful, to discredit the same, as they commonly do.

I may have assumed wrongly about the Hebrews passage being a common interpretation by the Fathers. I will look more into it.


#10

Here is another really good bit of info on this sites.google.com/site/aquinasstudybible/home/revelation/ddddd


#11

Yes, but only to connect the two figures with the two witnesses without explaining why isn’t much of an argument. It doesn’t prove it is correct or incorrect. Why not include Moses, as in the Transfiguration episode, and why Enoch. I am not arguing that God shouldn’t do what he does how he does it, I am asking what is the logic.
They are two, yes…:).


#12

Thank you very much. As I read there, there is more agreement on Elijah than on Enoch, logically.


#13

(SORRY, IT WAS TOO LATE TO EDIT)

Thank you very much. As I read there, there is more agreement on Elijah than on Enoch, logically.
However, Jesus told us Elijah came at least “spiritually” (don’t get me wrong) or John the Baptist had his function. It is also why I am not 100% sure why he could come bodily too, if he “came” already and was confirmed by the Lord. That coming was only not what it literally meant, although it could later; I am not closing any door.

So I see it. Malachy’s passage is sure about the End of Times, but it is also seen (by me at least?) as the coming of the Lord, the Eternal, Jesus, who is God with us.
Therefore I tend to read it as we understand Jesus being called Emmanuel and whose name is Jesus, then Elijah “God is YHWH” is told by many prophets, as a sign of repentence or conversion to YHWH. And clearly John the Baptist was the last before the Lord himself to call to repentence. Then the day of the Lord and the Kingdom of Heaven has already come, as Jesus said. Elijah then can be either the person herself, or the name is also understood as the function, as we know, because the person herself in the Old Testament is Hezekiah. Still, we understand this as being the bodily (?) foreshadowing of what would come in Christ.


#14

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.