|A199 : by Tony Garland |
Your question is a good one which comes up from time-to-time: what are we to make of apparent references from within the Bible to ideas or events which are mentioned by uninspired, noncanonical writings?
1 Enoch appears to be a composite writing produced before the time of Christ and therefore before Jude which was written around 62 A.D. 1 “1 Enoch is clearly composite, representing numerous periods and writers.”2 Chapter 1, which contains our passage of interest, appears to be dated late pre-Christian. “We are not certain about the city or place in which 1 Enoch was, or its constituent parts were, composed. However, it is clear that the work originated in Judea and was in use at Qumran before the beginning of the Christian period.”3
By way of comparison, let’s take a look at the passage from Jude and compare it with the similar passage from the book of Enoch. Here’s the passage from Jude:
Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”4
Here is the related passage in 1 Enoch (1:3-9):
And I [Enoch] took up with a parable (saying), “The God of the universe, the Holy Great One, will come forth from his dwelling. And from there he will march upon Mount Sinai and appear in his camp emerging from heaven with a mighty power. And everyone shall be afraid, and Watchers shall quiver. And great fear and trembling shall seize them unto the ends of the earth. Mountains and high places will fall down and be frightened. And high hills shall be made low; and they shall melt like a honeycomb before the flame. And earth shall be rent asunder, and all that is upon the earth shall perish. And there shall be a judgment upon all, (including) the righteous. And to all the righteous he will grant peace. He will preserve the elect, and kindness shall be upon them. They shall all belong to God and they shall prosper and be blessed; and the light of God shall shine unto them. Behold, he will arrive with ten million [ten thousand times a thousand] of the holy ones in order to execute judgment upon all. He will destroy the wicked ones and censure all flesh on account of everything that they have done, that which the sinners and the wicked ones committed against him.”5
Although both Jude and the writer of 1 Enoch appear to have the same prophecy in view and although 1 Enoch was written prior to Jude we notice variations in the two accounts which suggest that Jude may not be drawing his information directly from 1 Enoch. Jude numbers those with the Lord as “ten thousands” (μυριάσιν [myriasin]) whereas 1 Enoch mentions “ten million.” (However, this difference may not be as significant as it appears because μυριάσιν [myriasin] can denote the idea of a “uncountable number” much as “ten million” might be used.) There are also differences in the details which Jude and 1 Enoch ascribe to the ungodly. These seemingly minor variations between the two passages raise the question of whether Jude is truly quoting 1 Enoch or whether both Jude and 1 Enoch had independent knowledge of the same prophecy?
Whether Jude was knowledgeable of 1 Enoch or not, the fact that this prophecy concerning Enoch also appears in 1 Enoch has no direct bearing on the trustworthiness of Jude and the clear evidence that although Jude is part of the inspired Biblical canon the book of 1 Enoch most certainly is not. Just because similar information may be recorded by two different authors or works does not establish that one was necessarily dependent upon the other or that either or both are reliable in all that they record. Other factors must be appealed to when considering original sources and relative reliability.
Scholars have puzzled over the absence of any reference in the Old Testament to this prophecy attributed to Enoch. Since Jude’s statement is similar to a passage in the apocryphal Book of Enoch (1:9)—written prior to 110 B.C. and thus probably known by the early Christians—many assume that Jude is quoting from that book. Others suggest that the difference between Jude’s words and the Book of Enoch indicate that Jude received the information about Enoch directly from God, or that under divine inspiration he recorded an oral tradition. None of these views affects the doctrine of inspiration adversely. If Jude quoted the apocryphal book, he was affirming only the truth of that prophecy and not endorsing the book in its entirety (cf. Paul’s quotation of the Cretan poet Epimenides, in Titus 1:12)6
We also note that 1 Enoch is among the pseudepigrapha (literally: “false writings”)—not even on a par with the Apocrypha which are considered of significant historical value (and as a secondary canon within the canon, deuterocanonical, by Roman Catholicism). Yet there is solid evidence that even the Apocrypha should not be considered authoritative. There is an almost unbroken testimony of antiquity against accepting the Apocrypha into the canon: (1) Philo quoted the OT prolifically, but never quoted from the Apocrypha as inspired. (2) Josephus explicitly excludes the Apocrypha, numbering the books of the OT as twenty-two. Neither does he quote the apocryphal books as Scripture. (3) Jesus and the NT writers never once quote the Apocrypha although there are hundreds of quotes and references to almost all of the canonical books of the OT. (4) The Jewish scholars of Jamnia (A.D. 90) did not recognize the Apocrypha. (5) No canon or council of the Christian church recognized the Apocrypha as inspired for nearly four centuries. (6) Many of the great Fathers of the early church spoke out against the Apocrypha, for example, Origin, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius. (7) Jerome, the great scholar and translator of the Latin Vulgate, rejected the Apocrypha as part of the canon. (8) Many Roman Catholic scholars through the Reformation period rejected the Apocrypha. (9) Luther and the Reformers rejected the canonicity of the Apocrypha.
[The Apocrypha] seem not to have been included in the beginning in the Septuagint, but they were gradually introduced into its later editions. Neither Josephus nor Philo cites them. Christ and the apostles never referred to them, although they freely used the text of the Septuagint and were certainly acquainted with the material in question. (Jude 1:9 may allude to the Book of Enoch, a pseudepigraph). . . In the first century, Jerome added the Apocryphal books to his Latin translation of the Bible, the Vulgate, calling attention to the evident difference between the inspiration of the canonical writings and the less significant spiritual value of these.7
Given that 1 Enoch is considered of secondary quality to the Apocrypha, we can see that whatever else it may record cannot be considered reliable and certainly not at all similar to Holy Writ.
This brings us to the other part of your question: to what degree should Christians be concerned to study or read works from these time periods which are known to have been rejected from the canon and deemed as unreliable to lesser or greater degrees? I would make the following observations:
In summary: Jude may not have been citing 1 Enoch; even if Jude was drawing upon 1 Enoch this has no bearing upon the inspired nature of Jude or uninspired nature of 1 Enoch; some noncanonical historical writings can be of value in our study of Biblical history; although we needn’t be afraid of noncanonical writings, neither should we give them greater importance than they deserve; those who are called as teachers in the body of Christ need to take special care in their use of noncanonical writings so as to not confuse or harm the sheep under their care.
- Some books among the Apocrypha (e.g., 1 and 2 Maccabees) can be very helpful in understanding aspects of Biblical history—especially between the testaments where the Bible itself is largely silent.8 I would be in favor of believers being familiar with this material to the degree it provides helpful context for understanding portions of the Bible (e.g., how Daniel 11 pertains to the life of Antiochus IV Epiphanes). I would urge caution here and focus on those few portions of the Apocrypha which are clearly historic rather than fanciful or apocalyptic.
- In relation to the Pseudepigrapha, I would not advise Christians to spend much time there. For one thing, newer Christians will likely become confused by the inconsistencies between what they may read in the pseudepigraphal work vs. inspired Scripture. As but one example, consider the references in 1 Enoch to Biblical topics such as Mt. Sinai, mountains falling down, hills melting, the earth being rent asunder, and so forth. Reading uninspired (and unreliable) accounts of similar themes from pseudepigraphal works will only serve to “muddy the waters” for the student of Scripture who won't necessarily be readily able to discern which parts of their resulting beliefs come from inspired vs. uninspired sources.
- When a teacher or person in authority within a church places undo emphasis upon the Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha, they are likely to harm those under their care. When these secondary sources are too frequently referred to, an authority is implicitly conferred upon them which blurs the critical distinction which must be maintained between writings which are inspired and inerrant in all their parts (the Biblical canon) and writings which may contain some truth couched within unintentional misinformation or even knowingly false presentation. Consider that Satan, the father of lies who has no truth in him (John 8:44) achieves his best success when serving up falsehood in association within some measure of truth—making it all the more difficult to detect (Gen. 3:1). Teaching is often “caught” rather than “taught” such that when those in authority frequently appeal to noncanonical texts they may inadvertently lead the tender sheep under their care astray.
I hope that helps.
|NKJV||Unless indicated otherwise, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.|
|Ref-0038||John Walvoord and Roy. B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: SP Publications, 1983).|
|Ref-0060||Rene Pache, The Inspiration And Authority Of Scripture (Salem: Sheffield Publishing Company, 1969).|
|Ref-0089||John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997).|
|Ref-1318||James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume 1: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1983). ISBN:0-385-18813-7a.|