Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Problem of Enoch: Lecture Manuscript

Main Enoch Post


At the time when Barnabas wrote, Enoch was held to be an inspired book; it retained this reputation more or less throughout the second century, and from that date onwards was more or less emphatically condemned.

This is a statement from Charles Bigg, who wrote on Jude in the highly-acclaimed International Critical Commentary of the New Testament of 1901. Charles, an expert on Old Testament Psuedepigrapha in the early 1900’s, agreed and added, “With the earlier Fathers and Apologists it had all the weight of a canonical book.” A much more modern scholar, James VanderKam, also gives his assent, “Enoch's writings were a legitimate source of authority for some time [among early Christians].” 

This claim is enormous. These scholars, along with many others, are declaring that a book was at one point considered authoritative but then later fell out of favor. If this is true, the implications would be quite massive, not only for how we view the early church in general, but also for how we view our canon and what is authoritative for us as Christians today.


Tonight, I would like to look at these claims and the evidence they are based on. I will tell you now, that based on my own personal research, these claims do seem to be true, though I am still very open for all possibilities. Tonight, my aim will not so much be to talk about the actual contents of Enoch but rather to walk you through it’s reception in the early church and let the original sources speak for themselves. I then want to spend the remaining time discussing the implications, especially in the realm of canon. I am warning you, this will be a bit of an information overload. 

I do want to make you aware that this thesis of mine is largely unfinished. I have no solution to the problem I bring up, my aim is more of bringing you guys in on my research and hopefully we can think through this together. This started as the final project in last year’s NT Canon class, (which was phenomenal and something I recommend to everyone) and I have been slowly adding to it ever since, but it seems this issue will require a great deal more work if I am going to get to the bottom of it. I will be honest with the holes in my argument of which I am aware of, and encourage your feedback if you see even more.

So, without further ado, let us jump into the content of the lecture. 

As a new believer, reading the Bible for the first time with eyes of faith, I remember getting to the Book of Jude and having absolutely no idea what to do with it. It seemed to me to be so foreign and made use of really weird stories I had never heard of. Like when Jude casually mentions that one time when Michael the archangel was arguing with the devil about the body of Moses. Yeah, I remember from Sunday school. I mean, what do you do with that? But that seems to be precisely the way Jude uses it, as if his hearers knew exactly what he was talking about. But what really grabbed my attention was that infamous quote in Jude 14 and 15, introduced in the same, casual way. 

“And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." 

Jude is here using the apparent quote from Enoch, the mysterious man mentioned in the days before the flood. All we know of him from the Old Testament is that he “walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” There is not even a hint of him being a prophet, or writing anything down. Jude, however, says otherwise.
According to the brother of Jesus, Enoch, the same man from before the flood, prophesied. What’s more, Jude introduces the contents of this prophecy in exactly the same way Jesus introduces prophecy from Isaiah (Matt 15:7/Mark 7:6). Gene Green, who wrote the commentary on Jude and 2 Peter for the Baker Commentary set, notes that “Jude invests Enoch with authority that is equal to that of the OT prophets…Jude’s use of 1 Enoch…is different from Paul’s occasional appeal to Greek authors. Jude evokes 1 Enoch as predictive and authoritative revelation” (Green 32)

What is fascinating is that Jude refers to the prophecy as if his readers would know precisely what he was talking about, even to the point that he didn’t have to explain himself. The problem is, we read that today and most of us don’t have a clue as to what Jude is referring to. 

Once I started doing a little bit of research, I found that there actually is a Book of Enoch, which happens to have the exact quote Jude uses. 

In fact, we in the West now have three different books that bear Enoch’s name. The one that Jude quotes from and what will be focusing on tonight is called 1 Enoch. This 1 Enoch was actually lost to Judaism and Western Christianity for most of the second millennium and was not discovered until the latter half of the 1700’s. Once discovered, the first full translation wasn’t completed until 1821, which means access to Enoch for western scholars is a recent phenomenon, recent enough, in my opinion, to not yet be fully realized in our theology.
Now, this is not the case with non-western scholars. In fact, the Ethiopian Church seems to have regarded 1 Enoch as canonical since ancient times. This church is very old and claims to have roots that go back to the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts, though we have record of their presence from at least the 4th century. It is from them that western scholars “discovered” 1 Enoch.

Ok. We have just gone through the background, why don’t we take a look at 1 Enoch’s contents.
            Scholars divide 1 Enoch into five sections: The Book of the Watchers (Ch 1-36), The Book of the Parable (37-71), The Book of the Luminaries (72-82), The Dream Visions (83-90), The Epistle of Enoch (91-105), and the Birth of Noah (106-107). Almost all Western scholars maintain that each section once circulated independently. The most attested to is the Book of the Watchers. It is from this book that we have the quote in Jude fourteen and fifteen, and the allusions in Jude 6, 2 Peter, and Genesis 6. Scholars generally date the Book of the Watchers to 200 BC at the latest. One even calls for a fifth-century composition. 

            This Book of Watchers basically elaborates on the curious scene mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4 that involves the Sons of God, the daughters of men, and the Nephilim. In chapters six through eleven, we are told of how the Watchers, who were angels in the days of Jared, saw the daughters of men and lusted after them. Two hundred of them banded together and descended to Earth, each taking a wife and having hybrid offspring who were massive giants who later caused all sorts of trouble on Earth.

            During this time the Watchers also taught mankind all sorts of secrets of heaven. Charms, astrology, enchantments, weapons of warfare, how to work metal, and even the “beautifying of eyelids” were taught to men. This increased the wickedness of man and they cried out to God. God responded  by sentencing the Watchers to be held prisoner in a terrible valley of punishment until the day of judgment and commissioning his angel Uriel to go and tell Noah to hide himself, for God was going to rid the earth of mankind by the flood thus connecting the flood with the fall of these angels. 

            Enoch is the main character in this story and is used as a messenger between the fallen angels and God, and is given knowledge and visions from God which are recorded in the following chapters. There is much more to the story, but skipping ahead, we are told this fascinating bit of information:

“And Uriel said to me, “Here shall stand in many different appearances the spirits of the angels which have united themselves with women. They have defiled the people and will lead them into error so that they will offer sacrifices to the demons as unto gods, until the great day of judgment in which they shall be judged till they are finished.”
Here we are told that the spirits of these fallen angels will lead the people into sacrificing to the demons as gods. Remember that because as we will see, it will play a major part in the early church.

Doesn’t it all sound like it could be an epic movie right out of Hollywood? If I were to tell most Christians today that this story was not fiction but history, their immediate reaction would probably be that of skepticism. However, we are about to be confronted with the startling evidence that some of the apostles and the generations right after them did indeed believe this and claimed it as truth. 

            Before we dive in, however, I want to make a few things plain. I will attempt to trace two different threads that are found in the references of the early church – those who mention the writings of Enoch and those who simply refer to this story of the fall of the angels. To try and make things clearer, the sources in the first thread will be in green and the second thread will be blue.  The reason I believe the second thread, those who simply refer to the story of the fall of the angels, to be pointing back to the Book of the Watchers in 1 Enoch is because 1 Enoch is the most developed and oldest form of the story. So even though some may not be aware of 1 Enoch themselves, their use of the fall of the angels shows that it was a common tradition of their time, thus pointing to the authority of 1 Enoch. This is a major peg on which I hang my thesis, so if it proves to be false, the evidence will shrink a bit.

            Let us first give some background to what the early church came into. Within Second Temple Judaism, the Book of Enoch was used authoritatively in several intertestimental books including 2 Baruch, 4 Ezra, Sirach, Pseudo-Eupolemus, and the Assumption of Moses. Both in the Book of Jubilee's and the Testament of the 12 Patriarchs Enoch was considered to be scripture and was heavily used and borrowed from. 

            We also have much evidence from Qumran, the Jewish apocalyptic community where the dead sea scrolls were found, that they held the Book of Enoch in high regard. A quick example would be that there were more copies of the Book of the Watchers found than copies of most biblical books. 

            The doctrine of the fall of the angels in regards to Genesis 6 was widely used in Judaism as well. One of an often used copy of the Septuagint, around 250ish BC, actually translated Genesis 6:2 as angels of God instead of sons of God. Though this doesn’t point directly to Enoch, but it does speak to the common interpretation of the day. The two Jewish historians Josephus and Philo are a bit confusing on the issue. At the very least, we can affirm that the historians knew and used the fallen angels interpretation, and could have even ascribed to it. 

Though there is much evidence in 2nd Tempe Judaism of 1 Enoch’s acceptance, it is hard to know the complete extent of its influence, leading Nickelsberg to conclude that its authority among Jews is uncertain. However it does seem that the Angelic interpretation of Genesis 6 was popular. Richard Bauckham, who wrote the well-respected Jude/2 Peter WBC commentary, is bold enough to say that the fall of the angels was the standard interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 of that day.
 
            What matters though, is the acceptance within Christianity. So, having established that 1 Enoch was a formidable presence in Second Temple Judaism, let us finally turn to the church. (This is when things will be going really quick). I will reserve the New Testament for later, which means the Epistle of Barnabas is the earliest document mentioning our topic. Written around 135 AD, this document was highly regarded in the early church and it seems many believed it to actually be the work of Barnabas. Within it we clearly see Enoch cited as Scripture by name, indicating that the author both held Enoch to be authoritative and believed it to actually be written by Enoch. 

            Justin Martyr is our first church leader as a witness. He wrote around the middle of the second century. While he never mentions Enoch or his writings, he has an entire chapter devoted to how the angels fell. Here he describes it, with details found nowhere in today’s canon:

…and entrusted the care of men and women and of things under heaven to angels whom He appointed over them. But the angels transgressed this order, and were captivated by love of women, and produced children who are called demons. And besides later they enslaved the human race to themselves, partly by magical writings, and partly by fears and punishments which they occasioned, and partly by teaching them to offer sacrifices… (Second apology 4)

            Justin not only states that these fallen angels disobeyed God, descended to Earth, and mated with women, which might be taken just from the canon, but he mentions that their offspring were demons and that they taught men magical writings. What’s more, when viewed in context, Justin is here using this story to prove that the Greek gods were the wicked watchers, which speaks to the authority Justin ascribes to the Watcher tradition. He will not be the last to do so. Justin mentions the demons again in conjunction with “defiling women and corrupting boys” in his first apology proving that the story of the Watchers was firmly etched in his theology.

            Following Justin's lead, Athenagorus of Athens wrote around 176-180 of almost the exact same doctrine. He devoted two chapters just to explain the account how the angels fell and mated with women, whose offspring became the giants from whose souls demons sprang. Athenagorus then wrote a few more chapters to explain how these fallen angels influenced mankind to worship demons, among other details, including even the fact that the demons are the souls of the giants who wander the Earth. All of these details can be found in 1 Enoch.
            Next we have the testimony of Irenaeus. Ireneaus wrote around 180, and though he never reference’s Enoch’s book, he has a great amount to say about Enoch the person and the story of the Watchers, giving many details not found in today’s canon. When giving a chronology of well-known Biblical events, Irenaeus squeezes Enoch in right after Noah and before Moses. Irenaeus says that Enoch “discharged the office of God’s legate to the angels although he was a man[...]because the angels when they had transgressed fell to the earth for judgment,” not only connecting Enoch with events found only in Enochic tradition, but placing the event in line with the rest of Genesis. 

Irenaeus expands on this in “On the Apostolic Preaching” which is basically Irenaeus’ summary of Christian teaching which he seems to claim was handed down by the apostles. Right after Cain and Abel and before the flood, we have this interesting chapter:

And wickedness, spreading out for a long time, seized the entire race of man, until there was very little seed of righteousness in them. For <unlawful> unions occurred on earth, as angels united themselves with <…> daughters of men, who bore them sons, who, because of their exaggerated height, were called giants. The angels then gave <their> wives, as gifts, wicked teachings, for they taught them the powers of roots and herbs, of dyeing and <cosmetics>, and the discovery of precious material, love-potions, hatreds…all kinds of divination and idolatry hateful to God (On Apostolic Preaching 18)

This again, sounds quote foreign to us today, especially when we hear that these angels gave their wives these wicked teachings. This can, of course, be found in the Book of the Watchers.

            Clement of Alexandria, the precursor to the infamous Origen, wrote around 200. We hear from him, “Enoch says that the angels who transgressed taught men astronomy and divination and the other arts.” Because it seems that in context, Clement is appealing to Enoch as an authority, this tells us A, Enoch had a book which Clement believed to be written by The Enoch and B, confirms the story of the Watchers and gives us more information than is found in Genesis thus pointing to the Book of Enoch. Clement appeals to “Enoch says” once again in the same book. What’s even more interesting about Clement is that in one of his references to Enoch he alludes to the fact that the Watcher story was commonly held. He too assigned the Watcher myth as the reason for pagan gods, though he had a different way going about it.

            Tertullian of Carthage was the most prolific writer when it came to Enoch. He was an ardent supporter and without a doubt held to the Book of Enoch as inspired and written by Enoch. From his writings we ascertain that doubt had begun to creep in regards to Enoch for he gives us an entire chapter defending Enochs inspiration, making some pretty good points:

“I am aware that the Book of Enoch which assigns this role to the angels is not accepted because it is not admitted into the Jewish canon. I suppose it is not accepted because they did not think that a book written before the flood could have survived that catastrophe which destroyed the whole world.
Tertullian responds to this claim by pointing out that Noah was the great-grandson of Enoch himself and of course would have remembered the preaching of Enoch and his time with the fallen angels. Even if for some reason Noah forgot, Tertullian argues that under the Spirits inspiration, Noah could have renewed the Book of Enoch and then cites the tradition of Ezra.
Tertullian then continues:
But since Enoch in the same book tells us of our Lord, we must not reject anything at all which really pertains to us. Do we not read that every word of Scripture useful for edification is divinely inspired? As you very well know, it was rejected by the Jews for the same reason that prompted them to reject almost all the other portions which prophesied about Christ. Now, it is not at all surprising that they refused to accept certain Scriptures which spoke of Him when they were destined not to receive Him when He spoke to them Himself. To all that we may add the fact that we have a testimony to Enoch in the Epistle of Jude the Apostle (On the Apparel of Women 3).
There is much here, but I only have time to expand on a few points. It is obvious that Tertullian believes the Book of Enoch is authoritative, implying that its Scripture in the latter half of the quote. Notice also that Tertullian assumes that Jude’s use of 1 Enoch proves that Jude held to 1 Enoch as well.
            Also worthy of consideration is Tertullians' opinion about why the Jews reject the Book of Enoch. He argues that the Jews reject Enoch because Enoch preaches Christ, just like they do with other portions of Scripture. He even states that of course they would do so, for they rejected Jesus Himself while he pointed to the prophecies about him. This is important because as we will see one of the reasons the Book of Enoch falls out of favor is because the Jews reject it.
            Due to the limitation of our time, I will have to quickly scan the rest of the witnesses. Origen is an interesting case. He seemed to have had an evolution of thought regarding the Book of Enoch. He started off accepting the Book of Enoch as authoritative, but then slowly backed off a bit. Both Nickelsberg and Lawlor believed Origen held to Enochs authority, but it seemed some in the church started doubting it more, and Origen wasn't as public about it. Coupling this with the evidence of Tertullian, it seems that this is when 1 Enoch started sliding out of favor. What is very important about Origen’s testimony though is that he clearly mentions the Book of Enoch.

I can only make mention of Anatolius of Alexandria (270) who seems to use the Book of Enoch authoritatively and Lactantius (305), the poet Commodianus, and Epiphanius (376), and the two Chronographers Pandorus, Annianus of Alexandria (400’s) who all belong to that second thread of holding to the Angelic interpretation with Enochic details. There are even more church fathers that should be evaluated, but due to the sake of time, I have given only the witnesses that testify to the Book of the Watchers most clearly. 

Let’s take a step back. We know that nearly every single interpreter before the year 300 interpreted the Sons of God in Genesis 6 as angels. In fact, there is only one recorded father who interpreted the Sons of God as men—Julian Africanus. And even he makes reference to the extra canonical details found in the story of Enoch, though he doesn’t necessarily hold to it himself. 

So what we have here is the majority of the early church holding to the fallen angels interpretation of Genesis six. But that is the very least of it. Most add many more details to this fall that cannot be found in our canon, pointing to another tradition that they are pulling from, while others like Irenaeus go even further and actually connect Enoch to this fall. It cannot be a coincidence that the Book of the Watchers contains these extra-canonical details that are cited.

When you add in the fact that the writings of Enoch are held in high regard in parts of 2nd temple Judaism, quoted authoritatively by Clement of Alexandria and Origen, cited as Scripture by the Epistle of Barnabas and Tertullian, it seems that one cannot but come to the conclusion that the Book of the Watchers of 1 Enoch was held to be authoritative by the early church.

            With this is mind, it seems that this common tradition cited in the NT is not so mysterious any more.

  We read in 2 Peter 2:4 - 

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment. and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter”

Notice that Peter slides this sin of the angels right before Noah and the flood, paralleling Genesis and the Book of Enoch rather nicely. 

We also read in Jude 6 of this seemingly same event – 

6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day. Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. 

All of these details that seem perplexing to us today can be found in the Book of the Watchers. Even the pits of darkness, or simply, just “under darkness” as Jude puts it, is described in the Book of the Watchers:

And I saw what was inside those mountains—a place, beyond the great earth, where the heavens come together. And I saw a deep pit with heavenly fire on its pillars; I saw inside them descending pillars of fire that were immeasurable (in respect to both) altitude and depth. And on top of that pit I saw a place without the heavenly firmament above it or earthly foundation under it or water. There was nothing on it—not even birds—but it was a desolate and terrible place.

According to the Book of Enoch, this is where the rebellious watchers were put. In case anyone thinks Jude was pulling from something else, he makes things quite clear a few verses later:

“And about these also Enoch, [in] the seventh [generation] from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
This is found pretty much verbatim in 1 Enoch 1:9:

Behold, he comes with the myriads of his holy ones, to execute judgement on all, and to destroy all the wicked, and to convict all flesh for all the wicked deeds that they have done and the proud and hard words that wicked sinners spoke against him. (Nickelsberg)

Could this even be the answer to 1 Corinthians 11:10, where Paul makes a mysterious reference to the angels, again, as if his readers knew exactly what he was talking about?

“Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” 

            The evidence is now staggering. By the casual way that Peter, Jude, and possibly even Paul, refer to it, we know there was a very popular doctrine in the early church about the fall of the angels. It has to be extra-biblical because they refer to more material than what can be found in Genesis six. Through our research, it has been shown that Jude’s quote of Enoch is found almost verbatim in another work that claims to be written by the patriarch. This same work also happens to have the same extra-canonical material that 2 Peter and Jude 6 contain. It has now been proven that the generations that came after the apostles held to this same work, which mightily strengthens the case that this common tradition that Jude and Peter reference is one and the same as the Book of the Watchers of 1 Enoch. The conclusion seems inevitable. It seems that the apostles and the early church believed the Book of Enoch was both written by the Patriarch himself and that it was authoritative for them. 

So, what happened?

            Well, as I have mentioned earlier, doubt did begin to creep in regarding both 1 Enoch and the Angelic interpretation of Genesis 6. We see glimmers of some questioning the book of Enoch starting with the era of Clement and Tertullian, with things picking up a bit during the time of Origen. A little later, people seemed to have doubted the long-held story of the fall of the angels as well, as these two threads seem very much intertwined. With Athanasius, the curtain fell for the Book of Enoch, as he was the first leader to categorize it as “apocryphal” and associate it with heretics, which was ironic since many early fathers like Justin Martyr and Tertullian, as we have seen, actually used the Book of Enoch against heretics.   Many followed Athanasius’ lead, including Augustine and Jerome, who both helped seal the Book of Enoch’s fate.

            The reasons for this, however, are very unsatisfying.  We can see early on from both Tertullian and Origen that a major reason for the rejection of the Book of Enoch was that the Jews no longer held to its authority, and it was not in their canon. This argument against Enoch would prove to be vital to Augustine and Jerome as well. Another reason that comes up in Tertullian which Augustine echoes is that Enoch is so old that any book of his is at the very least suspect and probably not genuine. A third reason for the fall of Enoch which began with Athanasius was the charge that heretics were using it. There are other more minor reasons that may have contributed to the fall of Enoch, but none of them are any more convincing than these three. I think it will be beneficial to let these influential men who decided to remove Enoch from the church speak for themselves. First, we have Athanasius:

“Rather, (the category of apocrypha) is an invention of heretics, who write these books whenever they want and then generously add time to them, so that, by publishing them as if they were ancient, they might have a pretext for deceiving the simple folk...Who has made the simple folk believe that those books belong to Enoch even though no Scripture existed before Moses?” (Festal letter 39 Brakke)

Here, Athanasius’ reason against Enoch seems to be that the heretics forged it and that there was no scripture before Moses. Notice that many during Athanasius’ time still held to the Book of Enoch. Next we have Jerome:
“We have read in a certain apocryphal book that at the time when the sons of God were descending to the daughters of men, they descended to Mount Hermon and there entered into an agreement to come to the daughters of men and marry them. The book is very explicit and is counted among the Apocrypha. The ancient interpreters have sometimes spoken of it. We mention it, however, not as authoritative, but to call it to your attention.... (Nickelsburg 94). Homily 45 brevium ps. 132 3
This is very interesting because Jerome even admits that the ancient interpreters “sometimes spoke of it,” and then continues to call it apocrypha. 

Finally we have Augustine,

We cannot deny that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, left some divine writings, for that is asserted by the Apostle Jude in his canonical epistle. But it is not without reason that these writings have no place in that canon of Scripture which was preserved in the Temple of the Hebrew people…for their antiquity brought them under suspicion, and it was impossible to ascertain whether these were his genuine writings. 15.23 City of God

Augustine argues here Jude’s quote does in fact prove that Enoch left some divine writings. However, Augustine gives two reasons for the rejection of the Book of Enoch of his day -- because the Jews do not hold to it and because Enoch was so ancient, he cannot know if the book is genuine. 

Are these claims enough to remove a book once considered holy and authoritative? They don’t even agree with one another, as you have Athanasius claiming that heretics forged Enoch and that there is no scripture before Moses while Jerome admits that the Ancients spoke of it, contradicting Athanasius’ first claim and Augustine affirms that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, indeed prophesied contradicting Athanasius’ second claim.

Do any of these reasons match up against the head of the Church, Peter, and the Jesus’ brother, Jude’s use of 1 Enoch? When you add on the witness of the early church, these ancient interpreters, the generations immediately following the apostles, it seems ludicrous to side with Athanasius and company in throwing out 1 Enoch as apocryphal and considering it false. 

The biggest problem the 4th and 5th century church had when throwing out Enoch was what to do with Jude. Eusebius, the famous Church historian who wrote around 325, actually lists Jude among the books that are disputed but nevertheless recognized by many. Even as early as Origen, we have record that the Epistle of Jude was viewed with suspicion. Though neither Eusebius nor Origen explains why this is the case, others go into more detail. 

Didymus the Blind, who lived during the mid to late 300’s, defended the Epistle of Jude against some of his time who questioned the authority of the epistle because of its use of apocryphal materials.
Our friend Jerome, who wrote around the same time, has this to say on the subject in his “On Illustrious Men,” has this to say:

Jude, the Brother of James, left a short epistle which is reckoned among the seven Catholic Epistles, and because in it he quotes from the apocryphal book of Enoch, it is rejected by many. Nevertheless, by age and use it has gained authority and is reckoned among the Holy Scriptures. 

The “many” of Jerome’s day do not try and argue that Jude is only accepting the part of Enoch that he quotes; no, they understand that Judes quote proved that he took the Book of Enoch to be authoritative, and because of this, the “many” throw out Jude as well. Dr. Annette Reed, who wrote Fallen Angels and the History of Judaism and Christianity, points out that even “Jerome himself seems quite ready to jettison the Epistle of Jude from the Christian canon. She then states that, “Only begrudgingly does he accept the traditional place of the book within the Church, albeit with a notable silence on the question of its inspired status.”

Augustine seems to try and find a middle ground. He wants to be able to accept Jude without accepting Enoch. The problem is, the basis for his reasoning seems a little off:

“Then again, Enoch, the seventh in descent from Adam, is said to have prophesied; and the authority for this is the canonical epistle of the apostle Jude…[talks about Jews not holding to it and its age]…but the purity of the canon has not admitted these works, not because the authority of these men, who God approved, is rejected, but because these documents are not believed to belong to them.” City of God 18.38

Augustine confirms that Enoch did indeed prophesy because Jude records it, yet rejects the current Book of Enoch because it really wasn’t written by Enoch. This is troubling because it seems Augustine might not have even read the Book of Enoch, as he doesn’t seem to realize that it contains the very prophecy he just determined to be truly inspired and spoken by Enoch. Nickelsberg speculates that is quite “doubtful” that Augustine had first-hand knowledge of any part of 1 Enoch.

So, around the time that the canon was officially recognized, the church gives us three options when it comes to Jude and 1 Enoch. We can take Jerome’s side and basically throw Jude out because he uses 1 Enoch authoritatively. We can follow the lead of Augustine and stand on the shifting ground of trying to take Jude and throw out Enoch, even though this was probably due to ignorance. Or we can go the route of Tertullian and accept 1 Enoch because we accept Jude. 

Today, our usual answer is the fourth option, to simply ignore Jude and the problems that he brings, and kind of just skip from John’s epistles right to Revelation, leading many to claim that Jude is the most neglected book in the Bible. Guys, we have to deal with Jude. It really is in our Bible, and thus should be speaking into our theology. 

Again, lets take a step back.

What does all of this mean today? We cannot deny the evidence, as the weight of it is getting quite ridiculous. The generation of the apostles, along with the generations immediately following, believed the Book of the Watchers of 1 Enoch was both written by the Patriarch himself and that it was authoritative for them. A few centuries later with the likes of Athanasius and Augustine, this highly regarded book fell from favor.  So, what do we do with that?

Like I said in my introduction, I don’t have an exact answer. I can tell you that I am quite far from the idea of adding Enoch to the canon of Scripture. I think that is unnecessary. However, I am not against the idea of drawing from the Book of the Watchers like Peter, Jude and the early church did.
I have no idea how that would work, and being a Protestant, it is hard to imagine being able to have a canon which is God’s highest truth, and at the same time, have a book that is authoritative. But somehow the Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and Oriental Church among many others are able to do this, and even Athanasius, the very church father that gives the first list of the NT canon as we have it today, even he includes as not canonical but beneficial, two church documents the claim to be inspired of God. Perhaps the Book of the Watchers could function in that way? These are only suggestions that I have been thinking about recently, and something I need to thoroughly research later.

I do want to make clear though, that in no way do I believe that today’s canon is wrong or that it needs a major revamping. In fact, my belief in our canon today was strengthened, as I encountered quote after quote after quote of canonical citations and witnessed the authority the books of the canon had for the early church. It is just so cool that the same words that were held so dear to our brothers and sisters almost two millennia ago are treasured by you and me today. No, this topic is much smaller than the rejection of the modern canon for though it does question pieces of the Canon, it is not questioning it’s foundation. I affirm that we have in the canon everything that is necessary for godliness. The issue I am raising is, are we using everything that is available to us?  

The evidence is clear and there is no getting around it- the earliest church held to the Book of the Watchers of 1 Enoch. Now, do we brush this under the rug and continue on our way, or do we actually seek God on it, do the research, and follow the results, no matter where they take us? I leave that to you.


1 comment:

  1. Great Post! So glad I stumbled upon this... I have been studying this topic for years and really appreciated the way you correlated your research and the manner in which you conveyed the implications (ramifications?) that result from an honest grappling with this subject matter. Bravo! Stick with it.

    ReplyDelete