Christians strongly believe that what Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is true:
Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.
The Scriptures represent the sacred words of God that teach us His truth and how we are to live. We understand that Paul is not here specifying what books are Scripture and what books are not Scripture; no Apostle or associate of an Apostle write such a list. Instead, the boundaries of what is Scripture and what is not developed over a few hundred year period after the Apostles and has led to our current Bible. This process was also taking place in Judaism at much the same time.
Despite all of the sensationalist claims promoted in society, history shows that there was not much dispute about the majority of the books now known as Scripture. Most of the books now understood as Scripture were never disputed as Scripture. Likewise, most of the “extra-canonical” books were never claimed to be Scripture: apocryphal and psudepigraphal works, Gnostic gospels and treatises, and post-Apostolic Christian literature.
We should not paint with too broad a brush, however, because there were some disputes. Questions circulated about Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon since they did not include the Divine Name. The Hebrew letter was disputed because its author was never listed; Revelation was suspect less because of its origin and more because of how heretics used it. 2 Peter, Jude, and 2/3 John were also disputed at times. On the other side of the equation, many believed in the inspiration of 1 Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Letter of Barnabas. The place of the apocryphal works, including Tobit, Judith, Baruch, 1/2 Maccabees, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, the expansions of Daniel and Esther, among other works, were also disputed, some believing that they were inspired, and others not. Included in this list is 1 Enoch.
There is an understandable level of inertia about the canon of Scripture. We understand that those who were drafting up lists were not inspired men, but we believe that God providentially preserved His revealed Word in the Scriptures for us. To argue to withdraw a book from the canon, or to add a book to it, casts doubt and aspersions upon the process. Therefore, it always seems safer to make arguments justifying the inclusion of canonized books while justifying the exclusion of the non-canonized books.
These arguments, on the whole, are robust. While it is true that the Divine Name is not in Esther, Ecclesiastes, or the Song of Solomon, their value in expressing the events of history and elements of life have not been disputed by believers over the centuries. In the New Testament, Hebrews, 2/3 John, Jude, and Revelation are alluded to or cited by Christians in the late first and early second centuries. The value and inspiration of the content of Hebrews was not in doubt; the question of authorship was what was most pressing. It is not the fault of the Revelation that it was abused by heretics. The most questionable letter of them all would be 2 Peter, for which we have comparatively little evidence of second century use, and Origen in the third century expresses some doubt about it but confesses that it is considered from Peter and inspired by most in his day.
Apocryphal and pseudepigraphal works do have value in terms of describing the realities of Israel in the intertestamental period, yet they themselves confess that the Spirit was not inspiring people during those days:
And laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, until there should come a prophet to shew what should be done with them (1 Maccabees 4:46).
So was there a great affliction in Israel, the like whereof was not since the time that a prophet was not seen among them (1 Maccabees 9:27).
Also that the Jews and priests were well pleased that Simon should be their governor and high priest for ever, until there should arise a faithful prophet (1 Maccabees 14:41).
Likewise, while there is value in books like 1 Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Letter of Barnabas in terms of understanding early Christianity, claims of inspiration tend to fall flat. Hermas lives in the middle of the second century, long after the Apostles; Clement’s letter points back to the Apostles, and there is little confidence to be had in the idea that Barnabas wrote the letter ascribed to him.
The standards of early Christians, on the whole, worked. To be considered Scripture, books had to be attested as Scripture by Jesus and the Apostles, must have been written by an Apostle or a direct associate of an Apostle, and to bear the hallmarks of the Holy Spirit.
But then there is the 1 Enoch conundrum.
And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have ungodly wrought, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 1:14-15).
And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly: and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him (1 Enoch 1:9).
Jude quotes 1 Enoch as representing the prophecy of Enoch, and yet what we consider 1 Enoch is not part of the canon of Scripture.
All kinds of arguments are brought forth to explain this conundrum, and I would like to investigate many of them. Since 1 Enoch is not considered canonical, it seems like there is an automatic prejudice against the work. We will attempt a level of objectivity and try to consider “both sides” of the argument. On the “one side” is the current situation: 1 Enoch is reckoned as pseudepigraphal, not part of the canon, uninspired, perhaps preserving somehow a snippet of what Enoch said. But let us also consider the “other side,” and imagine what would have happened if the Book of Enoch was considered canonical, perhaps heading up the Prophets in the Old Testament, and how the argument would shift to defending the book.
What is 1 Enoch?
The book of Enoch, called 1 Enoch to differentiate it from two other pseudepigraphal works attributed to Enoch, stands today as a 108 chapter book divided into no fewer than five books, or sections:
I. The Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36)
II. The Similitudes, or Parables, of Enoch (1 Enoch 37-71)
III. The Astronomical Book, or Book of Luminaries (1 Enoch 72-82)
IV. The Book of Dream Visions (1 Enoch 83-90)
V. The Letter of Enoch (1 Enoch 91-108)
The book purports to be the words and visions of Enoch, the seventh generation man in Genesis 5:18-24, and relates often to Methuselah and Noah, Enoch’s son and great-grandson, respectively. The book includes a defense for a solar calendar (the Astronomical Book) and an extended metaphor describing the history of Israel (the Book of Dream Visions). Perhaps the most significant element of 1 Enoch is the first book, the Book of the Watchers, describing the actions and downfall of the angels who took daughters of men to themselves and further corrupted mankind, described in Genesis in Genesis 6:1-4.
More detailed information about material in the book of Enoch can be found in this introduction or on Wikipedia. An early twentieth century translation of 1 Enoch by R.H. Charles can be found here or here.
Arguments have been made for years about the influence of 1 Enoch on the New Testament. It is quite clear that Jude quotes 1 Enoch and even alludes to other events in 1 Enoch, as we shall see, and Peter does the same in 2 Peter and perhaps 1 Peter also. One may see some allusion to elements of 1 Enoch in Revelation, and some discern certain phraseology in other New Testament books as being influenced by 1 Enoch. As we will also see, 1 Enoch was considered the inspired production of Enoch the prophet by many of the early Christian writers of the second and early third centuries.
Disputes circulated around the book from all sides. Its focus on angels and easy use in Christology no doubt weighed against it in the eyes of the Jews; it was not accepted into the Jewish canon. Ultimately it would not make it into the canon of the Christian Bible except in Ethiopia, where it has always been part of the Bible of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Its preservation is a major issue. The only extant copies of the manuscript are the Ethiopic version, which is itself a translation of a mostly lost Greek version. There are some portions of the text that have been preserved in Greek and Latin, and it was known from its citations in patristic literature. On the whole, however, 1 Enoch was lost to Western (and even most of Eastern) Christianity from the medieval period until the beginning of the nineteenth century, when 1 Enoch was “rediscovered” and translated into Latin and English.
Ever since there have been disputations about the provenance of 1 Enoch. The discussion was forever changed by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, for in cave 4 at Qumran scrolls and fragments were found of every book of 1 Enoch in Aramaic except for the second book (the Similitudes), including a part of 1 Enoch 1:9 itself; three small portions of 1 Enoch were found in Hebrew in cave 1. 1 Enoch, then, has a history before the Greek text. Whether it was originally written entirely in Hebrew or in a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic is not definitively known at this time.
1 Enoch, therefore, is most certainly a pre-Christian Jewish apocalyptic work written in Hebrew or perhaps Hebrew and Aramaic.
1 Enoch: The Evidence
Let us now consider the evidence that we would use in order to make the case that 1 Enoch, or at least some part of it, is inspired.
Such a case must begin with Jude 1:14-15 and 1 Enoch 1:9:
And to these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have ungodly wrought, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly: and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.
This is fairly strong evidence: we do not have such citations from books like Esther, Ecclesiastes, or Song of Solomon. Furthermore, Jude calls it prophecy, and what does Peter say about prophecy?
And we have the word of prophecy made more sure; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21).
Therefore, we must conclude that Enoch is one of the prophets, and very likely the first prophet, moved by the Holy Spirit to speak.
Against this some in the past were willing to cast doubt on the inspiration of Jude since he quoted what was regarded as an apocryphal book, but most conservative Christians would reject such a notion as going too far.
Many attempt to advance the argument that Jude is not really quoting 1 Enoch 1:9 since there are some discrepancies between what Jude has presented and what is recorded in 1 Enoch. But if the book had been previously been considered canonical, such opposition would not take place; we would say that Jude is not attempting to provide a precise quote or there is textual corruption somewhere.
We are not really in a position to judge Jude’s citation since we lack the Hebrew or Aramaic source text. For all we know, Jude may be directly translating the Hebrew/Aramaic original we do not have. But even if he is not, we must recognize that many quotations are not precisely word-for-word in the New Testament, and we do not use such arguments to cast aspersions on those texts. Finally, if we were to reject the idea of direct quotation, we must then suggest that Jude is quoting the true statement of Enoch that sounds very, very similar to a statement written in a book years before him but which has no influence upon him. Such an argument seems quite forced and artificial and lacks credibility.
Jude describes Enoch as the “seventh from Adam” in Jude 1:14, which may be influenced by 1 Enoch 60:8-9:
But the male is named Behemoth, who occupied with his breast a waste wilderness named Duidain, on the east of the garden where the elect and righteous dwell, where my grandfather was taken up, the seventh from Adam, the first man whom the Lord of Spirits created.
But it might just be that Jude’s use is coincidental. Yet again, if Enoch had always been considered as canonical, we would more likely than not consider it a reference to 1 Enoch 60:8.
Both Jude and Peter also seem to allude to the story of the angels in prison as written in 1 Enoch. Consider 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 1:6, and 1 Enoch 10:4-6:
For if God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to hell, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.
And angels that kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation, he hath kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
And again the Lord said to Raphael: “Bind Azazel [one of the fallen angels, erl] hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, which is in Dudael, and cast him therein. And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there for ever, and cover his face that he may not see light. And on the day of the great judgment he shall be cast into the fire.”
The parallelism is breathtaking. Jude’s and Peter’s references (and it is often believed that Peter is influenced by Jude, or vice versa) have no real parallel in any Old Testament passage, and it has often been adduced that they are speaking of things not otherwise known from Scripture. Yet the details, sinful angels, cast into a prison, darkness, reserved for fire, are all found in 1 Enoch 10:4-6!
This is challenging for many because it directly bears on the interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4:
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose.
And the LORD said, “My spirit shall not strive with man for ever, for that he also is flesh: yet shall his days be a hundred and twenty years.”
The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them: the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.
The identification of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” has been disputed over time. The earliest Christians, influenced by 1 Enoch, believed the “sons of God” to be fallen angels, and “daughters of men” as exactly that. Later interpreters have suggested that the “sons of God” are the descendants of Adam through Seth and the “daughters of men” are the descendants of Cain.
The events described in Genesis 6:1-4 are discussed in greater detail in 1 Enoch 6-10: the angels see the beautiful women, lust for them, make an agreement to take them; these fallen angels are named; they teach mankind astrology, magic, medications from plants, war instruments, and makeup; men become even more depraved, shed much blood; God’s judgment regarding the Flood is then made at least partially on the basis of these events and He then imprisons all the angels who have engaged in this immorality.
It is to the latter part of this story that Peter and Jude seem to be alluding. If this is the case, then the identification of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” in Genesis 6:1-4 is completely evident: the angels are “sons of God,” and human females the “daughters of men.”
It is natural, then, for those who affirm the contrary interpretation to cast aspersions on the allusion and Peter’s and/or Jude’s use of 1 Enoch. Yet again, if the book had always been canonical, would such aspersions be tolerated? The argument would never have come up to begin with and we would all have understood, as it was understood in the second century, how the story was to be interpreted.
And again: if we reject the allusion, then we have the situation where Peter and Jude make reference to some otherwise unknown story about angels sinning and being imprisoned and have no knowledge of 1 Enoch and its story, even though 1 Enoch comes earlier than both of them. This argument is forced and lacks credibility, especially since Jude quotes Enoch from 1 Enoch eight verses later!
One of the arguments often used to advance the idea that Genesis 6:1-4 is about Seth’s vs. Cain’s descendants is Jesus’ declaration that angels do not marry (Matthew 22:30). Yet consider 1 Enoch 15:1-7:
And He answered and said to me, and I heard His voice: “Fear not, Enoch, thou righteous man and scribe of righteousness: approach hither and hear my voice. And go, say to the Watchers of heaven, who have sent thee to intercede for them: ‘You should intercede for men, and not men for you: Wherefore have ye left the high, holy, and eternal heaven, and lain with women, and defiled yourselves with the daughters of men and taken to yourselves wives, and done like the children of earth, and begotten giants (as your) sons? And though ye were holy, spiritual, living the eternal life, you have defiled yourselves with the blood of women, and have begotten (children) with the blood of flesh, and, as the children of men, have lusted after flesh and blood as those also do who die and perish. Therefore have I given them wives also that they might impregnate them, and beget children by them, that thus nothing might be wanting to them on earth. But you were formerly spiritual, living the eternal life, and immortal for all generations of the world. And therefore I have not appointed wives for you; for as for the spiritual ones of the heaven, in heaven is their dwelling.”
Here 1 Enoch affirms that angels in Heaven do not marry, for they do not have wives appointed for them. Yet they sinned and acted in defiling ways by taking wives of humans. Some might suggest that Jesus is alluding to Enoch’s declaration about angels in Matthew 22:30. That is possible; it may not be so. Regardless, this evidence shows that it was believed that angels were not given in marriage in Heaven yet could still sin by lusting and taking wives of humans.
Some have also suggested that there is an allusion to the angels in prison in 1 Enoch in 1 Peter 3:18-20:
Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
The allusion is suggested to be 1 Enoch 21, although I personally cannot see the correlation. If the “spirits in prison” were to refer to those spiritual beings who sinned, it would provide a better answer to the question why they would receive the preaching of Jesus but human souls at other times did not. On the other hand, such an interpretation is entirely ruled out if 1 Peter 4:6 is referring back to 1 Peter 3:19, and the allusion is then not a legitimate one.
There is then the evidence from patristic literature. The Epistle of Barnabas, likely an early second century document, directly quotes 1 Enoch 89:56 as Scripture in the 16th chapter, and refers to Enoch as a prophet in the 4th chapter. Justin Martyr (Second Apology> 5), Athenagoras (Plea for the Christians 24), Irenaeus (Against Heresies 1.15.6, 4.16.2, 4.36.4), and Clement of Alexandria (Stromata 126.96.36.199-2, Selections from the Prophets 2.1, 53.4), all mid-to-late second century authors, talk about Enoch in terms of information revealed not only in Genesis but also 1 Enoch, and at times refer to characters within 1 Enoch. Yet perhaps the most interesting witness comes from Tertullian in the early third century (On the Apparel of Women, 3.1-3):
I am aware that the Scripture of Enoch, which has assigned this order (of action) to angels, is not received by some, because it is not admitted into the Jewish canon either. I suppose they did not think that, having been published before the deluge, it could have safely survived that world-wide calamity, the abolisher of all things. If that is the reason (for rejecting it), let them recall to their memory that Noah, the survivor of the deluge, was the great-grandson of Enoch himself; and he, of course, had heard and remembered, from domestic renown and hereditary tradition, concerning his own great-grandfather’s “grace in the sight of God,” and concerning all his preachings; since Enoch had given no other charge to Methuselah than that he should hand on the knowledge of them to his posterity. Noah therefore, no doubt, might have succeeded in the trusteeship of (his) preaching; or, had the case been otherwise, he would not have been silent alike concerning the disposition (of things) made by God, his Preserver, and concerning the particular glory of his own house.
If (Noah) had not had this (conservative power) by so short a route, there would (still) be this (consideration) to warrant our assertion of (the genuineness of) this Scripture: he could equally have renewed it, under the Spirit’s inspiration, after it had been destroyed by the violence of the deluge, as, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian storming of it, every document of the Jewish literature is generally agreed to have been restored through Ezra.
But since Enoch in the same Scripture has preached likewise concerning the Lord, nothing at all must be rejected by us which pertains to us; and we read that “every Scripture suitable for edification is divinely inspired.” By the Jews it may now seem to have been rejected for that (very) reason, just like all the other (portions) nearly which tell of Christ. Nor, of course, is this fact wonderful, that they did not receive some Scriptures which spake of Him whom even in person, speaking in their presence, they were not to receive. To these considerations is added the fact that Enoch possesses a testimony in the Apostle Jude.
Those opposing 1 Enoch focus on the fact that Tertullian confesses that 1 Enoch is “not received by some,” and thus that it is disputed. Tertullian does say this, but that is not his argument: instead, he is attempting to defend its authenticity. Tertullian is willing to suggest that a “hard copy” of 1 Enoch might have been preserved throughout time, carried by Noah on the Ark. If a hard copy did not always exist, he suggests that it would be perhaps written again by inspiration first by Noah and then again later by Ezra. Tertullian then invokes both 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Jude, making the case that 1 Enoch edifies and that Jude testifies to the book. We will return to these arguments later, but it is important to note that the book receives a robust defense as inspired even in the early third century.
1 Enoch: The Opposition
Having seen the evidence that would be provided for the argument of inspiration, it is good for us to consider other challenges that come about regarding 1 Enoch.
Scholarship is mostly in agreement regarding the pseudepigraphal nature of 1 Enoch. While scholars have been compelled to date the book further into the past because of the Dead Sea Scrolls, they do not go too far back: it is believed to have been written no earlier than the third century BCE and most likely in the early second century BCE, perhaps just before the Maccabbean revolt.
Scholars also believe the book to be a composite collection written by different authors at different times. The lack of evidence for book 2 of 1 Enoch (The Similitudes, 1 Enoch 37-71) in the Dead Sea Scrolls have led many to posit that it was not originally there at Qumran, and was perhaps filled with “the Book of the Giants” that was found in the Cave 4 scrolls (a disputed thesis).
Those who oppose 1 Enoch as inspired hold firm to these declarations, but again, let us consider what would happen had 1 Enoch always been accepted as Scripture. Conservative Christians have deep skepticism when it comes to scholarly hypotheses about dating and authorship. Not a few scholars would date Daniel, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, and parts of Zechariah to the same time frame as 1 Enoch! Many scholars also claim that Isaiah 40-66, parts of Zechariah, and the Pentateuch as pseudepigraphical, being composite works of different authors at different times.
Furthermore, if it is true that Jude is alluding to 1 Enoch 60:8 in Jude 1:14, then Jude is indirectly attesting to the validity of at least something in the second book of 1 Enoch. The early Christians, admittedly, mostly quote from the first 15 chapters of 1 Enoch, but references are also made to the Astronomical Book and Dream Visions (Books III and IV).
Therefore, it is hard to argue that the book of 1 Enoch looked radically different in Jude’s time than it does today. But we do not have any evidence for the text much before Jude’s time, and have very little basis on which to make any argument, for or against, whether 1 Enoch was previously accepted as a unity. It would seem that the Qumran community found value in 1 Enoch but did not place it with the Biblical scrolls.
What Jude meant by the quotation is also a point of disputation. Many will compare it to Paul’s citation of Greeks in Acts 17:28 or the “Cretan prophet” Epimenides in Titus 1:12, and allege that just as we would never consider these pagans to be truly prophets or truly inspired, the same is true for Jude’s use of 1 Enoch.
But again, what if 1 Enoch had always been canonized? Such an argument would never dare stand. We would immediately compare Jude’s quotation of 1 Enoch to, say, Paul quoting the prophet Isaiah in Acts 28:25ff or some other similar situation.
No early Christians claim Epimenides to be a prophet, but many claim Enoch to be a prophet, and that is true in part because of Jude’s description of Enoch as such and his quotation of 1 Enoch.
Whether Jude believed all of 1 Enoch to be inspired or only parts of 1 Enoch to be inspired, or whether he saw it as having some form of deuterocanonical status can never be satisfactorily answered. But his quotation of Enoch seems to be more in line with the Apostles quoting the Hebrew Prophets than quoting the Greeks.
Opponents also appeal to the disputed nature of the book: the Jews did not accept it as Scripture, it was disputed as early as the third century, according to Tertullian, and later Christians like Origen, Augustine, Jerome, and others opposed it, and such is why it is not in the canon.
There is no doubt that the book is disputed, but why? Tertullian suggests some of the reasons why the Jews would dispute the work, and others are suggested by research into Jewish sensibilities of the time (the focus on angels, in particular, and the “angelic” interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4, was offensive to rabbinical understanding). Yes, later Christians did dispute the work, but the early Christians are almost unanimous in their approval.
In how many other circumstances would conservative Christians side with Augustine and Jerome over the witness of earlier Christians? They would do no such things in terms of infant baptism, original sin, offices in the church, and so on and so forth. This is not to say that any such persons are inspired or their judgments are inspired; many other books, not least the Apocrypha, were believed to be inspired by many, and we reject that today.
In the end, the fact that the book is disputed over time is a piece of evidence, but it is no more overwhelming for 1 Enoch than it would be for Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Hebrews, 2 Peter, Jude, 2/3 John, and Revelation.
Many in opposition accept the date of the third century BCE to first century BCE and appeal to the fact that, as with other apocryphal books, there is no prophet at this time, and hence no inspiration. Yet there remains the major complication that Jude considers 1 Enoch 1:9, if nothing else, to be an authentic prophecy from Enoch, way back when there was still inspiration, evidently, since prophecy is not of private interpretation but comes from God through the Holy Spirit (Jude 1:14, 2 Peter 1:20-21). If 1 Enoch does faithfully represent what Enoch spoke, then this argument has no merit.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to 1 Enoch is in the fact that it was not accepted into the canon and, for all intents and purposes, lost to the majority of Christianity for over a millennium. Yes, it has Biblical citation, but so do books like the Book of Jashar and the Book of the Wars of the LORD (cf. Joshua 10:13, Numbers 21:14). If we were to suddenly discover one of these books in a fantastic discovery, would we open up the Biblical canon for them? This poses a major theological problem: if God has preserved His Word, how can some of it be left aside? How can we believe that God’s Providence directed the process if some books were left out?
On the other hand, all of this represents a bit of cultural prejudice. After all, if one were an Ethiopian Christian, this is a moot argument, for they have never “lost” the book. It has always been a part of their canon. It was only “lost” to Christians in Europe, Asia, and the rest of Africa, and done quite willingly. Is it not possible for men, however well-intentioned, to reject part of what God inspired? 1 Enoch, after all, is a special case, for unlike other possible “Biblical” books, it never has been completely lost, and an Apostle and a brother of the Lord allude to its main story and cite it as authoritative.
(Tentative, Apprehensive) Conclusions
Thus we have the 1 Enoch conundrum. Based on all of the above, I am willing to offer somewhat of a conclusion.
First of all, it should be noted that 1 Enoch is not a “salvation issue” in the least. There is nothing in 1 Enoch that changes any part of God’s plan of salvation; whatever bearing it has is on Genesis 6:1-4 and our understanding of Peter and Jude. If more of it is accepted as inspired, it provides some scientific observations, predictions about the Messiah, and discussions of Israel. With the exception of what was discussed above about the angels, there is nothing in 1 Enoch that is not otherwise made evident in Scripture or through scientific observation. And that which 1 Enoch more clearly illuminates does not impact salvation.
After all of this research I still have reservations when it comes to considering 1 Enoch, as is, inspired, for two main reasons:
1. Textual condition. 1 Enoch exists today as (at least) a translation of a translation: the Ethiopic (Ge’ez) translation of a Greek translation of the Aramaic and/or Hebrew (or, perhaps, the Greek translation of the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew; who knows?). It was written in a Semitic language, translated into an Indo-European one, and back into a Semitic one. Even if the Aramaic DSS fragments and Greek/Latin fragments proved valuable in correcting the text, it will still be difficult to trust that the 1 Enoch text we have, on a word-for-word basis, highly corresponding to the presumed original. This state is unlike the Hebrew OT or Greek NT for which we can have much more confidence, on the whole, on a word-for-word basis.
This is not to say that 1 Enoch is corrupted beyond recognition; far from it. We can still understand 1 Enoch on the basis of the texts we have. But when it comes for the strict standard we should expect from Holy Scripture, it is hard to have confidence in the current textual condition of 1 Enoch.
2. Lack of Canonicity, Means to Ascertain What is Canonical. While there are two sides of the canonicity argument, I still have reservations in wholeheartedly embracing a book the majority of Christianity did not embrace. I believe that God has spoken in His Word, and that He has providentially provided that Word to His followers, and it does pose a major theological issue to suggest that something was left out.
Furthermore we have the issue of what would make 1 Enoch inspired. It is theoretically possible, as Tertullian suggests, for Enoch to have written down his prophecies and to have them transmitted over the ages, but that is highly speculative. We do not see it influencing a lot of later texts until the New Testament. It looks more akin to what was being composed in the Persian and Hellenistic times than anything pre-exilic. Why would the Jews insist on a lunar calendar if they had a prophetic text from the antediluvian period insisting on a solar calendar, for instance? And, granting that the text as we have it is substantially the same as in Jude’s day, is Jude attempting to suggest that the whole work is inspired? It would seem that early Christians just accepted the whole thing, and while that could be possible, can we put such heavy reliance on the quotations on the first part so as to extrapolate that it is all inspired? What if not all of it comes from Enoch, but that it is true that some of the books of 1 Enoch were written later?
On account of these things I cannot have the confidence to declare all of 1 Enoch inspired. Nevertheless, I must conclude that 1 Enoch deserves more respect among Christians than it has obtained.
Whatever one thinks of the rest of 1 Enoch, the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36) must be given some kind of place in our consideration. It is from this section that Peter and Jude both make allusions, and Jude quotes directly from it. It was the section emphasized by early Christians in their citations, quotations, and allusions.
When we interpret Genesis 6:1-4, 2 Peter 2:4-9, or Jude 1:6-18, 1 Enoch must come into consideration. If one is going to advance the theory that the “sons of God” are Seth’s descendants, and the “daughters of men” are Cain’s descendants, Peter and Jude’s allusions to 1 Enoch 6-10 must be addressed, and some kind of argument must be offered against the substance of what is written, not just the attempt to denigrate the book as pseudegraphical.
In reality, I believe that 1 Enoch 6-10 is the definitive evidence against the Seth-Cain theory of Genesis 6:1-4. The reason why Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian believe that the “sons of God” are angels because of the testimony of 1 Enoch 6-10, and they are assured of their conviction because Peter and Jude both allude to that story. We must make reference to 1 Enoch 10:4-6 in order to understand 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6, and in so doing, can only come to a proper understanding of Genesis 6:1-4 on the basis of the evidence in 1 Enoch 6-10.
Therefore, while I do not have confidence in the inspiration of the whole of 1 Enoch, the testimony of the Apostle Peter and Jude the brother of the Lord lead me to believe that 1 Enoch 1-10, if nothing else, substantially represents the inspired prophecy and declarations of Enoch the seventh from Adam. Enoch ought to be considered one of the prophets alongside Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, and the rest, according to Jude 1:14. We should be more familiar with the contents of 1 Enoch than we are (myself included). We should not be afraid to make reference to 1 Enoch 1-10 in order to understand Genesis 6:1-4, 2 Peter 2, and Jude, and we should not believe that we have “sold out” the Bible in favor of pseudepigraphal texts, considering the confidence Jude has in at least that early section of 1 Enoch.
Ethan R. Longhenry