Overview of the Book of Enoch
The Book of Enoch is any of the several falsely attributed texts whose claimed authorship is attributed to Enoch, who was the great-grandfather of Noah (Genesis 5:18). Enoch is one of only two people (Elijah being the other) in the Word of God who was taken up to heaven without dying (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:25).
The book of Enoch is quoted in Jude 14-15. Jude’s quote is not the only quote in the Scripture that is from a non-biblical source as Titus 1:12 also quotes Epimenides. Quoting extra-biblical revelation does not mean we should give biblical authority to Enoch or Epimenides. It’s interesting to note that no biblical scholar believes the book of Enoch to be written by the Enoch of the Scriptures. Enoch was seven generations from Adam before the Flood (Genesis 5:1-24) and prophesied about the men before the Flood (Jude 1:14). Such a saying of Enoch was handed down by tradition and recorded in the book of Enoch.
Jude, Titus and the Book of Enoch
There is some debate on whether Jude was quoting in Jude 14 the apocryphal book of Enoch or something else. Whether that’s true or not, the quote from Enoch does not affect the inspiration of Scripture. It also doesn’t mean that the Early Church removed Enoch because of internal inconsistencies.
As we will soon discover later in this article, the book of Enoch was not considered Scripture by the Early Church. While there was some discussion surrounding it being included in the Canon by a few people, the Early Church did not put it in the Bible. Jude only quotes something true in Enoch, but this doesn’t mean the Lord inspired Enoch. Furthermore, Paul quotes Epimenides in Titus 1:12, but this doesn’t mean Epimenides was inspired either.
The period between the Old and New Testaments was marked by international upheaval. One example of this was the Maccabean revolt around 164 BC, which ended the tyrannical reign of Antiochus IV, who defiled the Jerusalem temple. Israel then enjoyed independence from foreign rule, which continued until 63 BC when the Roman general Pompey made Judea part of the Roman Empire.
During the Intertestamental period, the prophets were silent. During this time, the Jewish people continued to produce religious works such as the deuterocanonical books. Many of those like 1 and 2 Maccabees are included in the Canon of Scripture by the Roman Catholic Church. Many other works, though, were produced at this time and were never recognized as inspired though they were used as devotional aids by some in the Jewish community. One example of these devotional aids is the Testament of Moses, which is most likely the source for Jude’s description of the fight over Moses' body in Jude 9.
Jude’s use of non-inspired material does not mean he recognized the works he cites as wholly inspired. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Jude included portions of these sources in his inspired letter. Biblical truth finds its origin in the Lord God Himself. Christians do not need to be dismayed that Jude quotes from non-inspired sources. Jude, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, was able to discern truth from error, which is why his letter, as with all Scripture, is authoritative.
Where Does the Book of Enoch Fit In?
The Old Testament has 39 books of which the Apostles and the Early Church Fathers quoted and firmly believed. The Early Church held to a high view of the Old Testament, unlike those who, later in church history, did not. The early Christians believed they were following in the footsteps of a Savior whose message universally called all humanity to repentance and faith in Him. In this context, the Early Church carried the message of Jesus, a message that centered on Christ, who was crucified, risen, victorious, and exalted. It was through Him that the Early Church would rise from the ashes of Roman civilization and become a dominant force on the scene of world history.
Athanasius and the Canon of Scripture
No other figure in church history shines as brightly as Athanasius. Athanasius was born in AD 295 and quickly rose through the ranks of the Alexandrian Church. He became a personal assistant to the bishop and was there at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. Athanasius was the first to recognize what is now the 27 letters in the New Testament.
The first list of 27 books in the New Testament appears in AD 367 in a letter written by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. It was not until after that date that uniform agreement on the list was found among all teachers in the Catholic Church. Around the end of the second century, most of the 27 books of the New Testament were accepted by the Catholic Church and were placed alongside the Jewish Scriptures.
The Meaning of the Word 'Canon'
The word canon means to stand or rule. The canon is the list of authoritative and inspired Scripture. In Protestant Christianity, the canon is the body of Scripture that constitutes the 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.
An important part of church history is when the books within the Bible became officially part of the canon at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Although many in the church had already considered the 66 books canonical, various authors writing under pseudonyms (most Gnostics) tried to sneak false books into the church. It was up to the church to determine the final canonization of the Bible.
Although we cannot dive into all the processes involved at Nicea, as entire books have been written on the subject, we can highlight in brevity some of the ways they determined the canonicity of a book.
They would analyze previous books already canonized and compare the books up for canonization. If those books contained many contradictions to what the scriptural canon asserted, they would not move forward in placing the book in the canon.
They also relied on the promptings of the Holy Spirit to guide them in the process.
Again, entire books have been dedicated to the subject, but we can rest assured that they didn't simply go on a whim in terms of determining which books fit within the canon of Scripture.
What to Do With Enoch and Other Books Like It
Christians should treat the book of Enoch and other books like it the same way we do with other Apocryphal writings. Some of what the Apocrypha says is correct and right, but much of what it says is wrong and historically inaccurate. If you decide to read these books, you may read them as an interesting novels containing interesting stories from history. You may not read them as the infallible and authoritative Word of God.
But we highly recommend you read any of these books with caution and discernment. If you find yourself influenced by the wording held within the books of the Apocrypha, then close them for the time being. And make sure to stay in the Word on a daily basis. Although it's fun to explore extra-biblical books written millennia ago, it's far more important to invest in God's Word.
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Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon.