Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Doctrine Of Scripture Series: Why 1 Enoch Fails The Tests For Divine Inspiration And Canonicity


In our last post, we mentioned five "tests" or criteria gleaned from Jewish and early Christian authors that pertained to how the books of the Old and New Testament canons were recognized as being inspired from God. For sake of review, I'll list those tests below.

*Miraculous Test. Was the writer confirmed by acts of God? 

*Salvation Test. Can the book bring someone to saving faith? 

*Prophetic or Apostolic Test (Apostolicity). Was the book written by a prophet or Apostle of God, or an associate?

*Recognition Test. (Catholicity). When I use the term "catholicity", I mean not the Roman Catholic church. Instead, "catholicity" refers to "what was believed upon by all Christians, everywhere and at all times" (the term "catholic" derives from a Greek term meaning "universal"). In this test, we ask: was it recognized by the people of God?

*Truth Test (Orthodoxy). Did the message tell the truth about God, the human condition, and the world?

    We know from our previous studies that there were certain other books written by the Jews in the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew that contained historical information and which reflected what they believed. When we study this sort of Jewish literature (sometimes referred to as "Second Temple Literature" or "Intertestamental books"), we can subdivide these writings into two broad groupings. 

    The first involve a group of fifteen writings called "Apocrypha" by Protestants, and "Deuterocanonical" by Roman Catholics. The term "Apocrypha" itself means "hidden". We have explored the Apocrypha at length, showing that they did not belong in the canon, and thus cannot be deemed inspired by God. Readers may review here 

    A second group of "Second Temple Jewish literature", written between the close of the Old Testament and into the days of Jesus are what are termed "pseudepigrapha". Below I'll introduce these books and focus on one in particular, 1 Enoch. 

Introducing the Pseudepigraphical book of Enoch.

    In addition to the Apocrypha, there were nearly seventy or so books written between the Old and New Testaments that became known as “pseudepigrapha” (falsely ascribed writings). They are designated by this word because they are passed off as having been composed by a famous Biblical character. The Pseudepigrapha, much like their Apocrypha counterparts, mimicked the Old Testament canon. There are examples of Pseudepigrapha that read like Genesis and Exodus (the Book of Jubiliees). There are other Pseudepigrapha that are "apocalyptic" or prophetic, such as the Apocalypse of Baruch. There are pseudepigrapha that imitate the style of the Biblical Psalms (such as the Pseudepigrphical "Psalms 151"). 

    Popular level publishers will mistakenly call these books "the lost books of the Bible". However, as we have learned in our studies of the canonization of the Biblical books, no books were "lost". The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha were well known in their day, however they were never recognized as "inspired" or "canonical". One only need read the writings of the Jewish philosopher Philo or the Jewish historian Josephus to see this point. Philo quoted extensively from the book of Genesis, yet never once did he quote the Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha. Josephus' writings will quote the canonical Old Testament books, yet we never see a citation of the Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha. 

    To be fair, they make for interesting reading, and do tell us about what the Jews talked about prior to the days of Jesus. Mostly, the Pseudepigrapha will speculate on details not mentioned in the canonical Old Testament. 

    The most prominent example of this type of literature is the book of “1 Enoch” (sometimes called simply "The Book of Enoch). As we assess whether the Book of 1 Enoch was inspired or not, we need to realize that the relevance of this question lies in how the book of Jude utilized it. 

    As one considers Jude’s citation of Enoch in Jude 1:14-15, the prophecy itself is not recorded within the book of Genesis or anywhere else in the canonical Old Testament. In my studies of the Book of Enoch, I found that Jude was likely alluding the opening chapter of 1 Enoch in 1 Enoch 1:9. Jude's choice to use 1 Enoch in making his point ought not be taken as his endorsing it as inspired and thus canonical. Paul for instance quoted pagan poets in his sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17, yet he clearly did not conceive of those writings as inspired.

    The man Enoch in the Bible must be compared and included in how we assess the proported book of Enoch. Though there is no formal prophecy by Enoch in the Old Testament, we do find the man himself in Genesis 5:21-24 – 

“Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah.  22 Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters.  23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.  24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”

    Enoch, along with another prophetic figure, Elijah, were the only men in redemptive history who never tasted death. Enoch had been taken directly to heaven by God. 

    This fascinating fact prompted the Jews over the centuries to speculate and develop traditions around Enoch, especially in the period of time between the Old and New Testaments. As mentioned already, during this 400 year period of time, the Jews produced roughly seventy volumes of devotional, theological and apocalyptic literature (these being distinguished from the "Apocrypha") in an attempt to express their faith and anticipate their increasing desire for the coming Messiah.

    One of the traits of this literature era was to attach the name of a well-known biblical figure (such as Enoch) and claim the text to had derived from that author’s words, writing or actions. As mentioned above, such literary works are deemed by scholars as “pseudepigrapha”. 1 

     Peter J. Gentry, in a journal article: "Reassessing Jude’s Use Of Enochic Traditions (With Notes On Their Later Reception History)" appearing in the Tyndale Bulletin, Volume 68, Issue 2, evaluates the Book of Enoch in its contents and overall question of its canonicity. Readers can peer at his outline in the endnotes.2  In my own reading of 1 Enoch, I used an online version of the book found at As I read through 1 Enoch, I utilized Gentry's outline in navigating its contents, which proved mighty helpful. What follows from here is testing 1 Enoch for marks of Divine inspiration by way of the five tests mentioned above in the beginning of this post.

Testing 1 Enoch for marks of Divine inspiration

1. Miraculous Test. Was the writer confirmed by acts of God? 

    The Biblical Enoch in Genesis 5:21-26 was no doubt a prophet. He is explained as possessing prophectic abilities in Jude 1:14-15. The Bible nowhere claims that Enoch ever performed any miracles that attested his prophethood. One of the attributes of the Biblical authors was that some sort of miraculous activity confirmed their identity and message. Moreover, in my reading of 1 Enoch, I see no evidence of fulfilled prophecy (with the exception of 1 Enoch 1:9, cited by Jude 1:14-15, which as explained already, was used because it contained a grain of truth, without endorsement of the book). As will be seen in the "Prophetic Test", the Enoch of 1 Enoch, which we could term "a literary Enoch", is not the author he claims to be, the "Biblical Enoch". 1 Enoch fails this first test, lacking the miraculous.

*Salvation Test. Can the book bring someone to saving faith? 

    In order for a book of the Bible to perform this act, it would have to teach the constant message of the Bible that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, apart from works - known as "the doctrine of justification by faith" (see Genesis 15:6; Romans 3:24-26; 4:1-3 Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-5). In my reading of 1 Enoch 97 and 103, I found that 1 Enoch taught works salvation. Readers can read a citation of 1 Enoch 97:9-10 in the endnotes below to see my point.3 

    1 Enoch reflects what had become a growing trend in intertestamental Judaism's growing body of traditions - the possibility of attaining favor with God by the way of faith plus works. Jesus had to deal with hypocrites that thought they could attain salvation by way of lawkeeping. As one studies either the Apocryphal books or pseudepigrpha, it becomes apparent what religious traditions had developed prior to our Lord's coming. Jesus only ever quoted the canonical Old Testament books (thus never anything from the Apocrypha nor Pseudepigrapha, including the Book of Enoch). Hence, 1 Enoch fails the salvation test. 

*Prophetic or Apostolic Test (Apostolicity). Was the book written by a prophet or Apostle of God, or an associate?

    As we evaluate the Book of 1 Enoch through this third test, we can confidently confirm that 1 Enoch was not written by its namesake. According to the late Biblical Scholar R.H Charles in his edited work “The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English – Volume II”, page 164, 1 Enoch was composed by a variety of authors from the pre-Maccabean period (pre-168 b.c) with the final portion being completed in (105-64b.c). Thus, the authenticity of the book is in doubt, due to it not being written by the Biblical Enoch. 

    As a final note on this test, scholars have shown that the production of pseudepigrapha in the intertestamental period was a sign that the Spirit of prophecy was not producing new inspired books. Books such as 1 Enoch relied on "namedropping" a famous Biblical character to produce its version of Enoch, whom I called earlier a "literary Enoch". This technique employed by pseudepigraphical writers bypassed making any explicit claims of Divine inspiration, and actually showed the lack of the Spirit's prophetic activity in that era.  As I read through 1 Enoch, I did not see the well known phrase "thus says the Lord". 

*Recognition Test. (Catholicity). In this test, we ask: was it recognized by the people of God?

       The only group that ever decided to recognize the Book of Enoch as Scripture was the Ethiopic Church. The otherwise universal rejection of 1 Enoch as part of the Old Testament canon demonstrates that early Jews and Christians believed it did not convey the words of God. 

*Truth Test (Orthodoxy). Did the message tell the truth about God, the human condition, and the world?

    In this final test, we can note that when reading through 1 Enoch, it develops a rather speculative and detailed doctrine of angels (i.e. angelology). In the first 36 chapters of Enoch, as section known as "the book of the Watchers", several places indicate that the fall came about because of certain fallen angels bringing sin into the world. Although Satan and a third of the angelic host did rebel against God shortly after the completion of our physical world (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28; Revelation 12), yet it is not they who were credited with direct causation of the fall.  1 Enoch bypasses and conflicts with the Biblical teaching that Adam and Eve were the ones responsible for sin befalling the human race and the creation (Genesis 3 and Romans 5:11-21). This point shows that 1 Enoch cannot be inspired, due to its failure to express accurately such an important truth as the Fall. 


    In today's post we subjected the book of 1 Enoch to the five tests of inspiration and canonicity we explored in previous posts. We conluded that 1 Enoch did not pass any of the tests, and hence ought not be considered as part of the canon. If one were to read the other pseudepigrpha, they would reach similar conclusions. This post only shows that there are really no so called "Lost Books of the Bible". All the books that were inspired by God belonged in the canon. 

    As God's people would recognize and use the inspired books, the process of canonization would simply affirm the books already belonging in the canon. 1 Enoch never would enjoy the universal reognition among early Jews or even the later Christian church. Nevertheless, 1 Enoch is valuable in showing us what the Jews believed in the days leading up to Jesus. 


Endnote 1. Dr. Craig Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College, quotes literary scholar James Charlesworth’s definition of pseudepigraphical literature in his book: “Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies”, page 28: 

“The present description of the Pseudepigrapha is as follows: Those writings 

1). that….are Jewish or Christian.
2). that are often attributed to ideal figures of Israel’s past.
3). that customarily claim to contain God’s word or message.
4). that frequently build upon ideas and narratives present in the OT.
5). and that almost always were composed either or during the period 200 B.C. to A.D. 200 or, though late, aparently preserve. albeit an edited form, Jewish traditions that date from that period.”

Endnote 2. In his article, on page 263, Gentry gives a helpful outline of the Book of Enoch, noting its portions in the chronological order of their composition.

1. Book of Heavenly Luminaries (chaps 72–82)
2. The Book of the Watchers (chaps 1–36)
3. Enoch’s Two Dream Visions (chaps 83–90)
4. Two Pieces of Testamentary Narrative (81:2–82:3; 91)
5. The Epistle of Enoch (chaps 92–105)
6. An Account of Noah’s Birth (chaps 106–107)
7. Another Book by Enoch (chap. 108)
8. The Book of Parable (chaps 37–71)
9. The Book of the Giants (not in Ethiopic book of Enoch)

Endnote 3: 1 Enoch 97:9-10 "But in those days blessed shall they be, to whom the word of wisdom is delivered; who point out and pursue the path of the Most High; who walk in the way of righteousness, and who act not impiously with the impious. 10. They shall be saved."

    As already noted, the Jews were fond of producing literature that claimed a famous biblical figure as it’s author. With regards to "The Book of Enoch", one influential example of this type of literature is entitled “1 Enoch”.  

    The Jews living in the days of Jude’s Epistle would had been familiar with 1 Enoch. Much like our modern day Christian novels and books, “1 Enoch” or sometimes simply called “Enoch”, shaped the thinking of many Jews living in the regions around Israel.

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