The Book Of Enoch: Authentic Or Heresy
In studying Christianity many questions have been posed as to what text was truly intended to be included in the Bible. What was chosen to be included in the Bible by the Nicene Council is said to be divinely inspired. The Nicene Council was a group of people overseen by Constantine that elected what text was to be chosen to be in the Bible. Throughout times however there has been conflict over what has and has not been included in the Bible. Protestant and Catholic Bibles are not identical and yet they are all Christians. The Dead Sea Scrolls have brought up much discussion and controversy related to the Bible as well as other books that are called the “Apocrypha” and the “Lost Books” of the Bible. One of the lost books is the book of Enoch or Henoch. In the resurfacing of this text many biblical scholars are left with a challenge to the question of the text of the Bible and whether or not these “Lost Books” are acceptable or merely heresy.
Enoch was from the lineage of Adam and Eve and is the seventh descendant or generation. He is also the father of Methusela. He was said to have “walked with God and he was not, for God had took him.”(Genesis 5:24) In his walking with God special revelations were made apparent to him. Encoh’s walking with God was considered a time when he was given revelations of prophecies to come on God’s people. His mysterious departure from earth, it is understood Enoch was assumed into heaven, is what lead to much of the apocolyptic literature that was written and attributed in his name. The Book of Enoch however, has many authors.
The Book of Enoch (or 1 Enoch or Ethiopic Enoch) consists of seven sections.
The first section introduces the theme of the book, which is God’s coming judgment of the world.
The second section deals with matters of fallen angels and their punishment from God and also tells of Enoch’s journeys to places of final punishment and reward.
The third section prophesies the coming of a Messiah who will pronounce judgment on all human and angels. This section also describes the heavenly kingdom of God. The fourth section includes revelations about the end times and all that will occur with heavenly bodies during this time. The sixth section consoles the righteous, telling them to remain faithful, and condemns the unjust and predicts their end. It is in this section that all human history is divided into ten unequal weeks. A special person or event represents each week. For instance, the fourth week symbolizes the coming of Moses and in the seventh week there is a universal degeneration. In the tenth week the old heaven is replace with a new, eternal one. The final section of the book speaks of a flood, recurrence of wickedness after the flood, and punishments and rewards that are to come when the Messiah comes to reign.
This Book of Enoch obviously had some future themes of what was to happen in Christian history. In fact Early Christians held the book in high esteem with the Epistles of Jude quoting Enoch affording it some merit. Jude directly quotes Enoch:
Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also saying,” Behold the Lord comes with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and all of all the harsh things, which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” (Jude14-15)
However, due to the controversial nature and deeds of the fallen angels included in Enoch, it lost favor with powerful theologians. It angered some of the later Church fathers and was then condemned as heresy. Both Christian and Jewish Religious leaders felt the text of these writings to be controversial and mythical rather than true and supported this by the fact it was written by numerous authors. The Book of Enoch was denounced, banned and clergymen pronounced a curse on anyone who read and believed it. It was lost and conveniently forgotten until two centuries ago.
In 1773 rumors of a surviving copy of the book of Enoch caught the attention of James Bruce. Bruce was a Scottish explorer who upon learning of the possible book went to Ethiopia and found three Ethiopic copies of the Book of Enoch. Bruce brought them back to Europe and Britian. In 1821 Dr. Richard Laurence, a Hebrew professor from Oxford University, completed the first English translation of the text.
Most scholars agree that there is strong evidence that the Book of Enoch originates back to the second century B.C. and was held in good favor for at least five hundred years. The earliest text found is in Greek which is thought to be a copy of the original text which is written in Aramaic. There has been much controversy over whether the text was written before or after Christ’s time. It was once believed to be post-Christian due to similar terminology in the Book of Enoch and Christian teachings.
However, copies of the book have recently been discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls which prove that the Book of Enoch was in existence before the time of Jesus Christ. Fragments of ten Enoch manuscripts were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The date of the original writings that provided the second century B.C. copies is shrouded and thus we have no known time of exactly when it was written. All we do know is that it is old.
Despite its unknown origin, Christians did accept the Book of Enoch as authentic scripture at one time. Ironically it was the part of the fallen angels and the prophesied judgment that was most accepted that also led them to the book’s claims of heresy and later banning. The Book of Enoch tells of the fallen angels and their coming to earth and lusting after women. The angels “violate their own nature and their office,” and produce offspring with the women of the earth. These offspring are said to be Giants. The great flood that is to come in days of Noah is to rid the world of all its evil . “The earth was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth” (Genesis 6:12). The later Church Fathers were angered by this explanation of good and evil, angels and demons and proclaimed the writings heretical and so the writings vanished.
In examining the Book of Enoch many key concepts used by Jesus Christ directly coincide with the ideas that are stated in Enoch. Over a hundred phrases in the New Testaments find precedents in the Book of Encoh. Early Church Fathers also supported the Enochian writings. Justin Martyr ascribed all evil to demons whom he alleged the offspring of the fallen angels and directly references the writings of Enoch. Other church fathers that upheld Enoch are, Tatian(110-172); Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (115-185); Clement of Alexandria (150-220); Tertullian (160-230); Origen (186-255); Lactantius (260-330); Ambrose of Milan and many others.
J.T. Milik was inspired to compile a history of the Enochian writings after the Dead Sea Scrolls were proven to contain Enochian texts. Milik has helped the study of the Enochian writings reach a milestone in the twentieth century. One at a time arguments against the validity of the Enochian texts are quieted, eventually perhaps the text will not be considered so questionable as it once was.
In studying the texts that are considered the Lost Books of the Bible, it is important to remember that whether you believe what appears in today’s Bible is God’s will, it has also become his will that we learn more of these excluded books. This is not an effort to condemn the Biblical text or make Holy any excluded texts. Most of the texts actually support one another. We are humans with gifts of intellect to read through the information and form our own opinions and conclusions about the matter. Who really knows the truth? For as physicist Murray Gell-Mann says we are “a small speck of creation believing it is capable of comprehending the whole.” (Fisher,p.28)
Fisher, Mary Pat, Living Religions, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1999.
Milik, J.T. , The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4, Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1976.
Potter, Douglas J., The Book of Henoch (Ethiopic) ,The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I.
online edition, 1999, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01602a.htm
Unger, Merrill F., Unger’s Bible Handbook, Chicago: Moody Press, 1967.
VanderKam, James C., The Enoch Literature, 1997, online: (http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk~www_sd/enoch.html)