Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 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 of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. Jude 14-15
When were the Old and New Testament canons fixed? An extensively foot-noted Wikipedia article tells us:
“There is no scholarly consensus as to when the Hebrew Bible canon (Old Testament) was fixed: some scholars argue that it was fixed by the Hasmonean dynasty (140–40 BCE), while others argue it was not fixed until the second century CE or even later. The Catholic Pontifical Biblical Commission says that “the more restricted Hebrew canon is later than the formation of the New Testament” (which was pretty well settled in Late Antiquity, defined as about any time from the 3rd to the 9th century).
In other words, the spread on when the OT canon was fixed is about 1000 years. If truly written by Enoch, his book predates the earliest estimated fixed canon by 6000 years.
One group of arguments says that Enoch uses material from, for example, the Torah. That’s a chicken or the egg argument. Who’s to say the Torah didn’t borrow from Enoch since we have no original manuscripts to date?
Another argument Jews had used against it was that it describes how angels sinned. They could not fathom that happening, as Trypho the Jew indicated – rather strongly – in his debate with Justin Martyr. Again from Wikipedia:
“The utterances of God are holy, but your expositions are mere contrivances, as is plain from what has been explained by you; nay, even blasphemies, for you assert that angels sinned and revolted from God.” (Dialogue 79)
This one confuses me, because Genesis 6 tells the same story, albeit with nowhere near the detail of Enoch. Yet there seemed to be no problem with Genesis.
The 140 B.C. date of the earliest possible fix of the OT canon is also within as little as 10 years, maybe a century, of the estimated date of the writing of the Dead Sea Scrolls themselves, which include The Book of Enoch. This is the earliest physical document we have for it, so dating the actual composing of the original manuscript is nigh on to impossible.
Enoch is quoted by a canonical book, Jude. Jude was the brother of James the Just, who was the reported brother of Jesus. Even if not blood related to Jesus, he was the brother of James and knew Jesus. Either way, his pedigree is good.
One argument against Enoch concerning the Jude quotation is whether Jude thought that Enoch was a valid book or not. Even Paul was known to quote heretics to make a point. So was Jude just using a familiar reference to make a point, or did he believe Enoch to be a legitimate work?
Also, to answer that very argument – namely that Paul even quoted heretics to make a point – the people he wrote to would know the nature of whom he cited. They would understand what the reference was.
The same goes for Jude quoting Enoch. People would know the book. Furthermore, comparing quoting known heresies to quoting a work which is not labelled “heretical” is an Apples & Oranges comparison.
The Wikipedia article again gives us a fairly even-handed analysis:
Under the heading of canonicity, it is not enough to merely demonstrate that something is quoted. Instead, it is necessary to demonstrate the nature of the quotation. In the case of the Jude 1:14 quotation of 1 Enoch 1:9, it would be difficult to argue that Jude does not quote Enoch as an historical prophet since he cites Enoch by name. However, there remains a question as to whether the author of Jude attributed the quotation believing the source to be the historical Enoch before the flood or a midrash of Deut 33:2–3. The Greek text might seem unusual in stating that “Enoch the Seventh from Adam” prophesied “to” (dative case) not “of” (genitive case) the men, however, this might indicate the Greek meaning “against them” – the dative τούτοις as a dativus incommodi (dative of disadvantage).[improper synthesis?]
The short discussion of the Greek translation can help indicate whether or not Enoch wrote the book. If the correct translation is “to,” this indicates the perspective of a primary or original account. Enoch would be the assumed author. Again, if “against them” is correct, that points even more strongly to the primary source and Enoch as the legitimate author.
If it cannot be considered canon, that still does not mean that it isn’t the true work of Enoch himself and without value.
The works of Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis and C.F.W. Walther, for example, are certainly not canon, but they are foundational to the Lutheran Church in expounding on the Bible as the authoritative Word of God.
Another argument in favor of the value of the Book of Enoch is that it was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Copying texts was a time-consuming exercise with strict checks and balances to ensure accuracy. Enoch and the other scrolls were not copied on a Xerox machine. A lot of sweat went into them, attesting to their value.
One other knock against Enoch is that it definitely pegs the Weirdness Meter. I won’t dispute that, because it does. But if that’s your benchmark for canonicity, your argument is invalid. I give you exhibits A and B; Daniel and Revelation, respectively. Game, set and match.
Next – Why we should care; connecting the dots.