From time to time we get comments from students and skeptics about a reference in Jude 14 to a prophet named Enoch who is called “the seventh from Adam.” Genesis 5:18-24 tells us that Enoch walked with God and that God took him directly so that he didn’t die. Hebrews 11:5 makes a reference to that passage and explains that Enoch did not see death but God “translated” him. So did this great man of God write a book that should have been included in our Bibles but for some reason was not? Did Enoch reveal information that we need to hear and do not have available from any other source?
First, there is a document called The Book of Enoch, and there are 40 extant manuscripts in the Ethiopic language, and fragments of it in Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. What Jude cites is factual, but some of the things in The Book of Enoch are bizarre.
Secondly, the fact that the Bible quotes a source doesn’t mean that source should be in the Bible. When Paul spoke on Mars Hill (the Areopagus), he made references to pagan writers who obviously would not be included in the biblical canon. Hebrews 11:35 refers to an account in 2 Maccabees 7 where a woman witnessed the martyrdom of her seven sons and then was killed rather than denying her faith.
Thirdly, the standards used to determine which books to include in the Bible excluded material like the book of Enoch. The methods used by the early Church to establish the biblical canon were solid in scholarship and technique. Those of us who know less and do not have the tools available to make such decisions have to trust the scholarship of those who had the knowledge and tools available.
We would recommend two sources for those of you who are interested in this subject. One is How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot published by Baker Books. The other is Douglas Jacoby’s website–douglasjacoby.com. Dr. Jacoby dealt with this subject in a posting that you can find here.
–John N. Clayton © 2017