1 Enoch in Jude’s “Bible”: Issues of Canonicity and Scriptural Inspiration

1 Enoch in Jude’s “Bible”: Issues of Canonicity and Scriptural Inspiration January 14, 2011

Jude 1:5-7 (NRSV):  Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that the Lord, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgement of the great day. Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

In the passage quoted above the author of Jude draws on past examples to show that God punishes sinners in order to demonstrate that God will eventually condemn his own contemporary opponents too: v.5 relies on Exodus and Numbers concerning Israelite rebellion and punishment in the wilderness; v.6 draws on 1 Enoch 6-16 about the “angels” who left their appointed sphere and who were thus condemned (cf. Gen. 6:1-4); and v.7 speaks of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah found in Genesis.[1]

The author of Jude later quotes 1 Enoch 1:9 explicitly in vv.14-15, crediting Enoch with having correctly “prophesied” the condemnation of the author’s own contemporary opponents, as well as having referred to the final judgement (note: 1 Enoch is a composite work composed around the 3rd century B.C.E. and thereafter, and thus was not actually written by Enoch).

Jude 1:14-15 (NRSV): It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘See, the Lord is coming with tens of thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgement on all, and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’

It is clear from the above that the author of Jude thought 1 Enoch to be a genuine, reliable source of information about God’s dealings in the past with sinners (along with Genesis and Exodus/Numbers), and that he believed the work attributed to Enoch had genuinely prophetic content. Moreover, historically speaking, 1 Enoch was a popular religious work among many Second Temple Jews (e.g., at Qumran) and early Christians–indeed, it is quoted or alluded to at least 14 times in the NT. The Epistle of Barnabas quotes it explicitly as scripture. Tertullian defended it, and the Abyssinian Church eventually included it in its own canon. Later some Christian writers such as Origen, Eusebius, Didymus, and Jerome debated Jude’s scriptural status, probably in part because of its use of 1 Enoch and other religious texts (cf. Jude 1:9) not found in the later LXX (Septuagint) or Rabbinic scriptural collections. There are a number of other points that could be mentioned along these lines, but it seems most reasonable to conclude from the evidence that Jude considered 1 Enoch religiously authoritative (note: to speak of a canon at this time is anachronistic).

The questions I pose to the reader are the following: 1) How does the author of Jude’s view that 1 Enoch is religiously authoritative and prophetically inspired impact modern notions of Scriptural Inspiration and Canon, especially as it pertains to the Mormon community?  2) Are Scriptural texts inspired and therefore canonized, or is it the reverse process: are Scriptural texts canonized by a given faith community and therefore understood as inspired?  Other questions and topics of discussion are open for dialogue as well.



Throughout the above discussion I have relied on James C. VanderKam’s Enoch: A Man For All Generations. Studies in Personalities of the Old Testament (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995).

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