Why our Bible doesn’t have 1 Enoch

More than 400 years elapsed between the writing of the Old Testament and New Testament. During this time, various books were written about God and the Bible, including 1 Enoch. But none of these have been (or should be) included as part of the Bible, including 1 Enoch.

The tricky part of 1 Enoch (also called The Book of Enoch) is that Jude (a book of the New Testament) seems to quote from it:

Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all…’

Jude 1:14-15

So if Jude is part of our Bible, as some argue, why shouldn’t 1 Enoch also be in our Bible?

Here are my quick and dirty reasons why Christians can confidently exclude 1 Enoch as part of our Bible, and happily use the same 66 books the church has used for about 2,000 years (considered the Protestant Canon of today):

  1. Jesus references a fixed collection of books (we now call the Old Testament) as God’s Scripture, which excluded 1 Enoch. This is seen in Luke 24:44 where Jesus speaks of “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.” To this day, those are the 3 sections of the Old Testament Bible, commonly called the Tanakh (which itself is an acronym for these 3 sections: Ta/Torah [Law of Moses] + Na/Nevi’im [the Prophets] + Kh/Ketuvim [Writings]). Each section was a fixed unit and we know exactly which books comprised it in the time of Jesus (and 1 Enoch wasn’t there). Similarly, in Luke 11:51 (and Matt. 23:35), Jesus references “bookends” of martyrs. Namely, He speaks of Abel as the first martyr and Zechariah as the last matyr. Why did He choose these 2 martyrs as starting and ending points? The death of Abel is recorded in Genesis 4, whereas the Zechariah Jesus refers to is found in 2 Chron. 24. Though there were other martyrs that died after Zechariah in 2 Chron. 24, he is the very last martyr listed in 2 Chronicles. This is significant because the fixed Jewish Bible of Jesus’ time began with Genesis and ended with 2 Chronicles (as it does today). Thus, this seemingly small reference to martyrs found in Luke 11 and Matthew 23 speak loudly that Jesus (and his audience) respected a fixed set (and order) of Old Testament books that decidedly has always excluded 1 Enoch.
  2. The New Testament consistently appeals to Old Testament books as Scripture. This usually includes a preface like, “Scripture says,” or “God says,” or “Have you not read,” etc. I’ve read that Jesus does this with 24 of the 39 Old Testament books, and of course other New Testament writers extend this. It is significant that they never introduce 1 Enoch (or any other writing outside of the Old Testament) in this kind of a way, even though they are aware of (and do reference) other writings not in the Bible (see Jude 1:14-15, and below, for instance).
  3. Certain phenomena about Old Testament events (that are not found in the Old Testament itself) were known and recognized by Jesus and the apostles, just as such phenomena were also written in various books between the Old and New Testaments. For instance, they acknowledge that angels were part of the giving of the Mosaic law (Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19), that the names of the magicians in Moses’ day were, “Jannes and Jambres,” (2 Tim. 3:8), that Moses, “was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” (Acts 7:22), etc. And though things like the angels being present with Moses could perhaps be hinted at in the Old Testament (Deut. 33:2; Psalm 68:17), they are more expressly discussed in inter-testamental books (that is, books written between the Old and New Testaments). This does not mean Jesus and the apostles thereby grant authority to the entire contents of these books anymore than they grant authority to the entirety of what the Pharisees or others of their day said when they agree with them on certain points of doctrine (cf. Matt. 16:6 and 23:3). Instead, we simply conclude that events affirmed by the New Testament and 1 Enoch (or other such books) are correct because the New Testament affirms those events, while no such authority should be granted to sections of 1 Enoch (or other such books) where the New Testament is silent. Further, in 1 Enoch, I’m not sure it’s correct to believe that the author originated the content of the book as much as he may have repeated content already widely held by others of his time. In either case, we continue to conclude that the current contents of our Old and New Testaments are authoritative in ways that 1 Enoch is not.
  4. Jesus’ sheep know his voice (John 10:27). Thus, we should look at what the church (as well as Jews before Christ) received as God’s Bible throughout history. In doing this, we realize that it has been virtually unanimous that the Jews and Christians have excluded 1 Enoch from God’s word throughout history. Guthrie writes that, while the early church father Tertullian affirmed 1 Enoch‘s authenticity, “in this he is unsupported by any others,” (Donald Guthrie’s, New Testament Introduction, 3rd Ed., 1970, p. 917). And as of my writing this, according to the Wikipedia entry on the Book of Enoch: “While the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church consider the Book of Enoch as canonical, other Christian groups regard it as non-canonical or non-inspired.” Again, is it conceivable that Jesus’ sheep know his voice (John 10:27) and yet the vast majority of his sheep throughout the ages have totally missed that 1 Enoch is part of Christ’s word/voice the way the rest of the Bible is?
  5. The Bible quotes plenty of non-biblical sources. Joshua mentions, “The book of Jasher,” (Josh. 10:13). Numbers references, “the Book of the Wars of the LORD,” (Num. 21:14). King David is written about in, “the Chronicles of Nathan the prophet, and in the Chronicles of Gad the seer,” (1 Chron. 29:29). Paul quotes non-Christian poets (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12) as well as referencing a letter he wrote that is clearly not part of the New Testament (1 Cor. 5:9). Thus, having Jude quote 1 Enoch makes it no more part of the Bible than all of these non-biblical sources quoted throughout Scripture. Again, it is one thing to show agreement or reference points on specific elements of books, but it is another thing altogether to say such-and-such a book is completely trustworthy and part of the Bible. God forbid!

To dive deeper into this subject I highly recommend Roger Beckwith’s, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (2008).

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