Do I have to believe 1 Enoch?

I might have asked this question before but I'll ask it again because it bugs me.

Jude 6 says, "And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgement of the great day ..."

In a similar way 2 Pet 2:4 says, "For God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartarus and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgement."

I used to think that this was a story about the original fall of the angels - when they became demons.

It is not.

Almost certainly 2 Peter and Jude are referring to the elaboration of Genesis 6:1-4 in 1 Enoch. Genesis 6:1-4 is the odd story about the 'sons of God' who married the daughters of men and had offspring. In 1 Enoch those 'sons of God' are angels that transgress the divinely established boundaries and had sexual intercourse with humans. (In Genesis the 'sons of God' might be angels, or perhaps human kings, or perhaps human kings with a semi-'divine' status)

The Enoch traditions tell how those angels were thus banished to dreadful prisons where they were kept until the day of judgement. Their offspring (the Nephilim) were killed and their ghosts became demons (quite a different account of the origin of demons than the standard fall of Lucifer story which, incidentally, is not found in the Bible).

I must confess - whilst I love 1 Enoch I don't find myself terribly inclined to believe its elaborate retelling of the Genesis 6:1-4 story.

But it looks like Jude and the author of 2 Peter believed it.

We know that Jude takes 1 Enoch seriously. He says that 'Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying ...' and then he quotes from 1 Enoch 1.

1 Enoch was not really written by Enoch yet Jude speaks as if it was. Quite possibly he really believed that it was. But it was not.

But Jude and 2 Peter are Christian scripture. They are inspired by God, authoritative, and so on and so forth.

So does that mean I have to believe that 1 Enoch was written by Enoch and that its story of fallen angels is a true story?

Of course, I do not have to believe 1 Enoch to learn from Jude's and 2 Peter's use of it that sin is serious, that it will be judged, etc., etc.. I can hear God speaking through those texts.

And yet ... must I say that whilst Jude and 'Peter' really believed in the story about the angels in chains as literal fact I must treat it as helpful fiction? It can still be authoritative but I cannot believe it in the same way that they did?

Any helpful thoughts out there?

Comments

Si Hollett said…
Only the bit quoted in Jude is authoritative. Paul quotes several Greek plays - does that mean we have to believe all that they say.

I guess that Peter and Jude say we have to believe that the fallen angels are chained until judgement in gloomy darkness. However that is all they say - they don't say that the person who wrote Enoch is correct (also we have to believe, thanks to Jude that Enoch did actually say the quoted bit, even if he didn't say the rest).

Our Lord talks about Satan being bound in Matt 12:29 - I think what Jude and Peter say can fit with the rest of the Bible.
Chrys Theo said…
You can accept it as authoritative based on subjective reasons or reasons of faith or personal options or any such like. But does all this not have any reflection on the idea of "authoritativeness" of the epistles of 2 Peter and Jude? Does this not necessitate a different view of inspiration?
Anonymous said…
Have a look at Dick France's essay on this passage in Howard Marshall, ed., New Testament Interpretation - he's very helpful. (Steve Walton)
Robin Parry said…
Si

I can see where you are coming from but I cannot take that route (without some persuasion) as it seems like special pleading.

Q - do you think that Jude discerned the authoritative parts of Enoch or is it the fact that he uses them what makes them authoritative?

I suspect, given your comments on authorship (Jude discerned the one part that Enoch did say), that you would say the former.

I wonder what mileage there is in the latter route.

Robin
Robin Parry said…
Chrys

My views of inspiration and authority are always open to rethinking in the light of the text itself (see an earlier post I wrote on that topic). Perhaps this is a text that does indeed require some reflection on those concepts.

Robin
Robin Parry said…
Steve

Thanks. Fortunately we publish that book so I have one right behind me as I type and will check it out.

Robin
Jenny Brien said…
"And yet ... must I say that whilst Jude and 'Peter' really believed in the story about the angels in chains as literal fact I must treat it as helpful fiction? It can still be authoritative but I cannot believe it in the same way that they did?"

First of all, why would you want to believe it in the same way as they did? In what way would that be useful? I can see how that would be needful if you adhered to the line that inspired=factually infallible, but the Bible does not claim that for itself, only that it is all useful for instruction. Some Christians have for that reason considered I Enoch to be canonical - others do not.

Thankfully we do not need to know the full meaning of every Scripture, and many a Godly conviction may have arisen from a misreading, but surely we should not cling to interpretations that we know or suspect are false or misleading.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that as a 'useful fiction' I Enoch answers the question "If there is only one God, then what do the heathens worship?' Those they thought were Gods came from the union of humans with rebellious angels, but God bound the angels were punished, killed their children, and now all that is left are their ghosts.

The writers of Genesis got into a bit of a mess in trying to set this as a prologue to the older story of Abraham, which shows a world where Yahweh is regarded as only one god among many, and the Nephilim are still around. Note how the generations work out that Methuselah knew Adam, and died in the year of the Flood, and Noah lived until Abram was thirty, yet Noah and Shem play no further part in the story. In fact Noah is not mentioned again until by Ezekiel and Isaiah - the time when the story of the destruction of the Nephilim does make sense.
simon said…
You don't mention 1 Peter 3:18-22 which the Dick France essay in the Howard marshall reader argues is comprehensible only if we recognise that Peter (or the author of 1 Peter) is reflecting on an argument in 1 Enoch.

He says: 'to try to understand 1 Peter 3:19-20 without a copy of the book of Enoch at your elbow is to condemn yourself to failure.'

But I'm not sure that this makes 1 Enoch authoritative in any way. I recognise that 1 Enoch was a popular book in the early Christian centuries, but so was the Shepherd of Hermas (but that didn't make the cut when the NT canon was formed).

I see no problem with NT writers quoting sources that aren't 'scripture' and building an argument on them (as Paul does in Athens) without those sources needing to be seen as 'inspired' as scripture is.

It is the argument being made by the 'inspired' author that makes what he writes authoritative as scripture without 'canonising' the source he quotes.
Si Hollett said…
"Q - do you think that Jude discerned the authoritative parts of Enoch or is it the fact that he uses them what makes them authoritative?

I suspect, given your comments on authorship (Jude discerned the one part that Enoch did say), that you would say the former."

Actually, I go with the latter, firmly and definitely and definitely not the former - the bit of 1Enoch is only scripture because Jude quoted it - just as those bits of Greek plays Paul quotes are scripture as Paul quotes them. They aren't quoted as scripture, they aren't scripture because of their author - they are scripture solely as they are quoted to make a point in scriptural letters/sermons.

We have to agree with Jude that Enoch wrote that bit because that letter of Jude was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but that Enoch actually wrote that bit doesn't make it scripture (after all, the 2 other letters to the Corinthians, the letter to the Laodacians and other works that Paul wrote aren't counted as scripture).

God can speak out of the mouths of Donkeys, out of High Priests who hate his Son - there's no reason to suggest that we have to hold Caiaphas' worldview, or Balaam's Ass's worldview, or that Moses or John held them. The most obvious example is Peter confessing the Christ and then showing with the next thing he said that he has a completely wrong idea of what he meant there.

Neither Jude, nor Peter, say 1Enoch is authoritative - they say that this point about angels is and that is all. They use the argument saying that this bit is actually true and inspired. We cannot use the quotes to say that the book itself is authoritative, simply as that is putting words in these Apostles' mouths.

simon (no relation, but a good name!) makes some good points, other than one - there was no real 'cut' with the canon - it worked the other way - books got included into the canon, rather than excluded. Jude was very late to be included - the 1Enoch quote was one problem (shortness (likewise 2 and 3 John) and authorship (likewise Hebrews) were bigger problems).

With 1Enoch - as Enoch wrote the quoted bit (and possibly the rest), if the book was intended to be Scripture outside of the Jude quote and the Peter allusion, had 3 chances to be included - at the time of forming the canon of Hebrew scriptures (over the course of a very long time), when the Septuagint added the apocrypha, when the canon was under discussion in the time of the early church. It wasn't in all three cases. That really really shows.

To give another example, the books of Chronicles and Kings mention other things - "The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah" and so on. That the writer says "if you want to find out more, go look there" doesn't make these books scripture, surely?

Jenny Brien seems to have a deficient theology of God (by saying that he can lie - in which case he's also completely untrustworthy) or a deficient theology of scripture (that it isn't 'breathed out by God'). If her theology isn't wrong, then this question is mute as clearly no scripture can be authoritative, either as God has no authority or there's no more authority in the Bible than in the words of other 'holy men' (which would mean that 1Enoch is instantly on a par with Jude anyway).
h said…
Quoting from Enoch does not in my opinion make any authoritative statement about Enoch. Peter and Jude were just quoting from literature they and there readers were familiar with simply to make a point. I can quote lines from the Simpsons to make theological points but I'm not saying the lines I quoted are authoritative Scripture---I'm just using them as illustrations.
Robin Parry said…
h

you are right that quoting a source does not make it authoritative scripture. And I don't think 1 Enoch is anything of the sort. However, Jude does seem to consider the part he quotes as a genuine prophecy (see his intro to the quote) and therefore as 'inspired by God'. He also refers to the fallen angels in prison until the judgement day which seems to be a ref to the Enochian expansion of the story of the sons of God in Genesis 6. It looks like he accepts that post-Genesis expansion.

So Jude appears to take the parts of 1 Enoch that he had very seriously. It is not really akin to you quoting from the Simpsons.
James Goetz said…
I believe in the full inspiration of Scripture with full doctrinal inerrancy, along the lines of A.H. Strong and B Ramm. This view focuses on the hermeneutical principle that ancient Mediterranean Bible writers including the Holy Spirit never wrote with modern standards of history or science. In the case of the ancient context of Jude, the historicity of anything in 1 Enoch is irrelevant because that was not a critical concern in most of the Apostolic and Early Church. The basic concepts of the teachings about the return of the Lord stand in inerrancy while the historicity of the reference is irrelevant. By the way, I don't believe in 1 Enoch.:)

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