The book of 1 Enoch (there is also 2 Enoch and 3 Enoch) was well known in the few centuries around the time of Christ and was then lost. It was only re-discovered in 1773 by the Scottish explorer, James Bruce, in Ethiopia, having been preserved only in the sacred Ge’ez language. Fragments of the book were also discovered among the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran in Aramaic.
The earliest parts of the book were probably composed no later than about the 3rd or 4th century BC. This ancient work, by its own internal admission, is not the work of the antediluvian patriarch, Enoch alone. It also contains several visions of Noah and apparently others.
The Argument for Canonicity
Before considering this, it should be noted that very few people actually argue that the book of 1 Enoch should be included in the Bible with the notable exception of the Ethiopian Orthodox church. But among those who do, the main reason invariably centres on the almost verbatim parallel between Jude 14, 15 and 1 En 1:9. (They are NOT identical because we now only have them in different languages, Ge’ez and Greek; despite this, the similarity is impressive.) This amazing “quote” could be due to any of the following phenomena:
- Jude actually quoted from 1 Enoch. However, this does not make 1 Enoch a Biblical book any more than Cyrus or Epimenides – see appendix 1. (The Book of Revelation also quotes from 1 Enoch, see appendix.)
- Jude quotes from the real book of Enoch, now lost, that the (false) book of 1 Enoch attempts to imitate and change by also quoting.
- Jude quoted the antediluvian patriarch Enoch via an oral tradition as did the book of 1 Enoch. Thus, Jude says nothing about the book of 1 Enoch which, under this scenario, could have been written much later than the patriarch to include such oral traditions to lend it greater credibility. A similar phenomenon has occurred with the “modern” book of Jasher.
Which of these Jude had in mind cannot now be determined. Therefore, nothing can be deduced about the canonicity of 1 Enoch from the presumed quote in Jude. Only the Ethiopian Orthodox Church reckons 1 Enoch as canonical. Further, the fact that the Bible quotes a source does not canonize the source as the appendix below ably demonstrates.
Arguments Against Canonicity
- The Jews did not include 1 Enoch in their cannon (ie, the Old Testament). The Septuagint does not include it either, despite including some other dubious material (eg, Bel and the Dragon, etc). Thus the Jews did not regard 1 Enoch as inspired.
- The earliest church lists do not include 1 Enoch and the Latin Vulgate prepared by Jerome does not include 1 Enoch. None of the early church councils considered it inspired. (The only Christian Church to include it has been Ethiopian Orthodox Church.) Some early church fathers were impressed by 1 Enoch such as: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertulian. But in the 4th century the book fell into disfavor and was discouraged by Augustine, Hilary and Jerome.
- 1 Enoch is now only available in complete form in the ancient Ethiopian liturgical language of Ge’ez. All complete manuscripts date from the 15th century or later. It is not known what the original language was, but it may have been Hebrew, Aramaic or a mixture of both. The book is clearly composite and contains a number of interpolations from various sources such as (apparently) the lost book of Noah – see 1 En 10, 1 En 54:7 – 55:2, 1 En 60 – 68. Further, book 5 (chs 91-108) is clearly scrambled from their original order. Thus, the current state of preservation of the text is lamentable. Now the decision as to whether a book should be included in the canon of scripture is not a human but a divine decision. And, if the Lord had wished to have 1 Enoch in the canon of scripture, He would have preserved it for all to use, but clearly the document has been poorly preserved!
- 1 Enoch contains a number of themes and statements that are difficult to reconcile with a supposedly inspired work, including:
- a. 1 En 6ff. The book of Watchers describes (at some length) angels marrying and procreating with humans – a feat described by Jesus as impossible – see Matt 22:30, Mark 12:25.
- b. The whole premise of the first book of 1 Enoch (chs 1 – 36) hinges on the original sin of angels being their defilement and procreation with women during the antediluvian period after Eden – a claim at odds with the Bible which states that Satan’s sin occurred before Eden (Isa 14:12-15, Eze 28:12-17, Gen 3, etc) without the involvement of mortal women.
- c. 1 En 7:3 describes giants 3000 (or 300 depending on the manuscript) cubits (about 2000 or 200 m) tall!
- d. 1 En 10:10-12 states that the earth would last another 70 generations of 500 years, or 35,000 years
- e. 1 En 13:5 states that evil angels cannot speak or even be seen by God (contrast Job 1 & 2)
- f. 1 En 14:5 says that evil angels cannot ascend to heaven (contrast Job 1 & 2)
- g. 1 En 22:4 claims that the spirits of the dead beg heaven for mercy and await punishment (contrast this with Eccl 9:5, 6, 10, etc.)
- h. 1 En 32:2, 77:8, 9 discusses the Red Sea (or Erythraean Sea, depending on the translation) which did not exist before the flood. The same is true of Mt. Sinai (1 En 1:4)
- i. 1 En 44 says that the origin of lightning is stars!
- j. 1 En 56:5 describes the country of the Parthians and the Medes which did not exist before 300 BC suggesting that 1 Enoch was written after this time. Therefore, the document could not have been composed by an antediluvian patriarch as it repeatedly asserts.
- k. 1 En 60:1 talks about the 500th year of Noah; 1 En 65:4 records a conversation between Enoch and Noah; 1 En 106 describes the birth of Noah during the lifetime of Enoch. All this is at odds with the chronology of Gen 5:18-31 which claims that Enoch was taken from the earth 69 years before Noah’s birth.
- l. The Book of Heavenly Luminaries (= Astronomical Book) contains a mixture of Greek mythology and Greek Celestial mechanics. This is another compelling evidence that the book was composed about 300 BC or soon after. Thus, the book, by claiming Enoch as its author shows itself a pseudepigraphon.
- m. The solar year is stated to be 364 days (1 En 74:10).
- A frequent criticism of the book of Mormon states that it cannot be genuine because the original text (in “reformed Egyptian”) cannot be examined. The same is true of 1 Enoch – the original Hebrew or Aramaic has been almost entirely lost. If the book is divinely inspired, then why was it not preserved in its original form and language as the rest of the Bible has been?
- A related criticism asserts that because the book was lost for over 1000 years (only rediscovered in 1773), it has not enjoyed divine protection as per the rest of the Bible. Thus during its lost years, Christians had no access to the document.
- Book 4, the Dream Visions, (chs 83 – 90) contains what purports to be a prophecy of the world (in animal parables) from creation to the coming of Messiah. It is not a very good prophecy because it is only accurate up to the time of the Maccabean revolt. It becomes useless for the time thereafter, thus demonstrating that this section of the book was probably written about the 2nd century BC.
- The entire character of the book is quite mystical, Greek, and un-Jewish in nature. There is no mention of Old Testament ceremony of the lunar-solar calendar. That is, while 1 Enoch is not genuine Gnostic literature, it is definitely Platonic in character due to its cosmology, calendar, and anthropology.
Thus, the Book of 1 Enoch contains no verifiable predictive prophecy, is frequently at odds with the teachings of the Bible and every-day experience, and is unreliable generally. Therefore, it cannot be regarded as canonical.
APPENDIX - Bible quotes from Uninspired Sources
|Book of Jashir, “O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
|Book of Jashar, Lament for Jonathan.
||1 Sam 1:18-27
|King Hiram’s Order (in a letter) to provide materials for Solomon’s temple
||2 Chron 2:11-16
|King Cyrus’ Edict to free Jews and return to Judah
||2 Chron 36:23
|King Cyrus’ Edict to free Jews and return to Judah
|Rehum’s Letter to King Artaxerxes
|King Artaxerxes’ Letter to Rehum
|Tattenai’s Letter to King Darius
|King Darius’ Letter and Decree concerning the building of the temple in Jerusalem on the basis of King Cyrus’ decree found at Ecbatana
|King Artaxerxes’ Decree to establish Jewish autonomy in Judah
|Sanballat’s letter to Nehemiah
|King Nebuchadnezzar’s Decree after the fiery furnace
|King Nebuchadnezzar’s Decree and confession after his insanity
|King Darius’ decree in writing concerning Daniel’s God
|Epimenides the Cretan, 6th Cent BC, “In him we live and move and have our being”
|Aratus of Cilicia, Didactic poem, Phaenomena, (An Invocation to Zeus), line 5, 270 BC, “We are his offspring”
|Epimenides the Cretan, 6th Cent BC, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”
|Book of Acts and Gospel of Luke compiled from numerous sources
||(see Acts 1:1-4 & Luke 1:1-4)
|Enoch’s prophecy about coming judgement (see Deut 33:2, 3) 1 En 1:9
||Jude 14, 15
|Noah’s flood and preaching to spirits in prison (???) 1 En 21:6
||1 Peter 3:19, 20
|“After this I saw …an innumerable and uncountable multitude who stood before the glory of the Lord of the Spirits.”
||1 Enoch 40:1 Rev 7:9
|“…as I looked, behold a star fell down from heaven…”
|Trumpet blasts heralding cosmic events in Apocalypse of Zephaniah chapters 9 – 12
||Rev 8 & 9