19 February 2016

The Book of Enoch's Influence on the New Testament (Pt 2)

We ended in the last part with a little diversion on determinism in Hebrew thought, so now back to the path at hand. What benefit does the Book of Enoch provide for us when it comes to our canon of Scripture? Well, the most obviously answer comes from one of its primary uses by people today, and that is its relationship to the ongoing debate into the true meaning of Genesis 6 and the sons of God taking daughters of man as wives.

The Book of Enoch obviously sees the sons of God as indeed angelic entities procreating with human women and creating a hybrid race of giants. This is the common view on Genesis 6 that the ancient Hebrews and early church held, and the Book of Enoch is a key source for further promoting this understanding.

When it comes to this book in general, some quote it as if it were Scripture, while others condemn it as total myth and heresy. But if we find that it has been influential on some biblical writers and has influenced them in the writing of our canon of Scripture, then it would demand further consideration, would it not?

Let’s start with a look at what little we know about the man Enoch just from the Scriptures. Genesis 5 tells us Enoch is the son of Jared, that at age 65 he had a son, Methuselah, and that he lived another 300 years after fathering Methuselah, and at that time, at age 365, he “was not, for God took him.” So the fact that we are told that he was no more after age 365, a lifespan that pales in comparison to those of that time living hundreds of years longer, this gives us a clue something is different here. We are told he “walked with God” which carries the connotation of a direct and immediate relationship with God. Enoch’s walk with God was different than those around him.

In Genesis 6:9, we are told that Noah similarly “walked with God,” and we know how special he ended up being. And as special as Noah was, Enoch was likewise special. Note that we are not told he died as all of those around him in the genealogy verses are said to have done, but just that he “was not.” This is the only time in this genealogy chapter that “was not” is used, and scholars agree it cannot mean simply that he died. And of course we are told in the book of Hebrews that he indeed had not died in this instance:

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him... (Hebrews 11:5 ESV)

Beyond that, the only other mentionable content about Enoch we have is in the book of Jude, which we will deal with further in a bit. It states:

It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their 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." (Jude 14-15 ESV)

As mentioned, the Book of Enoch was held in high esteem in the early Christian church, but translator E. Isaac concluded that the book fell into disfavor around the 4th century in the West due to the negative reviews of it by influential theologians like Julius Africanus, Augustine, Hilary and Jerome, and that it was the medieval mind that was responsible for it becoming virtually oblivious to the church until its rediscovery in 1773 by Scottish explorer James Bruce.

Some believe it fell in disfavor because the text was at a time manipulated by those in the Manichean heresy camp, and therefore Jerome and Augustine outright dismissed it as apocryphal because of its popularity - not on any scriptural basis though. It was Augustine, with his early background in Manicheanism that was the most influential with his rejection, and he laid the foundation for the modern church's continued rejection. Brian Godawa sums it up well, stating:

But we must learn our lessons from Augustine’s fallacy of guilt by association. Just because some aberrant sects of non-Christian cults may value 1 Enoch does not make it an unworthy text, especially since it has a long pedigree of acceptance within the historic orthodox faith. After all, non-Christian cults of all kinds do the same thing with the Bible. Abuse of a text does not negate proper use. (Brian Godawa - When Giants Were Upon the Earth, pg. 18)

Now while we are not saying that 1 Enoch is to be considered Scripture, many people do not even realize just how influential it was on our New Testament writers, some of whom appear to have used it directly as source material for doctrines that they then injected into what we today hold as canon of Scripture.

Say that the Book of Enoch as a non-canonical writing was a source of historical and  doctrinal truths is not as odd of a thought as it may sound to some. Scholars note that there are well over fifty references in the Scriptures to just over twenty non-canonical source texts used by Biblical authors that are currently still lost to history. These are non-Biblical texts that the writers of Scripture canon specifically mention as being either the source of truths for the information they wrote in Scripture, or are promoted as suggested reading for further truth and reference for what they wrote in Scripture. A few examples of such mentioned works would be:

The Book of the Wars of Yahweh (Num 21:14), the Book of Jasher (Joshua 10:13), the Book of the Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41), the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel (1 Kings 14:19), the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah (1 Kings 14:29), the Annals of Samuel the Seer (1 Chr. 29:29), the History of Nathan the Prophet (2 Chr. 9:29), and many others, but you get the gist of the point being made. Basically, with such evidence of an acknowledgement of non-Biblical sources by the very writers of  Scripture canon, we cannot simply dismiss such influential texts as totally irrelevant of unworthy of inspection.

Unfortunately, at present all of these types of works remain lost, except one, the Book of Enoch. And the fact is that this book was considered to be one such source that contains information with both a direct and indirect influence on our New Testament writings. The Book of Enoch would have been one of those books that was probably wide read by the Jewish people of the first century. It appears to be one that was obviously known by most people, as we find in the New testament not only a direct quote here and there, but quite a large amount of direct allusions to doctrines expressed within it.

Terms like “Son of Man,” for instance. Many will simply say this terminology that Yeshua employs is harking back to its appearance in Daniel 7, and there is no denying that there is an obvious connection. However, what little we are told in Daniel regarding that designation does not directly correlate to the extensive use we find throughout the New Testament. One scholarly work argues that while Daniel 7 shows a vision of the Son of Man on a cloud approaching the throne of the Ancient of Days and receiving a kingdom of glory and dominion, the New Testament Son of Man engages in a more judicial office that the one presented in Daniel.

In Daniel he is enthroned after judgment, but in places like Mark 8:38 and Matt. 10:32-33, the Son of Man comes in judgment. This difference aligns much more closely to those teachings contained in the Parables of Enoch. Mark 13:26-27 tells us:

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. (Mark 13:26-27 ESV)

This Son of Man text goes beyond what Daniel 7 states, but aligns more closely with the resurrection imagery contained in 1 Enoch 51, 61 and 62. Another example we can look at is the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (Matthew 25:31-33 ESV)

He goes on to speak of those who did this, that and the other thing, and those who did not do any of those things, and then concludes in verse 46 by stating “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Now while Daniel 7 gives us a reference to a kingly throne idea, it does not present us with any kind of real judgment of nations motif like we find here. However, this type of motif is indeed reflective of what we are told in the Book of Enoch chapter 62 where we are told of the gathering of the people for judgment:

One half portion of them shall glance at the other half; they shall be terrified and dejected; and pain shall seize them when they see the Son of Man sitting on the throne of his glory…

But the Lord of the Spirits himself will cause them to be frantic, so that they shall rush and depart from his presence…

So he will deliver them to the angels for punishments in order that vengeance shall be executed on them - oppressors of his children and his elect ones…

The righteous and elect ones shall be saved on that day; and from thenceforth they shall never see the faces of the sinners and the oppressors. The Lord of the Spirits will abide over them; they shall eat and rest and rise with that Son of Man forever and ever. The righteous and elect ones shall rise from the earth and cease being of downcast face. They shall wear the garments of glory.

How about what we learn in John 5 about judgment and the Son:

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son... (John 5:22 ESV)

Sounds like almost a direct quote from Enoch 69:

And he sat on the throne of his glory, and the sum of judgment was given to the Son of Man. (Enoch 69:27)

Now, let’s take a look briefly at some from the Book of Revelation. Let’s start with the discussion of the blood of the martyrs in Rev 6:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer... (Revelation 6:9-11 ESV)

 Enoch had foretold this in similar manner:

In those days the prayer of the righteous shall have ascended, and the blood of the righteous from the earth shall be before the Lord of spirits. In those days the holy ones who dwell above in heavens shall unite with one voice and supplicate and pray and praise, and give thanks and bless the name of the Lord of spirits on behalf of the blood of the righteous which has been shed, that the prayer of the righteous may not be in vain before the Lord of spirits, that they may have justice, and that they may not have to wait forever. (1 Enoch 47:1-2)

And sure we are all familiar with what we are told in Rev. 20:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:12-15 ESV)

Well, this correlates pretty closely with what we find in Enoch 47 and 51:

In those days I saw the Head of Days when He seated himself on the throne of His glory, and the books of the living were opened before Him; and all His host which is in heaven above and His counselors stood before Him. And the hearts of the holy were filled with joy because the number of the righteous had been offered, and the prayer of the righteous had been heard, and the blood of the righteous not been required before the Lord of spirits. (1 Enoch 47:3-4)

And in those days shall the earth also give back that which has been entrusted to it, and Sheol also shall give back that which is has received, and hell shall give back that which is owes. For in those days the Elect One shall arise, and he shall choose the righteous and holy from among them. For the day has drawn near that they should be saved. (1 Enoch 51:1-2)

So, here is a question that hit me as I was studying this, and it is a question worth pondering I think. If we accept the Book of Revelation as inspired canon of Scripture - which we do; and if we understand it as prophecy revealed beforehand to John - which we do; then what do we do when we find very similar or identical “prophetic” scenarios in the Book of Enoch, written hundreds of years earlier than Revelation, but that correlates with it? Just food for thought.

More to come...

View the other parts of the topic

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 |