Jude’s quotation of 1 Enoch 1:9 is often touted as a problem for the Protestant canon. If, however, that’s a problem for the Protestant canon, then that’s also a problem for the Roman Catholic canon, the Eastern Orthodox canon, and most Oriental orthodox canons–except the anomalous case of the Ethiopian Orthodox canon.
Of course, Roman Catholics default to the Magisterium. That, however, is a makeshift solution that fails to address Jude’s use of 1 Enoch 1:9. Either Jude treats this passage as inspired Scripture or not. If not, then we don’t need the Magisterium to broker the issue; but if he does, then the Magisterium can’t very well overrule Jude.
II. The Text
I’m going to reproduce both passages. I’ll quote Jude in the ESV, and I’ll use the translation supplied by Nickelsburg in his commentary for the Enochic passage.
1 Enoch 1:1-2,9
The words of the blessing with which Enoch blessed the righteous chosen who will be present on the day of tribulation, to remove all the enemies; and the righteous will be saved. And he took up his discourse and said, Enoch, a righteous man whose eyes were opened by God, who had the vision of the Holy One and of heaven, which he showed me…Behold, he comes with the myriads of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all, and to destroy all the wicked, and to convict all flesh for all the wicked deeds that they have done, and the proud and hard words that wicked sinners spoke against him.
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.”
III. The Crux
Jude’s use of 1 Enoch 1:9 raises at least two related issues:
i) Unless he regards the speaker as the historic Enoch, why does he ascribe the utterance to Enoch?
ii) Unless he regards 1 Enoch 1:9 as true, why does he quote it?
IV. The Enochic Ascription
From what I can gauge, the obvious reason that Jude, in quoting this passage, attributes the utterance to Enoch, is because that ascription is, itself, a part of the original quote. Jude is quoting from a book quoting “Enoch.”
1 Enoch 1:1 is a general superscription for chapters 1-5 (in our extant editions), followed by an introduction (1:2-3) which reaffirms the Enochic superscription. (For details, see Nickelsburg’s commentary.)
Jude introduces 1:9 by paraphrasing 1:1 and then incorporating that ascription into his quote. In effect, he’s quoting 1:1,9. He carries the ascription of 1:1 down into the quotation of 1:9–skipping over the intervening material.
But this does not imply that he himself attributes the utterance to Enoch. Rather, he’s quoting the citation that comes with the pericope (1:1-9). A summary quotation of 1:1,9 (or 1:1-2,9).
He quotes the superscription because the superscription was already a part of the primary text, and, what is more, a part of the text that introduces the oracle of judgment.
So it’s not as if he’s adding his own attribution, or vouching for the ascription. Rather, he’s quoting a quote. For 1 Enoch 1:1-2 explicitly quotes “Enoch” making the statement recorded in v9. Therefore, an accurate quote by a secondary source (Jude) will reproduce the superscription in the primary source–though not necessarily verbatim.
To take a comparison, suppose a pastor preaches a sermon series on Hebrews, using the KJV. He inaugurates the series by reading his sermon text: “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews. God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets…”
Is the pastor attributing Hebrews to St. Paul? No. The pastor is quoting the KJV, which attributes this letter to St. Paul.
Of course, this doesn’t rule out the possibility that our pastor may agree with the citation. But we can’t infer that from the mere practice of quoting the superscription to introduce the sermon text.
V. The Enochic Background
A common problem with the way the issue is framed is that scholars tend to focus on the background of Jude 14-15 rather than the background of 1 Enoch 1:9. Once they have identified the source of Jude 14-15, that’s where they stop.
Yet, to a great extent, 1 Enoch 1:9 (indeed, the whole pericope) is, itself, a secondary source which has its primary source in OT scripture. Therefore, Jude isn’t simply quoting 1 Enoch 1:9. For by quoting 1 Enoch 1:9, he is indirectly quoting whatever OT passages 1 Enoch is alluding to. To the extent, which is considerable, that 1 Enoch 1:9 goes back to the OT scriptures, so does Jude 14-15. It’s the truth of the OT scriptures, appropriated by 1 Enoch 1:9, which underwrites the truth 1 Enoch 1:9.
As a couple of scholars have noted:
“The holy ones are the faithful angels of God, as in Dan 4 and Job 5:1; 15:15. This reference to God’s celestial band recalls Deut 33:2…Zech 14:5c envisions an advent of God along with his holy ones. It is possible that Ps 68:18 also speaks of God’s heavenly retinue within the context of theophany…Dan 7:10, a part of Daniel’s throne vision, also pictures God as surrounded by myriads of heavenly attendants as at the time of judgment,” J. VanderKam, “The Theophany of Enoch 1:3b-7, 9,” Vetus Testamentum 23.2 (1973): 148-50.
“That God comes with myriads of holy ones derives form Deut 33:2…The universality of this judgment, indicated already in [1 Enoch] 1:7, is emphasized here by the fourfold repetition of ‘all.’…the language here should be read in light of three related OT texts. The first is Genesis 6-9, which repeatedly speaks of the corruption of all flesh and of the judgment that falls on all flesh except for a very small remnant [Gen 6:12,13,17,19; 7:15,21; 8:17; 9:11,15,17]…Two other OT passages (Jer 25:30-32; Isa 66:15-16) may have influenced the wording of 1 Enoch 1:3c-5,9,” G. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1 (Fortress Press 2001), 149.
VI. Audience Adaptation
Apropos (V), the substance of the passage, quoted by Jude, is thoroughly Scriptural. The only apocryphal element is the Enochic setting, but that’s embedded in the citational formula of the primary source which Jude is quoting. An incidental consequence of his requoting the terms of the original quotation.
We might still ask why Jude references this material in the first place. An obvious explanation is that he did it because this type of literature was venerated by his opponents, and so he’s turning it against them. A polemical, tu quoque technique which we find elsewhere in Scripture.