Sunday, April 24, 2016

The historical Enoch

Because Jude quotes from 1 Enoch (Jude 14-15), this raises the question of whether the church either made a mistake by canonizing Jude or by not canonizing 1 Enoch. I've discussed 1 Enoch in various occasions, but I'd like to make some additional points:

i) Because Jude is such a short document, there's no context to judge how he personally views 1 Enoch. To take a comparison, Christian missionaries and apologists sometimes quote from the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, &c. That's not because they believe in the Muslim or Mormon scriptures. They might use the Koran as a bridge. Or they might use the Koran or the Mormon scriptures as a wedge tactic. Using their own sacred literature against them. 

So the mere fact that Jude quotes 1 Enoch doesn't indicate endorsement. It might be a tu quoque maneuver. 

ii) There was no document called 1 Enoch in Jude's time. That's a later editorial title. Our copies of 1 Enoch overlap with whatever document Jude was quoting from, but we have no idea what the boundaries of whatever edition he was quoting were. 

iii) The historical Enoch was an antediluvian. Even assuming he was a seer, what are the odds that his oracles suddenly surfaced in the 2C BC? No one ever heard of it before. No chain of custody. 

Did Noah bring a copy onto the ark? Was it passed down in secret, like an esoteric Disciplina Arcani? Was it a lost book that some rediscovered in the 2C BC? Where was it hidden? Seems an awful lot like Joseph Smith and the golden tablets. 

How likely is it that authentic oracles of a antediluvian appeared out of thin air in the 2C BC? Is it not far more plausible than some Jews during the intertestamental period composed pious fiction which they put on the lips of this enigmatic antediluvian, rather than believing that this appeared out of the blue in the 2C BC, without a trace of their prior existence in Jewish lore? 

iv) For that matter, even if the historical Enoch was a seer, he certainly didn't speak in the late Biblical Hebrew of the Persian period. Who knows what his original language was. It might not even be cognate with Hebrew. Might be a non-Semitic language. So this would be, at best, a translation of what he originally said. 

1 comment:

  1. I've had similar questions regarding the New Testament use of oral Jewish traditions. I am of the opinion, following Dr. Michael Brown, that an oral tradition couldn't have survived to the time of Jesus. (Think of the incident where they discovered the written Torah and had forgotten its contents.)

    So when the New Testament quotes Jewish oral tradition (midrash), I'm not sure if they are using that as real history but in a similar way that Jews used midrash. (I'm pretty sure midrash wasn't considered real history.)

    The flip-side of this is I don't want someone to turn around and say that Abraham wasn't a real person or Adam wasn't a real person even though Paul or Jesus uses them. I think the difference, if I'm correct, is that there was no expectation in the 1st century for those stories to be accurate history, but there was for Scripture.