1 Enoch in Jude’s “Bible”: Issues of Canonicity and Scriptural Inspiration

Jude 1:5-7 (NRSV):  Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that the Lord, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgement of the great day. Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

In the passage quoted above the author of Jude draws on past examples to show that God punishes sinners in order to demonstrate that God will eventually condemn his own contemporary opponents too: v.5 relies on Exodus and Numbers concerning Israelite rebellion and punishment in the wilderness; v.6 draws on 1 Enoch 6-16 about the “angels” who left their appointed sphere and who were thus condemned (cf. Gen. 6:1-4); and v.7 speaks of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah found in Genesis.[1]

The author of Jude later quotes 1 Enoch 1:9 explicitly in vv.14-15, crediting Enoch with having correctly “prophesied” the condemnation of the author’s own contemporary opponents, as well as having referred to the final judgement (note: 1 Enoch is a composite work composed around the 3rd century B.C.E. and thereafter, and thus was not actually written by Enoch).

Jude 1:14-15 (NRSV): It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘See, the Lord is coming with tens of thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgement on all, and to convict everyone of all the 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.’

It is clear from the above that the author of Jude thought 1 Enoch to be a genuine, reliable source of information about God’s dealings in the past with sinners (along with Genesis and Exodus/Numbers), and that he believed the work attributed to Enoch had genuinely prophetic content. Moreover, historically speaking, 1 Enoch was a popular religious work among many Second Temple Jews (e.g., at Qumran) and early Christians–indeed, it is quoted or alluded to at least 14 times in the NT. The Epistle of Barnabas quotes it explicitly as scripture. Tertullian defended it, and the Abyssinian Church eventually included it in its own canon. Later some Christian writers such as Origen, Eusebius, Didymus, and Jerome debated Jude’s scriptural status, probably in part because of its use of 1 Enoch and other religious texts (cf. Jude 1:9) not found in the later LXX (Septuagint) or Rabbinic scriptural collections. There are a number of other points that could be mentioned along these lines, but it seems most reasonable to conclude from the evidence that Jude considered 1 Enoch religiously authoritative (note: to speak of a canon at this time is anachronistic).

The questions I pose to the reader are the following: 1) How does the author of Jude’s view that 1 Enoch is religiously authoritative and prophetically inspired impact modern notions of Scriptural Inspiration and Canon, especially as it pertains to the Mormon community?  2) Are Scriptural texts inspired and therefore canonized, or is it the reverse process: are Scriptural texts canonized by a given faith community and therefore understood as inspired?  Other questions and topics of discussion are open for dialogue as well.



Throughout the above discussion I have relied on James C. VanderKam’s Enoch: A Man For All Generations. Studies in Personalities of the Old Testament (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995).

8 Replies to “1 Enoch in Jude’s “Bible”: Issues of Canonicity and Scriptural Inspiration”

  1. Isn’t your first question presupposing an identical stance towards texts held by Jude and modern Mormons? I’m not sure that’s a fair view. Of course while most Mormons adopt a fairly black and white view of all this I think many others accept a “degree of inspiration” view. (After all I experience that in my own encounters with the divine, such as in offering a blessing)

    However there are other stances as well, including some suggesting by Joseph’s own hermeneutic methods. Consider one that can see inspiration in unauthoritative texts (say some discovered papyri). This doesn’t address the social role of the appeal to 1 Enoch of course but is interesting in its own right.

    However I think Paul offers an other way to take the authority issue, this time in terms of its social embeddedness. Paul quotes in a similarly authoritative manner various Stoic figures. I don’t think this means Paul necessarily buys into Stoicism. In the 1st century we know 1 Enoch was authoritative for various communities such as Qumran. And honestly we don’t know how far beyond that. Would it really be that off for someone to use it in an argument knowing it’s place?

    And of course we might in modern terms look at even the canonized OT as problematic – especially given the BoM critique. Does it matter that the D&C quotes Song of Solomon twice? Not really (although admittedly the quotes don’t imply as much as this one of Jude’s). If it turns out that NT authors or early Mormons quote authoritatively problematic texts should that say much? Or does it just highlight a particular rhetorical style of communication?

    The question ends up being the question of realism and historic/theological accuracy from a text. There is a de-facto appeal to authority in all this as if that necessarily implies something about the realism question. I don’t think the two are really as closely related as we tend to assume. I think this more reflects modern western culture, especially that of the 20th century.

  2. some thoughts:

    if jude, as canonized nt author and brother of james and therefore of jesus, thought that enoch wrote 1 enoch, then wouldn’t that be a theological argument against our accepting (innocent) pseudepigraphy? … jude thought that enoch wrote 1 enoch, so i must also take it and other pseudonymous texts at face value.

    or maybe ‘jude’ didn’t think enoch wrote 1 enoch and was trained in the art of double-speak, only referring to enoch as author because he knew that his readers all thought that enoch wrote it and jude did not want correlation to get after him. furthermore he himself adopted the name of james’ and jesus’ brother as a little joke and because he did not want his pagan friends to be able to tie him to his more pastoral work.

    or maybe god told ‘enoch’ and ‘jude’ to write under assumed names that the people would respect because otherwise they would not take his revelation seriously.

    or maybe god didn’t think that he could explain all this to ‘enoch’ and ‘jude’ and so he let them/caused them to believe that they were enoch and jude for the greater good.

    or …


  3. g. wesley,

    I recently finished Karel van der Toorn’s Scribal Culture, and over the past few years I have thought a lot about the issue of pseudepigraphy and its connections to Scriptural authority, inspiration, canonization, etc. I think I will write a post on that sometime this year–and particularly as it pertains to Mormonism–although I can’t say when specifically. You’re comment is food for thought, though. Thanks.


    I don’t really think that Paul’s use of stoic philosophy/ers is really comparable to Jude’s use of 1 Enoch. Maybe you could elaborate on that more for me?

    Because Mormonism rejects (biblical) inerrancy, among other reasons, I agree with you that I don’t know that my first question is really that engaging for informed Mormons.

    It really was question number two upon which I was hoping readers might comment. Do the texts in our Standard Works have inspirational value simply because the community has said so by canonizing them? What ultimately makes these texts different? Is it something inherent in them (e.g., divine inspiration), or just the community’s acceptance of them as authoritative texts? If the latter, then why should one ponder over the Qohelet or Song of Songs to come close to God instead of meditating over 1 Enoch? And if there are levels or degrees of inspiration, as you suggest, why doesn’t the community just excise the extraneous texts (or input others)? There are a number of other questions along these lines that I was trying to get at in the post by using Jude’s citation of 1 Enoch as a foil.

    Best wishes,


  4. I think it is analogous in that one is taking what ones audience takes for granted and using that to create an argument from authority. I suppose one might say Paul isn’t doing that although I’m a bit skeptical of that.

  5. Regarding whether canonization or textual elevation (say the King Follet Discourse) means they have greater inspirational value. I don’t know. My inclination is to say a lot of inspiration comes out of opening ourselves to inspiration. As such many texts would work the key is getting ourselves thinking of the matters in a fashion where we hear inspiration. Some texts presumably work better for that than others. (I don’t the telephone directory would work particularly well for instance) However I also think there’s a strong element of arbitrariness in it all.

    As for why our community doesn’t expunge some texts (say Song of Solomon given Joseph’s comments on it) and include others (say 1 Enoch which I like as much as many OT texts). I think there are practical reasons. I think it’s easier to add or delete modern texts such as deleting the Lectures on Faith but adding in D&C 138. Doing so with the OT would be problematic from the perspective of missionary work. i.e. there’s an element of PR in it all. But also I think as a practical matter that it’s not our choice. I’d love to add the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, for instance, but I doubt God’s inclined to direct anyone to translate it in the near future.

    Put an other way, I think that with a few exceptions what we have is good enough. And honestly a lot has been added recently. Several sections of the D&C, expansions of the Pearl of Great Price, the addition of much of the JST. Who knows, the future might get other texts added.

  6. “Karel van der Toorn’s Scribal Culture”

    This is available in entirety along with some other good stuff at scribd.com right now.

  7. Dang that comment of mine sure doesn’t read clearly. Perils of writing on an iPhone. Hopefully folks could still decipher those sentences where a word or two got replaced incorrectly.

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