A few days ago I watched a twitter conversation on the topic of whether the Epistle of Jude contains a quotation from the book of Enoch or not. This question comes up every now and again, mainly because it causes problems for those that claim the Bible was dictated word-for-word by God (“verbal plenary inspiration”), believe that it doesn’t quote extra-biblical works authoritatively, and think that the bible is self-interpreting leaving us in no need of any extra-biblical context for its proper understanding (loosely, the “perspicuity of scripture”). So, let’s get down to business: does Jude quote Enoch?
Here’s the passage in Jude that is said to be a quote from the book of Enoch:
Jude 14-15 It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “See, the Lord is coming with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment 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’s pretty clear from this that the writer of the Epistle of Jude claimed to be quoting a very specific individual: the seventh from Adam. Who is this? We find him mentioned in the early chapters of Genesis:
Ge 5:18-24 When Jared had lived one hundred sixty-two years he became the father of Enoch. Jared lived after the birth of Enoch eight hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty-two years; and he died. When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.
This is from the genealogy from Adam to Noah found in Genesis 5. A summary of the generations is: Adam (1) → Seth (2)→ Enosh (3)→ Kenan (4) → Mahalalel (5)→ Jared (6)→ Enoch (7). There he is – the seventh from Adam.
So, Jude is apparently quoting from someone who lived several thousand years before him.
However, as already mentioned, it’s said that instead of quoting Enoch-the-seventh-from-Adam, Jude is actually quoting from the Book of Enoch. Here’s the section from the book of Enoch that is said to be quoted by Jude:
1 Enoch 1:91 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.
That’s pretty much spot on. There’s just no getting around it – the text is very, very similar indeed. To say that one isn’t quoting the other is a real stretch.
It’s the standard view on these verses from Jude. Here are a few well known commentaries that make the point:
The longest and only unambiguous quotation in the Epistle of Jude is not from an OT book but rather from 1 Enoch.2
Jude now confirms this final analysis of his opponents with a prophecy of inescapable judgment, the judgment which will accompany the return of Christ. He quotes 1 Enoch (i. 9) to emphasize his point.3
Scholars agree that Jude cites 1 Enoch in vv 14–15.4
So, how should we react to this?
In my experience, when a Christian with conservative views of scripture first encounters the idea that Jude quotes the book of Enoch, they tend to recoil and then try to explain away the problem. Here are a few ways they try to deal with the difficulty (exemplified in this article from Apologetics Press).
A common tactic is to say that maybe Enoch-the-seventh-from-Adam wrote the Book of Enoch that Jude quotes. Those making this claim have clearly never read Enoch – it quotes a number of biblical books that even a conservative dating would place hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years after the time of the Enoch of Genesis 5. For example, in the Book of Enoch just a few verses before the one quoted above we find the following:
1 Enoch 1:3-4 The Great Holy One will come forth from his dwelling and the eternal God will tread from thence upon Mount Sinai. He will appear with his army, he will appear with his mighty host from the heaven of heavens.
That’s a pretty tight paraphrase of a passage in Deuteronomy:
Deut 33:2 The LORD came from Sinai, and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran. With him were myriads of holy ones; at his right, a host of his own.
…and mixes in language found in Hab 3:3, Mic 1:3, and Is 26:21 for good measure.
Evidently, the book of Enoch depends on Deuteronomy. Which means it can’t have been written before (conservatively speaking) Moses. Which means it can’t have been written by Enoch-the-seventh-from-Adam as he is supposed to have lived hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years before Moses (again, conservatively speaking). At least, not without Enoch owning a time machine.
So, the book of Enoch was written far too late for it to have been written by Enoch-the-seventh-from-Adam. This attempted explanation doesn’t work.
Another common tactic tried by those with conservative views of scripture is the opposite – maybe the book of Enoch was written after Jude and therefore it’s actually the other way around– i.e. The book of Enoch quotes the Epistle of Jude!
It’s pretty easy to knock this argument on the head: the book of Enoch is included in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the vast bulk of which predate any New Testament writings. Fragments containing the citations from the Book of Enoch above are designated 4Q201 and 4Q204. Here’s a translation of the scrolls5:
4Q201 Frag. 1 Col. 1:
1[… visio]n of Enoch to [the] cho[sen …]
2[… he took up] his discourse [and s]aid […]
3[…] and from the words of [the Watchers] and all the holy ones […]
4[… Not for thi]s generation but for a [di]stant gene[ration] do I spe[ak …]
5[The] Holy [G]reat One will come out of [his dwelling …]
6[…] the [Gr]eat One, and he will shine [in the strength of his] might […]
7[… end]s of the earth, and [a]ll the end[s of the earth] shall qu[ake …]
8[…] hills […]
4Q204 Frag. 1 Col. 1
15[… he will come with myri[ads of his] holy ones […]
16[… to judge all f]lesh for [their] works [of …]
17[…] great and harsh […]
Here’s a picture of some of 4Q201 that’s been digitised as part of the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library:
So, when is this scroll dated to? It’s from the Hasmonean period. When was that? The Hasmonean period was over decades before Jesus was even born, never mind before the Epistle of Jude was written.
Evidently then, the book of Enoch predates the Epistle of Jude. It cannot be claimed that the Book of Enoch quotes the Epistle of Jude – it was written before Jude and we have a copy in the Dead Sea Scrolls to prove the point.
So, what can we learn from all this? A couple of things.
Firstly, yes the Bible does quote external sources authoritatively. If you’re a Christian then you need to work this fact into your model of Biblical Inspiration.
Secondly, just because the Bible attributes a quote to an author (e.g. Enoch-the-seventh-from-Adam) doesn’t mean that the person specified wrote what is being quoted. This is especially worth bearing in mind when reading passages in the New Testament that attribute passages to “Moses”.
Thirdly, on coming across something that doesn’t line up with your view of scripture, don’t immediately go on the defensive; it might be your view of scripture that needs to be brought in line with the facts. And today’s fact is this:
Attribution in the Bible can be more complicated than it seems.
Quotations from Enoch are taken from the translation in George W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch (ed. Klaus Baltzer; Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible; Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2001) ↩
D. A Carson, “Jude,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007), 1078. ↩
Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude: An Introduction and Commentary (vol. 18; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 205. ↩
Jerome H. Neyrey, 2 Peter, Jude: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (vol. 37C; Anchor Yale Bible; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 79. ↩
Michael O. Wise, Martin G. Abegg Jr., and Edward M. Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (New York: HarperOne, 2005), 280–281. ↩