The Discovery of 1 Enoch
Among the Dead Sea Scrolls
The Book of Enoch (1 Enoch) has been around for thousands of years. Purporting to be written by the biblical figure Enoch, who lived before the world wide flood. The book was mainly known to us by quotes from early Church Fathers. Having been around for quite some time in Ethiopia, it was only translated into English in 1821 by Richard Laurence. When first published it was widely rejected and criticized by scholars and plain men alike as false and written in the Christian era. The arguments remained the same until 1947, when it was re-discovered in ten fragmentary manuscripts amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls (Prophet 37). Arguments over whether the book was actually written by Enoch or whether it was a forgery and merely a “spurious” work were re-ignited once again. Though many were set against the book, this disputed work is now considered pre-Christian and, by some as, truly containing the words of biblical Enoch.
In the beginning, the arguments about 1 Enoch were mentioned by many Church Fathers and other notable people. Arguments ranged from whether it was genuine to the things it contained in it. But the greatest and most significant change was brought to us by the D.S.S. The D.S.S were thousands of fragmentary manuscripts discovered in 1947- 56. When they were carbon-14 tested, the results were astonishing, at least 200 B.C. (Prophet 37). The argument that 1 Enoch was written during the Christian era was quickly dissolved.
Today, 1 Enoch is not found in our Bibles, though it is included in the Ethiopian Church Canon (Prophet 9). Otherwise, it is generally considered pseudepigraphical, which means a book is written by someone else than it claims to be written by. The D.S.S. contained many manuscripts of “apocryphal” and “pseudopigraphal” writings. This fact alone shows the importance that “pseudopigraphal” books had among the original “owners” of the D.S.S. (Prophet 3).
In the first pages of the book of Enoch, Enoch writes, “I heard all things, and understood what I saw; that which will not take place in this generation, but in a generation which is to succeed at a distant period, on account of the elect.” (Enoch 1:2). Enoch right away declares that the book will be useless, but in the “distant period” it will be useful. The book mainly focuses on the Messiah (Christ), because of this many scholars assumed the book was written in the Christian era. After the discovery of the D.S.S., scholars like J.T. Milik realized that many scholars before them were wrong. The book was/is pre-Christian. The D.S.S. proving its antiquity.
Church Fathers were split on choosing whether to accept this book into the canon or not. Tertullian (160-220 A.D.) argued that the book was genuine and that it either survived the world wide flood or was rewritten under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Prophet 44-46). Since Enoch lived (biblically) before the flood, and was part of the seventh generation from Adam, scholars can not conceive the fact that the book could possibly have survived long enough to get to us. Yet, when we come across biblical history we notice that the Septuagint (Greek) Bible was rewritten by 72 scribes. Traditionally they were all set apart from one another and were directed by the king (Ptolemy “Philadelphus II” [285–247 BCE]), to write the scriptures out word for word. The king desired to augment his library and wanted the Jews “holy” scripture a part of it. History is split on this matter, some tradition says the scribes rewrote the scriptures under inspiration; other history states that 72 scribes translated the Bible in 72 days. The main point is that biblical books were generally held to be divine and that books could be rewritten under inspiration.
A good example of books rewritten under “inspiration” can be found in the biblical book of 4 Ezra, in it Ezra writes,
As for me, I spoke in the daytime and was not silent at night. So during the forty days ninety-four books were written. And when the forty days were ended, the Most High spoke to me, saying, "Make public the twenty-four books that you wrote first and let the worthy and the unworthy read them; but keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people. For in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the river of knowledge." And I did so (New Revised Standard Version: Holy Bible with the Apocrypha,4 Ezra 14.44-48).
The 24 books made public make up the Hebrew Old Testament, while the other 70 are generally called the “apocrypha” (notice in this case that the term “apocrypha” does not mean “false”, as the term has now evolved into). If the author of 4 Ezra says that Ezra rewrote all scripture under inspiration, then rewriting an “old” book is not to be considered impossible. Thus, as Tertullian believed, the book of Enoch could have been written not by Enoch, but by someone else, under the dictation of the Holy Spirit.
Setting the second argument aside, we now come to the arguments against what the book contains. Enoch writes, It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamored of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children ( 1 Enoch 7.1-3). And the women conceiving brought forth giants (1 Enoch 7.11).
Many early Church Fathers; Tertullian, Tatian, Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, and many others considered 1 Enoch true. The theme of the book was generally accepted in the early first, second, and third centuries after Christ. It was only until the fourth century that 1 Enoch fell into great disfavor. The subject dealing with the deeds of the fallen angels so infuriated the later Church fathers that one, Filastrius, condemned it as heresy (Filastrius, Liber de Haeresibus, no. 108). And Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai in the second century A.D. cursed those who believed it (Delitzch 223). As we see, as time wore on, the book lost its authority. Chrysostom (346-407 AD) wrote, “It would be folly to accept such insane blasphemy, saying that an incorporeal and spiritual nature could have united itself to human bodies” (Prophet 61). A few notable people had the same thought as did Chrysostom, who has most nobly put the Bible to memory. Though knowing the Bible well Chrysostom missed a few points.
One of the most important things is that the biblical book of Genesis supports 1 Enoch, stating,
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose….There were giants in the earth in those days… (Holy Bible: King James Version, Gen. 6.1-2,4).
These verses state almost the same exact thing that Enoch writes. A highly respected scholar, J. T. Milik wrote a book published by Oxford in 1976 (The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4), and in it he says that biblical Genesis 6.1-4 is actually a rewriting of 1 Enoch (Milik 31). Another argument for 1 Enoch deals with different Bible translations. The Greek Bible (Septuagint), mentioned before, states the words, “sons of God”, in Genesis 6.1-4 as “angels of God”. The reason scholars and theologians argue, is that the Hebrew Bible (original), says “sons…” instead of “angels”. Some argue that the Hebrew Bible is older, and thus, is more reliable than the Septuagint. Nevertheless, most of the New Testament authors quote from the Septuagint, supporting its authority (Salza).
Since the New Testament authors quote more frequently from the Septuagint than the Hebrew Bible, we can assume they accepted the Septuagint. "The Greek Septuagint contains more books than the standard Hebrew Bible". A thought arises; if the apostles quoted from the Septuagint, than they accepted more books than the Hebrew Bible. If they accepted more books, than if a book is not in our Bible that does not mean that it is not “inspired”. Further stating, many biblical canons differ; the Codex Alexandrinus Canon accepts 1-2 Clement, some Eastern Orthodox churches reject Revelation. The early German Bible’s contained Epistle to the Laodiceans. Since canons are different we can not state that only one canon is correct. There are good arguments for a certain book and good arguments against it.
Another book from the Bible that supports 1 Enoch is the Epistle of Jude. The New Testament author quotes from 1 Enoch. He writes,
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Holy Bible: King James Version, Jude 1.14-15, quoting from 1 Enoch 1:9).
If Jude accepted 1 Enoch then we can assume others, under his jurisdiction, did too. Therefore, seeing that the Bible itself seems to make use of 1 Enoch, I came to agree that the book had a great influence on Jude and many early Church Fathers. Since most of the earliest Church Fathers approved of 1 Enoch, and only the “later” ones did not, I choose to agree with what was “at first”.
The book of Enoch is accurate and should be considered a historical record rather than just “pseudopigraphal”. Before the discovery of the D.S.S. many scholars regarded the book as “spurious” giving it very little thought, but since the discovery, anti-Enoch scholars are now having second thoughts. The D.S.S. helped place 1 Enoch into its true position, a position of authority. Now scholars cannot say that the book was written “after” Christ, that has already been dismissed. The things contained in it about angels is most likely correct and any other explanation, based on just the Bible, has very little proof and evidence. I examined the “other” explanations for Genesis 6:1-4, and they did not make much sense, bearing very little scholarly opinion. As for Jude quoting from Enoch, I would like to conclude with Enochan scholar Dr. R. H. Charles words, “the influence of Enoch on the New Testament has been greater than that of all the other apocryphal and pseudepigraphical books taken together” (Prophet 30).
The Book of Enoch.
Trans. Charles, R.H. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1893.