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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Enoch Book of

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The interest that once attached to the apocryphal book of Enoch has now partly subsided. Yet a document quoted, as is generally believed, by an inspired apostle, can never be wholly devoid of importance or utility in sacred literature.

With regard to the author of the book and the time when it was written, various conflicting opinions have been promulgated. Without entering into the controversy, we may state that it seems to us to have been composed a little before Christ's appearance, by a Jew who had studied well the book of Daniel. Several circumstances render it apparent that it was originally composed in the Hebrew or Chaldee language.

The Greek translation, in which it was known to the fathers, appears to be irrecoverably lost. There is no trace of it after the eighth century.

The leading object of the writer, who was manifestly imbued with deep piety, was to comfort and strengthen his contemporaries. He lived in times of distress and persecution, when the enemies of religion oppressed the righteous. The outward circumstances of the godly were such as to excite doubts of the divine equity in their minds, or at least to prevent it from having that hold on their faith which was necessary to sustain them in the hour of trial. In accordance with this, the writer exhibits the reward of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked. To give greater authority to his affirmations, he puts them into the mouth of Enoch. Thus they have all the weight belonging to the character of an eminent prophet and saint. Various digressions are not without their bearing on the author's main purpose. The narrative of the fallen angels and their punishment, as also of the flood, exemplifies the retributive justice of Jehovah; while the Jewish history, continued down to the Maccabees, exhibits the final triumph of His people, notwithstanding all their vicissitudes. Doubtless the author lived amid fiery trial: and, looking abroad over the desolation, sought to cheer the sufferers by the consideration that they should be recompensed in another life. As for their wicked oppressors, they were to experience terrible judgments. The writer seems to delight in uttering dire anathemas against the wicked. It is plain that the book grew out of the time when the author lived, and the circumstances by which he was surrounded. It gives us a glimpse not only of the religious opinions, but also of the general features that characterized the period.

The question, Did Jude really quote the book of Enoch? has given rise to a good deal of discussion. Some are most unwilling to believe that an inspired writer could cite an Apocryphal production. Such an opinion destroys, in their view, the character of the writing said to be inspired, and reduces it to the level of an ordinary composition. But this is preposterous. The Apostle Paul quotes several of the heathen poets; yet who ever supposed that by such references he sanctions the productions from which his citations are made, or renders them of greater value? All that can be reasonably inferred from such a fact is, that if the inspired writer cites a particular sentiment with approbation, it must be regarded as just and right, irrespective of the remainder of the book in which it is found. The Apostle's sanction extends no farther than the passage to which he alludes. Other portions of the original document may exhibit the most absurd and superstitious notions.

Others suppose that Jude quoted a traditional prophecy or saying of Enoch, and we see no improbability in the assumption. Others, again, believe that the words apparently cited by Jude were suggested to him by the Holy Spirit. But surely this hypothesis is unnecessary. Until it can be shown that the book of Enoch did not exist in the time of Jude, or that his quoting it is unworthy of an Apostle, or that such knowledge was not handed down traditionally within the Apostle's reach, we abide by the opinion that Jude really quoted the book of Enoch. While there are probable grounds for believing that Jude might have become acquainted with the circumstance independently of inspiration, we ought not to have recourse to the hypothesis of immediate suggestion. On the whole, it is most likely that the book of Enoch existed before the time of Jude, and that the latter really quoted it in accordance with the current tradition. If so, the prophecy ascribed to Enoch was truly ascribed to him, because it is scarcely credible that Jude writing by inspiration would have sanctioned a false statement.

Presuming that it was written by a Jew, the book before us is an important document in the history of Jewish opinions. It indicates an essential portion of the Jewish creed before the appearance of Christ; and assists us in comparing the theological views of the later with those of the earlier Jews. It also serves to establish the fact that some doctrines of great importance in the eyes of evangelical Christians ought not to be regarded as the growth of an age in which Christianity had been corrupted by the inventions of men. We would not appeal to it as possessing authority. The place of authority can be assigned to the Bible alone. But apart from all ideas of authority, it may be fairly regarded as an index of the state of opinion at the time when it was written. Hence it subserves the confirmation of certain opinions, provided they can be shown to have a good foundation in the word of God. If it be conceded that certain doctrines are contained by express declaration or fair inference in the volume of inspiration, it is surely some attestation of their truth that they lie on the surface of this ancient book. Let us briefly allude to several representations which occur in its pages:—

1. Respecting the nature of the Deity.—There are distinct allusions to a plurality in the Godhead. The doctrine of the Trinity seems to have been received by the writer and his contemporaries. In accordance with this view Christ is represented as existing from eternity: as the object of invocation and worship; and as the supreme Judge of men and angels.

2. The doctrine of a future state of retribution is implied in many passages, and the eternity of future punishment is also distinctly contained in it.

Whatever value may be attached to the theological opinions expressed in the book of Enoch, it is apparent from these statements that certain sentiments to which evangelical Christians assign a high importance, because, in their view, they are contained in Scripture, appear to have prevailed at the commencement of the Christian era. To the serious inquirer they can never be of trifling interest.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Enoch Book of'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/e/enoch-book-of.html.

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