What is the Book of Enoch? Should Christians Read It?

In today’s blog I want to discuss what we call the book of Enoch. What exactly is it?  Why isn’t it in our Bible? And should Christians be reading it?  These questions have come up many times in my ministry over the years, and recently my friend Sam sent an email and asked about it. I thought that this would make a good topic for a video and so here we are.

The book of Genesis describes two men named Enoch. The first one is mentioned in Genesis chapter 4 and is the son of Cain. The second Enoch is in Genesis chapter 5, and he comes from the line of Seth, Adam & Eve’s third named son. He is the seventh generation from Adam, and it’s this Enoch that we are interested in.

The Bible doesn’t tell us too much about Enoch and what it does tell us doesn’t leave us with a lot of details. We read only that he lived “three hundred and sixty five years and Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”    But, what does it mean that “he was not, for God took him?”  Well, fortunately for us the writer of Hebrew elaborates on this a little bit when he writes, “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death and was not found, because God had taken him; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”  So, in the book of Hebrews we read that Enoch was a man of God who walked by faith and he was taken by God before he died. Although that may not answer all of our questions about Enoch, it does give us a bit more information than what we had in Genesis alone.

And so, that’s all that we know about Enoch from the Bible. That’s it.   But what about the Book of Enoch?  Well, first let me point out that when most people talk about the book of Enoch, they’re really talking about the first book in a series. This is because there is first, second, and third Enoch. It’s not just a single book, but a collection of books. And, First Enoch is sort of a compilation of texts that are kind of awkwardly brought together. The oldest sections of Enoch probably date back to around three to four hundred years before Jesus. A very large section of first Enoch was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Now, the fact that the librarian down at the Dead Sea Schools library included this book in their collection ought to tell us just how popular this book was. And indeed it was popular. It had a significant Jewish following and early Christians liked it too. As a matter of fact, in the New Testament, Jude quotes from the Book of Enoch, and it seems that Peter makes a reference to it as well. More on that later.

There are probably less than 100 or so manuscripts of first Enoch, and among those there is some significant variation of the text. In other words, it’s not always clear what the original document said because later texts show some significant differences.    Now, let me first point out something that’s very important. Scholars know that the book was written around 3 or 4 BC. Yet, the author of the book claims that he was the same Enoch from the book of Genesis, seven generations after Adam. This is our first problem. The author lied about who he was.

The work belongs to a classification of ancient books called “Pseudepigrapha” books. In this class of books the author would identify himself as someone famous in order to make the book more popular. For example, the book called “the Life of Adam and Eve” was not written by Adam & Eve, but by someone else many, many centuries later.

This should be our first clue as to why books like these are not part of our Bible. You see; as early Christians were being persecuted by Romans for their faith and their books were being confiscated, they had to decide which of their books they were willing to lay their lives down for. A book written by a liar simply didn’t make that list. But, beyond that the book of Enoch has some other problems. Chief of which is that throughout the book of Enoch the author describes a Messianic figure who will sit on the throne of glory and will judge the wicked, and one who be worshiped. This figure is sometimes called “The Chosen One,” or the “Anointed” or simply the “Son of Man,” which is a name Jesus often used for Himself. Then, in Chapter 71, and verse 14, the author of the Book of Enoch identifies who this figure is: and it’s himself.

The author of Enoch claims that he himself is the Messiah, one to be worshiped and the one who will judge you and me.   It’s probably for this reason alone that Christians would be disinterested in considering the Book of Enoch an inspired work. Anyone who feels that the Book of Enoch needs to find a place in our canon of Scripture is probably the same person who has never looked closely at the claims of Jesus or the supporting evidence that He left behind.

The Book of Enoch is fiction. It may be entertaining fiction, but fiction nonetheless.   Now, one might wonder why a book that suggests something that is in complete contrast to the New Testament would be quoted by New Testament writers. And that’s a good question. But, not one hard to figure out.

Jude, which reads like a sermon seems to be based on 2nd Peter. Scholars nearly unanimously agree that 2 Peter was written before Jude and so Jude based his sermonette on the work of Peter. Now just like in sermons of today, a preacher may want to make a point and so he picks something that his audience is already familiar with; like a popular movie or book. He then talks about the book or movie, highlighting something his audience knows about and makes a point with it. This does not necessarily mean that the preacher thinks the book or movie is inspired. Rather, it’s a technique used by the preacher to find some common ground with his listener in order to make a point clear.

I remember when Star Wars was released back in the 70s, preachers would use the famous line, “May the force be with you” in their sermons. They didn’t do this thinking that Star Wars was an inspired movie – it was not. Rather, they knew their listeners would be familiar with the line and they could make a point using it.    Likewise, Jude & Peter probably knew quite well that their listeners were familiar with the book of Enoch. Therefore, it would appear that they likely did the same thing we do today: they used the book to make a point. This does not mean that they thought the book was inspired.

This isn’t the first time in the Bible that we read quotes from non-inspired works. In Jude verse 9, we find what appears to be a quote from the book “The Assumption of Moses.” Paul, in Acts 17: 28, quotes from a Greek poet named Aratus, and in 1 Corinthians 15:33, he appears to quote an Athenian playwriter. Again, these examples do not imply anything about the inspiration of those original sources. They only indicate that people like Jude, Peter, and Paul were familiar with contemporary works and didn’t hesitate to cite them to make their points.

So, that explains what the book of Enoch is, why it’s not in our Bible and why it’s still quoted in the New Testament. However, we still have the question: Should Christians read it?  Well, personally, I’m not into banning books. If a person has an interest in reading the Book of Enoch, then read it. I think it would be a good idea to take into consideration that which most all of Christendom had before you, and that this book is a piece of fiction. It may be like reading the Left Behind Series books that a lot of Christians have found entertaining over the years. It’s certainly not inspired, but it is entertaining.

Dane Cramer is a backpacker, follower-of-Jesus blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmakerPodcast host, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us , and has worked as an investigator for over 36 years.



Leave a Reply