In the comments section of this blog, one of our readers asked an excellent question that I asked myself for years.
I’m having trouble taking Enoch 1 seriously. Is there some compelling evidence that makes it seem to be authentic?
Here is my answer just for Coleen, and hopefully you’ll find it enlightening as well.
The Book of First Enoch Validated with Cautions
I appreciate your concerns about the book of First Enoch and am happy to address them. For many years, I was extremely skeptical about its authenticity, and have even expressed these reservations in times past on this blog. However, when I’m not sure about something, I try to keep an open mind realizing that new information on a subject may change my understanding of it. This has been the case with the book of First Enoch. Let me briefly explain.
There are a whole boatload of folks out there in the Biblical truth restoration movement who have a little information, have done a little study on a subject for several years, and because of easy access to mass audiences on the internet and through social media, they put out a whole plethora of ideas about anything and everything. Because they may know a little more than the next guy, who is tuning in for the first time, they’re perceived as being experts. A third grader is an expert in the eyes a first grader. But now where is that same third grader when placed up against a person who has a doctorate on that same subject? Sadly, we have a lot of third graders running around trying to teach us a lot of things about subjects they know little or nothing about. This includes the book of First Enoch.
With regard to the book of First Enoch, let me confess that I’m not an expert. I’m the third grader in the room on this subject. But as Henry Ford once said when challenged about his lack of formal education, “I may not be the smartest, but I can hire the smartest to work for me.” In my case, I can read what the experts scholars have to say on the subject of First Enoch, and as well-exercised biblical lay scholar, researcher, prolific writer and teacher for decades, hopefully by now I can get to the truth of a matter.
For years, as mentioned earlier, I was highly dubious about the authenticity of the book of First Enoch. This is because the most recent copy we have of this book is the Ethiopic version, which apparently dates back to the 1400s and was only discovered in the 1700s. The English translation was made in the early 1800s. Now just because a copy of a book is only a few hundred years old doesn’t mean that it was written only a few hundred years ago. It only means that our oldest copy is only a few hundred years old. It could have been written thousands of years ago. For example, our oldest complete copies of the Old Testament (or Hebrew Scriptures or Tanakh) are only about one thousand years old, but we all know that they’re much older than that. This is the case with the book of First Enoch as well.
So far, we keep mentioning the book of First Enoch. If there is a first, then there must be a second and so on, and, indeed, that is the case with Enoch. There are several, but all the other books of Enoch have no reference in the writings of ancient second temple era historians; they were written more recent than that, so we can discount them. That is not the case with First Enoch, however.
For years, I was on the fence about First Enoch, and leaning more against it than for it. Then one day I heard a podcast by a biblical scholar named Dr. Michael S. Heiser. Check him out on the internet. His bone fides and credentials are well documented. Let me say this about him. He’s an Old Testament scholar and is an expert in the Hebrew language and ancient Middle East history among other things. On this podcast interview, Heiser was discussing the book of First Enoch. He made such a strong case for its authenticity citing irrefutable scholarly and historical evidence that I bought several of his books where he discusses this issue. Along the way, read some books by some other biblical researchers who confirmed Heiser’s findings. For a quick overview of the history, content and validity of the book of First Enoch, I suggest that you read the excellent article about it on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Enoch. This article contains 88 footnotes and dozens of other scholarly references on the subject.
Before we go further, I must make this disclaimer. The book of First Enoch is not canonical; it doesn’t belong in the Bible. Neither the Jews nor the apostles nor the very earliest or even later church fathers considered to be so, and neither do I. This, however, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t contain valuable historical information. Like many other extra-biblical books that were written during the second temple and interetesimental periods and into the first century of the common era, it has historical validity, although it contains many things that are contrary to what the Bible teaches. Like any other book that we read on any subject, we have to separate the wheat from the chaff, but do we toss out the wheat for the chaff? Of course not. We have to critically analyze and make judgments. For example, if the weather forecaster gives us an inaccurate forecast, do we reject everything he has to say from that point on, or invalidate all previous accurate forecasts that he has made? Of course not. This would be illogical. Let’s apply this same logic to First Enoch, and to everything else that we encounter in life that is new to us.
So what convinced me that I should take a second look at First Enoch? There are several points facts that were impossible for me to deny, and both Heiser and the Wikipedia article discuss these points.
So now let’s list the main points that prove the validity of First Enoch. (This is in no way an exhaustive treatment of this subject. For that, I suggest that you do your own research starting with the references given in this brief article.)
First, the Jews of Yeshua’s day all believed in the historicity of First Enoch. In fact, the information contained therein was normative and widely accepted information. This was the case with the early church fathers as well. Only latter on did the church reject First Enoch, and that bias against it has largely continued to this day. This is because of its non-supernaturalistic view of Genesis 6:4–6.
Second, Yeshua and the apostles either quoted from First Enoch, or made statements that are strikingly similar to those found in this book. There are dozens of such quotations found in the Bible. Heiser documents all of this in his book, Reversing Hermon. There are numerous examples where biblical writers quote directly or indirectly from First Enoch as if it were indisputable fact. This cannot be denied.
Third, Josephus accepts the validity of First Enoch.
Fourth, First Enoch and the facts contained therein are quoted numerous times in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written from about 150 BC to AD 100. In fact, fragments of First Enoch have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. So obviously, First Enoch is older than the latest copy of it that still exists which is from the 1400s.
Fifth, the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament translated by Jewish scholars during the intertestimental period) validates First Enoch.
Before categorically rejecting First Enoch, I recommend that the evidence for its authenticity be examined with an open mind, all the while realizing that it isn’t inspired Scripture and is thus not inerrant. Nevertheless, it contains valuable historical information that helps to fill in some missing information that is not contained in Scriptures, but which was common knowledge in the times of the later biblical writers. If the numerous biblical writers including Yeshua himself quoted or referenced information found therein, perhaps we should reconsider the book of First Enoch.