The issue that ultimately tipped me over the edge and caused me to change my beliefs a few months ago was the relationship between a collection of pseudepigraphical Jewish intertestamental writings called the Book of Enoch and the Bible. Some of the biblical writers (Jude and 1-2 Peter in particular) based their theology off of traditions paralleled in it. If anyone doubts the connection, read this article:  http://isthatinthebible.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/the-book-of-enoch-as-the-background-to-1-peter-2-peter-and-jude/

Example A is 1 Peter 3:18-20, which cannot be adequately explained without the story chronicled in the Book of Watchers (earliest section of 1 Enoch). Trust me, I tried very hard. Yet I knew enough about the story of the Watchers to know what was clearly being alluded to.

The writer of 1 Peter says that Jesus was:

“…put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.” (1 Pet. 3:18-20 NRSV)

The Greek word here for “spirits” (pneuma) is never used anywhere else in the Bible to refer to humans in all 383 occurrences. So this obviously could not be referring to Jesus preaching to men in Hell as is often thought, or even to wicked men before the flood (as some suggest this passage means that Jesus went back in time to preach to them). It must refer to either angels or demons based on the biblical usage of the word.

In short, the Book of Enoch contains the story of angels who left the heavenly realm, came down and had sex with women on earth, which led to the birth of the nephilim (described as giants as tall as trees), the offspring of humans and angels. The wickedness of the angels and nephilim led to the flood, in which the nephilim were wiped out and the disobedient angels were imprisoned. The nephilim were believed to have survived as demons upon death due to being part-angel.

So either an angel or nephilim-turned-demon could be described as a pneuma and both were disobedient before the flood when Noah was building an ark. And Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4 both mention angels being bound and imprisoned as they are in the Book of Enoch. So we have “spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah” in the Book of Enoch. Seems the only logical conclusion is that the writer of 1 Peter based his theology off of Enochic traditions. This troubled me deeply as a Christian. How could I trust anything written in the books if they are pulling from sources such as these?

Then Jude 14-15 directly quotes 1 Enoch 1:9:

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.””

Now we have a dilemma. From this quotation we could conclude that either:

a) This was a real prophecy of Enoch recorded in the Book of Enoch, and the Book of Enoch contains prophecy. This is a problem because the Book of Enoch is incredibly strange (not to mention containing a differing view of how sin entered the world). The evangelical community would just as soon accept the Book of Mormon as they would the Book of Enoch. It would also mean that for 2000 years or so the church has neglected an inspired book of Scripture.

b) This was not a real prophecy of Enoch and the writer of Jude was in error. This would mean that the Bible is fallible.

I chose b. And there is a significant reason why I chose it. We know that the Book of Watchers (the section of 1 Enoch that was quoted) was written sometime around 200 BCE, far removed from the antediluvian patriarch Enoch. So it is impossible for the Book of Enoch to have been written by Enoch himself. Therefore, when the writer of Jude claimed that it was a prophecy of Enoch, he was wrong.

Some have tried to argue that Jude was not quoting The Book of Enoch, but rather a prophecy of his that just happened to be included in the book. I find this explanation highly improbable. Could an oral or written quote from Enoch really have survived by transmission through Noah’s family and on through their descendants for 1700 years or so until 200 BCE, get written down in Enoch, then written down a couple centuries later in Jude with Jude having no intention of referencing the Book of Enoch? And why would God make such a theory look so improbable if that is the case? Another reason to doubt this is because the entire book of Jude is filled with allusions to the Book of Enoch, which means that he probably was quoting directly from it. Also, Jude alludes to the Assumption of Moses as well, which shows that he had no problem referencing extra-biblical sources, and thus there is no reason to assume he wasn’t quoting 1 Enoch here.


Image by Roy via Flickr.com. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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20 thoughts on “How 1 Enoch Destroyed My View of Biblical Infallibility

  1. Thanks for mentioning my article!

    Interestingly, I *have* come across Christians who regard 1 Enoch as infallible scripture in part because of Jude’s quotation and the way it “explains” a lot of Christian doctrine that isn’t in the Protestant Bible. You can find guys in the evangelical/dispensationalist camp who mine Enoch for tidbits about the end of the world and believe UFOs are the survivors of the Nephilim. But that’s a leap most people can’t make. Since today’s Christians don’t grow up immersed in the content of Enoch as they do the rest of the Bible, its mythological nature (and all-out weirdness) is immediately obvious upon reading it for the first time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome Paul. I have used a couple different blogs since my deconversion because of wanting more anonymity or changing my focus slightly, so you may have knowm me before as either Zach Van Houten or ReadTheTextPlease. I hope to stick with this one for a while. Reading your article was probably the moment when I knew I didn’t really believe anymore. So thanks for writing it, since I see it as a good thing. I have read all your blog posts, and found the historical-critical approach to the Bible very fascinating.

      Yes, I have seen those Christians who believe in Enoch online. They are pretty much religious UFO believers. I’ve seen stuff on youtube about Enoch describing Black Holes and other weird stuff. I don’t really buy most of that, but it definitely did incorporate astrology, more of a Babylonian/Persian fascination than Jewish I would suspect. I think the book is fascinating, but definitely a product of Greek and Persian influence on Judaism. In reality, it’s not all that more wacky than some of the Bible’s stories, but for the most part it’s more than 95% of Christians could accept.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Similar issues influenced me as well. It came up unexpected when I was learning about the role of the septuagint in NT studies over the past several months. There are many other books in the LXX that are not in our canon, yet were considered authoritative to early Christians and Jews. Great post!

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    1. Yes the LXX is a bigger problem than Christians think. It shows the fluidity of Christians beliefs in inspiration, especially considering the fact that the apostles quoted from it generously. Even when it differed from the original Hebrew (e.g. the virgin prophecy).

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  3. In my book research, I discovered that at one time the Book of Enoch was looked upon as holy scripture and many of the early church fathers (Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Clement of Alexandris) referred to it in their writings. However, the book eventually fell out of favor and was banned as heretical by the Council of Laodicea in 365 CE.

    Yet the entire doctrine of sinners weeping and crying as they endure the pains of a blazing fire is still being taught today.

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      1. The above is directly from my book. I also address some other stuff about Enoch and his crazy book. You’ll probably recognize some of it since you’re somewhat familiar with the old boy. 🙂

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  4. I happened to come across a copy of the Book of Enoch in my local library. I was particularly interested to read the 27 page introduction by W. O. E. Oesterley. It was noted that the Book of Enoch appears to have had a very profound impact on the theology of the New Testament, especially that contained in the three synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke. R.H. Charles, who provided the definitive translation of the Book of Enoch especially focuses on the relationship to Matthew 25:31-16 (the sheep and the goats) he believes that “the Similitudes of Enoch are presupposed in the scene from Matthew”.

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    1. Yes! You are absolutely correct. I have read a detailed examination of the relation of Matthew and the “Son of Man” in the Parable of Enoch. It’s incredibly similar. Enoch is an intriguing and highly entertaining piece of religious fiction to study!

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      1. Well it assures us that the year is 364 days long and takes to task those who believe otherwise. I find such statements especially helpful as it blows away any lingering concern that there might be some divine inspiration behind it.

        By the way in regard to the Scripture reference above I should have typed Matthew 25:31-46.

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  5. I am still curious as to why your discovery of the Book of Enoch destroyed your belief in the infalibility of scripture. I too came to this same critical point some five years when first learning about Enoch, and it being mentioned in Jude and by Peter etc. In the end, it was not my belief in scripture itself that was shaken, but my previous assumptions about the traditional notions of the biblical “canon”. The two are quite distinct…

    I am sorry to hear about your “deconversion”, as it were, and that the Book of Enoch played a part in that. Somehow, I can’t help but think you were looking for reasons to stop believing anyhow. For myself, discovering things like the Book of Enoch and Genesis 6, really helped to explain so many of the “missing pieces”, and actually served as a starting point for re-igniting my Faith. The Bible is indeed a very fantastic book, full of things which the modern world considers mythical nonsense and miraculous lore, and it really is an all or nothing sort of deal. It’s either entirely true, or utter garbage and a total waste of time. I have become convinced of the former, and that happened only as I was able to come to the place where I was no longer afraid to ask questions and investigate things which the majority might find absurd. The Truth is really so far beyond what most of us are willing to concede, the lies we are weened on from infancy saturate our being to a degree we can hardly fathom…

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    1. Because of the logical implications of such an understanding. And also, belief is not controllable. I stopped believing because Christian doctrines became implausible from my perspective. The doctrine of Hell played a huge role in weakening my belief structure. So did the influence of Zoroastrianism on Christianity. So there were plenty of things, more than I have mentioned. I really was not looking to disbelieve; I felt I was making breakthroughs in my understanding of God. And then this particular issue was the tipping point.

      Of course we all interpret things differently. Only you can determine what makes sense to you personally. I wish you the best. Thanks for commenting.

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