March 5, 2020
Is God's Inspired Revelation Limited To The Bible?
I have no doubt that what I am going to say today will be found controversial, at best. It was generated by a conversation that Mark and I had during our morning study time. I was cross-referencing Scripture about the judgment by Christ at His Second Coming, when I came across the familiar passage in Jude 14-15, It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their 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.”
Our conversation began with my understanding that the "these" Enoch is prophesying about are "the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling" that Jude mentions in verse 6. Remembering that Jude is the younger half-brother of Jesus, I could imagine the conversations and questions that he might have had growing up and listening to Jesus's teachings. And then that lead to my comment about verses 14-15 being a direct quotation from 1 Enoch 1:9, a passage from a section of the apocryphal Book of Enoch called The Book of the Watchers. And since the Book of Enoch is not included in the canon, this resulted in Mark's response: "I wonder if we have the Bible God intended us to have?"
So let me be perfectly clear about my position on this before I go any further ... Both Mark and I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God --- no matter how many translations and versions it has undergone. And there have been many! [I urge you to read a very informative article on the history of the Bible at greatsite.com.] I have come to the conclusion that even though our English Bible has survived the various interpretations and agendas of its human apologists, and it may not be perfect in representing God's original revelatory language, it is the Holy Spirit that is still able to convey the authentic and genuine divine disclosure that God intended for mankind. In other words, God still reveals what He desires us to know about Him in the book we call the Bible. It's up to us to pursue that relationship and be open to receiving the message, even if it is different than we've been taught. One of the most erstwhile pursuits a Christian can aim for is to develop your own theology based on serious time in the Bible.
But I also understand that before the Bible appeared in its completed written form, there was a span of approximately 1500 years from the time Moses wrote Genesis in about 1400 BC, and the Book of Revelation was written around 90 AD. And in between there were only oral versions of what we know as Scripture. No one was writing down the Sermon on the Mount or the various parables Jesus spoke. Men memorized them and passed them down orally. We need to remember that the culture of ancient Israel was primarily hearing oriented and not written oriented. That's why Jesus is quoted so many times as saying, You have heard that it was said... He is repeating a teaching, or religious idea that was accepted as truth because it was passed down from generation to generation, and believed to contain God's message as disclosed in the ideas and narratives of the Old Testament.
It is generally accepted that the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written down by eye-witnesses [or at least derived from the testimony of eye-witnesses to Jesus's teachings] and it happened over the next century after His death and resurrection. So you can see what a miracle it is that we have God's inspired Word to guide us.
But I also want to state that I am a firm believer in Proverbs 25:2, It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. And that brings me back to a consideration of this passage in Jude that is a direct quote from the Book of Enoch. How does that affect your opinion of whether we are to restrict our knowledge of God to Solo Scriptura (a theological doctrine held by some Protestant Christian denominations that the Bible [as we know it] is the sole infallible source of authority for Christian faith and practice)?
The reason I ask is because of the first Book of Enoch, [or 1 Enoch as it is known -- to distinguish it from 2 Enoch and 3 Enoch, later versions plagued with manuscript variations and Jewish mysticism or Kabbalah writings.] While there is no evidence that the Holy Spirit inspired men to include this book in the authoritative canon -- and I am not claiming that it should be considered canon -- is it possible that the Spirit included a section of it in the Book of Jude because it offers us the opportunity to study the history, and spiritual and doctrinal influence it had on the early Church?
A website called bereanbiblechurch.org quotes 1 Enoch translator E. Isaac, who writes, "1 Enoch played a significant role in the early Church; it was used by the authors of the Epistle of Barnabas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and a number of apologetic works. Many Church Fathers, including Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, and Clement of Alexandria, either knew 1 Enoch or were inspired by it. Among those who were familiar with 1 Enoch, Tertullian had an exceptionally high regard for it.... There is little doubt that 1 Enoch was influential in molding New Testament doctrines concerning the nature of the Messiah, the Son of Man, the messianic kingdom, demonology, the future, resurrection, final judgment, the whole eschatological theater, and symbolism. No wonder, therefore, that the book was highly regarded by many of the earliest apostolic and Church Fathers." " [E. Isaac, A New Translation and Introduction,in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1].
Once again, I am not maintaining that 1 Enoch should be included in our Bible. But I also find it interesting that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine didn't exist in the American theological psyche until just 111 years ago when the Scofield Bible was printed; or that King James authorized a new translation of the Bible in 1611 for clear political motives, and he directed that the language was to reflect his ideas of church government; or that the NIV Bible, published in 1973 has gone through several revisions in which the Deity of Jesus is removed. An example of this is Acts 8:37, which reads, And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest [be baptized]. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The NIV, New Living Translation and some of the latest versions of the Bible do not include this verse.
So, why wouldn't the writings credited to the same Enoch who is revealed in the Bible in Genesis 5:21-24, Luke 3:37, Hebrews 11:5, and Jude 14-15 be given some authority in further understanding the beliefs of the Early Church? While 1 Enoch is only part of the Bible in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it has been invaluable in shaping Christian doctrine since the writers of the Bible first began recording the inspired Word of God. And shouldn't it be taken into consideration that 1 Enoch is believed to have been written from 100-300 years prior to the Bible, yet portions of it are consistent with not only the ancient prophets, but the writers of the New Testament? Here are some examples:
1 Enoch 1:6-7: The high mountains will be shaken, and the high hills brought low, melting like wax in the flame.
Micah 1:4, And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place.
2 Peter 3:10,12: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies[b] will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed... waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!
1 Enoch 91:16a, The first heaven shall pass away, and a new heaven shall appear.
2 Peter 3:13, But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
1 Enoch 48:6–7a For this (reason) he was chosen and hidden in his presence, before the world was created and forever. And the wisdom of the Lord of Spirits has revealed him to the holy and the righteous; for he has preserved the lot of the righteous.
1 Peter 1:20 He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake.
1 Enoch 69:27 And he sat on the throne of his glory, and the whole judgment was given to the Son of Man, and he will make sinners vanish and perish from the face of the earth.
1 Peter 4:5 But they will have to give an accounting to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.
So I present all this to you, not in an effort to convince you that you should consider the Book of Enoch as equal to the Bible, or even that you should read it. But I do subscribe to the ideation of Mr. Isaacs, the translator of 1 Enoch, in that it bears similarities to Scripture, and might possibly "have been influential in molding New Testament doctrine."
And in accordance with this thought, I do not find it heretical to read it (as I have been accused). Rather, I believe that God may have concealed more background information in this apocryphal book that might be beneficial in understanding Scripture. And I trust the Holy Spirit to reveal whether what is written there is divine truth or not. If God has concealed it, then my searching it out glorifies Him. If He had nothing to do with the writing of the Book of Enoch, then I trust the Holy Spirit to show me that, too, and I will consider it just an interesting read of apocryphal writing. And I trust and rely on my relationship with the Holy Spirit and Jesus enough that I do not fear being deceived.
So, now you know a little bit about how my mind works and why I love to go deeper in trying to understand all I can about God and His Word. As I've said so many times to Christians [who look at me like I'm being blasphemous], "Everything in our Bible is about Jesus Christ and the Father... but everything about Jesus and God is not in the Bible". They cannot be contained in something as finite as a bound book of 1547 pages. They are supernatural, and multi-dimensional, and worth every second that I am searching them out. Holy Spirit, show me more!
Psalm 14:2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.