The Book of Enoch – an extra-canonical text used by some Christians

  • Question from DM, United Kingdom

    A friend of mine has been massively influenced by the book of Enoch, to the point that he believes people in government across the world are descended from a line of interbreeding between fallen angels and humans – which is why there is so much corruption and abuse of power. I know the book of Enoch was not widely accepted as a canonical book, why was that? And what are the dangers of teaching a fairly important doctrine from a non-canonical book?

    The Book of Enoch was accepted as authoritative by the Ethiopian Church, but within the general sphere of Christian thought was never included in the canon of Scripture. Without going into too much detail regarding the formation of the canon of Scripture, the Hebrew Bible (renamed by Christians as the Old Testament) was absorbed into Christianity from Judaism, while a book’s inclusion in the New Testament tended to revolve around Apostolic involvement or authorship.

    The Book of Enoch is a collection of apocalyptic traditions including the pre-historical fall of the angels, dream visions, visions of the ‘Son of Man’ (probably Enoch, not Jesus), parables and the miraculous birth of Noah. It was probably written in Aramaic and is quoted in Jude 14-15. However, it was written sometime in the last two centuries before Christ, so was written too late to become anywhere near authoritative in the Jewish community. As it has pre-Christian roots and no Apostolic link, the majority of Christians ignored it, although it remained popular in Africa until Rome exerted it’s authority and insisted on a universal canon of Scripture.

    Generally any theology that is based solely on the interpretation of one passage of Scripture should be open to debate. It is good exegetical practice to ensure that any doctrine is only considered a ‘primary doctrine’ if it is supported by several passages of Scripture, preferably from different books and writings. Thus we see that the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus as being vital to the salvation of human beings is a primary doctrine of the Christian faith. The great doctrines of the Church fall into this category and, in the Protestant traditions any doctrines that lack this Scriptural support are rendered irrelevant.

    A doctrine that is based solely on a book that lies outside the mainstream canon of Scripture is optional at best, lacks authority and could very well be dismissed as misguided.

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