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The Apocryphal Book of Enoch
Today he is known as Saint Luke or Luke the evangelist. But 2000 years ago he was Lucanus, the Greek stepson of a Roman governor. He became a physician and later in life wrote down his account of the life of Jesus. His gospel became part of our holy Scriptures. Not many are aware that Scriptures exist which recount the life of Luke himself. Here is an excerpt:
“Ramus’ majestic Negroid face did not change, but a single tear slipped around his eyelids and his lips trembled. Lucanus looked away an instant, then returned his regard to the colored man. He said, very softly, ‘I see you hear me. You are not deaf also?’...
“Ramus made the motions of writing, and Lucanus rose, brought him a tablet and a stylus. Ramus began to write, slowly and carefully, in Greek, then gave the tablet to Lucanus. ‘Call me Ramus, Master, for such is the name the Greeks have given me, and my own name will mean nothing to you. Let me be your servant, whether you free me or not, for my heart told me, on seeing you this morning, that where you go I should go, for you shall lead me to him.’
Ramus had written precisely in Greek, it was a scholar’s Greek, stilted and pompous. Lucanus lifted his fair eyebrows and tapped the stylus against his lips. ‘I do not understand,’ he said. ‘Who is he to whom I shall lead you?’ Ramus smiled brilliantly. He reached for the stylus and tablet, and wrote, ‘He is he who will deliver my people from the curse laid on Ham, my ancient father, and him I seek, and through you I shall find him, and only through you, whom he has touched.’ Lucanus looked at the tablet for a long while.
Finally he shook his head. ‘I understand the Jewish religion. It was Noah who upbraided his sons for finding him in his drunken nakedness. He particularly laid the curse on his son, Ham, of the black countenance. It is true that the black man has been truly cursed, but not by any deity, but only by man.”1
Casual readers do not read footnotes, but since it is essential for the point we are going to make in this issue of FMS we will display the reference information here. That excerpt was taken from the Scriptures, specifically, the Book of Dear and Glorious Physician 32:351. Some readers will immediately sense that your editor is involved in a spoof here. Yes, but one which is designed to teach a very serious lesson.
The “Scriptures” from which that excerpt was taken is, of course, the historical novel, Dear and Glorious Physician, by Taylor Caldwell (chapter 32, p. 351), written in 1959. The word “scriptures” simply means “writings.” However, as is the custom with most modern Christian writers, when the word “Scriptures” is capitalized, it is meant to refer to the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. Dear and Glorious Physician is not the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. Thus, when we capitalized the word “scriptures” above, we either made a mistake (twice) or we were trying to lead the reader to believe that The Book of Dear and Glorious Physician ought to be considered on a par with the books from Genesis to Revelation.
The reader would not fall for that because “everyone knows” that Dear and Glorious Physician was written 2000 years after the life of Saint Luke. Even though Janet Reback, aka Taylor Caldwell, spent many years researching the life of Luke and even traveled to the holy land in search of authentic facts about him, no Christian today would even consider for a moment her novel to be inspired Scripture. Yet, sad to say, many Christians make that very mistake when it comes to other writings—the book of Enoch for instance. Or the Book of the Secrets of Enoch...or any of the other 366 books he is purported to have written.
Taylor Caldwell is a magnificent novelist. Novels are, of course, pure fiction. But some of her works fall into the literary genre known as historical novels. This means that, although it is still a work of fiction, it may contain certain, true historical facts about people, places and events. Therefore, when we enjoyed her Captains and Kings, we recognized the Armagh’s as a fictional family which seemed to combine the Rockefeller and Kennedy families into one.
Similarly, we recognized the arms merchants DuPont family disguised as the Barbour’s in the trilogy of books which commenced with Dynasty of Death published in 1938. These are marvelous stories. Moreover, Taylor Caldwell understood the machinations of the powers who work behind the scenes in our nation. This is most evident in her 1952 masterpiece The Devil’s Advocate. (The recent movie, Devil’s Advocate, starring Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves, is totally unrelated.)
Our choice of the above excerpt from Dear and Glorious Physician was not haphazard. It ties directly to the Book of Enoch, as will be seen presently. Some imply that the Book of Enoch (and many other apocryphal and pseudepigraphical books) are Scriptures, with a capital “s.” They are not. Our sovereign God saw to it that the canon of Scripture was fixed and closed before the death of John the apostle circa 100 A.D.2 The Book of Enoch and the First and Second Books of Adam and Eve did not make the divine cut. Nor did a vast array of other writings which some noneheless contend should have been included in our Bible. Sorry, God knew how to preserve His words and exclude all others.
Who wrote the Book of Enoch?
Enoch, the patriarch, was not the author of the Book of Enoch. Adam and Eve did not write the Books of Adam and Eve. These writings are ancient predecessors of modern historical novels. Taylor Caldwell was nearly 2,000 years removed from the life of Luke. Some unknown writer penned the Book of Enoch, probably within a century or two before Jesus was born, possibly after Him. Another unknown person wrote the wild tales in the Books of Adam and Eve in the same time period or closely thereto. In other words, these authors were nearly 3,000 years removed from their subject matter!
It was not an uncommon practice in the several centuries before (and after) Christ for some enterprising person to write a book and then put some famous person’s name in the title. The ancients were not ignorant of marketing techniques; such would help circulate the book.
Of course, not all apocryphal books were fiction. Some were compilations of witty sayings; others were pious reflections or parabolic novelettes or mystical and visionary treatises (commonly called apocalypses). Almost all of them spring from the late intertestamental period, the Book of Jasher being one notable exception. Then there is the so-called Christian apocrypha which sprang up in the first several centuries after Christ. This comprises quite a large body of scriptures, but none of which are Scriptures (inspired and inerrant).
Let us now specifically examine the Book of Enoch, its origin and its teachings. Our office has several editions of it, from which introductions we glean the following discussion. After resting in obscurity for nearly 1,500 years, a manuscript of The Book of Enoch was discovered in 1773 by James Bruce, a Scottish explorer, in what is now Ethiopia.
When was it composed?
It lay nearly forgotten until 1821 when Richard Laurence, Archbishop of Cashel, and former professor of Hebrew at Oxford, made his first translation from the Ethiopic. He revised it numerous times over the next 50 years and most modern versions are from the 1882-3 editions. A respected scholar, Laurence concluded that it was written by a Hebrew living outside of Palestine sometime after 54 B.C., but probably prior to the Christian era.
Other scholars suggest that the five parts (108 chapters) of the Book of Enoch were composed over a period of time stretching from the time of the Maccabees (ca. 180 B.C.) to the mid-first century B.C. No one can be certain how late it was composed, but all are agreed it was no earlier than 200 B.C. Some even posit it was first century A.D. While some of the early church fathers alluded to it favorably (e.g., Irenaeus), it is clear from a serious study of it that there were a host of good reasons to exclude it from the canon of Scripture.
The subject matter ranges from a complex angelology and the fall of the rebellious angels to the judgment of the world, to discussions of astronomy, to visions about the (yet future from Enoch’s viewpoint) flood of Noah, to some interesting parables concerning Noah’s offspring. All this, of course, is from the imaginations of a writer who uses the literary vehicle of Enoch’s supposed trips to heaven where he was instructed in and ordered to convey these teachings.
Literary devices like this are still in use. We just recently finished reading a long “writing,” (some 300+ pages) called John the Immortal. It was written in the past couple of years. In it the author reveals that he has been instructed to write this allegedly true story in the form of fiction, so that those who can’t handle “the truth” don’t have to believe it’s anything more than fiction. It’s all about how John the apostle/ revelator has been around for the past 2,000 years in various incarnations and the battles he and his modern disciple (the book’s author) wage with various demonic bad guys. We enjoyed the story, but we put it in the same category as the Book of Enoch.
“Enoch” had angel guides who gave him tours of heaven and hell—indeed, the same “heaven” and “hell” that we find in Milton and Dante’s medieval visions. They no doubt were familiar with Enoch’s visions. Uriel, an angel guide, tells Enoch in 21:3 that seven stars bound together were “those of the stars which have transgressed the commandment of the most high God; and are here bound, until the infinite number of the days of their crimes be completed.” Question: Even given that this is an allegory, how can an “infinite” number of days ever be “completed”?!
A racial enigma solved
Taylor Caldwell might also have been familiar with the Book of Enoch. Or perhaps the central idea of the conversation (excerpted above) between Luke and Ramus was the result of long-held religious indoctrination on the origin of the races. Miss Caldwell’s dialogue even implies the same mistake many Christians make; namely, that Ham himself was cursed. Noah’scurse was not upon Ham, nor any of Ham’s sons, except Canaan. (Gen. 9:21-25). That alone should tell Bible students that the black race was not a result of Noah’s curse and did not originate with Ham.
We have often wondered, then, where so many churchmen came up with the idea that Ham was the progenitor of the black race. We can now make an educated guess: it derives from the Book of Enoch. We have always thought it was just plain, old common sense that white parents could never produce a black or Oriental child; nor could an Oriental couple ever produce a white or black child; nor could a black couple ever produce an Oriental or white offspring.
That idea seems as preposterous to us as two blue jays begetting a cardinal or two cardinals begetting a crow. Note: there have been two news stories in the past year or so trumpeting the birth of a black baby to a white couple and vice versa (if memory serves). In both case, upon further investigation both were found to be the result of artificial insemination (in vitro fertilization). Common sense still stands.
However, consider this passage from the Book of Enoch, chapter 88:
1. Then one of those four [angels] went to the white cows, and taught them a mystery. While the cow was trembling, it was born, and became a man, and fabricated for himself a large ship [Noah’s ark].
2. In this he dwelt, and three cows [Noah’s sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth] dwelt with him in that ship, which covered them....
12. Then the white cow, which became a man, went out of the ship, and the three cows with him.
13. One of the three cows was white [Shem] resembling that cow; one of them was red as blood [Japheth], and one of them was black [Ham]. And the white cow left them.
Again, this is obviously an allegory. An allegory is a literary device using symbolism to convey a truth. But the truth must be in harmony with common sense facts. Never mind the biological absurdity of three races of people coming from the loins of Noah and his wife, the more obvious question is: whence then the yellow race? Why were they omitted from “Enoch’s” worldview? Granted, he himself may never have seen an Oriental, but surely his “angel guide” knew all about the great race of the East! Or is this just another of the many proofs that the Book of Enoch sprang from a fiction writer’s fertile imagination?
The Book of Enoch abounds in nonsense regarding angels. The fallen angels mating with the daughters of men is a prominent theme. The results of these unions were giants (Nephilim). The true Scriptures indicate that these giants were big fellows—about 12 or 13 feet tall, judging by the size of the bed of one of them (rule of thumb: one cubit = 1.5 feet).
Deuteronomy 3:11 For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man.
But according to the “scriptures” of Enoch, the Nephilim were considerably taller—about 440 feet taller! Enoch 7:12 declares of the giants “Whose stature each was three hundred cubits...”
What then of the inspired writing of Jude who mentions a prophecy of Enoch which is found in the Book of Enoch?
Jude 1:14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
Of course, there are many things found in the Book of Enoch which are true and Scriptural. Hence, we see no probem with Jude including a thought in his epistle which is also found in the Book of Enoch. The venerable 19th century scholar, Albert Barnes, expands this idea in his commentary on this passage:
“Amidst the multitude of traditions, however, handed down by the Jews from a remote antiquity, though many of them were false, and many of a trifling character, it is reasonable to presume that some of them were true and were of importance. No man can prove that the one before us is not of that character; no one can show that the inspired writer might not be led to make the selection of the true prophecy from a mass of traditions; and as the prophecy before us is one that would be every way worthy of a prophet, and worthy to be preserved, its quotation furnishes no argument against the inspiration of Jude.
“There is no clear evidence that he quoted it from any book extant in his time. There is indeed, however, now an apocryphal writing called the Book of Enoch, containing aprediction strongly resembling this, but there is no certain proof that it existed so early as the time of Jude, nor, if it did is it absolutely certain that he quoted from it. Both Jude and the author of that book may have quoted a common tradition of their time, for there can be no doubt that the passage referred to was handed down by tradition.... If the book of Enoch was written after the time of Jude, it is natural to suppose that the prophecy referred to by him, and handed down by tradition would be inserted in it.”
Far fewer readers will have any familiarity with the Book of the Secrets of Enoch. sometimes called Second Enoch. It is even more likely to have been composed after Christ than First Enoch. Second Enoch only came to light in a Slavonic version in Russia about a century ago. It is much shorter, but equally fantastic (fantasy-like) in its presentation. In it Enoch journeys through the seven or ten heavens, and is told to write 366 books for all the souls of humanity which existed before the foundation of the world. The preexistence of the soul is a Platonic notion which found its way into Judaism and later became a prevailing doctrine in both Christianity and Judaism.
Next month we will continue on this general subject and we will examine the two very different versions of the Book of Jasher.
1. The Book of Dear and Glorious Physician 32:351
2. We discuss this whole subject and related topics in much greater depth on audio tape. See parts 17 & 18: The Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Pseudepigrapha, the Septuagint, etc. (tapes #253 & 254); as well as parts 19 and 20, The Number of Bible Books and their Order, (tapes #278 & 279), which are part of our series Which Bible? Which Version?. The entire 20-tape album with charts and visual aids is available for a $50 gift. Individual tapes are $4/each, but should be ordered in pairs.