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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Are Some Books Missing from the Old Testament?

Don Stewart :: What Are the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha? (Enoch, Jubilees)

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Question 10

What Are the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha? (Enoch, Jubilees)

There have been a number of Jewish religious books, which were written during the Old Testament period, between the testaments, and after the New Testament period. These can be divided into three basic categories. First, there are the books accepted by all ? the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament. Second, there are the books that are accepted as authoritative by some ? the Old Testament Apocrypha. Finally, there are a number of books that are rejected by all. These works are usually called the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, or forgeries.

A number of important points need to be made about these works known as the “Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.”

The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Defined

The word Pseudepigrapha literally means “false writings.” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha is a general term that refers to a number of religious books written by Jews during the last few centuries B.C and the first few centuries A.D. Therefore, they overlap the Old and New Testament period. These books were neither part of the Hebrew Old Testament Scripture, or the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scripture, the Septuagint. Consequently, these particular writings have never been assumed to be part of the Old Testament Scripture by anyone.

However, the term Pseudepigrapha is an inaccurate term to describe these writings. A pseudepigraph is a writing which claims as its author someone who did not produce it; in other words, a forgery. A number of these writing are actual pseudepigraphs. For example, the Book of Enoch, the Apocalypse of Baruch, and IV Ezra are pseudepigraphs. We know that Enoch, Baruch, and Ezra were not the authors of these works.

Yet, not all of the so-called Pseudepigrapha are pseudepigraphs. There are a number of other writings placed in this category which do not claim to have been written by a biblical character. Books such as Third and Fourth Maccabees, and the Sibylline Oracles, make no claim to this type of authorship.

While some of these works do claim to have been composed by biblical characters such as Adam, Enoch, Abraham, and Moses, they are forgeries. Thus, we have titles such as “The Book of Adam and Eve,” “The Martyrdom of Isaiah,” “The Testimony of the Twelve Patriarchs,” “The Assumption of Moses,” and “The Psalms of Solomon.” The real author wrote the book under the name of someone else. The idea was to provide the writing with some sort of authority that it did not deserve. Consequently, these are not authentic writings.

The Exact Total of Writings Is Unknown

The term, “Old Testament Pseudepigrapha” is often defined in a vague way among modern authors. There is no agreement as to what exactly qualifies a book to be part of the Pseudepigrapha. Consequently, it is not possible to come up with an exact total of these books. Different scholars will arrive at different totals.

Two Important Writings of the Pseudepigrapha: the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees

There are two of these writings that deserve our special attention. They are the Book of Enoch, also known as First Enoch, and the Book of Jubilees. The reason these two are important is that the Ethiopic Church considers these books as part of their Old Testament Scripture. Furthermore, it is possible that the Book of Enoch may have been cited in the New Testament as an authoritative source of information.

We can summarize what we know about them as follows:

  1. The Book of Enoch

    The patriarch, Enoch, supposedly wrote the “Book of Enoch.” This work, also known as, “First Enoch,” claims to describe the experiences and journeys of the biblical character Enoch after he was taken up into heaven.

    The Book of Enoch is not a single book but actually a collection of five separate books. It is likely that these works circulated independently and were later brought together into one volume. It is not certain as to which language the Book of Enoch was originally written. Most likely it was either Aramaic or Hebrew or some combination of Aramaic and Hebrew. There are eleven manuscripts of the Book of Enoch found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. All of them are written in Aramaic.

    While we do not know the history of these works, there is no evidence whatsoever that any of these five units were actually written by Enoch. Most scholars believe the five books were written in the second century before Christ and then compiled to form the Book of Enoch in the first century B.C.

    Therefore, as it now stands, the Book of Enoch consists of five units that contain a total of one hundred and eight chapters. This work surveys human history from the start to the finish. In each of the five units there is the theme of angels coming down from heaven and marrying earthly women. This union produced gigantic offspring who became evil and violent. Because of the sin of these giants, God destroyed the earth with a flood in the days of Noah. This first judgment was given as a warning of judgment that is to come at the end of human history. Such is the story found in the Book of Enoch.

  2. The Biblical Enoch

    We know little of the biblical character Enoch. His life is briefly summarized in a few verses in Genesis. It states it as follows:

    When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. (Genesis 5:21-24 NIV)

    Twice we are told that Enoch walked with God. This reveals that he had a vibrant spiritual life. In fact, God did not allow him to see death. Enoch, along with Elijah, are the only people whom the Bible says never died. Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire and Enoch was taken away by the Lord.

    The genealogy of Enoch is also cited in First Chronicles:

    The descendants of Adam were Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech. (1 Chronicles 1:1-3 NLT)

    He lived in the seventh generation of humanity, or six generations after Adam.

    We also find that Enoch was an ancestor of Jesus. When Luke recorded the genealogy of Jesus, Enoch is singled out for mention. Luke wrote:

    Lamech was the son of Methuselah. Methuselah was the son of Enoch. Enoch was the son of Jared. Jared was the son of Mahalalel. Mahalalel was the son of Kenan. (Luke 3:37 NLT)

    Later in the New Testament, we are told that Enoch was called a man who received God?s approval because of his faith. We read about this in the Book of Hebrews. It says:

    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.... By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” (Hebrews 11:1,25 NRSV)

    Here we are told that Enoch pleased God by his faithfulness.

  3. Jude Cites Enoch

    We then come to a statement made by Enoch which is recorded by the New Testament writer, Jude, but is not recorded in the Old Testament. Jude cited the following statement of Enoch:

    Now Enoch, the seventh in descent, beginning with Adam, even prophesied of them, saying, “Look! The Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all, and to convict every person of all their thoroughly ungodly deeds that they have committed, and of all the harsh words that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 14,15 NET)

    Jude called Enoch, “the seventh from Adam.” This is the only place in Scripture where he is described in this manner. In this verse, we are told that Enoch “prophesied,” or spoke forth God’s Word. This is the only place in Scripture where Enoch is called a prophet. Thus, he would have been the only man who lived before the flood to whom a specific predictive statement is attributed.

    According to Jude, Enoch spoke of the coming of the Lord with innumerable holy ones with Him. His coming was to bring judgment on the ungodly. Consequently, even before the judgment of the flood occurred, the prediction of another judgment of the Lord had been given; His coming to the earth with countless numbers of holy ones to judge the world.

    The idea that Enoch would make such a prediction is fitting. Enoch named his son Methuselah. One possible meaning of this name is “he dies, and it (the flood) is sent.” According to biblical chronology, it seems that Methuselah died the year the flood came. Thus, Enoch, in naming his son, looked forward to the first great judgment of God, the flood, while also predicting the second great judgment, the coming of Christ to the earth to judge the nations.

    Apart from these few passages, we know nothing authentic about Enoch.

  4. There Is No Evidence That the Book of Enoch Is Divinely Inspired

    Because of the unique way in which Enoch left this world, many stories circulated about him. It was believed that special supernatural knowledge was made known to him alone. Thus, he was the basis of many legendary works which were written between the two testaments. Also, various apocryphal works were supposedly written by Enoch himself. This includes the Book of Enoch.

    One of the reasons that some have argued for the divine authority of the Book of Enoch is this citation made by Jude. While the prediction of Enoch is not found in the Old Testament, it is found in the Book of Enoch at 1 Enoch 1:9. It reads as follows:

    Behold, he will arrive with ten million of the holy ones in order to execute judgment upon all, he will destroy the wicked ones and censure all flesh on account of everything that they have done, that which the sinners and wicked ones committed against him. (1 Enoch 1:9)

    This fact caused some of the writers from the early church, Barnabas, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, to have very high regard for the Book of Enoch. Tertullian believed the book should be received as authoritative because of its testimony to Christ and from the quotation found in Jude.

    However, this should not be the conclusion drawn from the statement of Jude. We do not find Jude citing the Book of Enoch as an authoritative source. At the most, he is merely citing a passage from 1 Enoch 1:9 as a truthful saying by the patriarch Enoch. He does not introduce his quotation by the statement “God said,” or “it is written.” Jude gives no indication that the source he is citing is actually Scripture. The only thing we can be certain of is that Jude believed the statement was actually made by Enoch.

  5. Most People Think Jude Is Quoting the Book of Enoch

    While there is no doubt that Jude believed Enoch actually made such a statement, the exact source of Jude’s quotation is debated. Most people think Jude is directly citing the Book of Enoch. It seems that the writers from the early church believed this was the case. If this is what occurred, then Jude is merely acknowledging that the Book of Enoch recorded a true saying of that patriarch. Nothing more. This would not be inconsistent with the doctrine of the divine inspiration of the Bible. Inspiration says that the finished product of Scripture is divinely inspired; it does allow the writers to use accurate sources. Thus, the Biblical writers were not limited to citing only other divinely inspired sources; they were not strictly limited to the canon when citing truth. They were free to cite any source as long as the source gave accurate information.

    This, therefore, could be a case where the biblical writer, Jude, cited an authentic saying from a biblical character, Enoch, though the work in which the saying is found, the Book of Enoch, was not composed by Enoch himself. The ultimate author of the Bible, the Holy Spirit, is certainly free to inspire words from other sources and make them part of God’s Word.

    What this does not mean is that everything written in the Book of Enoch is true. There are many parts of the Book of Enoch which are fanciful. On the other hand, it does not mean that everything in the Book of Enoch should be considered as being mythological. There is truth mixed with error.

  6. Not All Agree That Jude Is Citing the Book of Enoch

    However, there is another way to look at this. Jude and the Book of Enoch may have had a common source where this quotation was given. Some people argue that the quotation in Jude is different from the one presently found in the existing text of the Book of Enoch. They point out that there are some differences between Jude’s citation of what Enoch said and the text of 1 Enoch 1:9 as we presently find it in the existing manuscripts of the Book of Enoch.

    These differences are attributed to some common source that both writings used. This source may have been written or it may have been oral. This is certainly possible. There is nothing unreasonable about assuming that an unrecorded statement of Enoch could have been accurately handed down from his time until the time Jude wrote. There could have been a body of accurate oral tradition or written tradition which had been handed down from the time of Enoch to the time of Christ. The Holy Spirit then guided Jude to cite this particular truth which had been handed down throughout the generations.

    The point is that both Jude and the Book of Enoch may have had an ancient source that contained an authentic statement that went all the way back to the patriarch Enoch. What we can say for certain is that the writer of the Book of Enoch as well as Jude obtained Enoch’s prophecy from some source. Thus, it is not necessary to assume that Jude only had the Book of Enoch as his source. Indeed, if the Book of Enoch has an ancient source, then why couldn’t Jude have had the same source?

    It must also be noted that Jude did not say that Enoch wrote this prophecy but rather that he spoke this prophecy. This may indicate that Jude is not citing some writing that was attributed to Enoch, such as the Book of Enoch, but he is actually citing another source that contained Enoch’s words.

    Jude quoted Enoch, not the Book of Enoch. How well the Book of Enoch reproduced Enoch’s actual words is not relevant. Both the Book of Enoch, as well as Jude, basically say the same thing.

    Conclusion: the Statement from Enoch Is Authentic but Not the Book of Enoch

    Whichever is the correct answer to this question, it is clear that Jude believed the saying was authentic. The content of the saying is consistent with the teaching of the rest of Scripture. However, there is certainly no need to assume any divine authority for the Book of Enoch. Nothing in the Book of Enoch, or in Jude’s citation, leads us to conclude that this was a divinely authoritative work from the patriarch Enoch.

    There is no reason to think that Jude accepted the divine authority of the Book of Enoch or accepted all of its contents. It is only one statement which he cited as true. We have no indication whatsoever that Jude, or anyone else in the first century, whether Jew or Christian, accepted the Book of Enoch as a divinely inspired work. This being the case, we should not assume that Jude was attempting to give some sort of authoritative status to the written document known as the Book of Enoch or First Enoch.

    The real issue is the reliability of the statements made. Do they give us accurate information? Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would guard their words and guide them into all truth. He said:

    When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13 NRSV)

    Thus, we have every reason to believe these words Jude recorded were actually spoken by the patriarch Enoch without assuming the Book of Enoch had any authoritative status. Consequently, there is no evidence that the Book of Enoch is part of the Old Testament canon.

    There is one more point that should be raised. Everyone agrees that the first books which were recognized as divinely inspired Scripture were the five books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy. Yet Enoch lived before the time of Moses.

    Since there was no divinely inspired Scripture written before the time of Moses, this would rule out any so-called writing by Enoch as Holy Scripture. The canon of Scripture began with the writings of Moses. Since Jude quotes extensively from the writings of Moses, who was the foundational prophet in Scripture, it is not likely that he would accept as canonical the writings of one who lived before Moses. Therefore, while the statement of Enoch is true, it does not come from a canonical source.

  7. The Book of Jubilees

    Another important apocryphal work is the Book of Jubilees; supposedly written by the lawgiver Moses. The Book of Jubilees has also been called, “Little Genesis” because it expands upon the stories found in the Book of Genesis. It claims to record revelations which God gave to Moses while he was on Mount Sinai. The history of the world, from creation to the giving of the Law, was allegedly dictated to Moses by “the angel of the Presence.” All of this is recorded in Jubilees. However, this is not possible since the date of the composition of this work is usually assumed to be around 120 B.C.; over a thousand years after Moses’ death.

    The Book of Jubilees receives its name for its system of reckoning time; the Jubilee. Historical events from the creation of the world to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai are divided into a series of Jubilees. Each of these Jubilees, consisting of forty-nine years, is composed of seven cycles of seven years.

    From Jubilees, we are told such things as Enoch was the first man who learned the art of writing. Supposedly, he learned this from angels. We are also told that the angels taught Enoch a number of secret truths.

    According to the author of Jubilees, Hebrew was the language originally spoken by all creation. This includes animals as well as humans! Furthermore, we are told that Hebrew is actually the language of heaven. The Book of Jubilees says that after the destruction of the tower of Babel, the Hebrew language was forgotten. It was only revived again when Abraham was taught it by the angels. We also learn from the Book of Jubilees that when God created the angels, He created them circumcised! Obviously, the Book of Jubilees cannot be taken seriously.

    It is interesting to note that about fifteen or sixteen copies of the Book of Jubilees were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. While this work still remains popular in some circles, there is no warrant whatsoever for believing it has anything remotely to do with Moses or God’s divine revelation to humanity.

Enoch and Jubilees Are Accepted as Part of Old Testament Scripture by the Ethiopic Church

As mentioned, these writings are rejected as Scripture by all of Christendom with one exception ? the Ethiopic Church. They accept both Enoch and Jubilees as divinely authoritative Old Testament Scripture. However, as we have seen, there is no real basis to accept these writings as authentic. They are obvious forgeries and have no place in the Old Testament canon of Scripture.

Summary - Question 10
What Are the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha? (Enoch, Jubilees)

The Jewish religious books written during the Old Testament period, and through the New Testament period, can be divided into three categories. There were books that all believers accepted as Scripture, the Old Testament, books that some accepted as Scripture, the Old Testament Apocrypha, and books that all rejected as Scripture, the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha are books written in the name of a biblical character, but are in actuality forgeries. Two of the most prominent of these are Enoch and the Book of Jubilees. The Ethiopic Church is the only Christian group that gives authoritative status to these books.

The Book of Enoch is assumed to have been an authentic work because it is quoted in the New Testament by Jude. However, Jude does not introduce his statement by such statements as “it is written” or “the Lord said.”

Instead, Jude is merely citing an authentic statement made by Enoch. Whether or not the source of Jude’s quotation was the Book of Enoch is debated. Even if Jude did make use of this apocryphal book, he is only citing the truth of one of its statements; not the fact of its divine inspiration. Consequently, there is no evidence that Jude thought that the Book of Enoch was an actual work from the patriarch who lived before the flood. Thus, there is no evidence whatsoever that this book deserves any authoritative status.

The Book of Jubilees, which was written about one hundred years before the time of Christ, is supposedly the work of Moses. It is an obvious pseudepigraph. It looks at the early history of humanity through various “Jubilees;” or periods of “forty-nine years.” These Jubilees begin at creation and take us up through the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus.

There is no reason to believe that anything contained in this work can even be remotely attributed to Moses, or given by divine revelation.

How Has the Old Testament Apocrypha Been Placed in Bible Translations? ← Prior Section
Does the New Testament Quote as Scripture Writings That Are Not Presently in the Bible? Next Section →
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