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The Witness Of Enoch
© 03.07.20 D. Eric Williams

Genesis Chapter 5 provides us with a genealogical record of the sethian line from Adam to Noah. Near the end of the list we meet someone named Enoch who, according to the Bible, lived 365 years before he disappeared because God took him away (Genesis 5:24).

The Bible has little to say about Enoch. In the Old Testament he is mentioned only in the genealogies of 1 Chronicles outside of Genesis. In the New Testament, Enoch is found in the genealogical record of Jesus. He is one of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews chapter eleven and quoted as a prophet in Jude verse fourteen. It is the quote found in the letter of Jude that has caused some misunderstanding concerning the life and times of Enoch.

It appears Jude's quotation comes from the pseudepigraphic text known as the first book of Enoch. The treatise is also called the Ethiopic Enoch and was apparently written in the second or third century before Christ (there is a second book of Enoch also known as a Slavonic Enoch likely originating in c. 14 century and a third book of Enoch written in Hebrew that may have been written as early as the second century). The book of Enoch is an apocryphal text decidedly unbiblical in overall character - Jude's use of it notwithstanding.1 The first book of Enoch is best known for its description of the angelic "watchers" who came to earth and sired a race of giants with human women. According to the book, Enoch was sent to these watchers with a prophetic word of judgment. The book also discusses Enoch's visions of heaven, the apocalyptic future, the Son of Man, the Messiah and the end of days. The only real value in the first book of Enoch is historical. That is not to say the book is historically accurate; far from it. Rather, it provides us with a look into the mind of second Temple Judaism. This is helpful because it gives us some insight into the intellectual atmosphere of the New Testament. While we must not use apocryphal or pseudepigraphic texts to guide us in doctrine they may be helpful in understanding some of the cryptic references found in the New Testament. For instance, Jesus routinely called himself the Son of Man. Clearly, his audience had some understanding of what he meant by that. On the other hand, modern readers do not have the same context as the first century audience and so it is often thought Jesus was simply referring to his humanity. This is true in part, but in the context of first century, second Temple Judaism, the appellation "Son of Man" held greater significance than mere human genesis.

Unfortunately, there are self-professed Christians who claim the books of Enoch gives them profound insight concerning the angelic order. These are the same people who were "greatly blessed" by books like Heaven Is for Real. These are people who decide what is true based upon how it "resonates with their spirit." But that is not the appropriate way to discern truth.

Part of the problem is a fascination among some Christians with Angels and Demons. The Bible has little to say about angelology or demonology and so the curious Christian is forced to look elsewhere. Thus the reliance on the books of Enoch (and other non-canonical texts) to fill out the biblical account.

Paul addressed this ungodly fascination with spirit realm when he said, Don't tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They're a lot of hot air, that's all they are (Colossians 2:18, MSG). Truly, if God had wanted us to know more about the angelic realm he would have given more information in the Bible.

The damage done to the Christian faith through this "obsession with angels" is not limited to the caustic effects of injecting American Folk Religion into evangelical Christianity. Perhaps the greater insult is the weakened theology that comes from ignorance of the true value of Enoch's story.

As mentioned earlier, the Bible tells us that Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:24) and it is significant that "this precise combination of verbal form and preposition appears nowhere else in Scripture."2 However, the verbal form is used elsewhere to "denote the maintenance of covenant relationship through the fulfilling of the appropriate roles therein."3 Moreover, the verbal form is also used "to describe persons engaged in a judicial mission."4 In other words, the Hebrew text alone indicates Enoch was covenantaly faithful and was engaged in a prophetic calling similar to the latter prophets of Israel and Judah. Elijah is a good example of this and, interestingly, he too was taken from this world prior to enduring a natural death (2 Kings 2:11-12). In both cases the covenantaly faithful prophet of God faced violent opposition. This is spelled out in the text for us concerning Elijah; we may infer the same about Enoch from the Genesis account (cf. Genesis chapter 6).

Thus, one lesson from Genesis concerning Enoch is that God blesses covenant faithfulness. While we should not expect to be "translated" as Enoch was, we can expect covenant faithfulness to result in the enjoyment of the blessings enumerated in Scripture. In addition, Enoch's example reminds us that our responsibility is for the faithfulness not the outcome. Clearly, Enoch's covenant faithfulness had little impact on the world around him. This was according to God's design but for our purpose it reminds us that our duty is obedience. The effect of our obedience is up to God.

Also, Enoch's example reminds us that the blessings of covenant faithfulness are typically realized corporately. This is to say, the blessings listed in the Bible are generally realized when there is widespread obedience to the word of God. This means the blessings are evident when a city, state, region or nation turns to God in repentance and obedience.

All of this is in sharp contrast to the typical evangelical lesson learned from Enoch. Enoch was translated not because his relationship with God was a "God as girlfriend" kinship. This kind of emotion based "walk with God" is common in modern Evangelicalism, a fact reflected by contemporary worship music. No, Enoch had a biblically defined walk with God. His was a walk of obedience and of calling others to account for their disobedience.

Therefore, the lesson learned from Enoch is a lesson pertinent to us. For, a relationship with God defined by obedience is a New Testament teaching. Paul preached a gospel of grace that has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10b NLT). Contrary to the idea that faith negates obedience Paul said, Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law (Romans 3:31 NLT). This does not happen by accident; you must, work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear (Philippians 2:12 NLT). In short, the lesson we learn from Enoch is the same lesson we learn from the rest of the Bible; live a life of obedience to God, tell others about it and look for the blessings of doing so.

Hence, the example of Enoch shows how critical it is for each individual Christian to bring their life and arena of activity under the Lordship of Jesus. Enoch, like Noah (Hebrews 11:7, 1 Peter 3:20, 2 Peter 2:5), continued to proclaim the truth of worshiping Yahweh even in the face of widespread rejection and persecution. We can do no less.

1. Jude's quotation of the book of Enoch is no more an endorsement of the treatise than Paul's use of pagan authors is an endorsement of their work (Acts 17:28, 1 Corinthians 15:33, Titus 1:12). At most, Jude is saying a certain point made by an uninspired author is true (as Paul did in his letter to Titus).

2. Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations For A Covenantal Worldview, (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2006), 205.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

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