|Enoch and the Canon|
|Nicholas I Ward
I received the following email and sent this reply.
D. M. writes:Glean is a interesting way to put it. On one hand it suggests that we use only certain parts of these texts, proof texting if you will. On the other, it also suggests that what we use is the left over pieces after a larger harvest has taken place (for quite so the canon is).
But onto your questions... Does the Apocryphal literature help us to better understand the Bible about UFOs? Allow me to oversimplify. Can things outside the Bible help us understand the Bible? I am sure you would say yes. All sorts of things help us understand the Bible. Nature and science, the practices of shepherds in biblical times, rabbinical sages like Gamaliel, Church commentators like Augustine, Brunner, and Barth, historians like Josephus, Bible dictionaries, even devotional literature (Max Lucado) can help us understand the Bible.
So what does the Bible say about this UFO craze that has overtaken our society? Plenty. Are there extra-biblical sources that can help us understand what it says about it? Certainly.
Unlike gleaning though, we do not seek to gather left over scraps haphazardly. When studying scripture, you and I must stick to strict hermeneutical principles. We want a good exegesis. We should not push our meaning into the text, but draw out what the text really means. Sometimes this may require that we process divergent interpretations at the same time.
Additionally, what the text meant back when it was written is what it still means. That is why rabbinical sages, historians, and other Biblical authors are so important in assisting in the process. Paul elaborates on other scripture that was canonized in his day. Few sermons would teach on Isaiah without visiting Paul's use of a passage.
Which leads to your next question as I understand it. Should the Enoch I be on equal footing with scripture?
Let's look further at the canon. Did you know there are more than one? The Hebrew canon had changed a few times, but the literature required to be read with it so that it might be understood continues to grow. Each scribe offers commentary upon interpretation, though many of their notes have been lost and are only remembered by small dots made beneath the Hebrew words of special note. Also this canon does not include any of the New Testament literature, orders them differently, and calls them by different names.
The modern canon to which you are referring includes the previous canon, but includes the New Testament, as well. As the New Testament was formed it went through several revisions. Some books that were in the canon were taken out and replaced with others. Sometimes it was for earlier versions of the same book (though usually modern Bibles make note of both versions). Sometimes books were removed all together while other books were added. Some books were in a sort of showdown to see who made it into the final cut.
For instance, the Epistle of Barnabas was running neck and neck with the Book of Jude. They canonized the shorter one. I cannot blame them. They did not have printing presses back then. Even after Gutenberg, the only copy of the Bible a church had was chained to the pulpit. Of particular note, is that both books mention the activities of fallen angels. Jude mentions them less.
Essentially the canon says which texts can be used for doctrine. That way all of the Church derives our essentials of faith from the same body of literature. You and I can agree on doctrinal issues because we share the same body of literature. The canon does not prevent the reading of extra-biblical texts. It does help us test them.
Another reason for the canon was that at the time of the early Church, Kabbulism had reared its ugly head in the form of a number of Gnostic writings. The canon was a way to assist the laity (deacons and pastors for the most part were not seminary graduates so I will include them as well) in sorting through these infiltrating texts to find what was considered Scripture, good for doctrine, essential for faith.
The texts had to be one above reproach without anything questionable in it. Any time you write about angels doing more than relaying messages it raises more than a few ecclesiastical eyebrows. Most of the literature considered for the canon but were subsequently denied, mention something about the activities of angels and usually the fallen ones. A great example is the books of the patriarchs. They discuss as if it were common knowledge what was happening between angels and humans.
This leads to one of two conclusions:
Perhaps there is a middle ground.
It should be noted that Enoch I was always and is still today in the Coptic canon. This book was preserved in the libraries founded by the Ethiopian eunuch. Recent evidence shows that Enoch I has also been found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls.. meaning it was in use by the early Church and kept with the Gospels.
Finally to answer the question. No. Enoch cannot currently be used for doctrinal issues because it is not canonized. Should it have been? Yes. Would it have been? Probably, unless conclusion 2 is correct.
But I don't believe that anyone is currently using it for doctrinal issues. I have not at this time seen any articles using Enoch on a point of salvation. However, it is being used by this ministry and others as an evangelistic and apologetic tool in reaching out to the New Age and UFO communities.
Though Enoch is not apart of the Apocrypha found in Martin Luther's German translation of the Bible, it, like the Apocrypha, is in his words "useful and good to read."
Quote taken from the Holy Bible King James Version with
concordance and special helps from the Old-Time Gospel Hour and Jerry