Apologetics and the Book of Enoch

Of the two conversations I had this morning on a local college campus, both the people cited the Book of Enoch.  I haven’t read the Book of Enoch but I’ve heard of it.  It’s not a short work, so reading it will take some time.

The gentleman that was directed to me almost immediately upon arrival on campus by a Gideon friend of mine as “someone who has some questions” brought it up almost immediately.  He vaguely was asking why some books were included in the Bible and others weren’t, with the basic inference that there was some sort of plot to discourage some books while favoring others.  This is, obviously true.  But it isn’t obviously bad or wrong.

The truth is that we don’t know a whole lot about how the Hebrew Scriptures (the Christian Old Testament) came to be settled upon (or perhaps more accurately, *I* don’t know a lot about this – maybe someone else does!).  What we know is that by the time of Jesus they were settled upon, and the Book of Enoch was not included.  Why is mostly a matter of speculation.  We know a bit more about why our New Testament looks the way it was despite there being other first century writings (whether an apostle wrote it or not was the primary criteria).

I could have spent a lot of time trying to defend the process of canonization.  I explained the issue with the Apocryphal texts and their formal inclusion *very* late in the Roman Catholic Bible by the Council of Trent in 1547.  But it was clear that he was enamored with the speculation of it all.  What of the Nephilim?  What if there was secret teaching from Jesus that some people have passed down beyond the realm of Scripture?

Remembering the caveats of my apologetics coursework this summer though, I decided not to continue running down blind alleys that could never be anything more than blind alleys.  Instead I directed him back to the Gospels and to the eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ resurrection.  He had indicated earlier that he has some anxiety over all the “what ifs” that the Book of Enoch and other sources of wisdom represent.  So I seized on that admission.  There is no end to the “what ifs” out there, and our list of things that we don’t know is daunting, to say the least.  All the other religions of the world claim that whatever is out there beyond our day to day experience and earthly life, it is up to us to reach it, either through obedience (Islam) or enlightenment (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.).  Only Christianity dares to claim that we can’t sort through it on our own.  Only Christianity claims that the source of our hope lies not in ourselves but rather in the claims of the one man in human history who claimed to be God incarnate, and claimed the proof of this would be his resurrection from the dead, and who multiple eyewitnesses testified actually rose from the dead.

I told the young man that what he really needed to concern himself with was a careful exploration of the eyewitness testimonies to this resurrection.  If he determined that they were not true, then he could continue on his aimless explorations and would have no external source of comfort or relief from his fears and worries about what might be out there.  But if he concluded that they really did sound like eyewitness accounts rather than carefully crafted stories or fairy tales, and if he was willing to place his belief and trust in them, then he had the answer and antidote to those fears and worries, and he could get on with living his life rather than worrying about the what ifs.

I gave him my contact information and told him I’d be happy to talk further with him, but really, this is what it all comes down to.  I can’t answer every possible conjecture or hypothesis or uncertainty about the world or alternate ancient texts.  Hell, I can’t even answer all the questions I’d like to about the Bible!  But the main question centers on the resurrection.  Did it happen or did it not?  If it didn’t, how do you account for a dozen men who committed the rest of their lives to preaching that it was true, even when it got them killed?  How do you account for the fact that their testimony was to people who were alive at the same time, some of whom had also seen and heard Jesus – both before and after his death and resurrection?

If it did happen, if it reads like any other historical account that nobody gives a second thought to, only everybody has to give it a second thought because of the implications it has on our lives today, then what do you do with that?  You quit worrying and begin praying.  You quit being afraid and start giving thanks.  You start living your life as though there is a God who created you and loves you enough to die for you.  It all boils down to that, regardless of what we think of the Book of Enoch or not.

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3 Responses to “Apologetics and the Book of Enoch”

  1. Lois Says:

    Your account is a good reminder to me. I enjoy haring off down blind alleys and speculating about all sorts of things, and can be easily distracted from bringing up the real issue of who is Jesus Christ. My “rabbit-holing” tendencies are definitely detrimental to my witness.

    I haven’t read Enoch either. Think I should?

    • mrpaulnelson Says:

      From my basic skimming & preliminary research, I’d say that if ancient visionary literature is your indulgence, go for it. If you’re doing it to be prepared for a potential apologetics encounter, then I’d suggest not. It was pretty clear from a couple of questions I asked that this gentleman had not actually read the Book of Enoch – certainly not all of it. Most likely he had heard about it from some web site purporting to provide evidence of how Christianity is a sham. At the end of the day, hundreds and hundreds of years of Hebrew people didn’t feel it belonged in their canon, and two thousand years of Christians respected that and maintained that distinction. I hope to read it at some point, but it’s not high on my own reading list at the moment. Let me know what you think of you do wade into it!

  2. Revisiting | Living Apologetics Says:

    […]  We had a somewhat extended discussion on campus a couple of months ago.  I knew immediately who it was.  This is just one of several different things I do when I’m not on campus, I responded. […]

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