Sunday, November 18, 2018

On the Book of Enoch and New Revelations

A reply to a question about the Book of Enoch, the canon, and new revelation.

Thank you for sending me this. I must confess, I've been reading over them and still have been unable to see any reference to the Book of Enoch in Jesus's words, though I freely admit that there is a lot in common with the world of the Book of Enoch in Jesus's words--that is, Jesus lived in a context that shared much of the ideology of that document. That much is clear, and so to see a shared way of thinking and speaking is unsurprising. But I can't see direct reference. All the sayings are conventional enough to make a claim of dependence unwarranted. Example: to say that Enoch's "all the thirsty drank, and were filled with wisdom" is the background to Jesus's "the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" is quite a stretch, considering how ubiquitous water/thirst language is in all religion, let alone Judaism. So, I don't buy it!

As for Jude's quote of Enoch, that is definitely more compelling. I am much more intrigued by the Book of Enoch on account of this piece of evidence. Jude clearly thinks the saying came from Enoch the seventh from Adam. My conviction, therefore, is that the pseudopigraphical Book of Enoch preserves the true words of Enoch in that passage. Does this mean we ought to accept the entire Book of Enoch? Not necessarily. There are various things to consider. Perhaps the pseudopigraphical book was constructed upon that genuine prophetic saying (it is found in the first part of the book). Perhaps Jude and earlier Israelites had access to a document or tradition that we no longer possess, which they were confident preserved the saying of Enoch. Through this connection the saying may have ended up in the pseudopigraphical book. I don't know. But I don't think it is wise to jump at the entire Book of Enoch with unquestioned acceptance simply on account of Jude 1:14-15.

Your question about the canon in class was a good and important one, and I'm sorry we had no time and that I wasn't prepared to discuss it. I would recommend for your study Michael Kruger's works on the canon. That being said, I do sense that you are antsy about this issue of the canon, and you want to be open to more revelation than what is found in the Bible. I get this strong vibe from Mormons and people affected by Mormonism--it's one of the defining marks of Mormonism, I think, one of the keys to understanding the religion and what makes LDS people tick. They don't want to feel limited (bounded, straitjacketed, confined?) by ancient Scripture; they fear there's more truth out there and an exclusive reliance upon the Bible keeps us from knowing that truth. Better to be open then closed lest we miss the way, right?

Well... yes and no. I don't believe the Bible is anywhere against new revelations, the idea that God can speak to us now and can say new things. But it is everywhere against tampering with, ignoring, or nullifying old revelations. You don't mess with holy Scripture. Period. I say again, you don't mess with holy Scripture. God is a God truth, and always speaks the truth. The apostolic Christians were at pains to show that what they were teaching about the Christ and the law was in accordance with the Scriptures, not against them (Acts 17:2, 11, 24:13-14, 28:23, Romans 1:2, 3:21, 16:26, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, et al. See especially Acts 24:13-14). They never dared suggest that the Scriptures had somehow been corrupted. In Christianity, all is in accordance with the Scriptures, or else it is not true Christianity nor of God (Isaiah 8:20, Matthew 5;17-19). If an apparent new revelation contradicts or undermines what is written, that revelation is not and cannot be holy. Thus, from where I sit, Joseph Smith's prophesies were false, not because prophesying per se is false, but because his prophecies patronizingly patted Moses, Isaiah, Jesus, and Paul on the head while throwing their words into the shredder. A bad man, and one for whom the solemn curse of Revelation 22:18-29 justly applies. "I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book." If this doesn't apply to Joseph Smith, it has no meaning and can apply to no one. And let me be clear and answer a common objection: I don't believe this verse is referring to the whole Bible, nor to adding to the canon (as it is sometimes interpreted to mean). It's talking only about the Book of Revelation. It is saying that you don't tamper with the prophecies in the Book of Revelation. Why? Because they are the very words of God (Revelation 1:1-3). And behold! Joseph Smith fiddled with the prophecies of the Book of Revelation (there's JST surgery). He is guilty and therefore cursed. Yet the greater point is that the principle of this curse applies to all of the Bible (to all the words that came to down from heaven in the manner of Revelation 1:1-3), for the one who tampers with any holy Scripture is tampering with the inspired, holy words of God. The principle of the thing is present everywhere; it is simply made explicit here in Revelation 22 (a fitting place, too, no doubt).

Thus, I think we should be open to new revelation, sure. But we should be more concerned about past revelation, revelation that we know is revelation, making sure that we hear and obey it. Isn't that the flavor of the Old and the New Testaments: hearing and obeying? God has spoken. Shouldn't we be heeding what has been spoken more than searching for more? If we aren't taking seriously and obeying past revelation, our lust for new revelation will be dangerous, and will probably contribute to our damnation.

Spoken in love. I hope to see you again soon!

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