“What about the prophecy of Enoch in Jude 14-15 (‘And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him’)? Is this endorsing an apocryphal writing? Does this militate against the Protestant teaching about Scripture?”
The question brings to mind a personal experience. I was undergoing that very frightening event in my life called “the classical exam.” I had graduated from seminary; I had passed my three full days of oral exams before the synod; I had received and accepted a call, and now was the final and decisive exam, which would determine whether the churches considered me fit for the ministry of the Word. Seven years of study and a lifetime in that great calling of the ministry were in the scales of this exam.
Unlike the synodical exams at which the (more sympathetic) professors asked the questions, at the classical exam, all the ministers within the classis participated. I was being examined in knowledge of Scripture. The quizzing minister put this question to me: “Do you believe that there are divinely inspired books that are not included in the Bible?” He mentioned a few of them. I had been taught the truth of the organic inspiration of the Bible, by which is meant that God eternally determined the whole of the Scriptures as a perfect and complete record of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The question seemed to me to be at odds with that truth. And so, wondering why it was asked, I answered, “No.” My questioner immediately responded with the remark, “You are wrong.” Well, as you all know, I passed anyway; apparently the classis did not consider the question sufficiently important to make an issue of it. And, at this point I am sufficiently old to announce publicly that I am still of the position that I was right and my questioner wrong.
There are two aspects to our Korean reader’s question; I will answer them separately.
The first aspect concerns whether or not Jude 14-15 is a quotation of an apocryphal writing called The Book of Enoch. We should note that this reference in Jude to the prophecy of Enoch does not agree fully with any passage in The Book of Enoch, and is likely not a quotation from any book. Those who do not believe that it is a quotation from The Book of Enoch prefer to refer it to oral tradition. Among those who take this position is John Calvin. The editor to Calvin’s commentary adds that this is “the most common opinion,” before continuing, “There is no evidence of such a book being known for some time after this epistle was written; and the book so called was probably a forgery, occasioned by this reference to Enoch’s prophecy.” H. C. Thiessen agrees (Introduction to the New Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1954], p. 294).
On the other hand, R. C. H. Lenski, the Lutheran commentator, holds to the idea that this is a direct quotation. He spends considerable time in discussing the whole matter, but says that the infallibility of Scripture is not called into question.
If it is true that Jude is referring here to a tradition that had come down to the church over the centuries, it would not be contrary to Scripture’s integrity that Jude should quote it. There are other examples, one notable instance of which is found in Acts 20:35, which states that Christ said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This word of the Lord Jesus is not recorded in any of the four gospel accounts.
It may be argued that these words of Christ were spoken much closer in time to the use of them by Paul (in Acts 20) than the words of Enoch recorded in Jude’s epistle. It may also be argued that Paul is quoting Jesus rather than Enoch, but what difference does it really make? It was the Spirit of Christ who inspired Enoch (and Jude).
This brings me to the second question: Does this militate against the Protestant teaching about Scripture? I presume the reader means: Does a quotation that itself does not appear in the Bible militate against the infallible inspiration of Scripture? The answer is most emphatically that it does not.
Even if the content of Enoch’s preaching came down through tradition, that prophecy was inspired in Enoch in the same way that Paul’s speeches, quoted in Scripture, were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Enoch was a prophet of God and spoke His Word.
Further, we may be sure that the excerpt from Enoch’s prophecy referred to by Jude is correct, for the Holy Spirit inspired Jude to write what he did. If the tradition of the prophecy was faulty, the Spirit would not have inspired Jude to use it. Let us remember that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the prophecy of judgment on the wicked in the pre-flood days, is the same Holy Spirit who inspired Jude to write his epistle. The Holy Spirit surely knows what He said through Enoch.
Further, Enoch was a prophet of God. Paul even quotes from secular writers, the most notable of whom is Aretus, whom he cited on Mars Hill (Acts 17:28). The following points have to be understood from this. 1) Aretus, though an unbeliever, spoke truly in the statement Paul quotes. 2) Aretus surely spoke this in the context of his own pagan worship of many gods, but that does not alter the fact that the statement as such is true. 3) Paul is not saying Aretus spoke by the Holy Spirit; he is only saying that Aretus, in this statement, made a correct observation. 4) Since Scripture is infallibly inspired, the statement of Aretus was indeed made by him.
To speak such formal truths is not beyond the capability of unbelievers. When I studied plain geometry, I learned and memorized the so-called Pythagorean Theorem. Pythagoras was not a believer, but this mathematical statement is true—from a formal point of view. If you put it into the context of Pythagoras’ philosophy, that the ultimate reality is number, then it is false because Pythagoras’ philosophy is false. If I had said in a test that the Pythagorean theorem was false because Pythagoras was an unbeliever, my Christian school teacher would have marked it wrong, I’m quite sure.
Enoch prophesied in a time similar to the time Jude wrote his epistle and our time. Let the wicked understand that such prophecies against them will surely be fulfilled on them. God’s written Word stands unmoved and unchangeable: the Lord’s return will be terrible to the ungodly! Repent and believe the gospel of Christ!
- Volume: 13
- Issue: 8
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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