Why does Jude quote apocryphal literature in verse 9 and 14? People often
immediatley dismiss this by saying “just because he quotes apocryphal
literature doesn’t mean he considers it scripture”, and point out to where
Paul quotes other pagan poets. This is true, however what bothers me is
that he refers the prophecy directly to Enoch by saying, “And Enoch also,
the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these…”, almost as if he was saying
“And Enoch also, not the apocryphal writers, prophesied of these…”. Some
say that Enoch really did say that, and it got passed down through Jewish
history, however I find it extremly doubtful that that something that
Enoch said would survive that long. He also does the same thing in verse 9
when he makes an allusion to The Assumption of Moses, and seems to present
it as history. Is there any other explanation for this?
This is a good question. I would say that with 98+% of questions about
the Bible I find a solid, consistent, convincing explanation readily
available. With this one, to be honest, I have to say that I am not sure
of the answer. I have to agree that to simply mention Paul?s references
to pagan poets as if it is sufficiently analogous to what we find in Jude
is not adequate. One approach is to stipulate that, by definition, the
whole Bible is inspired by God. Therefore the quote in Jude validates
that the quote from the apocryphal Book of Enoch is what really happened.
This strikes me too strongly of circular reasoning. I do not reject this
line of reasoning entirely. In fact, I believe it may well be the correct
way to think about this passage. However, I do not see this argument
winning over the skeptic at all. Besides, it seems too simplistic and too
convenient in this case.
Let me offer an analogous example. Some seek to prove that Jonah was in
the heart of a big fish for three days because they note that Jesus
clearly believes this, given his statements in Matthew 12:39-40. The
argument is that Jesus obviously believed this story to be literally true,
therefore, I know it is literally true. I am not sure of this line of
reasoning to the skeptic, but I will admit that in the case of Jesus and
Jonah, I find the argument to be fairly strong. Jesus seems to be stating
as a fact that Jonah was indeed in the belly of a large fish for three
days. The context of Jesus? comments imply a literal fact, not symbolism.
Thjs is God talking in Matthew 12:39-40. To me, the comments of Jesus do
indeed validate the story of Jonah. Having said that, I do not believe
this argument, in isolation, will be convincing to a skeptic.
Is the situation in Jude analogous to this example? I am not sure. I
believe we need to look at the literary form of the book of Jude. I am no
expert on this. Is it possible that Jude begins with inspired, biblical
examples to make his point and then moves on to familiar examples in the
non-inspired Hebrew literature? Given the literary style of Jude, is it
possible to not force the author to be implying that these are literal
examples? I look at Jude 11, “Woe to them! They have taken the way of
Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam?s error; they have been
destroyed in Korah?s rebellion.” Obviously, what Jude just said here is
not literally true. He is creating an analogy for his readers to
understand the starkness of the situation these men have gotten into.
Does this allow us to take the examples from the Assumption of Moses and
the Book of Enoch to not have to be literally true? I say yes, but I say
it with some hesitation. I hesitate because I am not sufficiently expert
in Jewish literature and because I hold out for possibility #1, which is
that Jude validates as correct what is mentioned in the Book of Enoch.
So I am afraid that I am leaving you with an “I am not sure” on this one.
My guess is that the literary style of Jude allows us to assume he is
using whatever familiar example is at hand, including apocryphal (and
therefore uninspired) Jewish literature. If true, then we do not have to
take the statements about Enoch as literally true. In that case, this is
similar (but not identical) to the example of Paul?s mentioning of pagan
poets. However, I hold that we cannot rule out the possibility that the
inspired writer Jude is actually stating as a fact that Enoch said
something like this, and that the Book of Enoch contains accurate
information, even if the book is not inspired as a whole. So, I will
leave you with two possible explanations, including the one toward which I
lean. I hope this will be sufficient.
John Oakes, PhD