Why was the book of Enoch not included in our Bible?
This question illuminates one of those painful intersections between theology and church history: the canonization of Scripture.
Throughout church history, many books have been scrutinized by theologians, and before those theologians, other theologians, and before such, were the members of the early church themselves, who also fought heavily over the writings that should and would be considered Scripture.
Even though Enoch is quoted in the New Testament by Jude, it is not necessarily a validation of the whole book. Paul quoted from some of the Greek poets, but they were obviously not inspired. A quotation from another extra-biblical source is not a validation that the work was inspired.
The Book of Enoch was never considered authentic by the Jewish rabbis, and it was never included in the Hebrew Scriptures’ canon. There are twenty Book of Enoch manuscripts in the Dead Sea Scrolls, but all are in Aramaic, not Hebrew. Thus, they are not part of the Hebrew Old Testament. We have far less early manuscripts for the Book of Enoch than we do for the recognized canon. For comparison, we have a thousand manuscripts for each of the four Gospels, 500 for the book of Acts and the Epistles and several hundred for the book of Revelation. This indicates Enoch was not as acclaimed as the books deemed to be inspired. Throughout the Gospel Age, it was never up for consideration to be part of the Bible, including in the Catholic or Greek Orthodox Bibles.
Jude’s epistle was included in Scripture because Jude himself was considered a reliable apostolic source, but there were many epistles in circulation as the church developed, and many gospels. There were many apocalyptic books as well, and there were many histories, including the Acts of Peter which was not canonized due to its wild theological nature. And yet, to this day, it remains the earliest historical mention of Peter being crucified upside down, a legend that still perpetuates within Christianity. The Maccabees are also absent from Protestant Bibles, but that does not mean they lack value as to historical authenticity.
This is why Jude quotes the Book of Enoch in his epistle. He is addressing an argument using documentation that had historical relevance to the Jews of that time – the Book of Enoch. But just because the Bible references histories and philosophical arguments that were popular at the time, doesn’t mean that the writings of Philo of Alexandria should be canonized. This also doesn’t mean Philo’s works are without value. Or that reading Enoch isn’t valuable for its historical context, or that it wasn’t considered inspired by some Christian sects. Or the Maccabees for that matter.
The rules of canonicity were the general recognition of certain practical ideals, described in three principles:
- The writings had to be authored by a recognized prophet, apostle or someone associated with them.
- The writings could not contradict previously-accepted books of Scripture.
- The writings had to be widely accepted by the church and its leaders as inspired of God.
So, the short answer to the question takes into account all of the above and offers the explanation: Because the theologians of that time did not find it to be of value in comparison to other Scripture, and we use their Bibles. In the end, we trust the LORD has overruled in the canonization of the Bible. He preserved the Bible through centuries as a basis for our faith.
We have great confidence that we can put our faith in the Scriptures. It is no accident that God’s plan is revealed in the scriptural record.
For more on Enoch and why the book is not included in our Bible we highly recommend, “Has the Bible Been Mistranslated and Misunderstood? (Part I)”