Thursday, February 21, 2019

On quotations from apocryphal books in Jude

A couple of days ago I received this email from a friend:
Dear Jeff 
Trust this finds you well. I wondered whether in your NT studies you have come across good resources about whether Jude is quoting from the apocryphal book of Enoch and Moses in his letter? One is Jude 14-15 is a quotation of an apocryphal writing called The Book of Enoch. Calvin thought it was just oral tradition. Lenski makes it a quotation though.
My 9 year old son is perplexed by this one!
Best regards
Yesterday I sent this response (and thought others might profit from reading it too):
I don't have any special expertise on Jude, but the typical line of thought, as I understand it, is that the citation in Jude 9 about the dispute with Michael the archangel over the body of Moses is from an apocryphal book known either as The Testament of Moses or The Assumption of Moses (and these may be two distinct works) that now only exist in fragments or from patristic quotations. In the margin of the Nestle-Aland 28th ed. Greek NT the note reads "AssMosis?"

Calvin says it might have come from "an apocryphal book" or "from the tradition of the [Jewish] fathers." He goes on to speak of how likely it is that Moses's body was indeed buried in obscurity, but that after this Satan would have wanted to make it known as an object of "superstition."

As for Jude 14-15 this seems to be directly taken from 1 Enoch. The margin of the Nestle-Aland 28th ed. cites 1 Enoch 1:9; 60:3; and 93:3, as well as another Jewish apocryphal work, Jubilees 7:39. I have an English translation copy of 1 Enoch and 1:9 reads: "And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy the ungodly: And to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."

Calvin indeed says that this prophecy was more likely "unwritten" than taken "from an apocrphyphal book." At the time he wrote the 1 Enoch was probably unknown in the West, but it was known in the East, especially in Ethiopia.

You said your son is perplexed by this. I speak more to him with this:

Is it because these quotations come from non-Biblical books? There are other examples of quotations from non-Biblical books and even ones that are completely lost to us now in the Bible. Last Sunday in our services we were reading Numbers 21 in which reference is made to "the book of the wars of the LORD" (v. 14), a book we no longer have. Paul cites Greek philosophers/poets (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12). These quotations and ones like them in Jude 9,14-15 do not mean that these quoted works themselves were inspired. It only means that those portions when quoted within the Biblical books are inspired, whether in Numbers, Acts, Titus, or Jude, etc.

Hope this helps, Jeff


1 comment:

James Snapp said...

Jude definitely quotes from a book (and the specific passage is what is known as Enoch 1:9). But it's possible that Jude knew the passage from a book that was used as only a component of the text that is today known as Enoch.