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Is the Church Hiding the Book of Enoch?

Tim Staples

Audio only:

What is the Church hiding in keeping the Book of Enoch out of the Bible? Genesis mentions him, and the New Testament includes reference to the book that bears his name. But are his apocalyptic prophecies just too hot for the Church to handle? Tim Staples uncovers the truth about the wild and dangerous Book of Enoch.


Cy Kellett:
Is the church hiding the Book of Enoch? Tim Staples, next. Hello, and welcome to Focus, the Catholic Answers podcast for living, understanding, and defending your Catholic faith. I’m Cy Kellett, your host. And all around the Internets you will find references to the Book of Enoch, some of them claiming that this apocalyptic book should be in the Bible, or is too shocking to be in the Bible, or one way or another, it’s being withheld from the world by people who just don’t want you to know the secret truth hidden. Enoch is actually a biblical figure. Quite a few references are made to Enoch in both the New and the Old Testaments, all the way back to the very beginning in Genesis. And the Book of Enoch is referenced in the New Testament. So what’s the deal with this book.

Cy Kellett:
And not only that, it’s a fascinating book with all kinds of interesting insights. And some of the things that we think might be in the Bible are actually in the Book of Enoch, things about the names of certain angels and whatnot.

Cy Kellett:
So what gives? Why isn’t it in the Bible? Is the church hiding it? Is there secret knowledge there that we are somehow being forbidden from consuming. We asked Tim Staples, and here’s what he had to say.

Cy Kellett:
Well, first of all, Tim Staples, thanks for being here to talk with us about the Book of Enoch.

Tim Staples:
And it’s wonderful to be with you, my friend.

Cy Kellett:
Maybe this will surprise you, I don’t know. The most popular snippet of video that Catholic Answers has ever produced is you talking about the Book of Enoch.

Tim Staples:
Oh my goodness.

Cy Kellett:
Isn’t that weird?

Tim Staples:
I did not know that.

Cy Kellett:
And it’s very popular on the internet. It’s a very exciting book, apocalyptic book.

Tim Staples:
It is.

Cy Kellett:
So we’ll talk about what’s in it, but I think all those things. It’s ancient. It’s apocalyptic. It’s a good story.

Tim Staples:
Yes.

Cy Kellett:
But before we get into all that, I want to share a passage from the actual Bible in the letter of St. Jude. He seems there to support the idea that the Book of Enoch is a real prophetic work.

Tim Staples:
Yes.

Cy Kellett:
Because the book of Jude starts with a series of passages about how God saves groups, like he did bringing the Jews out of Egypt. But then later, he can destroy members of that group who are faithless, or selfish, or full of themselves. So he’s basically wanting Christians to get away from fellow Christians who try to pervert or subvert the faith with teachings that are not Christ teaching.

Cy Kellett:
So here’s what Jude has to say about those early members of Christian communities who are turning their backs on the teaching of Jesus for more exotic teachings.

Cy Kellett:
“These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm, shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain blown along by the wind, autumn trees without fruit and uprooted.”

Cy Kellett:
You can see why Jesus chose Jude as an apostle [crosstalk 00:02:52].

Cy Kellett:
“Twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea foaming up their shame, wandering stars for whose blackest darkness has been reserved forever. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them. See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone and convict them all of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Cy Kellett:
Okay. But the problem there is Enoch prophesied, but that’s not in the Bible. None of what Jude is quoting there is in the Bible. So what gives?

Tim Staples:
That’s right. It is a fascinating text because he’s quoting from the Book of Enoch, or First Enoch. There’s actually a Second Enoch also. And what’s really fascinating about this, Cy, is when Enoch is prophesying there, he’s not just prophesying about the destruction of the evil sons of human beings on this earth. But he’s talking about also the destruction of the Nephilim.

Cy Kellett:
Right, right, right.

Tim Staples:
Which were, for those who don’t know, fascinating aspect to the Book of Enoch is that it uses the term Watchers. And Watchers is a term that’s also used three times in the book of Daniel for angels, so that’s nothing new. But it uses the term Watchers for these particular angels. And there are good Watchers and there are bad Watchers. But the Watchers are angels that are sent by God to watch men, to be their protectors. But what happened was some of these Watchers started lusting after the human beings start to cover the globe. They began to lust after them. They see the beauty of the women, and so they take them as wives. And this is corrupted.

Tim Staples:
There’s this opening scene there in the Book of Enoch where Samyaza, they’re called the leaders of tens. These leaders among the Watchers. And 19 of them are named, but they have this one, Samyaza, who is kind of the leader. And they make an accord with one another. We know this isn’t the right thing to do. This is wicked. But let’s promise we’re going to stick together on this thing, and they do. And they take wives and they begin to have children. These are the giants spoken of in Genesis chapter 6. Not giants, but Nephilim, which is sometimes translated as giants.

Tim Staples:
And so they have these half men, half angels, and they become the source of evil. And you have the introduction of this one particular watcher. Although, it’s so fun reading about this stuff. You get into the scholars and start reading them. And some of the scholars disagree with each other as to, is that a watcher? Is that a Nephilim? Because you’ve got this one fellow who I believe is one of the fallen angels or the Watchers who fell out of lust and such. But some argue Azazel is not. He’s one of the Nephilim, not one of the fallen angels. I argue that he is.

Tim Staples:
But he becomes a very important character because he is one of the leaders who leads humanity astray. And he has a particular role because he becomes the source of all sin, all evil. He teaches men how to use weapons, for example, and also to use that evil makeup and stuff like that to adorn women. But he becomes kind of the source of all evil.

Tim Staples:
So what’s happening though, as the world is becoming more corrupted because of this, this is what’s causing all of the evil, God is bringing judgment. And that’s the text that we’re referring to here. The judgment is coming by way of the flood. All is going to be eradicated, including these half men, half angels, the Nephilim, as well as all the wicked men that they have corrupted all over the world, and such. Of course, Noah is chosen out from among them.

Tim Staples:
So what’s interesting, to get back to your point here, is that the text quoted here means these half men, half angels and so forth, does that mean that St. Jude is giving you a stamp of approval on all of that? And folks, the answer is no, he is not. And very important to understand, the Book of Enoch is not the inspired Word of God. Although, I should note there were early fathers of the church who quoted it as scripture, at least allude to it. Saint Irenaeus, Tertullian definitely, Clement of Alexandria, and others who do refer to it as scripture. And you can see why, because it’s quoted by Jude. You could see why that would lend itself to that.

Tim Staples:
But see, here’s an important point, now of course it was rejected. It’s not considered the inspired Word of God and everything disappears after the Senate of Rome, virtually everything concerning the Book of Enoch as inspired goes away. I mean, he might have a few Christian writers who will refer to it, I believe Arnobius, perhaps Lactantius. But it’s pretty much gone.

Tim Staples:
But the point is that it is not uncommon in the New Testament for the inspired authors to refer to books that are not the inspired Word of God, but they use them. We’ve talked about-

Cy Kellett:
Paul does.

Tim Staples:
The idea of enculturation, using both literature, symbols, and such from cultures. This is common, yes. Saint Paul, as you know, in Acts chapter 17, verses 28 and 29, when he’s on Mars Hill, he quotes Aratus, as well as Epimenides. And he quotes him again in Titus chapter 1, Epimenides, and calls him a prophet. A prophet of their own, who says cretins are always liars, which is a cool document too. We don’t have time to get into that. But there’s a cool history to that document.

Tim Staples:
But here’s the key, in Acts 17, Saint Paul is quoting Aratus. Now this is verse 28, “In him we live, move and have our being.” And then he quotes Epimenides, “For we are indeed his offspring.” Now, if you look at the context of both of those works, what you discover is they are both Pantheist. So when Aratus says is talking about, “In him, we live, move and have our being,” it’s because we are one being with God. He’s referring to Zeus, but he’s a Pantheist. And basically we’re all Zeus. And the same goes for Epimenides when he says, “We are indeed his offspring.” He’s not talking about begetting the way you and I understand that we are begotten sons of God. By adoption and by participation in the only begotten son of God, Jesus Christ, we can be called his offspring.

Tim Staples:
Here’s the key. Saint Paul is using the language, the very text of these prophet of their own, Epimenides, as well as a poet. And he wrote a lot of satire, Aratus, as well. He’s quoting them, but he’s using it in a Christian context. And so it’s a very powerful quotation here that St Jude is using. But because he uses that, and here’s the mistake folks make. You start accepting all the trappings that go around, and even the meaning that the original authors had, who wrote the book of Enoch, that’s where you fall into error.

Cy Kellett:
Right.

Tim Staples:
No, you don’t want to go there.

Cy Kellett:
He’s not trying to make that point. He’s trying to use that to make his point.

Tim Staples:
See, you did it much more succinct.

Cy Kellett:
I listened. I listen to what you say.

Tim Staples:
Okay.

Cy Kellett:
The way that you’re describing the book of Enoch. Okay, so you have this character, Enoch, mentioned one time in the Book of Genesis, I believe. And then in the New Testament three times.

Tim Staples:
Yes, yes.

Cy Kellett:
But at least in the Septuagint, one mention. So now you’ve got a whole book that fills out this story about Enoch. The Nephilim, mentioned once, maybe twice, I don’t know, in Genesis, and then the whole story. What this is starting to feel like to me, as you describe it, is Bible fan fiction. It’s going to take what is in the Bible and then even imitate the style of the Bible-

Tim Staples:
That’s right.

Cy Kellett:
To tell a story that’s built on the Bible, but isn’t it biblical.

Tim Staples:
Absolutely. And you can see again, how early on it was attractive. It was exciting. And it’s really cool. I recommend, folks, you can go online and get the Book of Enoch. It’s actually five books. Scholars believe originally it consisted of the Book of the Watchers, which is the most important part. It has 108 sections in the whole five books. But you have the Book of the Watchers. That’s the most important because that’s the one that’s quoted by St. Jude. But then you have the Book of the Parables of Enoch, the Astronomical Book, the book of a lot of astrology in there, which by the way, wasn’t considered bad back then. We understood. In fact astrology… We could do a whole hour on that. But we’ve always understood, even in our Christian tradition, that the heavenly bodies do affect us. That’s why we say people get crazy at the full moon. And there is a limited amount of truth there.

Cy Kellett:
That’s what loony means.

Tim Staples:
That’s right.

Cy Kellett:
Like from a lunar.

Tim Staples:
That’s right, from lunar. Full moon, people get nuts. But at any rate, the Book of Dreams and Visions, and then the Epistle of Enoch, that’s the whole 108 sections. But these five books, which were written roughly between about 300 BC, completed in about 100 BC, are part of the later apocryphal works. And in this case, pseudepigraphal because it claims to be written by Enoch, but obviously it is not. And it claims prophecy in the first person from Enoch. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a powerful text, and there’s a lot of truth in the text, as long as we don’t go so far as to start saying, it’s the inspired Word of God.

Tim Staples:
But I should mention, Cy, it is considered inspired by some modern believers. The Ethiopian Jews accept it as the inspired Word of God, as do the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches. And for those of you that don’t know what is the Eritrean Orthodox church? Eritrea used to be part of Ethiopia, but got its independence about 80 years ago and became Eritrea. And so two Orthodox churches result in that, but they’re very much unified in their beliefs. So they accept it as the inspired Word of God. Now the question some people ask is, why don’t we?

Cy Kellett:
That is the question. And I think that is the fundamental question. And I even think that some of the internet stuff you see about it has a kind of conspiratorial tone, as if the church doesn’t want you to know the secrets hidden in the Book of Enoch about the end times. So why isn’t it part of the canon?

Tim Staples:
Well, there are many reasons, but one obvious reason is we have a contradiction to our understanding of cosmology, of the beginnings. And why do I say that? Because if you notice, right in the very first section of First Enoch, in the Book of the Watchers, I believe it’s the first, what, two, three sections. Well, maybe down to section eight. Well then, into nine as well. And it’s funny, too, because when you read the book of Enoch, the chapters are divided up differently by different translations. So one translation has it as the Book of Enoch, section one, chapter nine. And another will have it section two, verse one. So that kind of drives you crazy.

Tim Staples:
But what we find is that the angels, these fallen angels, and they’re clearly revealed to be the Watchers, both good and bad. They are good created by God as good, and they are called to watch after humanity. And it’s not until they see the species begin to proliferate that they begin to lust after women. Now what’s the problem with that? Well, we have a little thing called the Forthlateren Council and its constitution concerning the faith, which is a definitive declaration of the Catholic faith, that the angels fell before man was ever created. Can we see a problem here? The angels made their definitive choice either to obey God, and those who did were beatified. They possessed God in the beatific vision, or they made a decision against God. And of course it’s Lucifer that leads the charge, not Azazel. It’s Lucifer.

Tim Staples:
If you’re going to pick out a fallen angel that is the source of sin, even though that’s exaggerated, he’s not the source of all sin, although he has a role to play in the fall, to be sure. Ultimately it’s Adam that we say is the first cause. He is the first principle of sin. It’s through Adam, says Romans chapter 5, verse 12, not Azazel. I’m throwing in other problems with the text. But the important thing is that according to the Book of Enoch, the fall doesn’t happen until long after man is created. That contradicts a definitive teaching of the Catholic church. Sorry. I mean, that alone eliminates the possibility of this being included in the canon because you can’t have error, contradictions, concerning matters essential to the Catholic faith.

Cy Kellett:
If I remember correctly, the Septuagint was essentially the Bible that was accepted by the early church, by the apostles themselves, apparently even by Jesus. So this would or would not have been in the Septuagint?

Tim Staples:
Yes, it was. There was a Greek translation. Now, we believed for many years that there was no translation before Christ. And in fact, there was no translation of this at all, and that the book didn’t exist until after Christ. Well, we’ve actually discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls translations that predate Christ. And that through everything, whoa, wait a minute. So there were. This wasn’t something that was made up later.

Tim Staples:
So we believe, yes, there were translations before the time of Christ, which is interesting because that adds to sort of the drama here. This is something that, no doubt, Jesus would have been aware of, the Apostles, obviously, were aware of. Jude quotes it, and so forth. And some argue that First Peter alludes to it, which I don’t buy. But even if it did, that doesn’t mean it’s the inspired Word of God. But it is something that is fascinating, and there’s a lot of good stuff in it. Again, just the caveat folks, if you read it, you take it with a grain of salt. It’s not the inspired Word of God.

Cy Kellett:
One of the things that the Dead Sea Scrolls certainly have given us, and also modern scholarship in general, archeology and whatnot, a sense that there was this very intense Messianism around the time of Jesus, that he doesn’t just come into a vacuum and go, hey, I’m the Messiah. There’s enormous expectation. Is that evident in the Book of Enoch? It’s that-

Tim Staples:
Absolutely.

Cy Kellett:
Messianic kind of expectation?

Tim Staples:
In fact, oh my goodness, yeah. And by the way, I didn’t mean to say that it was in the Septuagint. I meant to say it was in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Cy Kellett:
Okay. That’s what I wasn’t sure of. So there would have been no version of the Septuagint that it was in. But it would have been in a Jewish library like there was in Qumran.

Tim Staples:
Exactly. And that was a mind blower when that was discovered. Wow, this is pretty cool. And now everybody generally agrees that this was the early parts. The Book of the Watchers may have been written as early as 300 BC, maybe. Certainly in the 200s. And it would be completed in about 100. So this is a book that Jesus and the Apostles certainly would have been aware of. And so it’s something for us, it’s worth reading it. It really is. But can I touch on something else that I think is-

Cy Kellett:
Yes.

Tim Staples:
Really important is that what we have to be careful of. And this is true of whatever the apocryphal work is that we’re reading. These books have real historical value. We also have to keep an ear to the magisterium… An eye and an ear, maybe even both eyes and both ears, to the magisterium to separate the wheat from the chaff. And here’s why. Because there are those that will argue that we have this character, Azazel, and you find in Leviticus, chapter 16, that word, Azazel, is used in the context of the forgiveness of sins on the day of atonement.

Tim Staples:
Now, this is fascinating. On the day of atonement, of course, the high priest offers a bull for his own sins and for his families. And then afterward, he offers two goats, and this is for the community. And the one goat is slaughtered, blood sprinkled and so forth. And a second goat, they lay hands on and they set it free into the wilderness. Now, this is where the tradition of the scapegoat comes from. See the Hebrew word, Azazel, means goat having gone away or departmental.

Cy Kellett:
Interesting.

Tim Staples:
In fact, it can even mean disappeared. But it’s goat having departed. And so the idea is, of course, this is all referencing prophetically Jesus Christ, that it would be his blood that would take away our sins. And the goat being let go is our sins are completely removed, taken outside of the camp, they are gone. It’s a beautiful image of what Christ would do for us. But the Hebrew word, Azazel, is the word used in First Enoch for this Watcher, this fallen angel, who was the source of all sin. And so you have those who say, well, and in later Judaism, by the way, they would agree. They would say that, because some Jews would accept Enoch centuries later. It’s not generally accepted, but there are those, especially after the time of Christ that accept it, that this is an example of a sacrifice being given or offered to as Azazel to appease him.

Cy Kellett:
Oh.

Tim Staples:
He’s a powerful demon. To keep him at bay, you send him this goat. Now, unfortunately, there are some folks, even among Christians, like [inaudible 00:23:58], the Ethiopian Orthodox who accepted this. But of course, this is not Catholic teaching, because of course, there is no sacrifice, please hear me folks, that is offered to anything or anyone other than God. This is like a catechism 101 here. Sacrifices are offered to God and God alone. What’s actually being done here, Azazel is not a demon, is not a Watcher. Watchers don’t exist. This is a later interpolation from the Book of Enoch reading back into Leviticus. Leviticus is a very ancient work and, no, you don’t want to do this. Okay. What that is, is the scapegoat, as I said before. It’s not a demon.

Tim Staples:
And here’s a way you can demonstrate this to folks. If you go back two chapters before to Leviticus 14, we have a similar sacrifice being offered, and this time it’s in the case of lepers, who are presumably poor, they’re outcasts. And if that leper is healed in whatever way, he’s brought to the temple and they offer two pigeons for the leper. And this is so he can be sort of brought back into the community. This is the context.

Tim Staples:
You take one pigeon, you slaughter it. And what’s interesting here is, in the case of the two pigeons, the pigeon that’s slaughtered, his blood is sprinkled and so forth, like the bull and, in particular, the goat in Leviticus, chapter 16. His blood is sprinkled on the altar and everything else. But you take the living pigeon and dip the living pigeon in the blood of the sacrificed pigeon. And then the pigeon is let go. And what is this a symbol of? It’s the same thing as what we saw in Leviticus 16. The one is a sin offering, the blood is shed. And the other symbolizes all the sin, the impurity and such is sent away. Not to Azazel, because this isn’t a goat. Maybe I should mention this, but-

Cy Kellett:
You said.

Tim Staples:
But the word Oz in Hebrew means goat. And then Azazel, or Azazel is how they pronounce, means departed. So it’s not a goat, it’s a pigeon. So they don’t use the word, but it’s the same concept. You’re not sending the pigeon to some demon.

Cy Kellett:
The pigeon demon.

Tim Staples:
The pigeon demon. No, it’s a symbol of the sin being taken away and the community… Because remember there’s a real understanding of the communion of saints in the Old Testament, even though they didn’t understand cognitively what we mean by the communion of saints, the idea of the community being purged, purified. It’s not just for the individual, but the community is being purified. And so then the former leper can be brought back into the community.

Cy Kellett:
I suppose, we’ll probably end here. But the distance between a very exciting, interesting Jewish apocalyptic work like Enoch and the Word of God is infinite really. As much as they may read in similar ways, just that example that you just gave, that God never gets the symbolism wrong. It’s all perfect and you can trust every word of it. And Enoch, you just can’t do that with it.

Tim Staples:
But I have to mention this though. I was reading earlier today, in fact, how Tertullian was so enamored with the book of Enoch that he actually said that there are those among the Jews who wanted to exclude it because it so obviously prophesied Jesus.

Cy Kellett:
Christ.

Tim Staples:
And there are prophecies in there that are beautiful and they’re messianic, because it’s a Jewish context and that’s going to happen. But it just goes to show you, even a great mind like Tertullian can get so enamored with something, he took it too far. You can acknowledge, yeah, it’s very messianic. It’s beautiful and it just shows you how the Jewish community in the 3rd, 2nd century BC was so centered on the coming of the Messiah, because that’s what so much of the Old Testament is about. But don’t go too far on that. And again, that we can understand, this was at a time when Tertullian was alive, and Saint Irenaeus, and Clement of Alexandria, where we didn’t have a canon yet. [crosstalk 00:28:47] Once the canon is given to us, all that speculation goes out the door. But it doesn’t mean we can’t still read the Book of Enoch and glean some really good stuff from it. Plus, it’s a cool story. And also-

Cy Kellett:
It’s almost like a comic book cool.

Tim Staples:
Oh, it is. And you see how too. You and I think like the movie Noah, Russell Crowe. I know people hammer me for that. How could you like that? It’s a movie. And, yeah, they took poetic license, but you see a lot of the Book of Enoch and the Watchers and such in the movie Noah. And that’s what made it really fascinating for me, although, I found it interesting. One thing in the movie, the Watchers, if you read the Book of Enoch, you’ll discover. The Watchers are damned. There’s no salvation for them. In fact, they ask Enoch to intercede for them, please pray for us, when he brings the message of doom. And Enoch has pity on them and he intercedes and God says, no, they are basically toasts. But in the movie, the Watchers get saved because-

Cy Kellett:
Because they sacrifice.

Tim Staples:
They sacrifice themselves for the humans that they had corrupted. And so there’s a redemption there. And I thought it made for a really beautiful movie, even though it contradicts [inaudible 00:30:02].

Cy Kellett:
It takes a Christian theme then, the sacrifice as salvific, and puts it in there.

Tim Staples:
And that makes it good, doesn’t it? [crosstalk 00:30:09] I mean, you guys watched the movie Noah and just don’t think…

Cy Kellett:
The movie Noah, however, not in the Septuagint. You won’t find the movie-

Tim Staples:
That’s right.

Cy Kellett:
In Dead Sea Scrolls.

Tim Staples:
You won’t.

Cy Kellett:
All right. Thanks Tim.

Tim Staples:
All right, brother.

Cy Kellett:
I feel like there should be a movie about the Book of Enoch, about how it’s got secret knowledge in it. And Nicholas Cage should be the star of that movie, and he should go all around the world trying to discover the secret truths hidden on the Book of Enoch. It’s that interesting. It has a kind of cinematic aura. It’s a very interesting book. It’s not part of the Bible for good reason, however. It’s not the inspired Word of God. And it proves itself not the inspired Word of God by espousing ideas that don’t fit, that don’t comport with what God teaches us, what God reveals of himself in the scriptures. So very much worth a read, but not a book of the Bible.

Cy Kellett:
Thanks very much Tim Staples for joining us. Thank you for joining us. Got an idea for a future episode, or you want to respond, or give us some kind of comment on this one, [email protected] is where you can send your email. If you want to support us, you can do so by going to givecatholic.com. Don’t forget there’s a $5 million limit. Do not give more than $5 million, at givecatholic.com. On Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you’re getting your podcast, if you subscribe, you’ll get a notification whenever a new episode is available. And we’d really appreciate that five-star review and maybe a few nice words that will help to grow the podcast. And if you’re watching on YouTube, you know what to do by now, don’t you? Like and subscribe down here. That helps [inaudible 00:31:44] the podcast. I’m Cy Kellett, your host. Love it when you join us. We’ll see you next time, right here at Catholic Answers, Focus.

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