Is the Book of Enoch Scripture since it was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls?

by Luke Wayne
1/6/2020

No, the mere fact that copies of the book of Enoch were found among the "Dead Sea Scrolls" is not a reason to consider the book to be Scripture. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain all kinds of documents, not just Scripture. We don't have to consider every calendar, commentary, songbook, community regulation, or historical document unearthed at Qumran to be part of the Bible. Even the ancient Jews living there didn't consider every document there to be Scripture. Their library was much more than just biblical manuscripts.

Some Quick Definitions

While the answer to this question is rather simple and requires only some basic logic or common sense, it can be helpful to know a few related terms:

  • Pseudepigrapha - While this word can generally refer to any writing whose author falsely claims to be someone else, it applies most specifically to a genre of Jewish and "Christian" apocryphal writings from the ancient Greco-Roman era which falsely claim to be written by well-known biblical figures like Moses, Solomon, Ezra, or (as you might guess here) Enoch. This became a common literary genre among sectarian Jews and heretical offshoots of Christianity (most notably the Gnostics).
     
  • Book of Enoch - Also known as "1 Enoch" to distinguish it from other Pseudepigraphal books which also falsely claim Enoch as their author, most of the popularly known "Book of Enoch" was likely written sometime during the last few centuries B.C., though the portion known as the "Book of Parables" (chapters 37-71) may have been a later addition sometime in the 1st century A.D. Numerous fragments of the book were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (though none from the "Book of Parables," which is part of why this portion is thought to be a later addition.) Other fragments have been found elsewhere from ancient Greek and Latin translations, but the only complete copies that exist are from the later Ethiopic translation. The book is unknown to history prior to the Hellenistic era and shows many internal signs of being written during that time period, making the document far too late to have anything to do with the historical Enoch. The book is a good example of the literature known as Pseudepigrapha.
     
  • Dead Sea Scrolls - The Dead Sea Scrolls are a large collection of various documents which were found stored in jars in caves around the archeological site known as Qumran. The scrolls are most famous for the very ancient Old Testament manuscripts found among them, but the Scrolls also included a variety of other documents such as calendars and administrative documents or "community rules," as well as songbooks, commentaries, and other literature. The majority of the scrolls are in Hebrew and Aramaic, though some Greek documents were also found.
     
  • Qumran - An archeological site near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea which appears to have been home to a Jewish sect. The vast majority of scholars believe the residents were part of a group known as the Essenes. The site is most famous for its association with the Dead Sea Scrolls. The group living at Qumran seems to have been highly sectarian and firmly at odds with mainstream Jewish religious groups of the day.

Did the Qumran Community Consider Enoch to be Scripture?

It is often claimed that the Qumran Community that collected or produced the Dead Sea Scrolls must have considered the Book of Enoch to be authoritative Scripture, but the truth is that we don't know what they believed about the book. None of the Dead Sea Scrolls comment on the matter at all. Indeed, leading Dead Sea Scrolls scholars fully admit the "speculative nature" of the claim that the Jews at Qumran believed the Book of Enoch to be authentic Scripture.1 Even scholars who defend the claim that Enoch was considered Scripture nevertheless must concede that "Qumran Literature does not seem to name the work that we know as 1 Enoch as an inspired or revealed source."2 We know that the Qumran community owned several copies of the book and we know that they believed certain things which the author of 1 Enoch also believed, but this is hardly proof that they thought it was inspired. I own several copies of John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" and believe many of the things laid out in that book, but future historians would be wrong to conclude that I thought Bunyan's books should be part of the Bible! We don't have any solid evidence that the Jews at Qumran thought of the Book of Enoch as Scripture.

And if they did?

Further, even if the sectarians at Qumran did consider Enoch to be Scripture (which, again, is not necessarily the case), that wouldn't prove anything at all. The fact that Muslims consider the Quran to be Scripture does not make it Scripture. The fact that Mormons consider the "Book of Abraham" to be Scripture does not make it Scripture. Finding a religious group somewhere, even an ancient one, that considers a book to be Scripture does not make the book Scripture. Even if the sectarian Jews living at Qumran did think that Enoch was Scripture, even if we could prove they thought so with 100% certainty, that would not be evidence that Enoch really is Scripture. Various sects and cults that use the Bible and claim to be the "true" Jews or the "true" Christians are always falsely elevating man-made books to the level of Scripture. Why should Qumran have been any different?

No, the mere fact that there were copies of the Book of Enoch at Qumran has nothing to do with whether or not God inspired the book.

 

 

 

 

  • 1. Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (HarperCollins Books, 1999) 481
  • 2. James C. Vanderkam, The Dead Sea Scrolls Today: Second Edition (William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010) 193