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EASTER: The Evidence

Sat, 04/20/2019 - 22:35

Rembrandt, Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene

How do we know that Jesus rose from the dead? Several years back I put together a simple outline of the main lines of evidence using the word EASTER. Each point is tied to Paul’s important defense of the hope of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. At the end is a list of six books for those wishing to pursue the evidence for each of the six points in detail.

Empty tomb (1 Corinthians 15:4)

One important evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is the fact that he was buried in a rock tomb and then a couple of days later that tomb was found empty. The Gospels accurately describe the tomb in which Jesus’ body had been laid, matching the many limestone rock tombs that had been carved around Jerusalem in the first century. The Gospels all report that women, including Mary Magdalene, were the first to discover the empty tomb—not something men were likely to make up. The author of the Gospel of John claims that he personally went to the tomb and saw that the body was gone and that the grave clothes had been left behind (John 20:2-9). Jewish critics of Christianity claimed that the disciples had stolen the body from the tomb. That claim is not credible (the disciples were disheartened and scared), but these critics implicitly conceded the empty tomb as fact.

Appearances (1 Corinthians 15:5-7)

An empty tomb by itself is just a mystery: the case of the missing body. But Jesus’ body wasn’t missing—it was living. It wasn’t removed; it was raised. We know this because Jesus appeared to numerous individuals after the tomb was discovered empty. He appeared to women, again including Mary Magdalene. He appeared to individuals, notably the apostle Peter, and to groups, especially the apostles. He also appeared to his brother James, who had not been one of his disciples before the crucifixion. In the Gospel of John, we again have the firsthand written account of one of the disciples who had seen the risen Jesus (John 21:24-25). Paul gives a list of those who had seen Jesus that overlaps with the appearances mentioned in the Gospels, yet it is clear that Paul and the Gospels are independent of one another (for example, Paul calls Peter “Cephas,” the Aramaic form of the name Peter, never found in the Gospels). Thus, we have very strong evidence that multiple people on multiple occasions did see Jesus alive after the tomb was found to be empty. The Resurrection is both the obvious and the only credible position that accounts for both the empty tomb and the appearances.

Saul’s conversion (1 Corinthians 15:8)

Saul of Tarsus was an educated Jew trained as a Pharisee around the same time that Jesus was teaching his disciples. Within a couple of years at most after Jesus’ death, Saul, also known as Paul, began actively persecuting Christians in the zealous belief that he was defending the truth of the Jewish faith. We have Paul’s firsthand testimony that Jesus appeared to him, turning him around 180 degrees from a persecutor of Christians to a Christian apostle (see especially Galatians 1; Philippians 3:3-12). Paul eventually met with the original apostles, and they affirmed his call to be an apostle (Galatians 2:1-10). It is extremely difficult to explain Paul’s conversion from persecutor to apostle as anything but the result of his sincere, certain belief that Jesus Christ had appeared to him.

Transformed lives (1 Corinthians 15:9-19)

Those who saw the risen Jesus changed remarkably for the better as a result. The disciples, whom the Gospels admit had been cowardly, became courageous, fearless witnesses for Christ. Paul went from being a zealous Pharisee protecting the exclusive claims of Judaism to a passionate Christian inviting Gentiles to become members of the people of God alongside Jewish Christians. The apostles and other early Christians frequently experienced harsh persecution—beatings, imprisonment, and so on—for nothing other than their proclamation that Jesus had been vindicated as the Jewish Messiah and Lord by his resurrection from the dead. We have firsthand testimony about such persecution from Paul in his epistles: he confesses that he himself had persecuted Christians before he became one, and he reports intense, repeated persecutions that he experienced as an apostle (see especially 2 Corinthians 11:23-33). The apostle James the son of Zebedee was martyred in AD 44 (Acts 12:1-2). James the Lord’s brother was martyred in Jerusalem in AD 62, as reported by the Jewish historian Josephus. The apostles Peter and Paul were both martyred in Rome about 64-66. There is good evidence to show that several of the other apostles, notably Andrew and Thomas, were also martyred for their work in proclaiming the risen Jesus. Of course, faith in Christ has continued to transform people’s lives for the better for the past two thousand years, inspiring sacrificial love, humanitarian aid, reconciliation of enemies, and more.

Early confession (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

Skeptics commonly suggest that belief in Jesus’ resurrection arose later as a legend or myth. That suggestion could not be more wrong. Our earliest Christian writings, the early epistles of Paul, date from less than twenty years after Jesus’ death. They attest to the fact that belief in Jesus’ resurrection was the hallmark of the Christian movement from its very beginning. Scholars have identified at least verses 3-5 (possibly most or all of verses 3-7) in 1 Corinthians 15 as an early Christian confession or creed that Paul had “delivered” to the Corinthians when he first preached the gospel to them. Paul also says that he had “received” this creedal statement, meaning it originated from the other apostles. From Galatians 1:18-19, we know that Paul would have received this tradition within four years or so after Jesus’ death. That means that the confession dates from within just a few years of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Resurrection is not a later legend.

Religious devotion to Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

The earliest followers of Jesus were all Jews. In their religious worldview, only the Lord, the God of Israel, was the proper recipient of spiritual worship, prayer, and devotion. Yet those earliest Christians worshiped and prayed to Jesus as Lord, even composing confessions (like the one in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5) and songs about him (Eph. 5:19). According to the New Testament, it was Jesus’ resurrection that convinced his disciples to revere Jesus in this way (Matt. 28:16-20; John 20:28; Acts 2:32-36).

Use the word EASTER to remind you of these six lines of evidence for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus:

Empty tomb (1 Corinthians 15:4)
Appearances (1 Corinthians 15:5-7)
Saul’s conversion (1 Corinthians 15:8)
Transformed lives (1 Corinthians 15:9-19)
Early confession (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)
Religious devotion to Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

Happy Easter!



Empty tomb:

Evans, Craig A. “Getting the Burial Traditions and Evidences Right.” In How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature—a Response to Bart Ehrman, gen. ed. Michael F. Bird, 71–93. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014. This chapter on the evidence for Jesus’ burial in a rock tomb is worth the price of the whole book.


Licona, Michael R. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010. This academic defense of the Resurrection is especially strong in dealing with the evidence of Jesus’ appearances.

Saul’s conversion:

Fuller, Daniel P. Easter Faith and History. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965. Older but still penetrating analysis of the evidence from the conversion of Saul the Pharisee to Paul the apostle to the Gentiles.

Transformed lives:

McDowell, Sean. The Fate of the Apostles: Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus. New York: Routledge, 2015. A detailed, rigorous historical analysis of the evidence as to the martyrdom of the twelve apostles and Paul.

Early confession:

Craig, William Lane. Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus. Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity 16. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1989. Landmark academic study that begins with 115 pages on 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

Religious devotion:

Bowman, Robert M. Jr., and J. Ed Komoszewski. Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007. See especially the first section, on the honors that the New Testament teaches are to be accorded to Jesus Christ.


Dale Tuggy and the Biblical Basis of the Trinity, Part 2: Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Incoherent?

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 00:36

In Part 1, I responded to Unitarian philosopher Dale Tuggy’s claim in a recent conference address that my biblical argument for the doctrine of the Trinity omitted essential elements of the doctrine. Here I will respond to his objection that my statement of the doctrine is incoherent. In Part VII of my outline study “The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity,” I concluded by reviewing the propositions that constitute the essential elements of the doctrine, including these four:

  1. The Father is God (see Part III).
  2. The Son is God (see Part IV).
  3. The Holy Spirit is God (see Part V).
  4. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons, i.e., they are not each other, nor are they impersonal; they relate to one another personally (see Part VI).

As he has been doing with Trinitarian theology in general for many years, Tuggy finds fault with my argument by complaining about the logical difficulty of affirming that each person “is God” and yet that the persons are distinct from one another. “Things that are identical to the same thing are identical to one another.” With this analytical knife Tuggy thinks he can cut any presentation or defense of Trinitarian belief to ribbons without so much as opening a Bible. His point is that my argument is incoherent because (as he sees it) the affirmations that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God logically contradict the affirmation that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not each other. To this objection, I have three responses.

First, if there is a logical difficulty here, it arises from the teachings of the Bible, since we find all of these elements of the doctrine of the Trinity taught in Scripture.

Second, there are other apparent instances of logical difficulties or apparent contradictions in other aspects of biblical doctrine that most professing Christians, including very many Unitarians, accept without reservation. For example, many if not most Biblical Unitarians (the biblically conservative movement that sometimes describes itself as such) accept both the omniscience of God and the freedom of God. That is, they believe both that God knows all things and that he acts freely, choosing freely what he will do. Present this claim to a group of skeptics and watch them get out their analytical knives. If God knows what he will do (they will argue) then he cannot do otherwise, i.e., he cannot do anything other than what he knows he will do; but if he cannot do otherwise then he is not free in doing it. Is this a genuine logical contradiction? It looks like one.

Can I resolve this apparent contradiction? Perhaps the argument makes some assumptions about what it means to act freely that do not apply to the transcendent, eternal Creator. There is a lot of potential ambiguity in the words can and cannot as well as the word free. Here’s the thing: Even if I am unsure exactly how to resolve the apparent logical difficulty, I am fully warranted in believing both that God knows all things and that God freely chooses what he does. Moreover, if my proposed explanation for how God can know all things and make free choices is shown to have some difficulties, this does not mean that those two theological concepts are not both true. It would just mean that I don’t fully understand how God can be what he is. Not only would this outcome not bother me, it’s what I would expect to be the case.

Third, in my opinion the apparent logical difficulty that Tuggy finds in the doctrine of the Trinity arises because he is applying analytical concepts of identity to the transcendent, infinite God. The premise of his critique, as I quoted it earlier, is this: “Things that are identical to the same thing are identical to one another.” This premise works fine with finite, discrete objects or “things” that cannot be identical to “the same thing” (i.e., the same finite object) without being identical to each other. A finite object’s “identity” is defined by its boundaries, its limitations—its separateness from other finite things in the matrix of the created world. I am a separate being from you because we occupy different bodies, began our existence separately, have had different locations and movements as well as different experiences (thoughts, feelings) throughout our lives, have differing abilities, opinions, and interests, and so on. What if the three Persons of the Trinity co-exist eternally, are incorporeal and omnipresent, are omniscient, are omnipotent, and are absolutely perfect in wisdom and goodness? Then each knows every thought of the other two; each is present at all times with the other two, not just proximately but interiorly; each has all of the same abilities as the other two; and each is certainly in agreement with the other two regarding all things. If three Persons share this eternal, incorporeal, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent nature, then in some way that defies easy analysis (for us!) it would appear that they are ontologically one even though they are also relationally or personally distinct from one another. The rule that things identical to the same thing are identical to one another does not seem to apply to three divine Persons of this nature.

Again, as with the issue of divine omniscience and volition, I do not need to be able to explain perfectly how God can be one God and three Persons in order to be reasonably warranted in believing both are true. If I have reasons to believe that the Bible is a reliable source of doctrinal truth about God (and I do), then I am warranted in believing a state of affairs that I cannot fully analyze rationally if the Bible teaches it. That having been said, in my opinion we can offer at least some reasonable explanation why Tuggy’s rational objection to Trinitarianism falls short of being the decisive disproof he claims.


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Dale Tuggy and the Biblical Basis of the Trinity, Part 1: Are Essential Elements Missing?

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 00:35

First Council of Nicaea (325) – unknown Eastern Orthodox icon

In Part VII of my eight-part series of articles entitled “The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity,” I offer the following concluding argument for the doctrine:

A. All the elements of the doctrine are taught in Scripture.

1. One God who is one divine being (see Part I and Part II).
2. The Father is God (see Part III).
3. The Son is God (see Part IV).
4. The Holy Spirit is God (see Part V).
5. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons, i.e., they are not each other, nor are they impersonal; they relate to one another personally (see Part VI).

B. The New Testament presents a consistent triad of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (God, Christ, Spirit)….
C. Therefore, the Bible does teach the Trinity.

On April 13th, at the 2019 Theological Conference, a Biblical Unitarian meeting in Hampton, Georgia (ironically held at the Calvin Center, owned by the liberal PCUSA), Dale Tuggy devoted part of his lecture, “How Not to Argue from the Bible to the Trinity,” to a critique of the above argument. Unlike the Unitarian-Universalist Association, which has drifted completely away from the Bible and Christianity, the advocates of Biblical Unitarianism generally take a fairly conservative view of the Bible and accept such basic Christian beliefs as the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ. Indeed, in this respect they are more conservative than many pastors and scholars in the PCUSA! Tuggy is a philosopher who blogs on the subject of the Trinity. His critique of the above argument begins just under 17 minutes into the video and ends about ten minutes later. In this post, I will respond to his claim that my argument for the Trinity is unsound. In a second post, I will respond to his claim that my argument is incoherent.

Before he gets to his main criticisms of my argument, Tuggy asserts that I don’t need the second premise, regarding the consistent triad of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the New Testament (point B. above). He speculates that I threw it in there because I think only Trinitarianism can explain this premise and that Unitarianism can’t. Tuggy guessed incorrectly here (although I certainly think Trinitarianism explains this information better than Unitarianism). The middle “premise” is needed not because my argument would not work without it but because it anticipates and refutes a possible objection. Specifically, the point about the consistent triadic teaching of the New Testament shows that the doctrine of the Trinity is not cobbling together unrelated elements of biblical teaching. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are coordinated as divine persons in numerous passages throughout the NT in such a way as to confirm that the finding that the NT teaches the deity of each person (established in earlier parts of my outline) is not an accident or a misreading. These three persons—and only these three—are presented to us in the NT as true deity.

Tuggy concedes that my argument is logically valid (minus what he sees as an extraneous premise) but questions whether the argument is sound. His main objection is not that I failed to establish the six elements of the doctrine I stated were essential (note that point A.1. above summarized the first two elements) but that those elements do not mention “a tripersonal god,” or that the three persons “have the same ousia (essence, nature),” or the concepts of eternal generation and eternal procession. For example, he argues that it is a problem that there is no word for the “tripersonal god” in the Bible and that in order to defend the doctrine of the Trinity I needed to justify the use of such a term. In effect, Tuggy is here dictating that the essential elements of the doctrine include more information than the six elements I identified. His argument here fails to engage the basis on which I maintain that these six elements exhaust the category of essential elements of the doctrine. From the six propositions, the doctrine of the Trinity in some form follows. That is, if all six propositions are true, then the doctrine of the Trinity is necessarily true. If any one of the six propositions is false, then the doctrine of the Trinity is necessarily false. Therefore, each of the six propositions is essential, and only these propositions are essential, as elements of the doctrine of the Trinity.

I explain this briefly in the introduction to the article series. Mormons cannot affirm one divine being; Jehovah’s Witnesses and Unitarians cannot affirm that the Son is God; Monarchians cannot affirm that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not each other. Trinitarians—and only Trinitarians—can affirm all six propositions. Therefore, these six affirmations are sufficient to define Trinitarianism, i.e., to distinguish it from other positions.

It is true that I did not include such concepts as eternal generation and eternal procession. These concepts are explanatory devices advanced in mainstream Trinitarianism to explain (at least somewhat) how the Son and the Holy Spirit are differentiated from the Father in eternity. However, one need not affirm these concepts in order to be Trinitarian. For example, one might maintain that the Second Person is eternally the Logos, who is truly God, and that the title “Son” applies to him by virtue of the Incarnation (as a Messianic title, for example). Some people consider this view heterodox, but the view is still a form of Trinitarianism. It clearly is not a form of Unitarianism, Monarchianism, or other non-Trinitarian theology.

Likewise, the expression ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί (“of the same essence as the Father”) found in the Nicene Creed is a way of expressing the deity of the Son that is very significant in the history of Trinitarian theology but is not itself an essential element of the doctrine of the Trinity per se. It was important in the context of the Creed as a way of distinguishing the mainstream Christian view from Arianism, which viewed the Son as a separate and subordinate deity.

Interestingly, the Nicene Creed does not do what Tuggy claims is surprising that the Bible does not do if the Trinity is true: it does not use a special term for the three persons such as “Trinity” or “tripersonal God” or “triune God.” Tuggy faults my argument for failing to include the use of such a term as one of the essentials of the doctrine of the Trinity, yet the Nicene Creed also fails to include the use of such a term. The longer form of the Nicene Creed produced by the First Council of Constantinople in 381 also neglected to use any such terminology. By Tuggy’s own reasoning, then, the Nicene Creed in both of its forms does not constitute an adequate statement of the doctrine of the Trinity! Nor does the Creed speak of the Holy Spirit’s “eternal procession” from the Father. It says that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father,” but does not specify that this procession is an eternal relation.

Tuggy’s objection that my argument for the doctrine of the Trinity is missing essential elements of the doctrine thus misses the mark. It takes important expressions used in Trinitarian theology to explicate or articulate the doctrine and mistakenly claims that these expressions in and of themselves are essential elements or propositional claims of the doctrine.


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Jesus as God and Distinct from God: A Reply to Kegan Chandler

Sat, 02/23/2019 - 19:13

In his book The God of Jesus in Light of Christian Dogma, Kegan Chandler repeats Dale Tuggy’s critique of Richard Bauckham’s “divine identity Christology,” which is essentially that the idea is logically contradictory. As part of his critique, Chandler offers the following quotation from the book Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, which I co-authored with Ed Komoszewski.[1] Here is how Chandler presents the quotation:

One pair of evangelicals who subscribe to Bauckham’s thesis admit:

The New Testament makes a distinction between [Jesus and God the Father]… sometimes as God and the Son of God. Although it’s hard to understand, the New Testament both distinguishes Jesus from God and identifies him as God—sometimes in the same breath.

But does the data really force the conclusion that the New Testament positively identifies Jesus as “God” and “not God” at the same time? Is this conclusion only “hard to understand” as these apologists claim, or is it impossible?[2]

Chandler’s footnote to our book cites page 1 and credits Tuggy for the citation. The second-hand nature of the citation shows, since the quotation actually comes from page 21 of the book.

As is very often the case with Chandler’s quotations from Trinitarians, he characterizes the statement he quotes here as something we “admit,” as though it were somehow contrary to or in tension with our theological position. This is not at all the case. Chandler has made it seem as though we were making an embarrassing admission by a highly selective, partial quotation of what we said. Here is the complete statement with the omitted material restored:

Third, we take for granted that Jesus is not God the Father. Rather, Jesus is “the Son of the Father” (2 John 3 nasb). The New Testament makes a distinction between the two, sometimes as the Father and the Son, sometimes as God and the Son of God. Although it’s hard to understand, the New Testament both distinguishes Jesus from God and identifies him as God—sometimes in the same breath (e.g., John 1:1; 20:28-31; Heb. 1:8-9; 2 Pet. 1:1-2). It is this fact about New Testament teaching—paralleled in what it also teaches about the Holy Spirit—that led Christian theologians to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity. We will not be discussing the Trinity in this book, although Jesus’ identity as God is a key part of that doctrine.[3]

Far from something we are forced to “admit,” the New Testament distinction between the Son Jesus Christ and God the Father is basic to the doctrine of the Trinity.

In addition to obscuring the point we were making by his selective partial quotation, Chandler excises from the quoted sentence the biblical references we cited as exemplifying our point that Jesus is both called God and distinguished from God “sometimes in the same breath.” Those texts we cited—John 1:1, John 20:28-31, Hebrews 1:8-9, and 2 Peter 1:1-2—are all discussed in some detail later in our book.[4] Chandler does not engage or even mention our treatment of those texts anywhere in his book.[5] Nor does he engage the exegesis of those texts from other orthodox Christian scholars, though he offers a few citations from such scholars on John 1:1, generally shorn of context, without even commenting on how those scholars handle the texts in question.[6] Trinitarian studies of the other texts do not get even this much attention.[7]

Chandler asks, as quoted above: “But does the data really force the conclusion that the New Testament positively identifies Jesus as ‘God’ and ‘not God’ at the same time?” This is not quite what we said, but let it stand. Chandler excised our reference to “the data” from his quotation of our book, ignored much of “the data” in the rest of the book, and never engaged any orthodox treatment of the exegesis and interpretation of any of those biblical texts. In a book of more than 500 pages boasting over 1,500 footnotes, about 200 pages of which are focused on the biblical teaching about the person of Jesus, these omissions are really inexcusable.

The point being made here is simply this: If a critic of the doctrine of the Trinity is going to cite Trinitarian scholars, he ought to engage their arguments. With rare and mostly fleeting exceptions, this is something Chandler does not attempt in his book. Rather, for the most part he attempts to wring admissions out of orthodox scholars by selective quotations that appear to support his position.


[1] Robert M. Bowman Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007).

[2] Kegan A. Chandler, The God of Jesus in Light of Christian Dogma: The Recovery of New Testament Theology, foreword by Anthony F. Buzzard (McDonough, GA: Restoration Fellowship, 2016), 434.

[3] Bowman and Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place, 21.

[4] Ibid., 138–44, 148–56.

[5] Chandler has only two other references to Putting Jesus in His Place in his book, neither dealing with any of these biblical texts: God of Jesus, 440, 511.

[6] Chandler devotes 26 pages to John 1:1-3 (God of Jesus, 469-94) and only briefly quotes A. T. Robertson, F. F. Bruce, and most notably Murray Harris without engaging their exegesis of the text (God of Jesus, 487, 493). This appears to be the only reference in Chandler’s book to Harris’s important monograph: Murray J. Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992).

[7] Chandler devotes three pages to John 20:28 without citing a single orthodox scholar or engaging any Trinitarian perspectives on that text (the 18th-century Hebrew scholar J. D. Michaelis does not count); God of Jesus, 418–20. He dismisses Hebrews 1:8 very quickly without even mentioning any Trinitarians or engaging any orthodox exegesis of the text (God of Jesus, 416). 2 Peter 1:1 and Titus 2:13 are dispatched in a footnote (God of Jesus, 413 n. 1301).

Enoch, Jude, the Canon, and the Sons of God: Some Notes for the Curious

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 14:41

God took Enoch, Gerard Hoet (ca 1700)

In an odd coincidence, I was asked twice in one day to comment about the canonicity of the Book of Enoch and some related matters. I will not attempt to resolve all of the issues here, but instead will offer a brief overview and some references for those who would like to pursue the matter in further depth.

In the epistle of Jude, we read the following:

It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying:
“Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousand of his holy ones,
to execute judgment on all
and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness
that they have committed in such an ungodly way,
and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14-15 ESV).

Compare Jude’s quotation of Enoch with the following passage from the Book of Enoch:

And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones
To execute judgement upon all,
And to destroy all 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. (Enoch 1:9)

By the way, the closest any passage in the canonical Old Testament comes to the statement in Jude is in a different context, that of God’s revelation to Israel in the wilderness:

“The Lord came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us;
he shone forth from Mount Paran;
he came from the ten thousands of holy ones,
with flaming fire at his right hand” (Deut. 33:2 ESV).

The odds are very good that Jude’s quotation of Enoch (Jude 14-15) came from the Book of Enoch. The quotation is very close to what is found in the book. The matter is complicated by the fact that the book was probably written originally in Hebrew or Aramaic, Jude’s quotation is in Greek, and our earliest substantial manuscripts of the book are later translations in other languages (especially Ethiopic). Given these language differences, the similarities between the two passages are surprising. Most scholars think Jude is quoting from the book, and this seems likely to be correct. If Jude is quoting a “tradition” found also in the Book of Enoch but got it from a different source, that source would either be oral or written. I don’t think it’s plausible to argue that it was oral only, so we would likely be talking about a different book. If so, that different book is also not in the canon of Scripture, so we have not gained anything by denying that Jude was quoting the Book of Enoch. Perhaps one could maintain that Jude was quoting from an earlier version of the Book of Enoch.

Besides the quote explicitly attributed to Enoch, there are quite a number of significant points of contact thematically and verbally between Jude and the Book of Enoch. These commonalities further support the conclusion that Jude drew upon the book.

As for the Book of Enoch itself, all scholars agree that it was not written even close to the time of the Genesis patriarch some 3,000 or more years before the NT era (before the Flood, and as best we know before writing had been invented). (My own view is that the Flood must be dated more than ten thousand years before Christ, but that’s a subject for another day!) The standard view is that the Book of Enoch that has been preserved in a later Ethiopic translation was a compilation or composite work with material dating from the third century BC through the first century AD (with possible interpolations even later, though these are debated).

Obviously, these conclusions leave us with a bit of a question as to what to make of Jude’s quotation. One common idea is that the statement attributed by Jude to Enoch was really spoken by Enoch and somehow the knowledge of what Enoch had said was preserved for three (or more) millennia and recorded in the Book of Enoch. This is possible but awfully difficult to prove or even to show is the most likely scenario. It is also possible that what Jude meant was that Enoch in the Book of Enoch prophesied with the statement that Jude quoted. That is, Jude might not have been affirming or intending to say anything about what the historical patriarch Enoch had said thousands of years earlier. It is difficult to justify any dogmatic statement on the matter.

Then there is the question of the canon. Here I think the issue is fairly clear. The Book of Enoch was a Jewish work (not a Christian work) and yet was never part of the Jewish canon of Scripture. It was also not accepted as canonical by Christians other than in Ethiopia (where the only complete manuscript originated); the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and a related group in Eritrea are the only denominations accepting it as canonical, to the best of my knowledge. Interestingly, a Jewish sect in Ethiopia is the only segment of Judaism that accepts the Book of Enoch as canonical. This evidence shows that the book was not excised or removed from the canon by mainstream ancient Jews or Christians. Rather, it was added to the canon by Jews and Christians living in Ethiopia. Christians may find the book to be of value in understanding the Bible while still denying that it was or should be canonical Scripture.

Finally, the Book of Enoch does provide some strong external evidence in support of the view that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:1-4 were understood as fallen angels or the like by Jewish and Christian writers during the NT era. But there are good exegetical arguments for this interpretation that do not depend on the Book of Enoch. I myself arrived at this understanding of Genesis 6:1-4 (and the relevant NT texts) many years ago without knowing anything about the Book of Enoch. For example, the precise expression “sons of God” occurs in the Book of Job in clear reference to heavenly or spirit beings (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). Genesis 6:1-4 appears to be the OT background to Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4. I admit this is all quite strange, and I am not saying we should accept all of the ancient Jewish speculations in the Book of Enoch (far from it). However, as a hermeneutical principle I expect to find things in the Bible that are strange to me, especially in Genesis 1-11 dealing with the preliterate period of human history.

Some references for those wanting to study these things further (list updated 2/5/19):

Boa, Kenneth D., and Robert M. Bowman Jr. Sense and Nonsense about Angels and Demons. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007. Includes a short discussion on Genesis 6:1-4 and the possibly related NT texts.

Brown, Michael. “Why Isn’t the Book of Enoch in the Bible?” YouTube video with comments from visitors to Brown’s website. Brown gives an intelligent, well spoken explanation of the standard conservative Christian response to the issue. I agree with much of what he says in this short video.

Godowa, Brian. “The Book of Enoch: Scripture, Heresy, or What?” Brian Godowa takes a position similar to that of Michael Heiser. He emphasizes evidence that the epistle of Jude was heavily dependent on the Book of Enoch beyond the one quotation. A good introduction to the issue even if one does not agree with everything he says. You might need to sign up for an account with to access this paper.

Heiser, Michael S. “The Book of Enoch in the Early Church” (PDF document). This is a transcript so it has some formatting and other mistakes. Heiser argues that the Book of Enoch should be studied as helpful background to the NT even though it’s not canonical.

Heiser, Michael S. Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ. Defender Publishing, 2017. Heiser’s recent book on the same topics. I haven’t read this though I have read earlier writings by Heiser on these subjects. I tend to agree with a lot of what he says and disagree with some of it.

Kirby, Peter. “1 Enoch.” Early Jewish Writings (website), 2013. Useful source of quotations about the Book of Enoch and links to texts and resources about it.

Potter, Douglas E. “The Book of Enoch: Canonical, Authoritative, or What?” (2018). Fairly lengthy academic paper by an evangelical author, available on