In Jude 1:14-15 we find the one and only formula quotation of apocryphal literature in the New Testament.
The text in the ESV reads as follows:
It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands 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."
The 'these' here are the ungodly people (v. 4) about whom Jude is warning his readers. Jude is almost certainly quoting from 1 Enoch, a Jewish apocalyptic work. 1 Enoch 1:9-10 reads thus in R.H. Charles' translation:
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.
Scholars have generally dated this portion of 1 Enoch (called the Book of the Watchers, chapters 1-36) to the second or third century B.C., although Nickelsburg notes that the earliest traditions "may predate the Hellenistic period" (Nickelsburg, George, 1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, chapters 1-36, 81-108, p. 7). Collins adds, "No section of 1 Enoch as we have it can be dated prior to the Hellenistic age, although it undoubtedly draws on older traditions" (Collins, John J., The Apocalyptic Imagination, p. 44).
What are we to make of Jude's use of this text? A surface reading gives the impression that Jude straightforwardly attributed these words to the Enoch of Genesis, and believed them to be prophecy. But is this the case?
Steven Cox's Interpretation
The Christadelphian writer Steven Cox says no. According to Cox, Jude's main purpose in writing was to oppose false teachers who were endorsing the myths found in 1 Enoch. He thus uses irony to condemn the false teachers from their own literature:
Here Jude makes it clear that this particular "Enoch" (i.e. the Book, not the Genesis patriarch) did not prophesy "concerning" these false teachers "to" Jude himself, nor "to" the faithful, but only prophesied "to" the false teachers. This is Jude's way of making it clear that the quote that follows is not from the real Enoch of Genesis, but from the Jewish author who styled himself "Enoch the Seventh from Adam" and who only prophesied to those that were taken in by his book. (Cox, Steven, The Angels that Sinned, part 2)
On the principle of Occam's Razor, Cox bears the burden of proving that this subtle irony is what Jude was "clearly" getting at. Shouldering this burden, he gives two main reasons for his position:
- The phrase "the seventh from Adam" is also a quotation from 1 Enoch (60:8; cf. 93:3). He therefore takes this to be a specific reference to the author of that book, and not to the real Enoch of Genesis.
- The rendered as "prophesied about" (or "prophesied concering") in most English translations is proepheteusen...toutois in the original Greek. The word toutois is a dative plural pronoun which would be best rendered 'to' rather than 'about' or 'concerning'. Thus Jude is stressing that the author of 1 Enoch "did not prophesy 'concerning' these false teachers 'to' Jude himself, nor 'to' the faithful, but only prophesied 'to' the false teachers" (Cox, The Angels that Sinned, part 2).
In what follows I will show why I find Cox's explanation is unsatisfactory. My argument will consist of the following five main points.
- It is more likely that "Enoch, the seventh from Adam" is a reference to the real Enoch of Genesis.
- The verb 'prophesy' should not be taken as lightly as Cox takes it here.
- The use of the dative plural pronoun toutois does not prove that Cox's interpretation is correct; and the translation "about these" found in most English versions is grammatically viable.
- The writers of the early church followed the straightforward interpretation noted above, even though Jude's quotation of 1 Enoch was very inconvenient for some of them.
- There is virtually no contemporary scholarly support for Cox's interpretation.
These points are in addition to other contextual clues that Jude had sympathies with 1 Enoch, such as his support for the fallen angels interpretation of Gen. 6:1-4 (see previous post on this). The above five premises will now be discussed in more detail.
Enoch, the Seventh from Adam
Cox claims that because "the seventh from Adam" is applied to Enoch in 1 Enoch, Jude must be referring to the author of 1 Enoch and not the real Enoch of Genesis 5:18-24. I cannot see how this inference is justified for the following reasons:
- It can be inferred from the genealogy of Genesis 5 that the Genesis Enoch was the seventh from Adam. Thus this was not a clear way for Jude to distinguish "apocalyptic writer Enoch" from "Genesis Enoch" since it also applies to Genesis Enoch in a straightforward and obvious way.
- This expression is not peculiar to 1 Enoch. It also occurs in the Rabbinic literature (Leviticus Rabbah 29:11), where it obviously refers to the Genesis Enoch and is given numerological significance.
- The passage of 1 Enoch from which the phrase "the seventh from Adam" is taken (60:8) is actually a fragment of another work called The Book of Noah, which was apparently merged with the Enochic writings at some point. The ostensible narrator at 60:8 is Noah, not Enoch, and he refers to his "grandfather" as the seventh from Adam; an obvious allusion to the Genesis Enoch.
Cox further claims is that Jude does not use the word 'prophesy' here with reference to actual prophecy, but to the words of a charlatan which ironically will come to pass upon those who believe it. This would be a highly exceptional use of the verb propheteuo. The only thing comparable in the New Testament is Caiphas' inadvertent prophecy of Jesus' death in John 11:51; but in that case it is obvious from the text that Caiphas' words carried a double meaning not intended by him. In Jude 1:14-15 we are not told any such thing regarding the "prophecy" of Enoch.
Moreover, the content of the prophecy - that the Lord is coming to judge the ungodly - is not controversial but echoes many Old Testament passages (Deut. 33:2; Jdg. 5:4; Ps. 18:9; 46:8-9; 68:17; 76:9; 96:13; Isa. 19:1; 31:4; 40:10; 66:15; Jer. 25:31; Dan. 7:10; Amos 1:2; Joel 3:2; Mic. 1:3; Hab. 3:3; Zeph.1:7-9, 12; Hag. 2:22; Zech. 3:8; 9:14; Mal. 3:3-5; cf. Charles, J.D., Jude, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 13, p. 561). It would be odd for Jude to stress that these words are only prophetic in a limited, ironic sense when there are so many genuine prophecies in Scripture that say basically the same thing!
Prophesied "to these" or "about these"?
The crux of Cox's argument is grammatical in nature, and so what follows here is necessarily quite technical. Cox boldly asserts that every English translation since William Tyndale's has made a "grammatical error" in the translation of Jude 1:14. It is remarkable that a person of unknown competence in biblical Greek should so confidently assail the work of hundreds of committees of experts through the centuries as mistaken. However, let us consider the case on its merits.
Jude 1:14 introduces the quotation from 1 Enoch with the words "proepheteusen…toutois". Nearly all translations render this "prophesied about these" or "prophesied concerning these", but Cox claims this is a grammatical error and the only permissible rendering is "prophesied to these". On the basis of his rendering, Cox argues that Jude was stressing that the author of 1 Enoch
"did not prophesy 'concerning' these false teachers 'to' Jude himself, nor 'to' the faithful, but only prophesied 'to' the false teachers. This is Jude's way of making it clear that the quote that follows is not from the real Enoch of Genesis, but from the Jewish author who styled himself "Enoch the Seventh from Adam" and who only prophesied to those that were taken in by his book." (The Angels that Sinned, part 2, not paginated)
We may observe that Cox has assumed without argument that if "to these" is the correct reading, then the limited, ironic application of the prophecy automatically follows. That this is not the case is evident from the fact that several commentators who note the possibility of the "to these" rendering provide simpler, more plausible interpretations thereof (Painter and de Silva, 2012, James and Jude; Green, 2008, 2 Peter and Jude, p. 103).
"If Jude had wanted to say "prophesied ABOUT these men" (NIV) he would have written proepheteusen peri touton (verb + preposition PERI + genitive case pronoun plural), but instead what Jude actually wrote was proepheteusen toutois (verb + dative case pronoun plural) "prophesied TO these men". The difference between these two constructions is always observed elsewhere in the New Testament."
Now, we can observe that while a number of commentators on Jude (Sidebottom, Bauckham, Kelly, Green) have noted the "oddness" of the dative construction in Jude 1:14, this is not the only such instance in the epistle. There is also an "anomalous" use of the dative in Jude 1:1 and a "curious" example in Jude 1:11 (Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, p. 47). Knowing that Jude's use of the dative is unusual elsewhere should cause us to exercise caution before leaping to conclusions about how he may or may not have expressed himself.
However, Cox's argument does have things in its favour. "Prophesied to these" would be (from a grammatical standpoint) the most natural and literal rendering (Moule, Ibid.; Robertson, Word Pictures of the New Testament), and it is on the grounds of context that most scholars and translators have preferred the rendering "prophesied about these" or "concerning these" (Moule, Ibid.).
Indeed, a study of uses of the verb propheteuo with an indirect object in the LXX and NT reveals that the distinction alleged by Cox does hold in most cases, especially in Jeremiah LXX. In the following passages of Jeremiah LXX, the propheteuo + dative construction is used of false prophecy: Jer. 14:14, 16; 20:6; 34:10, 14, 15, 16; 36:9, 31; 44:19 (bear in mind that the versification of Jeremiah in the LXX does not match that of the MT/English Bible). Outside of Jeremiah, the propheteuo + dative construction is used of prophecy which was deemed to be false in the Apocrypha at Judith 6:2. It is also used in the New Testament in Matt. 26:68 in a scornful context (the only occurrence in the NT other than Jude 1:14).
By contrast, the propheteuo + preposition construction is often used of authentic prophecy: Jer. 33:11, 12, 20; 35:8 (in 33:12 and 35:8 the preposition is epi; in 33:20 it is peri; in 33:11, kata). Outside Jeremiah, this construction occurs in the LXX of 2 Chr. 20:37, Ezra 5:1, Amos 7:15 and numerous times in Ezekiel (4:7; 12:27; 13:2; 34:2; 36:1, 6; 37:4, 9; etc.) In the Apocrypha such a usage can be found in 1 Esdras 6:1. In the New Testament, four such examples can be found: Matt. 15:7; Mark 7:6; 1Pet. 1:10; Rev. 10:11.
Based on the above evidence, one might be tempted to propose that a special idiom existed by which propheteuo + dative denoted false prophecy and propheteuo + preposition denoted true prophecy. However, a closer examination reveals things are not so black and white.
In Jer. 33:11 LXX, the false prophets denounce Jeremiah and accuse him of prophesying against the city of Jerusalem. The propheteuo + preposition (epi) construction is used, but it is evident that they do not view Jeremiah's prophecy as authentic. It is more likely that the preposition serves to emphasize the negativity of Jeremiah's content ("against" Jerusalem), and this negative vs. positive content distinction may explain the two syntactical constructions in Jeremiah LXX better than the true vs. false distinction.
Furthermore, according to Brenton's LXX text (differing from the NETS as well as the MT and English Bible), Jer. 36:27 LXX has God asking a false prophet, "And now wherefore have ye reviled together Jeremias of Anathoth, who prophesied to you?" (propheteuo + dative) Thus according to at least one manuscript tradition, the dative construction is used of authentic prophecy in Jeremiah LXX.
Furthermore, if we compare 1 Kings 22:18 to the parallel in 2 Chr. 18:17, we find that 1 Kings LXX uses the dative construction and 2 Chronicles the prepositional construction to render the same Hebrew. Here, Ahab is asking Jehoshaphat, (with reference to the authentic prophet Micaiah), "Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?" Moreover, even within 1 Kings, the same question occurs (identical in the Hebrew) in 1 Kings 22:8, but is rendered with the prepositional construction in the LXX (although in this verse the verb laleo is used and not propheteuo). If the two constructions can be used so interchangeably, it is difficult to claim that the dative construction is a special idiom with a meaning distinct from the prepositional construction.
As a final counterexample, in Ezek. 13:16 LXX, the propheteuo + preposition construction is used with reference to false prophecy.
Thus, while it would be broadly correct to observe a tendency toward using the prepositional construction for authentic prophecy and the dative construction for false prophecy in the LXX and NT, it is not true that the distinction is always held consistently. Thus the use of the dative construction in Jude 1:14 does not imply that Jude saw the prophecy as false. (Remember too that, even under Cox's interpretation, Jude is not labeling his quotation as false prophecy but as true prophecy from a fraudulent source).
The Grammatical Basis for "About These"
The question to which we now turn is whether the rendering "about these" or "concerning these", followed almost unanimously by English Bible translators, is grammatically viable or a grammatical error as Cox claims. Wallace's Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament specifies 27 distinct functions of the dative in koine Greek, so we ought not to oversimplify the dative as if it were merely equivalent to the English word "to". One of the functions of the dative listed by Wallace is the "dative of reference". We are instructed that with a dative of reference, "Instead of the word to, supply the phrase 'with reference to' before the dative. (Other glosses are concerning, about, in regard to, etc.)" (Wallace p. 145).
One of the examples given by Wallace is Luke 18:31: "And taking the twelve, he said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished." The Greek reads, panta ta gegrammena dia ton propheton toi huio. Thus, although 'write' is the verb here and not 'prophesy', the noun 'prophets' comes immediately before the dative construction. According to Cox's rules, it would be a grammatical error to translate "about the Son of Man" and we must instead render it literally: "everything that is written to the Son of Man by the prophets". To be consistent, Cox must further insist that the "to" is emphatic: the prophets wrote to the Son of Man and not to anyone else! Thus, Cox's approach to Jude 1:14 results in absurdity if applied consistently.
Instead, it must at least be allowed as grammatically possible that the dative in Jude 1:14 is a dative of reference. This construction is rare but it shows that "about these" is a viable translation in Jude 1:14. The translators have not committed a simple grammatical error. In light of the context, they have identified Jude as using a rare but legitimate function of the dative, namely the dative of reference.
Bauckham provides a possible explanation for Jude's unusual grammar here, noting the similarities in grammatical structure of Jude 1:14 with the formula used to introduce Scripture quotations in certain Hebrew Qumran texts. The circumstance in these Qumran texts matches Jude’s: “where the contemporary reality to which the text is understood to refer has already been mentioned and the text is introduced as referring to it” (Bauckham, Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church, p. 206). Based on this parallel, he concludes that “Jude’s rather odd use of the dative toutois represents al (which is regularly used in Qumran exegetical formulae to indicate what the text refers to)” (Ibid.) In other words, Jude's introduction of the quotation may read awkwardly in Greek because it is a Hebraism.
This is a more convincing precedent for Jude's use of propheteuo + dative than, for instance, the uses in relation to false prophets in Jeremiah LXX, none of which introduce quotations.
Jude 1:14 in the Early Church
The earliest extant Christian commentary on the Book of Jude comes from Clement of Alexandria, writing c. 182-202. His comment on Jude 1:14 (in Fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus) is simply this: "'Enoch also, the seventh from Adam,' he says, 'prophesied of these.' In these words he verities the prophecy." Not having access to the Greek text, I do not know whether Clement also uses the dative or not; however, it is plain that Clement took Jude's words at face value and not as an ironic, disparaging reference to 1 Enoch. This is important because Cox claims that the conclusion that Jude was disparaging 1 Enoch is unavoidable from the Greek. If so, it is surprising that the early church fathers (who were far more familiar with ancient Greek than ourselves) should have completely misunderstood Jude here.
Indeed, the idea that Jude appealed to the prophetic authority of an apocryphal text led to much debate on the canonical status of Jude itself:
"[D]oubts arose [as to Jude’s canonical status]…since Jude cites works such as 1 Enoch that by then were considered noncanonical…These doubts appear to have been short lived everywhere but in Syria (where it was accepted only in the sixth century)…The main issue was apparently Jude’s citation of 1 Enoch by name…While Tertullian believed that this made 1 Enoch canonical, other church leaders thought this disqualified Jude.” (Peter H. Davids, 2 Peter and Jude, pp. 7-8)
Thus, Jude's quotation from 1 Enoch caused no small controversy in the early church. This controversy could have been quickly settled by pointing out that Jude was quoting 1 Enoch pejoratively. It stands to reason that this would have been pointed out had it occurred to the early church fathers as a viable interpretation. Indeed, one of the most important witnesses against Cox's interpretation is a writer he cites favourably in his pamphlet. Augustine of Hippo vehemently opposed the Enochic tradition and was probably responsible more than any other individual for its marginalization from mainstream Christian theology. He wrote that 1 Enoch contained many falsehoods and lacked canonical authority. He certainly had every reason to support the view that Jude was citing 1 Enoch negatively, had it occurred to him as a plausible interpretation of Jude. Instead, however, he said this: "We cannot deny that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, left some divine writings, for this is asserted by the Apostle Jude in his canonical epistle" (City of God 15.23).
It seems, therefore, that if Jude cited 1 Enoch's "prophecy" in an ironic way meant to disparage that book, he did so with such subtlety that his intended meaning was completely and (as far as we can tell) unanimously reversed by the early church writers - both those who viewed 1 Enoch favourably (like Tertullian) and those who viewed 1 Enoch negatively (like Augustine).
Few, however, would read Jude's epistle and use the word "subtle" to describe its message. Jude's rhetorical style would be better described as forthright and outspoken. He does not mince words when referring to his opponents as blasphemers, unreasoning animals, etc., so it would be uncharacteristic for him to denounce 1 Enoch in a subtle, roundabout way if that was his intention.
Jude 1:14 in Modern Scholarship
If ancient scholars missed the irony which Jude allegedly "made clear" in the quotation formula of Jude 1:14, it remains true of modern scholars. Commentaries on Jude have abounded in the last couple of decades. Plenty of these have pointed out the odd way in which Jude introduces the quotation from 1 Enoch, and a minority even prefer the rendering "prophesied to these". However, one is hard-pressed to find any support for Cox's interpretation. The closest thing I have come across is a reference to an unpublished suggestion:
"In a private communication David R. Jackson, author of the important book Enochic Judaism, suggests that Jude expects his words to be taken in some ironic sense. But I have not seen that view defended anywhere in print, convincingly or otherwise, so at this juncture the claim still strikes me as odd" (D.A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament, p. 1078).
It is not clear to what extent the 'ironic sense' suggested by Jackson parallels the ironic sense argued by Cox. One hopes that Jackson will put pen to paper so that his interpretation can be put forth for peer review. Until that time, it can only be said that Steven Cox has gone to great lengths to avoid what has been fairly obvious to nearly all readers of Jude, both lay and scholarly, ancient and modern:
- When Jude wrote "Enoch, the seventh from Adam", he meant Enoch, the seventh from Adam
- When Jude wrote that Enoch "prophesied", he meant that Enoch prophesied
- Whether Jude indicated that Enoch prophesied "about these" or "to these", he meant that the prophecy applied to the false teachers whom he opposed in his epistle, who ought to have heeded the warning that the writer of 1 Enoch left, "not for this generation, but for a remote one which is for to come" (1 Enoch 1:2).
In the next blog post (the final installment in this brief series) we will further examine Steven Cox's claim that the book of 1 Enoch and its adherents were the primary targets of the polemic in 2 Peter and Jude.