Jude and His Sources: Non-Canonical Books

The book of Jude makes use of at least two books that were not considered to be inspired by the Church or the Jews. In v. 9 he alludes to the Testament of Moses and in Jude 14-15 he quotes 1 Enoch.

Michael and SatanBauckham points out that besides the direct citation of 1 Enoch 1, the book of Jude knows1 Enoch 1-36 and perhaps sections later in the book. 1 Enoch was popular at Qumran and there may be allusions to the book in Revelation as well. This section of 1 Enoch is an expansion of the story of the Nephilim and the Giants a found in Genesis 6. Jude does not allude to that plot line at all, but rather to the rather generic statement that God is coming to execute justice on ones who have rebelled against him. In the context of 1 Enoch, this is the angels who have intermixed with humans and created “the Giants” and taught humans all manner of sin.

The reference to the archangel and Satan discussing the bones of Moses does not appear in the Testament of Moses, although it is likely that the words Jude uses are quoted from the lost ending to that book. Richard Bauckham has a considerable section on the sources for Jude 9 which includes a catalog of all of the variations of this story in Jewish and Christian sources as well as a list of references to the Assumption of Moses, a lost book usually confused with the Testament of Moses (Jude, 2 Peter, 48, 67). Bauckham concludes that the Assumption is a re-worked version of the Testament (76). There are a number of Christian sources that seem to have known the story in detail, and a few pre-Christian Jewish sources contain disputes between the devil and an angel over various events (Isaac’s sacrifice, for example).

That Jude would allude to these Jewish texts is a good argument for the circulation of the book within Jewish communities in Judea, perhaps in the “near diaspora” communities. We know that 1 Enoch appears at Qumran. Although the Testament of Moses has not been found among the DSS, it is not unlikely that this is evidence for an early date and Jewish Christian context for the book.

The common way to explain Jude’s use of these texts is to say they are simply “illustrations of truth: similar to a pastor using a commonly known story, film, or T.V. show as a sermon illustration. Jude is not trying to tell his readers that these books are inspired and worthy of inclusion in the Bible, but rather using texts that they are already familiar with in order to make a point. The reference to Enoch is a bit touchy, since it says Enoch in fact prophesied the Lord’s return – although one could argue Jude is saying the popular book of Enoch says this, rather than “historical Enoch.”

It is possible that Jude uses these texts because they are popular with the false teachers. In my post on Jude’s use of the Hebrew Bible I commented that Jude alludes to the wilderness tradition frequently, perhaps his opponents used the wilderness tradition and a book like 1 Enoch in their own teaching. The allusion to the Testament of Moses may be appropriate since the event took place in the wilderness and the end of that period of Israel’s history. The Qumran Community immediately comes to mind, since they are in the wilderness, not far from Nebo and made use of 1 Enoch. But Jude seems to imply the opponents are a perversion of Christian teaching, so perhaps they are an Essene like group which has accepted Jesus as Messiah.

In any case, Jude is turning their own favorite books around on them to show that they are false teachers. Jude’s purpose is to combat a false teaching which has “smuggled” itself into the church.

What are the implications of the book of Jude’s use of these sources?

12 thoughts on “Jude and His Sources: Non-Canonical Books

  1. This seems like a brilliant move by Jude himself to me, I can not hardly imagine a better way to get through to the hearts and minds of these hypocritical false teachers. These people must have been incredibly arrogant and full of themselves, there would be no way that they would listen to what anyone else had to say. So it makes perfect sense that Jude would use the only thing that they would listen to, their own documents, it would be the best if not the only way to grab a hold of these false teachers and show them beyond any doubt the error of their ways.

  2. I find the use of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses to be absolutely fascinating. While it brings about many problems with Jude, it also reveals to us much of the culture and those implications. One story that immediately comes to mind is from Acts 17:16-34. In this passage we see Paul in Athens preaching to a group of philosophers (more specifically Epicureans and Stoics) in the Areopagus. While Paul used fundamental truth from the scriptures, he also incorporates what they would understand, including their idols, and their “unknown god” as examples. i believe that Jude is practicing the same concept to his audience, but instead of being Roman philosophers, they were Jews.
    While they held the Old Testament to be true and authoritative, there was also many books and sources that were widespread that they Jews knew and could identify with. “Jude refers to 1st Enoch and Michael’s dispute with the devil over Moses as they were understood in Jewish tradition of that day to develop the themes of ungodliness and the certainty of judgement” (Jobes 254). In Jewish communities they created “Jewish Tradition” in which they could learn from and see as applicable or relevant with their lives. In the same way that Paul reached people with what they knew, i think that Jude used this tradition as a contact point in which he could explain his theology in relevant information and terms. In our modern day you could think of Rob Bell books. While there are numerous things that many Christians do not agree with, there is still a lot of true spoken in his books (if you disagree, read some of them). I am not saying that we should incorporate Rob Bell into the bible, but that it is a contact point in which our modern culture would know and understand. Jude’s intention most likely was not to identify this tradition as scripture, but he may have taken some stories and points from literature that was very relevant to culture and supported what he said.

    His goal in the end was to reach as many people as he could with his message, and this was a great way to relate to as many people as possible. I am not sure what this means as far the canonicity of Jude, and if it discredits it or not, but it seems as if they passages used were harmless enough to support his point and while not incorporating any false doctrine into the scriptures. All i know is that this is a great challenges for those communicating the Word of God, in which we must continue to be relevant to culture while staying true to God’s inspired Word.

  3. Jude alluding to the two books would have been completely acceptable within the culture of this time. “…in the Greco-Roman literary culture, there was the acceptable practice of imitatio, in which an author would incorporate material from a well-known work into his own…” (Jobes 385). Over time the idea of Jude using ideas and alluding to these texts has become less acceptable. This is mostly from these two texts not being included into the cannon of scripture. However, Jude is referencing these two books as a form or literary persuasion, such as examples or anecdotes. Jude is simply using the reference to 1 Enoch and The Testament of Moses as an illustration to solidify his point. Much like other writers of the New Testament use a strategy logic similar to the Greek philosophers of the day. Jude alluding to writings that are outside of the cannon in 1:9 does not mean that Jude is claiming the books of 1 Enoch and The Testament of Moses are inspired. Rather, Jude is using a well known story to illustrate his point. Similar to when parents read the story Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed to their children to help them understand why they should not jump on a bed.

  4. Jude is trying to be relatable. Just like our pastors and preachers now. They will do a sermon and relate part of the sermon to a popular cultural topic. For instance, my youth pastor used to relate his study to the Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings was a popular topic in our youth group. Was the youth pastor trying to imply that the Lord of the Rings was biblical? No. He was simply trying to catch the attention of the youth, to teach them more about what is true of the Bible. I believe that Jude is doing the same thing here. Like this blog post stated, Enoch was popular during this time and most of the readers of Jude could relate to it. The textbook, “Letters to the Church,” by Karen Jobes explains, “Note, however, that Jude says only, ‘Enoch prophesied,’ which must not be taken to mean that Enoch wrote an inspired book (contra Augustine’s view)…Jude does not have to think that 1 Enoch is an inspired book or even a true book in general; he cites one small part of it that is in accord with biblical truth” (Jobes, 2011, pg. 257).
    -McKenzie McCord-

  5. It is interesting to think about the fact that Jude used 1 Enoch when he wrote this book. During Sophomore year of college, I was able to read 1 Enoch in its entirety. The book is clearly not written to be read as literal history, but the wisdom portrayed in it is vast and shows the mind of the pseudepigraphic writer and the ways of his culture. This book to Jude may have been thought of in the same way as we now view books such as George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In both of these books, modern readers can compare them to the modern era and receive wisdom from them about how to interact in the world of today. Similarly, the author of 1 Enoch wrote before the time of Christ, yet Jude takes his write and applies it to the church age.
    There is an important question in which I have engaged, and intrigued, several people in a discussion is that of the inspiration of Jude 14-15. The passage which comes directly out of 1 Enoch, was written down by the author of that book whose real name is lost to history. The question is this – was the writer of 1 Enoch inspired to write this quote directed attributed to Enoch or were the words inspired the moment Jude write them? To this question, we have no clear-cut answer. Jobes shares the thoughts of Augustine regarding this passage (Jobes 257). He explains how he believes that Enoch was inspired by God and said these words, which may have been written down and passed down to the writer of 1 Enoch (Jobes 257). Regardless of the fact that Augustine believed these words to be directly from Enoch, we still have no answer as to how the author of 1 Enoch got these words.

  6. I find it interesting that Jude uses the different non-canonical sources of Jewish literature, but really it makes sense. Just as pastors, teachers, and writers today use commentaries, dictionaries, and other sources that are not necessarily the Bible, why wouldn’t some of the New Testament writers pull from some of the most respected Jewish sources. I understand why this may be some cause for question in regard to the true canonization of a book, but overall I can see why the author of Jude pulled from these sources. Although I have never read 1 Enoch, I am definitely interested in the context it holds. The story of the Nephilim in Genesis 6 has always fascinated me. The small mention of the Angels and Giants in Genesis always made me really curious as to the story behind it. Was this story to be something taken literally or metaphorically? Jobes makes the point that Jude’s original readers would have been familiar with these stories already (2011, p.241). It makes sense that a Jewish audience would be familiar with these stories as well as the uncanonized books. Similar to how many Christians today are familiar with Augustine’s City of God, or the works of Martin Luther.


    Jobes, K. H. (2011). Letters to the Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles. Zondervan.

  7. Once again, I find that the way Jude uses his sources shows his expertise in writing and teaching. He had a direct message and warning he wanted to give to his readers, and he seemed to realize the best way to get the point across was through various sources which would have been well-known to his listeners. I think the idea that some have taken his use non-canonical books as a reason to argue against it being accepted as Canonical Scripture (Jobes, p. 254) takes away the validity of Jude as a writer and teacher. I think any good teacher knows that finding relatable illustrations is a sure way to get the listener to pay attention. Relating the idea of responsibility to a Spider-Man quote might sound ridiculous on paper, but in the context of a lesson it gives the student something to grab onto and remember later. This is the same thing Jude is doing with his usage of non-canonical sources. By referencing writings which would have been well-known in the Jewish communities, Jude knew his message would not only grab their attention but combat the false teachings that were being perpetuated. Jobes reminds us that “the doctrine of inspiration must allow God to inspire the biblical authors to use whatever material suits his purpose” (p. 256). Jude realized that using these sources, which were well-known and favored, would be just what was needed to show the danger of false teaching.

    Jobes, K.A. (2011). Letters to the Church. Zondervan

  8. Jude’s use of the non-canonical books like 1 Enoch, are one way of showcasing the author’s vast knowledge and ability to relate to his audience. As Professor Long mentions, not only did Jude’s references to the non-canonical books spark an interest in those who were familiar with them, but he also was able to combat the false heresies within the church. Jobes mentions that “Jude is most likely quoting 1 Enoch not because he considered it Scripture, but because of its familiarity and value to his readers, perhaps especially to the false Christians” (Jobes, 258). I think this can be closely related to those who preach today. There are pastors who relate secular and popular tv shows such as the Office in order to better relate to their congregation, or even talk about football or other sports analogies. It is easy for a pastor to talk about something that they have studied for years, but it is another thing to try and relate that to those who don’t have the same education. In order to really get the message across it takes understanding your audience. In order for Jude to get his message across, he had to make references that these “false christians” would understand and be able to see within themselves. Any speech maker understands that in order to create and present a speech, you need to understand the audience, and we can clearly see that Jude does just that in his book. He allows for his audience to feel closer and understood, while also making what he is trying to say clearer and relatable to them.

  9. I think it is really interesting and important to know that Jude used non-canonical books as sources in addition to the canonical ones he used. We know that the Bible was inspired by God, so it is likely there was a strong purpose in using those specific sources. God intended for this book to end up in the Bible and it’s not like he was unaware of the sources Jude used. I think while many may discount the book of Jude for this reason there are many reasons it is an important book. Understanding the perspectives around us, even if they are not like our own, is extremely important in order to function in society. The original audience was facing struggles with opposing views back then as well so the need for Judes words were essential and we can still gain wisdom from them today. Jobes in chapter 8 of her book Letters to the Church wrote, “Jude points faithful Christians back to the apostolic teaching and exhorts them to persevere in faith, prayer, and mercy” (p. 261). This is an important message without Jude and the way he formed his thoughts, the readers may not have received it.

  10. Jude is such a short book of the New Testament, and it is often overlooked. I have personally never done much with Jude. But I’ve been so intrigued by both Jobes’ discussion of the book and what we have talked about in class. I never realized Jude and 2 Peter shared such similarities, and the main difference between them is that Jude includes non-canonical books while 2 Peter omits those references. You mentioned in class that you think it is more likely that Jude was written first and 2 Peter copied from Jude, omitting those sections because he thought they were not appropriate to use, just as some pastors are okay with using secular references to make a point in their message, while others think those references are not appropriate. In answer to the implications of Jude referencing these sources, I do not think they make the book less valuable, or that it should not be part of the canon because it uses sources that were not inspired. 2 Peter attests to the fact that everything said in Jude can still be said without those sources. In addition, it would appear to me that the message of the book was important enough that God included it both in the form it was written in Jude and in a ‘cleaned up’ version in 2 Peter to ensure that it became part of the canon. Jude’s use of non-canonical sources do not challenge its canonicity, in fact, I think they strengthen the time period it was written in since he is referencing relevant information, and it shows how we, Christians, can interact with the society around us and still be set apart. We can learn from secular works too.

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