The Book of Enoch is famous for being quoted quite a few times in the New Testament. This wikipedia page lists dozens of books that bible quotes that aren't canon. I've seen arguments for why these books aren't included, but I've never seen anyone explain why the bible quotes them then. If the Book of Enoch isn't canon for instance, then why is Jude when it quotes it 4 or 5 times? What about all the other books the page lists?

To be clear again, I'm not asking why these books aren't canon. You can find plenty of explanation for them. I want to know why books that quote it are considered canon. Wouldn't this invalidate them? Some of these are pretty major claims, like mentioning 'the watchers' from the book of Enoch. On top of this, there's also the common assumption that demons are fallen angels, but I've heard this isn't mentioned in any canonical book other than The Book of Enoch! Why is it such a common belief when its only mentioned in a non-canonical text. And yes, I know the Ethiopian church accepts it as canon, but that doesn't fix all the other less famous non-canonical books.

What's the justification? As far as I'm aware, no bible verses defend these non-canonical books, they just take them for granted. Its also well-known that the infamous Book of Enoch heavily influence Christianity in its earliest years, thus why its quoted so many times.

Regarding this, I do know that some books are simply lost. The letters mention other letters that are considered lost. Famously one of them is nothing but a reply to a letter that was sent to Paul mainly questioning his authority. This doesn't explain most books though, namely the ones that are 'historical' in nature.

  • 3
    Paul quoted two Greek poets while in Athens, Epimenides and Aratus (Acts 17:27-28). He doesn't quote them to support their theology but to connect his theology with the intellects of the Athenian philosophers. Good question! +1 Commented Apr 15 at 11:26
  • 2
    To quote is not to endorse.
    – Maverick
    Commented Apr 15 at 13:10
  • I've heard modern preachers refer to details from obviously fictional Harry Potter and Spiderman stories. They aren't claiming these tales are true, but are simply using stories that are familiar to their audiences to illustrate specific concepts. Commented Apr 15 at 14:24
  • Here's a quotation I grew up with: All truth is God's truth, wherever it may be found. If your agree--or think you agree--with this quotation, then accepting quotations from non-biblical sources shouldn't be a problem for you. Just a thought. Don Commented Apr 20 at 14:30

4 Answers 4


Books like Enoch are a glimpse into the Hebrew theosophy of the era. The Jewish culture had its own folklore, which in most cases was either directly derived or inferentially extrapolated from scripture. Books like Enoch, or The Assumption of Moses, are pseudepigraphical works based on that theosophy.

Demons being fallen angels, for example, is an extrapolation from Genesis 6:1-4. The sons of God are presumed to be angels relative to the context of man being mentioned separately, and the offspring of the unions with these sons of God being mighty men of renown. The word “demon,” according to its etymology, is just a spirit of supernatural origin, and although daemons are often associated with malignant spirits, this is incidental to the word’s meaning. Enoch expounds on the Hebrew belief of the origin of unclean spirits, that being the angels that left heaven to taste the pleasures of man.

A great many works exist, as you’ve mentioned, that are quoted or cited in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament. As a researcher and writer myself, I make a distinction, personally, between Biblical and secular sources. But academically, I have no problem quoting or citing a reliable source if it’s germane to what I’m discussing in a given chapter or paragraph. I will use the Bible and Josephus almost interchangeably when I’m dealing with Biblical history, for example. But I still recognize which has the canonical authority.

So when you get to a passage like Jude 1:9, the author referring in this instance to The Assumption of Moses, his reference doesn’t necessarily have to be viewed from the perspective of giving the work authority equal to canon. It can just as easily be seen as using a popular existing work, despite its authority, to demonstrate a principle. The same could be said to apply to the references to Enoch.

Ultimately, canon status was determined according to Apostolic authority. If it was a work written or approved of by the Apostles, the work gained canon status. Those who decided on the canon clearly didn’t scrutinize the source material quoted by all the individual authors of the New Testament. Else, they didn’t think it was problematic. The earliest Christians, in fact, actually held books like Enoch, The Shepherd of Hermas, etc. as being of divine authority.

If your question is more geared towards present day, i.e. why do we still hold them as canonical when we know they quote and cite non-canonical sources . . . I would simply point you to the fierce stubbornness of the KJV-only crowd, among whom I have even been personally told, “if the King James was good enough for the Apostles, it’s good enough for me.” There are some fights that just aren’t worth picking. Trying to un-canonize a work of the established New Testament would be a multi-century uphill battle that would result in more division and animosity than you could imagine.

  • "if the King James was good enough for the Apostles..." which is absurd, of course, as the KJV didn't even exist until more than a millennium later. 🙂
    – Matthew
    Commented Apr 19 at 17:54
  • I’m just quoting a devout Baptist from my local town. 😂😎😉
    – AFrazier
    Commented Apr 20 at 6:26

A very good question. What actually were the standards by which books were added to the New Testament. For the TeNaCh there were very clear standards that had to be adhered to before they were accepted as part of the TeNaCh. I'm not an expert on this, however one of the rules is written in the Torah:

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)

The book of Enoch was not included in the canon of the TeNaCh because it added ideas into scripture that didn't fit with the way Judaism understood certain passages like for example those about the fallen ones. There are also references to Moses that didn't match with the Torah and others. These discrepancies disqualified any of the five books of Enoch, like many others of that time, to become part of the TeNaCh. However there were many Jews who held these books in high esteem including those who wrote the letters and gospels in the New Testament. They appear to have considered at least some of them to be Holy Scripture.

Now, should that disqualify letters that quote from books like these? It really depends in what context they are quoted but those you mentioned do raise an eyebrow. If doctrinal ideas are taken from non-canonical books then this could lead to problems. If they are accepted as inspired by the Holy Spirit, then we would have to ask ourselves if the books of Enoch are inspired, too. They are after all included in the Ethiopian bible.

However, if the books of Enoch are inspired and considered as Word of God, then it puts the Torah in question and with it the whole of the TeNaCh. After all, the New Testament builds on the TeNaCh. If the TeNaCh is now questionable that it is inspired, then the New Testament and Christianity sits on a very weak foundation from which it could collapse.

The difficulty Christianity has today is in my opinion that it never really validated New Testament scripture against the Torah in the same way the Prophetic books have been validated against it. This process that is still outstanding, but so far nobody has dared to do this because of fear, that it might undermine some cherished doctrines in the church.

Because if the rigorous standard is applied that Jews applied concerning the prophetic books in the TeNaCh, some or even all of the books in the New Testament could fail the test.

For me it raises the question, should the New Testament be regarded as Holy Scripture in the same way the Torah was, or should it rather be regarded in the same way Jews respect the Talmud and Mischna, commentaries to the TeNaCh? The New Testament is an important book for the church and will always be sacred, however the status as being equal or even superseding the TeNaCh has caused a lot of problems within the church and also outside of it considering the history where the church defended it's doctrines not even shying away from using violence and forced conversions.

Clearly the writers of the letters like Paul, Peter, etc, referred to the TeNaCh as Holy Scripture and not to their own writings. And even for hundreds of years later only the TeNaCh was considered the Word of God. Maybe it should have stayed that way because then we could discuss these letters within the church without the fear of being called an apostate for daring to criticise some passages.


Because they are true.

In their original form, at least. But do we have the originals or a reliable translation of them?

There are many prophetic accounts that are "lost" to canon.

Canon is admittedly a somewhat arbitrary designation. It presupposes that what is canon has already been accepted by some council or by a vote. For context, this would make the prophesies and acts of the prophet Moses external to canon at the time the events were happening. The words of Moses were not already "canon" and hence were easily dismissed by some of the Israelites. The same is true of the teachings of the Savior, and many of the Jews dismissed them for the same reason. But now they are canon. At least, some of them are.

We don't have a complete and accurate translation of the book of Enoch that I am aware of. For that matter the same is true in some degree of every book and epistle in the Bible we have come to regard as canon. What we should not take for granted is that any book, whether canonized or not, is 100% accurately translated and transmitted without any corruption.

I do know that some books are simply lost. The letters mention other letters that are considered lost. Famously one of them is nothing but a reply to a letter that was sent to Paul mainly questioning his authority. This doesn't explain most books though, namely the ones that are 'historical' in nature.

Correct! Moses also quotes and summarizes the words and deeds of all the prophets who came before him. Two thousand years of prophetic accounts, although quoted from and abridged, are not available to us at the present in a correctly translated, complete and original form. But again I suppose that is to be expected since books deteriorate with time, and could only be restored by revelation once the last surviving physical copy had been altered or had otherwise perished.

Where to find correct and complete translations

In addition to the Inspired Translation of the Bible which corrects some canonical errors by restoring the original meaning, the Lord gave the following revelation to Joseph Smith Jr. regarding the Apocrypha:

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha—There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly;

There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men.

Verily, I say unto you, that it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated.

Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth; And whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom;

And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited. Therefore it is not needful that it should be translated. Amen. (Doctrine and Covenants 91)

Therefore quoting an apocryphal source does not invalidate a canonical source. There are many truths in the apocrypha, and they are mostly translated correctly, but arguably with too many errors to warrant inclusion as "canon". This should assuage irrational dogmatism and truth claims on the basis solely of what is "canon" and what is not. The true standard for discerning is the Spirit of truth.


The objection against author's alluding and appealing to various other writings reveal our biased presuppositions that we are imposing on them. This expectation that the books of the Bible should contain absolutely original and fresh content of stories, teachings, is due to traditional dogmas about perception of the Canon as well as divine inspiration, both of which are circular in its nature. Such presuppositions should be challenged.

After I first learned about the Mesopotamian flood myths, my childish and default reaction was to presuppose that those must be copied from the Genesis story of the flood. Later, I realized how silly and ignorant are these assumptions caused by strange tradition or dogmas of men that we impose upon the holy scripture.

The Canonical list of the Bible is subjective and arbitrary. The Sadducees likely rejected all prophets, because their writings make them uncomfortable. Early Gnostic leader Marcion rejected the whole Bible of the Old Testament for the same reason; his New Testament was also heavily edited and selective. Martin Luther rejected the epistle of James for obvious reasons. I encourage you to start studying all those books of the Apocrypha, and even the Jewish writings, to learn more about the doctrines.

  • 1
    First, I’m not the one who down voted you. But I did want to clear up a few small issues. 1) The canon wasn’t arbitrary. Inclusion was based upon Apostolic authority. If it was written by, or approved by, an Apostle, it was included. Books that were excluded were not backed by any Apostolic authority. Furthermore, most of them contain material that is contrary to scripture. In one of the pseudepigraphal works on the nativity, Joseph is subjected to the bitter waters to determine if he was lying about laying with Mary. But bitter waters were only applied to women suspected of adultery.
    – AFrazier
    Commented Apr 16 at 4:15
  • 2
    2) Flood myths exist in most cultures around the world. Stories like The Epic of Gilgamesh are often given preference as the original, and it is claimed that the Bible copies it. However, the similarity in stories around the world suggests that all cultures experienced the same event, meaning that it actually happened. The Epic of Gilgamesh is only the oldest telling of the story because the Sumerians were the first to develop writing. But if the event actually occurred, then every culture had its own version, and none predate any other. The Sumerians were just the first to write it down.
    – AFrazier
    Commented Apr 16 at 4:21
  • 1
    In which case, if everyone had the same story, and they all passed down their version through the descendants of their culture, adding or taking away relative to their own beliefs, customs, cultures, and religion, who’s to say that the Bible version isn’t the right one? The Bible has proven true in a great number of historical events.
    – AFrazier
    Commented Apr 16 at 4:25
  • The Canon is arbitrary and subjective, especially the OT Apocrypha selection acc to this topic context, the Canon of NT authors was very wide. Apostolic authority is a circular reasoning of RC tradition. About the flood myths, it's about its human authorship, not about its historicity, refuting the idea that the content should be non human and absolutely unique and original.
    – Michael16
    Commented Apr 16 at 6:02

You must log in to answer this question.