This question came up recently in the monthly Bible study that I’ve hosted for some friends for several years now, which caused some great conversation in the group, and I felt was worthy of sharing as a blog post.
Jude is one of those short letters of the New Testament that if you blink, you’ll miss it. It only has 1 chapter and is located right before the book of Revelation. The author is identified in the first verse as “Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.” Traditionally speaking, this James is James the brother of Jesus, making Jude also a brother of Jesus, as mentioned in Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3 (where he is called Judas).
The text in question is Jude 14-15:
14 Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
This appears to be a quote from the pseudepigraphical book 1 Enoch 1:9. A pseudepigraphical work is one that falsely claims to have been written by someone else. In this case, 1 Enoch is a book that was written between the 3rd and 1st century BC but claims to have been written by Enoch, when Enoch himself lived before Noah. To say that there is a disconnect there is to put it mildly.
As we discussed this in my Bible study group, I quickly checked the commentary of some of my Bibles and found this in the Apologetics Study Bible on pg 1883:
Some think that Jude actually quoted from the historical Enoch, a man who was taken up to heaven before death (Gn 5:23-24). It is difficult to see, though, how Jude could have cited an actual oral tradition from the historical Enoch since the book of Enoch was in circulation in Jude’s day and was well known in Jewish circles. Jude almost certainly derived the citation from the book of 1 Enoch, and the latter is clearly pseudepigraphical. We would be faced with having to say that Jude knew that this specific quotation from 1 Enoch derived from the historical Enoch. It is better to conclude that Jude quoted the pseudepigraphical Enoch and that he also believed that the portion he quoted represents God’s truth. Jude’s wording does not demand that he thought we have an authentic oracle from the historical Enoch.
We do not need to conclude, however, that the entire book should be part of the canon of Scripture (cp. Augustine, City of God 15.23)
To briefly deviate from this commentary, here is what Augustine (354-430 AD) wrote in City of God, book 15, chapter 23 regarding the book of Enoch:
Let us omit, then, the fables of those scriptures which are called apocryphal, because their obscure origin was unknown to the fathers from whom the authority of the true Scriptures has been transmitted to us by a most certain and well-ascertained succession. For though there is some truth in these apocryphal writings, yet they contain so many false statements, that they have no canonical authority. 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. But it is not without reason that these writings have no place in that canon of Scripture which was preserved in the temple of the Hebrew people by the diligence of successive priests; for their antiquity brought them under suspicion, and it was impossible to ascertain whether these were his genuine writings, and they were not brought forward as genuine by the persons who were found to have carefully preserved the canonical books by a successive transmission. So that the writings which are produced under his name, and which contain these fables about the giants, saying that their fathers were not men; are properly judged by prudent men to be not genuine; just as many writings are produced by heretics under the names both of other prophets, and more recently, under the names of the apostles, all of which, after careful examination, have been set apart from canonical authority under the title of Apocrypha.
As I said before, to say that there is a disconnect is to put it mildly.
Back to the commentary on Jude 14-15 from the Apologetic Study Bible:
Jude probably cited a part of 1 Enoch that he considered to be a genuine prophecy. Perhaps he referred to Enoch because the adversaries treasured their work, and therefore he used their ammunitions against them.
This is similar to what we do with the minimal facts argument for the Resurrection.
It is possible that the false teachers rejected Christian tradition about Christ’s coming and hence Jude cited the prophecy from Enoch. Indeed, the content of the prophecy is not remarkable, assuring the readers that the Lord will truly judge the ungodly.
Citing a quotation from another source does not indicate that the entire work is inspired, even if the saying drawn upon is true. For instance, Paul quoted Aratus (Phaenomena 5) in Acts 17:28, and he surely did not intend to teach that the entire work is inspired Scripture. Similarly, he quoted Epimenides in Ti 1:12, without any notion that he accepted the truth of the whole work.
Some might think that the citation here is different because Jude said Enoch “prophesied.” The verb “prophecy” is sometimes used to designate canonical Scripture (Mt 15:7; 1 Pt 1:10). But the verb is also used to say that a certain utterance or saying is from God. For example, Caiaphas prophesied regarding the fate of Jesus, even though he was an unbeliever (Jn 11:51). Zechariah prophesied when the Spirit filled him at the Baptist’s birth (Lk 1:67). Women prophesied when the believing church gathered as well (1 Co 11:4-5; cp. Ac 19:6; Rv 11:3). A prophecy may derive from God and still not be a part of canonical Scripture. We cannot necessarily draw the conclusion from the words “Enoch prophesied” that the work was considered to be Scripture. It would have been more telling if Jude had used the phrase “It is written” with reference to 1 Enoch. Jude simply drew from a part of the work that he considered to be true.
We know that the Qumran community valued 1 Enoch but did not include the book in its canon of Scripture. Nor do any major Christian groups consider 1 Enoch to be inspired Scripture today. Jude cited it for its truth, but he did not claim inspiration for the entire work.