In seminary a fellow student told me about the worst sermon he’d ever heard. It was based on this verse:

Genesis 5.24 KJV
And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

The preacher began with this verse, paused, and continued, “And lemme tell you what Enoch was not: Enoch was not faithless! Enoch was not afraid! Enoch was not weak!” And so on. The preacher listed all sorts of things Enoch presumably was not.

Based on what? Well, here’s the entirety of what the bible has on חֲנ֥וֹךְ/Khenókh, whom we know as Enoch ben Jared. (Not Enoch ben Cain; Ge 4.17 that’s a different guy.)

Genesis 5.18-24 NRSV
18 When Jared had lived one hundred sixty-two years he became the father of Enoch. 19 Jared lived after the birth of Enoch eight hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty-two years; and he died.
21 When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty-five years. 24 Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.

His name gets dropped in two genealogies. 1Ch 1.2, Lk 3.36 Jesus ben Sirach refers to him twice in his apocryphal book. Si 44.16, 49.14 NRSV Then:

Hebrews 11.5-6 NRSV
5 By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” Ge 5.24 For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” Si 44.16 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Jude 1.14-15 NRSV
14 It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “See, the Lord is coming with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all, and to convict everyone of all the 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 refers to 1 Enoch, another apocryphal book, which claims to have Enoch’s prophecies in it. The saying “Enoch walked with God” Ge 5.24 shows Enoch and the LORD had an interactive relationship, so likely Enoch did prophesy from time to time. Still, the reason 1 Enoch isn’t in the bible—isn’t even in Orthodox and Catholic bibles—is because it’s profoundly unlikely Enoch wrote it.

Anyway. As you can see, there’s very little about Enoch in the bible altogether, which means there’s not a lot we can say Enoch was, much less was not. I mean he mighta been weak and afraid, though Hebrews makes it clear he certainly had to have had faith.

Let’s dig into the little we have.

Enoch got raptured.

The first passage comes from a genealogical chart of Noah’s ancestors in Genesis 5. The chart follows a basic formula which Genesis uses more than once:

Patriarch P lived x many years, then fathered Q.
P lived y many years and fathered other kids.
P lived a total of x+y years, then died.
[Q becomes P] </loop>

Enoch broke the formula because it looks like he didn’t die. That’s how everybody has chosen to interpret וְאֵינֶ֕נּוּ כִּֽי לָקַ֥ח אֹת֖וֹ אֱלֹהִֽים/ve-eynénnu ki-leqákh otó Elohím, “and he [is] not, because God took him.” Took him where? Doesn’t say. Someplace where he didn’t die; yet someplace where he’s definitely gone from the earth, so we’re gonna stop marking his age, and stop him at 365 years old. (’Cause people seem to have lived about nine centuries back then.) He’s just… not.

What about the idea everybody dies, ’cause sin? Ro 5.12 Well God has every right to make exceptions. And he does. And he’s gonna: He’s gonna do it with all the Christians on earth when Jesus returns. Humans don’t have to die in our sins; Jesus took care of that. Yep, even retroactively: Jesus covers the Old Testament saints’ sins too.

Elijah of Tishbe is the best-known exception: He got raptured instead of dying. 2Ki 2.11 And lest you think Elijah is a special case, it’d seem Enoch set the precedent for it. The LORD appreciated Enoch walking with him so much, he raptured him too. He didn’t experience death, as the author of Hebrews stated. He 11.5 He didn’t die at age 365; the age simply marks a life-event, like how old the other patriarchs were when they fathered the next person in the genealogy. His father Jared did; his son Methuselah did; they got to experience nine centuries of life, but Enoch is technically still alive.

Yeah, it’s weird.

Enoch pleased God.

I know various Protestants who insist the authors of the New Testament never, ever quoted the apocrypha. I’m guessing they’ve never read any apocrypha, so of course they wouldn’t recognize an apocrypha reference if they ever came across it. Hebrews has one:

Hebrews 11.5 NRSV
5 By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” Ge 5.24 For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” Si 44.16

It was attested in Ecclesiasticus: The Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach, an apocryphal book written in Egypt, in Hebrew, the second century BC, by Shimon ben Yeshua ben Eliezer ben Sirakh. The title gets shortened to either Ecclesiasticus (which ain’t all that short, and gets confused with Ecclesiastes), or Ben Sira or Sirach. The author was an early Pharisee, and certainly the Pharisees read his book, adopted many of his ideas, and considered it inspired and authoritative. It’s why they added it to the Septuagint.

Shimon wrote this about Enoch:

Sirach 14.16 NRSV
Enoch pleased the Lord and was taken up,
an example of repentance to all generations.

Since humans tend to imagine salvation comes by karma instead of grace, it’s understandable that Shimon would figure Enoch got raptured because he somehow deserved rapturing. And the next line tells us how Shimon believed Enoch merited this special favor: Enoch’s rapture was “an example of repentance to all generations.” Which brings up the inevitable question: What’d Enoch repent of?

Well, more than likely the same thing every Christian repents of: Our own sins. We stepped away from our wicked generation and called out to God to rescue us, and trust him to do so. And I remind you: As a result, we’re getting raptured someday. Same as Enoch.

No, certainly not every repentant ancient got raptured. Although when Jesus returns, they will! Enoch just happened to experience it early.

See, it’s not karma which pleases God; it’s faith. Our faith in God justifies us. The author of Hebrews recognized this, and pointed out Enoch pleased God—and since she was writing about faith, faith was the way she reckoned Enoch had pleased God. It’s trusting him which pleases him. (Conversely, not trusting him bugs him.) It’s not our good works per se; certainly not when they’re done faithlessly, nor when we do ’em because we expect the works themselves merit anything. God wants us to trust him far more than he wants us to simply do good deeds.

Repentance reminds us Enoch wasn’t one of those impossible saints who was always good, always did the right and noble and fruitful thing, and never let butter melt in his mouth. He was a human same as any human. He sinned too. But he repented of those sins, walked with God, and had a close-enough relationship with God to where God said, “Come up here!” and kept him.

And of course the Enoch myths.

I’d rather not delve into the Enoch myths because they’re silly. But they exist, so I’ll summarize. Don’t want you getting blindsided when you stumble across them.

The most common Enoch myth is the Nefilim story: God wanted the Adamites, the pre-flood humans, to know his Law—or at least the difference between ritually clean and unclean animals for when they made ritual sacrifices. So he sent ’em an עִ֣יר/ir, a “watcher,” a certain species of angelic being from heaven. Da 4.13, 23 Its job was to teach the Law, more or less, to the Adamites. Other versions of the story have God send a whole crew of watchers to the Adamites. This myth may be what the apostle Stephen meant when he described the Law as handed down “by the disposition of angels.” Ac 7.53 KJV These watchers were the “sons of God” in that one confusing Genesis passage. Ge 6.1-4

In the myth, instead of tutoring the humans, the watchers bred with them and produced Nefilim. Kinda like a pedophile youth pastor. And Enoch was the one righteous human who told God on them—as if God isn’t already omniscient. So in gratitude, God took Enoch to heaven, showed him the ten heavens and all the cool stuff therein, and showed him the future and the End Times. More than that: God made him the ruler over the angels—a superangel, titled Metatrón, who got his own throne and a crown and was called “the lesser YHWH.”

If this sounds bothersome to you, you’re not the only one. It’s why the Enoch myths are considered myth, not scripture. But they’re still part of Pharisee and Jewish mystical tradition. They were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Pharisees in Jesus’s day knew them. And if they didn’t consider them scripture, they were at least part of the popular culture—so when we read about Enoch in Hebrews and Jude, you can see why these guys seemed to know more about Enoch than Genesis revealed. Jude even refers to both the Assumption of Moses and 1 Enoch.

Bothered Christians wanna find an explanation, any explanation, which’d mean Hebrews and Jude aren’t at all referring to Enoch myths. ’Cause in the way they understand bible, if the bible quotes a myth, it means the myth must be true. Which is silly, but that’s honestly what they believe. So if Jesus quoted the Iliad (not that he did) it means the Iliad was real… and the Greek gods really did fight in the Battle of Troy, and Achilles and Aeneas and Helen really were biological children of gods. There’s no room for fiction in the way they interpret bible.

But there is in mine, and I hope there is in yours. No, quoting 1 Enoch doesn’t make it true. You gotta think of the Enoch myth as the popular fiction of its day. It’s like when preachers quote their favorite movies in their sermons: It’s something most people are familiar with, it gets people’s attention, and it helps the preacher make a point. It doesn’t have to be true. Just like Jesus’s parables didn’t have to literally take place in order for him to teach us about his kingdom.

But it does go to show how popular fiction can subtly influence one’s theology. Whenever somebody talks about spiritual warfare, I often notice (but have long since stopped being surprised by) how much more people refer to Frank Peretti novels than scripture. Same with when people talk about the End Times, and how much more people refer to the Left Behind books than Revelation. Yeah, it makes me cringe. Yet here in the bible, here are two apostles who refer to the Enoch myths instead of Genesis. Some things never change.