Question from Mary on 3/2/2008:
Dear Father John,
Having recently been in a Diocese Old testament class I asked about "Enoch" from Chapter 5 of Genesis, the man who lived 365 years and walked with God and then "was no more" and I looked him up in the Jewish Enyclopedia online and found out that there are the "Books of Enoch" which would have been known during Jesus' lifetime and which are apparently quoted in Jude 1:14-15 and Enoch is mentioned as a great man of faith in Hebrews 11 as well. From what I could see the title "Son of Man" which Jesus used in reference to himself was a title which came out of these books. I looked them up online and they have translated versions to read so you can see how the books which are very old paint a picture of the Messiah. I am wondering if they were banished by the Jewish Rabbis for that reason as they were apparently lost until the 1700s when they were rediscovered in Ethiopia. They were very interesting to me as I guess Enoch was called the Prince of the Face of God by the Jewish people and I have a devotion to the Holy Face. The teacher for our Old Testament class held that the jewish people did not believe in life after death in the early period and that only later did some believe in the resurrection. She also said it would be wrong to say the serpent represented a fallen angel as they did not believe or know about the devil in the early periods either. It became very confusing for me...when could I bring in catholic tradition-- and when could I not do so-- when talking about the Old Testament. Can you help me with this? I ended up being a bit frustrated and decided I could never be a scripture scholar.
Answer by Fr. John Echert on 3/18/2008:
You are a better scholar than the teacher you describe, who repeats the nonsense that she learned at the hands of other modernist teachers. It is true the apocryphal work, The Book of Enoch, makes many references to the title Son of Man, which is not to say that this work created the concept but it manifests a title that was certainly known in the Old Testament period. Apocryphal works such as this can be useful--and dangerous--for what they reveal, but we must keep in mind that they are NOT divine revelation, by the very fact that they are not in the Bible. Such works typically borrow heavily upon what is known at the time but often mix in unorthodox details as well. Her comments about the serpent of Genesis reveal that she does not believe what is recorded in Genesis, but assumes that this--and probably much else in the Old Testament--is simply fiction by various ancient authors.
Best bet: do not argue with this teacher but either get out of the class and get through it, as best you can.