Strange. That’s how biblical scholar Marcus Borg characterized the letter of Jude.

In Evolution of the Word, he wrote, “Jude is perhaps the strangest document in the New Testament. It is one of the shortest, about a page long, and is the most enigmatic.”

One of the interesting things about Jude is its several references to the Book of Enoch – a most fascinating book that is a compilation of apocalyptic writings from Second Temple Judaism (516 BCE – 70 CE).

The worldview expressed by Enoch played a formative role in the Maccabean revolt celebrated by Hanukkah and in the stories of Jesus as told by the Gospel writers.

Over a century ago, R.H. Charles, in an introduction to the Book of Enoch, wrote, “We study the Apocalypses to learn how our spiritual ancestors hoped against hope that God would make all right in the end.”

Jude, who powerfully emphasizes God’s judgement on the ungodly, views Enoch as something of a kindred spirit. He quotes the ancient apocalypse in verses 14b-15:

“See, the Lord comes with his countless holy ones, to execute judgement on everyone and to convict everyone about every ungodly deed they have committed in their ungodliness as well as all the harsh things that sinful ungodly people have said against him” (Contemporary English Bible).

In warning against falling away from the faith, Jude references the “angels who didn’t keep their position of authority but deserted their own home” (verse 6). This is another example of Jude’s reliance on Enoch.

In Enoch, these fallen angels are identified as the source of sin on earth. According to R. H. Charles, “All the wickedness of the world the Apocalyptist traces back to them.”

Why is this important? Because the question “Where does evil come from?” is ever with us.

Some theologies tell us it comes from within us. Others tell us that it is in the very nature of our social structures. Still others, like Enoch and Jude, tell us it comes from entities who have long been in rebellion against the Creator.

There is something to recommend in each of these perspectives. Because evil is undoubtedly alive and well, often seeming to be driven by its own life force, I find the perspective of Enoch to be worthy of serious consideration.

Equal in importance to Enoch’s understanding of evil is its articulation of hope. In its apocalyptic worldview, hope is outside human striving. It is not created by human intention. It is solely the will and work of God.

Expressive of this hope are the four archangels Enoch identifies: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Phanuel.

Michael is “merciful and long-suffering.” Raphael is “set over all the diseases and all the wounds of the children of men.” Gabriel is “set over all the powers.” Phanuel is “set over the repentance unto hope of those who inherit eternal life.”

In Enoch’s vision, evil is alive and well. Yet so is divine hope.

Divine hope is not dependent on our efforts. It comes from God alone.

It comes on the wings of angels who have power over those forces that hurt and harm. It comes on the wings of heavenly beings who are merciful, long-suffering and committed to the ways of repentance.

Is this hope real? I trust that it is.

I know that it is beautiful. I know that it has been around for a long time. I know that it has sustained many when desperation and despair seemed to rule the world.

As such, it is a hope deeply connected to the hope of Easter, a hope we are soon to celebrate.

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