Diving Into the Strangest Apocryphal Book of the Bible
For the first several centuries of the Church’s history, there was no official approach to determining what was and what was not part of the Bible other than what most communities accepted. It would be several centuries after this before the books of the Bible were regularly bound in a single volume, called a Codex, thus cementing a particular concept of what was in the Bible and what was outside of it. But this process only really applies to the Western Church, the one that later identified itself as the Catholic Church and split during the Reformation. Other Christian communities the world over had their own books which they chose to accept as Canon, in other words, books that became bound in their own Bibles.
For books that are in the Catholic or Orthodox Bibles but not in Protestant Bibles, we tend to use the term deuterocanonical. The reason that they aren’t usually included in the Protestant Bible is because their status as sacred is in some dispute, even in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, which include them in the Bible but tend to relegate them to a slightly lower status. Beyond this there is a massive body of literature called the Apocrypha. While technically all deuterocanonical works are considered apocryphal, I use the distinct terms here to draw a clear line between works broadly accepted by some major traditions (deuterocanon) and works accepted by smaller, or even heretical communities (Apocrypha). The term “heretical” is not here a value judgment, but rather a recognition that these groups are part of the broader family of Christianity but some, like the Gnostic movements, break from the main church traditions in significant ways.
These books are all interesting in their own way, but the one that interests me most is a book considered canon by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church and no one else: First Enoch. While early fragments exist in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek, the only whole text we have is in the traditional liturgical language of the Ethiopian Churches: Ge’ez, which is part of the same massive language family as Hebrew and Aramaic. These churches, and this unique canonical choice, are a testament to the historic diversity…