December 5th, 2005 08:05 EST
Why have particular religious documents that were generally accepted as valid and legitimate by early fathers of the Catholic Church, such as the Book of Enoch, come to be excluded from Biblical canon, and are instead regarded as apocryphal and heretical?
For the same reason that texts like the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Gnostic Gospels that were found in Nag Hamadi were discredited ". These documents were deemed by the Catholic Church to be politically inconvenient, and therefore dismissed as authoritative scripture, because they conflicted or did not support the Catholic agenda for Christianity.
There are two types of canon: closed (in which only certain texts are included, to never be amended or appended) and open (in which any text may be added or removed as desired, at any time, per interpretation of the criteria).
The Bible is considered closed, succinctly punctuated and suggested by the profound words of John the Baptist, in 22:18 and 22:19 of the cleverly placed Revelations at the Bible`s conclusion:
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book, if anyone adds to them, may God add to him the plagues which are written in this book. "
"If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, may God take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book. "
This declaration helped to entreat and ensure that the Bible, as presented, was regarded as final, complete and absolute. However, during the first 300 years of Christianity, their religious literature and interpretations were much more diverse, liberal and unrestricted. Documents like the Gnostic Gospels and the Book of Enoch were widely accepted as canon, by the Church and the various Christian sects. There was plenty of room in belief for a Jesus who was divine and one who was human and one who was both.
And then " the town wasn`t big enough anymore for all of them.
What changed? Not the documents, but the opinions of them. History is written by the consensus of the winners of contest. Imagine how different things would be throughout the last 2000 years if Christianity had lost favor and Gnosticism, paganism or the Roman gods had been the victor.
The Catholic Church admits that, in the beginning, the Bible was collated by the collaboration and conspiracy of Man and not handed down directly from God, complete in the form we now know it. They don`t say that in this exact phrasing, but that`s the gist of it. There`s really no point in them denying that there was editing involved, since all of this information is well documented history.Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity as the state religion of Rome because he sought to unify the people and solidify Roman authority through the Catholic Church.
It was simply an expedient and practical political maneuver; Constantine didn`t really believe in God-- Christian or otherwise. He did not care what anyone believed, as long as they all believed the same thing. And at the time, he recognized that Christianity was gaining popularity and pantheism was losing. So he integrated elements of pagan beliefs with Christian beliefs to ease and facilitate the transition of consolidation. What the Emperor said was law, or else. This is how and why Rome, traditionally a pantheistic nation until that point in history, came to worship the one true God " of Christianity, and abandoned their Roman gods. This was essentially the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church. And this is how the Catholic Church became the ultimate ambassador and arbiter of God`s divine word and will. But in order to manifest the authority of the Roman Empire through the power of Catholicism and the Church, Church leaders needed to determine what extant religious literature best supported and augmented their authority. To unify the people under one state approved religion, they first had to unify the religious doctrine into some kind of coherent and consistent whole, by establishing what would be considered as official doctrine. Church leaders also needed to resolve the conflict/ dispute between Gnostic Christians and Orthodox Christians " as well as disagreements within Orthodox Christianity. And they accomplished this task in such meetings as the First Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, held in 325 to deliberate on the controversy over the nature of the Trinity and Jesus`s divinity. Ordered by Constantine, this congregation is also known as the Council of Nicaea.
Generally, these early Church fathers, however, actually did believe in God, and so they genuinely believed that they were merely separating divinely inspired writings from those designate spurious and unauthentic.
They figured that the best way to minister God`s will to the people was to ADminister it, and to do that, their power must be definitive and certain.
So they gradually debated and decided which texts were most conducive to re-enforcing their assumed power and authority, and that meant associating themselves with God`s power and authority. The Clergy had to become agents and mediators of God. Effectively, the Church WAS God, the voice of God, the equivalent of God in all matters and practical terms. The Church was divinely ordained " sacred, sacrosanct and unsuspect.
Logically, everything that promoted or indicated that Jesus was more Man than God, plus anything that mentioned influence of the sacred feminine, was rejected because it undermined the authority of these fundamentally Christian " MEN.
Of course, that`s not how The Catholic Church explains it. According to them, there were strict criteria that determined what documents would comprise The Holy Bible.
- Apostolic Origin " attributed to and based on the preaching/teaching of the first-generation apostles (or their close companions).
- Universal Acceptance " acknowledged by all major Christian communities in the ancient world (by the end of the fourth century).
- Liturgical Use " read publicly when early Christian communities gathered for the Lord`s Supper (their weekly worship services).
- Consistent Message " containing a theological outlook similar or complementary to other accepted Christian writings.
Why is the Book of Enoch, once revered and accepted as authentic scripture by both Jews and Christians omitted from the Bible? The Book of Enoch was eventually " inevitably-- dubbed apocryphal and heretical because it fell into disfavor among powerful theologians due to its controversial descriptions of the nature of the fallen angels. Even though much of the text prophesizes a judgment day, reminiscent of the eschatological and apocalyptic literature of Revelations. Allegedly, 200 angels, lusting after beautiful human women, agreed to defy protocol and mate with these women, bearing children. As such, humanity became defiled and corrupted, an abomination of sorts whose offspring unleashed their ill-begotten and undeserved powers ruthlessly upon the world, and thusly deserved to be destroyed for straying from God. Like the myth of Prometheus, Enoch tells a story of divine essence descending from the heavens to endow and imbue mankind with divine knowledge " which was sacrilege. By its description, Enoch appears to refer to Wiccan and pagan beliefs and practices. Yet another example of religious metaphorical parable assumed as literal fact, no different from the Greeks and Romans asserting their gods as explanations. According to the Book of Enoch, it was not Adam and Eve who were responsible for the Fall of Man, but Angels. Sweet Mother of God!
Simply put, the Book of Enoch conflicted with and challenged the word and will of the Church. The concept of Sin was a necessary component for the Church " I mean God "to keep the unwashed masses in line. Humans had to be blamed for their inborn iniquity.
And for no reason other than because the Clergy said so, this book " among other heretical " documents " was banned. What was holy is now heresy. What was true yesterday is no longer true.
In other words, the Church was suddenly offended and threatened by it because they realized that the text did not coincide with what they dictated as true. Sorry for the confusion, we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, but turns out we were mistaken. The Book of Enoch wasn`t actually divinely inspired " after all, as everyone thought. Move along. Nothing to see here.