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What is the Book of Noah?


Book of Noah
Question: "What is the Book of Noah?"

Answer:
There is no “Book of Noah” in existence today. However, written material ascribed to Noah is mentioned in two books of Old Testament pseudepigrapha (books that falsely claim to have been written by well-known Old Testament characters) as well as in some fragments in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In the non-canonical Book of Jubilees, Abraham calls Isaac to him and gives him some instructions regarding sacrifices and the eating of sacrificial animals. He says that he is repeating these instructions as “I have found it written in the books of my forefathers, and in the words of Enoch, and in the words of Noah” (Jubilees 21:10). Since these instructions are not found in the Bible in connection with Noah, many feel this refers to some other written source that had Noah’s name attached to it. Earlier in Jubilees, this “book” is described more fully. One of the good spirits describes its conflict with evil spirits who are attempting to lead Noah’s descendants astray. Most of the spirits are bound and condemned, but some are left as a test. God commands one of the good spirits to instruct Noah so that he and his descendants can avoid any traps:

“And one of us He commanded that we should teach Noah all their medicines; for He knew that they would not walk in uprightness, nor strive in righteousness.

“And we did according to all His words: all the malignant evil ones we bound in the place of condemnation and a tenth part of them we left that they might be subject before Satan on the earth.

“And we explained to Noah all the medicines of their diseases, together with their seductions, how he might heal them with herbs of the earth.

“And Noah wrote down all things in a book as we instructed him concerning every kind of medicine. Thus the evil spirits were precluded from (hurting) the sons of Noah.

“And he gave all that he had written to Shem, his eldest son; for he loved him exceedingly above all his sons” (Jubilees 10:10–14).

So Jubilees refers to material that was written down by Noah. The author may have indeed quoted from some existing work, a “Book of Noah,” or he may have simply ascribed things to Noah without any written source.

In the Book of Enoch (another pseudepigraphal book) chapters 50—59, there is an extensive section that refers to Noah. This is often assumed to be a fragment from the Book of Noah. Enoch, Noah’s grandfather, is the narrator. He reveals to Noah what will come to pass as well as some hidden knowledge that he will need to know. Chapter 106 gives a “prophecy” about Noah and the destruction that will come on the earth. Once again, the author of Enoch may have been quoting from some exiting work, or he may have simply been using his imagination to communicate a message.

The Book of Noah is the subject of much scholarly study and speculation, but the evidence for it as a separate work is scant. However, scholars are forever in search of new angles to study. There is also an effort to put the Bible and the pseudepigraphal books (and all other ancient religious writings) on equal footing. Both are seen to be simply a record of ancient religious thoughts and experiences. If the Bible is nothing more than this, then it deserves no more attention than any other ancient religious document. However, if the Bible is God’s revealed Word, then it is more than mere religious reflections and as such deserves to be handled differently. The Book of Noah may make for an interesting topic of academic study, but the Bible explains the way to live and the way to eternal life.

Recommended Resource: The Canon of Scripture by F.F. Bruce

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