Father J. T. Milik took nearly 30 years to publish the fragments from the pseudepigraphic Book of Enoch found in the Dead Sea Scroll caves in the 1950s. During those years, other scholars were not allowed to study and write about these highly significant documents, which affect our understanding of the history of Judaism and Christianity.

Why couldn’t other scholars study and write about them, the incredulous layperson will ask. Because of a foolish scholarly convention, which states that until a scholar assigned to publish a manuscript actually publishes, no one else can do so—even if it takes nearly 30 years!

It’s hard to justify such a ridiculous convention, and many scholars have spoken out against it in recent years.a The usual justification for it is that it encourages a thorough study of a document before rushing into print.

In the case of the Enoch fragments, Milik announced to the scholarly world as early as the 1950s that the fragments of 1 Enoch 37–71 that he held under wraps would be shown in his publication to be a Christian, not a Jewish, composition, and that this section of the book could be dated sometime after the New Testament period. In the words of Professor James H. Charlesworth of Princeton Theological Seminary:

“Since the 50s J. T. Milik promised us he could prove that 1 Enoch 37–71 is not Jewish, but indeed a Christian composition that considerably postdates the New Testament period (50–150).”

As a result, scholars in effect called a moratorium on any use of this section of Enoch to elucidate Christian origins and Early Judaism.

When Milik finally published his Enoch fragments, his interpretations, as well as the fragments, were finally subjected to scrutiny by his fellow scholars. And almost all of them concluded that Milik was wrong: To revert once again to the words of Professor Charlesworth:

“It became obvious that Milik had not proved his position.… Repeatedly the specialists on 1 Enoch have come out in favour of the Jewish nature of this section of 1 Enoch and its first-century A.D. origin, and probable pre-70 date. The list of specialists on 1 Enoch arguing for this position has become overwhelmingly impressive: Isaac, Nickelsburg, Stone, Knibb, Andersen, Black, VanderKam, Greenfield and Suter. The consensus communis is unparalleled in almost any other area of research; no specialist now argues that 1 Enoch 37–71 is Christian and postdates the first century.”

So now, after nearly 30 years, scholars can once again look to Enoch to help elucidate such concepts as the “Son of Man,” which figures so prominently in New Testament sources as well as in the text of Enoch.

A seminar of leading Enoch scholars from around the world recently concluded that “it would have been far better for [Milik] to have published [the Dead Sea Scroll fragments of Enoch] with a succinct introduction two decades earlier,” rather than wait until his full study of Enoch had been completed.

Our sister publication, Biblical Archaeology Review has sensibly argued that after a reasonable period all scholars should be able to study and write about newly found manuscripts.b It is a position that continues to commend itself. We earnestly urge the scholarly world to address this matter.