By Larry Ray Hafley
From Indiana: “Hebrews 11:5 states Enoch was translated that he should not see death, but Hebrews 11:13 states that all of these (I assume this to include Enoch also) died in faith. Could you possibly explain in your column this apparent contradiction?”
Here is a case where an acknowledged assumption would make one verse cross another. So, why the assumption? The Hebrew writer says Enoch did not see death. He lists others who did-Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Jacob. Obviously, then, when he says “these all died in faith” he has reference to the ones who died and not to the exception which he himself lists.
Robert Milligan, in his commentary on Hebrews, addresses himself to this very question.
“. . . But of whom lea the Apostle here speak? Who are the `all’ who died in faith? Some, as Oecumenlua, Theophylact, and Prlmasius, think that our author refers here to the aforesaid faithful antediluvian Patriarchs, as well as to the postdlluvian. But in this they are manifestly to error. The context makes it quite obvious, that only Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob are included In this remark. They are the persons who received the promises (Gal. 3:161, and who might have returned to their fatherland had they been Inclined to do so. But they all preferred remaining as strangers and pilgrims to Cancan, because their hearts were set on the heavenly country into which they hoped to enter soon.
“Not having received the promises; What promises? Manifestly not the verbal promises; for these they did receive (Gal. 3:16): but the word `promises’ (epangVai) is used here to denote the things promised. These they did not receive during their earthly pilgrimage; they only saw them afar off, and `greeted them as the wanderer greets his longed-for home, even when be comes in sight of h at a distance; drawing to himself, as it were, magnetically and embracing, with inward love, that which is yet star off:” (Robert Milligan, Commentary on Hebrews, p. 400).
As Milligan suggests, Enoch was not a part of those who received the promises. Look at verse 15. “And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.” To whom does “they” refer? It does not include Enoch. He was not the one who was called out of Chaldea (Gen. 12:1-4; Heb. 11:8).
Admittedly, there are difficulties in some Biblical texts that we might not know as much about as we would like to know. However, let us remember that God is right, and His word is eternal. Let us be slow to charge those who were moved by the Spirit with writing error. We may unwittingly charge the Lord with mistakes in so doing. Examine, study, question and seek to learn more about what you do not understand. It is good that our querist has submitted this question, but let us all approach such questions with a deep reverence for the greatness of our God.
Truth Magazine XIX: 32, pp. 507-508
June 19, 1975