20 November 2008

The Book of Enoch (Pt 7) - The Angels of Jude

In continuing to look at the controversial discussion on angels and women procreating in Genesis 6, as laid out in detail in the book of Enoch and elsewhere, I wish to share a bit of modern scholarship on the topic from the recently released Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, from the discussion of the book of Jude. This book breaks down the verses and discusses them from various angles; NT Context, OT Context, and Jewish Context (with others). While this section is quite lengthy, I will try to compact it some, but this post will be a bit more lengthy than previous posts, so as to not lose the content.

In this section on Jude, they also tie it in and deal somewhat with a similar mention in 2 Peter:
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; (2 Peter 2:4-5)
Notice, again, the connection between the angels sinning followed by mention of Noah that I mentioned in previous articles. Then, in moving to Jude.
And the angels that did not keep within their original authority, but abandoned their proper sphere, he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for the Judgment of the Great Day. And S’dom, ‘Amora and the surrounding cities, following a pattern like theirs, committing sexual sins and perversions, lie exposed as a warning of the everlasting fire awaiting those who must undergo punishment. (Jude 6-7 CJB)
The following are excerpts from the author on the topic:
The most plausible interpretation of Jude 4 is that the author has in mind ancient Jewish prophecies found in the Scriptures, for these are the examples that he proceeds to list in vv. 5-7, 11...These ancient prophecies may, in Jude's mind, include prophetic words from 1 Enoch.

Under the assumption that the OT background to Jude 6 is Gen. 6:1-4, we must ask what the latter passage means. There have been three primary interpretations: (1) the "sons of God" are angels who crossed species lines and married human women, producing "Nephilim" who were "heroes of old, men of renown" (Gen. 6:4); (2) the "sons of God" were kings, judges and other members of aristocratic nobility who displayed their own greatness by indulging in polygamy and creating harems; (3) the "sons of God" were human males from the putatively godly line of Seth who freely married women from ungodly lines.

Nowadays the majority of interpreters from across the theological spectrum accept the angel interpretation...This interpretation is assumed by the LXX, and supported by most early Jewish exegesis, though not quite all, as well as by all the earliest church fathers and some later ones (including Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, and Lactantius), but not by some later fathers (Chrysostom, Augustine, Theodoret). "Sons of God" (in the plural) refers elsewhere in the OT to angels - certainly so in Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7, and probably so in Ps. 29:1; 89:7; Dan. 3:25 (where bar-'elahin underlies the traditional rendering "mighty ones" or the like found in most English versions). Yet the interpretation does not easily fit the context of the flood, since that judgment is pronounced against humanity. (I fail to see the issue here personally...if the marriage produced wicked offspring, mixing the blood of species, and if the angels and their offspring taught mankind all kinds of sinful practices, weaponry, war, astrology, etc. then all of mankind has been tainted by this wickedness, and therefore mankind needed cleansed...save Noah and his family who had not been tainted by this union and its teachings - JM). According to Jesus, angels do not marry (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25) (do not marry each other...that is about the most you can take from this reference by Jesus, that the common practice of marriage is a covenant that angels do not engage in, in their spiritual existence - since he is relating it to man in his post-resurrected state. However, this does not in anyway make a case for the inability of angels to marry or procreate with other species, which is the case in Gen 6 - JM), and although excellent efforts have been undertaken to avoid this and other objections to the angel interpretation, the niggle make it less than a sure thing.
I will skip the majority of the refutation on the authors part of the view that "sons of God" refers to kings, nobles, and other aristocrats, since personally I have found this to be a less often used view in this discussion. But in brief, his conclusion to the refutations is:
...there is no linguistic warrant outside of Gen. 6:1-4 for supposing that "sons of God" refers to "divine kings" or, more generally, to aristocratic ruling figures, wheras the reading of "angels" has a long track record, including the LXX (Septuagint - JM).
He then continues in the sons of Seth view:
The view that "sons of God" refers to the line of Seth, while daughters of human beings" refers to non-Sethian women, not only suffers from an absence of philological support but also has few elements in its favor compared with the "diving kings" view.
To me it seems like a pretty big leap to say the sons of Seth and the ungodly human marriage would produce such notable and giant offspring that would so taint mankind that they would need exterminated. Breaking covenant is one thing, but throughout the rest of the OT, we find other sons of godly Israel intermarrying with pagan neighbors, and no such odd offspring or repercussions come about.

He goes on in the following sub-sections to state:
The interpretation of Gen. 6:1-4 that takes "the sons of God" to be angels (often called "Watchers") who have sexual intercourse with women is widespread in early Judaism (e.g., 1 En. 6-19; 21; 86-88; Jub. 4:15, 22; 5:1; CD=A II, 17-19; 1QapGen ar II, 1; Tg. Ps.-J. Gen. 6:1-4; T. Reub. 5:6-7; T. Naph. 3:5; 2 Bar. 56:10-14).

However we understand "the sons of God" in the Hebrew of Gen. 6:1-4, the LXX refers to them as angeloi, which word is picked up in both Jude 6 and 2 Pet. 2:4 and, in the NT, is almost always used of angels, rarely "messengers," and never of aristocratic figures such as kings and nobles. In other words, on the basis of philology alone, the angel interpretation seems most credible, unless one accepts the synthesis of Waltke and others who see that the "divine kings" are "possessed" by fallen angels, combining the strengths of the first two interpretations.
So, all in all, another mostly positive testimony for the historic view.

Here is an article I found that goes into a lot of interpretive detail on the subject. Though I do not agree with all of what is said, much of it provides good insight in the matter. Click HERE

View the other parts of the topic

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

11 November 2008

Descended into hell? (Pt 9): Testimony from the Church Fathers

In this part, I pick up sort of where I left off in the previous part, looking again at what the early church fathers had to say on the topic of Jesus descending into Hades, as we have been examining this often misunderstood phrase from the Apostle's Creed.

The book on the church fathers that I have been using gives four main "proof texts" for the understanding of Jesus' descent into Hades, one of which being Ephesians 4:9 as discussed in the last part, and the others are:

For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. (Acts 2:25-27)

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)

For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. (1 Peter 4:6)
Again, the purpose of my quoting of the early church fathers is not so much because they have more authority, but because of the light they shed on the reason and purpose and teaching surrounding the phrase in the Apostle's Creed. So many churches seek to explain it away, and have all but ignored the original intent, and have caused much confusion. Here is what the historic church has believed concerning the subject:
Christ rose from the place of the dead, and raised up the race of Adam from the grave below. Melito (c.170).
They fully believed and understood the Scriptures to teach that when Jesus rose, he rose from somewhere. He had not simply ceased to exist for three days, nor had he been asleep, and he had not yet gone to the heavenly realm, but he had been busy and had returned from his work.
For their benefit, "He also descended into the lower parts of the earth," to behold with His eyes the state of those who were resting from their labors...For Christ did not come merely for those who believed on Him in the time of Tiberius Caesar. Nor did the Father exercise His providence only for the men who are presently alive. Rather, He exercised it for all men altogether, who from the beginning...have both feared and loved God.

It was for this reason, too, that the Lord descended into the regions beneath the earth, preaching His advent there also. And he [declared] the remission of sins received by those who believe in Him.

He gathered from the ends of the earth into His Father's fold the children who were scattered abroad. And He remembered His own dead ones, who had previously fallen asleep. He came down to them so that He might deliver them.

For three days He dwelt in the place where the dead were, as the prophet said concerning Him. "And the Lord remembered His dead saints who slept formerly in the land of the dead. And he descended to them to rescue and save them." The Lord Himself said, "As Jonah remained three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so will the Son of man be in the heart of the earth." Irenaeus (c.180) - four separate quotes
I could go on with multiple other quotes, but I think after all the previous parts of this series, that ending the topic with a few additional quotes would be sufficient to show that we as a modern church have strayed far from the original and historical understanding of this (among other) doctrines. I will end with just one more:
Hades is not supposed by us to be a bare cavity, nor some subterranean sewer of the world. Rather it is a vast deep space in the interior of the earth...For we read that Christ in His death spent three days in the heart of the earth...He did not ascend into the heights of heaven before descending into the lower parts of the earth. This was so that He might there [in Hades] make the patriarchs and prophets partakers of Himself. Tertullian (c.210)
As high of an importance as most Reformed churches place on adherence to the Apostle's Creed as a test of orthodoxy, I find it odd that they would reinterpret parts of it to their liking in the face of such overwhelming information against the view. This understanding of these verses was the common doctrine of those instrumental in forming the early creeds. Most modern churches strike out at and/or reinterpret this very doctrine of Christ's descent into Hades as taught in the Creed and history; are we to assume they feel the framers of the creed were in error on this point; and if they were in error on this phrase, how can we hold any of the other parts of the creed as a irrefutable, beyond discussion, test or orthodoxy?

View the other parts of the topic

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

10 November 2008

Bleeding the Church: Expecting Something for Nothing?

Some of you who know me, know of my long time and heavy involvement in music. I have been in many bands over the past 22 years, but have also been a music collector for longer. I have a large collection of music related items, have been a supporter and promoter of Christian music since the 80's, even running my own underground music magazine for a handful of years in the late 80's/early 90's, and today continue to work with and write for a currently published music magazine. This article results from my years of involvement in music, as well as recent events that spawned this story. I wrote the majority of this articles almost two years ago, and found the text buried on my pen drive, and decided to finish it and post it here. This story is also painting with broad strokes often, and is not directed at any specific event in my life, but a general overview of my experiences.

05 November 2008

Eschatology Informs Your Worldview

Just thought I'd share this excellent video by Gary DeMar.

02 November 2008

Old Testament Studies

I have recently begun a concerted effort to study the Old Testament in more depth, for the purpose of more fully grasping the weight and purpose of what is said in the New Testament. I fully stand behind the idea that much of the confusion in the modern church, leading to many odd and misleading doctrines, comes from a faulty, or often totally absent reading/understanding of the words and language of what was laid out in the OT.

I wish to share some of the books I have begun using for this study, and if you know of any others that are great, please let me know. These are just a few that I currently have in my possession for the study. The first being picture above, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. This massive 1239 page volume promises to hold a wealth of wisdom as it looks to take the words of the NT and find their OT reference point. Click the book photo or link to read some great reviews and additional information.

Another book I will be using is "An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach" by Bruce K. Waltke. I do not know much about it aside from the great reviews it got. The author is listed as being one of the outstanding OT scholars around, and is the professor of OT at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. I did find it odd that some reviewers listed him as leaning towards dispensational understandings in some area, which I thought strange for someone supposedly Reformed, but noticed he did get his ThD from Dallas Theological Seminary), so I am hoping it is not too persuasive in his writing.

Another book I recently heard of and acquired which sounds promising, is "A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context" by Scot McKnight. The book looks at Jesus and his dealing with national Israel and its role as God's holy people in the first century world, and his message calling them to repentance.

I see people too often taking words of the NT way out of context and making odd applications to today's church, when the thrust of what was being said was directed at the specific first century people, under specific scenarios applicable to their culture and issues of that time. This is not to say that I don't feel we can glean applications from most all of scripture, but far too often, the original intent and application is ignored, unknown or just abused beyond all reason, and the true thrust of what is being said gets butchered. So far, I have begun reading the prologue, and have been pleased with the direction this book is heading.

A couple recent NT Wright book purchases which I have also begun reading, are directed along the same line, and so far have proved very enlightening and helpful to my studies. The most recent book which goes for the throat of modern understandings in various areas, and gets to some of the roots of the historic meaning of issues, is "Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church." One of the reviews on the back cover states
Responsible Christians must carefully study this book. It uniquely meets the challenge facing the Church with recovering the original, radical understanding of resurrection, salvation, and the Good News of life now in the Kingdom of God. - Dallas Willard
It sounds very promising and helpful.

Another of his books that I actually began reading a couple months ago, is volume three of the Christian Origins and the Question of God series, entitled "The Resurrection of the Son of God." I have read a good chunk of the beginning and have been well pleased on the amount of great historical depth he presents. I have been on the search for the first two volumes (hoping to find them in hardback at a reasonable price), but know my continued reading in this volume will be beneficial.

And the last major set I will mention (but not by far the last of the books I will use), is a nice set I recently acquired, entitled "The IVP Bible Background Commentary" and has a volume on both the New and Old Testament. It appears to be a very interesting commentary, which each verse/section presenting background information and references that will hopfully aid in my study.

There are various other titles I have gleaned from recently, and I am always on the lookout for books to further and deepen my study in this area, so feel free to post suggestions of what has been beneficial in your studies in this area.

I am sure as the study continues, I will be sharing pieces of what I find in these volumes, and welcome any discussion you may wish to share.