22 February 2016

The Book of Enoch's Influence on the New Testament (Pt 5)

In the last part we looked at what Jude had to say about the judgment of the angels in chains and now I turn the attention to 2 Peter 2:4-11

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; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked...; then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. (2 Peter 2:4-11 ESV)

As we found in Jude, we have angels who sinned and were cast in chains awaiting judgment, followed by a mention of Noah, which reveals to us that the timing of this sinning of the angels was prior to the flood, and this is then followed by again mentioning a connection with Sodom’s destruction, and he also connects that to the lust of defiling passion and despising of authority in his own time.

While this section is usually understood by scholars as borrowing from the Jude passage, note that Peter adds a bit more to it than Jude, and that extra information he mentioned adds even more to the obvious connection between this verse and the Book of Enoch as his source.

Peter says not only that the angels were in chains awaiting judgment, but that they were in chains and cast into hell. Now the word here translated as “hell” is actually better translated as Tartarus, not Gehenna, which is typically used for the English word hell. Thayer’s Greek lexicon defines it as:

The name of the subterranean region, doleful and dark, regarded by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, where they suffer punishment for their evil deeds;

Tartarus is considered to be the deepest location in Sheol, and the Greeks taught that the gigantic Titans were chained and held there. Enoch however, says that this is the place where the fallen angels, the Watchers, were chained and held for judgment.

Now they shall say unto themselves: Our souls are full of unrighteous gain, but it does not prevent us from descending from the midst thereof into the burden of Sheol.

And after that their faces shall be filled with darkness
And shame before that Son of Man,
And they shall be driven from his presence,
And the sword shall abide before his face in their midst.

Thus spake the Lord of Spirits: This is the ordinance and judgement with respect to the mighty and the kings and the exalted and those who possess the earth before the Lord of Spirits.

And other forms I saw hidden in that place. I heard the voice of the angel saying: These are the angels who descended to the earth, and revealed what was hidden to the children of men and seduced the children of men into committing sin. (1 Enoch 63:10-64:1)

So we have Peter, who is considered to be borrowing from Jude, but could be himself borrowing directly from Enoch since we see he adds this additional element not in Jude. The end result is, we have two section of Holy Scripture that are clearly borrowing from the Book of Enoch for their doctrinal basis that is now part of our canon of Scripture. Also note, in neither instance do they attempt to fix or correct a view of the “Watchers procreating with women” view, but actually add comments that favor that view of Genesis 6.

But wait - there’s more! Flipping back to Peter’s first letter, chapter 3, we find yet another connection:

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 ESV)

So we have spirits in prison, and they are tied to, or originating from events surrounding and preceding Noah and the flood. And what event are we told in Scripture directly preceded the flood time period? Of course, Genesis 6:

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose… The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them… (Genesis 6:1-2, 4 ESV)

So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:7-8 ESV)

And of course, the Book of Enoch fills in the gaps with a story of what happened around that time period, and of which we have seen some of the NT writers have referenced from in their own writings, and never once is there any attempt made to correct the people on the Genesis 6 “Watchers with women” idea.

The verse in Peter is a verse that has perplexed scholars for some time. Many ideas have been discussed behind who these spirits are, where they were, and what was being preached to them. Finding answers to this dilemma is clearly almost impossible by relying strictly on the canon of Scripture. And hopefully by now you are starting to see that even the author Peter was not solely relying on what we consider canon of Scripture.

The spirits here originate as being from Noah’s day, imprisoned or bound surrounding that time frame. And this idea lines up nicely with what we have already seen in 1 Enoch 10 with the disobedient angels who were bound and imprisoned in Sheol until the judgment. Beyond that connection, some scholars even lay out how the book of 1 Peter reflects a great influence from Enochian literature throughout. In his commentary on Enoch, Nickelsburg actually lays out a chart showing a multitude of corresponding ideas and terms between the entirety of 1 Peter and 1 Enoch 108. Here are some examples from his list:

1 Peter
1 Enoch 108
3:12 - those who do evil
2, 6, 10 - those who do evil
1:23 - perishable seed
3b - perishable seed
3:19-20 - spirits in prison
3-6 - spirits punished
3:20 - Noah’s sons saved
106:16, 18 - Noah, sons saved
1:10-12 - Prophets, books, angels
6-7 - Prophets, books, angels
1:7, 18 - disdain silver, gold
8 - disdain silver, gold
1:7 - found praiseworthy
9 - found pure
3:9 - bless, blessing
9-10 - bless, blessing
3:16, 4:4, 16 - reproach, insult, abuse
7, 10 - reproach, insult, abuse
2:9 - blessing by contrast
10 - blessing by contrast
2:9 - summoned from darkness to light
11 - summoned from darkness to light
5:4, 6 - exaltation
12 - exaltation
1:17, 2:23 - righteous judgment
13 - righteous judgment

So, when it comes to this Book of 1 Enoch, we have a manuscript that has a long history of acceptance in varying degrees within the ancient people of Yahweh up through the early centuries of church history. Out of the many books explicitly mentioned within the canon of Scripture, it is the only one we currently have in existence that appears to be the original source. Within it, we get a glimpse into interpretations that have obviously been influential on many New testament doctrines that we now hold dear.

Doctrines surrounding topics such as the Messiah, the Kingdom, the Son of Man, demons, the final judgment and more are found here in ways that are more clearly presented than they are as found in the Hebrew scriptures. And as we’ve seen, the views found there have been carried over into much of the doctrines as they are presented within the New testament Scriptures.

It is understandable that those who hold the canon of Scripture in high esteem tend to be uncomfortable with some of the doctrines contained within 1 Enoch - the Watchers/giants storyline as well as the detailed ancient cosmology all sound so foreign to modern readers. But that was not the case for the early church and first century writers.

I have personally had recent conversations where every type of excuse was given to get around various scriptures in an effort to avoid the clear and historical view on these things. And I can understand the issue, as there are many things that just sound too odd. But we must remember we are approaching these things with a much more enlightened and scientifically geared mindset, which causes our views to be skewed.

Many things of the supernatural and spiritual realm are alien to us today. The more we study ancient Hebrew writings and their understandings, as well as their surround ancient near East neighbors, the more we find such strange sounding doctrines to deal with.

So, what does this all mean to us? Why am I bringing up this topic?

Well, most people don’t read the intertestamental and Pseudepigraphal writings, feeling they offer little to nothing to the Christian. Hopefully I have at least opened your eyes in some small way to see how in fact, at least this one writing was very influential in the doctrines we find propagated in the New Testament that shape our theological belief. That being the case, it would be of great benefit to further study and understand this obvious source material that those first century writers were pulling from. Yes, there are many other writings from the same period that could have been brought up, some which can be shown to have been influential too, but none as clearly as Enoch was.

When we study the Bible, we practice Sola Scriptura, and we compare Scripture to Scripture. We are quick to point out that a best understanding of the NT is found in a better understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. We also use the force of that practice when we debate issues with others, saying that unless our opponent can prove a doctrine from an Old Testament originating source, then their case is weak. Well, if E. Isaac and other scholars were indeed write in saying as I quoted earlier, that “There is little doubt that 1 Enoch was influential in molding New Testament doctrines concerning the nature of the Messiah, the Son of Man, the messianic kingdom, demonology, the future, resurrection, final judgment, the whole eschatological theater, and symbolism, “ then we may actually have another source of influential theology that needs our attention if we are to gain an even better understanding of some New Testament doctrines.

If NT writers were indeed drawing from and applying doctrinal influence from Enoch and these types of non-canonical intertestamental writings also, and if these were understandings that altered or expanded upon the Old Testament understandings on a topic, and then those different understandings were brought over and applied within our New Testament, then could it be that we may be missing information in our understanding by ignoring them in our studies?

Could the church gain a better understanding of the New Testament from also considering the teachings of some of the intertestamental writings, especially ones like Enoch where the influence is so clearly brought into the New Testament? I believe it is a question worth asking at least.
I will close with this closing paragraph from Godawa’s book - which was very instrumental in this whole series of writings:

But the preponderance of evidence shows that not only does the new Testament letter of Jude quote directly from 1 Enoch 1 (Book of the Watchers), but the entire letter and it’s alternate version in 2 Peter, show signs of literary and theological dependency on the rest of the Book of the Watchers (Chaps. 1-36), as well as chapter 80 (Book of Luminaries), chapter 46 (Book of Parables), and chapter 100 ( Epistle of Enoch). 2 Peter shows evidence of structural and thematic dependency on 1 Enoch 17-22 and 108.
But the fact is, the entire New Testament shows such a multitude of allusions and linguistic echoes of the entire corpus of 1 Enoch, that one can safely say, the book and its basic interpretations may not be Scripture, but are surely legitimated by the Bible and are therefore worthy of study and high regard by the Christian Church. (Brian Godawa - When Giants WereUpon the Earth, pg. 34)


View the other parts of the topic

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 |