Saturday, March 29, 2014

Gen 6 & 1 Enoch

Among other things, Aronofsky's Noah has revived a popular interpretation of Gen 6:1-4. The specific details owe more to 1 Enoch than Genesis. I'm going to quote Genesis and the "parallels" in 1 Enoch, so that we can compare and contrast them directly. (I'll be quoting from Nickelsburg's translation in his commentary on 1 Enoch.):

When men began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 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. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown (Gen 6:1-4, ESV). 
And when the sons of men had multiplied, in those days, beautiful and comely daughters were born to them. And the watchers, the sons of heaven, saw them and desired them. And they said to one another, "Come, let us choose from ourselves wives from the daughters of men, and let us beget for ourselves children."
And they were, all of them, two hundred, who descended in the days of Jared onto the peak of Mount Hermon (1 Enoch 6:1-2,5).
Enoch, righteous scribe, go and say to the watchers of heaven–who forsook the highest heaven, the sanctuary of the(ir) eternal station, and defiled themselves with women. As the sons of earth do, so they did and took wives for themseles (1 Enoch 12:4). 
Why have you forsaken the high heaven, the eternal sanctuary; and lain with women, and defiled yourselves with the daughters of men; and taken for yourselves wives, and done as the sons of earth; and begotten for yourselves sons, giants? (1 Enoch 14:3).
Notice what is present in the Enochian passages, but absent in Genesis. There's nothing in Genesis about the "sons of God" coming down from the sky. There's nothing about their banishment from heaven, as a divine punishment for desertion or concupiscence. There's no contrast between heaven and earth ("sons of heaven/sons of earth").
Although one can see how the authors of 1 Enoch might use Gen 6:1-4 as a springboard to evolve the notion of an angelic fall, that's not something we can legitimately read back into Genesis, for key details are missing. So these aren't real parallels. The specific idea of fallen angels is crucially absent in the primary text of Genesis. There's no downward motion, or expulsion from heaven. The "sons of God" aren't "sons of heaven" in contrast to "sons of men" who are "sons of earth." So a back-to-back comparison undermines rather than underwrites the angelic interpretation. 


  1. Hi Steve -- IMO, any treatment of this has to take into account Jude 6 vis-a-vis Jude's undoubted reliance on 1 Enoch. While this is by no means a central issue (it's more of an exegetical curiosity for me), and while the film portrays these angels in a patently absurd way, I don't think you've considered all the relevant texts that would connect Gen 6 with 1 Enoch.

    1. Since I've often discussed that issue, your allegation is presumptuous and ignorant. BTW, John Walton, in his commentary on Genesis (p297), casts doubt on Jude's alleged allusions.

    2. I apologize if my comment came across as anything other than a respectful inquiry. I wasn't really alleging anything--I was simply referring to this specific post, which doesn't mention Jude 6. I've been following your blog for about a decade (as a friend, by the way), so I know you've addressed the issue in general in the past, but I wasn't aware of any exegesis you've done on Jude 6 (most of what I've read concerns Gen 6). I confess, I may have missed it. But what I HAVE read is your responses to certain antagonists to the reformed faith who also happen to argue for an angelic reading of Gen 6, and my concern is that you're ipso facto associating that reading with a low view of Scripture. I assure you, nothing could be further from reality. As Doug Moo points out in his commentary on Jude (who, by the way, agrees with me that Jude adopts the 1 Enoch interpretation of Gen 6, Walton notwithstanding), this is the majority view among contemporary NT scholars. I'm happy to lay out the exegetical reasons for this interpretation (if you like), but I don't want to waste your time if you deem it unworthy.