Saturday, March 07, 2015

Fallen angels

Since Bnonn replied to my latest post, the debate continues apace. He responded to a sympathetic commenter, which became a launchpad for his newest reply to me. The commenter said:

It’s my understanding that 1 Enoch repeatedly refers to “chains” and “darkness” as punishments for the Watchers; and that they are being kept in that condition awaiting the final judgment. So, I think there is connection in Jude1:6 to 1 Enoch.

The problem with that alleged "connection" is that chains and darkness are stock netherworld imagery in Biblical Judaism, extrabiblical Judaism, Greco-Roman literature, and ANE literature. 

 Onto Bnonn:

1 Enoch does refer to darkness, though not chains that I’m aware of. But even absent textual indicators, the allusion still seems obvious to me. It is puzzling that many Christians don’t see the link.

I've neglected cultivating the discernment to see something that isn't there. It takes a lot of practice.

Moreover, Steve’s alternative is unintentionally ironic. He says my reading has conditioned me to be blind to the obvious alternative. But bracketing whether this reads the text as its original audience would have, where does the Bible describe the fall of angels? Are Dante-inspired theological motifs so conditioning Steve’s thinking that he has forgotten there is nowhere that describes such a fall? In Second Temple Judaism, Genesis 6:1-4 was the only likely scriptural candidate.

This statement is peculiar on many counts:

i) There's the circular reasoning which denies that 2 Pet 2:4 & Jude 6 can refer to the fall of angels because "there is nowhere that scripture that describes such a fall." That preemptively discounts the possibility that 2 Peter 2:4 & Jude 6 could bear witness to an angelic fall. What if this is precisely where that's explicitly referred to? How does the alleged absence of that motif elsewhere in Scripture preclude 2 Peter and Jude from describing the very event in question? 

ii) Indeed, Bnonn's objection is self-defeating. For we could just as well discount his appeal to Gen 6:1-4 by saying that can't describe an angelic fall inasmuch as there is nowhere in scripture which describes such a fall. 

iii) Look at the two verses:

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 (2 Pet 2:4). 
And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day (Jude 6).
How do these not describe the fall of angels? In a nutshell they depict the original position/status of angels, followed by the subsequent loss and dispossession of their original position/status. What is that if not the fall of angels? 
iv) Even odder is how Bnonn dichotomizes the Enochic interpretation which he champions from the angelic lapsarian interpretation. Even commentators like Gene Green who champion the Enochic interpretation think 2 Pet 2:4 & Jude 6 describe the fall of angels. 
Although the angelic lapsarian interpretation doesn't require the Enochic interpretation, the Enochic interpretation does require an angelic lapsarian interpretation. It's as if he doesn't realize that his commitment to the Enochic interpretation commits him to an angelic lapsarian interpretation.
What does he think the Book of Watchers narrates? What does he think the Enochic watchers were? In his comparative linguistic analysis, George Nickelsburg documents the fact that the "watchers" were synonymous with "angels." "Excursus: The Watchers and the Holy Ones," 1 Enoch 1 (Fortress 2001),  140-141. Likewise:
The Enochic tradition proceeds to build a case against the angels who have rebelled and destroyed this regularity…The more extensive descriptions of this cosmic revolt are based on the belief that all cosmic phenomena are under the control of angels. This belief is evident within the Book of Watchers. D. Jackson, Enochic Judaism (T&T Clark 2004), 140. 
If Bnonn is going to filter 2 Pet 2:4 & Jude 6 through 1 Enoch, then those passages refer to the fall of angels.
Mind you, they can refer to the fall of angels in their own right. They don't need an Enochic gloss to yield that sense. For that sense already lies on the face of these two NT passages. They can just as well refer to the fall of angels apart from 1 Enoch. 
v) Perhaps there's an unconscious reason why Bnonn resists taking 2 Pet 2:4 & Jude 6 as an allusion to the fall of angels. In Biblical  theology, there's more than one fall: there's the fall of man and the fall of angels. Moreover, Christian theology requires a specific sequence: the angelic fall must precede the Adamic fall inasmuch as John and Paul identify Satan as the Tempter in Gen 3. 
By contrast, extrabiblical Judaism doesn't regard Gen 3 as narrating the fall of man. Likewise, extrabiblical Judaism doesn't identify Satan as the Tempter in Gen 3. Hence, extrabiblical Judaism was free to date the angelic fall to the eve of the Flood. 
That, however, would introduces an intolerable anachronism into Biblical theology. The angelic fall is too late on Enochic interpretation of Gen 6 to supply a fallen angelic Tempter for Gen 3. It skews the chronological origin of sin. 
vi) Finally, his reference to Dante appears to be misplaced. Is Dante noted for popularizing the angelic fall? I thought he was famous for his literary tour of heaven, hell, and purgatory. Perhaps this is a slip on Bnonn's part. Maybe he's confusing Dante with Milton vis-a-vis the angelic fall motif. 
Moreover, if Steve is taking a more traditionally evangelical, pared-down angelology where fallen angels are demons, how come demons are roaming free while being consigned to chains and gloom?

That generates an ersatz contradiction by imputing to me his own interpretation of the figurative imagery. 

To my knowledge, the purpose of incarceration in the ancient world is often not punitive, but to temporarily detain the accused until trial. Take Paul's house-arrest in Acts. He clearly retains considerable freedom of action.

In terms of what the figurative imagery signifies, I think that means, not that fallen angels can't "roam free," but that they have been prejudged. Summary judgment. They are still bound to face the Final Judgment. Their ultimate condemnation and punishment is a foregone conclusion. There's no escaping that

Now, I do agree with Steve that Second Temple Judaism is far removed from the original context of Genesis. I’ve already explicitly acknowledged the dangers of being too credulous about midrash, syncretistic embellishments etc. But we can only work with the evidence available. Not only is it evidentially unwarranted to treat the Enochian interpretation as a late Jewish innovation (even though it potentially could be)…

According to the available evidence, the Enochic interpretation only emerged in the 2C BC. So, yes, that's a late Jewish innovation. You can postulate that it extends further back in time, but that goes beyond the available evidence.

…but it simply fails to engage with how the readers of Peter and Jude would have understood them. 

Unfortunately, that repeats the same mistake he made before. The fact that many 1C Jews were familiar with Enochic speculations no more means that's how they would (or should) have construed 2 Pet 2:4 & Jude 6 than the fact that many 1C Jews were familiar with the War of the Titans means that's how they would (or should) have construed 2 Pet 2:4 & Jude 6. Many 1C Jews, especially Hellenistic and/or Diasapora Jews were acquainted with Greco-Roman mythology. But that doesn't become the default interpretive grid.  

No comments:

Post a Comment