1 Enoch and the “Sons of God”

1 Enoch and the “Sons of God”: Additional Evidence for Angel-Human Copulation in the Bible

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بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

“And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto 2 them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them…”

– 1 Enoch, 6:1-2

            In a previous article,[1] we discussed the identity of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6, while considering the internal evidence from the Bible and commentaries from the ante-Nicene church fathers (e.g., Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, etc.). The overall assessment left no doubt as to the identify of these “sons of God”: angels. Thus, it was shown that angels and humans could procreate, at least according to the Bible. This myth has been the cause of great consternation and embarrassment to modern Christians, especially considering heir silly critiques of certain ahadith in Islam about Satan. In this follow-up article, we will consider some additional evidence, using the apocryphal book 1 Enoch (specifically the “Book of the Watchers”), and show how the main argument modern-day Christians, like Ken Temple, use to argue that the “sons of God” were human beings and not angels, backfires. First, we will determine the approximate date of 1 Enoch (it predates both the birth of Jesus and the New Testament books), and then show that the authors of the Gospels were at least familiar with some of the apocryphal Jewish traditions that were widely known at the time and were included in 1 Enoch. As a result, we will see how the last desperate argument of modern-day Christians to avoid the embarrassment of the angel-human myth falls apart, and that the conclusion becomes unavoidable: according to Genesis 6, fallen angels (or some kind of divine beings) had sexual intercourse with humans and produced hybrid children. This, in turn, demonstrates the futility of their critiques of some ahadith in Islam about Satan’s bodily functions.

1 Enoch on the “Sons of God”

            The first part of 1 Enoch, consisting of 36 chapters, is known as the “Book of the Watchers”, the “Watchers” being heavenly beings that had descended to Earth.[2] Starting from chapter 6, these “Watchers” are first introduced:

“And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.”[3]

The allusion to Genesis 6 is, of course, obvious. Indeed, it was commonly believed by Jews from around the time of Jesus’ birth (peace be upon him) that angels had produced children with humans. For example, Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenized Jew, explained that:

“…[Moses] relates that these giants were sprung from a combined procreation of two natures, namely, from angels and mortal women; for the substance of angels is spiritual; but it occurs every now and then that on emergencies occurring they have imitated the appearance of men, and transformed themselves so as to assume the human shape; as they did on this occasion, when forming connexions with women for the production of giants. […] But sometimes Moses styles the angels the sons of God, inasmuch as they were not produced by any mortal, but are incorporeal, as being spirits destitute of any body; or rather that exhorter and teacher of virtue, namely Moses, calls those men who are very excellent and endowed with great virtue the sons of God; and the wicked and depraved men he calls bodies, or flesh.”[4]

Philo mentioned the angels again in On the Giants:

“And when the angels of God saw the daughters of men that they were beautiful, they took unto themselves wives of all of them whom they Chose.” Those beings, whom other philosophers call demons, Moses usually calls angels; and they are souls hovering in the air.”[5]

Similarly, the Jewish historian Josephus commented that angels had copulated with humans:

“For many angels of God accompanied with women, and begat sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good, on account of the confidence they had in their own strength; for the tradition is, that these men did what resembled the acts of those whom the Grecians call giants.”[6]

            It is also certainly true that this was not the only interpretation among Jews. Like later Christians, some Jewish authorities preferred to interpret the “sons of God” as human beings who had abused their power.[7] But this and other alternative interpretations appeared later, whereas the angel interpretation was much earlier. In his doctoral dissertation at the Theological University of the Reformed Churches, Jacob Doedens notes:

“[t]he evidence for this conclusion can be drawn from the reading ‘angels/messengers of God’ in several Septuagint  manuscripts, from traces in Targum Neofiti I and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan reflecting the angels-interpretation, from the works of Philo and Josephus, from the book  of 1 Enoch, Jubilees, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, 2 Baruch, and from several documents uncovered in the Judean desert. This mode of interpretation is demonstrably dominant from the second century B.C.E. on, until the second century C.E., as far as it can be discerned in the extant documents.”[8]

Interestingly, Doedens argues based on exegetical and theological arguments that the “sons of God” were “heavenly beings not otherwise specified”,[9] or as “divine beings”,[10] but not necessarily angels. Nevertheless, he also rejects the argument that they were “pious men” or “Sethites”,[11] an interpretation that has gained prominence among Christians in modern times. Based on his thorough analysis of the textual and lexicographical evidence, Doedens concludes that:

“…the identity of the ‘sons of God’ in Gen. 6:1–4 points to a solution envisaging them as non-human.”[12]

Astonishingly, he prefers the view that these “heavenly beings not otherwise specified” could even have been interpreted by “earlier readers” as “the gods of other nations”. Nevertheless, he notes that:

“[t]he divine beings-interpretation is therefore not so much in opposition to the angels-interpretation. It only tries to specify the expression in a more nuanced way for the time-period of the originally implied audience of the text.”[13]

Dating 1 Enoch

            1 Enoch consists of 7 parts that were attributed to Enoch, the legendary Biblical figure mention in the book of Genesis.  According to Pastor Peter S. Perry (St. John Lutheran Church), these 7 parts are: the Book of the Watchers, the Book of Parables, the Book of the Luminaries, the Dream Visions, the Epistle of Enoch, the Birth of Noah, and an unnamed book which is simply referred to by Perry as “Another Book of Enoch”.[14] The work is considered “pseudepigraphal”, meaning that it was falsely ascribed to Enoch.[15] It is not part of the Jewish, Catholic, or Protestant canons. However, the Ethiopian Orthodox church includes it in its canon.[16]

            As for the approximate date it was composed, the primary evidence comes from the Qumran fragments. The Qumran community was a group of Essenes, a Jewish sect that was separate from the more well-known Pharisees and Sadducees (both of which are mentioned in the New Testament).[17] According to Perry:

“Enochic literature was highly valued by the Essene community at Qumran. Among the scrolls found at Qumran, eleven manuscripts of parts of 1 Enoch were found, along with nine fragments of the Book of Giants, which tells the story of the giant children of the Watchers and human women. There were also eight fragments of the book of Jubilees, which is dependent on traditions in 1 Enoch.”[18]

            One such fragment, known as 4Q201, contains parts of 1 Enoch 7 (the Book of the Watchers):

“[They (the leaders) and all … of them took for themselves] wives from all that they chose and [they began to cohabit with them and to defile themselves with them]; and to teach them sorcery and [spells and the cutting of roots; and to acquaint them with herbs.] And they become pregnant by them and bo[re (great) giants three thousand cubits high …]”[19]

Here is the full version of chapter 7:

“And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants. And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another’s flesh, and drink the blood. Then the earth laid accusation against the lawless ones.”

enoch-b
Figure 1 – 4Q201, containing parts of 1 Enoch 7, found among the Qumran scrolls (Source: https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/scr3.html)

The date of 4Q201 has been set between 200 to 150 BCE,[20] though proposed dates go as far back as the middle of 3rd century BCE.[21] According to the late Dr. Ada Yardeni, the script of 4Q201 “bears resemblance to a dated Idumean ostracon…dated to 136 of the Seleucid era, corresponding to 176 BCE.”[22] But she also proposed a date as early as the end of the 3rd century BCE.[23] The late Geza Vermes dated all of the Enoch fragments (including 4Q201) “to between 200 BCE and the end of the pre-Christian era.”[24] Similarly, using the Qumran fragments, Doedens dates the “Book of the Watchers” to “pre-Maccabean times”, and adds that:

“…the content of the later compilation as found in the Ethiopic version, must have been present as early as the first century B.C.E….”[25]

On the other hand, Perry dates the “Book of the Watchers” in its complete form to “the middle of the third century B.C.E.” and notes that “seven Aramaic manuscripts have been found at Qumran.”[26] Hence, there is little doubt that 4Q201 was copied around 2 centuries before the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him). The paleographical evidence makes this undeniable and there is a virtual consensus among scholars that the book existed long before the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him) and the rise of Christianity.

Did the New Testament Authors Know and Use 1 Enoch?

            Having determined the early prominence of both the angels-interpretation of Genesis 6 and of 1 Enoch, we can discuss the issue of whether the New Testament writers were dependent upon these older traditions. In general, three passages from the New Testament are widely regarded by scholars as pointing to the angels-interpretation because of their dependency on the story from 1 Enoch, these being 1 Peter 3:19-20, 2 Peter 2:4, and Jude 6-7.[27] Here are the passages:

1 Peter 3:19-20

“After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”

2 Peter 2:4

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;”

Jude 6-7

“And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”

To most modern Christians, the attempt to link these passages to the angels-interpretation might seem unwarranted, but the fact is that even though these passages do not explicitly refer to angel-human intercourse (which was mentioned in 1 Enoch), they do refer to the imprisonment of angels for some sins they had committed. Indeed, 1 Peter 3 links their sin to the time of Noah (peace be upon him), which lines up well with the Genesis account, and Jude 6-7 likens the sins of the angels to “sexual immorality and perversion”, like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.[28] According to 1 Enoch, 13:1-2, Enoch warned the chief angel Azazel:

“…thou shalt have no peace: a severe sentence has gone forth against thee to put thee in bonds: And thou shalt not have toleration nor request granted to thee…”

Taken together, there is little doubt that the New Testament writers were familiar with the Enoch-story and the imprisonment of the “Watchers” for the sin of cohabitating with human women and teaching mankind all manner of evil deeds. Moreover, they referred to this story in their writings. Doedens notes that since the story from 1 Enoch was so well-known at the time:

“…if Jude would not have wanted to allude to this sin of the angels as reported in this tradition, he should have explicitly emphasised this.”[29]

He notes the same for 2 Peter 2:4–7 as well.[30]

            For 1 Peter 3:18-20, the more “difficult” of the three verses to interpret in Doedens’ view, the word “spirits” is the key. He explains that:

“[i]n the New Testament the plural πνεύματα, ‘spirits’, is usually accompanied by a qualifier which leaves no question as to whom the word refers. In most occurrences, the reference is to non-human beings. The rare use of the word without further qualification refers in most cases to supernatural (malevolent) beings.”[31]

            Perry singles out Jude specifically as a clear reference to 1 Enoch. He makes the following observation:

“[a]lthough filled with references to the Hebrew Bible and Jewish traditions, Jude gives prominence to 1 Enoch by quoting it directly. Enoch continued to be quoted authoritatively by Christians until it was rejected by opponents to millennialism.”[32]

So, contrary to modern Christian interpretations, all three verses consistently point to the angels-interpretation of Genesis 6.

            Scholars have also noted parallels between the Gospel of Matthew and 1 Enoch.[33] For example, we can compare Matthew 22:13 with 1 Enoch 10:4:

Matthew 22:13

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

1 Enoch 10:4

“And again the Lord said to Raphael: ‘Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening…”

Again, to modern Christians, this “parallel” would not necessarily imply that Matthew was using 1 Enoch as a source or that he considered it to be a reliable book. But, as with the passages like Jude 6-7, when we consider that the Enoch-story was very well-known to Jews at the time, they would have immediately recognized the allusion to 1 Enoch 10:4 and the binding of Azazel (the leader of the Watchers). Other such parallels include Matthew’s use of the “Son of Man” concept, which scholars have noted is similar to the way the Book of Parables interprets Daniel 7,[34] and Matthew 24:36-44, which refers to “the days of Noah” and God’s imminent judgement.[35]   

            But there is one more passage (mentioned with variations in the Synoptic gospels) which may have been based on the Enoch-story, and one that has not received as much attention. Readers will remember that the Christian apologist Ken Temple’s main argument against the angels-interpretation was that the gospels indicate that there will be no marriage in heaven (as Mark 12:25, Matthew 22:30, and Luke 20:34-36). However, in the previous article, we discussed a few reasons why this appeal does not refute the claim that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were angels, foremost among them being that Genesis 6 was referring to marriage and sexual intercourse on earth, and not in heaven. Moreover, the gospels do not state that it will be impossible to get married, only that marriage will not occur. Also, in the Bible, angels were able to act like humans while on earth (e.g., they ate food).

            Doedens also refutes the appeal to the gospels on these grounds. He states:

“[t]he answer implies that angels do not marry but does not state that angels cannot marry. It neither implies that fallen angels never could have had sexual relationships. The Old Testament recounts that angels in earthly appearance are “dressed as men, eat, drink, walk and are subject to being molested (Gen.18:1,2,8; 19:1,5)”, as Van Gemeren formulates. There is, then, no reason to exclude before-hand the possibility of sexual relationships entered into by angels.”[36]

            But there may be another reason why the appeal to the gospels doesn’t work. In fact, it may even backfire. As the passages state, Jesus (peace be upon him) claimed that there is no marriage in heaven. Does that mean that angels could not descend to earth and marry humans? Was Jesus’ alleged claim even unique? As it turns out, it was not. The same idea was already known to Jews and was circulating centuries before Jesus (peace be upon him) was even born. Ironically, it has come to us from one major pre-Christian source, and that is none other than 1 Enoch! In chapter 15 of the “Book of the Watchers”, it states (emphasis ours):

“And though ye were holy, spiritual, living the eternal life, you have defiled yourselves with the blood of women, and have begotten (children) with the blood of flesh, and, as the children of men, have lusted after flesh and blood as those also do who die and perish. Therefore have I given them wives also that they might impregnate them, and beget children by them, that thus nothing might be wanting to them on earth. But you were formerly spiritual, living the eternal life, and immortal for all generations of the world. And therefore I have not appointed wives for you; for as for the spiritual ones of the heaven, in heaven is their dwelling.[37]

We can see a clear parallel between the alleged saying of Jesus (peace be upon him) in the gospels with 1 Enoch. Professor Lee McDonald (Acadia Divinity College) states:

“[t]he similarity here is in the thought that angels do not marry and neither do those who go from this life to the next.”[38]

So what Jesus (allegedly) said was nothing new or unique. It was not a new teaching, but it was certainly not mentioned anywhere in the Tanakh. In fact, the earliest extant source for this teaching, which predates Jesus’ birth by around 200 years, is the same source that also narrated the story of angels having sexual intercourse with humans on earth! Thus, to the author of 1 Enoch, having no wives in the spiritual realm did not mean that the spirits could not descend to earth and take wives and have children. Readers should also recall that Enochic literature was very important to the Essenes, whereas the denial of the resurrection was the belief of their rivals, the Sadducees. In Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus’ response was directed at none other than the Sadducees. This is further evidence to refute the Christian use of Mark 12:25, Matthew 22:30, and Luke 20:34-36 to deny the angels-interpretation for Genesis 6.

Conclusion

            We have seen additional irrefutable evidence that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were supernatural beings (most likely angels, or perhaps, as in Doedens’ view, the “gods of other nations”), and certainly not human beings. The evidence comes from the Bible and the apocryphal book 1 Enoch. In addition, we have seen indisputable evidence that the New Testament writers not only knew the Enoch-story but referred to it in their writings. The story was well known and the parallels between the New Testament references and 1 Enoch were simply too close for Christians to deny that the former did not mean to refer to the latter. If the story was not accepted by the New Testament writers, they would certainly have clarified it. Instead, their allusions to the story, without any additional explanation implied that they assumed their audiences knew the story. Perhaps the most embarrassing proof, however, undoubtedly comes from the fact that even Jesus (peace be upon) referred to the Enoch-story (allegedly, if we assume hypothetically that the gospels are an accurate representation of his teachings), when he stated that there was no marriage in heaven. This concept was not unique and was well-known centuries before the birth of Christianity and for centuries after, as it was also found in 1 Enoch and was accepted by Jewish groups such as the Essenes. In the final assessment, the revisionist argument of many modern Christians lies in ruins. Their embarrassment of the angel-human legend has led them to contradict their own scriptures in favor of a preposterous and poorly crafted argument. In doing so, they even go against the (alleged) teachings of their savior!

And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!


[1] https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2019/10/16/genesis-6-and-the-sons-of-god/

[2] For the text of chapters 1–36, see here: http://wesley.nnu.edu/index.php?id=2126

[3] 1 Enoch, 6:1-3.

[4] Questions and Answers on Genesis, 1:92, http://earlyjewishwritings.com/text/philo/book41.html.

[5] On the Giants, 2:6, http://earlyjewishwritings.com/text/philo/book9.html.

[6] Antiquities of the Jews, 1:3:1.

[7] https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/1987422/jewish/Nephilim-Fallen-Angels-Giants-or-Men.htm#footnote10a1987422

[8] Jacob Johannes Theodoor Doedens, The Sons of God in Genesis 6:1–4 (ThD diss., Theologische Universiteit Van De Gereformeerde Kerken, 2013), 172, http://theoluniv.ub.rug.nl/32/7/2013Doedens%20Dissertation.pdf.

[9] Ibid., p. 297.

[10] Ibid., p. 298.

[11] Ibid., pp. 251-252.

[12] Ibid., p. 248.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Peter S. Perry, “Disputing Enoch: Reading Matthew 24:36–44 with Enochic Judaism”, Currents in Theology and Mission 37, no. 6 (December 2010): 453.

Of these, the Book of Luminaries is probably the oldest. Perry establishes “its roots in the fourth century B.C.E.” (Ibid.). Except for the Book of Parables and the unnamed seventh book (“Another Book of Enoch”), the other 5 books are attested in the Qumran manuscripts (Ibid.). According to Perry, the Book of Parables is probably the latest part of 1 Enoch, being written somewhere between the late 1st century BCE and early 1st century CE (Ibid.).

[15] https://www.britannica.com/topic/First-Book-of-Enoch

[16] https://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/english/canonical/books.html

[17] Perry, op. cit., 452.

[18] Ibid.

[19] https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/trans6.html

[20] https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/scr3.html

[21] Perry, op. cit., p. 453.

[22] Ada Yardeni, Palaeography as a Tool in the Reading and Dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls, p.5, http://adayardeni.com/paleo/Palaeography-as-a-Tool.pdf

[23] Ibid.

[24] Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (New York: The Penguin Press, 1997), p. 513.

[25] Doedens, op. cit., pp. 102-103.

[26] Perry, op. cit., p. 453.

[27] Doedens, op. cit., p. 253.

[28] Ibid., p. 119.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid., 120.

Doedens observes that when the Greek word πνεύματα is used for humans in the New Testament, it is clearly linked with a qualifier. For example, 1 Corinthians 14:32 refers to “the spirits of the prophets”, in the same way 1 Enoch 20:3 also refers to “the spirits of men” (p. 121).

[32] Perry, op. cit., p. 454.

[33] Ibid., pp. 455-459.

[34] Ibid., p. 454.

[35] Ibid., p. 455.

Perry explains that:

“[t]o an audience familiar with Enochic Judaism, Jesus is the promised Noah-like figure to lead the righteous remnant.”

He also states:

“[a]n audience familiar with Enochic literature will hear the phrase ‘they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage’ as referring to the sin of the heavenly Watchers and its consequences on humanity. This phrase strengthens the conclusion that Matthew is interacting with Enochic Judaism…”

[36] Doedens, op. cit., p. 189.

[37] 1 Enoch, 15:4-7.

[38] Lee Martin McDonald, The Formation of the Biblical Canon, Volume I: The Old Testament: Its Authority and Canonicity (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), p. 303.

Interestingly, there are numerous such parallels between Jesus’ alleged teachings and 1 Enoch. Examples include 1 Enoch 22:9-10 and Luke 16:26 and 1 Enoch 38:2 and Matthew 26:24. See McDonald’s book for a full list.

 

3 thoughts on “1 Enoch and the “Sons of God”

  1. Pingback: 1 Enoch and the “Sons of God” – Blogging Theology

  2. Pingback: Noah and the Flood in the Bible and the Quran – The Quran and Bible Blog

  3. Pingback: Noah and the Flood in the Bible and the Quran – Blogging Theology

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