Friday, April 30, 2010

Angels & Demons 6: An “Innocent” Fallen Angel Story

Remember that the Fallen Angel Story invented by the Greek-speaking Jewish author of I Enoch relied on his interpretation of the Genesis 6 passage referring to the “sons of God” marrying the “daughters of men.” He thought the passage should be understood to mean that “angels” married “human women.” These unions between angels and humans produced as children “mighty men of old who made a name.” This is somewhat strange. First, to assume that angels have DNA is fairly far-fetched, since angels, according to Psalm 104:4, are “spirits” and “flames of fire.” One would think DNA would be necessary in order to produce offspring. Second, if the offspring shared the DNA of angels and humans, one would suspect that some of these offspring would be men, but others would actually be angels. Why is it that the offspring of these unions produced ONLY MEN—albeit, MIGHTY men of old who made a name?

Returning to the book of Genesis, only one other passage even remotely suggests that angels could engage in sexual behavior—let alone be reproductive. Genesis 19 tells of two angels visiting Lot in Sodom before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. In 19:5, the men of the city, the Sodomites, surrounded Lot’s house and demanded the right to rape these angels—who, they presumably thought, were men. We will never know if such behavior would have been possible, because Lot, in an attempt to protect the angels, offered the mob his own virgin daughters, instead. The Sodomites rejected the offer and threatened to rape Lot. The angels, of course, did not really need Lot’s protection. They pulled Lot inside his house and struck the Sodomites with blindness. No one has ever accused these angels of being guilty or fallen angels, even though there was a “hint” that they could have been raped. It occurs to me that the angels in the Sodom account might have offered the inspiration for the following approach to the Fallen Angel Story from Jewish culture at around the time of the New Testament. Here, we also have a “hint” that angels may have been capable of sexual encounter, but—like the angels in Sodom—such an encounter never occurred.

This seems to be a distinct attempt to reform the Fallen Angel Story into something compatible with the strongly Jewish, non-Hellenistic attitudes of the New Testament period and following. This is not the only attempt to produce a Sinless Fallen Angel Story from this period, but it demonstrates the point that Jews were trying to reshape the Fallen Angel Story into something that would be less offensive to their theology.


From the medieval commentary Hadar Zekenim (in its exposition of Genesis 6:2) comes a small account of the “revised” Fallen Angel Story. It is the story of a woman who was transformed into a star (or group of stars). When the angels descended to Earth, they propositioned a certain virgin. They wanted to “marry” her. Wise young lady that she was, she tricked them. She promised to agree to their proposition on one condition: they must give her their wings. Upon receiving the wings, AND PRIOR TO THE CONSUMMATION OF THE SEXUAL UNION, she flapped her wings and flew away to God’s throne. According to a slightly different version of this story, she made no deal whatsoever. She just asked them what they would give her, if she obeyed them. They offered to give her their wings and to teach her to pronounce the (unpronounceable) name of the Lord (YHWH, as I discussed in the previous commentary). Without an explicit agreement, the angels did both of these things. She then flew to Heaven—presumably, pronouncing God’s name and flapping her wings. God rewarded her for her innocence and her resisting the transgression. Either she was made into the constellation Virgo or the constellation Virgo was named for her.

The following is my translation from these two Mishnaic Hebrew texts, which so far as I know, are not available elsewhere in English translation:


“‘For they were beautiful.’ (Gen. 6:2): In the Midrash Tobath [apparently, a lost midrashic fragment on Genesis 6:2 in which the word ‘TOBATH,’ meaning ‘beautiful,’ occurs] it is written: There was once a pious virgin lass. And when the ‘sons of God’ (Gen. 6:2) descended, they said to her, ‘Obey us!’ She said to them, ‘I shall not obey you unless you do this thing—that is, that you give me your wings; as it [Isaiah 6:2] says, “six wings for each one.”’ They gave her their wings. Immediately, she flew to Heaven and escaped from the transgression, and she touched (the surface of) the Throne. And the Holy One—Blessed be He—spread his cloud over her and received her, and he fixed her among the constellations: namely, the constellation Virgo. The angels remained on Earth and were not able to ascend until they found the ladder of which Jacob our ancestor dreamed; then, they ascended. This is of which it is written: ‘the angels of God ascending and descending upon it’ (Gen. 28:12).”


“‘The angels of God ascending and descending upon it’ (Gen. 28:12): Those angels who descended, when they saw the daughters of man that they were beautiful, did not ascend until this time; for [at the time] when they went down, they found a certain virgin. They said to her, ‘Obey us!’ She said to them, ‘And what will you give to me?’ They said to her, ‘Our wings. And we will teach you the Explicit Name.’ And they taught her the Explicit Name and they gave her the wings. Immediately, she flew into the Heavens. The Holy One—Blessed be He—said to her, ‘Since you fled from the transgression, I will appoint for you a name among the constellations; namely the constellation Virgo.’ And the angels that gave to her their wings were not able to ascend until this time, when they found the ladder to ascend.”

These two versions of the same account present fallen angels to whom no sin is attributed. Hence, they may be termed Sinless Fallen Angels. In the next few commentaries, I will elucidate the details of the relationship between this account and the prevailing doctrines concerning angels in the early Christian era. There are definite BIBLICAL doctrinal motives for reforming the Fallen Angel Story into one in which the angels DID NOT SIN. We will begin, next time, with the very doctrine of sin and whether angels are capable of it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Angels & Demons 5: What Law Did the Angels Break?

Fallen Angel Stories are typically justified on the basis of some perceived Law that the angels broke. Look through the Ten Commandments. Do you see any commandment targeted at angels? I do not. The Law was given to humans, not angels. But, even so, let’s consider whether angels could have been guilty of breaking one of these Laws:

1. “You shall have no other gods.” Angels supposedly know the truth . . . that there ARE NO OTHER GODS, right? I suppose that if Persian Dualism were accepted, there would be one other god—the evil god. That’s what “dualism” means: that there are TWO gods—one good and one evil. By the time Jesus was born, however, Judaism was apprehensive about the dualistic implications involved in the fallen angel theme. If Greek theology were accepted, there would be dozens of gods—all marrying each other and having sexual relations with humans and having offspring—both divine and human. After toying with these polytheistic (multiple gods) ideas for nearly 400 years, Jewish teachers were determined to fight against them. If believers today are determined to resurrect these Persian and Greek theologies, they may themselves be guilty of breaking the first commandment, but did angels break this commandment?

2. “Do not make graven idols.” No angel stories tell of any angel making an idol.

3. “Do not take my name in vain.” In a non-inspired angel story from the time period of the New Testament, angels knew the name of God and knew the power of pronouncing his name. The story suggests that pronouncing his name brings one to the very throne of God. To keep humans from taking his name “in vain” (i.e., using it in an empty way), the Jews hid the pronunciation. “Jehovah” is NOT the pronunciation of his name. The Jews “wrote” his name, but only used the consonants of his name: YHWH. They inserted vowels, but these vowels were not the vowels from his name; they were the vowels to the word “Adonai.” Adonai is translated “Lord.” When you take the vowels from Adonai and insert them in the consonants from YHWH, the result is the word Yahowah (or Jehovah). The letters Y and J are interchangeable, as are the letters W and V. Anyone who knows the German language, for example, knows that the German expression for yes (Ja wohl) is actually pronounced “Yah Vohl.” Hence, Yahowah becomes Jehovah. Actually, the Jews never pronounced this composite word. They pronounced only the word Adonai (Lord), so that they would not take “The Lord’s name” in vain. When you read your English version of the Old Testament, and find the word “Lord,” what is actually written in the Hebrew text is the word YHWH. It is unpronounceable, because the Jews were helping you avoid breaking this commandment. (Incidentally, even the popular pronunciation of this word today—Yahweh—is almost certainly incorrect. It is still very difficult for you to violate this commandment.) Nevertheless, there are NO angel stories that tell of an angel taking the name of the Lord in vain.

4. “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.” No angel stories tell of any angel breaking the Sabbath.

5. “Honor your father and mother.” Angels don’t have mothers. While Jesus teaches humans to address God as “Our Father in heaven,” and while God calls humans his children, angels do not seem to share in that intimacy. It is true that angels were called “sons of God” in the Book of Job, but no one seriously contends that angels are the offspring of God in any parent-child sense. Ultimately, no angel stories every accuse angels of failing to honor their “father.”

6. “Do not kill.” Fallen Angel Stories do not portray the angels as murderers. John’s gospel, on the other hand, quotes Jesus responding to certain Jews who were seeking a way to kill him (8:37-44): “You have the devil for your father and you wish to practice the desires of your father; he was a slayer of men from the beginning, and he could not stay in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks according to his nature; for he is a liar and the father of liars.” Jesus was probably referring to the devil’s roles as tempter/tester and executioner. Hebrews 2:14 speaks of Jesus as neutralizing the one who wields the power of death, namely the devil. The first time the term Satan appears in the Bible is in the Book of Job, where Satan not only tests Job but also KILLS his wife and children. God restricts his power so that he cannot KILL Job himself, because Job is righteous. For those of us who are not as righteous as Job, Satan does indeed pose the threat of death. But, is this killing of humans a sin? Is Satan breaking the Law by killing men? Not if we deserve it. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death. Romans 3:23 says all have sinned. In my previous commentary, I observed: “I Timothy 1:20 says that Paul surrendered Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan, so that they might be disciplined. In a similar vein, I Corinthians 5:5 has Paul counseling the church to hand over a fornicator to Satan so that Satan can destroy the fornicator’s ‘flesh,’ in order that the fornicator’s ‘spirit’ might be SAVED.” Ultimately, however, Jesus came to rid mankind of the various “roles” of Satan. Revelation 12 introduces the Fall of Satan as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice. Satan can no longer “accuse” the brothers in the heavenly courts, because they are forgiven. However, Revelation does not assert that “accusing the brothers” was a sin; it was Satan’s job in Heaven, just as punishing and executing sinners on Earth was. Revelation 20 begins by further subjugating Satan: he is bound and thrown into the Abyss. Revelation 20 ends (at least 1000 years later) by casting the devil into the Lake of Fire, which is the Second Death. At that point, Satan will be gone—but not because he sinned. He will be gone because there will no longer be a need for any of his roles—tempter/tester, accuser/prosecuting attorney, punisher/executioner, or raiser of world empires.

7. “Do not commit adultery.” Adultery consists of having sexual relations with someone else’s wife or husband. Having sex with one’s own wife or husband is not a sin. Even if Genesis 6 were correctly interpreted as suggesting that angels married human women, would that be a sin? We don’t know of any commandments given to angels not to marry humans, and the term “marry” is definitely in the Genesis 6 passage. Whoever the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 are, they are not raping the “daughters of men” or having sex with them outside the bonds of marriage. They are “marrying” them. Since this is the most significant version of the Fallen Angel Story in the Greek period, we will return to the issue of angels having sex with humans in a future commentary. Jesus seems to suggest that it is impossible. But, for now, we are just considering what Law angels may have broken. We do not know of any Law against marrying human women.

8. “Do not steal.” If, as I discussed in “Angels & Demons 2: The ‘Prometheus’ Connection,” Azazel and the fallen angels had (like Prometheus) STOLEN fire and cultural arts from God, they might be accused of breaking this commandment. However, I Enoch 65:6-7 speaks of the angel’s secrets that were passed on to humans, including sorcery, incantations, and working with melted metals such as silver, lead, and tin—but never accuses the angels of STEALING such things. Furthermore, this Fallen Angel Story of bringing culture to humans is not found anywhere in the New Testament. I surmise, therefore, that this is ALSO NOT a Law broken by angels.

9. “Do not bear false witness.” This is a tough one, but it never shows up in Fallen Angel Stories. As I mentioned when discussing “Do not kill,” John’s gospel quotes Jesus (8:44): “You have the devil for your father and you wish to practice the desires of your father; . . . he could not stay in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks according to his nature; for he is a liar and the father of liars.” As I also mentioned, Jesus is probably referring to Satan’s role as a tempter. If as the New Testament asserts, the serpent of Genesis is actually Satan, it is clear that he lies. He said, “You shall not surely die.” The serpent was, as a result of his act, cursed: the offspring of woman will eventually crush his head. Is this, then, the Law broken by an angel that could result in a Fallen Angel Story? It has possibilities, but, strangely enough, the Fallen Angel Stories do not make that much out of it. Jesus mentions that Satan is a man killer and a liar, but when Satan is cast out of Heaven in Revelation 12, it seems to have happened because there was no longer any room for him in Heaven. Why wait until Jesus’ sacrifice to cast him out, if he has been a liar from the beginning? Even though Revelation calls him the “deceiver of all humanity,” one wonders if his deceit simply amounts to something like putting a False statement in a True-False test. Yes, it is a lie, but the student is being tested to see if s/he recognizes it as such. Am I sinning when I give my students True-False tests?

10. “Do not covet.” Unless it was connected to the commandment “Do not commit adultery,” no Fallen Angel Stories seem to claim that this specific Law was broken by angels. Even if connected to the sexual angel story, there seems to be no indication that the women whom the angels married belonged to someone else. Hence, the Law against coveting does not apply.

Why did we consider whether angels broke any of the Ten Commandments? Because, some sort of justification is needed for a Fallen Angel Story. Usually, that justification is found in some perceived “sin” of the angels. In my next commentary, I will relate to you a story. This is a fictional story, but it was written about the time of the New Testament. It tells of fallen angels who DID NOT SIN, but fell anyway. It attempts to justify a Fallen Angel Story without claiming a sin on the part of the angels. Why do you think that might be?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Angels & Demons 4: “The Great Satan” of Iran

The Ayatollah Khomeini, whom Time magazine named “Man of the Year” in 1979, and who became the Supreme Leader of Iran when the Shah of Iran was deposed during the Jimmy Carter administration, is famous for labeling America “The Great Satan.” It is fitting that someone from Iran speaks of “The Great Satan.” Iran is another name for Persia and in the years prior to the Persian Empire, Persian religion developed the concept of an Evil God who was constantly at war with a Good God. In other words, Persians/Iranians are largely responsible for giving us our popular misconceptions about Satan.

Before I discuss “The Great Satan,” permit me a quick review of world history, as it pertains to the history of the Jews:

The BABYLONIAN Empire 627-539 b.c. (King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon carried the Jews away into captivity in 567 b.c. The prophet Daniel and his friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—were among the young men who were captured. Daniel predicted the eventual Fall of Babylon to the Persian King Cyrus.)

The MEDO-PERSIAN Empire 539-323 b.c. (Jewish princess Esther becomes the Queen of Persia from 492 to 460 b.c. Around 400 b.c., under the rule of Persia, the last two books of the Bible were written—Ezra and Nehemiah—as these two men reestablished the Jewish religion in Jerusalem.)

The GREEK Empire 323-146 b.c. (In a period entirely between the Old and New Testaments, the Greek religious influence was strong. This is called the Hellenistic period. During this time, the Maccabees mounted a successful Jewish revolt against Greece and Greek ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes defiled the Jerusalem Temple with Greek religious practices and forbade the practice of the Jewish religion.)

The ROMAN Empire (146) b.c.-476 a.d. (While the Romans conquered Greece in 146 b.c., they really did not become an “Empire” until their first “Emperor” Augustus Caesar in 27 b.c. Augustus was the Emperor during whose reign Jesus was born. Christians will certainly remember the decree that went forth from Augustus Caesar. Augustus was most likely the First Head of the seven-headed Beast of Revelation.)

One reason the influences of the Greeks and Persians on the Fallen Angel stories is missed by so many Christians is that these influences occurred mostly during the void of 400 years spanning the end of Old Testament history and the beginning of New Testament history. Readers may wonder why I am spending so much time debunking the mistaken notions about Fallen Angels. The simple answer is that it is necessary to “unlearn” all of the FALSEHOODS so that one can clearly see the TRUTHS. The New Testament and rabbinic Judaism were largely fighting against these falsehoods (as I shall demonstrate in future commentaries). In my book, Revelation: The Human Drama, I comment:

“Some interpreters of Revelation consider the informing anecdote of the book to be the conflict between God and Satan. This perceived conflict is a vestige of Judaism's contact with Persian religion. Martin Hengel discounts such ‘iranische Dualismus’ [or Persian Dualism] in accounting for the scene which, for example, produced the ‘fallen angel’ stories in the centuries preceding the New Testament period. In perusing John's Revelation, examples of a direct rivalry between God and Satan cannot be found. While allusions are made to ‘fallen angels’ in Revelation, it is not clear that they are typical of the fallen angel stories of the centuries preceding the Christian Era.”

By this comment, I mean what I stated before: “Persian religion developed the concept of an Evil God who was constantly at war with a Good God.” There is no picture in the Old Testament of a Satan who could rival God. The Hebrew word “SATAN” means “adversary” or “prosecuting attorney.” That’s all Satan was in the Book of Job. He certainly had not “fallen” from Heaven by then. Job 1:6 has Satan joining the angels in presenting themselves before God. He petitions God for permission to “test” Job. He certainly does not demand anything of God. This “testing” role is also the one he assumes in the New Testament as he “tests” Jesus in the desert, following his baptism. At the end of Jesus’ life (Luke 22:31), Jesus informs his disciples that Satan has asked permission to sift them all like wheat. This sounds to me like the same Satan who was in the courts of Heaven in Job.

Many of my university students view me as a professor who gives difficult tests. It’s probably true. Because of that fact, some of them view me as an adversary. So, if Satan forces us to endure difficult “tests,” we may easily view him as the “adversary” of MAN.

But, where is the hint in either the Old or New Testament that he is the adversary of GOD? God cannot be tested, and Satan “asks permission” from Him to test us. Some readers will immediately refer us to the “Lucifer” passage in Isaiah 14:12, but be careful! Nowhere does this passage mention “Satan.” (I’ll write more on this passage in a future commentary.) There is no such "Great Satan." If you are reading “Satan” into the passage, YOU ARE READING THE PASSAGE FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF PERSIAN RELIGION. The thirtieth Yasna, the ancient Zoroastrian worship texts from Persia, states: “Well known are the two primeval spirits correlated but independent; one is the better and the other is the worse as to thought, as to word, as to deed, and between these two let the wise choose aright.” This scripture from Persian religion tells you where your concept of Satan originated. Satan and God, according to Persian dualism, are the two INDEPENDENT, PRIMEVAL SPIRITS. One is good and one is bad. You must choose between them.

Paul even sees Satan as a useful agent in salvation. I Timothy 1:20 says that Paul surrendered Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan, so that they might be disciplined. In a similar vein, I Corinthians 5:5 has Paul counseling the church to hand over a fornicator to Satan so that Satan can destroy the fornicator’s “flesh,” in order that the fornicator’s “spirit” might be SAVED. Satan can apparently drive us to repent. That’s useful, right?

Do not misunderstand. I am not arguing that Satan is good. I am just pointing out that he is NOT the “Evil God” some make him out to be. He tests humans. In that sense, even though the serpent in Eden was not specifically called a “satan,” the New Testament correctly identifies him as such. When he finds that we are guilty, he is the prosecuting attorney, accusing us before God. Once God judges us, he is the executioner. These are all negative roles, from our (human) perspective. And Jesus came to put him out of a job. Jesus told his disciples, in Luke 10:18, that he had a vision of Satan falling from Heaven, like lightning. In Revelation 12, John sees Jesus’ prophecy fulfilled with Satan being cast out of Heaven (by Michael, not by God) when Jesus died on the cross. Satan was thrown out because his job as “accuser” was no longer needed. Jesus’ blood had secured forgiveness. No accuser is necessary in Heaven.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Angels & Demons 3: Where Have All the Fallen Angels Gone?

Although I never met him, Bernard Bamberger is the author of the most authoritative book from the late 20th century on Fallen Angels written from a Jewish perspective. I have a few things in common with him:

• Bamberger was the Rabbi of Temple Israel of Lafayette, Indiana, from 1929-1944; I was a member of the West Lafayette Christian Church that met temporarily in the Temple Israel building in West Lafayette from 1979 to 1981, when I was there.
• I had gleaned a great deal of information from Bamberger’s book throughout the 1970s, as I wrote my master’s thesis on Anamartetous Fallen Angels in partial fulfillment of my Master’s in Hebrew from Indiana University.
• Bamberger reached very nearly the same conclusions with regard to official Jewish literature that I reached with regard to New Testament literature as these literatures dealt with the issue of Fallen Angels.

Here is Bamberger’s conclusion from page 55 of his book: “The astounding thing is that, after some centuries of experimentation with this idea, the authoritative teachers of Judaism dropped it altogether. . . . The main line of Jewish thought returned to an uncompromising monotheism in which there was no room for satanic rebels.”

In the Old Testament, there were no fallen angels. Then, right after the Old Testament, hundreds of fallen angels emerged. Then, by the New Testament, the fallen angels have disappeared again! That’s amazing. In light of the flood of literature on fallen angels from the period between the Old and New Testaments, the obvious disqualification of the bulk of the fallen angel material from the official/codified scriptures of Judaism and the literature surrounding them is striking. The Hebrew Bible is silent on the subject and the official Jewish literature from the early Christian era is virtually silent on the subject. Furthermore, with the exception of a few very brief references to the story (which I shall explain in future commentaries) the New Testament is virtually silent on the subject. Where have all the fallen angels gone?

One possible explanation is as follows. Judaism did not get along with their Roman rulers in the years following Jesus’ death and resurrection, as they had gotten along with their Greek rulers in the early Greek Empire. They experienced a devastating seven year war with the Romans that included the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 a.d. Many Jews were taken into captivity; all of Israel was crushed by the Romans. It may well be that the increased tensions between the Jews and their Roman rulers provided the rationale for the abrupt discontinuation of many of these Hellenistic themes in Jewish angelology. In fact, it is interesting that the Church Fathers were the first to restore some of these Greek and Roman religious concepts of fallen angels. Christianity was fast becoming the new religion of the Roman Empire. There would be no real obligation on the part of the Church Fathers to divorce these western concepts from their theology. Rather, the opposite (attempts to show the reasonably close resemblance) would appear to be beneficial to the Church’s cause.

However, I think that early rabbinic Judaism and New Testament Christianity just became apprehensive about the dangers of Persian, Greek, and Roman religions and how these pagan religions had been instrumental in producing the fallen angel stories during the time Jews had been under the control of these cultures. Whatever the reason, the fallen angel stories are virtually gone by the time of the New Testament. We are hard-pressed to produce any material from the tannaitic-amoraic period of Judaism (the period just after the New Testament) or from the New Testament itself to support the Greek, Roman, or Persian themes in the fallen angel stories.

Since the Roman gods are, more often than not, just renamed Greek gods, I will not spend time discussing Roman religion. Next time, however, I will address Persian religion as it affected fallen angel stories. As we consider Greek and Persian religion, I think you will see how erroneous concepts of Satan and Fallen Angels developed, and how the New Testament and rabbinic Judaism countered these developments.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Angels & Demons 2: The “Prometheus” Connection

One attempt at identifying fallen angels in the Old Testament centers on the Day of Atonement as discussed in Leviticus 16. The Berkeley Version of Leviticus 16:7-10 mentions a certain “Azazel,” which some have identified as a fallen angel:

“He shall take the two he-goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the Dwelling and Aaron shall cast lots over the two he-goats, one lot for the Lord and the other for Azazel. Aaron shall bring the goat on which the lot for the Lord fell and shall prepare it for a sin offering; but the goat on which the lot for Azazel fell shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement with it by sending it for a scapegoat into the desert.”

Notice that this scripture passage does not contain any mention of angels or demons. A footnote in the Berkeley Version states: “The name Azazel is derived from Azalzeh (dismissed one) thus properly thought of as a scapegoat.”

As I mentioned in a previous commentary, in those years following the completion of the Old Testament, there is a flood of literature containing information on the subject of Fallen Angels. Perhaps, the most important book on the subject from that period between the Old and New Testaments is the book of I Enoch. The book claims that the Genesis 6 passage referring to the “sons of God” marrying the “daughters of men” should be understood to mean that “angels” married “human women.” I will deal in a future commentary with the issue of who these “sons of God” in Genesis 6 actually were, but I recommend that you not leap too quickly to the interpretation found in I Enoch.

In I Enoch 15:3, Enoch preaches to the fallen angels—the spirits in prison: “Why have you given up heaven . . . and cohabited with women . . . the daughters of men, and taken wives for yourselves. . . .?” According to I Enoch 54:5, iron chains were being prepared for the host of Azazel. This host will be thrown into the abyss, with jagged stones. I Enoch 65:6-7 speaks of the angel’s secrets that were passed on to humans, including sorcery, incantations, and working with melted metals such as silver, lead, and tin. In other words, the fallen angels taught mankind to make tools and use fire. They brought culture to mankind.

Much of Enoch’s account of Fallen Angels sounds like the Greek story of Prometheus. German Jewish scholar Martin Hengel, in his book Judentum und Hellenismus, pages 347-348, says that the analogy to the Clash of the Titans of Greek mythology lies closer to the fallen angel story than does Persian dualism. He suggests that the fallen angels, like the Prometheus of Aeschylus, bring important cultural benefits and knowledge to man. Another German Jewish scholar, Paul Volz, in his book Die Eschatologie der Jį¹»dischen Gemeinde im Neutestamentlichen Zeitalter, page 311, says that the fallen angels brought to man all secrets of the heavens and gave to them the magic wand of world culture.

Greek mythology is drawn from multiple literary contributions. These pieces of literature often contradict other pieces of literature, but some elements of the Prometheus story (drawn from different accounts) sound familiar. In his Legends of the Jews (V.112), Louis Ginzberg mentions the fact that some Jews of the period following the writing of the New Testament knew about Prometheus and connected him with Adam. Consider the following elements, gleaned from Greek mythology:

Zeus punished several of the Titans for fighting against him in the “Clash of the Titans,” but since Prometheus had not sided with his aunts, uncles, and brother, Zeus spared him. Zeus then assigned Prometheus the role of working with man. Some literary sources even suggest that Zeus gave Prometheus the job of creating man out of the earth—hence, the Adam connection. Whether or not he created man, Prometheus developed a close friendship with men. Zeus didn't want men to have power, especially over fire. But, Prometheus, as a friend of man, stole fire from Zeus' lightning, hid it in a giant hollow stalk of fennel, and gave it to man. Prometheus also stole warfare and blacksmithing skills from the gods and gave them to man. He brought culture to mankind. As punishment, Zeus “bound” Prometheus and tormented him.

Enter the book of I Enoch. Since the book of I Enoch was actually written in Greek, it is clear that the author was capable of being influenced by Greek thought. It seems quite logical that his account of Azazel and the culture-bearing fallen angels borrowed its plot from the Prometheus motifs. In an attempt to show religious compatibility with Greek culture, the author of I Enoch was anxious to demonstrate that his own scriptures—specifically, Genesis and Leviticus—contained the same account, with slight variations. But did they?

Although Genesis has God creating man from the dust of the Earth, it is MUCH MORE THAN a “slight” variation to have man created by a being of the rank of Prometheus. While the story of “rebel fallen angels” (which I will discuss in a future commentary) is not mentioned in the I Enoch account, the story of “sexual fallen angels” (which I will discuss in a future commentary) is featured quite prominently there. Nevertheless, this sexual nature of Greek gods does not seem to figure prominently in the Prometheus story. There is, however, the common thread: both of these stories have a lower-in-the-hierarchy divine being(s) bringing the use of fire and culture to man and being subsequently punished by being bound.

Of course, missing from the Genesis account of man’s creation, the account of the “sons of God” marrying the “daughters of men,” and the Leviticus account of Azazel is any mention of these events involving the bringing of fire or culture to mankind. One exception might be God’s making clothes of skins for Adam and Eve (after they had made clothes of fig leaves), but God is neither faulted nor punished for such an act.

In English, the word Azazel may look like a possible angel’s name. Many angels’ names (such as Gabriel and Michael) end in “el” which is short for “Elohim” the Hebrew word for God. However, the spelling in Hebrew requires an aleph before the “l.” There is none in the word Azazel. In explaining the meaning of the term “Azazel,” the Talmud gives a definition that Leo Jung, on page 156 of his book Fallen Angels, clarifies:

“The cruel, rough Azel. This may have been the original meaning, before the fallen angels were brought into contact with it, changing the rock into a demon. Azel as a rock occurs in I Sam. 20.19. With this would agree Yoma 67b: The rabbis taught (the official view as against the individual ones which follow) Azazel: ‘That is the name of a rough and rocky mountain.’ . . . After the official explanation of Azazel, the one which lived as the right one in the consciousness alike of priest, teacher and layman, the Talmud in its usual broadness of mind gives access to the play of folklore.”

The New Testament NEVER mentions Azazel or any hint of fallen angels bring culture to mankind. Romans 5:11 mentions “atonement,” but there is no sense of anything being given to a demon or fallen angel. Instead, Jesus is mentioned in an allusion to the scapegoating that secures atonement (i.e., covering of sins) for Paul’s audience.

My conclusion: I Enoch is wrong. The notion of fallen angels who brought culture to mankind is not biblical. It is the invention of a Greek-speaking Jew who wanted to gain favor with his Greek masters. If I Enoch got it wrong about Azazel and the culture-bearing fallen angels, we should certainly be skeptical about his introduction of angels who marry human women—especially in a Greek culture that believed all gods had sexual relations. But, more on that in future commentaries.