Friday, May 28, 2010

Angels & Demons 10: The Fallen Angels of Jude and 2nd Peter

The Book of Jude contains only thirty verses. Of those thirty verses, more than half (sixteen, according to the Nestle-Aland Greek text of the New Testament) have parallels in the Book of 2nd Peter. Most scholars agree that there is a dependency relationship between these two books, but disagree on which book came first and which may have borrowed from the other. These two tiny books are the only New Testament books that explicitly refer to the Fallen Angel story of the book of I Enoch.

The Nestle-Aland Greek text of the New Testament also lists four references to the book of I Enoch in the thirty verses of Jude. It seems clear that the author of Jude was familiar with Enoch material. It is not as clear that 2nd Peter was as familiar with Enoch material as was Jude. Nowhere does the Nestle-Aland Greek text of the New Testament list a reference to I Enoch in 2nd Peter. Nevertheless, in discussing the angels who are being kept, awaiting “judgment,” 2nd Peter 2:4 is the only text that asserts that these were “sinning” angels, and adds that the angels were being held in “Tartarus.” Surely, he got the “sinning” angels detail from I Enoch, but did he get the “Tartarus” detail from I Enoch, as well? I do not think so. Jude 6 is the only text that supplies the information that the angels were kept in “chains.” According to I Enoch 54:5, iron chains were being prepared for the host of Azazel, whom I mentioned earlier, in the post entitled “Angels & Demons 2: The ‘Prometheus’ Connection.” Azazel, if you recall, was the fallen angel from I Enoch who brought culture to mankind, as did the god Prometheus of the Greeks. Prometheus was, according to Greek legends, bound--“chained” to a rock—for bringing culture to mankind; whereas, his brother Atlas had been confined to “Tartarus” as punishment for opposing Zeus in the Clash of the Titans. It is possible that both 2nd Peter and Jude received some of the details of their accounts, not from Enoch, but from Greek legends about Prometheus.

These are the only two verses in the entire New Testament that specifically refer to the Fallen Angel Story. Interestingly, NEITHER of these two passages goes so far as to suggest that angels married human women or that angels rebelled against God. Yet, those two proposed “sins” (marrying humans and rebellion) are the two prominent explanations for the fall of the angels in literature outside the Bible. In fact, NEITHER passage spells out ANY specific “sin” of the angels. So, what was the sin 2nd Peter was referring to?

Do the authors of Jude and 2nd Peter believe I Enoch was actually written by Enoch, the descendant of Adam from Genesis 5, who lived 365 years and then was translated directly to eternal life, according to Hebrews 11:5, avoiding death altogether? If so, why did Enoch write in the Greek language instead of some ancient Semitic language? Even more puzzling: Do the authors of Jude and 2nd Peter believe there really is a place called Tartarus, where Greek gods are imprisoned? Questions such as these actually kept the book of Jude from being accepted into the New Testament canon for a long time. I personally do not believe the authors of Jude and 2nd Peter believed any of this. That is why they refused to mention the specific sin the angels were guilty of. For that matter, Jude does not even call it a “sin.” He only says that they “abandoned their proper dwelling.” Both agree that angels are awaiting judgment, but so does Revelation 20:10. Certain angels’ roles are scheduled to be terminated at the end of history, but not necessarily due to sins they have committed. If the authors of Jude and 2nd Peter do not believe the Fallen Angel Stories to which they refer, what is going on in these passages?

The Jews call it “Homiletic Aggadah.” The authors of Jude and 2nd Peter both lived in the Jewish milieu in which the use of homiletic aggadah was commonplace. The New World Encyclopedia defines aggadah as “folklore, historical anecdotes, moral exhortations, and advice. Sometimes they refer to mythical creatures, and incredible historical events.” The word “homiletic” refers to sermons. In some churches, today, instead of preaching a sermon, the church leader “delivers a homily.” The word homily means sermon. Budding young preachers study “homiletics” (or the art of preparing sermons) in college or seminary. In sermons, homiletic aggadah may be fictional or historical stories used to support certain moral or spiritual teachings. Jesus used parables. These were homiletic aggadah. Did the Good Samaritan actually exist, or was he just a fictional character Jesus used to illustrate his point that one’s neighbor can sometimes appear to be one’s enemy? Was there an actual Prodigal Son that Jesus had in mind? Were there actually five wise virgins and five foolish ones that went to a marriage feast? Does it matter? No.

Sermon illustrations may be taken from history, current events, or literature. Audiences typically know which is which. A preacher today might ask in a sermon, “Do you think Jack Bauer should be punished for torturing terrorists?” If the audience is familiar with the successful Fox TV series "24," they will know that the preacher does not actually believe a real person named Jack Bauer actually tortured real terrorists. The Jack Bauer character, played by Kiefer Sutherland, presented only a scenario—which is precisely what the fallen angel story presented for the authors of Jude and 2nd Peter. Just because Jack Bauer is a fictional character, it is not necessary to exclude his scenario from discussions of how America should fight a war on terror. Historical accounts may be mentioned right alongside the Bauer reference. The preacher might ask, “Should Osama bin Laden be granted Miranda rights, if he is captured?” He might recount facts about the Fort Hood murders, the attempted Christmas Day bombing and the attempted Times Square car bombing. Audiences can quickly switch back and forth between fiction and history, as they listen to sermons.

So, what sermon point were the authors of Jude and 2nd Peter making? The sermon seems to be most clearly preached in 1st Peter 3:17-20. The point of the sermon (in verse 17) is: “It is better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong.” The illustrations for this point are homiletic aggadah:

1. Christ suffered and died, but God raised him (3:18).
2. Even spirits who were disobedient at the time of Noah were imprisoned--a possible allusion to the fallen angels of I Enoch (3:19-20).
3. Noah was saved, even though all around him were destroyed (3:20).

2nd Peter 2:1-9 seems to make a similar point with some of the same homiletic aggadah. The point is: “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation and to keep the wicked under chastisement” (2:9). The illustrations are:

1. God did not spare sinning angels, but committed them to Tartarus (2:4).
2. Noah was saved, even though all around him were destroyed (2:5).
3. God did not spare Sodom and Gomorrah, but rescued Lot (2:6-8).

Jude 3-7 seems to be warning (7) the audience not to be like those who will be condemned (4). The illustrations are:

1. After the Lord rescued the Jews from Egypt, he destroyed those who had no faith (5).
2. Angels who abandoned their dwelling, He reserved in chains (6).
3. God did not spare Sodom and Gomorrah, when they sinned (7).

A quick glance at these three sermons shows how sermons were written in the culture of Peter and Jude. The common conclusion seems to be that God will eventually save the righteous and eventually punish the wicked, even if the wicked were originally as righteous as angels.

Since I commented that the spirits who were disobedient at the time of Noah and were imprisoned was a possible allusion to the fallen angels of I Enoch (1st Peter 3:19-20), I should explain my comment before concluding this post. The Nestle-Aland Greek text of the New Testament lists among its notes on verse 19 the conjecture of two textual critics that the word Enoch was originally in the text, but was somehow removed by scribes who copied the text. Such a mistake would be easily explained. The words usually translated “in which also” were pronounced in Greek: “ENHOKAI.” If this were pronounced “HENOKAI,” the words would be translated “Enoch also.” It is possible that early scribes accidentally made a mistake—or that scribes intentionally removed this reference to Enoch and fallen angels from the book of 1st Peter (because they did not want to teach the fallen angel story). This conjecture would remove a very singular and strange teaching in the Bible--that somehow Jesus went and preached to people in Hell after his death. Such a notion does not occur anywhere else in the Bible. I Enoch, on the other hand, DOES SAY that Enoch went and preached to the spirits in prison—referring to Enoch preaching to the fallen angels who had been chained. If this is an accurate conjecture, we have three references to the I Enoch account of fallen angels in the New Testament, instead of two. Nevertheless, all three seem to be related--developments of the same sermon, and the characterization of homiletic aggadah fits all three references.

My final comment on these passages is that of all three of them, ONLY THE 2ND PETER PASSAGE actually speaks of “sinning” angels (and even that passage leaves an “out” for the author). 2nd Peter 2:4 DOES NOT SAY, “God did not spare sinning angels.” It says, “IF God did not spare sinning angels.” The “IF” effectively removes any clear cut doctrine of sinning angels from the entire New Testament, by making the clause into only a conditional clause.


  1. I surely enjoyed reading this, thx I do believe this biblical history to be truth, and throughout the years it has been hidden intentionally ;) greg offord

  2. Rebellion is a sin...1 Samuel 15:23

    King James Version (KJV)

    23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

    It is pretty clear that that the Angels were in rebellion against God.

    Isaiah 14:12-19

    King James Version (KJV)
    12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

    13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

    14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

    15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

    16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;

    17 That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?

    18 All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house.

    19 But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.

    While God reserves the right to condemn, it is evident That Lucifer who is now called Satan and 1/3 of the Angels were cast from heaven for REBELLION and later further discredited themselves by having sexual intercourse with earthly women and marrying them. The Sons of God and the Daughters of Men (Genesis 6:1-8) Crossing a forbidden boundary...While again God is the one to stand and condemn, it is very clear that Rebellion is Sin as is crossing a forbidden boundary. The anecdotal story certainly applies or the writer would not have included it in text. The second sin is a repeat of the first REBELLION. the conditional clause " If " can be taken two ways 1) Not knowing the outcome of the judgement. 2) Or a Rhetorical question where the writer in fact knew that it was a sin and was simply making a point.So the conditional clause as you put it... is really a rhetorical statement using reason as his point.. I believe the latter was the intent. Seams rather clear. Lets not confuse people by watering down the truth ....Sin is a sin redeemable ONLY by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.....That is why we need "GRACE" an unmerited pardon or in layman's terms undeserved gift of the forgiveness of our sins..However Satan and his demons " (the other 1/3 fallen Angels) since his fall from Heaven has not stopped persecuting Gods children.( I dont see any repentance here) When viewing your topic with the rest of scripture it is clear that the intent here is a warning of the nature of sin and the judgment of God. God will not spare the judgement of Satan and his fallen Angels. I hope you are not offended by the clarification....God Bless to all...Interesting topic for sure....

    1. Thanks for your comment, but I fear that you stopped reading my posts before you posted this comment. See my posts regarding Lucifer four and five posts beyond this one. Angels and Demons 14 and 15.