Friday, June 18, 2010

Angels & Demons 13: Who Are the “Sons of God” in Genesis?

The word “son” (Hebrew: BEN) occurs 4580 times in the Hebrew Bible. In the vast majority of those occurrences, the term is used to refer to the parent-child relationship between a human father and his physically-begotten human “son.” To my knowledge, no one seriously claims that the Hebrew God physically fathered any angels. Even Christians, who admit to no “physical begetting” while asserting that God “spiritually” begat Jesus, claim that Jesus was God’s “ONLY begotten Son.” Therefore, Christians do not hold that God (even spiritually) begat any angels. My initial conclusion, then, is that the phrase with which we are dealing in Genesis 6 is to be interpreted either figuratively or metaphorically. Those who married the daughters of men, in Genesis 6, are IN SOME FIGURATIVE OR METAPHORICAL SENSE “sons of God.” What are our figurative/metaphorical options?

1. The Septuagint (LXX), the major Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament during the New Testament period, does translate the phrase “sons of God” with the Greek word for “angels” in the book of Job, but interestingly enough, NOT IN GENESIS 6! The Greek translators of the Hebrew Bible—even though they were probably QUITE FAMILIAR WITH THE INTERPRETATION OFFERED IN I ENOCH that these were angels who married human women—chose NOT to translate the phrase as “angels” in Genesis 6.

2. H. Haag observes, in his article on “BEN” in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, that the word may be used to indicate a LINEAGE or ethnic identity, as when all offspring of the lineage of Jacob are called the “sons (children) of Israel.” This is a possibility that I will revisit.

3. The word can be used to indicate a GEOGRAPHICAL ORIGIN. Various humans are referred to as sons of Bethlehem, sons of Jerusalem, sons of Zion, sons of Eden, sons of Samaria, etc. While the terms “God” and “Heaven” are sometimes used as synonyms—as in the phrases “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God”—the contrast with “daughters of men” in the Genesis passage makes this an unlikely option.

4. Haag also observes: “An INDIVIDUAL is distinguished from the COLLECTIVE COMMUNITY of which he is a part or from man” by expressions translated “son of man.” This option may be more pertinent to the expression “daughters of men.”

5. The word, according to Haag, “is used as an affectionate address to YOUNGER STUDENTS or hearers,” much as we may use the word “son” in American discourse. I don’t think this interpretation has much merit.

6. It is used figuratively to express the SOURCE FROM WHICH SOMETHING COMES in such expressions as “son of oil” (referring to a hill or to an “anointed one”/messianic office holder), “son of dawn” (referring to the Morning Star), “sons of fire” (referring to sparks), and “sons of the bow” or “sons of the quiver” (referring to arrows).

7. BEN is also used to express MEMBERSHIP IN A SOCIAL GROUP, such as “sons of exile,” “sons of nobles,” “sons of the poor,” and “sons of the common people.” A group of musicians may be called “sons of Korah” or “sons of Asaph.” Priests are called “sons of Aaron.” Disciples of prophets are called “sons of the prophets.” Worthless people are called “sons of Belial.”

8. The term is also an idiom that is better translated “-LIKE.” Thus, “sons of strength” are strong, “sons of pride” are conceited, “sons of rebellion” are rebellious, “sons of uproar” are uproarious. In this sense, “sons of God” would be “God-like.” This interpretation has a great deal of merit.

9. Lastly, the term may be used to suggest a LENGTH OF TIME. Thus, a “son of eight days” or a “son of five hundred year” would refer to an eight day old child or a very old man. This is not how Genesis 6 is using the term.

While literature written in the Hellenistic period, before the New Testament times, embraces the interpretation “angels” for the “sons of God,” the rabbinic literature and the New Testament contain a different interpretation. According to Bereshit Rabbah 26.5, Rabbi Simeon ben Yoḥai translates the “sons of God” as “judges.” Targum Onkelos on Genesis 6 translates the phrase as “sons of the nobles.” Siphre Zuta on Numbers, section 86, agrees with this translation. Midrash Wayyikra Rabbah 23:9 treats the Genesis account as if it is talking about human activity. These translations would easily fit in the 7th and 8th categories, listed above. In addition to Jesus’ rejection of the notion that angels can marry (discussed in the previous commentary), Jesus is quoted in John 10:33-36 as clearly implying that the term “sons of the Most High” (from Psalm 82:6—a passage we shall return to in a later commentary) refers to “human judges.” Human judges are even called “gods/ELOHIM” in both Psalm 82:6 and Exodus 22:28. Jesus was making the point that it was not blasphemous for him to be called “god” or “son of God,” if even human judges could be called “gods” and “sons of the Most High.” Even though Haag argues that the passages in which “sons of God” are most prominent in the Old Testament (Job, Genesis 6, and Psalm 82) presuppose some sort of heavenly council in which God seeks input from other heavenly beings (such as angels), the Septuagint is only willing to explicitly apply that interpretation to Job. The rabbis rejected the notion that Psalm 82 referred to angels, as did John 10:33-36. Furthermore, the three other gospels (and the rabbis) reject the notion that angels can marry, so Genesis 6 could not then refer to angels, if the New Testament is to be believed. According to Haag, Dexinger (in more recent years) interprets the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 as “heroes” and Scharbert interprets the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 as the descendents of Seth. Is God actually objecting to heroes marrying common women or to Seth's descendents marrying Cain's descendents? Why would such unions produce "heroes"?

Louis Ginzberg notes that all of the Enoch legends “left no trace in the authoritative rabbinic sources,” and Bamberger goes so far as to say that Enoch “is not mentioned at all” in “the two Talmuds and in the tannaitic literature.” Bamberger does admit, in the footnotes (p. 275), that “actually Enoch is mentioned (but just mentioned)” in Seder Olam Rabbah, chapter 1, beginning. Then, two or three more references in the standard midrashim round out the references to Enoch. One of those references (Bereshit Rabbah 25.1) mentions Enoch, but only to claim that he was NOT translated to Heaven. Other than the reference to Enoch in Jude 14 and the few allusions to I Enoch in Jude, the only reference to Enoch in the New Testament is Hebrews 11:5, which merely lists Enoch as an example of faith who did not die (something that could be gleaned from Genesis 5:24 and that has no bearing on the “sons of God” issue).

So, let’s just look at the Genesis 6:1-8 text and see what makes sense:

“When ‘man/ADAM’ began to multiply on the face of the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw the daughters of ‘man’ that they were beautiful and they took wives for themselves from all whom they chose. And the Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not always YADON with (or in) ‘man’; in their erring, he is flesh. And his days shall be a hundred twenty years. The giants (NEPHILIM) were on the earth in those days and even afterwards, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of ‘man’ and they bore for them. They [Who are ‘they’?] were the heroes who existed from ancient time, men/ANOSH of name. And the Lord saw that the evil (HA-RA‘) of ‘man’ on the earth was great. And every inclination (YETZER) of the thoughts of his ‘heart’ was only evil (HA-RA‘) all the day. And God repented that he had made ‘man’ on the earth and He was grieved in His ‘heart.’ And the Lord said, ‘I will wipe off “man” whom I have created from the face of the earth—from man to beast to creeping thing to the fowl of the heavens. I regret that I made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”

Notice that this passage is ALL ABOUT “MAN.” The word “man/ADAM” is used eight times in these eight verses:

Man multiplies.

His daughters are beautiful.

God’s spirit will not YADON in him; he errs; he is flesh.

He seems to be obsessed ONLY with his “evil inclination/YETZER HA-RA‘.”

God repented that He had made him.

God plans to wipe him off the face of the earth.

Where is God’s outrage toward “angels”? If this passage is supposed to report the story of “fallen angels,” why is God only regretful that he made man, beast, creeping thing, and fowl? Why doesn’t God regret making the angels? Why doesn’t He punish the angels? To believe I Enoch, one would have to assume that having children who were heroes is punishment enough for them! This is not an account of fallen angels. Whoever these “sons of God” were, they were human. Perhaps, they were judges or sons of the judges, in line with Psalm 82:6 and Exodus 22:28. Judges were generally pretty smart and, like Samson and Gideon, they were usually good warriors. They could have had children who were “heroes.”

Some interpreters have tried to make something out of the term NEPHILIM (translated “giants”). The term can be associated etymologically with the root NAPHAL, which means “to fall.” Hence, some say, “Aha! Fallen Angels!” But, that interpretation of NEPHILIM has its own problems. Numbers 13:33 gives the clear indication that NEPHILIM were just human giants. When the Hebrew spies went in to scope out the land of Canaan, they reported that there were NEPHILIM (giants) in the land—i.e., the sons of Anak. The spies reported that they were as grasshoppers compared to the Canaanites. One would have assumed that they would have been more specific, if they had actually seen fallen angels. In the Genesis 6 text recorded above, I inserted the question “Who are they?” where the text says “They were the heroes who existed from ancient time, men/ANOSH of name.” Was the text saying that giants were the heroes—men of name? Or was the text saying that the sons of God were the heroes—men of name? If Genesis were following strict grammatical rules, as set down for English journalists by Strunk and White, the sons of God would be the heroes, but we cannot hold the Hebrew author of Genesis to English rules of grammar. The third possibility is not very grammatically correct for English readers, but works in the Hebrew: that the heroes (men of name) were the offspring of the sons of God and daughters of men. Whether the heroes were the “sons of God,” the giants, or the offspring of the sons of God and daughters of men, one thing is clear: they were MEN (men of name). They were not part-man/part angel.

One other Hebrew term in this text is important, the term YADON, found in the comment from God: “My spirit shall not always YADON with (or in) ‘man’; in their erring, he is flesh.” Frankly, we DO NOT KNOW what this word means. It is what scholars of ancient writings call a “hapax legomenon.” A hapax legomenon is a word that occurs ONLY ONCE IN ALL OF LITERATURE. We were able to interpret the word NEPHILIM in Genesis 6 as “human giants” because it occurs other places in literature. Numbers 13:33 gives the clear indication that NEPHILIM were just human giants. The word YADON, however, was never used before and never used again in ancient literature. You could say that your guess is as good as mine regarding the meaning of this word.

Nevertheless, I will hazard a guess, based on the dichotomies that are developed in this text. My perspective on the meaning of this word stems from my application of the Twentieth Century communication theorist Kenneth Burke’s definition of human. In my book, Disneology: Religious Rhetoric at Walt Disney World, I develop Burke’s view of humans as the symbol-using animal. Burke sees a dichotomy in humans: they have animality and they have symbolicity. In that book, I suggest possibilities for viewing the point at which humans existed “in God’s image.” While I did not discuss this point in that book, Genesis 1:26 quotes God: “Let us make man INTO our image.” The Hebrew consonant that I have translated “into” is typically translated “in.” Nevertheless “into” is a perfectly legitimate translation. Another legitimate translation would be: “Let us make man WITH our image.” Due to the scientific recalcitrance of the fossil record that seems to provide evidence of the existence of a non-symbol-using version of man that predates the symbol-using variety, I am happy with a translation of “into” or “with.” In other words, I see a possibility that God originally made a man (such as, Neanderthal) who did not have symbol-using capacities. He could not speak a language, make tools, paint pictures on cave walls, etc. Then, at some point, God made the same type of being with symbol-using capacities (i.e., with His image): He created Adam and Eve. This variety of man possessed BOTH animality AND symbolicity. Just as Genesis 6 says, God’s “spirit” (=symbolicity) shall not always “prevail/YADON” in man” because man is also “flesh” (=animality). The word “prevail” (as I have translated YADON) is at least a shade of the meaning of the word “strive”—the most common translation of the word YADON. It also makes perfect sense, if one notes that this passage is discussing man’s “evil inclination/YETZER HA-RA‘” which was “prevailing” all day long (presumably, over man’s “good inclination/YETZER HA-TOV”). The sons of God, in this scenario, would be the offspring of Adam and Eve—those who were created “with” God’s image, and hence, could be thought of as his “sons.” The daughters of men, in this scenario, would be the female offspring of the purely “animal” man, the Neanderthals or some such. This uses the "lineage" approach (#2, above) or interpreting "sons." The fact that the latest Neanderthals lived at the same time as the earliest forms of Modern Man has been in the news, lately. What would happen if one bred a very intelligent (symbolicity=God’s spirit=son of God) man with a very physically adapted (animality= YETZER HA-RA‘=daughter of man) woman? Would their offspring not have the capability of being “heroes” and “men of name?” Furthermore, such unions between “symbol-using” humans and their “animal” counterparts might be attributed to the purely sexual attraction of “sons of God” to the “daughters of men.” Their “evil inclination” could be interpreted as “prevailing” over their “good inclination”—because they are also flesh. This “prevailing” of the evil inclination of men over their good inclination could produce an understandable “regret” on the part of God that he had made either “animal man” or even “symbol-using man.”

Final thought: One does not need to buy into my Burkean philosophically dichotomous interpretation of Genesis 6, however, to see that the sons of God were not angels; they were humans.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Angels & Demons 12: Angels Cannot Engage in Sex

By far, the most famous Fallen Angel Story in all of literature is the story of angels who married human women and had children. In his article on angels in Judaism in the Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, volume V, page 80, J. Michl reports that, in Judaism, the angels were created free of moral decision-making capacity. He does however point out that they were fallible, citing Job 4:18 and 15:15. These two passages do not charge angels with sin, but they do charge angels with making mistakes—suggesting that they were not infallible. Was having sex with humans one of those areas in which angels were fallible? The literature between the Old Testament and New Testament certainly seems to make that claim. Michl lists the following texts that claim that some angels sinned--as the authors of these texts formed their opinions, based on Genesis 6, that angels had sexual unions with human wives:

Jubilees 4.22, 5.1, 7.21, and 10.5,
I Enoch 6f., 12.4, 15, 69.2-4, 84.4, and 86.1-6,
II Enoch 18.3-5, and (possibly) 7.1-3,
Testament of Ruben 5.6,
Testament of Naphtali 3.4,
Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch 56.12,
Damaskusschriften 3.4,
Philo, On the Giants 6,
Josephus, Antiquities 1.31, and
The Testament of Solomon 5:3.

As is easily seen, the story of sexual angels was a popular one, in the Hellenistic Period. There is an abundance of literature written after the Old Testament on this subject—so much, in fact, that the composer of the “Innocent Fallen Angel Story” I have been citing in these commentaries was, no doubt, familiar with the subject. That composer found it important enough to include the idea of sexuality in his Fallen Angel Story. It is not quite clear in the “Innocent Fallen Angel Story” whether, if the young girl were willing to consummate the sexual union, it would have even been possible. The proceedings never reached that stage, and (so far as this account is concerned) the angels were never again accused of making such a proposal. Herein lies part of the ingenuity of the “Innocent Fallen Angel Story.” Without totally disavowing the potential for angelic-human sexual intercourse, it nevertheless concludes that such an occurrence never came about. It appears to be a link between the popular (legendary) Fallen Angel Story and the official angelology of the rabbis. The Jewish rabbis of the New Testament period, on the whole, stood solidly on the contention that the “Fallen Angel Story” from I Enoch and others cited above was unacceptable, because angels had no sexual capacity.

The Testament of Solomon, the final text listed by Michl, was actually written sometime between 100 and 400 a.d. That work claims that all angels (not just fallen ones) have sexual capacity. It alludes to the Sexual Fallen Angel Story when it says: “You, on the one hand, are the son of a man, but I, of an angel, and by a daughter of man was I born.” Louis Ginzberg comments: “The Testament of Solomon, though containing a great many Jewish elements, is on the whole of a strongly syncretistic character. The pagan element is obvious in the fact that the angels (not only the fallen ones) are made to have offspring.” This is neither Jewish nor Christian, but pagan.” The rabbis and the New Testament writers stayed away from this teaching.

As Bamberger points out on page 90 of his book Fallen Angels: “The Talmud NEVER speaks of fallen or rebel angels. This is no accident; nor were the rabbis ignorant of the legend. They knew and suppressed it.” In other words, the Sexual Fallen Angel Story was intentionally subverted by the rabbis. Only a few brief references to the Sexual Fallen Angel tradition remain. In the New Testament, as I have indicated in previous commentaries, three of the gospels quote Jesus as teaching that angels neither marry nor give in marriage. Even in the LONE New Testament passage that suggests that angels could have “sinned” (II Peter 2:4), the idea is only presented in a CONDITIONAL clause—“IF God did not spare sinning angels.” And EVEN THERE, there is no mention of the SEXUAL Fallen Angel Story. Like the rabbis, the author of II Peter (along with his audience) knew the legend, and the writer suppressed it. In the parallel passage in Jude 6, the angels are NOT EVEN ACCUSED OF SINNING. They are accused only of “abandon[ing] their proper dwelling.” Like the rabbis, the author of Jude (and his audience) knew the legend and the writer suppressed it. So intent upon suppressing the Sexual Fallen Angel Story were the New Testament writers and early scribes that the name Enoch may have even been intentionally expunged from I Peter 3:19, as I discussed in a previous commentary. Neither the rabbis nor the New Testament writers support the Sexual Fallen Angel Story. But, does the Old Testament support the Sexual Fallen Angel Story? I will discuss the Genesis 6 passage on its own merits, next week.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Angels & Demons 11: Can Angels “on Earth” Sin, but Not “Angels in Heaven”?

Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.” Was he implying that all creatures in Heaven do His will perfectly, but that creatures on earth do not do His will perfectly? We can certainly agree that humans (on earth) do not do His will perfectly, but is it also true that angels who find themselves “on earth” do not do His will perfectly, either? I ran into this theoretical snag as I completed my Master’s in Hebrew at Indiana University.

I began writing my Master’s thesis on Fallen Angels in 1973, at Indiana University, but was not able to complete it until 1977. Why did it take me so long? On my Master’s committee, my major professor was Dr. Henry A. Fischel, a renowned Jewish scholar from Germany. He was not the problem. Fischel had personally been confined several months in a Nazi concentration camp, and his mother and 12 other family members died in the Holocaust. He was a former president of the Society of Biblical Literature in Canada and was a pioneer in studying the relationship between Jewish literature and the Hellenistic world. Fischel was always quite happy with the quality of my work in Jewish and Hellenistic literature. A second member of my Master’s committee was a Muslim, Wadie Jwaideh, the Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Literature at Indiana University. He was not the problem. Having studied at the University of Baghdad and Syracuse University, Jwaideh served as my primary resource on the Koran. Jwaideh had no problem with the quality of my work in Islamic literature. The final member of my committee was the stickler: a Christian, J. Paul Sampley, a professor of New Testament at Indiana University, at the time. He is the author of the commentaries on First and Second Corinthians in the New Interpreter’s Bible and is now Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Christian Origins at Boston University. Sampley insisted unyieldingly that I accept his view of angels in my thesis, despite my findings to the contrary. His view was that while the “angels in heaven” were incapable of sinning or reproducing or having sex, the angels “on earth” were quite a different matter. He thought the New Testament taught that angels who found themselves on earth were capable of sinning.

In the final analysis, after spending four years trying to please Dr. Sampley regarding my comments on angels in the New Testament, I decided that I could not write what I did not believe to be true. I removed all references to the New Testament from my Master’s thesis, so that he would have nothing to object to. I finished my thesis, and he endorsed it—along with Fischel and Jwaideh. I will, here and now, analyze Sampley’s thesis—that angels on earth can sin, unlike their heavenly counterpart.

In Bereshit Rabbah 27:4, Rabbis Judah and Nehemiah disagree on the derivation of the first word in the Genesis 6:6 clause, usually translated, “And the Lord REPENTED that He had made man on the earth.” The word translated “repented” is the word the two rabbis call into question. Rabbi Judah accepts the traditional translation (based on a vocalization from the Nif’al stem) and therefore understands the clause to read “the Lord REPENTED,” as I presented in the translation above. Rabbi Judah explains that if God had created man in Heaven, he would have remained sinless (as the angels are sinless); therefore, there is justification in God’s being sorry. Rabbi Nehemiah, on the other hand, believes that the word should have been vocalized in the Pu’al stem to say, “And the Lord WAS RELIEVED that He had made man on the earth.” Rabbi Nehemiah explains that if God had made man in Heaven, he would have aroused the angels also to revolt against God. Rabbi Nehemiah’s explanation seems to suggest that it is possible for angels (even those in Heaven) to sin (to REBEL, in this instance). Rabbi Judah’s interpretation implies that it was not possible, because—wherever they are—angels are incapable of sin. Either way, however, both are agreed that angels did not sin. Rabbi Aibu’s explanation of the text, then, follows with the idea that God repented because He had made the “evil inclination” in man; otherwise, man would have never have rebelled.

In Angels & Demons 6, I related an “Innocent” Fallen Angel Story. That specific story percolated around Judaism, during the New Testament period, because it allowed Jews to believe the thesis of the Enoch stories (that angels COULD sin) while also believing the strongly monotheistic teaching of the Old Testament and New Testament eras (that angels DID NOT sin). It served as a compromise, or possibly even a step toward a corrected theology of angels. According to the story, the angels were TEMPTED to marry the girl, but the girl outwitted them and the marriage was never consummated. Other rabbinic writings discuss the theological implications of this “Innocent” Fallen Angel Story. In Midrash Agadat Bereshit, we have an extension of the fallen angel account anticipating or involving the “innocent” fallen angels. According to this version, God warned the angels who wanted to descend to earth, “If you were on the earth, as these sons of man are on it, then you would notice the beautiful women also, who are among them; immediately, the ‘evil inclination’ will enter you and it will cause you to sin.” Yalkut I, p. 44, contains another version of the same legend in which God warns the angels, “I know that if you inhabit the earth, the ‘evil inclination’ will overpower you, and you will be more iniquitous than ever men [were].” The pious maiden concocted a scheme, similar to the one I related earlier, whereby she deceived the angels and was placed among the stars. In these two additional versions of the story, however, the angels “were not deterred from entering into alliances with the daughters of men.” In the Chronicles of Jerahmeel (another parallel to the “Innocent” Fallen Angel Story), after the angels had descended to earth, “Forthwith He allowed the ‘evil inclination’ to sway them.” Our maiden-becomes-star motif appears again, followed by the angel’s human marriages. In other words, these accounts were accepting BOTH the “Innocent” Fallen Angel Story AND Enoch’s “Sinning” Fallen Angel Story.

In all three of the variations from the “Innocent” Fallen Angel Story, just reported, it seems clear that so long as the angels remained in Heaven, they were not subject to the ‘evil inclination.’ The ANGELS’ MOTIVE FOR DESCENDING (in all three accounts) was TO PROVE THAT THEY COULD LIVE ON EARTH MORE RIGHTEOUSLY THAN MAN. Perhaps, the reason these versions of the story have the angels wind up sinning, anyway, is to disprove this theological precept (that angels could live on earth more righteously than man). Louis Ginzberg (in volume V, page 24, of his Legends of the Jews) summarizes the theological teaching of the rabbis at the time of the New Testament: “Although man, who is a terrestrial being, is inferior to the angels, he surpasses them by overcoming the ‘evil inclination,’ which the angels do not possess at all (BR 48.11).” The conclusion of rabbinic writings then is that the “pious are therefore greater than the angels.”

Whether or not angels COULD sin was a very real and HOTLY CONTESTED DEBATE ISSUE in the New Testament period. Last week, I discussed the only two (or three) very minor passages from the New Testament (primarily Jude and 2nd Peter) that suggested that angels COULD sin, and found that both (or all three) used the Fallen Angel Story as a sermon illustration. The Fallen Angel Story was NOT used to prove a theological point about angels, BUT to demonstrate that no one (not even an angel) is immune from punishment, if he or she does wrong. I will demonstrate in future commentaries that the gospels present JESUS himself in very specifically theological language DISPUTING ALL THREE MAJOR EXPLANATIONS OF THE SINNING FALLEN ANGEL STORY. Therefore, I do not believe either Jude or 2nd Peter actually believed the Fallen Angel Story that they used as a sermon illustration.

As you can see, however, there certainly were Jewish rabbis in the New Testament period who agreed with Sampley’s position—that angels on earth can sin, unlike their heavenly counterpart, even though the rabbis generally did not believe the angels actually DID sin. As you can also see, there were Jewish rabbis in the New Testament period who even thought it was possible even for angels in Heaven to sin (Rabbi Nehemiah). Bottom line: There were rabbis in the New Testament period who disagreed on the nature of angels just as Sampley and I disagree on the subject.

That does not mean that we are both correct. Sampley’s view (and the view of a FEW Jewish rabbis in the New Testament period) gives more credit to the Book of I Enoch than I (and the vast MAJORITY of Jewish rabbis in the New Testament period) do. I’m pretty sure that Sampley is wrong. Sampley objected when I pointed out that Jesus is quoted in Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25, and Luke 20:35 as saying that when the righteous are resurrected, they will be like the angels—neither marrying nor giving in marriage. This statement attributed to Jesus by all three synoptic gospels seems to indicate a fairly strong theological position—THAT ANGELS CANNOT MARRY. This position is identical to the position held by the majority of Jewish rabbis in the New Testament period. I will present the evidence from the rabbinic sources that testify to this position, next week.

Is this account of Jesus shooting down the premise of the Fallen Angel Story from I Enoch? I think so. Follow the logic: If angels neither marry nor give in marriage, the “sons of God” who MARRIED the daughters of men in Genesis 6 COULD NOT HAVE BEEN ANGELS. There certainly are many times when “sons of God” refers to humans (Galatians 4:6-7, for example) and only one time when the phrase clearly refers to angels (the book of Job). The dominant Greek translation of the Old Testament during New Testament times—the Septuagint—translates the Hebrew “sons of God” as “angels” in Job, but interestingly enough, NOT IN GENESIS 6, or in other important passages. Job is somewhat different from the rest of the Old Testament, anyway, in that it is a book written from the perspective of the descendents of Esau; whereas, the rest of the Old Testament pertains to the descendents of Esau’s brother, Jacob (a.k.a., Israel).

So, how does Sampley object? He points out that in the Matthew and Mark accounts, it is the angels “IN HEAVEN” who neither marry nor give in marriage. Of course, neither Matthew nor Mark go on to say that angels “on earth” do marry, but Sampley feels safe in the possible inference they provide him by using the phrase “in Heaven.” What is astounding, then, is that Luke—the gospel writer who we seem to think is writing to a more Greek-oriented audience (and who could, therefore, appreciate the Greek religious doctrine that EVEN GODS MARRY human women and other gods)—would have the audacity to state it so clearly: the resurrected do not marry; they are like the angels. No possible room is left for inferring that some angels “on the earth” might marry. For Luke, angels simply do not marry.

Think about it. What angels of whom we are aware were not “on the earth”? Gabriel brought messages to Mary and Joseph, but he had to be “on the earth” to deliver them. The angels who sang to the shepherds on the first Christmas night were at least within the atmosphere of earth. The angel (if that’s what he was) who joined Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace was “on the earth.” The angel who explained the signs of Revelation to John was “on the earth.” The angels who visited Abraham and Lot were “on the earth.” The angel (if that’s what he was) who wrestled with Jacob was “on the earth.” The angels who were involved in inspiring scripture (in I Peter 1:12) were “on the earth.” The angel who rescued Peter from prison was “on the earth.” The angels guarding the empty tomb were “on the earth.” Even the archangel Michael, who apparently remained in Heaven as he cast Satan down to the earth, appears to have been “on the earth” himself in Daniel 10, fighting for Daniel. Does this mean that all of the angels of whom we have ever heard were capable of marrying human women? It’s a little disconcerting to think that we can’t trust any of the angels who came to earth. (They might have the “evil inclination.”)

Luke had it right. Angels cannot marry. With him agree the vast majority of the Jewish rabbis in the New Testament period. I still contend that Sampley (and those few rabbis who agree with him) had it wrong. Matthew and Mark were not trying to hint that there was a difference between angels in Heaven and angels on earth. They were simply using respectful language (such as we use when, in the Lord’s Prayer, we address God as “Our Father who is ‘in Heaven.’” No one would suggest that when God was "on earth" walking with Adam in the cool of the evening, he was a different kind of being, would they?

The author of I Enoch had it wrong when he said in I Enoch 84:4, “The angels of your heaven are doing wrong.”