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Not Giving Heed to Jewish Fables (5)
Enoch in Peter and Jude (Part 2)

(Bible Study - January 2001)

In November’s article (Tidings, 11/2000), the source evidence was presented that, firstly, Peter and Jude faced the problem of false teachers spreading myths, and secondly that the "angels that sinned" described by Peter and Jude are specifically rooted in the Book of Enoch and its associated traditions.

In this article, it is intended to show, thirdly, that the way in which Peter and Jude address the false teachers is to convict them out of their own mouths. This is the same approach we applied in previous articles to the Abraham in the Underworld, and Jannes and Jambres stories (Tidings, 7/2000; 9/2000). Again the objective is not just to prove that these "wrested scripture" passages are drawn from uninspired material (rather than the Old Testament), but also to show that the treatment of these myths in scripture is negative.

Peter and Jude - an immediate reply to the Enochites
If we were going to look for a negative comment by Peter and Jude, where should we look for it? The obvious answer is immediately before and immediately after their references to "angels that sinned." Rule number one of Bible study is: always read the context. Yet most Christian readers of the "angels that sinned" read only the angels-flood-Sodom sequence in II Peter 2:4-8 (or the Sinai-angels-Sodom in Jude vv. 5-7) without noticing what precedes and follows.

We already saw how Peter precedes his mention of angels that sinned (II Pet. 2:4) with "exploit you with stories that they have made up" (2:3 NIV). This is a perfect lead in to an argument of logical fallacy: "If God did not spare angels when they sinned...if this is so then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment" (II Pet. 2:4,9 NIV).

Peter’s argument was picked up by Bro. Ron Abel: "Why bother to chain these angels if, as one Jehovah’s Witnesses publication contends, they can still ‘exercise dangerous power over men and women’?" (Wrested Scriptures p. 180, 1c)

This was the best answer to the "angels that sinned" myth in Peter’s time, and it is still the best answer today. If the "angels marrying" part of the Book of Enoch is true, then why not the part about the angels having been chained in Tartarus by the archangel Raphael? If they are chained in Tartarus, then, as Peter says in 2:9, they aren’t a threat to anyone are they?

Of course people are very imaginative and will find ways around Peter’s argument. Jehovah’s Witnesses will usually assert that there "must have been" other falls, and other angels ("the ones that got away"). The response to Peter’s point was more sophisticated in his day: it was then said that, True, the Book of Enoch has the angels in chains, but the immortal spirits of their giant offspring survived the flood to become the demons of New Testament times. But neither of these "explanations" is an answer to Peter’s fundamental point which is -- even if Enoch is true, the book itself shows that God knows how to deliver the godly from temptation, thus He is not subjecting the godly to such a trial (2:9). This is one of the clearest verses against angelic, or diabolic, temptation in the New Testament.

It is interesting that Jude, despite following Peter almost word for word in this section, chooses to omit Peter’s comment on "stories they have made up." Instead, Jude inserts a new example, the destruction of many of the children of Israel in Sinai (Jude 5). Perhaps Jude wanted to include a specifically historical example for the benefit of those under the influence of the false teachers, or perhaps he was echoing I Corinthians 10:5. Either way the lesson which Jude supplies, which the examples of Sodom and the flood do not, is how even the elect may also be punished if they go astray.

Blaspheming against celestial beings
The main argument against the false teachers and the Book of Enoch is found in the sections immediately following mention of the angels that sinned.

  1. Jude 8, II Peter 2:10 -- the false teachers blaspheme celestial beings.

  2. Jude 9, II Peter 2:11 -- but angels, although much greater (than the teachers), do not dare bring an accusation against such (celestial) beings.

  3. Jude 10, II Peter 2:12 -- so the false teachers, and the Book of Enoch, blaspheme things they do not understand (or beings they do not know).

Dominion and glories
In the parallel verses labeled (A) above, heavenly powers are mentioned twice in different words "government" and "dignities" (KJV), or "authority" and "celestial beings" (NIV). These words are literally "dominion" and "glories" in Greek, and both are associated with heavenly things.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, "dominion" is always associated with heavenly "principalities and powers" (Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16). "Dignities" literally means glories. Like "dominion," it is a rare term and is used in this sense only by Peter and Jude in the New Testament. In I Peter 1:11, Peter uses the plural form in regard to the future glories of Christ. In the Greek Old Testament, the word describes the glory surrounding God: "Who is like unto thee among the gods O Lord? Who is like unto thee, glorified in holiness, marvellous in glories (plural), doing wonders?" (Exo. 15:11).

It is also used in this sense in other first-century Jewish literature: Philo, On the Special Laws 1.45 writes, "Moses said .. I am not able to bear the visible appearance of your form but I ask you that I may behold the glories (plural) that are around you." In Test Judah 25:2 we read, "And the Lord blessed Levi; the Angel of the Presence blessed me; the powers of glories (plural) blessed Simeon, the heaven blessed Reuben; the earth blessed Issachar…"

That "dominion" and "glories" mean more than just human dignitaries is confirmed by Peter’s next verse: "Whereas angels, which are greater in might and power (i.e. greater than the false teachers) bring not railing (i.e. "slanderous") accusations against them" (i.e. against the glories) (II Pet. 2:11).

Slandering celestial beings
These verses, parallel in II Peter and Jude, are the key to understanding both letters. Both writers state twice that the false teachers were slandering celestial beings, namely angels. "Slander" implies two conclusions; (a) that they were accusing the glories of wrongdoing, (b) that their accusations were unfounded. Surprisingly the obvious impact of the verses, that the false teacher’s allegations were lies, is often glossed over.

The impact of what Peter and Jude are saying is clearer in the NIV: "This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord" (II Pet. 2:10-11 NIV). And Jude 8 reads: "In the very same way these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings."

If the allegations (specifically of angels having sex with women) were "slanderous accusations," then it can hardly be used as proof that the accusations were true. If the "slander" consisted of allegations that angels rebelled, descended to earth and fathered demons, then Peter and Jude’s evidence must be taken to mean that no such thing happened, and that it is not acceptable to believe or teach such things in the church.

It would be possible to go on in detail but the above arguments -- the immediate context before and after the "angels that sinned" passages should be enough to prove our objective in this series -- that the reference to the Jewish fable is negative.

Parallels of II Peter and Jude
Following is a summary of the parallel sections of II Peter and Jude:

  1. II Peter 2:1-3: Setting the scene, false teachers "among the people" who "exploit you with stories they have made up" (// Jude 4).

  2. Jude 5: Example of Jewish apostasy at Sinai. 3. II Peter 2:4: An ironic example from I Enoch10:4 using "angels that sinned" as one of the examples of punishment due to false teachers // Jude 6.

  3. II Peter 2:5-8: More, and better, examples taken from the Old Testament. Obviously Peter does not consider that an example taken from the Book of Enoch is sufficient to prove his point (// Jude7a).

  4. II Peter 2:9: Logical fallacy of first example (I Enoch 10:4). There is nothing to fear from "angels that sinned" if God has already reserved the angels "to the day of judgment" (parallel "vengeance of eternal fire" (// Jude7b refers to I Enoch 21:7 where the fallen stars are chained in "a great fire that was burning and flaming").

  5. II Peter 2:10: Contradiction of I Enoch 6:1-8:4. Bible teaching on angels: anyone teaching that angels sinned is "speaking evil of dignities" (KJV), "blaspheming glories" (Greek), "slandering celestial beings" (NIV) (// Jude 8).

  6. II Peter 2:11: Contradiction of I Enoch 9:1-11. Despite claims of the Book of Enoch, angels, specifically Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael, never accused anyone, not least "dignities" or "glories" (// Jude 9).

  7. II Peter 2:12: Conclusion regarding I Enoch 6-10: the false teachers don’t know what they are talking about (// Jude10).

  8. II Peter 2:13: Warning of the results of this teaching. False teachers "shall perish in their own corruption" (// Jude 10 "in those things they corrupt themselves").

  9. II Peter 2:14-16: Rebuke of false teachers taken from Old Testament using example of Balaam (// Jude 11 using Cain, Balaam, Korah).

  10. II Peter 2:17: Rebuke of false teachers taken from I Enoch. Peter’s three references to Enoch ("dry springs" I Enoch 48:1,96:6; "waterless clouds" I Enoch 18:5,41:4-5,100:11-12; "eternal darkness") are expanded in much greater detail by Jude 12-15 taking language used in Enoch about false shepherds of Israel ("trees without fruit" I Enoch 80:3; "plucked up" I En. 83:4; "raging waves" I En.101:3-5).

Jude uses language about "angels that sinned" and applies it to the false teachers. In I Enoch 21:3 the "stars" are fallen celestial beings, but (and here’s the rub) in Jude 13 the "wandering stars" are false teachers who teach myths from the Book of Enoch. The word "wanderer" however is drawn from Hosea 9:17 not Enoch and likewise the image of the dead tree connects with Hosea 9:16. This may be to emphasize that Jude12-15 really concerns Ephraim rather than fallen angels.

  1. II Peter 2:18-22: The dog returns to its vomit. In five verses, Peter five times repeats the theme that these false teachers were returning to their old beliefs. This five times emphasis is clearly important. Each time Peter is underlining that the teachers were reverting to their origins -- an argument which only makes sense in this context if these were not Greek, but Jewish origins such as found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (// Jude16 "murmurers" harks back to his theme of Sinai and the wishing to return to Egypt again. This is the only use of the word in the New Testament).

  2. II Peter 3:1-2: Reminder of the authority of scripture. Note that Peter cites the prophets demonstrating the authority of Old Testament over I Enoch (e.g. II Pet. 1:21) (// Jude cites the apostles, demonstrating the authority of New Testament over I Enoch).

Stephen Cox

Footnote. Other New Testament passages relevant to the "angels that sinned," which need to be underlined in any discussion of the subject, include Mark12:24-25; Luke 20:35-36; Heb. 1:14. All these verses can only be written with an eye to the same popular Jewish myths, or there was no need to state the obvious. Perhaps the most relevant is the "angels, and authorities and powers being made subject to him" (I Peter 3:22). This may well be Peter’s first answer to the Enoch myth.

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