Friday, March 30, 2012

Christian Reception of the Sons of God Myth, part I.

Background – Christian interpretation of the sons of God in Genesis 6

The critical apparatus of the Septuagint demonstrates the redaction history of Genesis 6 in Greek. Aquila and Symmancheus followed a Masoretic text type, οῖ υῖοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ. Codex Alexandrius, however, presents us with aggeloi τοῦ θεοῦ. Whether or not this is an example of mistranslation, interpretation, or an instance of Codex Alexandrius following a different Hebrew manuscript tradition is uncertain. Attempts at critical reconstruction of the earliest Septuagint text largely side with οῖ υῖοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ, noting the textual tradition contained in Codex Alexandrius. Philo of Alexandria demonstrates his own knowledge of the discrepancy among the Greek texts circulating in his time.[1] It is worth noting that the topic of the Sons of God in Genesis 6:1-4 and the motif of the fall of the angels is expansive enough to constitute a separate volume. This thesis will restrict itself only to the interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 that falls within the general trajectory of the orthodox or catholic Christian tradition. Gnostic materials utilized the myth of the fall of the angels in a very different manner and there are many sources available on the Gnostic materials.

I Enoch

I Enoch possibly represents the earliest and certainly most detailed explication of the account of the sons of God and the daughters of man in Genesis 6. Only J. T. Milik believed in the possibility that I Enoch represented the preservation of a larger narrative that Genesis truncates into a few lines.
            The account of the fall of the angels begins at I Enoch chapter 6, “In those days, when the children of man had multiplied, it happened that there were born unto them handsome and beautiful daughters. And the angels, the sons of heaven, saw them and desired them; and they said to one another, “Come, let us choose wives for ourselves from among the daughters of man and beget us children.”[2] Comparing the Greek fragments of I Enoch 6 (Gizeh fragments) to the Greek text of Genesis 6, we can note some lexical affinity between the two:

καὶ ἐγένετο ἡνίκα ἤρξαντο οἱ ἄνθρωποι πολλοὶγίνεσθαι ἐπὶ τῆς 
γῆς καὶ θυγατέρες ἐγενήθησαν αὐτοῖς ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ τ ὰς θυγατέρας τῶν ἀνθρώπωv ὅτι καλαί εἰσιν ἔλαβον ἑαυτοῖς
γυναῖκας ἀπὸπασῶν ὧν ἐξελέξαντο . (Gen 6:1)

Καὶ ἐγένετο οὗ ἂν  ἐπληθύνθησαν οἱ υἱοὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐγεννήθησαν ‎‎ θυγατέρες ὡραῖαι καὶ καλαί.  καὶ ἐθεάσαντο αὐτὰς οἱ ἄγγελοι υἱοὶ οὐρανοῦ  καὶ ἐπεθύμησαν αὐτάς , καὶ εἶπαν πρὸς ἀλλήλους  Δεῦτε  ἐκλεξώμεθα ἑαυτοῖς γυναῖκας ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων , καὶ γεννήσομεν ἑαυτοῖς τέκνα. 

The lexical affinities between the two texts, although marred by changes of tense, offer the possibility of some form literary dependency. In particular, the Gizeh fragment of I Enoch appears to take off from the Greek text of Genesis. The justification for utilizing the Greek texts over Hebrew, Aramaic, or Ge’ez texts is largely derived from a combination of missing data and chronology. The Aramaic texts found at Qumran suffer from too many lacunae. Additionally, the Ge’ez texts, both of Genesis and I Enoch, are largely the product of the fifth century at the earliest. By the fifth century, Christianity had been firmly established in Ethiopia; however, most all of our surviving Ge’ez manuscripts are products of the tenth century C.E. Additionally, the Ge’ez text, following the translation tradition of the Septuagint, is likely the product of Greek originals. Thus, the Greek fragments, when they supply a substantial amount of material, are invaluable when discussing the relationship between Genesis 6 and I Enoch 6.
            Syncellus records a major variant of I Enoch 6 that should be noted in this discussion:

Καὶ ἐγένετο ‎ὅτε ‎‎ ἐγεννήθησαν ‎αὐτοις ‎ θυγατέρες ‎ὡραῖαι. ‎ καὶ ἐπεθύμησαν αὐτάς ‎οἱ ἐγρήγοροι καὶ εἶπον πρὸς ἀλλήλους· ‎ἐκλεξώμεθα ἑαυτοῖς γυναῖκας ἀπὸ ‎ τῶν θυγατέρων ‎ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ‎τῆς γῆς.

            Syncellus’ recording of I Enoch 6 contains lexical affinity with both the text of Genesis as well as the text of Gizeh fragment. The parallels to the Genesis narrative have, as with the Gizeh fragment, been underlined above. However, Syncellus also records lexical parallels with the expansions in the Gizeh fragment. Syncellus’ reference also provides a Greek translation of the proper name of the group of angels found in the Aramaic fragments in the form of οἱ ἐγρήγοροι.
            The narrative of I Enoch continues by describing the fall of the angels of God. The impetus for the fall of the angels stems from the machinations of two figures, Shemyaza, the figure who encourages the other angels to take human wives, and Azazel who the text identifies as the figure responsible for revealing previously hidden knowledge to humanity, these include the arts of seduction/beautification for women as well as alchemy.[3] Additional angels teach humanity incantation and witchcraft and astrology.[4] As the narrative continues, the consequences of Shemyaza and Azael’s actions are explored. The consequences are recorded in two distinct text units, those of Shemyaza in 7:1-6  and 9:8 and those of Azazel in 9:6-7. I Enoch 7:1-6 details the general fall of angels and states many of the charges leveled against Azazel in the following section as well as provides an account of the origin of the Nephilim. The knowledge revealed by Azazel is later defined in 9:6-7 as the knowledge of every form of oppression according to the Ge’ez text. The Greek text in the Gizeh preserves a variant description of the arcane knowledge revealed by Azazel, καὶ πάντα σὺ ὁρᾷς ἃ ἐποίησεν Ἀζαὴλ, ὃς ἐδίδαξεν πάσας τὰς ἀδικίας ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ ἐδήλωσεν τὰ μυστήρια τοῦ αἰῶνος τὰ ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ ἃ ἐπιτηδεύουσιν καὶ ἔγνωσαν ἄνθρωποι. I Enoch eventually distinguishes the two levels of sin comprising the fall of the angels. Shemyaza is guilty of leading the angels to sin against themselves by copulating with women while Azazel is guilty for corrupting humanity with previously occult knowledge.

The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs.

The author of the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs presumes the authenticity and authority of I Enoch. Simeon addresses his sons with the prophetic and apocalyptic warning: “For I have seen in a copy of the book of Enoch that your sons will be ruined by promiscuity, and they shall injure with a sword the sons of Levi.”[5] As Kee notes, the citation from what the author refers to as the book of Enoch does not appear explicitly in I Enoch, although a similar strain of thought is found 2 Enoch or the Slavonic Enoch.[6]
The Testament of Levi includes the following mention of the book of Enoch, “You shall be scattered as captives among the nations, where you will be a disgrace and a curse. For the house which the Lord shall choose shall be called Jerusalem, as the book of Enoch the Righteous maintains.”[7] As with the reference to the book of Enoch in the Testament of Simeon, there is no correspondence between this reference and the extant Enoch material. It must be noted that the Testament of Levi demonstrates the likely Christian redaction of the final form of the text of the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs as we have it today. We find signs of this redaction at 10:2, “See, I am free of responsibility for your impiety or for any transgression which you may commit until the consummation of the ages, against Christ, the Savior of the world, in leading Israel astray and fomenting great evils against the Lord.”

The sons of God myth in the New Testament

Various portions of the New Testament display knowledge of the sons of God myth, most especially in the manner interpreted by I Enoch. The spirits in prison in I Peter 3:19 refers to I Enoch 10:4-6 and its account of the subsequent punishment given to the angels who sinned. II Peter is more explicit in its evocation of the sons of God myth, εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς
 ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων οὐκ ἐφείσατο, ἀλλὰ σειροῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν
 εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους. II Peter’s allusion to the sons of God myth avoids an explicit citation of I Enoch and appears to refer to a broader interpretative tradition. Conversely, the Epistle of Jude makes explicit citation of I Enoch in its text,

 Ἐπροφήτευσεν δὲ καὶ τούτοις ἕβδομος ἀπὸ Ἀδὰμ Ἑνὼχ λέγων Ἰδοὺἦλθεν Κύριος ἐν ἁγίαις μυριάσιν αὐτοῦ, ποιῆσαι κρίσιν κατὰ πάντων καὶ ἐλέγξι     πάντας τοὺς ἀσεβεῖς περὶ πάντων τῶν ἔργων ἀσεβείας αὐτῶν ὧν 
ἠσέβησαν καὶ περὶπάντων τῶν σκληρῶν ὧν ἐλάλησαν κατ' αὐτοῦ ἁμαρτωλοὶ ἀσεβεῖς.[8]

 ὅτι ἔρχεται σὺν ταῖς μυριάσιν αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ,  ποιῆσαι κρίσιν κατὰ πάντων, καὶ ἀπολέσει  πάντας τοὺς ἀσεβεῖς, καὶ ἐλέγξει πᾶσαν σάρκα περὶ πάντων  ἔργων τῆς  ἀσεβείας αὐτῶν ὧν ἠσέβησαν καὶ ‎‎σκληρῶν ὧν ἐλάλησαν λόγων, καὶ περὶ πάντων ὧν κατελάλησαν κατ᾽ αὐτοῦ ἁμαρτωλοὶ ἀσεβεῖς.[9]

Jude makes a comparatively complete citation of I Enoch 1:9, with minor changes from the Greek text found in the Gizeh fragments. Whereas both of the Petrine allusions leave some room for interpretation as to whether or not the authors are appealing to I Enoch or a general myth of the sons of God popular in Jewish interpretations of Scripture, Jude appears to have either possessed a copy of or memorized I Enoch and appeals to its rendition of the sons of God/fallen angels myth as authoritative.

[1] Reed has opined that Philo’s mention of this variance among the Greek text of Genesis circulating in the 1st century indicates the possibility of the Greek text having been redacted to reflect the popularity of the fallen angels myth in Second Temple Judaism. During Philo’s time, texts such as I Enoch and other pseudepigrapha which developed the sons of God and daughters of man in Genesis 6. Reed presumes the popularity of these texts and the fallen angel myth contained therein led to a “correction” of the Greek text so as to reflect the widespread interpretation of Genesis 6. The implication in Reed’s hypothesis is that aggeloi τοῦ θεοῦ is more explicit in conveying the fall of angels and the resulting offspring between angels and women than οῖ υῖοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ, which allows for an array of interpretations. The variety of interpretations possible with οῖ υῖοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ may be seen when analyzing Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew. Whether or not Justin records an authentic dialogue is debatable. However, in the character of Trypho, Justin records a popular interpretation among Jews in the early second century C.E. that connected the sons of God of Genesis six with human figures via proof texting through Psalm 95. In concluding the discussion of the Septuagint version of the text, it is worth noting the old Latin text. The old Latin text follows the text of the Septuagint, angeli dei. Only with Jerome’s translation work in the fourth century did the Latin text follow a masoretic tradition.
[2] I Enoch 6:1-2
[3] I Enoch 6:3, 8:1
[4] I Enoch 8:3
[5] Testament of Simeon 5:4. As
[6] See editorial notes to The Testament of Twelve Patriarchs 786
[7] Testament of Levi 10:5
[8] Jude 1:14-15
[9] I Enoch 1:9
copyright the author