Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Paleo-Orthodoxy: Enoch, Aliens and Biblical Orthodoxy

In the past year or so I've become aware of what I classify as "fringe evangelicalism". That is, an evangelicalism that promotes every oddball theory, every new heresy that is currently in vogue. The most recent example would be the high strangeness connected to the Book of Enoch. There are literally hundreds of websites and videos on Nephilim, Watchers and secret cabals linked to them. Some dubious "apologists" have made this sort of silliness their livelihood. Historically, the church took the issues of angels and demons seriously. So is the apocryphal Book of Enoch something we should take seriously, or is it merely mythology?

Theologians of the early church attempted to provide answers. Fortunately for us, if we examine the writings of the Church Fathers, what we discover is the gradual development of orthodox Biblical teaching on the subject. The Church Fathers, back in the first few centuries after Christ and the Apostles, were exploring the origin of evil in the world. And many of them agreed that evil was rooted in the activities of those angels who fell from heaven - the familiar scriptural account of Satan's rebellion against God (Isa.14: 12-15), and the other rebellious angels who were cast out with him (Rev. 12:9). Oddly, when many think of these beings they think of incorporeal, winged creatures, dark and shadowy demonic entities tempting humanity to commit acts of sin and blasphemy, implanting the seeds of evil in the minds of men, but certain key passages in the non-canonical Book of Enoch told of one group of these fallen ones taking on very much physical forms.

Embodied Angels 
The apparent ability of angels to assume a physicality shouldn't be such a difficulty for theologians. Consider the angel with whom Jacob wrestled, who was physical enough to physically hurt him. So tangible was this angel that the Book of Genesis (32:24) calls him a 'man', although elsewhere (Hosea 12:4) Scripture reveals that he was an 'angel'. The angel said to Jacob, "Let me go, for the day breaketh." How could Jacob have had such a hold upon an incorporeal being? Also consider the angels who visited Sodom (Gen. 19:1-11) who had to be bolted indoors in Lot's house in order to protect them from an intended sexual assault by local townspeople. Again, these angels appeared physical enough as to arouse the lusts of at least some of the residents of Sodom. Or what of Manoah (Judges 13:3-21), who offered to cook dinner for his guest - presumed to be an ordinary man, until he ascended to heaven in the fire Manoah had lit? "Then Manoah knew," explains scripture, "that he was an angel of the Lord." The belief in the ability of angels to assume human-like form seems to be an established fact in Sacred Scripture, and was accepted as such in the early church. But does this validate the Book of Enoch?

The Book of Enoch 
What does this have to do with the Book of Enoch? This book was once revered by Jews and Christians alike, and was quoted by some of the Church Fathers. The book gradually fell into disfavor with many of the theologians of the early Church. The reason? It was because of its controversial teachings on the nature and activities of a completely separate group of fallen angels, distinct from those mentioned in Isaiah. Its teachings were considered so heretical by at least one Church Father, Filastrius. So much so that he publicly condemned it as heresy. Rabbis too spoke out against it. Rabbi Simeon ben Jochai in the 2nd century A.D. pronounced a curse upon those who believed it.

So the book was denounced, banned, cursed, no doubt burned and shredded for a very long time. But the book survived and found its way back into the public eye two centuries ago. In 1773, rumors of a surviving copy drew Scottish explorer James Bruce to distant Ethiopia. There he found that the Book of Enoch had been preserved by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and that it formed part of their Biblical canon. Bruce secured three copies and took them back to Europe. Fifty years later, when the first English translation was produced, the modern world gained its first glimpse of the forbidden mysteries of Enoch.

The book traces Enoch's footsteps back to antiquity's timelessness- back to a diabolical point of corruption upon the earth. The trouble, according to apocryphal Enoch, began when a group of angels known as Watchers, and their leader named Samyaza, developed an insatiable lust for the 'daughters of men' and an irrepressible desire to beget children by these women. Samyaza didn't want to descend alone, and so he convinced two hundred other angels to accompany him on his mission of debauchery and blasphemy. Then the Watchers took oaths and bound themselves to the undertaking by "mutual execrations" - curses. Once such a pact was sealed, betrayal was punishable by unnamed horrors. In their arrogance, the Watchers descended and took wives from among the daughters of men. They taught the women sorcery, incantations, and divination - twisted versions of the secrets of heaven. The women conceived children from these Watchers – the Nephilim, evil giants. The Nephilim devoured all the food that the men of earth could produce. Nothing satisfied their hunger. They killed and ate birds, beasts, reptiles, and fish. Soon even humans become a delicacy. One of these Watchers named Azazyel created unnatural accouterments, such as eye makeup and fancy bracelets, to enhance the sexual appearance and desirability of women. As for the men, Azazyel taught them "every species of iniquity," including the means for making swords, knives, shields, breastplates; every  instrument of war imaginable. There, long ago, Enoch explained war not as a human invented or God sent plague, but as an evil act of the fallen Watchers. The implication is that humanity, either through lack of discrimination or sheer blindness, eventually latched on to a game of death that is not his own device, but that of the fallen angels. When the men of earth cry out in their destruction and pain, heaven hears them. The mighty archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Suryal, and Uriel appeal on behalf of earth's inhabitants before the Most High God, the King of kings. The Lord orders Raphael to bind Azazyel hand and foot. Gabriel is sent to destroy the "children of fornication," the off-spring of the Watchers, by inciting them to their own self-destruction, in mutual slaughter. Michael is then authorized to bind Samyaza and his wicked offspring "for seventy generations underneath the earth, even to the day of judgment." And God sends the Great Flood to help wipe out the evil Nephilim, the children of the Watchers. But some of the Nephilim survive, and later return to haunt humanity. Likewise, the Book of Enoch tells of the Watchers who still hold power over humanity (in some curiously undefined way) until the final judgment of these angels comes, which, the author implies, is long overdue. 

There is also a significant passage near the end of the book, which speaks of the latter days upon earth:

"In those days will the angles return and hurl themselves upon the east… to stir up kings and provoke them in a spirit of unrest…. And they will march up to and tread under foot the land of His elect ones… They will begin to fight amongst themselves… till the number of corpses through their slaughter is beyond count…"

Some modern fringe evangelicals see in this a prophecy of our own time, with wars and rumors of wars in "the east" and the countless corpses in the Holy Land. There is no date stamped on the prediction, but a few word changes in the right places and you could see how some might see in it today's headlines. Whatever its implications, most scholars say that the present form of the the Book of Enoch was penned sometime during the 2nd century B.C. and was popular for at least five hundred years. Though it was once believed to be post-Christian (the similarities to Christian terminology and teachings are striking), recent discoveries of copies of the book among the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran prove that the book was in existence before the time of Jesus and was in widespread use among Jews. But the date of the original writing upon which the 2nd century Qumran copies were based is shrouded in obscurity. It is quite simply very old.

It appears that some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers accepted the words of the Book of Enoch as authentic scripture, especially the part about the fallen angels and their prophesied judgment. This acceptance was bolstered by a particular passage in the Epistle of Jude, which clearly discusses a portion of the content of the Book of Enoch (verses 14-15):

"And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him."

It must be said that we cannot say whether the Enochian passage quoted by Jude does indeed come from the same writing we know as the Book of Enoch. The book we possess today may well have relied on a common text used by Jude. It also should be understood that the church, though it had lists of books considered authoritative and canonical, had yet to actually deal with the issue of the use of apocryphal works, such as the Book of Enoch. The author of the apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas quotes the Book of Enoch three times, twice calling it "the Scripture," a term specifically denoting the inspired Word of God. Other apocryphal works reflect knowledge of the Enoch story of the Watchers, notably the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and the Book of Jubilees. 

Enoch Rejected
The turning point of opinions came halfway through the era of the Church Fathers. Once the church began developing a coherent systematic theology, things changed dramatically. As I noted earlier, some Fathers devoted much attention to apocryphal Enoch, convinced that these ancient Nephilim were still quite active in the world. In the second century A.D., for example, Justin Martyr ascribed all evil to demons whom he alleged to be the offspring of the angels who fell through lust for the daughters of men - precisely the apocryphal Enochian story. Athenagoras, writing in his work called Legatio in about 170 A.D., regards Enoch as a true prophet. He describes the angels which "violated both their own nature and their office." These, he says, “are the angels who fell to lusting after maidens and let themselves be conquered by the flesh. Now from those who went after maidens were born the so-called giants. . . . These angels, then, who fell from heaven busy themselves about the air and the earth and are no longer able to rise to the realms above the heavens. The souls of the giants are the demons who wander about the world. Both angels and demons produce movementsdemons, movements which are akin to the natures they received, and angels, movements which are akin to the lusts with which they were possessed.” 

The teaching that "the souls of the giants are the demons who wander about the world" is directly from Enoch. 

Athenagoras also discusses the fact that the angels "let themselves be conquered by flesh." He seems to imply, as does the Book of Enoch, that these angels were (or at least had been) physical beings - evil embodied in the form of men.

Two Christian apologists, Lactantius and Tatian, had speculated in detail on that idea of the incarnation of the fallen angels  in matter. Lactantius believed that the fall resulted in a degradation of the angelic nature itself - that the once heavenly angels, in fact, had become quite earthly. The earlier apologist Tatian went into greater detail regarding this degradation. He described how the angels became engrossed in material things, and he believed that their very nature became coarse, gross, and material. A Catholic scholar, Emil Schneweis, summarizing Tatian's view, says Tatian believed that "the fallen angels sank deeper and deeper into matter, becoming the slaves of concupiscence and lust." He says their bodies were "of fire and air" - not material in the ordinary sense of the word. Thus, in the broad sense, we may conclude "from matter" nonetheless, as Tatian says. Seventeenth-century editors of Tatian's work warned the reader to beware of passages where Tatian "seems rashly to imagine the demons to be material creatures." Tatian says that the demons, having received their structure from matter and obtained the spirit which inheres in it, became intemperate and greedy; some few, indeed, turning to what was purer but others choosing what was inferior in matter and conforming their manner of life to it.

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons in the third century, makes several direct references to the apocryphal Enoch story, including Enoch's announcement of the condemnation of the fallen Watchers. Irenaeus accuses a magically inclined Gnostic of his day of obtaining wonders of power that “is utterly severed from God and apostate, which Satan, thy true father, enables thee still to accomplish by means of Azazel, that fallen and yet mighty angel.” Azazel (or Azazyel), in the Book of Enoch, is the fallen Watcher to whom the Lord "ascribes the whole crime" of the corruption of earth by his wicked inventions, including the instruments of war in the Book of Enoch. Irenaeus believed Azazyel was still around. 

Tertullian, who lived between 160 and 230 A.D., is most enthusiastic about the Book of Enoch. He calls the Book of Enoch "Scripture." He says:

"As for the details of how some of the angels, of their own accord, were perverted and then constituted the source of the even more corrupt race of devils, a race damned by God together with the originators of the race and him whom we have mentioned as their leader, the account is found in Sacred Scripture."

Tertullian wrote an entire work discussing the apparel of women in which he adjures women to dress modestly, without adornment or what he calls "the tricks of beautifying themselves." He uses the Book of Enoch as evidence in his case against such "trappings". He writes,

"For those, too, who invented these things are condemned to the penalty of death, namely, those angels who rushed from heaven upon the daughters of men. . . . The angels,. . . who certainly thought sometimes of the place whence they had fallen and longed for heaven after the heated impulses of lust had quickly passed, rewarded in this way the very gift of woman's natural beauty as the cause of evil. . . ."

Tertullian, in this context, seems to hold women's beauty responsible for the fall of the angels, but he notes further on that angels are the guilty ones who "deserve to be judged by men." 

Clement of Alexandria speaks of the angels "who renounced the beauty of God for a beauty which fades, and so fell from heaven to earth" - undeniably a reference to the Enoch story, which Clement did not question. The "Clementine Homilies," written between the second and fourth centuries A.D., also affirm the account of the mating of lustful angels with daughters of men, saying that angels changed themselves into the nature of men and partook of human lust. 

Several other Church Fathers - Methodius of Philippi, Minucius Felix, Commodianus, and Ambrose of Milan - also agreed with the Book of Enoch. 

Later Church Fathers, however, had  difficulty with that viewpoint and sought to teach the more orthodox Biblical explanation for the fall of the angels. Perhaps they were rightly uncomfortable with the implications of the story of "men" among us who are not men, but fallen angels. Or perhaps they saw the danger in affording what amounts to racial genetics a salvific and ontological import. So the later Fathers looked to the record of Lucifer's fall in Isaiah 14:12-19, which reads:

"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! 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: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High."

These astute Church Fathers saw in these verses of Isaiah the story of the fall of an archangel (and subsequently of his underlings), drawing, by the tail of his pride, "the third part of the stars of heaven," as noted in Revelation. Thus they saw the fall as being through pride rather than through lust, as in the apocryphal Enoch account. The later Church Fathers unanimously chose the canonical and Scriptural version of the fall of the angels through pride, instead of the mythical Enochian version of the fall through lust. 

Christian writer Julius Africanus tackled Genesis 6, verses 1-4, about the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men". The pivotal verses read:

"And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown."

Julius Africanus taught that the "sons of God" in Genesis 6:2 who "saw the daughters of men" and "took them wives" didn't refer at all to angels, but referred instead to the righteous sons of Seth who "fell" (in the moral sense) by taking wives of the inferior daughters of Cain. For Julius (and for most modern theologians), those sons of God were not angels and the phrase in Genesis need not be describing the fall of angels through lust. 

The Syrian authority Ephraem also taught that Genesis 6 referred to the Sethites and Cainites - and therefore not to the fall of angels through lust. 

Hilary of Tours casually mentions the tale of the lustful fall of angels as if it were stupidity - "about which," he says, "some book or other exists," but noting, "We need not know those things which are not contained in the book of the Law." 

Syrian theologian Theodoret simply called believers of the story in Enoch "stupid and very silly." 

Then Jerome, Doctor of the Church and scholarly Hebraist, justifiably branded Enoch as apocryphal and declared its teaching similar to the Manichaean teachings - a very clear likeness that should cause anyone who might be inclined to accept the canonicity of the writing to run as far as possible from association with it. Manichaeanism, a powerful competitor of the Church at one time, was founded in about 240 A.D. by a Persian visionary named Mani who claimed apostleship under Jesus Christ, believed himself an embodiment of the promised Paraclete, and preached a synthesis of several major religions including Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. He also taught reincarnation and wrote a book (now destroyed) about the wicked 'giants', based undoubtedly on apocryphal Enoch. He was killed in southwest Persia by fanatical Zoroastrians. Jerome's statement that the Book of Enoch's doctrines "opportunely" supported Manichaeanism were certainly correct. And not surprisingly, the core of Jerome's argument is against the Manichaean doctrine that "souls desired human bodies to be united in pleasure" - which Jerome more or less equates with the mythical Enochian fall of the Watchers through lust, a teaching orthodox Christians reject. 

Church Father John Chrysostom took the case against Enoch one step further. Who were those "sons of God" in Genesis 6? Certainly not angels, says Chrysostom. He thought that opinion was totally absurd and refuted it with vigor. To quote him:

"Here is, first, the most audacious idea, of which we are going to show you the absurdity, by presenting to your meditation the true meaning of the Scripture, so that you do not listen to those who utter such blasphemy. . . . They say that it is not men that are referred to here, but angels, and that it is the angels that are called "sons of God. . . ." It would be folly to accept such insane blasphemy, saying that an in-corporeal and spiritual nature could have united itself to human bodies!"

Angels and Sexual Relations? 
With Chrysostom, the problem presented by the Book of Enoch finally gets fully defined. It was not really just a question of whether angels fell through pride or through lust - it was the bigger question of whether angels ever took on human bodies in order to have sexual relations with women. This very issue - the descent of the Watchers into the physical world through lust infuriated Chrysostom and caused him to issue his judgment of the "insane blasphemy" of the account in the Book of Enoch. Chrysostom's edict that angels were spiritual and men were physical (and never the twain should meet) was ratified by Caesarius of Aries, who also insisted that angels are incorporeal and therefore could not have mated with women. But the final blow was yet to fall upon the myths of the Book of Enoch.

Filastrius, in the late fourth century, condemned the teaching in apocryphal Enoch as heresy. In his long list of heresies, of which Enoch's account of the Watchers is heresy number 108, Filastrius declares:

"There is no doubt that the angels, who were cast down from heaven, are not similar to human nature, if only because to suggest such a thing would be blasphemy and contrary to the law. . . . Moreover, if he who thought it to be correct that the angels, having been transformed into the flesh, sinned in such a way that they remained in this very flesh or thus did such carnal deeds – this one discerns history with a convoluted logic."

The issue was settled once and for all with the logical and technical arguments of Augustine, who rejected the Enochian account as an impossibility for angelic natures. In his City of God, Augustine declares:

"I dare not determine whether there be some spirits embodied in an aerial substance. . . and who are capable of lust and of mingling sensibly with women; but certainly I could by no means believe that God's holy angels could at that time have so fallen... " (City of God 15:23)

Augustine continues with proof that the phrase "sons of God" in Genesis 6 refers to the righteous sons of Seth who married the daughters of Cain, reaching the same conclusion as Julius Africanus. He concludes:

"Let us omit, then, the fables of those scriptures which are called apocryphal...The writings which are produced under his [Enoch's] name, and which contain these fables about the giants, saying that their fathers were not men [but angels], are properly judged by prudent men to be not genuine; just as many writings are produced by heretics under the names... of other prophets,..all of which, after careful examination, have been set apart from canonical authority under the title of Apocrypha."

After Augustine's time, the "sons of God" in Genesis 6 were no longer interpreted as angels, and connected to apocryphal Enoch, but understood in a more orthodox and strictly Biblical sense to be the sons of Seth, and the "daughters of men" being Cainites. This has since become the standard interpretation of Catholic and Protestant exegetes down to the present day.

A Catholic Dictionary of Theology calls the story in Enoch that angels could assume bodies "wildly improbable." The New Catholic Encyclopedia points out several times that the Book of Enoch is based on a "misinterpretation of Genesis 6: 1-4." The nature of angels, it declares, is completely spiritual. The logical conclusion of this premise of the unchangeable and incorporeal nature of angels was also noted by Thomas Aquinas, who with Augustine would not allow that angels could have any other sin than pride or envy - sins not dependent upon body or sense. In this view, therefore, angels simply cannot commit gross sins through bodily passion because their nature is not "bodily."

The Church's fourth-century Synod of Laodicea struck another sharp blow against the Book of Enoch's heretical angelology, this time, against the holy angels in the book. This council decreed that the only angels which may be named were Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, who are the only angels mentioned in the Church's canon. The council also correctly "prohibited by a canon law that prayer should be offered to angels" on the grounds that "it was a species of idolatry and detracted from the worship due to Christ." A commentary notes that the synod held its meeting at Laodicea in Phrygia because the people there believed angels to be defenders of the Law and were therefore supposedly 'worshiping' them. The commentary also notes that Zachary, bishop of Rome in 745 A.D., held a Roman council against one Aldebert, "who was found to invoke by name eight angels in his prayers."

Modern Enochian Heresy
None of this has stopped fringe teachers and opportunists from  promoting the very ideas the common consensus of the Church has rejected as heresy. Today we find many books, videos, and "Christian" television programs happily spreading this error, and adding to it the mythology of UFOs and alien beings. So how should we view such ideas?

Dr. Jason Lisle, a summa cum laude graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, where he double majored in Physics and Astronomy, and earned a PhD in Astrophysics at the University of Colorado writes:

"The earth is unique. God designed the earth for life (Isaiah 45:18). The other planets have an entirely different purpose than does the earth, and thus, they are designed differently. In Genesis 1 we read that God created plants on the earth on Day 3, birds to fly in the atmosphere and marine life to swim in the ocean on Day 5, and animals to inhabit the land on Day 6. Human beings were also made on Day 6 and were given dominion over the animals. But where does the Bible discuss the creation of life on the “lights in the expanse of the heavens”? There is no such description because the lights in the expanse were not designed to accommodate life. God gave care of the earth to man, but the heavens are the Lord’s (Psalm 115:16). From a biblical perspective, extraterrestrial life does not seem reasonable."

He goes on to state:

"Sometimes after I speak on the topic of extraterrestrial life, someone will ask me about UFOs. A UFO (unidentified flying object) is just that—an object seen in the sky that is unidentified to the person seeing it. People often want me to explain a sighting of some unknown flying object which they or often a friend have claimed to see. (Sometimes the implication is that if I can’t explain it, it somehow proves that it must be an alien spacecraft; but such reasoning is completely vacuous.) These kinds of questions are unreasonable. It is one thing to be asked to interpret evidence that we have, but it is unrealistic to ask someone to interpret undocumented second- or third-hand stories with no actual evidence available for inspection.

There is no doubt that some people sincerely have seen things in the sky that they do not understand. This is hardly surprising since there are lots of things “up there,” which can be misunderstood by people not familiar with them. These include Venus, satellites, the international space station, the space shuttle, rockets, Iridium flares, manmade aircraft, internal reflections, meteors, balloons, fireflies, aurorae, birds, ball lightning, lenticular clouds, parhelia, etc. However, a person unfamiliar with these would see a UFO, since the object is “unidentified” to him or her. It is how people interpret what they see that can be questionable.
Remember that we always interpret evidence in light of our worldview. It is therefore crucial to have a correct, biblical worldview. The fallacious worldview of atheism/naturalism may lead someone to draw erroneous conclusions about what they see. From a biblical worldview, we expect to occasionally see things that are not easily explained, since our minds are finite. But UFOs are not alien spacecraft, and of course, there is no tangible evidence to support such a notion."
It is important that Christians avoid heresies- both ancient and modern.

"The universe is consistent with the biblical teaching that the earth is a special creation. The magnificent beauty and size of a universe, which is apparently devoid of life except for one little world where life abounds, is exactly what we would expect from a biblical worldview. The truth is not “out there;” the truth is in there—in the Bible! The Lord Jesus is the truth (John 14:6). So, when we base our thinking on what God has said in His Word, we find that the universe makes sense."

Let us not fall into an old heresy under a new guise, but let us hold fast to the truths of the canon of Sacred Scripture, universally accepted by common consensus of the Church, and the orthodox teachings of the Church councils.

4 comments:

  1. Is there an email address or contact info....I find your website very interesting and would like to private message but do not see any contact info. Thank you!

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  2. my take on aliens is that all life at least intelligent began here, with option to terraform probably with angelic help other planets when the populatin here got too much. The angels that that fell through lust were non reproducing normally and therefore contributed no DNA the anomalously large humans that leaders used as super soldiers were something the leaders wanted more of, and the angels fine tuned any genetic engineering being started. adding non human DNA for special effects. The aliens reported now descend from these modified humans who were offworld when the Flood hit. This way I can accommodate UFO alien abduction to 6 Day Creationism.

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