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Showing posts with label angels that sinned. Show all posts
Showing posts with label angels that sinned. Show all posts

Saturday 2 November 2013

Were 2 Peter and Jude written to oppose the teachings of 1 Enoch?

This is the last installment of a three part series assessing the relationship between the New Testament books of 2 Peter and Jude and the Jewish pseudepigraphic work known as 1 Enoch or the Book of Enoch.

In his pamphlet The Angels that Sinned: Slandering Celestial Beings, Christadelphian writer Steven Cox claims that the main reason why 2 Peter and Jude were written was to denounce teachings from 1 Enoch. Noting the admonition, "Pay no attention to Jewish myths" (Titus 1:14) in another letter by a different author, Cox argues that "Peter and Jude wrote their letters to combat false teachers teaching (as one of these myths) the Book of Enoch" (part 2, final paragraph). The teaching from 1 Enoch that 2 Peter and Jude allegedly sought to refute was that fallen angels existed, or more specifically, "that angels rebelled, descended to earth and fathered demons" (part 3, subsection 7).

If you have read the two previous posts in this series, you will immediately detect two serious problems with Cox's view. In the first post we saw that 2 Peter and Jude both allude to an angelic rebellion as a real historical event, and do so in language borrowed from 1 Enoch. This does not imply that they endorsed every element of the Enochic account but it is certainly inconsistent with the notion that they sought to completely denounce it.

Additionally, in the second post we observed that Jude quoted from 1 Enoch, described the quotation as prophecy and attributed it to the historical person Enoch from Genesis 5. This too is wholly inconsistent with the idea that Jude was deprecating the contents of 1 Enoch as false myths. Cox himself acknowledges that "there are as many as 30 references to the Book of Enoch in 2 Peter and Jude" (part 2, subsection 3).

Introductory Description of the False Teachers

We now turn our attention to other evidence that Cox points to in support of his view of 2 Peter and Jude. Before doing so we ought to point out that, while it is obvious that 2 Peter and Jude were writing polemic against false teachers, no commentator (ancient or modern) that I know of, prior to Cox, has ever understood the contents of 1 Enoch to be the object of their invective.

Let us first examine the way in which 2 Peter and Jude introduce their main theme, namely the presence of false teachers in the church:
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers the way of truth will be maligned. And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words." (2 Peter 2:1-3 NRSV) 
"Beloved, while eagerly preparing to write to you about the salvation we share, I find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." (Jude 1:3-4 NRSV)
Based on the above, we could summarize the main allegations against the false teachers as follows:
  • They brought in destructive opinions (haeresis) and deceptive words (plastois logois, literally moulded words or words of clay)
  • These words perverted the grace of God, leading to licentious behaviour
  • Through their words or conduct they denied their Master, Jesus Christ
  • There is also a hint that the false teachers were somehow profiting financially from their misconduct ("in their greed they will exploit you", cp. Jude 1:11)
Steven Cox does not mention which Bible version he quotes from, but he renders plastois logois in 2 Pet. 2:3 as "stories they have made up". The NIV also renders along these lines ("fabricated stories"), but most translations render this expression more literally as "words". The Greek certainly does not imply that these were Jewish myths; the word mythos is not used as in Titus 1:14. Thus far, we have no positive evidence to link the false teachers to 1 Enoch or anything similar.

Slandering the Glorious Ones

We next proceed to the main evidence offered in favour of Cox's view, in 2 Pet. 2:10-11/Jude 8-9:
"...the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment —especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority. Bold and willful, they are not afraid to slander the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not bring against them a slanderous judgment from the Lord...They slander what they do not understand" (2 Peter 2:9-11, 12c NRSV)
"Yet in the same way these dreamers also defile the flesh, reject authority, and slander the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these people slander whatever they do not understand" (Jude 1:8-10a NRSV)
The key phrase in these two parallel passages is "slander the glorious ones." According to Cox, this indicates that the false teachers defamed the angels of God by declaring (following 1 Enoch) that there were angels who had sinned.

Now, there is considerable debate among scholars as to the exact meaning of "slander the glorious ones" here. Donelson notes in his commentary on 2 Peter and Jude (p. 250ff) the three views which have gained the most support through history. The traditional view, which now has very little support, was that the "glorious ones" were human beings in authority, either within the church or outside. However, it is difficult to conceive of "glorious ones" referring to human beings in the present age, and this term is used of angels in 2 Enoch 22:7 (a work usually dated to the first century AD, but not to be confused with 1 Enoch).

Most recent commentators are agreed that "the glorious ones" are angelic beings. Some, such as Bauckham and Witherington, view "the glorious ones" as evil cosmic powers. Witherington describes his interpretation of "slander the glorious ones" thus:
"In view of the background in Jude, this likely means that they were deriding or dismissing the dangers of the devil or demons; ‘the glorious ones’ thus is a reference to fallen angels. This is a quite vague allusion to Jude’s citation of 1 Enoch, but presumably the audience understands our author’s drift. Second Peter 2:11 then follows Jude 9, suggesting in a more general way that even the good angels had a healthy respect for the powers of darkness, even though they had more power and might than these dark powers…These good angels do pronounce judgment on the bad, but do not use invective or insults in the process." (Ben Witherington III, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume 2, p. 356)
Other commentators (Green; Knight) understand "the glorious ones" to refer to holy angels. Knight's interpretation is typical of this view:
"A variety of interpretations has been proposed to explain this phrase but the one which seems most likely is a view of the angels as guardians of the law and of the created order. This view of the angels was common in early Christianity, as we know from Gal. 3:19 and Heb. 2:2, and behaviour which went against the Torah might easily have been construed as slander of its guardians...On this interpretation the teachers' slander of the angels must have lain in their refusal to accept moral standards, undoubtedly those enshrined in the Jewish Law, which they contravened (and encouraged others to contravene) through their belief that licence was permissible" (Jonathan Knight, 2 Peter and Jude, p. 45)
It is not easy to decide between these two viewpoints. Knight's seems more likely based on the fact that there is nothing in the phrase that explicitly describes "the glorious ones" as evil or fallen. It also agrees well with the context in which licentiousness or antinomianism was one of the false teachers' main vices. However, Witherington's viewpoint is difficult to rule out in light of Jude's supporting argument involving Michael and the devil.

The Dispute between Michael and the Devil over Moses' Body

The allusion in Jude 1:9 is puzzling as it refers to an episode nowhere described in the Old Testament. However, Clement and two other early Christian writers from Alexandria (Origen and Didymus) asserted that Jude was alluding to an apocryphal work called the Assumption of Moses. Most modern scholars believe Jude was alluding either to this or another apocryphal work called the Testament of Moses, the ending of which is lost. Richard Bauckham attempted to reconstruct the story in his book Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church. The hypothesized account is described thus by Knight:
"After Moses’ death, God sent Michael to remove his body for burial. The devil opposed this and denied that Moses could receive a decent burial because he had killed the Egyptian in the way recorded by Exod. 2:12. The devil then brought a charge of murder against Moses but this was simply slander and Michael rebuffed him by saying, ‘the Lord rebuke you!’ The devil then departed and Michael buried the body in the secret place described by Deut. 34:6" (Knight, Ibid., pp. 45-46)
There is likely some literary dependence between this account and Zechariah 3:1-2, which also features a dispute involving "the satan" (ho diabolos in the Septuagint) and an angel, in which the satan is told, "The Lord rebuke you!" Most scholars are agreed that "the satan" is an angel in this text. Jude's argument thus runs like this: if even Michael the archangel was not prepared to curse the devil, the very prince of evil, but deferred to the Lord's judgment, how much more should mere human beings refrain from cursing fallen angels?

Of course, this argument is also consistent with the "holy angels" interpretation of the glorious ones; Jude could be saying, if even Michael the archangel was not prepared to curse the devil, the very prince of evil, but deferred to the Lord's judgment, how much more should mere human beings refrain from cursing holy angels?

In summary, both of these interpretations are plausible but the "holy angels" one seems more likely to me. Either way, Jude's version of this argument depends on the premise that the devil exists as a personal angelic being. It could be in this case that Jude's allusion is merely hypothetical, but he could hardly make such an allusion if he believed the very idea of a fallen angel to be heretical!

Hence, we may infer from 2 Pet. 2:10-11 and Jude 1:8-9 that the false teachers were in some way slandering angels, and their opposition to moral commandments originating in the Law of Moses may help to explain how. There is no evidence that "slander the glorious ones" refers to a belief in the existence of fallen angels (a belief which 2 Peter and Jude had already endorsed!)

Do angels slander one another in 1 Enoch?

One of the claims made by Cox is that the book of 1 Enoch contains the kind of slander of glorious ones that Jude and 2 Peter identify in the false teachers. With reference to 1 Enoch 9:1-10 Cox writes, "Thus according to Enoch it was Michael and three other archangels, who accused Shemihazah and Azazel, but according to Peter angels (specifically Michael, Uriel, Raphael and Gabriel) 'do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord'."

This portion of 1 Enoch (as translated by R.H. Charles) reads as follows:
"1 And then Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel looked down from heaven and saw much blood being 2 shed upon the earth, and all lawlessness being wrought upon the earth. And they said one to another: 'The earth made without inhabitant cries the voice of their cryingst up to the gates of heaven. 3 And now to you, the holy ones of heaven, the souls of men make their suit, saying, "Bring our cause 4 before the Most High."' And they said to the Lord of the ages: 'Lord of lords, God of gods, King of kings, and God of the ages, the throne of Thy glory (standeth) unto all the generations of the 5 ages, and Thy name holy and glorious and blessed unto all the ages! Thou hast made all things, and power over all things hast Thou: and all things are naked and open in Thy sight, and Thou seest all 6 things, and nothing can hide itself from Thee. Thou seest what Azazel hath done...11 And Thou knowest all things before they come to pass, and Thou seest these things and Thou dost suffer them, and Thou dost not say to us what we are to do to them in regard to these.'"
As can be seen, the good angels in 1 Enoch 9 bring the cause of mankind and the sins of the angels before the Most High. They acknowledge his majesty and eternal power and ask him for a ruling concerning the sinful angels. Their conduct is comparable to Michael's in the dispute with the devil, when he said "The Lord rebuke you!" In both cases angels are deferring judgment to God rather than pronouncing judgment themselves. Thus in 1 Enoch 9 the holy angels do not bring slanderous accusations against the rebellious angels, and we observe harmony rather than disharmony between 1 Enoch, Jude and 2 Peter on this point.

Denying the Lord

We noted earlier that denying the Master and Lord, Jesus Christ was one of the main vices of the false teachers according to 2 Peter and Jude. Although 1 Enoch is a Jewish work and thus does not explicitly refer to Christ, wicked men denying the Lord is also a prominent theme in this book: "mine eyes saw there all the sinners being driven from thence which deny the name of the Lord of Spirits" (1 Enoch 41:2; cp. 45:1, 46:7; 67:11). Once again, rather than containing the teachings opposed by Jude and 2 Peter, the three books are united in warning against those who deny the Lord.

Coming Judgment

A prominent theme in 2 Peter is the coming day of judgment, which false teachers scoff at (cf. 2 Peter 3:3-7). Jude also warns of the coming judgment in 1:14-15 (his quotation from 1 Enoch!) The impending final judgment, and the foolish attitude of the ungodly in relation to it, is also a major theme in 1 Enoch. For instance:
"And when the day, and the power, and the punishment, and the judgement come, which the Lord of Spirits hath prepared for those who worship not the righteous law, and for those who deny the righteous judgement, and for those who take His name in vain-that day is prepared, for the elect a covenant, but for sinners an inquisition." (1 Enoch 60:6)
In fact, the word 'judgement' or 'judgements' occurs 79 times in 1 Enoch, and the "day of judgement" is referred to six times (22:11; 22:13; 81:4; 84:4; 97:3; 100:4). Thus 2 Peter could hardly have had students of 1 Enoch in mind when he warned that the false teachers would ask, "Where is the promise of his coming?"


Finally, both 2 Peter and Jude describe the false teachers as licentious, and 2 Peter calls them "lawless" (2 Peter 3:17). Calls to holiness and warnings against the lawless are again a major theme in 1 Enoch; its author(s) could not possibly be accused of licentiousness. Consider the following:
"The words of the blessing of Enoch, wherewith he blessed the elect and righteous, who will be living in the day of tribulation, when all the wicked and godless are to be removed." (1 Enoch 1:1-2)
"And their hands commit lawless deeds, And the sinners devour all whom they lawlessly oppress: Yet the sinners shall be destroyed before the face of the Lord of Spirits, And they shall be banished from off the face of His earth, And they shall perish for ever and ever." (1 Enoch 53:2) 
"Woe to you who work godlessness, And glory in lying and extol them: Ye shall perish, and no happy life shall be yours. Woe to them who pervert the words of uprightness, And transgress the eternal law, And transform themselves into what they were not [into sinners]: They shall be trodden under foot upon the earth." (1 Enoch 99:1-2) 
"Another book which Enoch wrote for his son Methuselah and for those who will come after him, and keep the law in the last days. Ye who have done good shall wait for those days till an end is made of those who work evil; and an end of the might of the transgressors." (1 Enoch 108:1-2)

In summary, we have found no positive evidence that 2 Peter and Jude were written to oppose the teachings of 1 Enoch. Much the opposite! 2 Peter and Jude contain many allusions to 1 Enoch and even one quotation in Jude's case. There is nothing incompatible between the message of 2 Peter/Jude and the view of angels found in 1 Enoch. Moreover, we find a great deal of thematic harmony between 1 Enoch and 2 Peter/Jude. 1 Enoch calls for the righteous to persevere in their walk with the Lord and not to give heed to ungodly men who walk in lawlessness and deny the Lord. The ungodly will be punished in the day of judgment, while the righteous will be rewarded. This is very similar to the message of 2 Peter and Jude, and this similarity is the most likely reason why 2 Peter and Jude contain so many allusions to 1 Enoch.

The overall purpose of this series has not been to put 1 Enoch on a pedestal. The consensus of the early church was that it is a non-canonical book, and this decision is binding upon all who, like myself, view the church fathers' deliberations on the canon as divinely mandated and authoritative.

The purpose has simply been to refute the novel but unsound interpretations of Steven Cox, according to whom 2 Peter and Jude have been totally misunderstood by nearly all their readers for the past 19 centuries. For all that has been written, our conclusion is very simple: 2 Peter and Jude teach exactly what they appear to teach. There is no hidden, ironic message behind their plain words.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Jude's Quotation from 1 Enoch: Straightforward Citation or Subtle Irony?

In Jude 1:14-15 we find the one and only formula quotation of apocryphal literature in the New Testament.

The text in the ESV reads as follows:
It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
The 'these' here are the ungodly people (v. 4) about whom Jude is warning his readers. Jude is almost certainly quoting from 1 Enoch, a Jewish apocalyptic work. 1 Enoch 1:9-10 reads thus in R.H. Charles' translation:
And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of His holy ones To execute judgement upon all, And to destroy all the ungodly: And to convict all flesh Of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, And of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.
Scholars have generally dated this portion of 1 Enoch (called the Book of the Watchers, chapters 1-36) to the second or third century B.C., although Nickelsburg notes that the earliest traditions "may predate the Hellenistic period" (Nickelsburg, George, 1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of 1 Enoch, chapters 1-36, 81-108, p. 7). Collins adds, "No section of 1 Enoch as we have it can be dated prior to the Hellenistic age, although it undoubtedly draws on older traditions" (Collins, John J., The Apocalyptic Imagination, p. 44).

What are we to make of Jude's use of this text? A surface reading gives the impression that Jude straightforwardly attributed these words to the Enoch of Genesis, and believed them to be prophecy. But is this the case?

Steven Cox's Interpretation

The Christadelphian writer Steven Cox says no. According to Cox, Jude's main purpose in writing was to oppose false teachers who were endorsing the myths found in 1 Enoch. He thus uses irony to condemn the false teachers from their own literature:
Here Jude makes it clear that this particular "Enoch" (i.e. the Book, not the Genesis patriarch) did not prophesy "concerning" these false teachers "to" Jude himself, nor "to" the faithful, but only prophesied "to" the false teachers. This is Jude's way of making it clear that the quote that follows is not from the real Enoch of Genesis, but from the Jewish author who styled himself "Enoch the Seventh from Adam" and who only prophesied to those that were taken in by his book. (Cox, Steven, The Angels that Sinned, part 2)
On the principle of Occam's Razor, Cox bears the burden of proving that this subtle irony is what Jude was "clearly" getting at. Shouldering this burden, he gives two main reasons for his position:
  1. The phrase "the seventh from Adam" is also a quotation from 1 Enoch (60:8; cf. 93:3). He therefore takes this to be a specific reference to the author of that book, and not to the real Enoch of Genesis.
  2. The rendered as "prophesied about" (or "prophesied concering") in most English translations is proepheteusen...toutois in the original Greek. The word toutois is a dative plural pronoun which would be best rendered 'to' rather than 'about' or 'concerning'. Thus Jude is stressing that the author of 1 Enoch "did not prophesy 'concerning' these false teachers 'to' Jude himself, nor 'to' the faithful, but only prophesied 'to' the false teachers" (Cox, The Angels that Sinned, part 2).
In what follows I will show why I find Cox's explanation is unsatisfactory. My argument will consist of the following five main points.
  1. It is more likely that "Enoch, the seventh from Adam" is a reference to the real Enoch of Genesis.
  2. The verb 'prophesy' should not be taken as lightly as Cox takes it here.
  3. The use of the dative plural pronoun toutois does not prove that Cox's interpretation is correct; and the translation "about these" found in most English versions is grammatically viable.
  4. The writers of the early church followed the straightforward interpretation noted above, even though Jude's quotation of 1 Enoch was very inconvenient for some of them.
  5. There is virtually no contemporary scholarly support for Cox's interpretation.
These points are in addition to other contextual clues that Jude had sympathies with 1 Enoch, such as his support for the fallen angels interpretation of Gen. 6:1-4 (see previous post on this). The above five premises will now be discussed in more detail.

Enoch, the Seventh from Adam

Cox claims that because "the seventh from Adam" is applied to Enoch in 1 Enoch, Jude must be referring to the author of 1 Enoch and not the real Enoch of Genesis 5:18-24. I cannot see how this inference is justified for the following reasons:
  1. It can be inferred from the genealogy of Genesis 5 that the Genesis Enoch was the seventh from Adam. Thus this was not a clear way for Jude to distinguish "apocalyptic writer Enoch" from "Genesis Enoch" since it also applies to Genesis Enoch in a straightforward and obvious way.
  2. This expression is not peculiar to 1 Enoch. It also occurs in the Rabbinic literature (Leviticus Rabbah 29:11), where it obviously refers to the Genesis Enoch and is given numerological significance.
  3. The passage of 1 Enoch from which the phrase "the seventh from Adam" is taken (60:8) is actually a fragment of another work called The Book of Noah, which was apparently merged with the Enochic writings at some point. The ostensible narrator at 60:8 is Noah, not Enoch, and he refers to his "grandfather" as the seventh from Adam; an obvious allusion to the Genesis Enoch.
In summary, there is little basis within 1 Enoch for taking "the seventh from Adam" as a reference to the book's pseudonymous author. It is more likely that Jude is attributing the quotation to the Genesis Enoch. We must not shy away from this simply because it leads to a historico-critical difficulty (in that either the quotation does come from the real Enoch, or Jude was mistaken about this). The early church was aware of this difficulty and faced it head-on (see below).

Cox further claims is that Jude does not use the word 'prophesy' here with reference to actual prophecy, but to the words of a charlatan which ironically will come to pass upon those who believe it. This would be a highly exceptional use of the verb propheteuo. The only thing comparable in the New Testament is Caiphas' inadvertent prophecy of Jesus' death in John 11:51; but in that case it is obvious from the text that Caiphas' words carried a double meaning not intended by him. In Jude 1:14-15 we are not told any such thing regarding the "prophecy" of Enoch.

Moreover, the content of the prophecy - that the Lord is coming to judge the ungodly - is not controversial but echoes many Old Testament passages (Deut. 33:2Jdg. 5:4; Ps. 18:9; 46:8-9; 68:17; 76:9; 96:13; Isa. 19:1; 31:4; 40:10; 66:15; Jer. 25:31; Dan. 7:10; Amos 1:2; Joel 3:2; Mic. 1:3; Hab. 3:3; Zeph.1:7-9, 12; Hag. 2:22; Zech. 3:8; 9:14; Mal. 3:3-5; cf. Charles, J.D., Jude, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 13, p. 561). It would be odd for Jude to stress that these words are only prophetic in a limited, ironic sense when there are so many genuine prophecies in Scripture that say basically the same thing!

Prophesied "to these" or "about these"?

The crux of Cox's argument is grammatical in nature, and so what follows here is necessarily quite technical. Cox boldly asserts that every English translation since William Tyndale's has made a "grammatical error" in the translation of Jude 1:14. It is remarkable that a person of unknown competence in biblical Greek should so confidently assail the work of hundreds of committees of experts through the centuries as mistaken. However, let us consider the case on its merits.

Jude 1:14 introduces the quotation from 1 Enoch with the words "proepheteusen…toutois". Nearly all translations render this "prophesied about these" or "prophesied concerning these", but Cox claims this is a grammatical error and the only permissible rendering is "prophesied to these". On the basis of his rendering, Cox argues that Jude was stressing that the author of 1 Enoch
"did not prophesy 'concerning' these false teachers 'to' Jude himself, nor 'to' the faithful, but only prophesied 'to' the false teachers. This is Jude's way of making it clear that the quote that follows is not from the real Enoch of Genesis, but from the Jewish author who styled himself "Enoch the Seventh from Adam" and who only prophesied to those that were taken in by his book." (The Angels that Sinned, part 2, not paginated)
We may observe that Cox has assumed without argument that if "to these" is the correct reading, then the limited, ironic application of the prophecy automatically follows. That this is not the case is evident from the fact that several commentators who note the possibility of the "to these" rendering provide simpler, more plausible interpretations thereof (Painter and de Silva, 2012, James and Jude; Green, 2008, 2 Peter and Jude, p. 103).

Cox states,
"If Jude had wanted to say "prophesied ABOUT these men" (NIV) he would have written proepheteusen peri touton (verb + preposition PERI + genitive case pronoun plural), but instead what Jude actually wrote was proepheteusen toutois (verb + dative case pronoun plural) "prophesied TO these men". The difference between these two constructions is always observed elsewhere in the New Testament."
Now, we can observe that while a number of commentators on Jude (Sidebottom, Bauckham, Kelly, Green) have noted the "oddness" of the dative construction in Jude 1:14, this is not the only such instance in the epistle. There is also an "anomalous" use of the dative in Jude 1:1 and a "curious" example in Jude 1:11 (Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, p. 47). Knowing that Jude's use of the dative is unusual elsewhere should cause us to exercise caution before leaping to conclusions about how he may or may not have expressed himself.

However, Cox's argument does have things in its favour. "Prophesied to these" would be (from a grammatical standpoint) the most natural and literal rendering (Moule, Ibid.; Robertson, Word Pictures of the New Testament), and it is on the grounds of context that most scholars and translators have preferred the rendering "prophesied about these" or "concerning these" (Moule, Ibid.). 

Indeed, a study of uses of the verb propheteuo with an indirect object in the LXX and NT reveals that the distinction alleged by Cox does hold in most cases, especially in Jeremiah LXXIn the following passages of Jeremiah LXX, the propheteuo + dative construction is used of false prophecy: Jer. 14:14, 16; 20:6; 34:10, 14, 15, 16; 36:9, 31; 44:19 (bear in mind that the versification of Jeremiah in the LXX does not match that of the MT/English Bible). Outside of Jeremiah, the propheteuo + dative construction is used of prophecy which was deemed to be false in the Apocrypha at Judith 6:2. It is also used in the New Testament in Matt. 26:68 in a scornful context (the only occurrence in the NT other than Jude 1:14).

By contrast, the propheteuo + preposition construction is often used of authentic prophecy: Jer. 33:11, 12, 20; 35:8 (in 33:12 and 35:8 the preposition is epi; in 33:20 it is peri; in 33:11, kata). Outside Jeremiah, this construction occurs in the LXX of 2 Chr. 20:37, Ezra 5:1, Amos 7:15 and numerous times in Ezekiel (4:7; 12:27; 13:2; 34:2; 36:1, 6; 37:4, 9; etc.) In the Apocrypha such a usage can be found in 1 Esdras 6:1. In the New Testament, four such examples can be found: Matt. 15:7; Mark 7:6; 1Pet. 1:10; Rev. 10:11.

Based on the above evidence, one might be tempted to propose that a special idiom existed by which propheteuo + dative denoted false prophecy and propheteuo + preposition denoted true prophecy. However, a closer examination reveals things are not so black and white.

In Jer. 33:11 LXX, the false prophets denounce Jeremiah and accuse him of prophesying against the city of Jerusalem. The propheteuo + preposition (epi) construction is used, but it is evident that they do not view Jeremiah's prophecy as authentic. It is more likely that the preposition serves to emphasize the negativity of Jeremiah's content ("against" Jerusalem), and this negative vs. positive content distinction may explain the two syntactical constructions in Jeremiah LXX better than the true vs. false distinction.

Furthermore, according to Brenton's LXX text (differing from the NETS as well as the MT and English Bible), Jer. 36:27 LXX has God asking a false prophet, "And now wherefore have ye reviled together Jeremias of Anathoth, who prophesied to you?" (propheteuo + dative) Thus according to at least one manuscript tradition, the dative construction is used of authentic prophecy in Jeremiah LXX.

Furthermore, if we compare 1 Kings 22:18 to the parallel in 2 Chr. 18:17, we find that 1 Kings LXX uses the dative construction and 2 Chronicles the prepositional construction to render the same Hebrew. Here, Ahab is asking Jehoshaphat, (with reference to the authentic prophet Micaiah), "Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?" Moreover, even within 1 Kings, the same question occurs (identical in the Hebrew) in 1 Kings 22:8, but is rendered with the prepositional construction in the LXX (although in this verse the verb laleo is used and not propheteuo). If the two constructions can be used so interchangeably, it is difficult to claim that the dative construction is a special idiom with a meaning distinct from the prepositional construction.

As a final counterexample, in Ezek. 13:16 LXX, the propheteuo + preposition construction is used with reference to false prophecy.

Thus, while it would be broadly correct to observe a tendency toward using the prepositional construction for authentic prophecy and the dative construction for false prophecy in the LXX and NT, it is not true that the distinction is always held consistently. Thus the use of the dative construction in Jude 1:14 does not imply that Jude saw the prophecy as false. (Remember too that, even under Cox's interpretation, Jude is not labeling his quotation as false prophecy but as true prophecy from a fraudulent source).

The Grammatical Basis for "About These"

The question to which we now turn is whether the rendering "about these" or "concerning these", followed almost unanimously by English Bible translators, is grammatically viable or a grammatical error as Cox claims. Wallace's Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament specifies 27 distinct functions of the dative in koine Greek, so we ought not to oversimplify the dative as if it were merely equivalent to the English word "to". One of the functions of the dative listed by Wallace is the "dative of reference". We are instructed that with a dative of reference, "Instead of the word to, supply the phrase 'with reference to' before the dative. (Other glosses are concerning, about, in regard to, etc.)" (Wallace p. 145). 

One of the examples given by Wallace is Luke 18:31: "And taking the twelve, he said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished." The Greek reads, panta ta gegrammena dia ton propheton toi huio. Thus, although 'write' is the verb here and not 'prophesy', the noun 'prophets' comes immediately before the dative construction. According to Cox's rules, it would be a grammatical error to translate "about the Son of Man" and we must instead render it literally: "everything that is written to the Son of Man by the prophets". To be consistent, Cox must further insist that the "to" is emphatic: the prophets wrote to the Son of Man and not to anyone else! Thus, Cox's approach to Jude 1:14 results in absurdity if applied consistently.

Instead, it must at least be allowed as grammatically possible that the dative in Jude 1:14 is a dative of reference. This construction is rare but it shows that "about these" is a viable translation in Jude 1:14. The translators have not committed a simple grammatical error. In light of the context, they have identified Jude as using a rare but legitimate function of the dative, namely the dative of reference.

Bauckham provides a possible explanation for Jude's unusual grammar here, noting the similarities in grammatical structure of Jude 1:14 with the formula used to introduce Scripture quotations in certain Hebrew Qumran texts. The circumstance in these Qumran texts matches Jude’s: “where the contemporary reality to which the text is understood to refer has already been mentioned and the text is introduced as referring to it” (Bauckham, Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church, p. 206). Based on this parallel, he concludes that “Jude’s rather odd use of the dative toutois represents al (which is regularly used in Qumran exegetical formulae to indicate what the text refers to)” (Ibid.) In other words, Jude's introduction of the quotation may read awkwardly in Greek because it is a Hebraism.

This is a more convincing precedent for Jude's use of propheteuo + dative than, for instance, the uses in relation to false prophets in Jeremiah LXX, none of which introduce quotations.

Jude 1:14 in the Early Church

The earliest extant Christian commentary on the Book of Jude comes from Clement of Alexandria, writing c. 182-202. His comment on Jude 1:14 (in Fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus) is simply this: "'Enoch also, the seventh from Adam,' he says, 'prophesied of these.' In these words he verities the prophecy." Not having access to the Greek text, I do not know whether Clement also uses the dative or not; however, it is plain that Clement took Jude's words at face value and not as an ironic, disparaging reference to 1 Enoch. This is important because Cox claims that the conclusion that Jude was disparaging 1 Enoch is unavoidable from the Greek. If so, it is surprising that the early church fathers (who were far more familiar with ancient Greek than ourselves) should have completely misunderstood Jude here.

Indeed, the idea that Jude appealed to the prophetic authority of an apocryphal text led to much debate on the canonical status of Jude itself:
"[D]oubts arose [as to Jude’s canonical status]…since Jude cites works such as 1 Enoch that by then were considered noncanonical…These doubts appear to have been short lived everywhere but in Syria (where it was accepted only in the sixth century)…The main issue was apparently Jude’s citation of 1 Enoch by name…While Tertullian believed that this made 1 Enoch canonical, other church leaders thought this disqualified Jude.” (Peter H. Davids, 2 Peter and Jude, pp. 7-8)
Thus, Jude's quotation from 1 Enoch caused no small controversy in the early church. This controversy could have been quickly settled by pointing out that Jude was quoting 1 Enoch pejoratively. It stands to reason that this would have been pointed out had it occurred to the early church fathers as a viable interpretation. Indeed, one of the most important witnesses against Cox's interpretation is a writer he cites favourably in his pamphlet. Augustine of Hippo vehemently opposed the Enochic tradition and was probably responsible more than any other individual for its marginalization from mainstream Christian theology. He wrote that 1 Enoch contained many falsehoods and lacked canonical authority. He certainly had every reason to support the view that Jude was citing 1 Enoch negatively, had it occurred to him as a plausible interpretation of Jude. Instead, however, he said this: "We cannot deny that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, left some divine writings, for this is asserted by the Apostle Jude in his canonical epistle" (City of God 15.23).

It seems, therefore, that if Jude cited 1 Enoch's "prophecy" in an ironic way meant to disparage that book, he did so with such subtlety that his intended meaning was completely and (as far as we can tell) unanimously reversed by the early church writers - both those who viewed 1 Enoch favourably (like Tertullian) and those who viewed 1 Enoch negatively (like Augustine).

Few, however, would read Jude's epistle and use the word "subtle" to describe its message. Jude's rhetorical style would be better described as forthright and outspoken. He does not mince words when referring to his opponents as blasphemers, unreasoning animals, etc., so it would be uncharacteristic for him to denounce 1 Enoch in a subtle, roundabout way if that was his intention.

Jude 1:14 in Modern Scholarship

If ancient scholars missed the irony which Jude allegedly "made clear" in the quotation formula of Jude 1:14, it remains true of modern scholars. Commentaries on Jude have abounded in the last couple of decades. Plenty of these have pointed out the odd way in which Jude introduces the quotation from 1 Enoch, and a minority even prefer the rendering "prophesied to these". However, one is hard-pressed to find any support for Cox's interpretation. The closest thing I have come across is a reference to an unpublished suggestion:
"In a private communication David R. Jackson, author of the important book Enochic Judaism, suggests that Jude expects his words to be taken in some ironic sense. But I have not seen that view defended anywhere in print, convincingly or otherwise, so at this juncture the claim still strikes me as odd" (D.A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament, p. 1078).
It is not clear to what extent the 'ironic sense' suggested by Jackson parallels the ironic sense argued by Cox. One hopes that Jackson will put pen to paper so that his interpretation can be put forth for peer review. Until that time, it can only be said that Steven Cox has gone to great lengths to avoid what has been fairly obvious to nearly all readers of Jude, both lay and scholarly, ancient and modern:
  • When Jude wrote "Enoch, the seventh from Adam", he meant Enoch, the seventh from Adam
  • When Jude wrote that Enoch "prophesied", he meant that Enoch prophesied
  • Whether Jude indicated that Enoch prophesied "about these" or "to these", he meant that the prophecy applied to the false teachers whom he opposed in his epistle, who ought to have heeded the warning that the writer of 1 Enoch left, "not for this generation, but for a remote one which is for to come" (1 Enoch 1:2).
In the next blog post (the final installment in this brief series) we will further examine Steven Cox's claim that the book of 1 Enoch and its adherents were the primary targets of the polemic in 2 Peter and Jude.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

The Angels that Sinned: Christadelphian Interpretations of 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6

Correction 31.01.2015: it was previously stated under 'Assessing the 1 Enoch Allusion View' that Gen. 6:1-4 LXX translates the Hebrew bene elohim ('sons of God') with angeloi. This is incorrect. While the LXX translators render bene elohim with angeloi in Job 1:6, 2:1 and 38:7, they provide a literal translation, hoi huioi tou theou, in Gen. 6. The author apologises for this error. 
Addendum 12.08.2015: it seems that my previous correction still did not provide the full story on Gen. 6:1-4 LXX. In fact, there is a text-critical issue here. Some manuscripts have οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ ('the sons of God') while others have γγελοι θεοῦ ('angels of God'). The standard critical text of Rahlfs-Hanhart has υἱοὶ, and Hultin states that this is probably the original reading (Hultin, J. (2010). Jude’s Citation of 1 Enoch. In J.H. Charlesworth & L.M. McDonald (Eds.), Jewish and Christian Scriptures: The Function of ‘Canonical’ and ‘Non-Canonical’ Religious Texts (pp. 113-130). London: T&T Clark, p. 114.) However, other scholars seem to regard ἄγγελοι as the original reading (Adelman, R. (2009). The Return of the Repressed: Pirqe De-Rabbi Eliezer and the Pseudepigrapha. Leiden: Brill, p. 115 n. 20; Carson, D.A. (2007). 2 Peter. In G.K. Beale & D.A. Carson (Eds.), Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (pp. 1047-1061). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 1050; Mathews, K.A. (1996). Genesis 1-11:26. Nashville: B&H Publishing, p. 325 n. 90; Bateman, H.W., IV. (2013). Interpreting the General Letters: An Exegetical Handbook. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, p. 258 n. 21). I haven't seen a specific text-critical argument in any source so at this stage I will just acknowledge the uncertainty but note that the standard critical text has 'the sons of God'.