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Showing posts with label fallen angels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fallen angels. Show all posts

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Angels that Sinned (and Tartarus) Revisited

Two years ago I wrote a review of Christadelphian interpretations of 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 - two texts which have traditionally been understood to refer to fallen angels. I considered three interpretations that I have come across in Christadelphian literature. The first asserts that the 'angels' who 'sinned' (2 Peter) or 'left their first estate' (Jude, KJV) were a pre-Adamic race. The second asserts that these 'angels' were Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16). The third (popularised in a pamphlet by Steven Cox) asserts that these texts do allude to a Jewish apocryphal tradition about fallen angels (found in 1 Enoch) but denies that Peter and Jude endorsed it, claiming instead that they view it as merely hypothetical rather than historical.

In my review, I described these three views and the arguments used to defend them. I then explained why I do not think any of them fits the language and argument of 2 Peter and Jude. Instead, I favour the traditional and standard scholarly view, that 2 Peter and Jude were referring to a fall of angels as events from the past. In this, they drew on a traditional Jewish interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 which regards the 'sons of God' as angels.

Jonathan Burke has written a response to my review. Since his response is very brief, I will quote it in full:
This takes a very long time to say very little; Farrar basically argues that Cox’s ‘if’ interpretation is contrived. But the matter of whether or not Peter and Jude regard their source as recounting a historical event requires more work than either Farrar or Cox have carried out. Farrar’s own proposal that tartarosas in 2 Peter refers to the underworld is made without any substantiating lexical evidence (not even a search in the LXX), and without even a single citation from the relevant literature.
Burke also states the following in a footnote:
While it is true this interpretation is popular, especially among theologians, it is hardly an established position in the broader literature and is challenged repeatedly on lexical and contextual grounds.
Before addressing what Burke has said here, let us point out what Burke has not said.

(1) He does not respond to my comments on pre-Cox Christadelphian interpretation of 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6. He thus avoids the question of whether Christadelphians have historically misunderstood these texts.

(2) Burke criticizes Cox's and my exegesis as insufficient, but offers no exegesis of his own. In this instance he criticizes the work of others without providing any constructive contribution of his own.

(3) Concerning whether the writers regarded the content of the allusion in 2 Peter 2:4/Jude 6 as historical, Burke says my arguments are inadequate ('the matter...requires more work') but does not say why. He offers no specific criticism of my exegesis aside from the comment on tartarōsas, which is peripheral to the historical question.

Now let us deal with what Burke has said.

(1) Lack of references to scholarly literature

Burke criticizes me for not referring to 'any substantial lexical evidence' or 'even a single citation from the relevant literature'. The problem with this criticism is not that it is unjustified,1 but that Burke himself immediately runs afoul of it. He states that the meaning of tartarōsas as the underworld is not established in the literature and is 'repeatedly challenged on lexical and contextual grounds,' although it is popular among 'theologians.' He does not provide 'even a single citation from the relevant literature' to support these claims. In fact, according to the comments policy of Burke's own website, these comments ought to be removed!2 In any case, this post will make up for the lack of engagement with academic literature in my older post.

(2) Whether the events described in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 are regarded by their authors as historical

I argued in my post that the context of 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 demonstrates that their authors regarded the content of these allusions as historical. Burke suggested that my arguments were inadequate ('the matter...requires more work'). Burke does not say why he finds my exegesis inadequate or offer any specific criticism thereof aside from the comment on tartarōsas, which is peripheral to the historical question. Thus Burke has not raised any arguments on this point that require a response.

However, I will reiterate my argument in greater detail, and will show that scholars have reached the same conclusions as myself.

2 Peter 2:4 is the beginning of a single sentence which (in Greek) runs until the end of v. 10. The whole sentence reads as follows:
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; 7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. (2 Peter 2:4-10 NASB)
In the Greek, the four conditional statements of vv. 4-7 are all governed by a single 'if' (ei) in v. 4, and are joined together with 'and' (kai). Hence, the apodosis ('then' statement) that begins in v. 9 is dependent on a single four-part protasis ('if' statement):3
if God did not spare angels when they sinned...
    and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah...
    and condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction...
    and rescued righteous Lot...
[then] the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment...
Logically, the apodosis in vv. 9-10 follows only if all four parts of the protasis are valid.4 Moreover, in context, 2 Peter is undoubtedly making an historical argument.5 He is arguing from historical precedent that for the false teachers of his own day, 'their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep' (v. 3).6 If the examples in vv. 4-7 are merely hypothetical, they do not serve the author's rhetorical goal of demonstrating the certainty of a coming judgment in history (see esp. 2 Peter 3:3-13).7

Furthermore, all three incidents recounted by 2 Peter in 2:4-7 come from Genesis (a traditional Jewish interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4, in the case of v. 4). Indeed, in editing Jude's material this writer has rearranged the Watchers story and Sodom and Gomorrah incidents into chronological order, which suggests an historical interest.8 Moreover, he offers no hint that he differentiates the historical truth value of the incident in v. 4 from those in vv. 5-7. The same is true of Jude 6, where Jude sandwiches the reference to rebellious angels in between straightforward references to two events from biblical history (Israel's unbelief in the wilderness, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah).9 These are the simple but compelling reasons for concluding that the content of 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 was held by these authors to be historical.

The only scholar known to me who challenges the consensus above is Charles. He allows that the tradition cited in Jude 6 depends on 1 Enoch, but suggests:
The presentation of the angels in v. 6 is abrupt. This can mean one of several things. It may reflect the assumption that the audience is familiar with the traditions, needing no introduction or explanation. It may also indicate that Jude is borrowing from Jewish apocalyptic imagery without necessarily endorsing its theological content, employing the imagery for his own purpose.10
Charles goes on to argue for the latter explanation, based on the obscure argument that the Watchers in the Book of Daniel are holy, not fallen, angels. This argument has no relevance to the interpretation of Jude 6 since Jude never uses the term 'watchers'. Charles also argues in a separate paper that whereas in 1 Enoch and Jubilees, the angels' fall is explicitly linked to fleshly lust, in Jude 'it is a fall from authority, domain, and position' and thus 'The picture is one of contrast' (between Jude and the Enochic tradition).11 This argument is unconvincing because these two sins are not mutually exclusive. 1 Enoch 12.4 describes the Watchers as having 'left the high heaven, the holy eternal place' (cf. 15.3). Meanwhile, the word homoion in Jude 7 may be intended to implicate the angels of v. 6 in sexual immorality.12 Jude may differ in emphasis in his depiction of the angels' sins, but this is a very weak basis on which to argue that he did not endorse the theological content of the allusion. Charles neglects to address the point which has persuaded most scholars that Jude 6 intends to refer to historical events: that it is sandwiched between two straightforward references to biblical history. One should also note that Charles does not extend his claim concerning Jude 6 to 2 Peter 2:4.

No firm basis for challenging the consensus that 2 Peter and Jude use the fallen angels story as sacred history can be found in the text itself. Instead, it must be read into the text for theological reasons.13

(3) The meaning of Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4

Burke criticizes my claim that tartarōsas in 2 Peter refers to the underworld.14 He states that this claim is controversial without providing any evidence, and without suggesting what he thinks the term means. His comments thus merit no response, but we can add value by surveying scholarly views on the significance of this New Testament hapax legomenon in 2 Peter 2:4.15

There is indeed some scholarly disagreement concerning the precise meaning of tartarōsas in 2 Peter 2:4. There are basically three issues here: (i) the meaning of Tartarus in Greek mythology; (ii) the use of this term in Second Temple Jewish literature; (iii) whether 2 Peter takes the term directly from Greco-Roman sources, or from Jewish sources, or both.

Tartarus in Greek Mythology

First attested in Hesiod's Theogony (c. 700-665 BC), Tartarus is 'a fearful dungeon, far beneath the earth' which served as 'a prison for superhuman rebels'.16 Burnett observes that by the classical period,
the concept of Tartarus possessed a certain clear taxonomy, which included its: 1) location within Hades, 2) function as a prison and place of punishment, and 3) stygian environment.17
One can already see a close parallel with 2 Peter 2:4, since Tartarus here is explicitly identified as a place of punishment characterized by darkness. But let us continue with standard lexical authorities.

BDAG says the following concerning Tartarus (within the entry on tartaroō since this is the word actually used in the NT):
Tartarus, thought of by the Greeks as a subterranean place lower than Hades where divine punishment was meted out, and so regarded in Israelite apocalyptic as well18
LSJ gives two definitions for Tartarosnamely, 'the nether world generally' and the same 'personified as husband of Gaia and father of Typhoeus.'19 A separate entry for tartaroō defines this verb as 'cast into Tartarus or hell.' Slater's Lexicon to Pindar defines Tartaros simply as 'the underworld.'20

Tartarus in Second Temple Jewish Literature

The noun tartaros occurs three times in the LXX (Job 40:20; 41:24; Proverbs 30:16). Its meaning in these texts is a matter of scholarly debate. Lust, Eynikel and Hauspie's A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint defines the word in these three passages as 'deep place,' 'lowest place of the deep' and 'place of imprisonment' respectively.21 While one can see how all three of these definitions derive from the Greek mythological meaning, only the third seems close to the Greek sense.

Cox, translating Job in the New English Translation of the Septuagint, transliterates tartaros in Job 40:20; 41:24 LXX as Tartarus, and on both occasions clarifies in a footnote, 'i.e. the nether world.'22 Cook, translating Proverbs, also transliterates the term as Tartarus, without offering any explanatory note.23 It appears that these translators think the LXX has straightforwardly borrowed the term from Greek mythology. This is the position taken by Goff:
References to the Titans and Tartarus in the LXX indicate that Jewish translators of Hebrew texts incorporated knowledge of Greek mythology (e.g., 2 Kgdms 5:18; Prov 30:16).24
Reading these LXX texts quite differently is Seventh Day Adventist scholar Papaioannou. In his PhD dissertation on places of punishment in the Synoptic Gospels (which offers a thoroughly conditionalist interpretation), he includes a short appendix on Tartarus. This he begins with a description of the origin of this term in Greek mythology, which is limited to Hesiod's Theogony. He does not discuss any Greek or Greco-Roman literature from the classical period or later, but turns immediately to the LXX. In Job 40:20 LXX (in the passage in which the MT speaks of Behemoth), Papaioannou interprets, 'Tartarus here is to be understood as a reference to the watery places which hippopotamus frequents'.25 Similarly, in Job 41:24 LXX (in the passage in which the MT speaks of Leviathan), Papaioannou interprets, 'The "lowest parts of the deep," therefore, can only be a reference to the depths of the "sea" (or other body of water?) that mysterious Leviathan could wade.26 Lastly, concerning Prov. 30:16 LXX, Papaioannou acknowledges that Tartarus has no equivalent in the MT. While he describes the exact meaning of Tartarus here as 'elusive,' he concludes that 'Tartarus is again a reference to the sea.'27

Problematically, Papaioannou largely interprets these LXX texts through the lens of the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT). He appears not to allow for the possibility that the LXX translators have redacted the meaning of the these texts by introducing mythological language which was faint or absent in the Hebrew. Moreover, he neglects to adduce any external evidence that 'watery places' (a river, in the case of the hippopotamus!) falls within the semantic field of tartaros.

A more convincing exegesis of these LXX texts is offered by Burnett. Having thoroughly surveyed references to tartaros in Greek and Greco-Roman literature down through the Hellenistic period, Burnett turns to Second Temple literature, beginning with the three LXX passages. After noting that tartaros in these texts has no parallel in the MT or Targumim and 'thus seem to reflect additions to the Hebrew texts,'28 he summarizes the meaning of the term in each case.

Job 40:20 LXX indicates that four-footed beasts (tetraposin) dwell within tartaros. Burnett describes this use of tartaros as 'vague' and 'ambiguous', although he notes the possibility that the translator had in mind Cerberus, a four-footed beast from Greco-Roman mythology. He thinks that in Job 41:24 LXX and Prov. 30:16 LXX 'the translators maintained the common Greco-Roman taxonomy of Tartarus as a deep place associated with Hades.'29 He notes that
it is striking that nowhere in the LXX did a translator feel compelled to explain the characteristics of Tartarus... it seems that the translators assumed their audiences' familiarity with this concept. This hypothesis is strengthened by the LXX translators' use of mythology related to Tartarus. Numerous times throughout the LXX, the translators chose to render the Hebrew terms gibbôrgībbōrîmnpîlîm, and rpā’îm with the terms gigas and titan.30
Burnett suggests an apologetic motive for the incorporation of such Greco-Roman mythological concepts by the translators:
the Jewish translators were attempting to legitimize and legitimate their religion over that of the Greeks by proving the antiquity of their religious ideology. Considering the ingrained nature of the myth of Tartarus, the Titans, and the Giants in Greco-Roman culture, what better apologetic could Jews have brought to bear than the proof that the myths related to Tartarus were actually Jewish in origin?31
Tartarus appears in other Second Temple Jewish literature as well. Josephus, for instance, 'connected the Jewish traditions of the fallen angels to the ancient Greek myth of Titans, who were giants that rebelled against Chronos and were bound in chains in Tartarus (Ant. 1.73).'32
Particularly important to interpreting 2 Peter 2:4 is 1 Enoch. Here, Burnett summarizes:
The author of 1 Enoch not only employed Tartarus, but also derived much of his work from Greco-Roman mythology, subsuming the taxonomy of Tartarus and equating the Watcher tradition with titanomachy and gigantomachy.33
1 Enoch was originally written in Hebrew. However, a Greek version of the work (preserved in Codex Panopolitanus) refers to 'Uriel, one of the holy angels, the one over the world and Tartarus' (1 Enoch 20.2).34 This occurs in the context of descriptions of the place of punishment of the fallen angels - which have much in common with the description of Tartarus in Hesiod's Theogony.35 De Vivo notes that Tartarus refers to a place of punishment for sinners also in Philo, Josephus, Apocalypse of Ezra, Testament of Solomon, and Sibylline Oracles.36 Significantly, Sib. Or. 2.303 (302, Greek) uses the Greek word zophos to describe the darkness of Tartarus - just as 2 Peter 2:4 does.37

The use of Tartarus in Jewish literature and its relevance for interpreting 2 Peter 2:4 can be summarized as follows:
Since Tartarus appears in the LXX, the Pseudepigrapha, and first-century Jewish authors, it is probable that the author of 2 Peter was using a common word and making reference to a concept that had become familiar in Judaism in this time of religious syncretism. Further, the primary text that narrates the punishment of the sinful angels (Book of Watchers 1 En. 1–36) uses the term Tartarus.38
the concepts of Tartarus and the Greek myths of Titans and Giants underlie much of the treatment in eschatology in the Jewish literature of the [Second Temple] period.39
Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4

There seems to be virtually universal agreement among commentators today that 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 are drawing on the fallen angels interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 as expanded upon in Jewish tradition.40 Scholarly consensus also now holds this to be the background to 1 Peter 3:19.412 Peter and Jude use similar terminology to 1 Enoch in describing the punishment of the rebellious angels, including Tartarus, darkness, and chains.42 There is scholarly debate as to whether 2 Peter, in referring to Tartarus, is borrowing the terminology directly from Greek mythology43 or through the mediation of Jewish apocalyptic.44 The latter seems more likely:
Peter qualifies that by this divine judicial act they were ‘sent…to the underworld’ (tartarōsas). This verb, found only here in the NT, refers to being sent to Tartarus, the ‘deepest region of the underworld, lower even than Hades’ (OCD 1476)…The name given to this place of punishment in classical mythology was taken up by Jewish apocalyptic literature and appears to have found its way into the Jewish consciousness in general (Job 41:24; 1 En. 20.2; Philo, Embassy 7 § 49; 14 § 103; Josephus, Ag. Ap. 2.33 § 240; Sib. Or. 2.303). Jewish thinking modified reflection on the theme, however, as God now becomes the one who consigns the evil to ‘Tartarus itself and profound darkness’ (Philo, Rewards 26 § 152). ‘Dark Tartarus’ is juxtaposed with Gehenna (Sib. Or. 4.186). A small step was made from seeing this as the place of punishment of the Titans to speaking of it as the place where sinful angels were consigned (Glasson 1961: 62-67). This is precisely the connection made not only in 2 Pet. 2:4 but also in the Sib. Or. 1.98-103: 'Watchers… were mighty, of great form, but nevertheless they went under the dread house of Tartarus guarded by unbreakable bonds, to make retribution, to Gehenna of terrible, raging, undying fire.'45
Whence 2 Peter took the term Tartarus is not crucial to our purpose since it is, in either case, clear what he means: 'The rebellious angels had been... "Entartared".'46 Scholars point out that this does not refer to a final punishment but a provisional one in preparation for the final judgment.47 The consensus view of the meaning of 2 Peter 2:4 is shared even by conditionalist scholars.48

In summary, there is every reason to conclude that 2 Peter 2:4, like other Jewish literature, borrows from Greek mythology to describe the place of punishment for fallen angels. One cannot be sure of its geographical location in the writer's cosmology, but he clearly assumes its existence to be real.


The finding of my post from two years ago was that (1) 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 refer to an angelic interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 (mediated by Jewish tradition), and that (2) these two early Christian writers treated these events as part of sacred history. A closer look at these two texts and their treatment in scholarly literature, with special emphasis on the reference to Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4, has provided further confirmation of this conclusion.

Christadelphian writers long held conclusion (2) but not (1), ignoring the findings of biblical scholarship and arguing for an oblique allusion to some other biblical event. When a Christadelphian finally adopted (1), he simultaneously abandoned (2) in order to avoid the logical consequence of (1) and (2): that a New Testament writer believed in the existence of fallen angels. This simply cannot be accepted by a Christadelphian writer because his theological presuppositions do not allow it to be true. Hopefully, Christadelphians who are more interested in evidence than dogma will reconsider their exegesis of 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 - and its theological consequences.


  • 1 In my defense I would note that I was not writing an academic article but a popular-level response to a popular-level pamphlet by Cox (who himself seems to formally cite only one published source).
  • 2 The comments policy notes: 'When discussing post content, please demonstrate familiarity with the topic by referring to material from the relevant peer reviewed scholarly literature...comments failing to do so may be removed, at our discretion.'
  • 3 'vv. 4-9 involve a lengthy conditional sentence whose protasis (vv. 4-8: consisting of 4 clauses introduced by ei and continued by 3 successive uses of kai) is balanced by a concluding apodosis (vv. 9-10a)' (Richard, E. (2000). Reading 1 Peter, Jude, and 2 Peter: A Literary and Theological Commentary. Macon: Smyth & Helwys, p. 349); 'The protasis ("if") in 2:4-8 consists of three negative examples (about the rebellious angels, the generation destroyed by the flood, and the men of Sodom and Gomorrah) and two positive examples (Noah and Lot). The point of these examples is made clear in the beginning of the apodosis ("then") in 2:9: "then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial and to keep the unrighteous punished until the day of judgment."...The general conclusion (2:9) is that just as in the distant biblical past God has rescued righteous persons like Noah and Lot and punished evildoers (the rebellious angels, the flood generation, and the men of Sodom and Gomorrah), so at the future judgment (which the false teachers are denying) God will rescue the righteous and punish the wicked.' (Harrington, D.J. (2008). 1 Peter, Jude and 2 Peter. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, pp. 269-270).
  • 4 'This saying is the conclusion of the examples and is constructed using "if/then" logic. Namely, if God is capable of administering justice and deliverance in the examples above, then God still knows how to deliver the godly – the verb is in the present tense – and has not forgotten how to keep those who are not godly for the punishment that awaits them.' (Reese, R.A. (2007). 2 Peter and Jude. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 153).
  • 5 '2 Peter uses the watcher story as an example of God’s ability to punish the unrighteous, but he is not so interested in the details of the story as the outcome for the watchers, who are treated as real examples. Jude also uses 1 Enoch authoritatively.' (Vanbeek, L. (2000). 1 Enoch among Jews and Christians: A Fringe Connection? In S.E. Porter & B.W. Pearson (Eds.), Christian-Jewish Relations through the Centuries (pp. 93-115). London: T&T Clark, p. 103).
  • 6 'The judgment of God involves both the punishment of the ungodly and the salvation of the faithful. But is there any evidence that God does, in fact, so act? The writer provides an answer in the form of a long sentence (vv. 4-10), beginning with the conditional “if” and concluding with “then.” If this and this and this and this happened, then you have your answer; God certainly does know how to punish and to rescue. Three cases of punishment are offered: First, the sinning angels (sons of God) of Gen. 6:1-4. The author here reveals familiarity with a Jewish writing, 1 Enoch (probably dated between the third century B.C. and the first century A.D.) which offers an elaborate interpretation of biblical history. According to 1 Enoch 10, the angels of Genesis 6 became involved with earthly women and their offspring loosed war, violence, and idolatry in the world. As punishment, these angels were cast down into hell (tartarus) to be confined in dark pits until the final day of judgment. It is interesting that the writer assumes the readers not only knew 1 Enoch but also regarded it as an authoritative account of God’s activity' (Craddock, F.B. (1995). First and Second Peter and Jude. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, p. 112).
  • 7 'For the author of 2 Peter the story of the angels who sinned and their eventual judgement and punishment is a powerful example of the certainty of divine judgement on those who deny the parousia and who seek to compromise or adapt the faith of the apostles so as to make it palatable to the syncretic theosophy of the age. The message to the opponents and scoffers is clear – if God did not spare even angels who sinned, how much more certain is his judgement upon humans who do likewise?' (Billings, B. (2008). ‘The Angels who Sinned … He Cast into Tartarus’ (2 Peter 2:4): Its Ancient Meaning and Present Relevance. The Expository Times, 119(11), 532-537. Here p. 534).
  • 8 'In rewriting Jude 5-8 the author of 2 Peter has omitted the example of the exodus generation (Jude 5) and added the case of the flood generation (2 Pet 2:5). Also he has put the examples in their biblical chronological order: rebellious angels, flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah' (Harrington, op. cit., p. 269).
  • 9 'The example in Jude 6 is sandwiched between two clearly historical examples in Jude 5 and Jude 7. This suggests that Jude saw the story of the fallen angels as historical (he handles Genesis 6:1-4 with restraint unlike its use in 1 Enoch)' (Witherington, B., III. (2007). Letters and Homilies for Jewish Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Hebrews, James and Jude. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, p. 612); 'Here, then, [Jude] has aligned references to episodes in Exodus/Numbers, 1 Enoch, and Genesis. Nothing is said about the status of any of these works, nor is it said that one was ranked higher or lower in authority than another. Each is considered an appropriate source of information about the Lord’s punishing acts in the past. That is, like Genesis and Exodus/Numbers, 1 Enoch is a source of facts about what God has done' (VanderKam, J.C. (1996). 1 Enoch, Enochic Motifs, and Enoch in Early Christian Literature. In J.C. VanderKam & W. Adler (Eds.), The Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage in Early Christianity (pp. 33-101). Assen: Royal van Gorcum, p. 35.); 'It is possible, of course, that Jude alluded to a traditional story without believing it was historical, but this is problematic since the judgment of Israel in the wilderness and Sodom and Gomorrah are considered to be historical events. We must beware of a rationalistic worldview that dismisses such strange events as impossible. The objection most raise is that angels are asexual (Matt 22:30). Actually, Matthew did not say angels do not have sexuality, but they neither marry nor are given in marriage. There is no evidence that angels reproduce or engage in sexual intercourse. But when angels come to earth, they often come as human beings; and presumably the human form is genuine, not a charade, so that the sexuality of angels when they appear on earth is genuine… It is instructive, however, that many cultures have the story of the sexual union of angels and human beings. I would suggest that such accounts are distortions of an event that once occurred, an event that is accurately recorded in Gen 6:1-4. Nevertheless, the presence of such a story in so many cultures functions as evidence of a historical event that occurred. Do sexual unions between angels and human beings still happen today? I think the point of the imprisonment of angels and the flood narrative is that God now hinders any such unions from taking place' (Schreiner, T.R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. Nashville: B&H Publishing, p. 451); '"Text" I refers to three groups of people: Israel in the wilderness (Num 14), the Watchers or fallen angels (I Enoch 6-19), and the cities of the Plain (Gen 19)… Both the groups and the individuals were well-known scriptural examples of judgment, who function here as types. So in these "texts" we have not verbal prophecies but historical types, to which Jude refers in summary form rather than by quoting Scripture. In verses 5-6, however, there are some more or less precise verbal allusions to the actual texts of Scripture [he cites Deut. 1:32; 9:23; Ps. 106:24; 1 Enoch 12:4; 15:3, 7; 10:12)]' (Bauckham, R. (1990/2004). Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church. London: T&T Clark, pp. 182-183); In his use of the Enochic Watchers story in Jude 6, Jude 'indirectly relays his affection and trust in the pseudepigrapha as true and authoritative material' (Opoku-Gyamfi, F. (2015). The Use of Scripture in the Letter of Jude. Ilorin Journal of Religious Studies, 5(1), 73-102. Here p. 88).
  • 10 Charles, J.D. (2005). The Angels under Reserve in 2 Peter and Jude. Bulletin for Biblical Research, 15(1), 40-48. Here p. 48.
  • 11 Charles, J.D. (1994). The Use of Tradition-Material in the Epistle of Jude. Bulletin for Biblical Research, 4(1), 1-14. Here p. 7.
  • 12 so Kelly, J.N.D. (1969). A Commentary on the Epistles of Peter and Jude. London: A&C Black, p. 258.
  • 13 These theological reasons could be: (1) the canonical problem of New Testament writers apparently regarding Enochic tradition as authentic history; (2) the theological problems posed by an angelic rebellion.
  • 14 Burke rebukes me for not substantiating my claim that Tartarus refers to the underworld here, but there are two reasons why I did not. Firstly, I was responding to Cox's pamphlet, and he had not proposed a different meaning for Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4. Cox and I apparently agree on the referential meaning of the allusions in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6; we only disagree on the rhetorical purpose and historical significance of these allusions. Secondly, the meaning of Tartarus in this text is not central to my exegetical argument. However, inasmuch as it highlights the mythological content of these passages, it is worth analyzing further here.
  • 15 Hapax legomenon is a technical term for a word that occurs only once in a body of writings.
  • 16 Bernstein, A.E. 1993. The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, p. 22. Similarly, Sacks states that in Greek mythology, Tartarus was 'a lowermost abyss in Hades' realm...the scene of punishment for the evil Titans and for the worst human sinners' (Sacks, D. (1995). 'Afterlife'. In A Dictionary of the Ancient Greek World. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 8-9).
  • 17 Burnett, C. (2013). Going through Hell: TARTAROS in in Greco-Roman Culture, Second Temple Judaism, and Philo of Alexandria. Journal of Ancient Judaism, 4(3), 352-378. Here p. 355. 'Stygian' means very dark.
  • 18 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 991.
  • 19 LSJ.
  • 20 Pindar lexicon
  • 21 Lust, J., Eynikel, E., & Hauspie, K. (1996). A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, Part II. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, p. 469.
  • 22 Cox, C.E. (2007). Job. In A. Pietersma & B. Wright (eds.), New English Translation of the Septuagint (pp. 667-696). Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 695-696.
  • 23 Cook, J. (2007). Proverbs. In A. Pietersma & B. Wright (eds.), New English Translation of the Septuagint (pp. 621-647). Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 642.
  • 24 Goff, M.J. (2010). Ben Sira and the Giants of the Land: A Note on Ben Sira 16:7. Journal of Biblical Literature, 129(4), 645-655, here p. 653 n. 34.
  • 25 Papaioannou, K.G. (2004). Places of punishment in the Synoptic Gospels. PhD Dissertation, University of Durham, p. 173.
  • 26 op. cit., p. 174.
  • 27 op. cit., 174.
  • 28 Burnett, op. cit., p. 367.
  • 29 ibid.
  • 30 ibid.
  • 31 ibid.
  • 32 Donelson, L.R. (2010). I & II Peter and Jude: A Commentary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, p. 116.
  • 33 Burnett, op. cit., p. 373.
  • 34 trans. De Vivo, J. (2014). 2 Peter 2:4-16: The Redaction of the Biblical and Intertestamental References Dependent on Jude 5-11 and their Overall Significance for the Document. PhD Dissertation, Loyola University, p. 49. According to Pierce, the reference to Tartarus is also present in three Ethiopic manuscripts (Pierce, C.T. (2009). Spirits and the Proclamation of Christ: 1 Peter 3:18-22 in Its Tradition-Historical and Literary Context. PhD Dissertation, Durham University, p. 51).
  • 35 Bautch, K.C. (2003). A Study of the Geography of 1 Enoch 17-19: No One Has Seen What I Have Seen. Leiden: Brill, pp. 130f. For his part, Papaioannou says little of the reference to Tartarus in 1 Enoch 20.2, merely expressing surprise at the 'lack of more references to Tartarus in...1 Enoch since it deals at most length with the fallen Watchers which in turn somewhat resembles the Greek myth of the Titans whence the concept of Tartarus emerged' (op. cit., p. 176).
  • 36 De Vivo, op. cit., pp. 50-51.
  • 37 op. cit., p. 52.
  • 38 op. cit., p. 51.
  • 39 Burnett, op. cit., p. 352.
  • 40 'First Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude appear to assume that their readers have some knowledge of a tradition concerning the imprisonment of the fallen angels in Gen 6' (Donelson, op. cit., p. 116); 'Here, 2 Peter alludes to [the Watchers] story; but, instead of using traditional Hebraic language, 2 Peter uses the language that was familiar to Hellenistic Greeks and Jews - ταρταρώας (‘sending someone to Tartarus’) is the language used to describe the lowest place of imprisonment in the Greek underworld, the place where defeated gods, ancient giants, and others were consigned to torment… In 2 Peter the angels who sinned are not spared this judgment but are rather cast into darkness to wait for the final judgment that will come (Reese, op. cit., pp. 150-151)'; cf. Harrington, op. cit., pp. 269-270; Bauckham, op. cit., pp. 186-188; Fuchs, E. & Reymond, P. (1988). La Deuxième Épitre de Saint Pierre, L’Épitre de Saint Jude (2nd ed.). Genève: Labor et Fides, p. 84; Paulsen, H. (1992). Der Zweite Petrusbrief und der Judasbrief. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, pp. 132-133; and other commentators cited below.
  • 41 'While exegetes have considered a wide range of interpretative possibilities for this enigmatic Petrine text, the consensus today is that the passage also refers to the tradition of angels imprisoned in a liminal space, a tradition that underscores justice and divine judgment' (Bautch, K.C. (2014). ‘Awaiting New Heavens and a New Earth’: The Apocalyptic Imagination of 1-2 Peter and Jude. In E.F. Mason & T.W. Martin (Eds.), Reading 1-2 Peter and Jude: A Resource for Students (pp. 63-82). Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, pp. 72-73).
  • 42 'In 1 Enoch 54, Enoch sees a valley burning with fire, where ‘iron fetters of immense weight’ are being forged for ‘the armies of Azael’ (on these chains or bonds, see also 1 En. 13.1-2; 14.5; 56.1-2; 88.1). This binding in chains is echoed in Jude 6 and 2 Pet 2:4.' (Donelson, op. cit., p. 116).
  • 43 Witherington, Ben, III. (2007). Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1-2 Peter. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 352; Billings, op. cit., p. 535.
  • 44 De Vivo, op. cit., pp. 47-52; Kelly, op. cit., p. 331; Schreiner, op. cit., pp. 336-337.
  • 45 Green, G.L. (2008). Jude & 2 Peter. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, pp. 250-251.
  • 46 Bernstein, op. cit., p. 251.
  • 47 '[This text] alludes not to an indefinite punishment in the future but to one that lasts only until the Last Judgment' (ibid.); 'The angels who had sinned were “thrown down”, according to 2 Pet 2:4 by God himself into “the Tartarus”, to be kept there for the coming judgment' (Mussies, G. 'Giants'. In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking & P.W. van der Horst (eds.), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (2nd ed.) (pp. 343-345). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 344).
  • 48 Papaioannou (op. cit., pp. 179-180) thinks that 2 Peter refers to fallen angels but depicts Tartarus as a place of temporal banishment on the earth; his arguments are rather thin. Fudge takes 2 Peter 2:4 to refer to punishment of fallen angels, but does not see this as problematic for conditionalism 'since (1) it concerns angels, not men, and (2) it speaks of detention before judgment rather than punishment following it' (Fudge, E.W. (2011). The Fire that Consumes (3rd ed.). Eugene: Wipf & Stock, p. 226).

Monday, 26 October 2015

Supernatural Evil in the Apostolic Fathers (7): Papias of Hierapolis

Papias of Hierapolis wrote a five-volume work about the sayings of Jesus around 110-130 A.D.1 Papias' work is lost, but fragments of it survive in quotations by later writers. Papias was 'above all a collector of traditions.'2 Hill refers to Papias' work as the Expositions of the Dominical Logia, and describes its contents as having to do with 'interpretations and oral traditions relating to things Jesus had said in certain written Gospels'.3 However, there is an ongoing scholarly debate as to whether Papias' work was primarily an account of Jesus' sayings or an interpretation thereof. Bauckham, who favours the former view, notes that the operative word in the Greek title of the work (Exēgēsis) can mean either 'account, report' or 'interpretation'.4

Any attempt to reconstruct Papias' theological views will necessarily be tentative for several reasons. First, the vast majority of Papias' work is lost. Second, those fragments which survive must be interpreted in the absence of important contextual information. Third, in some cases it is unclear where the quotation from Papias breaks off. Fourth, the authenticity of some of the fragments is disputed.

There are two fragments which contain information relevant to the subject of supernatural evil. Somewhat confusingly, there are different numbering systems for the fragments of Papias. Following the nomenclature of Holmes, we are concerned with fragments 11 and 24. Both of these fragments are preserved in a commentary on Revelation by Andrew of Caesarea, a bishop whose tenure is of uncertain date but located by most scholars in the late sixth or early seventh century.5

Fragment 11 reads as follows in Holmes' translation:
But Papias says, word for word: ‘Some of them’ – obviously meaning those angels that once were holy – ‘he assigned to rule over the orderly arrangement of the earth, and commissioned them to rule well.’ And next he says: ‘But as it turned out, their administration came to nothing. And the great dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, was cast out; the deceiver of the whole world was cast down to the earth along with his angels.’6
The authenticity of this fragment is undisputed.7 However, what is disputed is which exact words are from Papias and which are from Andrew. It can be seen that the final sentence is a direct quotation of Revelation 12:9. Holmes includes this in the quotation from Papias, as does Bauckham (apparently).8 However, other scholars think the quotation of Revelation 12:9 is Andrew's.9 As Shanks points out, the quotation of Papias occurs within Andrew's comments on Revelation 12:7-8. Hence, a quotation of Revelation 12:9 would be a logical transition to the next portion of the commentary.

Also uncertain is whether the explicit reference to 'angels' is a gloss from Andrew (as Holmes' punctuation implies) or part of the 'word for word' quotation from Papias.10

Whatever the case, most scholars regard the fragment of Papias as having to do with a fall of angels.11 Shanks goes as far as to assert that the fragment comes from "a text in Papias' writings regarding Satan's fall."12 Bauckham argues that four of the extant fragments of Papias (including this one) "seem quite unrelated to Gospel traditions" but "all relate to Genesis 1-3."13 On this basis he proposes that "Papias began his work with an account of the primeval history, giving it a christological interpretation."14 If so, then Papias' lost work would have been an important witness to the Satanological myth which seems to be presupposed throughout the New Testament but is never narrated in full.

It is impossible to be certain as to how Papias related this statement back to Jesus and his sayings, or whether Papias himself related the fall of angels to Satan. What can be said with some confidence, however, is that Papias believed there had been a primeval fall of angels. To conclude otherwise, one would have to argue firstly that the reference to 'holy angels' is a gloss from Andrew rather than part of the fragment, and secondly that Andrew has misunderstood Papias' referent. This would be an unduly skeptical position to take in the absence of evidence, which is probably why no scholar (to this writer's knowledge) has advocated such a position.

The second fragment relevant to this study is fragment 24 (again, under Holmes' nomenclature). Holmes translates as follows:
And Papias spoke in the following manner in his treatises: ‘Heaven did not endure his earthly intentions, because it is impossible for light to communicate with darkness. He fell to earth, here to live; and when humankind came here, where he was, he led them astray into many evils. But Michael and his legions, who are guardians of the world, were helping humankind, as Daniel learned; they gave laws and made the prophets wise. And all this was war against the dragon, who was setting stumbling blocks for men. Then their battle extended into heaven, to Christ himself. Yet Christ came; and the law, which was impossible for anyone else, he fulfilled in his body, according to the apostle. He defeated sin and condemned Satan, and through his death he spread abroad his righteousness over all. As this occurred, the victory of Michael and his legions, the guardians of humankind, became complete, and the dragon could resist no more, because the death of Christ exposed him to ridicule and threw him to the earth. Concerning which Christ said, ‘I saw Satan fallen from heaven like a lightning bolt.’ In this sense the teacher understood not his first fall, but the second, which was through the cross, and this did not consist of a spatial fall, as at first, but rather of judgment and expectation of a mighty punishment…15
This fragment is also from Andrew of Caesarea's commentary on Revelation, but it is absent from the Greek text and is extant only in the Armenian version of the commentary. Because of this, the authenticity of the fragment "has been questioned."16 Those who regard this fragment as authentic include Siegert,17 Kürzinger,18 (apparently) Holmes,19 Shanks,20 and Lourié.21 Schoedel seems cautiously optimistic, noting only a 'possibility' that it does not come from Papias.22 Those who do not accept its authenticity include Körtner23 (whose arguments Dehandschutter accepts),24 (apparently) Ehrman,25 and Norelli26 (whose arguments Bauckham accepts).27 The most comprehensive defense of the fragment's authenticity is unfortunately inaccessible to this writer since it is a Russian-language paper by Lourié.28 Based on English-language works of Lourié which refer to this paper,29 it seems the main arguments are (1) that one phrase from the quotation does appear in the Greek version of Andrew's commentary (where, however, it is not attributed to Papias); (2) that all five Armenian manuscripts of Andrew's work "are identical in the part relevant to our Papias quote",30 and (3) that the contents of the fragment do not fit a seventh-century context.

We will proceed with the caveat that any inferences about Papias' theology taken from this fragment rest on an uncertain attribution to him.

A second issue is that, as with fragment 11, it is disputed where the fragment breaks off. While Holmes, Siegert, Kürzinger and Shanks end the Papias fragment with the quotation of Luke 10:18,31 Lourié breaks it off earlier, after 'made the prophets wise'.32 Schoedel merely notes "some question about the length of the quotation" without offering an opinion.33 If Lourié is correct then the fragment provides far less detail about Satan than if the quotation extends to the citation of Luke 10:18. However, given its context in Andrew's work, the subject of the beginning of the quotation can still be none other than Satan.

Hence, if fragment 24 is authentic then it is clear that Papias' work did refer explicitly to a mythological Satan figure. Although (as noted above) Bauckham rejects the authenticity of this fragment, its contents actually support his hypothesis that Papias' work began with a primeval history.

In conclusion, there is strong evidence that Papias believed in a primeval fall of angels. Conclusions about his view of Satan can only be tentative due to the issues discussed above concerning the length and authenticity of these fragments. However, at least this much can be said: there is some evidence that Papias believed in a mythological Satan figure, and there is no evidence that he did not.


  • 1 Hill, C.E. (2006). Papias of Hierapolis. The Expository Times, 117(8), 309-315. Here 309.
  • 2 ibid.
  • 3 op. cit., p. 310.
  • 4 Bauckham, R. (2014). Did Papias write history or exegesis? Journal of Theological Studies, 65(2), 463-488. Here 463.
  • 5 "Although in the past scholars have placed Andrew's episcopal tenure as early as the fifth century and as late as the ninth century, today most locate him in the second half of the sixth century or early seventh." (Constantinou, E.S. (2013). Guiding to a Blessed End: Andrew of Caesarea and His Apocalypse Commentary in the Ancient Church. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, p. 47.
  • 6 Holmes, M.W. (2007). The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, p. 749.
  • 7 Dehandschutter, B. (1988). [Review of the books Papias von Hierapolis und die Evangelien des Neuen Testaments by J. Kürzinger and Papias von Hierapolis by U.H.J. Körtner]. Vigiliae Christianae, 42(4), 401-406. Here 405.
  • 8 He describes the fragment as a "statement about the fallen angels, with allusion to 'the ancient serpent'" (Bauckham, op. cit., p. 474.)
  • 9 Ehrman, B. (2003). (Ed. & trans.). The Apostolic Fathers (Vol. 2). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, p. 111; Shanks, M.A. (2013). Papias and the New Testament. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, pp. 229-230.
  • 10 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 111, shares Holmes view. Constantinou, however, evidently takes the reference to angels to be Papias', translating thus: "And Papias says in these words: 'To some of them, that is, the divine angels of old, he gave [authority] to rule over the earth and commanded [them] to rule well.' And then says the following: 'And it happened that their arrangement came to nothing.'" (op. cit., p. 246).
  • 11 "Andrew preserved a fragment of Papias regarding the fall of some of the angels" (Constantinou, op. cit., p. 304); Schoedel summarizes the content of the fragment thus: "Wicked angels misrule nature" (Schoedel, W.R. (1993). Papias. In W. Haase (Ed.), Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.27.I (pp. 235-270). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, p. 239); Bauckham summarizes it as a "statement about the fallen angels" (op. cit., p. 474).
  • 12 Shanks, op. cit., p. 230. He does not explain his reasoning, but perhaps the inference is that Andrew considered Papias' words relevant to Rev. 12:7-8 because Papias himself had already made the link between the primeval fall of angels and this text from Revelation.
  • 13 Bauckham, op. cit., p. 474.
  • 14 ibid.
  • 15 Holmes, op. cit., p. 763.
  • 16 Hill, op. cit., p. 311.
  • 17 Siegert, F. (1981). Unbeachtete Papiaszitate bei armenischen Schriftstdllern. New Testament Studies, 27(5), 605-614.
  • 18 Kürzinger, J. (1983). Papias von Hierapolis und die Evangelien des Neuen Testaments. Regensburg: Verlag Friedrich Pustet.
  • 19 Holmes, op. cit.. Holmes does not discuss the fragment's authenticity but his inclusion of it implies that he regards it as authentic.
  • 20 Shanks, op. cit., p. 249.
  • 21 Lourié, B. (2012). An Unknown Danielic Pseudepigraphon from an Armenian Fragment of Papias. Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, 21(4), 323-339.
  • 22 Schoedel, op. cit., p. 260.
  • 23 Körtner, U.H.J. (1983). Papias von Hierapolis: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des frühren Christentums. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
  • 24 Dehandschutter, op. cit., p. 404.
  • 25 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 89, notifies the reader that he is not including the Armenian or Arabic fragments in his text. He refers the reader to Kürzinger without commenting on their authenticity himself.
  • 26 Norelli, E. (2005). Papia di Hierapolis: Esposizione degli oracoli del Signore, i frammenti. Introduzione, testo, traduzione e note. Milan: Paoline, pp. 406-407.
  • 27 Bauckham, R. (2008). [Review of the book Papia di Hierapolis: Esposizione degli oracoli del signore. I frammenti. Introduzione, testo, traduzione e note, by E. Norelli]. Journal of Theological Studies, 59(1), 333-337.
  • 28 See reference in Lourié, op. cit. A translated title of this essay, published in 2008, is: "A Quotation from Papias within the Armenian Version of the Commentary on Apocalypse of St Andrew of Caesarea: Translation and Study in the History of the Exegesis".
  • 29 Lourié, op. cit.
  • 30 Lourié, B. (2013). A Danielic Pseudepigraphon paraphrased by Papias. In R. Bauckham, J.R. Davila & A. Panayotov (Eds.), Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (Vol. 1) (pp. 435-441). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 436.
  • 31 So Shanks, op. cit., p. 249.
  • 32 Lourié, 2013, op. cit., p. 441.
  • 33 Schoedel, op. cit., p. 260.

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'.