Published: 14 June 2021

Sex, Women, the Sons of God, and the New Testament

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In part one of this series we studied the question of who the “sons of God” are as it pertains to Genesis 6:1-4. In part two we questioned if the book of 1 Enoch is a reliable interpretation of the events in Genesis 6. In this article, we’ll examine Peter and Jude’s quotes from 1 Enoch.

Didn’t Peter and Jude quote from 1 Enoch?

Jude and Peter either directly quote or allude to passages from the apocryphal book of 1 Enoch. However, their references do not constitute an endorsement of 1 Enoch as inspired any more than Paul quoting ancient Greek philosophers meant that he considered them to be inspired. When Paul quoted the Greek philosophers Aratus and Epimenides in Acts 17:28 and Titus 1:12, he in no way considered their writings inspired or authoritative. Their well known writings helped him make his point to the audience he was addressing. In other words, Paul adapted his communication so that it was relatable to his listeners and readers.

This is no different than a pastor or Bible teacher today using illustrations from The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia to help his listeners understand the point he is making. No one who heard such an illustration would jump to the conclusion that the teacher believed The Chronicles of Narnia was true. We all know these are fictional accounts and understand that the teacher is using them to make a point. Likewise, Peter and Jude knew 1 Enoch was a work of fiction, but because their 1st Century readers were familiar with the material they used quotes from it to aid in making their points.

What was Peter and Jude’s point?

The point Peter and Jude are making is that false brethren and false teachers had infiltrated the Christian ranks and that their judgement was certain. They are warning their readers about these people and reminding them that such people will not escape judgment. For the sake of brevity, I will mostly focus on Jude since 2 Peter 2 and Jude are so similar.

“4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. 5 But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; 7 as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:4–7 NKJV)

Those who rely on 1 Enoch as a commentary on the Scriptures are quick to jump to the conclusion that Jude (and Peter) are drawing a comparison of the sexual sins of the people and the sexual sins of fallen angels. However, if we read this passage very carefully you will note that it is not the sins that are being compared, but the penalty for the sins. They were citing historic examples of what happens to those who rebel against God.

Who Sin Punishment
Exodus Israelites (v. 5) Unbelief Destroyed
Angels (v. 6) Left assigned postition Locked up for judgement
Sodom (v. 7) Sexual immorality Destroyed

Notice in the table above that although the sins of each group are different, the punishment for their sins are the same. Jude is communicating that the punishment of the false brethren he is warning his readers about is just as certain.

One cannot read the Bible, and the Bible alone, and come to the conclusion that Jude and Peter are portraying the angel’s sins as sexual in nature. To reach this conclusion one has to import this view into the Bible from an outside source.

People whose conclusions are dominated by 1 Enoch contend that Jude, in verse six, is referring to angels who left the spiritual realm and mated with human women. Due to the influence of 1 Enoch, they connect this passage with Gen 6:1-4 saying they are referring to the same event. They see additional support for this conclusion because verse seven mentions the sexual sins of Sodom and they believe Jude is implying that the angels, like Sodom, were engaged in illicit sexual activity.

Nothing said by Jude or Peter suggest the angel’s sins were sexual in nature

Read this passage, and 2 Peter 2:1-9, very carefully and notice that neither say the angel’s sins were sexual in nature. Peter gives us no hint of what their sin was and Jude only says that they left their assigned domain. Again, the emphasis in this passage is not about the sins committed per se, but the judgement meted out to people (or angels) who defy God.

Aside from 1 Enoch, the assumed sexual nature of the angel’s sins is partly due to the wording of verse seven in some Bible translations. Some translations make it appear that the sins of Sodom are similar to those of the angels. Take the ESV for example:

just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7 ESV)

Each translation seems to have a slightly different rendering of this verse implying that the Greek might be a bit hard to pin down in translation. It would seem this has opened the door for unintentional bias based upon the translator’s doctrinal views concerning this matter.

The KJV and NKJV are more consistent with the context of Jude. They suggest that the words “similar manner” or “likewise” are referring to the example of their punishment and not the nature of their sins. The phrase about going after strange flesh is a parenthetical thought. Below I’m replacing KJV and NKJV commas with parentheses to aid in demonstrating this:

“as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these (having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh) are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:7 NKJV)

What Jude is linking together by the word “likewise” or “similar manner” is the punishment, not the sins. The words inside the parentheses describe what Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of. Sodom and Gomorrah are set forth as examples, just like the previous two examples of unbelieving Israel and the angels who abandoned their realm. This is a case where the KJV and NKJV get it right because their translation fits the context. It is not the sins that were the same, but the penalty of their sins that were the same.

Proponents of the idea of angels mating with human women say Jude’s comments are directly connected to the religious fiction documented in the Second Temple Period book of 1 Enoch. In doing so, they are importing non-canonical ideas into the Scriptures while claiming that Peter and Jude are endorsing the fictional worldview set forth in 1 Enoch. One cannot read the Bible, and the Bible alone, and come to the conclusion that Jude and Peter are portraying the angel’s sins as sexual in nature. To reach this conclusion one has to import this view into the Bible from an outside source.

No one advocates that 1 Enoch belongs in the canon

Let’s be clear, no one, not even the people who advocate this idea of angelic/human mating, claims the book of 1 Enoch is inspired or belongs in the canon! 1 Enoch records a fictional account of 200 angels who left heaven for the express purpose of mating with the human women they lusted for. This is a fictional interpretation of Gen 6:1-4 based on Mesopotamian pagan mythology. Although Jude and Peter borrow phrases from 1 Enoch, they do so because it was a familiar piece of literature in their day and it helped them make their point. To impose these mythological stories from 1 Enoch upon the text of the Bible would be akin to building a system of theology based upon the popular notion of Saint Peter guarding the pearly gates.

Conclusion

The first four verses of Genesis 6 concerns the “multiplication” of mankind which is exactly what the genealogies of the two prior chapters communicate. There is no suggestion in these four verses that anything sinful was happening. There is nothing in this text, nor in any other Bible passage, which indicates the earth was invaded by a bunch of amorous angels who were hot to trot for human women.

There is no historical evidence indicating that the Jews of Jesus’s day believed the events of 1 Enoch were true. In fact, the books of Jude and 2 Peter were disputed by some early Christians. Their canonicity was doubted because they quoted from apocryphal books! At most we could say that some Jews may have believed something like this.

A good Bible student will not allow uninspired, non-canonical fiction to dominate his or her conclusions about biblical texts. I will leave you with the words of John Sailhamer from his commentary on Genesis 6:

there is little to arouse our suspicion that the events recounted are anything out of the ordinary. As a summary of the preceding chapter, this little patch of narrative is a reminder that the sons and daughters of Adam had greatly increased in number, had married, and had continued to have children. The impression it gives is that of an interlude, a calm before the storm. For a brief moment we see a picture of human beings in the midst of their everyday affairs “marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away” (Mt 24:38–39).

Sailhamer, John H.. The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (p. 121). Zondervan.