EDITORS COMMENT: This new series is being offered in memoriam of Dr. Michael Heiser who’s truly groundbreaking research on the Divine Council and Enochian Worldview (based on the book of Enoch and its connection to Hebrew theology before and at the time of Jesus) opened the door for a richer understanding of the Life of Christ than previous generations could have imagined. This series reflects content from the leading-edge books published by Defender Publishing for Dr. Heiser—Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ as well as his two volume book set titled, A Companion to the Book of Enoch: A Reader’s Commentary, Volume 1: The Book of the Watchers and Vol II: The Parables of Enoch. PLEASE NOTE: ALL PROFITS FROM THE SALE OF DR. MICHAEL HEISER’S BOOKS FROM SKYWATCHTVSTORE.COM WILL BE DONATED TO HIS FAMILY DURING THIS SERIES.
Scholars have noted that “the ancient boundaries of Bashan, although impossible to determine exactly, appear to be the area north of Gilead, west of Salecah and the Jebel Druze Mountains…south of Mount Hermon, and east of the Jordan and the Sea of Galilee.”[i] This description means that another familiar episode in Jesus’ ministry occurred within the territory of Bashan: the exorcism of Legion (Mark 5).
The reader should not miss the point made earlier. For Second Temple Jews, the demons Jesus encountered and defeated were Watcher-spirits, released at the death of the ancient Nephilim/Rephaim giants. The passage from 1 Enoch 15 included above makes that quite evident, as do the Dead Sea Scroll references to the Watchers as “bastard spirits.” This term quite clearly views demons as the result of the death of the hybrid (“bastard”) Nephilim offspring produced in the transgression of Genesis 6:1–4, Enoch’s sin of the Watchers.[ii] When Jesus confronts Legion, He is facing a collective of these entities. Mark records the dramatic encounter:
1They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
Prior to Mark 5, as Israel’s Messiah, Jesus had restricted His ministry to a Jewish audience. His focus changed in Mark 5:1 when He intentionally entered the country of the Gerasenes—Gentile territory.[iii] Mark’s wording is interesting. When Legion asks, “What have you to do with me?” the question echoes that of the unclean spirits cast out by Jesus in Mark 1:24 within the Jewish territory of Galilee—with a subtle but telling difference:
- (Demons in Jewish territory): “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” (Mark 1:24)
- (Legion in old Bashan): “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? (Mark 5:7)
Legion identifies Jesus as “Son of the Most High,” a title that reflects the Old Testament theology of cosmic geography. Recall that in Deuteronomy 32:8–9, the “Most High” had disinherited the nations of the world, assigned them to the dominion of supernatural sons of God, and then created Israel as is own inheritance from nothing.[iv] Those sons of God rebelled and became corrupt (Psalm 82:1–4), throwing God’s order into chaos (Psalm 82:1–5).
The exorcism of Legion is therefore more than a strange tale of suicidal swine. It’s about theological messaging. Legion recognizes that Jesus is rightful Lord of the country of the Gerasenes—old Bashan now under Gentile occupation.
These familiar episodes in the ministry of Jesus occur in the darkest, most spiritually sinister places known to Old Testament Israelites and Jewish readers of the Old Testament. Bashan and Hermon were ground zero for spiritual evil and, in particular, the Watchers of 1 Enoch. The spiritual corruption of humanity would be healed by the atonement of the cross. His resurrection meant that no member of the kingdom of God would share living space with the Watchers in the underworld Abyss, the realm of the dead. Even an army of Watchers was overmatched by the Son of the Most High. They would be lords of nothing.
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Reversing Hermon in the Epistles
We saw in the last section that the Gospel writers sought to associate the birth, genealogy, and ministry of Jesus with the theological theme of reversing the transgression of the Watchers on Mount Hermon. It should be no surprise, then, that the sin of the Watchers was on the mind of some of the apostolic contributors to the New Testament that we know as the epistles.
This section focuses on three items discussed in the letters of Paul and Peter where the story of the sin of the Watchers from 1 Enoch is clearly lurking in the conceptual background.
First, we will revisit the notion of how, for many Jews in the Second Temple Period, the proliferation of evil throughout humanity should not be laid at the feet of Adam, but of the Watchers. Contrary to the dominant Christian tradition, the Fall of Adam is not the exclusive touchpoint for the depravity of humankind. Our study will show that New Testament theology is in concert with Second Temple Judaism—that the human problem is not exclusively owed to Adam’s transgression. The sin of the Watchers was also part of apostolic theology in this regard. This will surprise many readers—just as the fact that certain influential early Christian fathers believed the same thing.
Second, we will bring the Enochian Watcher story to bear on one of the more befuddling passages in Paul’s epistles: his comments about the head covering in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul explicitly connects his teaching on this matter to the Enochian story by telling his readers his teaching matters “because of the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10). If we frame Paul’s discussion in the context of the sin of the Watchers and trace the meaning of “covering” (Greek: peribalaion) in Greco-Roman texts familiar to his Gentile readers, the enigma of the head covering disappears.
Finally, 1 Peter 3:18–22, one of the epistle’s most confounding passages, comes into clear focus by reading it against the backdrop of the transgression of the Watchers in 1 Enoch. Peter’s inclusion of spirits in prison, the Flood, Noah, the resurrection, and spiritual powers of darkness being subject to Christ seems nonsensical and haphazard. Quite to the contrary, Peter’s theological thinking is not only clear, but powerful—if we have the Enochian story in our minds, as he did.
The Sin of the Watchers and Human Depravity
I noted in an earlier chapter that for many Jews in the Second Temple Period, the proliferation of evil throughout humanity should not be laid at the feet of Adam, but of the Watchers. That is, contrary to what nearly all Christians are taught today, a large number of people living in the first century for whom the Old Testament was the Word of God, Adam’s Fall was not the exclusive touchpoint for the doctrine of depravity. In this chapter, we’ll look at how New Testament thinking about sin can be read the same way—and how important early church fathers would have agreed.
Two Reasons for Human Depravity, Not Just One
There are two explanations for the human condition, the ever-present propensity for people to sin against God’s will. There are texts from this period that locate the sin impulse within human nature itself and others that have the catalyst for human evil being the fallen Watchers.
To illustrate the former perspective, that human sin is an intrinsic problem, two Dead Sea Scrolls will suffice:
11Remove the sin of my childhood from me and may my offences not be remembered against me.
12Purify me, O yhwh, from evil plague, and may it stop coming back to [me]; dry up
13its roots from me, may its lea[ve]s not become green in me. Glory are you, yhwh.[v]
In her doctoral dissertation on the nature of sin in Second Temple Jewish Literature, Qumran scholar Miryam Brand observed about this passage: “Here the desire to sin is not simply a tendency to commit a sinful act; it is an internal toxin: a ‘condition’ of sinfulness from which the human must be freed (as opposed to merely a desire to do acts of sin).”[vi]
Another Dead Sea Scroll that points to the idea of humanity’s intrinsic sinfulness is 1QHa IX.21–25:
21These things I know through your knowledge, for you opened my ears to wondrous mysteries although I am a creature of clay, fashioned with water,
22a foundation of shame and a source of impurity, an oven of iniquity and a building of sin, a spirit of error and depravity without
23knowledge, terrified by your just judgments. What can I say which is not known? Or declare which has not been told? Everything
24has been engraved before you with the stylus of remembrance for all the incessant periods and the cycles of the number of everlasting years in all their predetermined times,
25and they will not be hidden, and will not be lacking from before you. How will a man count his sin? How will he defend his iniquities?[vii]
Brand comments on this text: “The speaker does not claim that he is guilty of particular sins. Rather, as a member of humanity, he shares in its lowly and sinful state. He is a ‘creature of clay’ that has been ‘kneaded with water.’ It is clear from this passage that the human being is not merely weak, but sinful.”[viii]
The well-known Second Temple Jewish thinker Philo expressed a similar thought, specifically that Adam’s sin was proof of an inherently human evil inclination to God (Opif. 155; Fug. 79–80; Det. 122; Mut. 183–185).
But this of course is only one perspective. Brand introduces the other trajectory this way:
Numerous Second Temple texts attribute human sin to the temptation of demonic forces. In attributing human sin to demons, these texts suggest a motivation significantly different from the one behind texts that reflect the “innate inclination to sin” paradigm. Attributing the principal cause of sin to demons points to individual sin not as part of the human constitution, but as the result of a forceful demonic presence, or even a demonic age.[ix]
For many readers, the idea of connecting human depravity to the sin of the Watchers (the “demons” in Brand’s quotation) seems strange, even in regard to Genesis 6:1–4. Traditional interpretation has human sinfulness arising from within and that alone was justification for the Flood. Genesis 6:5 is the proof text for this approach: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Genesis 6:5 is actually part of a vexing problem for biblical interpreters. Put simply, it doesn’t seem to have any coherent relationship to Genesis 6:1–4. This is especially true for those who seek to strip the supernatural elements out of the passage. For anyone reading Genesis 6:1–4 without knowledge of the polemic context for those verses, it’s quite understandable that the first four verses don’t seem at all to lead up to Genesis 6:5.
This problem can only be solved by reading Genesis 6:1–4 in light of its original polemic context—the apkallu story. As we saw in chapter 3, the knowledge of the apkallu aligned with high precision to the knowledge taught by the Watchers that corrupted humanity before the Flood. This means that, in terms of the original purpose of Genesis 6:1–4—to take shots at Babylonian theologizing of the Flood event—the passage does in fact relate to Genesis 6:5. Without an understanding of the apkallu polemic, this connection is lost to modern readers. Brand notes in this respect:
Biblical scholars have attempted to determine the original meaning of this story independently of its context in the biblical account. However, for Jews in the Second Temple period, the episode’s importance lay in its context in Genesis 6, where it serves as an introduction to the account of the flood. As most commentators note, the location of the “sons of God” passage prior to the account of the flood implies that there is a connection between the “sons of God” story and the flood that follows. The mating of divine beings with humans is related in Gen[esis] 6:1–4 neutrally and without any indication of moral misdoing, but here the mating becomes an indication of corruption, the illicit crossing of the boundary between human and divine. In this manner the flood that follows this account is justified; it results not only from the unspecified human evil related in Gen[esis] 6:5 (and in 6:12–13), but also from a complete breakdown of the boundary between the human and divine spheres.[x]
Watcher-Spirits after the Flood
First Enoch and other Second Temple Jewish texts are clear enough on this point—that the fallen Watchers taught human beings various points of knowledge that corrupted humanity. But that raises a specific question found in both those ancient texts and in research conducted by modern readers: If the sinning Watchers were imprisoned in the Abyss and “didn’t see the light of day” after the Flood, how could their knowledge propel the spread of wickedness among humanity after the Flood?
Neither the Old Testament nor books like 1 Enoch justifies the notion that there were enough giants after the Flood to provide an explanation for human depravity. Second Temple thinking made no such direct connection to human evil in this regard. Brand articulates the problem this way:
There is no indication that the sin of the Watchers had any lasting demonic implications for humankind beyond the flood. The forbidden mysteries that have been revealed have apparently been “cleansed” from the earth by the flood (see 1 En[och] 10:7)…. Yet while sinful knowledge has apparently survived, there is no continuing demonic presence after the flood. When the flood occurs, the giants have already been completely destroyed and the Watchers have been punished…. Even in the antediluvian [pre-Flood] era, in the story as it is told in 1 En[och] 6–11 the corrupting influence of the Watchers is confined to their teachings and does not stem from ongoing activity on their part. The Watchers do not continue to actively tempt humans to sin, but have rather given them the tools to do evil. It is this forbidden knowledge that is the ongoing “source” of sin in this account, rather than continuous actions by the Watchers. This knowledge is so terrible, implies the author (or redactor), that it must have originated with evil angels.[xi]
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Since human evil did indeed proliferate after the Flood, some scholars see a coherence problem for linking depravity to the sin of the Watchers. They presume that there is no post-Flood connection between evil Watchers and humanity, thereby making the linkage moot. But this overlooks an important detail in the 1 Enoch story.
The answer to this question has something to do with the Nephilim, the giants produced by the sinning Watchers. It matters not that the giants were destroyed in the Flood (or, in the biblical account, thereafter). Nor does it matter that the original offending heavenly sons of God are imprisoned, where the Second Temple traditions and the books of Peter and Jude place them. Why? Because the death of the Nephilim is the point of origin for demons.
There is no indication that demons, spirit beings, were destroyed by the Flood. As we saw in chapter 2, for Second Temple Jewish theology—elements of which are evident in the Old Testament passages that have the Rephaim dead in hell/the underworld—demons were very much a part of the human experience of evil. These demons are explicitly identified as Watcher spirits in 1 Enoch. More specifically, 1 Enoch 15:8–16:1 puts forth the idea that these demonic spirits continue to corrupt humanity after the Flood:
(15)8But now the giants who were begotten by the spirits and flesh—they will call them evil spirits upon the earth, for their dwelling will be upon the earth.
9The spirits that have gone forth from the body of their flesh are evil spirits, for from humans they came into being, and from the holy watchers was the origin of their creation. Evil spirits they will be on the earth, and evil spirits they will be called.
10The spirits of heaven, in heaven is their dwelling; but the spirits begotten in the earth, on earth is their dwelling.
11And the spirits of the giants lead astray, do violence, make desolate, and attack and wrestle and hurl upon the earth and cause illnesses. They eat nothing, but abstain from food and are thirsty and smite.
12These spirits (will) rise up against the sons of men and against the women, for they have come forth from them.
(16)1From the day of the slaughter and destruction and death of the giants, from the soul of whose flesh the spirits are proceeding, they are making desolate without (incurring) judgment. Thus they will make desolate until the day of the consummation of the great judgment, when the great age will be consummated. It will be consummated all at once.[xii]
Nickelsburg’s comments on this passage are important:
The giants’ death is the prelude and presupposition for the continued violent and disastrous activity of their spirits, which goes on unpunished until the final judgment. The consequences of the watchers’ sin are in keeping with the author’s understanding of the nature of that sin. Since the watchers are heavenly, spiritual, and immortal, the divine spirit with which they have endowed their sons is uneradicable in the normal course of events. The death of their human side serves only to free that spirit for further activity. Moreover, as one can see from their activities, the giants have inherited the wicked, rebellious side of their fathers’ nature. The freed spirits of the dead giants constitute a demonic realm that carries on the activities for which the giants were judged and punished according to chaps. 6–11…. The giants and the spirits that proceed from their dead bodies are spoken of as the same entities. The watchers’ willful confusion of the created order has had its inevitable results…. Because of their dual nature, the giants are both eradicable and immortal. On the one hand, the body of their flesh can die. On the other hand, their spirits have continued existence…. Because they were begotten on earth, these spirits must remain on earth. Here they constitute an empire of evil spirits who wreak all manner of havoc on the human race.[xiii]
First Enoch 16:2–4 actually considers the continuity of this corruption so significant that it becomes part of the rationale for why the original now-imprisoned Watchers who cohabited with human women before the Flood will have no opportunity for redemption:
2And now (say) to the watchers who sent you to petition in their behalf, who formerly were in heaven,
3‘You were in heaven, and no mystery was revealed to you;
but a stolen mystery you learned;
and this you made known to the women in your hardness of heart;
and through this mystery the women and men are multiplying evils upon the earth.’
4Say to them, “You will have no peace.”[xiv]
Other Second Temple Period material makes the same theological point—the demonic Watcher spirits after the Flood played a role in human depravity. For instance, the Dead Sea Scroll 4Q 510 (4QShira) Fragment 1 includes the post-Flood Watchers (“bastard spirits”; line 5) in its indictment:
1…praises. Bless[ings to the Ki]ng of glory. Words of thanksgiving in psalms of
2[splendour] to the God of knowledge, the glory of the po[werful] ones, God of gods, Lord of all the holy ones. [His] rea[lm]
3is above the powerful mighty, and before the might of his powe[r] all are terrified and scatter; they flee before the radiance of
4of his glorious majestic strong[hold]. Blank And I, a Sage, declare the splendour of his radiance in order to frighten and terr[ify]
5all the spirits of the ravaging angels and the bastard spirits, demons, Lilith, owls and [jackals…]
6and those who strike unexpectedly to lead astray the spirit of knowledge, to make their hearts forlorn. And you have been placed in the era of the rul[e of]
7wickedness and in the periods of humiliation of the sons of lig[ht], in the guilty periods of [those] defiled by iniquities; not for an everlasting destruction
8[but ra]ther for the era of the humiliation of sin. [Blank] Rejoice, righteous ones, in the wonderful God.
9My psalms are for the upright. Blank And for [… May] a[l]l those of perfect behaviour praise [h]im.[xv]
In this passage the “bastard spirits” are simply one type of the numerous demonic spirits who “strike suddenly to lead a spirit of understanding astray.” The demons listed are drawn mainly from Isa[iah] 13:21and Isa[iah] 34:14, where the day of divine wrath includes the abandonment of the dwelling-places of the wicked to the unbridled forces of nature. These forces include wild animals as well as demonic figures…anarchic forces who, like other evil spirits, cause humans to transgress the divine will.[xvi]
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[i] Joel C. Slayton, “Bashan (Place),” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992) 623. That Mount Hermon is also included in the boundaries of the promised land has been established by careful studies of the boundary descriptions. See Zecharia Kallai, “The Patriarchal Boundaries, Canaan, and the Land of Israel: Patterns and Application in Biblical Historiography,” Israel Exploration Journal 47:1–2 (1997) 69-82 (esp. 73); idem, “Conquest and Settlement of Trans-Jordan: A Historiographical Study,” Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins (1953+) 99 (1983):110–118.
[ii] See 4Q394 8 i.10; 4Q396 1.5; 4Q397 5; 4Q174i.21, 2, 4; 4Q511 35.7; 48, 49, 51.2–3. In 4Q510 1.5.
[iii] Some scholars believe that the Legion confrontation is a cryptic call for political liberation. The argument is made on a twofold basis: (1) the Greek term for Legion (legiōn) is a direct reference to Roman forces, and (2) the Greek word translated “herd” (agelē) was also used of Roman military recruits. The logic is dubious. The region of the Gerasenes was known as Gentile territory—that herdsmen were caring for pigs in the region makes that evident. Jews wouldn’t have been earnestly seeing Roman expulsion from Gentile areas, so a cryptic endorsement of political liberation isn’t the point Mark wanted his readers to catch.
[iv] See my discussion of Deuteronomy 32 and cosmic geography in The Unseen Realm, 110–123.
[v] The translation and associated transcriptional brackets are those of Florentino Garcı́a Martı́nez and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, “The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition (translations)” (Leiden; New York: Brill, 1997–1998) 1177.
[vi] Miryam T. Brand, “ ‘At the Entrance Sin is Crouching’: The Source of Sin and Its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature,” Ph.D. Dissertation, New York University, 2011, 33. Brand’s dissertation was later published under the title, Evil Within and Without: The Source of Sin and Its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature (Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplements 9; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Rupprecht, 2013). References in this chapter are to Brand’s dissertation.
[vii] Garcı́a Martı́nez and Tigchelaar, 159–161.
[viii] Brand, 71. Similar terms are applied to humankind in general in 1QHa V.31-35.
[ix] Brand, 269. While we’ll see her statement about the link between human sinfulness and demons (i.e., the fallen Watchers) is correct, Brand overstates the dichotomy between the two perspectives about sin. She elsewhere (p. 269) claims that, “The attribution of sin to demons renders moot the question of why humans were created with sinful desires.” It doesn’t. There is no reason to suspect that Second-Temple Jews didn’t believe both explanations were true. She also fails to consider the transparent truth of the Genesis 3 narrative, that humans were created imperfect (lesser than God and without his nature). By definition, any being lacking the nature of God himself will sin.
[x] Brand, 275–276.
[xi] Brand, 287–288.
[xii] Translation is from Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch, 267.
[xiii] Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch, 270–273. It should be noted that Brand’s discussion (and some of her sources), portrays the Enochian tradition as confused on these points, having multiple contradictory perspectives. This is because of the scholarly propensity to divide 1 Enoch in multiple sources and traditions. Some of that division is demonstrable, while some of it (in my view) stems from the imagination. For many scholars of ancient literature, when a book says two different things, they are typically thought of as having derived from two different sources. The notion that a writer can say opposing things for a reason and then later have those things converge seldom occurs to textual scholars, conditioned as they are to see multiple sources everywhere. Scholars reflexively tend to need every element of a given topic spelled out in every textual passage to see sameness of source for a given passage. This exaggerated sensitivity is a bi-product of the source-critical methodology in which scholars are trained. For our purposes, the issue doesn’t matter, as the final form of 1 Enoch puts forth the belief that the post-Flood “Watcher demons” continued to corrupt humanity.
[xiv] Translation is from Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch, 267.
[xv] Garcı́a Martı́nez and Tigchelaar, 1027–1029.
[xvi] Brand, 369.