This question refers to two verses:

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment. (2 Peter 2:4)

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day. (Jude 6)

These two passages relate to the Enoch myth of 200 angels which fell in the days of Noah and were the cause of the flood. The myth was based on a misreading of Genesis 6:1-4. The timeline of this story can be set out as follows:

  • Gen.6:2 — sons of God and daughters of men
  • Jewish readings of Gen.6 vary.
  • 2ndC BC — Enoch myth begins to circulate in Judaism, probably originally as political comment on corruption
  • 1stC BC — Enoch myths grow in popularity, many versions — 1 Enoch, Jubilees, etc.
  • 1stC AD — several versions of Enoch myths — 1 Enoch, Book of the Giants – in use at Qumran.
  • Rabbi Shamai against the reading of Gen.6 as angels
  • Luke 20 – Christ teaches that angels do not marry, and that “sons of God” are men in the resurrection.
  • Col 2:18 — Paul warns about “religion of angels”
  • Titus 1:14 — Paul warns about “Jewish myths”
  • 1 Peter — indirect allusions to a problem, “spirits in prison, who sinned in the days of Noah”
  • 2 Peter — direct dealing with the problem as a “myth”, several quotes and allusions to the text of 1 Enoch.
  • Jude — reminding the words of Peter (in the past tense, indicating that he was dead) and direct citation from 1En.1:9 in Jude 14
  • Trypho the Jew and Justin Martyr debate Gen.6 (Trypho being against the angel version, Justin for).
  • 2ndC — Enoch literature circulates widely in Early Christianity, being the dominant story for the origin of the devil.
  • 3rdC — Enoch myth begins to be replaced by the Lucifer story drawn from Isaiah 14.
  • 4thC — 1Enoch listed as a banned book. Survives in Ethiopia and Black Sea.
  • 19thC — Tischendorf, R.H. Charles and M.R. James work on recovering Greek and Coptic versions of 1Enoch and other Jewish myths
  • It is difficult to deny that Jude 14 is a quote of 1En.1:9, though some argue 1En.1:9 is a quote from Jude 14.
  • 1948 — copies of 1Enoch predating Jude discovered at Qumran
  • 1968 — Geza Vermes publishes the Aramaic 1Enoch in English
  • 1990s — copyleft versions of 1Enoch in Charles’ and James’ translations circulate widely on the Internet

That’s the background. Now to look at the text the question is not whether Peter and Jude (and indeed Christ and Paul) were aware of the Enoch legends, that is beyond dispute. The question is how they regard them?

This is best set out as a commentary:

Analysis of 2 Peter 2:

2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Note the three red-light warnings before Peter introduces the Enochic material (a) there will be false teachers among you, (b) who will secretly bring in destructive heresies… (c) And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. These are not a vote of confidence in what follows next, but a health warning.

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell [1] and committed them to chains [2] of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; [3] 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, [4] and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

Note, “if”. Peter’s argument is that “if” the myth is true and the 200 angels were chained by Raphael in Tartarus, then they cannot harm anyone. The logic of this holds today. If (hypothetical) people believe angels fell from heaven then they should also accept the story that they are chained.

Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, [5] while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

Blaspheming glories (Greek doxai, a term for the heavenly court) means that the blasphemy is not true. So if those teachers charge angels with sinning, and this charge is blasphemy (according to Peter), then it follows that the charge is false.

17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves [6] of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

A series of quotes and illusions taken from 1Enoch to false teachers – but in this case it is not those teachers of the days of the flood who were influenced by the fallen angels, it is the teachers of Peter’s day who are “waterless springs” etc.

Two additional points from Jude.

Judgment on False Teachers

Jude 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Again the same point as Peter — the problem is not fallen angels, but teachers among you.

5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved [3] a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, [4] serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Again the same point as Peter, the angels of 1Enoch are chained, not roaming free.

8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.

Again, if they blaspheme angels — what they say cannot be true, can it?

9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs [5] at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

The context is that in 1Enoch Michael accuses the 200 angels, but in Zechariah 3 the angel of the Lord did no such thing.

14 It was also about these (incorrect, Greek says “to these“) that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 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.” 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.

The so-called quote from “Enoch, the seventh from Adam” (itself a quote from 1En) is not from the real Enoch at all but from Moses:

De.33:2 He said, “The Lord came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us;[1] he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire[2] at his right hand.

Jude recognised what modern scholars also recognise, that 1En1:9 is a midrash of De.33:2 (see Nickelsburg). Jude therefore is saying 1Enoch (the book) prophesies “to these” (the false teachers) the words of Moses (in which angels condemn men, not men condemn angels).

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14 Responses to Who are “the angels that sinned”?

  1. Joshua Sinkfield says:

    I think this is pretty good information overall. No where else is any one who likes to speak about what’s canonical and what isn’t going to condone this type of referrencing to pseudononymous and apocryphic literature, specifically texts that are dealing with the fallen, who know are the sons of God who came down from Heaven to defile themselves with the daughters of men and were therefore locked in chains for their disobedience and Enoch could bear witness to the children of these fallen angels: these children being the result of the fallen mixing with humans.

  2. Steven says:

    Hi Joshua,
    Thanks for your comment. As far as I can see, it’s usually assumed in most commentaries by people who believe in fallen angels (and thats 90% of Christians) that since Jude makes reference to the book that Jude *must* have agreed with the book. The commentary above is to show that Jude *didn’t* agree with 1 Enoch, on the contrary, Jude considered 1 Enoch “blasphemy”, the same as Peter considered 1 Enoch “stories they have made up”.

    Likewise Jesus in Luke 20:35 says that angels *don’t* marry women, and Jesus in Luke 20:36 also identifies the “sons of God” as “sons of the resurrection”, not fallen angels. So why do so many people believe a Third Century BC legend which says angels *did* have sex with women, when Jesus has said the opposite?

  3. Joshua Sinkfield says:

    The angels, having left their first estate, would have to make a pact on Mount Hermon and leave their wonderfully crafted bodies of light and fire behind to take a corrupted weighed down and gross body to be able to mate with women, a thing that many people fail to understand fully.

  4. Joshua Sinkfield says:

    Have your ever read in your Bible where it says “who makes his ministers a flaming fire,” ?! Apparently, you are misinformed.

    • Rob J Hyndman says:

      Psalm 104:1-4
      Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire.

      So the angels are described poetically as “winds” and “flaming fire”. But the passage says nothing about Mt Hermon, angels leaving their bodies, taking on a gross body, mating, etc.

  5. Joshua Sinkfield says:

    But you missed the point that the Book of Enoch was used as a referrence.

  6. WoundedEgo says:

    Why is it that in the OT, there are no daemons, and suddenly in the NT, they are everywhere? Clearly, the Enoch view is presumed by the readers and writers of the NT.

    So also the “son of man” is none other than Enoch, reincarnated.

    You even see Paul saying that women should be under a covering, lest the “angels” look down from the sky and be enticed:

    1Co 11:10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

    The fact is, there is no canon until it is invented by the Catholics (by “infallible Papal decree”) and when it is created, it is a *Latin* text, not a Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek text! Why? Because there was so much corruption in the texts that they did not trust them as reliable (though now, Protestants think that they have found the reliable scraps, or can piece them together).

    And Protestants kicked out many texts from the original canon. Maybe it should be called a “cannon!”

    The most obvious controversy within scripture against the Protestant view of “canon” is what Paul wrote:

    2Ti 3:16 ***All scripture*** is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
    2Ti 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

    By saying “only the scripture sanctioned by the Reformers,” you have repeated the Roman practice of judging the scriptures and fashioning your own gods.

    Who gets to create a canon? it is a circular madness.

  7. Ed says:

    In regards to the identity of the fallen angels of 2 Peter 2:4, I believe a clear connection is made with Rev. 12:4, 7-9. Angles were created by God and had a place in heaven orginially. A “fallen angel” is one who has no longer a place in heaven; for example, Rev. 12: 9 “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which decieveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Remember, he brought with him a third part of the stars (angles). Rev. 12:4.

    Further, remember that Lucifer was an angel Isa. 14:12-

    Let me suggest that 1 Cor. 11:10 is referring to the custom of the day – that women, in recognition of their place with respect to the authority of the husband, wore a covering. The angels, who were and are always present during plublic religious exdercises, have a good understanding of the majesty and glory of God, and veil their faces in awe when in His presence. Thus, the angels would bear witness of the conduct of the women.

  8. Colin says:

    Anyone who objectively reads the texts in question will see that Peter and Jude certainly held to those beliefs and that the author of this article is doing mental gymnastics to justify his canon. You see, by accepting the idea of Sola Scriptura you must accept the Protestant Canon (established by the Jews at the Council of Jamnia in response to the exploding Christian population) and the utter inerrency of it. There can’t be any “lost books” with the Sola Scriptura doctrine, which is also why Protestants attack the dueterocanonical books too.

    It’s also totally false to say that this view of Fallen Angels is unbiblical even with a Protestant Canon. See Genesis 6:1-4. The “sons of God” have sex with human women and make giant (nephilim) offspring. The next place the “sons of God appear in the OT is with Satan in Job 1:6. Also, Jesus says the Angels *in Heaven* do not marry nor are they given in marriage, the Angels in Enoch “left their estate”.

    To say that early Christians didn’t use this book (along with all of the so called “apocrypha”) is a total lie. There are references abound in the Ante Nicene Fathers. It was also never banned, it just fell out of use, because it wasn’t part of the Septuagint tradition (the ancient Christian Old Testament that predates the Masoretic text by 1300 years) and because of its fanciful imagery and content inspiring loads of psuedepigrapha. Not all books of the Bible are of the same value, to the Jews the order of importance was: The Law, The Psalms, The Prophets, History. To the Orthodox it’s: the NT, The Psalms, The Prophets, Wisdom Literature (Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon), the Penteatuch (The Torah), History, Parable writings (Tobit, Judith; which do have historical inaccuracies, but here’s the thing: we don’t care, they’re inspirational stories written for the glorification of God ). The Book of Enoch was most certainly acknowledged but caused too many problems and put too many heads in the clouds due to the imagery (which is why the Orthodox don’t read Revelations in Church or take dogmatic stances on interpreting it) and we stopped using it.

    Honestly, Sola Scriptura will drive you insane. Neither the Bible nor its canon are perfect. If you believe that, you are making an idol of it. Heck, maybe the Ethiopians have the correct canon. All I know is that the Book of Enoch is interesting, but probably not well preserved, and doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know, so it is unnecessary to salvation and doesn’t need to be in the canon of scripture. Go ahead and read it, but do so with a grain of salt.

    • Jonathan Morgan says:

      Saying that the sons of men are angels in Genesis 6:1 – 4 is an assumption. I think it much more likely that it refers to those of the godly line documented in Genesis 5 going astray and marrying those outside of it: daughters of men meaning ungodly women who were daughters of ungodly men. Remember that Adam too was called “the son of God” in the genealogy in Luke 3.

      Similarly, assuming the Satan in Job 1 is a supernatural devil and the sons of men with him are angels is also an assumption. I think it much more likely that the sons of God were godly human beings, and Satan was one of those people who were godly but jealous of job and so was an adversary of Job. Notice that he has to be given power by God, rather than having any inherent power himself.
      See also

  9. Elidad_O says:

    In the points made I read ‘Col 1 — Paul warns about “religion of angels”.’ Where in Col 1 do we find Paul  warning about “religion of angels” ?

  10. Elidad_O says:

    The background detail given in point form is all very well, but what is the sources from which this information has been drawn? It all reads like ‘News’ to me. Any one with a bit of imagination can paint a backdrop like that to make their line of thinking appear to have substance. Sources please! Statements without references that can be checked, carry no weight.

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