The Messianic Theology of Bob Marley and His Conversion to Ethiopian Orthodoxy

I just returned from the Caribbean. As I listened to the music Bob Marley and the local reggae music, I tuned in with my theological ear. Certain lyrics stood out to me, for example, this line from Marley’s “Get Up Stand Up” (1973):

We sick an’ tired of-a your ism-skism game –
Dyin’ ‘n’ goin’ to heaven in-a Jesus’ name, Lord.
We know when we understand:
Almighty God is a living man.

So who is this “living man” who is God? Is it Christ or someone else? Hmm.

Bob Marley depicted as Saint George on his final album “Confrontation”

So I read through the lyrics and read up on Rastafari theology and its appropriation of Christian Messianism. Since most people interface Rastafari beliefs via Bob Marley’s music, I’ll examine Rastafari theology through the lens of Bob Marley. And so to begin, we should recognize that Marley experienced three theological periods during his life:

  1. Roman Catholic – from his birth in 1945 till 1966 when he was 21. His father was a white Jamaican captain derived from England. His mother was a Jamaican girl. He was 59. She was 18. His father died of a heart attack at age 70, when Bob was 10 years old. It seems that his mother was a Catholic.
  2. Rastafari – At age 21, Marley married Rita Anderson, a Rastafarian. Marley wholeheartedly adopted the Rastafarian identity and theology. This period lasts from 1966 (age 21) till about 1979.
  3. Ethiopian Orthodox – Marley became less enthusiastic about the Rastafari movement, especially after the death of Haile Selassie in 1975 (more on that below). By 1978 Marley’s music is less political, less militant, and less Rasta. Themes of love begin to dominate the music. Beginning 1979-1980, Marley sought membership within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church of Haile Selassie. Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq baptized Bob Marley into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, giving him the name Berhane Selassie, on 4 November 1980. Marley died of cancer seven months later on 11 May 1981 and received an Ethiopian Orthodox funeral.

101 Intro to Rastafari Messianic Theological:

  1. Trinitarian. Rastafari are traditionally Trinitarian and worship God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. They tend to depict Jesus as black and reject European depictions of Christ. As we will see below, they also see King Haile Selassie as a reincarnation or avatar of Jesus Christ. Some more advanced Rastafarians hold that God has had four avatars: Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and Haile Selassie.
  2. They read the Old and New Testament. They tend to quote the King James Version.
  3. Ethiopia is Politico-Prophetic. Rastafari read the Bible in a way to see the African nation of Ethiopia as playing a prophetic role in religious action and political justice. This is why the Rasta movement is defined by the colors of the Ethiopian flag.
  4. Ethiopic Messianism. They also believe that King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba had a baby together and that this child established a Davidic-Solomonic Messianic royal dynasty in Ethiopia.
  5. Pan-African. Rastafari theology is a religious Pan-African movement that looked forward to: a) the unification of all African nations; and B) the return of all dispersed Africans back to Africa. Ethiopia will be the instrument of this reunion.
  6. King Haile Selassie as Messiah. Rastafarian name themselves after Ras Tafari Makonnen (Ras means “Duke”), the baptismal name of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Ethiopia. They believe that “Ras Tafari” or “Haile Selassie” is the heir of the Davidic-Solomonic promises and that his celebrated coronation on 2 November 1930 was an apocalyptic and prophetic event signaling redemption for Africa and all dispersed Africans. The movement identified King Haile Selassie as “Messianic” or “the Messiah” or “Jesus reincarnate” or “divine” or “Jah.” King Haile Selassie was named Man of the Year in 1936, thus increasing expectation:
  7. Smoking cannabis was a cultural Jamaican practice. By association it became a defining element of Afro-Caribbean identity and Rastafarian spirituality. Rastafarian identified the “healing leaves” of Revelation 22:2 as cannabis: “and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
  8. Dreadlocks. The growing of dreadlocks is Biblically inspired by the Nazarite vow of Numbers 6: 5–6: “During the entire period of their Nazarite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the LORD is over; they must let their hair grow long.”
  9. Concubinage and Polygamy. Rastafarians hold David and Solomon as their spiritual fathers. Following their example, they allow for polygamy and concubinage. The Rastafarian women (like Bob Marley’s wife Rita) allowed their husbands to sleep with other women as they saw fit. Marital monogamy is not binding because it was not binding for David or Solomon.

Origin of Rastafari Theology

  • Beginning in 1930, Jamaican (Protestant) preachers began to describe the coronation of King Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia as the fulfillment of Revelation (5:2–5; 19:16), Daniel (7:3), and the Book of Psalms (68:31).
  • Jamaicans began to see themselves as supporting the “black king of Ethiopia” and not the “white king of England.” Supporters of Ras Tafari began to be identified as Rastafarians.
  • In 1935, Jamaican preacher Leonard Howell published the tract The Promised Key which explained that Emperor Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari) was the Messiah, that Black people were the chosen people, and they would soon be repatriated to Ethiopia and experience political and economic prosperity. The tract is the founding document of Rastafarian belief and marks the move from seeing Haile Selassie as merely prophetic to “the divine Messiah.”
  • Leonard Howell taught that there are 6 principles to Rastafari theology:
    (1) hatred for the White race;
    (2) the complete superiority of the Black race;
    (3) revenge on Whites for their wickedness;
    (4) the negation, persecution, and humiliation of the government of Jamaica;
    (5) preparation to go back to Africa; and
    (6) acknowledging Emperor Haile Selassie as the Supreme Being and only ruler of Black people
  • Haile Selassie visited Jamaica for the first time in August 1966, with crowds of Rastas assembling to meet him at the airport.
  • The death of Haile Selassie in 1975 lead to alternative conspiracies about a faked death, his resurrection, his second coming, or to his spiritual force being released into the world. However, as no Pan-African change materialized, the Rastafari movement lost momentum. Among black communities, rap replaced Rasta-style reggae as the musical force for revolution and political change. However, Rastafarian imagery and language continues to dominate pro-African movements in the West. The emphasis on Haile Selassie has mostly been exchanged for militant Socialism and the deification of the individual.

Bob Marley as Rastafarian and then as Ethiopian Orthodox:

As stated above, Bob Marley became Rastafarian in 1966 at age 21. Here’s his album cover with the The Wailers from 1965 with no signs of Rastafarian identity, with Bob Marley centered:

With their second album in 1966, they became political and took on a guerrilla revolution identity.

“I Shot the Sheriff” was released in 1973 on their sixth LP Burnin’. The album reached 151 on Billboard 200. The next year in 1974, Eric Clapton covered “I Shot the Sheriff” and it was a number one hit. This lifted Bob Marley and the Wailers into fame as fans desired to buy/listen to the original version. All of Marley’s subsequent albums did well, as he peaked in 1977 with the LP Exodus. By 1980 he was playing Madison Square Garden in NYC.

In 1977, Marley had been diagnosed with a malignant skin cancer on his toe. Doctors suggested full amputation of the toe. Marley kept the toe. On 21 September 1980, he learned that the cancer spread to his brain. He played his last concert on 23 September 1980 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

At this last live concert he sang: “We know when we over-stand: Almighty God is a living man.” It’s not clear if he was merely honoring the original lyrics, or whether he still actually believed that the now-deceased King Haile Sellasie was still God Almighty. Probably the former.

About 40 days after receiving his terminal cancer diagnosis, Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq baptized Bob Marley into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church on 4 November 1980. Afterward he cried for half an hour.

Bob Marley died of brain cancer on 11 May 1981.

Here is a full YouTube video with Archbishop Abuna Yesehaq, the one who baptized Bob Marley into the Orthodox Church. He explicitly states that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is NOT Rastafarian:

  • 2:50 Abuna Yesehaq says that 20,000 Rastafarians were baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but no all remained. From the video, it seems that Abuna Yesehaq did not require the newly baptized to renounced their Rasta beliefs. If so, this is troubling.
  • 3:40 Abuna Yesehaq says that Haile Selassie was a member of Ethiopian Orthodox Church and denied he was divine.
  • 4:20 Haile Selassie sent Abuna Yesehaq to convert Rastas in Jamaica.
  • 5:50 Abuna Yesehaq says dreadlocks are okay
  • 7:05 Abuna Yesehaq says “I baptized Bob Marley”
  • 8:00 Abuna Yesehaq explains three differences with Roman Catholics: papal infallibility, miaphysite nature of Christ, procession of Holy Spirit.
  • 10:40 Abuna Yesehaq explains how Bob Marley wanted to learn and conform to Orthodox practice, especially with regard to concubinage and polygamy.
  • 11:30 Abuna Yesehaq told Bob Marley to be monogamous.
  • 11:46 Abuna Yesehaq explains how Bob Marley cried for half and hour after baptism.
  • 12:30 His wife Rita Marely was baptized with her children in Ethiopian Orthodox Church in 1973.
  • 13:15 Bob Marley assented that Jesus crucified not Selassie is Christ.

It remains unclear whether Bob Marley repudiated his belief that Selassie but this interview seems to indicate that he did so and that he died a faithful member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Question: Do you have any questions about Rastafarian beliefs? Or do you have any more information about the beliefs or conversion of Bob Marley? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

143: Shoveling Incense into the Cathedral’s Botafumeiro (Camino 7)

We were privileged to see the “smoke boat” or Botafumeiro in action today after Mass. The botafumeiro is the world’s largest incense thurible. It hangs from the ceiling of the Cathedral of Saint James and takes about 5 grown men to swing it through the cathedral. It’s quite the sight.

In this podcast I explain the epic botafumeiro. As promised, in the the podcast I include my video footage of the botafumeiro in action.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

142: Tears and Arrival in Santiago! (Camino 6)

My dad and I made it to the Cathedral of Saint James (Santiago) today. I had a flat tire on my bike in the rain, but I finally made it through this final day: “I lift my eyes up to the mountains, from whence my help comes.”

Listen to the mp3 podcast below to the amazing experience of arriving with all the pilgrims on the Camino of Santiago (podcast and photo below):

Buen Camino!
Dr Marshall

141: Monastery at Samos, Spain (Camino 5)

I continue on the Camino of Santiago.

Today we arrived at the historic Benedictine monastery at Samos. I detail the building and lament on the collapse of Christianity in Spain (and especially the collapse of monasticism). Click below to listen:

Dr Taylor Marshall

140: Eucharistic Miracle at O Cebreiro in Spain (Camino 4)

Along the Camino of Saint James in Spain is the sight of a Eucharistic miracle in the church at O Cebreiro.

A poor pilgrim braved a deathly winter snowstorm to come to this church for Mass. The priest made fun of him and a Eucharistic miracle followed. Listen to the podcast below to hear the entire story about the miracle and the chalice:

What is an Apostle? (And How it Relates to all the Boat Scenes in the Bible)

Our Lord Jesus Christ founded a New Israel with Himself as Davidic King and with Twelve Apostles initiating the new Twelve Tribes of Israel. This is the Messianic Kingdom of the Church.

As one who connects the Old Testament features to Catholic dogma (see this book: The Crucified Rabbi), I’ve always been painfully aware that the term “apostle” doesn’t have a slick connection to Old Testament kingdom language.

Pagan “Boat” Sources for the Term Apostle:

In pagan Greek sources (such as in the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus), ἀπόστολος (apostolos) refers to a political or military delegate or messenger. ἀπόστολος also refers to the commander of a naval force.

In fact, στόλος refers to a naval division or to a colony. So an ἀπόστολος is one who travels out to these naval colonies. Sometimes ἀπόστολος is used to refer to a formal naval dispatch or to an export license to/from these colonies.

So when the New Testament authors adopt this Greek term, they are not merely referring to a local rabbi or preacher. They are using a term that referred to diplomats who traveled to the farrest ends of the earth. It’s a global or catholic term.

Pauline Sources for the Term:

The term ἀπόστολος appears only once in the Greet Septuagint (Greek version of Old Testament) at 1 Kings 14:6 where ἀπόστολος is a translation of the Hebrew שָׁלוּחַ (sha-lach). The term appears 79 times in the New Testament – 68 of which are found in the writings of Paul and his disciple Luke.

It seems that originally ἀπόστολος referred to each of the original Twelve Apostles. However, Saint Paul opened the term to include himself, Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and Timothy and Silvanus (1 Thessalonians 2:7). Paul also speaks of false apostles in 2 Corinthians.

In Hebrews, Luke/Paul identify Jesus as “the apostle and high priest of our confession” (Heb 3:1). In this context, apostleship is associated with the high priesthood. This is our biggest hint into how early Christians understood the term ἀπόστολος. It was missionary and priestly. Just as an ἀπόστολος origianlly referred to naval delegates to colonies, so a high priest bridges over water as a pontifex, a bridge builder between God and man.

According to Paul, apostles surpass the various other offices within the Church of “teachers, evangelists, and prophets” (διδάσκαλος, εὐαγγελιστής, προφήτης). In the mind of Paul, an apostle is more than these three. I would argue, that for Paul an apostle is all three of these at once while also being priestly diplomats for Christ.

Are Apostles Political or Priestly?

At first glance into a Greek dictionary, the term ἀπόστολος seems political or mercantile. It’s a civil title. However, the Christians looked to King Melchizedek and King David as “priest kings” or “liturgical kings” as the prototypes for King Jesus. So the political realm collapses into the priestly liturgical realm. This is why Christ is both establishing a “kingdom” (political) and also building at “temple” (priestly). He is king and pontiff. And so also, his political ministers are both political and cultic. The ἀπόστολος is a naval delegate for foreign colonies throughout the world but he is also a sacrificial priest who offers the Gentiles to God as sacrifice and who offers the Eucharist as sacrifice.

Apostles on a Boat:

One final related topic. I couldn’t help but noticed that in Acts, the vivid scenes of Paul traveling by ship may in fact be intentionally recounted with detail to bolster Paul’s identity as ἀπόστολος. In the Greek mind, the ἀπόστολος is primarily naval and thus Paul is literally fulfilling his role as ἀπόστολος (maybe better so than the Twelve!). Also, the stories of Saint James Zebedee going to and from (posthumously) to Spain by boat ratifies James as a true apostle for Jesus. And let’s not forget all the “Jesus in a boat” scenes from the Gospels!

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

139: Embarrassing Fall at the Iron Cross (Camino 3)

Today was the most difficult day on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I fell down (while still clipped into my bike) at the summit below the Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross) where pilgrims place a stone from home to signify their burdens and sins.

Here is an audio file of me recounting the experience and explaining the Iron Cross tradition:

Here is the Cruz de Ferro surrounded by pebbles placed their by pilgrims over time:

138: The Angry Jousting Pilgrim of 1434 (Camino 2)

Today I tell the story of a pilgrim, a knight, and his rejected love that lead him to 30 days of violent jousting and the breaking of the 300 lances!

We passed through the medieval town of Hospital de Órbigo which was once run and controlled by the Knights Hospitallers to aide Christian pilgrims along the Camino to Santiago, Spain.

Previously in AD 456, invading armies loyal to King Theuderic I (son of King Clovis of the Franks) here fought King Rechiar (Suevic king of Gallaecia – first Germanic Catholic king).

Here’s the story of the Leonese knight Suero de Quinones who was rejected by the woman he loved. She placed him in the “friend zone,” and so he burned out his anger through jousting:

Our Sad Decline in Priestly Vocations: Most Priests will Retire in 2015-2025

I recently learned from Deacon Greg Kandra that Our Lady of Providence Seminary of of the Diocese of Providence Rhode Island has zero new seminarians:

Over the past five years, between two and six men have entered the seminary every fall but that’s not the case this year.

“Entering the fall we don’t have any new seminarians applying for the Diocese of Providence, which is rare,” Fr. Chris Murphy, the Catholic Diocese of Providence’s assistant vocation director, said Tuesday.

“I cannot remember in recent memory when the last time was,” he added.
A look back at the numbers shows a declining trend. Five men entered the seminary in 2012 and six entered in 2013, then the numbers drop to three, two and four in the years that followed.

Over the years, whenever the “priestly shortage” comes up in conversation, someone is quick to reply with some encouragement like this: “Oh yes, but we have so many young orthodox vocations! Things will change in a few years!”

I agree with this encouraging fact: We have some great seminarians! I’ve personally taught Catholic seminarians in America and in Rome and I can confirm that there are some dynamic, orthodox, and impressive seminarians moving into the sacerdotal pipeline.

But I am also aware of a gaping problem that hardly anyone mentions. The seminarian numbers are not there. We are about to fall off a demographic cliff of priestly vocations.

  • Yes, an impressive seminarian or deacon-seminarian visits your parish during the summer and does fantastic work.
  • Yes, you see lots of faces on the “Meet our Seminarians” color poster in the narthex after Mass.
  • Yes, you’re bishop announces yet another round of ordinations this year.

Praise God! I rejoice in all of it…but still…the numbers are lacking. Let’s take a look at priestly demographics:

For priests, we need to pray for quality and quantity:

Here is table of the number of priests in the USA from 1930 to 2015:

The number of priests exploded in 1950 (partly through migration) and peaked out in 1970. After 1975, you see a slow but steady decrease in the number of priests until the decline becomes steep around 1990. 

More troubling is the fact that the tsunami of priests ordained from 1970-1980, will be reaching retirement age between the years 2015-2025 (age 25 + 45 years of service = retirement age 70).

Discovering the 1 Priest to every Catholic Ratio:

We have already begun to feel the scarcity of priests and you’ll understand why when you examine the numbers in light of the ratio of priest per Catholics. Check out these numbers:

  • In 1950, there was 1 priest to every 652 Catholics in the United States.
  • In 2010, there was 1 priest to every 1,653 Catholics in the United States.
  • In 2016, there was 1 priest to every 1,843 Catholics in the United States.

A numeric study shows that the tipping point in the USA happened around the year 1983. This is when our priest/Catholics ratio began to tank:

When it comes to priest/Catholics ratio, our priestly manpower is 33% of what it was 1950. Meanwhile there millions more lay Catholics in the pews.

And depending on the city, the ratio can be much worse. Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles have pretty discouraging ratios, but none are hurting as badly as my neighboring diocese of Dallas:

  • Diocese of Dallas: 1 priest to every 6,229 Catholics.
  • Diocese of Los Angeles: 1 priest to every 3,931 Catholics.
  • Diocese of New York: 1 priest to every 2,055 Catholics.
  • Diocese of Chicago: 1 priest to every 1,624 Catholics.

Meanwhile there are model dioceses that have wonderful ratios that beat even the 1950 national ratio:

  • Diocese of Lincoln: 1 priest to every 598 Catholics.

And the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), which offers the Latin Mass from the 1962 Missale Romanum currently has this ratio in its parishes:

  • FSSP: 1 priest to every 250 Catholics.

Vocation Decrease among the Jesuits

Compare the growth of the FSSP to that of the global membership of the Society of Jesus:

  • In 1977, the Jesuits had 28,038 members.
  • In 2016, the Jesuits had 16,378 members.

The Jesuits have declined 41.5% since 1977. The average age of a Jesuit priest in 2018 is 63.4 years old. Considering that mandatory priestly retirement is age 70, this does not look good for the Jesuits. They will decline by more than 50% in the coming decade. If things don’t change, there will be less than 10,000 Jesuits on earth in the next few years.

[For reference, there are 6,058 (male and female) Dominicans on planet earth in 2018. That’s the size of three Texas high schools.]

Sad but True (plus some Hope):

It is true that we have many great young men in formation to be holy Catholic priests. I’ve spent hours talking with them after class and I know that we will have an excellent crop. The sad news is that it is small crop. A priest is only one man and if you spread him over 3 parishes, he will be less effective.

My prediction is that we will see a great Catholic migration over the next three decades. As that surge of vocations from 1970-1980 begins to retire and depart to their reward, we will see massive parish closings and consolidations. Priests will be rare. It is already obvious that bishops and dioceses like Lincoln Nebraska attract vocations to the holy priesthood. These bishops and their dioceses will thrive. Meanwhile, dioceses like Providence will shrink while they try to import priests from other parts of the world.

The solution is to pray for vocations, but also beg the question:

Why does Lincoln, Nebraska have a plethora of vocations (1 priest to every 598 Catholics!) while others are not only short on vocations but losing priests year after year?

  1. Is it liturgical?
  2. Is it ethnic or based somehow on immigration?
  3. Is it doctrinal?
  4. What leads young men to inquire about a priestly vocation?
  5. How do they organize their altar server programs?
  6. Does youth ministry play a role or not?
  7. How do pastors play a role?
  8. To which seminaries does each diocese send seminarians?
  9. How does seminarian retention rate differ from diocese to diocese?
  10. How is the bishop involved in the vocation process?

If “coffee is for closers,” Bishop Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska is drinking Roman double espressos. 1 priest to every 598 Catholics. Someone should study the vocations process in place under Bishop Conley of Lincoln.

My personal acquaintance with Bishop Conley (he helped guide me into the Catholic Church in 2006) is that he is orthodox, Thomistic, dignified, fatherly, and favors the template of Ratzinger’s “Spirit of the Liturgy.” And if I’m honest, every single impressive seminarian that I meet…is shaped from the same mold. Like begets like. Like father, like son.

And even if you aren’t on board with the template of “orthodox, Thomistic, dignified, fatherly, Spirit of the Liturgy,” the numbers don’t lie.

Pray for holy bishops, holy priests, and holy seminarians!

Question: How is your part of the world doing with priestly vocations? What makes for a good seminarian? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Angels having Relations with Humans within Jude and 2 Peter and 1 Enoch

Genesis 6 has a confusing reference to “when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them” and how this occurrence led to Yahweh flooding the earth. What does this mean?

Sometime around the 200s BC a Jewish document called “Book of Enoch” or 1 Enoch was produced. It gives all the details on how angelic beings copulated with human women and created a cosmic mess before the Flood. And here’s the interesting problem we have:

Saint Jude (Jude 1:14-15) directly quotes this non-biblical document known as “Book of Enoch” or 1 Enoch:

Jude 14–15
It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying:“Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgment on all and to convict everyone of all the 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.”
1 Enoch 1:9

Behold, he comes with ten thousand saints to execute judgment upon all, and he will destroy all the ungodly and convict all flesh of all the deeds of their ungodliness that they have ungodly committed in an ungodly way, and of all the arrogant and hard words which sinners have spoken against him.

It’s not only this direct quotation of 1 Enoch by Jude, but Jude (and 2 Peter) allude to the fantastical events of 1 Enoch, namely the sexual encounters of fallen angels with human women, which gives birth to the nephilim or “giants.” The birth of the giants, according to 1 Enoch, is the reason for the Noah’s Flood.

And this belief is also found in the canonical book of Wisdom:

“And from the beginning also when the proud giants (γιγάντων) perished, the hope of the world fleeing to a vessel, which was governed by thy hand, left to the world seed of generation.” (Wisdom 14:6)

The author of Wisdom clearly associates the flood to a divine genocide of the race of the giants (γιγάντων) to leave the world a “seed of generation.” (Saint Paul quotes from Wisdom about 7 times – so Saint Paul also likely hold this belief.)

Let me tell you the story of Angels and Giants that 1 Enoch tells:

In 1 Enoch, Yahweh sends 200 angels to guide and instruct humanity. These 200 angels are called “Irin” in Aramaic and “Egregoroi” in Greek. Both words mean “Watchers.” These Watchers corrupt humanity by teaching them evil arts such as cosmetology (sorry ladies), sorcery, astrology, and the arts of war.

These angels also seduce human women and copulate with them. The women give birth to nephilim or giants. God causes these giants to fight and die. Then the souls of the giants turn into demons that haunt and tempt humans for the rest of time.

  • So Yahweh binds these 200 evil angelic Watchers into “Tartarus.”
  • What is Tartarus? In the Homer’s Iliad, Zeus teaches that Tartarus is “as far beneath Hades as heaven is above earth.” Tartarus is the deepest part of the underworld, far below Hades.
  • It’s noteworthy that the term “tartarus” is used by Enoch and 2 Peter. This signals the blending of Hebrew history with Greek mythology since Greek myth depict Zeus (after 10 years of battle or titanomachy) sending the older primordial deities called Titans into the deep dungeon abyss of “tartarus.”

Notably 2 Peter explicitly uses Enoch’s word “Tartarus” for the condemnation of fallen “angels.” Jude and 2 Peter use almost the same words, but 2 Peter uses “Tartarus”:

Jude 6
And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day. 
2 Peter 2:4a
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartaros and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment;

It seems that 1 Enoch (and maybe Jude and 2 Peter) have assimilated the titanomachy legend of Zeus condemning the Titans into Tartaus into a legend about Yahweh condemning the 200 angelic Watchers into the chains of Tartarus. But in the 1 Enoch legend the crime is that of angels procreating mutant giants with human women.

“And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamored of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.” (1 Enoch 7:2)

The resulting children are called nephilim in Hebrew or gigantes (giants) in Latin and Greek. In 1 Enoch, the historical Enoch goes to God and seeks to make intercession for the forgiveness of the giants. God refuses and the giants are condemned. This part of the story is referred to in Sirach:

“He was not propitiated for the ancient giants who revolted in their might.” (Sirach 16:7)

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain 10 copies (!) of the Book of Giants – a work that describes in detail the conception of giants in Genesis 6 from the union of women and angelic watchers. The giants were warriors and cannibals. This theology was an important part of the theology of Second Temple Judaism.

Church Fathers who explicitly teach that angels copulated with women and bred giants in Genesis 6:

Justin Martyr, Tatian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Commodianus, Ambrose of Milan.

In the City of God, Saint Augustine taught that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were simply human ancestors of Seth and that they bred with the evil daughters of men/Cain. This became the received tradition in the post Augustinian Christian West. It’s notable, however, that his mentor Saint Ambrose believed that the “sons of God” were in fact angels that copulated with humans.

What’s going on here in the Hebrew tradition?

The “Legend of the Watchers” in 1 Enoch was written in the Maccabean period before Christ. It’s could be a Jewish appropriation of a Greek myth but it’s likely explaining how the Hellenistic invaders are:

  1. The Gentile invaders of the Holy Land (312-63 BC)
  2. Greeks teaching and requiring Jews to follow pagan customs
  3. Greeks marrying and copulating with Jewish women
  4. The production of “hybrid” Greek/Jewish children that are considered “monstrous”
  5. The need to destroy and drive out the Greeks by means of the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC)

The titanomachy of Enoch is not historically “Zeus vs. Titans” or “Yahweh vs. Watchers,” but Judah Maccabeus vs. Greeks.

How does Catholic Christianity understand the “angels and tartarus” sections?

Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas (both had not read 1 Enoch) interpretted the passages in Jude and 2 Peter in this way:

  1. Before the flood, the “sons of God” were the righteous humans and the “daughters of men” were the female daughters of evil humans from Cain. These women were evil and and they seduced the noble and righteous sons of Seth.
  2. They interbred and this lead to the moral corruption of humanity.
  3. God sent a flood to kill everyone since they were all now a mixture of sons of Seth and daughters of Cain.

The solution here is to read “sons of God” not as “angelic beings” but as holy humans. It’s plausible and it has become the accepted tradition in Catholicism. However, ever since the Flood, good people have been interbreeding with evil people. And we know that the child of a holy mother and an evil father can turn out either good or bad. There are not “evil genetics.”

We can see here that the problem of intermarrying between the righteous and the wicked didn’t suddenly stop because water covered the land.

So it seems that Genesis describes a “water genocide” of a corrupted angel-human species. And certainly 1 Enoch is following the idea. If Jude (and 2 Peter) considered 1 Enoch as theological true, this would mean that at least one (or two) Apostle(s) believed the Enochic legend of the Watcher angels being sent to “Tartarus” because they had deceived humans and copulated with them.

The Enochic Legend as a theological device in Jude and 2 Peter:

Regardless of whether Jude and 2 Peter believed the Enochic “Watcher-Angel legend,” we know for a fact that they applied it as a teaching paradigm for their contemporary Apostolic Church:

  1. There are false heretical teachers that were once part of the Apostolic Church
  2. These have fallen away from Christ and are teaching Christians false doctrine and sin
  3. These heretics are having illicit sex with Christians (their lust here and in Revelation is highlighted)
  4. These heretics will be judged in the same way as the Watchers: they will be locked up in the dark tartarus forever.

If Jude and 2 Peter did not quote and/or reference 1 Enoch, we could cast off 1 Enoch forever as a Jewish oddity. But since there is a theological reference of 1 Enoch within Jude and 2 Peter, it provides a challenge.

I’m curious, how do you read the canonical passages of Genesis 6, Jude, 2 Peter (as well as Wisdom, Sirach and several Dead Sea Scrolls that promote the idea of giants as children of human women and demonic angels) in light of 1 Enoch? Secondly, do you think Jude and 2 Peter take the Enochic Watcher-Legend literally or are they simply using it to make an contemporary application against lustful heretics?

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Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: I recorded a podcast on the role of 1 Enoch in the Noah film that came out a few years ago starring Russell Crowe as Noah. You can listen to it by clicking here: Podcast on Noah (2014 Film) and 1 Enoch.