My article yesterday was shared so many times that I recorded a YouTube video discussing the topic and adding a few more ideas to the idea that Mega-Dioceses (bishops overseeing millions of people) are an abuse and contrary to Catholic Tradition.
In the video I explain how the invention of the Catholic “Mega-Diocese” has led to sexual scandals, corrupt clergy, and runs contrary to the principle of subsidiarity. I also lay out the case in light of Moses and Jethro in Exodus 18 and makes recommendations on how to fix this problem that originated with Pope Leo X and the advent of “auxiliary bishops.”
The 2002 Boston Scandal, the Cardinal McCarrick Scandal, and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report reveals that the bishops are at ground zero in this scandal.
Some bishops didn’t properly vet seminarians and admit perverts.
Some bishops ordained mental disturbed, predatory priests.
Some bishops covered the crimes of Judas priests.
Some bishops relocated the predatory Judas priests.
Some bishops made secret payouts to victims to keep them quiet.
Some bishops have been molesting and having homo-relations with seminarians and priests.
The laity are shocked that so-called Episcopoi (Greek word for “bishop” meaning “supervisor” or “overseer”) could do such horrible things and still show up smiling for photos after the post-confirmation ceremonies. How could this be?
Denial of Christian Faith. These clerics are secretly atheists, agnostics, or Satanists who see the Church as a social justice network that pays well and provides a lifestyle of insurance, income, retirement and unquestioned access to compromised men and vulnerable children.
Homosexuality. The 2004 John Jay Report publicized that 80% of priest abuse victims are male. The orientation of abuse was overwhelming homosexual According to James Martin and Larry Stammer, 15–58% of American Catholic priests are homosexual in orientation. Father Dariusz Oko of Poland has suggested that 50% of the bishops in the United States are homosexual.
Evolution of the Mega-Diocese. Since 1900, the concept of the Catholic diocese has morphed into something that would not be recognized by Christians of the medieval period, and certainly not by the Church Fathers.
Today, I want to focus on the third. The problem of the Mega-Diocese: what it is, how it happened, and how it leads to clericalism and sexual abuse.
I am NOT stating that the Mega-Diocese is the root cause of sexual scandal or that eradicating it will fix everything! We need a a refocus on intrinsic evils, formation of true consciences, biblical literacy, removal of sexual active bishops/clergy, orthodox theological, Thomism, liturgical reverence, and heroic priests. But the Mega-Diocese is certainly infertile soil for these changes. Read on to discover the historic origin of this deformation and why it fosters abuse.
Picture above: a bishop gathered with his diocese.
What is a Mega-Diocese?
A Mega-Diocese is a diocese so enormous that a bishop cannot oversee it. Remember “bishop” in Greek is επίσκοπος (episcopos) which means “overseer.” Epi means “over” as in the word epidermis. Skopos means “see” as in the English words scope and telescope.
Parents eagerly search for schools with a low teacher/student ratio. Everyone in education knows that as you raise the teacher/student ratio, scores and academic performance go down. 12 students to 1 teacher proves to produce higher scores and better outcomes. 40 students to 1 teacher proves to produce lower scores and more drop outs.
But we currently have very high Disciple/Bishop Ratios:
What we have created over the last 150 years (since the loss of the Papal States, really) is an insanely high disciple/bishop ratio with regard to bishops. Bishops belong to the magisterium in union with the Pope. Magister is Latin for teacher. The bishop is the primary teacher. So we are discussing a student/teacher ratio here, as well. As the disciple/bishop ratio increases, what do we see? Lay people know their faith less (akin to lower scores), and they drop out at higher numbers (leave the church).
Currently here are the number of baptized in the top 4 USA archdioceses:
1 Los Angeles 4,174,304 2 New York 2,521,087 3 Chicago 2,442,000 4 Boston 2,077,487
How can a bishop manage this? He cannot. Not even Saint Paul could manage this? So how did we get here?
How did we get high Disciple/Bishop Ratios?
In the Patristic and Medieval Church, every wrinky-dink town had it’s own bishop. For evidence look at Italy:
Italy has 227 dioceses. 116,350 sq mi and population of 60,483,973 people
USA has 167 dioceses. 3,796,742 sq mi and population of 325,719,178 people
Here are 2 maps that I created for reference:
What we see here is that the Catholic Church from AD 100-1500 was appointing a bishop for almost every “town” in Italy since a bishop should be able to geographically access his flock.
After 1520, but especially after 1870, the Catholic Church slowed down its bishop appointments, and the Papacy began to settle for “mega-dioceses.” By the 1900s, this problem was everywhere in the United States and has become ridiculous since the death of Pope John Paul II.
In 1950, the bishop of Los Angeles served 832,375 lay Catholics. In 2016, the archbishop of Los Angeles was responsible for 4,392,000 lay Catholics.
How the Mega-Diocese Fails Christians:
The Mega-Diocese is based on the presumption that one man can shepherd a million people and oversee hundreds of priests (both are impossible). The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has 1,117 priests and 4,392,000 baptized laity. One bishop can not oversee 1000+ priests. One bishop cannot be shepherd for 4.3 million people. For reference, the entire population of England in AD 1086 was 3.6 million. Imagine if all of England in AD 1086 had only one bishop! Ridiculous.
In order to “fix” this problem, the Popes began to appoint “Auxiliary Bishops.” According to Apostolic example, Patristic custom, and ancient Catholic Councils, a bishop must be a bishop of a geographic place. So you cannot have 3 bishops of the same geographic region. For Saint Ignatius of Antioch or Polycarp, multiple bishops in one place would be a schismatic and heretical act. There is only one geographic bishop for one geographic place.
So the Popes (initially Pope Leo X) created a legal fiction called Auxiliary Bishops with titular sees. The Pope appoints the Auxiliary Bishop to a geographical diocese that no longer exists, and then sends that auxiliary bishop to work inside the diocese of another bishop. Incidentally, the Pope that first allowed this legal fiction was the infamous Medici Pope Leo X (the same Pope whom Martin Luther spoke out against in 1517). Previous popes had banned the custom of auxiliary bishops with fictional titular sees.
For example, Bishop Robert Barron (to choose the most well-known auxiliary bishop) is an auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles. However, since every bishop must actually be a canonical bishop of his own geographical area, Bishop Barron is actually the titular bishop of “Macriana in Mauretania” – an ancient Berber town in Algeria.
On paper and in reality, this canonical appointment to Macriana in Mauretania is ridiculous. Bishop Barron has nothing to do with Macriana and we shouldn’t create the legal fiction of bishops over non-existing “sees.”
In the early Catholic Church, Bishop Barron would simply be bishop ordinary of his pastoral region of Santa Barbara. He would simply become Bishop of Santa Barbara – not Pretend Bishop of “Macriana in Mauretania” but really serving the people of Santa Barbara under the auspices of the geographical bishop of Los Angeles. What a mess.
I’m not blaming Bishop Barron or any auxiliary bishop for this situation. They are obeying the directives of canon law and the Pope and are in good faith with regard to their appointments. There are great men serving as auxiliary bishops throughout the world. But when we look at it from a systemic point of view, it reveals an ecclesiological problem that contradicts both the Council of Nicea and biblical and patristic theology about the local ecclesia.
How to fix the Mega-Diocese? Break it up with Subsidiarity
The Mega-Diocese is an offense against the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity – the doctrine that matters ought to be handled by the smallest and most proximate competent authority – not by a Cardinal Archbishop living 90 miles away who also has the direct canonical care of souls for 1 million people. It’s a mistake to ask a bishop to be responsible for 1 million people and 1,000 priests. It’s a crime against the laity, too. The Mega-Diocese is bad for everyone.
When we see a public school teacher with 50 students in a class, we know its bad for the teacher and bad for the students. Everyone loses. Same the episcopal-diocesan structure.
How do we fix the Mega-Diocese problem? Obviously, a diocese of over one million souls is too big and too spread out. We need to follow the custom of ancient popes and have many, many, many more dioceses and bishops appointed. We need ecclesial subsidiarity. If Italy has 227 dioceses and the USA has 167 dioceses, we have an apparent problem. Creating more Mega-Dioceses and more and more auxiliary bishops will yield more abuse inside a broken system.
How big should a diocese be?
There were around 150-250,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Paris during the medieval era. It may seem extreme, but I don’t see the benefit of having a diocese any bigger than that. If a bishop had 100 priests and 100,000 people, it would be a manageable situation.
Still don’t believe me, ask Moses:
The biblical Mega-Diocese of Moses in Exodus 18 and the advice of Jethro:
Moses was exhausted overseeing the 400,000 Israelites under his pastoral supervision. His father-in-law Jethro observed this and rebuked Moses while providing a solution to break up his “Mega-Diocese”:
13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law (Jethro) saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”
15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”
17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone….21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
If Moses couldn’t handle it, so also the modern bishop cannot handle it. Moses followed the advice of Jethro. He appointed men to oversee “thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.” He didn’t place men “over 10,000 or even 100,000.” That’s too much! In other words, Jethro tells Moses: “Lets practice pastoral subsidiarity.”
It’s comical that my own enormous state of Texas has – 15 dioceses! The disciple/bishopratio here is horrible. Moreover, bishops spend entire weekends driving out into the country for confirmations at their parishes hours away.
Just like parents with kids in the school district, we lay people should beg and ask for a better disciple/bishop ratios. Say no to more auxiliary bishops. That’s a cheap bandaid covering the wound. The Archdioceses of LA and NYC should be broken into the 5 dioceses. The reason it won’t happen now is money. But in a pastorally sensitive church, those Mega-Dioceses would be prudently divided into 5 geographic dioceses. Let an auxiliary bishop simply be a bishop of that deanery and call him “bishop ordinary.”
Until we break up the Mega-Dioceses, do not expect clerical sexual scandal to get better or heal. The Mega-Diocese is unaccountable, noisy, not policed, and unsupervised. The Mega-Diocese allows the predatory priest (and bishop) to wear camouflage. Meanwhile a bishop close to his people and even closer to his priests as “father to fathers” is both more accountable and a better supervisor as episcopos.
I’d love to hear more recommendations, objections, and thoughts, especially from laity and clergy existing within the Mega-Diocese structures. One thing that I didn’t cover is that Mega-Diocese usually have low native seminarian counts and low ordination counts. They statistically cannot produce vocations. If the bishop is the sacramental “father of fathers,” then he is the overworked “absent father figure” within a Mega-Diocese. Vocations are not conceived by absent fathers.
PS: I would also add that bishops should be chosen from among the local presbytery or at least from near regional dioceses, and not “imported” from elsewhere. Moreover, bishops should not be moved all over the nation like bishop pieces on a chess board. A bishop should stay the bishop of one place for life…like marriage. St John Fisher, pray for us.
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!
Why did “tongues of fire” appear on the first Pentecost? How does it relate to Heaven and the Temple? (And why do Catholic bishops wear those pointy hats? Let’s find out:
Our Catholic feast of Pentecost derives from the Jewish feast of Pentecost or Shavuot (Feast of Weeks). Pentecost (πεντηκοστή) is Greek for the “50th [day]” since Passover/Easter (7 weeks x 7 days = 49 days).
For the Israelites, Pentecost was important because:
It is the day on which the rainbow appeared to Noah.
It is the day on which Moses received the 613 Laws from God.
It is the day on which King David was born and died.
It is also the “Feast of Firstfruits,” the first harvest of the spring wheat crops. (Barley was harvested at Passover; Wheat was harvested at Pentecost.)
The Holy Spirit at the First Christian Pentecost
Saint Luke describes the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The Holy Spirit manifests as “tongues of fire” so as to give the Apostles the power to speak in other tongues/languages. In the Roman West, the Catholic mitre signifies the “tongue of fire” resting on the head of an Apostle. Bishops are successors of the the Pentecost Apostles and thus they wear a “tongue” on their head. You get the idea. I used our holy Bishop Fulton Sheen as a mockup:
These tongues of fire allowed the 12 Apostles to proclaim the New Law to the Church. Saint Thomas Aquinas states that the “New Law” is the Person of the Holy Spirit: “What else are the Divine laws written by God Himself on our hearts, but the very presence of His Holy Spirit?” (STh I-II, q. 106, a. 1).
Why “Tongues” of Fire? A Hint in 1 Enoch:
Why are there tongues of fire? Why not lips of fire or words of fire? Why not a fiery dove to conform to the baptism of Christ at the Jordan?
The tongues likely evoke the Hebrew concept of “tongues” praising God. As such, there is a Jewish mystical tradition that God’s heavenly temple above is surrounded by praising “tongues of fire.” Enoch is entering the Temple of Heaven and seeing God there amidst the tongues of fire:
“Behold, in the vision clouds invited me and a mist summoned me, and the course of the stars and the lightnings sped and hastened me, and the winds in 9 the vision caused me to fly and lifted me upward, and bore me into heaven. And I went in till I drew nigh to a wall which is built of crystals and surrounded by tongues of fire: and it began to affright 10 me. And I went into the tongues of fire and drew nigh to a large house which was built of crystals: and the walls of the house were like a tesselated floor (made) of crystals, and its groundwork was 11 of crystal. Its ceiling was like the path of the stars and the lightnings, and between them were 12 fiery cherubim, and their heaven was (clear as) water. A flaming fire surrounded the walls, and its 13 portals blazed with fire. And I entered into that house, and it was hot as fire and cold as ice: there 14 were no delights of life therein: fear covered me, and trembling got hold upon me. And as I quaked 15 and trembled, I fell upon my face. And I beheld a vision, And lo! there was a second house, greater 16 than the former, and the entire portal stood open before me, and it was built of flames of fire. And in every respect it so excelled in splendour and magnificence and extent that I cannot describe to 17 you its splendour and its extent. And its floor was of fire, and above it were lightnings and the path 18 of the stars, and its ceiling also was flaming fire. And I looked and saw therein a lofty throne: its appearance was as crystal, and the wheels thereof as the shining sun, and there was the vision of 19 cherubim. And from underneath the throne came streams of flaming fire so that I could not look 20 thereon. And the Great Glory sat thereon, and His raiment shone more brightly than the sun and 21 was whiter than any snow. (1 Enoch 14:8-22)
The tongues of fire surround the Temple of Heaven. In Pentecost we see the the New Temple which is the Body of Christ and the Catholic Church. The Apostles are now anointed with tongues of fire to be the foundation and walls of this heavenly Temple on earth.
I’ve spent the last week reading 1 Enoch and comparing it to Luke-Acts and finding lots of amazing connections. So stay tuned for me. Till then check out my recent post on 1 Enoch and Jude/2 Peter.
It’s especially interesting that the solar calendar described by Enoch in 1 Enoch always places Pentecost Sunday (and Passover) on a Sunday (New Testament) and not a Saturday (Old Testament). This further informs what we know about Pentecost Sunday as always a Sunday in the New Covenant. More on that later.
I also have a podcast on the tongue of fire and how it relates to the old Latin liturgy which you can listen to here: Podcast: 1 Enoch, Tongues of Fire and Pre-Vatican II Liturgy. I’ve created a new category on this blog called “Enoch Studies” so you can follow more research on this topic. I think I’ll do a book on it shortly.
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:
The Gentile invaders of the Holy Land (312-63 BC)
Greeks teaching and requiring Jews to follow pagan customs
Greeks marrying and copulating with Jewish women
The production of “hybrid” Greek/Jewish children that are considered “monstrous”
The need to destroy and drive out the Greeks by means of the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC)
The titanomachy of Enochis 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:
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.
They interbred and this lead to the moral corruption of humanity.
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:
There are false heretical teachers that were once part of the Apostolic Church
These have fallen away from Christ and are teaching Christians false doctrine and sin
These heretics are having illicit sex with Christians (their lust here and in Revelation is highlighted)
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?
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.
Josephus relates that 1.1 million Jews were killed in AD 70 with the destruction of the Temple. I’ve spilled a lot of ink showing that Josephus cannot and should not be trusted with numbers or dates (and that’s why we should believe that Jesus was born on Dec 25 1 BC as I explain in this book).
Scholars suggest that about 1 million people lived in the Holy Land during the time of Jesus. For perspective, one million people is the population of the state of Rhode Island at 1 million people.
Houston Texas has about 2.2 million people. So when Jesus was walking around Galilee, Samaria, and Judea, he was engaging with a population less than half of Houston, Texas.
Here’s something else to consider about the impact of Jesus on the population:
Jesus fed 5,000 and 4,000 people on two separate occasions. Assuming that they these two groups did not overlap, that means that Jesus personally fed about 1% of the population of the Holy Land (9,000 / 1,000,000). 1 out 100 people had been fed miraculously by Jesus Christ. If you add in Christ’s travel, preaching, and teaching it’s not far off to estimate that 10% of the populace had seen or heard Jesus in person.
That’s a low estimate since we know that Jesus was preaching and teaching at least annually in Jerusalem when most people were assembled there in the city for Passover. So it could be that as much as 25-50% of people living in the Holy Land had heard or witnessed Jesus Christ. This is why Peter on Pentecost AD 33 speaks to the crowd there about “Jesus” and they know who he is talking about.
To use an analogy, how many people living in Houston know of the local preacher Joel Osteen? All of them. And this is why the High Priest and Sanhedrin wanted to kill Jesus so badly. Jesus was a big deal. Everyone knew him or knew of him.
This should change how we understand both the historicity of Jesus but also impact of Jesus ministry.
If Jesus Christ could touch so many lives in three years, shouldn’t we be able to touch so many now with the power of literacy, digital communication, and social media?
Question: What is lacking in modern Christianity that makes it so easily dismissed?You can leave a comment by clicking here.
PS: To learn more about Catholic History and the birth date and death date of Jesus Christ, check out my book The Eternal City.
It’s interesting that in Codex Vaticanus, there is a “correction” to the original text and then a marginal note on Hebrews 1:3.
The original and correct Greek version of Hebrews 1:3 read:
“He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, UPHOLDING (φερων) the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
But the manuscript was changed by someone to read:
“He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, REVEALING (φανερων) the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
A marginal note reads: “Fool and knave, leave the old reading and do not change it!”
What does this mean?
We know that early biblical scribes changed the text either on purpose or by accident.
My guess here is that somebody with proto-Arian tendencies did not like the idea of the Son of God “upholding the universe.” That, he thought, is the job of God the Father! So he changed a few letters for it read “revealing the universe.”
Another explanation is that these manuscripts were created by one man reading the text aloud and another man writing it down. So he heard the word wrongly and changed a few letters on accident.
We also see that Christians would feel free to write corrections or even rebukes in the margins of NT texts.