05: Eve and a war for power
Rethinking the Fall (Part 3) — Nate and Tim continue re-examining the Fall by piecing together clues in the Bible that point to a war for power initiated by the gods.
Tim: The author writing Genesis thinks we know this story. Peter thinks we know this story. Isaiah and Ezekiel think we know this story. Jude thinks we know this same exact story. It’s a big issue if none of us know this story, and it inherently, necessarily corrupts our theology, especially if we think we know all the important pieces and we really don’t have all the facts and we’re missing some key ones.
Nate: You can find us online at almostheretical.com. Alright, well, welcome back to Almost Heretical. This is our third episode on the Fall, and there’s a couple things we’re going to try to do here. First, we’re going to try to keep filling out this framework for a more robust view of what the Fall is. For a lot of us, traditionally, the Fall is just Genesis 3. And so, essentially, the case we’re making is, is that the Fall is actually much bigger than that. It’s Genesis 3-11, and within this collective, large story, there are multiple chapters in there that could each be called a “fall.”
Tim: Yeah. So last time we talked about how there’s clearly the moment where humans, Adam and Eve first “fall,” by being tricked by the nachach, by the serpent, but we were sort of trying to trace through and follow some logical breadcrumbs to deduce that it seems like the text is saying there was another fall of the elohim, the divine beings, one of which was this nachash, before the fall of Adam and Eve. So we’re going to flesh that out a little bit. I sort of promised some more evidence last time, and we’re going to jump into that in a second. But the other piece we touched on in an earlier episode, the infamous or notorious Genesis 6:1-4 passage, of the sons of God coming down and having sex with the daughters of men. We’re going to go back to that and talk about how that, too, is a chapter in the fall. And eventually we’re going to end up looking at the Tower of Babel and that that is actually a massive chapter, a central and important chapter, in the collective story of the fall. And it’s one that’s been really, consistently misunderstood, misrepresented, and therefore in a large part just underappreciated, not really calculated into our view of what the fall is. So the fall is mostly, in the protestant world Nate and I come from, mostly just Adam and Eve and their singular rebellion. And we’ll kind of get to Genesis 11 as a more corporate worldwide rebellion. So that’s what we’re going to kind of do, and then we’re going to take a break in the next episode and sit with this framework that we’ve spent a few episodes to try to build out so far, basically trying to supply a bunch of new ideas for most of us. And then sort of just have a natural conversation about where we’re at and practical ramifications, consequences, all that sort of stuff. So first, let’s just jump into a couple pieces of evidence. Evidence that the serpent in Genesis 3 was a divine being, one of the divine beings that was with God before the creation of Adam and Eve and the creation of the world in Genesis 1 and 2, and that these divine beings actually were participants in a rebellion before the story of the serpent in Genesis 3. And we’re going to go about this in sort of a roundabout way, but I think it’s important. Actually it’s a hermeneutical principle that’s probably worth touching on for a second. So a lot of what I’m doing in these first few episodes, in trying to pass along some of what I’ve been able to learn from others, is trying to get at the assumptions, and I use the word ‘worldview’ a lot, trying to get at the pictures and images and ideas, the cosmological perspective that biblical writers and the audience that they are writing have in their head that sometimes is never explicitly stated in the text, which is why it’s so foreign to a lot of us. And sometimes, oftentimes, it’s not explicitly stated because it’s so widely assumed. And this is actually something that happens in today’s culture as well. The more confident you are that everybody around you is completely familiar with an idea, the less you have to explain that idea and the more you can just assume everybody knows what you’re talking about. And in some ways, if you know, or you feel that it’s safe to assume, that everyone you’re addressing knows particular stories or has particular ideas in their head, sometimes all you can do is kind of dip into that, that story real quick, and assume that for the people who hear a piece of that story, they’re going to be able to pull that whole story there with them. And that’s going to apply when we look at Genesis 6, because I think that’s essentially what those first four verses are, is it’s dipping in to tell a piece of a story that everybody else was familiar, and the writers were assuming people were familiar with the whole story, which we’re not familiar with at all, and so then when we just read a few verses that are essentially just a snippet of a story, we get totally lost and throw the whole thing out.
Nate: That’s like Comedy 101, right there.
Tim: Is it funny?
Nate: No, like, Comedy 101, you’ve got to know the audience.
Tim: I think it’s just a basic part of any communication and probably especially written communication. It’s just something we take for granted and don’t think about very often. But the other reason I bring that up is some of what we’re doing is therefore looking for clues, or I used the analogy of cracks that function as windows to see what’s through the wall, or in this situation, through the text. So some of what we’re going to look for or look at is texts or passages in the Bible that aren’t about the worldview, that there’s another realm of divine beings, the supernatural worldview, it’s not about that, it’s not trying to teach that like what we’re walking through here, trying to wrap our heads around it, but it’s giving clues to the fact that the worldview is present in the writer and the readers’ minds. And it’s those clues that we can, if we pay attention to them, learn what’s in the background behind these texts that ends up, for us, being incredibly significant. So I’ll talk a little bit more about that as we go, but there are going to be two texts that we look at that are exactly that same piece, and they’re a little complicated, and both of them are sort of long passages, but I think it’s worthwhile. So the first one’s in Ezekiel 28, and the second one is in Isaiah 14. Again, neither of these passages are about teaching an audience something about the supernatural worldview, who’s in the heavens, or anything like that. Each of them are essentially very similar rants, or woes, or even judgments, given from God to the prophet, so Ezekiel and Isaiah, to say to the big bad king of their day, or one of the big bad kings. And so in Ezekiel it’s a judgment against the king of Tyre, and in Isaiah 14 it’s a judgment against the king of Babylon. The reason why I go to these texts which kind of seem out of left field is, where a whole bunch of scholars are in agreement, and what I’ll try to highlight for us, is both of these texts are prophets chastising kings on behalf of God for their pomp. They are the big bad ruler of the world, in terms of the practical experience of the people, and the threat is basically, they’re going to get cut down and judged for their horrible rulership. The reason I bring them up here is that the way both Ezekiel and Isaiah go about that is actually where most scholars agree, or a lot of scholars agree at least, is by using the analogy of comparing each of those kings to the nachash in the garden and the nachash’s fall from harmony with God in the heavenly realm. They’re using that idea to essentially illuminate how bad the judgment is upon these kings. So what it reveals is two pieces. One, I’m going to say it’s evidence that it was not only a part of the biblical worldview, but so much part of it that these prophets could just assume that that was a fair game metaphor for people, that they could reference, for their readers, without having to explain anything, that they could reference the motifs of a divine being falling from their place in a kind of rebellion. They could reference that and know that their readers were going to know what they were talking about. And two, it illuminates a detail that ends up having some significant consequences, which is, at least some in the Jewish community thought that not only was there a fall of divine beings in addition the fall of Adam and Eve, but that the nachash in Genesis 3 was the being who initiated that rebellion. It’s not a complete agreement, and there’s basically a tension that we can’t get rid of, and we’ll talk about that in a little bit, but let’s just look at the text for a little bit.
Tim: The whole passages, if you want to look them up, is Ezekiel 28:1-17 and Isaiah 14:4-15. What I’m going to do is skip through and just read a few highlighted passages. And essentially what we’re looking for here is to see the parallels between these prophetic decrees against human kings and the idea of a divine being in a kind of fall from a divine realm. So in Ezekiel, against the king of Tyre.
2 “Your heart is proud and you said, “I am a god; I sit in the seat of gods in the heart of the seas,” yet you are a man and not a god, though you think you are godlike.”
Tim: Fast forward a few verses to 28:6
6 Therefore this is what the sovereign LORD says, “Because you think you are godlike, I am about to bring foreigners against you, the most terrifying of nations; they will draw their swords against the grandeur made by your wisdom, and they will defile your splendor. They will bring you down to the pit, and you will die violently in the heart of the seas. Will you still say, ‘I am a god,’ before the one who kills you, though you are a man and not a god, when you are in the power of those who wound you? You will the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of foreigners, for I have spoken,” declares the sovereign LORD.
The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, sing a lament for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘This is what the sovereign LORD says: “You were the sealer of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the ruby, topaz, and emerald, the chrysolite, onyx, and jasper, the sapphire, turquoise and beryl.”
Tim: If you recognize those gems from texts like the book of Revelation, you should.
13 “Your settings and mounts were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. I placed you there with an anointed guardian cherub. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked about amidst fiery stones. You were blameless in your behavior; from the day you were created until sin was discovered in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence and you sinned. So I defiled you and banished you from the mountain of God. The guardian cherub expelled you from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was proud because of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom on account of your splendor. I threw you down to the ground; I placed you before kings, that they might see you.”
Tim: And we’ll move onto Isaiah 14, and I’ll just start in verse 9
9 Sheol below is stirred up about you, ready to meet you when you arrive. It rouses the spirits of the dead for you, all the former leaders of the earth; it makes all the former kings of the nations rise from their thrones. All of them respond to you, saying, “You too have become weak like us; you have become just like us.” Your splendor has been brought down to Sheol, as well as the sound of your stringed instruments. You lie on a bed of maggots with a blanket of worms over you.
Look how you have fallen from the sky, O Shining One, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the ground, O Conqueror of the nations. You said to yourself, “I will climb up to the sky; above the stars of El”—
Tim: Remember, that’s a name for God.
12 —“I will set up my throne. I will rule on the mount of assembly, on the remote slopes of Zaphon. I will climb up to the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to Sheol to the remote slopes of the pit.
Tim: Now, there’s a little bit of debate in scholarly world about whether the garden of Eden motifs in the Ezekiel are trying to compare the king of Tyre to Adam and Eve in the garden and their fall, or to a divine being in the garden, but the Isaiah text is absolutely clear. And the lynchpin of all of it is, “O Shining One, son of the dawn! Look how you have fallen from the sky.” We talked earlier, and I’ll point out some texts later that are clearly connecting the idea of stars, essentially stars, sun, and moon, the celestial objects, with divine beings, and—
Nate: The NIV actually has ‘morning star.’
Tim: Oh, does it?
Nate: “How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn!” And morning star, you were talking about, if that’s what the word is here, is Lucifer.
Tim: Yeah, so it’s the same, it’s Lucifer—this is the passage that we were talking about last time.
Nate: Oh, okay, yeah.
Tim: Where we talked about how in the Latin Vulgate, which was the first translation of the entire Bible into Latin, the word used to translate morning star, which again, most scholars think this term here is a reference to the planet Venus, is translated as Lucifer. So again, we touched on this. It’s the same exact passage. The point we’re focusing on here is that it’s not that these texts are about the nachash or about a divine being. They’re about these human kings, so don’t get caught up in the language in Ezekiel that says, like, “You’re not a god, you’re a man.” That’s because it’s still addressed to a man, the king of Tyre. The point is, they feel, the writers, in their pocket, in the example you used of a comedian, when they’re thinking about, ‘What is this audience that I’m talking to? What are the stories and ideas that I know they’re familiar with that I can make a reference to?’ The idea of a divine being, one of the stars in the sky, experiencing a kind of a fall that, in the last couple verses in the Isaiah passage tie into a couple of the psalms that we’ll look at, “I will set up my throne. I will rule on the mount of assembly, on the remote slopes of Zaphon.” Mount Zaphon, which ends up having some really interesting literary ties later on, was a known mountain of a dwelling place of one of the other gods of one of Israel’s neighbors. So Mount Zaphon was notoriously, in every culture around, known to be essentially a god-inhabited space, like a sacred space. It’s a very intentional reference to the slopes of Zaphon. “I will climb up to the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to Sheol to the remote slopes of the pit. So the idea here, and let’s not try for a second to make the case any further for Genesis 3, let’s just recognize that there’s some sort of story in this writer’s mind and in the minds of the audience that he’s familiar with of some sort of really high up, high ranking being that’s being referred to with divine language, that experiences or essentially asserts himself in a kind of coup d’etat, to take the high God, Yahweh’s, throne from Him in act of revolt, and is banished and cast down. Not only down the world, but down even below the world into the pit of Sheol. So there’s some story, there’s some myth, there’s some framework here. So hold that in your head for a second, and then we’re going to go to the New Testament and look at a couple passages that’ll add to kind of this whole case that we’re building. So the first one is in 2 Peter in chapter 2. The thing to keep in mind: we just read a passage from the book Isaiah and the book of Ezekiel, and now we’re going to read a passage from 2 Peter. And we talked, I think last time, about how when reading the Bible, there’s been a whole wealth of scholarship over the last hundred years, essentially due to archaeology, that’s been able to compare the biblical texts, which we’ve had for a really long time, but now to be able to compare them to other ideas, mythologies, religions that were surrounding the people of Israel and the ancient Near East. And through seeing those connections, for instance, the one I just mentioned, the reference to Mount Zaphon, you’re able to essentially put yourself a little closer to being in the shoes of the audience, to have the stories in your mind that we’re expected to be familiar to them. One part of that is consistent all that way through, in the sense that biblical students in any period of Jewish history had certain biblical ideas, if they just knew their Bible somewhat well, would have certain ideas ingrained in their head at all times. And there’s another sense that different writers, in different generations of Israel, at different times, living different cultures, usually under different empires, would’ve had different ideas. And so we just referenced one in the Old Testament from a couple of the key prophetic books that is referencing some of Israel’s ancient Near Eastern neighbors. In 2 Peter, what we’re going to see is a very clear reference to Greek religious mythology that’s actually very similar to what we just read in terms of its story, in terms of its mythological sense and meaning in Isaiah and Ezekiel, but it’s actually using even the exact words from Greek mythology. So the context is addressing false prophets. We’re in 2 Peter 2. But what’s really curious for me is starting in verse 4.
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to Tartarus—
Tim: A lot of you will see, your translation will say, “Sent them to hell,” and then you’ll have a little note that’ll say, in a lot of our Bibles it’ll say the Greek word is Tartarus.
4 —and locked them up in chains in utter darkness to be kept until the judgment; and if He did not spare the ancient world, but did protect Noah, a herald of righteousness, along with seven others, when God brought a flood on an ungodly world; and if He turned to ashes the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah when He condemned them to destruction, having appointed them to serve as an example to future generations of the ungodly; and if He rescued Lot, a righteous man (in anguish over the debauched lifestyle of lawless men, for while he lived among them day after day, that righteous man was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)—if so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from their trials and to reserve the unrighteous for punishment at the day of judgment, especially those who indulge their fleshly desires and who despise authority.
Tim: Now, I read that full verse because what we’re going to come back to soon is that last verse, verse 10, and see how that actually is a link all the way back to the Genesis 6 passage that we’re going to get into. The first piece I want to look at is the parallel here between this idea that Peter once again feels that he can just reference: For if God did spare the angels who sinned, but threw them into Tartarus. We’re supposed to know that that already happened. He’s using that as a case study to make a point that actually isn’t about that. He’s using it as a reference for the study.
Nate: And because we don’t see that, and we don’t see a large story telling us about in the Bible, then we assume that this happened before the story we have of creation?
Tim: Uh yeah. I would taper that a little bit, but you hit on something really key, which is that this story isn’t in our Bible. So we just read a couple references in Isaiah and Ezekiel that seem to be referencing some sort of story, like we’re talking about, of some sort of divine being’s rebellion and fall. Peter felt complete confidence to declare to his audience, as an example, that God didn’t spare angels who sinned but threw them into Tartarus, which by the way, the reason I highlighted that this word is Tartarus, is Tartarus was well known in Greek mythology as the divine prison for the Titans, the Greek Titans. Where they were thrown as punishment and as a way to hold back their wrongdoing, was a essentially a special prison called Tartarus, which is a big part of where we get some of our New Testament theology of hell. And the reality is that that story is nowhere in the Bible. You’re not going to find it. And so what we’re doing is, there’s a reason we don’t know this stuff. We’re missing some of the story; it hasn’t been given to us, so what we’re trying to do is piece the breadcrumbs, find evidence of people believing a story, gather as much evidence as we can, as much information as we can, and try to get that story in our head as best as we can to kind of see where Peter’s coming from. What we’ll get to in a second is, there are very clear places that we could go right now on the internet and look up texts that Peter had in his hands that tell this story. They’re just not in our Bible, and we don’t read it. And what I’m talking about is the book of Enoch, which we’ll talk about in a second. So let’s read one more passage in the New Testament. It’s Jude 5-7.
5 Now I desire to remind you, even though you have been fully informed of these facts once for all, that Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, later destroyed those who did not believe. You also know that the angels who did not keep within their proper domain, but abandoned their own place of residence, He has kept in eternal chains in utter darkness, locked up for the judgment for the great Day. So also Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring towns, since they indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire in a way similar to these angels, are now displayed as an example by suffering the punishment of eternal fire.
Tim: So we now have two New Testament letters that are referencing something akin to the same referent in Ezekiel and Isaiah. For one, it’s using angels. I’ll try to do a quick flyby. In the Old Testament, we talked about how the primary word for God is elohim, which is a plural form of the word El, and that word can mean gods or God in the way that we translate it. What it means, what it’s referring to, and I think Michael Heiser’s definition here is really solid—it’s not about the essence of the being, so it doesn’t mean God in the sense that there is one true ultimate God over the universe; it’s more about a location, or a sort of geography, in the sense that elohim are heavenly beings. Heavenly. That is their realm. They are spirit in nature, they’re not flesh, they don’t live in flesh, they live in the realm of spirit, the realm of the heavens. And so Yahweh is an elohim, and there are other elohim who are not Yahweh. You tracking with me here?
Tim: So there’s another word that gets used in the Old Testament in Hebrew, in the Hebrew Bible. It’s malach, which means ‘messenger,’ essentially, and when we read the Old Testament, and we see the word angel, it’s the word malach. And what happens is, those malach, those angels, are also elohim. They are spirits who reside in the divine realm. So you kind of have a category issue here where elohim is essentially a big, broad category, almost like I use the word race or species, something like that. And malach, or messenger, is really about a duty or a job, a responsibility of a particular kind. So it’d be like there are lots of people, and some of them are mailmen. Not all mailmen—er, not all people are mailmen, but all mailmen are people. So I think most of us know there’s a big translation history in the Bible in moving from Hebrew into Greek under the Greek empire, and anytime there’s a translation, there are significant choices that have to be made in the words that are used, so what you get when you move from elohim and malach—and there’s some additional complexity to this, I’m trying to keep it as simple as I can—when you move from the two terms, elohim and malach, in the Hebrew Bible, and those get pushed forward into the Greek Septuagint and then into the Greek New Testament, mostly what you see is the word angelos, which we just take the word angel, it’s literally the Greek word angelos, and we just transliterate it. Angel isn’t an English word, it’s a transliteration in letters of a Greek word which means messenger. So angel is the transliteration into Greek from the Hebrew word malach. But what also happens, is the elohim, because the angels were all elohim, oftentimes elohim also gets translated as angels. So there is a sense, when you read in the New Testament, you see the word angel a whole bunch, angel or angels; you don’t see ‘gods’ very often. So what makes people think, and we’ve kind of gotten duped in this way, just from the confusions of translation, it makes us think that—and this a whole field of biblical scholarship—there used to be polytheism in Judaism, and they grew out of that and moved beyond it and ditched polytheism and got rid of the word ‘gods,’ stopped using that terminology, because it was essentially stained with polytheism. And the argument just doesn’t hold up. And it’s essentially just missing this translation piece. So the reason I share all this. In Ezekiel and in Isaiah, I was making the case explicitly in Isaiah, where it’s referencing the morning star, which is a clear divine motif for divine beings, these elohim, that when you go to 2 Peter and Jude and you see the word angels, who did not keep within their proper domain and get sent to Tartarus, which by the way is the place where the divine Titans, which are divine beings, get sent, it’s not saying these aren’t gods. It’s actually similar terminology that can just as well be considered the same elohim that we’re trying to create a framework for. So the other piece we’ll point out, and then we’ll take a break, because this is a boatload, is especially in Jude. I think Jude in this passage here is kind of a lynchpin. This verse we just read is mostly likely a pretty clear reference to the book of Enoch. And the book of Enoch was a book written in the intertestamental period, it’s referencing the figure, Enoch, who shows up in Genesis 4 and 5. Remember, Enoch walked with God and then just [sci-fi sounds] got taken up. It’s using that character, and there’s a whole section of the book that is about these figures called the watchers, who are divine beings, and it is essentially this rebellion of the watcher characters that the Genesis 6:1-4, the sons of God came down and had sex with the daughters of men, those four verses are essentially functioning as a tiny little snapshot summary of what this whole story in the book of Enoch is going into detail and length. And that story involves a good chunk of what we’re seeing Jude reference here and what we’re seeing Peter reference. And later, in Jude, outside of this passage, just ten verses later, he directly quotes the book of Enoch. It’s a very short letter, meaning Jude is not at all trying to hide and is actually trying to help his readers understand that what he’s talking about here is coming from the book of Enoch. And it’s the same story, the same material, that 2 Peter’s talking about when he’s assuming that all of his audience is familiar with some sort of mythological story of divine beings being punished for their rebellion and thrown into hell. And that story, even though the book of Enoch wasn’t written yet at the time of Ezekiel and Isaiah, that idea, that mythology, some version of this story of a divine rebellion ending in some sort of imprisonment and a kind of hostile warfare between God and some of these divine elohim is what we see in Isaiah and Ezekiel. And so you can trace that back, and in fact, it looks like Isaiah 14 is, connecting the nachash, the serpent in Genesis 3 itself, to potentially being one of the ringleaders of this divine rebellion.
Tim: So let me go add one step and just try to tie this back to Genesis 6. And I know it’s a lot. It’s been a lot for me over the last couple years. So there’s a reason I read a little bit more in 2 Peter than I needed to beyond the angels piece. It’s that both 2 Peter, in what we just read, and in Jude’s letter, the two places in the New Testament where you have writers referencing this divine rebellion motif or idea, in both places, they are making an explicit connection stating that one of the reasons they are using that example, is that it relates to fleshly desires, sexual immorality, and a sort of rebellion against divine authority. So look at 2 Peter 2:10, which ends, essentially, his argument, saying, especially those who indulge their fleshly desires and who despise authority. And then there’s almost a parallel piece in Jude 7 which references then Sodom and Gomorrah: so also, Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighboring towns, since they indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire in a way similar to these angels, are now displayed as an example by suffering the punishment of eternal fire. Now, why do I bring that up? What’s going on in Genesis 6? This passage, which we’ve all said we don’t have a framework for understanding what it means. First four verses:
1 When human beings began to increase in number on earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of Gods saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, “My spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim [or giants] were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
Tim: So what I’m suggesting is in all these texts, which have some sort of shared framework going on, you have an explicit, in 2 Peter and in Jude, an explicit connection between a divine rebellion, in the sense that there is a divine being who tries to revolt against God and is cast down for it, that is also somehow tied to sexual immorality. In both places, okay? Despising authority—again, it’s revolt language in 2 Peter 2:10. Those who indulge their sexual desires, and who despise authority. What do we see in Genesis 6:1-4 other than divine beings who are committing some sort of sexual immorality, what is conceived in these other stories, these other motifs, as at least part of an act of divine revolt, of exceeding their boundaries? So remember the quote we just read:
2 Peter 4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but threw them into hell and locked them up in chains in utter darkness to be kept until the judgment; and if He did not spare the ancient world but did protect Noah—
Tim: Right there we should clue in that the story that 2 Peter is talking about is somehow right at the same time as the story of Noah. And what happens as soon as we get done with these verses about sons of God coming down having sex with the daughters of men in Genesis 6:1-4? The story of Noah and the flood. And in Jude 6, You also know that the angels who did not keep within their proper domains, but abandoned their own place of residence. Again, Genesis 6:1-4. The sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they came down to earth and took these women to be their wives. You basically have two explicit references that seem to be talking about the same exact kind of ideas or events being referenced. It includes divine beings in a rebellious act that is somehow them leaving their proper domain, which is the heavenly realm, to come to, presumably, the only other domain that we know of, which is the earthly realm, the world, and participating in some sort of sexual immorality, which is exactly what Genesis 6:1-4 is talking about. We’ll just stop here for a second and sort of wrap this point up. We’ll keep digging in to try to understand more of this story, more of kind of what Peter and these other guys have in their head. But the reality is, from the get go in Genesis, the author writing Genesis thinks we know this story, and Peter thinks we know this story. Isaiah and Ezekiel think we know this story. Jude thinks we know this same exact story. It’s a big issue if none of us know this story, and it inherently, necessarily changes, corrupts our theology. Especially if we think we know all the important pieces, if we think we have all the facts, and we really don’t have all the facts and we’re missing some key ones. So let’s just stop there for now and kind of—you tracking where we’re at?
Nate: Yeah, I think I am. I mean, basically there’s a bunch, you just listed them all, that mention this story that we haven’t, it’s not in the Bible, and we’re not familiar with it. They were familiar with it, and they expected us to be familiar, they expected the audience that they were writing to to be familiar with it, and it’s this story that presumably happens before the creation account that we have in Genesis 1 and 2, and it’s vitally important because all these people are assuming that we know it. I mean, I guess, why is it vitally important? I know that we’re going to unpack this as we go along, and why this impacts how we think about things and what it means for what we do and what our goal is, and stuff like that. But I guess just in a nutshell, why is that, why is this important?
Tim: Yeah, I think what we’re doing right here, going through this material, is kind of a necessary stepping stone. I don’t expect anybody to hear this and have any life-changing takeaway from it. What we’re doing, I started by trying to make the case that the fall in biblical theology is not just Genesis 3, that the fall is Genesis 3-11. And even a whole series of events that are potentially acknowledged in Genesis 3-11, but aren’t even really described there, and that there are other background stories that we are supposed to know in our heads along with Genesis 3-11, that are all collectively the fall, and therefore are all collectively the cinematic problem that the rest of the story is trying to overcome. I mean, if you’re watching a movie and you don’t understand, or you misunderstand but think you get it right, what the problem is that the main character’s trying to solve in the whole rest of the movie, you’re not going to make very good sense of the thing. You’re certainly not going to have the most robust take on the film. And we notoriously, in protestant evangelical word, have had a really oversimplified, minimalized view of what the fall actually is, and it’s essentially shed of any other, I’ll say, realm of beings. It’s just a human problem. And a major glaring issue is what that means is the way that we interpret everything that has to happen to fix that problem neglects this whole other reality, which the biblical testimony is that other reality is a significant piece of the problem. This other realm and the interaction or broken relationship between the divine realm, the spiritual realm and the realm of humans and planet earth, that hostility, that enmity, that curse that we saw in Genesis 3 is a major piece of the story that has to be dealt with. So this is just a stepping stone. Where is going to take us is to the Tower of Babel and a really, really important idea that happens at the Tower of Babel that is seminal to biblical theology going forward. And once we’re done there, that’ll kind of round out our overview of the fall, and then we can hopefully pop our head out of the weeds.
Nate: That was a really good tease about the Tower of Babel. That was a really good tease. Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, when I hear a lot of this stuff, where I go is—I think this is the correct way to read these things, to read these stories, to read the Bible, and it’s a better picture, it’s a better reading of scripture, and it makes more sense when you look at what Peter was saying and Jude and as we’ve kind of talked about off-mic about the gospels, which we’re going to get to. But then I just go, is this—do you believe any of this? You know what I mean? Isn’t this just a primitive people before they… you know, it’s the same as in early Genesis, where is it that they talk about the dome? 2? 1? Genesis 1? The dome above the earth? They hadn’t left the earth, they didn’t know, they thought that’s what it was. Isn’t that sort of what’s going on here? You see a big giant and you assume, “Wow, that guy’s huge, his mom must have had sex with a god!” You know? I don’t know, you see what I’m saying?
Tim: [laughing] Yes, I see what you’re saying, and I—
Nate: Does any part of you just… I don’t know.
Tim: Yes, I understand, and I empathize.
Nate: I mean, I definitely can’t go back and just say, “Okay, I’m just going to believe what I used to believe, plug my ears, I don’t want to hear this.” Definitely, if I’m going to go with the Bible and say I do believe the Bible, then I have to deal with this, I have to go this direction. So I’m not just going to plug my ears and not accept it, but why isn’t this just primitive people and their view on things? I don’t know.
Tim: Yeah, I mean, maybe this is a good cue for us to take a step back. This is the kind of conversation you and I have had, are having, and are going to keep having for a very long time as are lot of people, especially in our western, increasingly post-evangelical culture. It’s potentially just trying to parse what we usually don’t parse in the sense that, what we’ve been doing, and we haven’t really explicitly said this, but what we’ve been doing is trying to just understand what it is the Bible is saying. The way we’ve gone about doing that specifically, trying to fill in some of the gaps in information that most of us don’t have by, I used the analogy of breadcrumbs, of clues that are potential ways for us to see more than is being explicitly taught in the text, or more than is being overtly talked about. It’s not the main point of some of these passages, but there are pieces of evidence, clues within those passages, that are revealing to us a better picture of the worldview behind those passages and the worldview in the audiences the people were aiming towards. All of this is an attempt to better understand what the Bible is trying to do with the different texts, what the participants in the Bible were trying to do. And you and I right now have gone about an approach that is not what we usually do in church world, which is, at least for a while we’re parsing the question of “What does this say?” and compartmentalizing for a little while the question of “And do I believe this?” And I think both questions are important and necessary. Neither of us think the Bible is just any ordinary book. But I think some of problem is that those questions can both be very difficult, very haunting questions, complicated questions, and difficult in different ways. And I’ve kind of taken little jabs here and there on my heritage, my own past teachings and ideas where we just blatantly gloss over or ignore texts. I used Genesis 6:1-4 as an example. We just don’t know what to do with it, and so we just pretend it isn’t there. But I also think there’s more than just not knowing what to do with it? There is definitely a real discomfort factor in the sense that, coming from our modern, secular age, it’s really hard to read about seemingly casual stories of divine beings swooping down, marrying women, producing giants, and then we just go about the rest of the story. It’s uncomfortable because, not just because I don’t know what it means, it’s uncomfortable because I’m scared that if I do know what it means, I’m not sure if I can actually buy it.
Nate: Yeah. This is why it’s much easier and safer to get basically all your Christianity from Paul, right?
Tim: Yeah, and even that, there’s a lot of Paul we all have to collectively ignore—
Nate: No, no, not those ones. The rest of Paul, I mean.
Tim: [laughing] The clear things, like the Romans road, right?
Nate: Yeah, exactly.
Tim: So my point is, I think you bring up a really necessary conversation, and it’s actually as important to us to have that conversation on this podcast as it is to have the other conversation. How we personally and others in our sphere, in our world, are responding to, receiving, honestly coping with these ideas, with the meaning of the Bible, is just as significant in our lives and the lives of others, as what the Bible actually means. I think what we’re trying to do is take it one step at a time to keep either one of those questions and the discomforts and troubles and complexities with them from distorting the other one, to be able to take the time to say, “Okay, let’s right now just explore what this means and not have to figure out exactly how we feel about that, and then let’s take a break and stop trying to figure out what everything means and sit down for a little while and just talk about how we feel about all that stuff.”
Nate: It’s important to have this out there that we understand, we’re feeling those exact same things of, “If this is all true, if this is all what the Bible is saying and what the Bible is trying to get across, what do we do with this?” So we got more to do on the fall here, and it might get pretty intense. It might get pretty heady, but there will be those conversations where we talk about, “What do we do with this?” And “Do we believe any of this? And if we believe it, what does that actually mean?”
Tim: Totally, and I think the reason why you and I were willing to kick off our podcast, after putting it off for a couple of years, with this subject matter, which kind of feels like the deep end for weirdos in terms of Bible theology world, is in my experience in my exploration over the past couple years, I’ve seen some of these missing pieces of information as potentially resolving some of the biggest moral crises in Christian theology right now today. I mean, we’re going to get into the conquest of Canaan, and divine violence, and issues of power, and all sorts of that stuff, and in my experience, I’ve been delighted to see that again and again and again, as I have been able to backfill some of the missing pieces of data that I haven’t had, and get a better sense of what’s actually happening here, that the image of God that results from that work keeps getting better and better and better. And the theology keeps getting closer to what I’ve wanted for a long time. And there is a cost to that, which is that some of this, some of the things that we’ve avoided because they’re uncomfortable, have led to some pretty crappy theology. But they’ve been easier to believe. And the result, I think where we’re going to find ourselves increasingly going as we keep on this journey, regardless of which type of conversation we’re having, is going to be that the picture being painted is getting better and better, richer and richer, and I want more and more to believe it, and it might get harder and harder to keep believing it in our modern secular world that’s science-driven and all material-based and just isn’t very friendly to supernaturalism. And that’s just a tension that as you and I have talked about, we’ve just got to buck up and face it. Otherwise we would be doing the equivalent of putting our head in the sand like an ostrich and pretending a fake world’s going to be better.
Nate: Alright, well that’s what we’re going to do next time, is get into the Tower of Babel as we continue talking about the fall, and start to wrap up this framework of going back and rereading the Bible and understanding that they had a different view of what went wrong, of the initial problems. And so we’re trying to get our head around that, and then re-read the Bible, look at cultural issues of the day, hot topics, with this in mind, and stop using the Bible in really terrible ways. That’s the ultimate goal, is we want to stop using the Bible in terrible ways, start using it in helpful, healthy ways, and we think understanding this framework is a launching pad to that. So come on back, subscribe to this show wherever you get your podcasts, and also, if you could, jump onto iTunes really quick, it takes about thirty seconds, and leave a rating and a review for this show. Leaving a review and a rating like this helps other people find the show on iTunes, which would be great! Nate and Tim, signing off.
Nate: Huge shout out to Cale Haugen. All the music that you hear on Almost Heretical is written and produced and recorded by Cale, so check him out.