Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins

an Interdisciplinary Humanities Seminar
in its twenty-fifth year under the auspices of
The University of Pennsylvania
Department of Religious Studies
Philadelphia PA

PSCO Minutes
March 10, 1988

In this paper, Greek and Aramaic are represented in Beta Code Transliteration.

"The Experience of Demons (and Angels) in 1 Enoch, Jubilees, and the Book of Tobit"

George W. E. Nickelsburg, The University of Iowa

This paper is a hastily compiled summary of material from my research that seems to be relevant to the topic of the PSCO symposium. In this context, I have documented my observations only with reference to my own publications and have presumed much unpublished material drawn from the manuscript of my in-preparation commentary on 1 Enoch and in my soon-to-be-published short commentary on Tobit in the Harper's Bible Commentary volume.

I shall discuss three quite different, but substantially related texts. The material in them is comparable, but both the genres and the treatment are sufficiently different to provide interesting definition through contrast. All three texts are pseudonymous and set in times much earlier than the author's, which is a serious difficulty for dealing with the topic at hand. The relevant material in 1 Enoch is set in primordial times and is heavily mythic — thick with angels and demons. Jubilees takes us to Sinai and weaves Enochic material into a preexistent "historical" framework that tells about named people. Tobit maintains the pseudonymous veil, but employs mythic material (not unrelated to Enoch, I shall argue) in a novelistic genre, in which the innovative use of plot, characterization, and point of view enable us better to understand one exposition of a genuinely human experience of demons and angels.

I have construed the term "experience" in a broad sense, because this seems most appropriate to the nature of the texts. My question is this: In what kind of persons, events, situations, and "things" experienced by these authors did they perceive the presence or influence of malevolent transcendent power and activity? As much as possible I have tried to withstand the satanic impulse to describe "theology," although on occasion it has seemed necessary to allude to, or articulate this theoretical rather than experiential aspect of the text.

1 Enoch

The Book of Enoch is deeply, and perhaps centrally concerned with the presence of evil and its ultimate eradication. This focus notwithstanding, the writers of this corpus show very little interest in the Eden narrative in Genesis 3 (chaps. 24-25; 32:3-6) and the Yahwistic narrative about human deterioration in Genesis 4-5. The cause of significant evil is traced, rather, to an angelic revolt, or series of revolts, which are recounted in mythic fashion, with primary reference to the cryptic account in Gen 6:1-4. The myths of angelic revolt are told in narrative form in chaps. 6-11 and then alluded to in various ways throughout the corpus.

1 Enoch 6-11

Three myths, or fragments of myths, are concerned here with angelic rebellion and the judgment and salvation that quash the revolt and reverse its evil consequences (G.N. 1977). In the central and structuring component of this section, Semihazah, a chieftain among "the Watchers, the sons of heaven," and his companions, descend and marry "the daughters of men" and beget giants, who ravage the earth and shed the blood of "all flesh." God responds to earth's cry for vengeance, mediated by the "Holy Watchers," Sariel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael. They are sent to exterminate the giants, incarcerate the rebel Watchers, and "heal" (Raphael) and "cleanse" (Michael) the earth of the defilement caused by the Watchers' forbidden intercourse with women and the blood shed by the giants.

Woven into this story are mythic fragments or accretions that describe the Watchers' revolt in a different way — as the revelation of forbidden knowledge. This mythic motif has two strands.

In the first strand, in a mythic fragment that bears striking resemblance to the story of Prometheus and its Ancient Near Eastern parallels, the angelic chieftain, `Asael (identified in the onomasticon in chap. 6 as number 10 of Semihazah's subordinates, and presumably his lieutenant) reveals the secrets of metallurgy and mining, which enable men to fabricate weapons and armor, which cause bloodshed, as well as silver and gold jewelry and eye-shadow of stibium, through which the female sex is able to seduce men and angels. This myth of `Asael is important enough that the Watcher has a special archangel (Raphael) appointed to incarcerate him and heal the earth of the iniquity that has resulted from his revelations.

In the second strand of the revelatory motif, which may well be an accretion to the text rather than a fragment of a longer myth, various of the Watchers reveal the magical arts and the science of astrological prognostication.

When I call this narrative material myth, I mean that it is, in appearance, a story about ancient times whose purpose is, in fact, to describe and explain the world of the author's experience. In my view (G.N. 1977), the Semihazah story is a parody of Diadochan claims of divine parentage. The violent deeds of the giants are a stand-in for the wars that ravaged the eastern Mediterranean as Alexander's successors struggled for control of his empire. These kings and rulers are the offspring of rebel heavenly beings, who have bred into the world incarnations of their intentional, malevolent rebellion against the divine King and Creator. Thus, to get to the point of the symposium, the narrator of this story sees in the world of his experience widespread bloodshed and a world on the brink of desolation. This victimization of "all flesh," and even of the blood-choked earth, he attributes to the presence of the demonic in the rulers of the present age. This understanding of reality parallels Daniel's mythic description of Antiochus's persecution as a heavenly revolt against God and the angelic court.

The fragmentary mythic material about `Asael takes a different tack, and one must understand it against other references to it both in Jub. 4:15; 5:6 and Ps.-Clem. Hom. 8:13 (cf. the less explicit hint in 1 Enoch 86:1-3). According to this version, into a world already marked by the violence of Cain's sin, God sends the Watchers to instruct humanity in righteous and just conduct. (This is one of the earliest appearances of what looks like a distant ancestor of the Gnostic revealer.) But, in a chronological order that varies according to the accounts, they are snared by the beauty of women and they reveal forbidden secrets. Here again myth speaks both of past and present. In an obvious and explicit way, the story relates the events that caused the universal corruption that led to the Flood (cf. 1 Enoch 8:2 with Gen 6:12). Nevertheless, although primordial past and the experienced present are separated chronologically, they are linked causally. The kind of bloodshed and violence that is central to the Semihazah myth is also part of this mythmaker's experience, although it is not caused by the spawn of heavenly-earthly unions, but is a function of a forbidden knowledge taught ages ago. And thus, different from Gen 4:22, it was not a descendant of Cain called Tubal-cain, but an angelic rebel named `Asael, who revealed (rather than discovered) the technology that facilitated warfare. And, to return to our theme, it is in the dust and stench of today's battles that one experiences the ghastly, lingering presence of the primordial angelic rebels. In similar fashion, the mythmaker links feminine wiles to the metallurgical revelations of the angelic leader `Asael! Although the myths of both Semihazah and `Asael focus on sins of lust and violence, the case of `Asael offers a nuance not found in the myth of Semihazah. Humanity is not simply a victim of the angelic revolt and its consequences. `Asael's knowledge leads human beings to become the responsible agents of sin. The familiar figure of the satanic seducer is present. But the seducer is not present in the experienced sense described anthropologically in the Qumran two-ways material and, I think, later in Romans 7. The mythmaker does not describe a tempter, an inner or outer presence, Sin with a capital S, which causes one to think about right and wrong and then chose the latter. The presence of the seducer is an ancient residue that is active and functional in the knowledge, which is celebrated as positive and beneficial by some.

The third strand of tradition is related to the second; various sorts of magical and divinatory practice have their source in revelations that were constitutive of the angelic rebellion. Whether one should use terms such as "witchcraft" and "black arts" is problematic. The text is brief and cryptic and does not indicate whether this author thought that the magicians and wizards of his own time were in some sense in league with, or had made a compact with demons or an archdemon. The point of the text is, rather, that the magical arts and certain types of manticism represent a tradition that is demonic in origin — however its present practitioners received it and succeeded in practicing it.

The references to magic in 8:3 and 7:1 are especially difficult to explicate because the Aramaic text is badly fragmented and the words that one can reasonably reconstruct from it and their counterparts in the Greek translation are often used in a generic sense (much as magician, sorcerer, wizard, enchanter are often loosely interchanged today in popular parlance). What follows are briefly stated conclusions drawn from an extensive discussion in the MS of my commentary on 1 Enoch. In 7:1 the Greek FARMAKEI/AS KAI\ E)PAOIDA/S appear to translate the Aramaic LXR$T) WL)$PT). While the usage of the Targumim and the LXX may indicate in the first word a reference to magical potions, the Greek term appears to have been be used in Hellenistic times generically of magic. Nonetheless, the mention of "the cutting of roots and plants" in 7:1 and 8:3 appears to refer to magical potions and brews, used in part, perhaps, for therapeutic purposes. The second Greek word in 7:1 and its Aramaic counterpart are paralleled in 8:3 by E)PAOIDA/S and XBDW, and Semitic philological evidence appears to support the translation "incantation," or, in 8:3, "binding" (with a spell). Knowledge about the breaking of spells is attributed to Hermoni in 8:3. An association of the root )$P with healing may be indicated by its usage in 1QApGen 20:19 of Pharaoh's would-be healers. In 9:8 the Watchers are associated with the production of MI/SHTRA, either potions or recited charms intended to incite hatred, i.e., to win (back) one's beloved by causing that person to be despised by one's rival. Finally, in 8:3, Hermoni is said to have taught XR+M, a word evidently of Egyptian origin but with wide Semitic currency, which appears to designate the interpretation of dreams, perhaps through the use of incantations.

In summary, the information in 7:1; 8:3; 9:8 designates the rebel Watchers as the source of knowledge about magical potions and incantations. While the author's theory as to how these operate, and how the demonic presence might be "felt" is not explicit, it is evident that these devices were seen to enable the practitioner and client to participate in a realm of knowledge and activity and to arrive at results that were seen to be antithetical to God's purpose and activity.

Related to wrongly gotten knowledge about the interpretation of dreams is a list of types of divination from heavenly omens (lightning flashes, stars, shooting stars, sun and moon) and earthly ones (perhaps earthquakes, floods, and other disasters, extraordinary births and peculiar and unusual actions by human beings and animals). These divinatory practices are, of course, widely documentable in our sources from antiquity. But for this author, the knowledge thus obtained is gotten through the use of demonically introduced skills, and in the context of 1 Enoch this knowledge stands in contrast to knowledge of divine origin given in primordial time to sage Enoch. This factor is central to, and constitutive of the Enochic epistemology and understanding of evil. God is the source and possessor of all knowledge, and God has revealed to Enoch what is to be revealed. Other claims to know what is hidden are attributed to a realm that opposes God, either because the information is false, or because it is supposed to remain hidden. To seek and (wrongly claim to) obtain such information is to participate in the demonic.

1 Enoch 12-16

In the model presumed in this section, the Watchers' revolt takes place when the angelic priests abandon the heavenly sanctuary and defile themselves doubly, through forbidden intercourse with women, and by contact with their menstrual blood (G.N. 1981 b). Although the angelic chieftain is identified as `Asael, and Semihazah is not mentioned (13:1-3), the primary angelic sin is that associated with the instigation of Semihazah in chaps. 6-11 (revelation is mentioned only in 13:2; 16:2-3).

The primary myth in chaps. 12-16 differs from chapters 6-11 in two significant ways. First there is an explicit metaphysics that distinguishes between eternal spirit and mortal flesh. Intercourse between the two defies a distinction that the Creator has built into the creation. It is, in a significant sense, unnatural and, hence, an act of rebellion against the Creator.

But the metaphysics allows for a consequence that transforms a fundamental aspect of the demonic experience described in chaps. 6-11. In the earlier version of the Semihazah story, the primordial giants are stand-ins for today's bloody kings and generals, and the scenario for their destruction is a vision of the imminent eschaton. The giants are mortal and will die. The (metaphysics in 12-16 means, however, that when the giants are killed, the death of their "fleshly bodies," received from their hum an mothers, releases the "eternal" spiritual component gotten from their angelic fathers. The judgment which results in the destruction of the Watchers' children is, in a real sense, counterproductive. The finite presence of the giants now gives way to t he overall presence of a world of demons which no ghostbuster can capture and domesticate, much less annihilate. The stuff of eternal spirit, rebelliously bred into the world, now becomes a world of "evil spirits." Herein lies the difference from chaps. 6-11. The myth makes an explicit distinction between the primordial revolt and its quashing and the ongoing present experience of the demonic, which is causally related to the revolt, and indeed the chronology explicitly refers to the definitive eschatological resolution. The relevant passage is worth quoting because of its explicit statement and because of its description of demonic activity:

And the spirits of the giants <lead astray or shatter (emending a corrupt Aramaic R(YN behind Greek NEMOMENA to either T(YN or R((YN)>, do violence, make desolate, and attack and wrestle and hurl upon the earth and <cause illnesses (seeing behind Greek DRO/MOUS POIOU/NTA a corruption from Aramaic MRW() or MRWCH, which consonants in Hebrew can be translated "running" or "oppression"; Eth. hazana = "sorrow" or "misery")>. And they will eat nothing, but abstain from food and are thirsty and smite. And these spirits will rise up against the sons of men and against the women, for they have come forth from them. From the day of the slaughter and destruction and death of the giants, from the soul of whose flesh they are making desolate without (incurring) judgment. Thus they will make desolate until the day of the consummation of the great judgment, when the great age will be consummated (15:11-16:1).

In the period between the primordial judgment of the Watchers and their sons and the final judgment, evil spirits are experienced in a variety of ways. The text is rich and reasonably explicit in its imagery. They lead astray, i.e., cause people to sin (if one accepts that emendation). They cause violence and desolation on the earth — whether through war, bloodshed, or other oppressive activity. Then, in a series of athletic, wrestling images, they are depicted in a way reminiscent of some of the "possessions" described in the Synoptic Gospels. And, in a more general way (again granting the emendation), they cause illnesses. The activity of the evil spirits is thus depicted in imagery that, to no small extent, is consonant with the violence attributed to the giants in chaps. 6-11. Human beings, whether through physical violence by other human beings, "possession," or illness are the hapless and helpless victims of malevolent spirits.

A final, comparative point should be made about this section's metaphysics. Both in its imagery and its worldview, it is analogous to some varieties of the Gnostic creation myth. I refer not to the use of the Enochic material in the Apocryphon of John, but to this fact: The text uses a sexual or generational metaphor to explain the presence in the world of an evil element, whose heavenly or spirit nature makes it indestructible — that is until final, definitive divine action annihilates it. As in the story of Sophia's casting out of her miscarriage and its consequences, there is something profoundly tragic in the present myth, which describes the ongoing presence of evil as the ineluctable result of God's judgment of the angelic revolt. Granted, speaking theologically, creation itself is not evil here, and the revolt is chronologically later than the act of creation, yet here, as in the Gnostic myth, the world is experienced in largely gloomy terms. Violence, desolation, and illness are, at least rhetorically, almost universal, and they will continue to be so until the consummation. While I propose no simple relationship between the two mythic systems, the similarities, I believe, call for closer comparative analysis.

1 Enoch 92-105

I wish here only to make three points, perhaps more related to theology than theory, but significant, nonetheless. 1) This "Epistle of Enoch," which presupposes so much of chaps. 6-36, is largely lacking in references to the myth of angelic revolt. The textually problematic 98:4-15 (which originally made no reference to the transformation of mountains and hills, as the Grk. papyrus indicates, G.N. 1976, 113-18), explicitly asserts that evil was not sent, but is a function of human sin. The address of the author is consistently to human beings, who are responsible for their actions. As to "leading astray," the verb, PLANA=N is frequently used of false teaching and, intransitively of sinful acts. But with the exception of 99:14, which speaks of a "spirit of error," demons are not said to be the instigators of human sin. 2) A noteworthy exception occurs in 99:6-9 a passage that treats idolatry by combining two lines of thought familiar in Jewish and early Christian texts. In the first instance, or according to the first tradition, idols are as dead as the material of which they are fabricated and can provide no help. According to the second line, idolaters "worship phantoms and demons and abominations and evil spirits and all errors." The passage i s noteworthy because, in a text that is probably directed mainly against the sins of the Jewish elite and powerful, the realm of the demonic is here explicitly connected with non-Jewish religious practice (even if one supposes that there may be Jews in the land who opt into this paganism). 3) As in 6-11 the realm of "good" angels is heaven, where they function as witness and advocates, but at the end they will be active in the events of the great judgment (100:4; 102:3).

1 Enoch 37-71

In the Book of Parables, explicit reference to the Semihazah myth has all but disappeared. In keeping with a tendency already seen in chaps. 12-16, Semihazah's name has been deleted, except in the onomasticon in chap. 69. Moreover, reference to the my th about angelic-human mating is difficult to find. The giants appear to be alluded to in 56:3-4 ("their chosen and beloved ones"). Again, chap. 69 is an exception. Vv 1-3 parallel the onomasticon in 6:6, while vv 4-12 are a more expansive list of name s and functions. Vv 4-5 refer to two chieftains (Jeqon and Asbeel), who are said to be responsible for the sin of mating with women.

In spite of this deemphasis, the Parables are replete with a widespread and repeated indictment of the "kings and the mighty," who possess the earth and oppress the righteous. If one accepts my identification of the giants in the Semihazah story, then the issue here is largely the same as in the Semihazah myth (see especially chap. 47, where angelic prayer is raised for the blood of the righteous and cf. chap. 9). Moreover, the culprits are explicitly identified, by genre, if not by name.

The relationship of the kings and the mighty to the rebel angels and the realm of the demonic is construed mainly, I suspect, in terms of the old `Asael myth. It is this angel alone who is mentioned by name (in the Eth., as in the Eth. of 6-16, as Azazel, 54:5; 55:4). In the extension of the onomasticon in 69:6-7, the angel Gadreel has shown the children of men "the blows of death" and weapons and armor for battle. According to 52:1-8, the epiphany of the Elect One, like the theophany in chap. 1, will cause the mountains to melt. Here they are mountains of metal, and the interpretation is that metals for weapons and armor will be useless. The motif recalls 8:1-2. The revelation motif appears again in 65:6-9. Here revealed knowledge about metallurgy has led to the making of idols, though perhaps in v 7, weapons. Initial reference, however, is to the power of those who practice magical arts. Another reference to this appears in 69:12-13. The angel Kasdeya has taught people how to use spirits and demons to harm others, notably how to cause miscarriages or abortions and how to do other sympathetic and harmful magic. The precise point of vv 8-11 is unclear. In a written document it is an odd attack against the revelation of "pen and ink." The specific issue seems to be the writing of contracts.

In Summary

1) The power and activity of the demonic is experienced in the violent and bloody deeds of unjust kings, rulers, and generals. Although two different versions of the myth exist (the "incarnation" of evil and the revealing of the devices of war), both agree that a rebellion of one of the "good" angels is the cause.

2) Rebellion in the form of revelation has also resulted in the magical crafts that enable one to harm others, in the Parables at least, through the active participation of demons.

3) Conversely, according to the incarnational myth in chaps. 12-16, evil spirits seem to work sickness, possession, and violence quite well without an agent.

4) To employ the divinatory arts to forecast the future is also to make use of forbidden technique — whether or not the knowledge obtained is true or false.

5) The fabricating of idols is possible because of the forbidden revelation of metallurgy, and, according to one theory, idolatrous worship brings one into active contact with demons and evil spirits.

6) Although it is rarely mentioned, demons lead humans to stray from the right path in a more general sense.

The Book of Jubilees

This composition from the first third of the second century B.C.E. is a tendentious and heavily rewritten version of the "history" recounted in Genesis 1-Exodus 15 (G.N. 1981a, 73-80; 1984, 97-104). Its source material was drawn not only from the Pentateuch, but also from parts of the Enochic corpus as we know it, from other written Enoch works or oral interpretations of our corpus, and from other extended written or oral traditions about the patriarchs.

A number of overarching interests and factors controlled the author's casting of the narrative — what from the Pentateuch was included and excluded, what was altered, what of extra-Pentateuchal sources was interpolated. Always discussed in this context is the pervasive chronological framework of the narrative, which dates events, and especially festivals, according to a solar calendar of 364 days.

Less frequently discussed, but of great and pervasive importance is a demonology which has its roots in the Enochic tradition. Many of the motifs and elements already discussed make their appearance; however, in their use, transformation, emphasis and deemphasis, lies an interesting and, ultimately, a highly significant and influential segment of Israelite religious history. It is possible here only to sketch the highlights.

First, the narrator of the text is "the angel of the presence," who dictates the whole work to Moses on Mount Sinai, and whose occasional "I" or "we" (me and my colleagues) slips into the narrative. Thus, the world of high angels constitutes a major s et of actors in Israelite history. They function on occasion as opponents to the world of demons, but that is to get ahead of the story. The angelic narration of Jubilees is significant for a second reason; it makes an explicit claim not found in the Pentateuch. The account of Israelite history and corpus of Law are divinely given (an interesting assertion that Paul attempts to stand on its head in Galatians).

As with 1 Enoch, there is no denial here that sin is in the world very early on. The first parents break God's command, and Cain kills his brother. But different from 1Enoch, the form of the text as a running narrative that begins with Creation makes explicit the fact that because the serpent was a serpent, earliest sin is construed solely as human activity. As noted earlier, through the use of Enochic tradition, the author has God cope with human sin by sending angels to instruct human beings in righteous and just conduct (4:15).

This attempt to deal with sin backfires. The Watchers whom God sent upon the earth are attracted to the daughters of men, and the main lines of the Semihazah myth follow from this, narrated both in 5:1-2, 9-12 and 7:21-24. But here the first major transformation of the myth takes place. Different from 1Enoch 6-11 — where all flesh are the victims of the giants and the righteous son of Lamech only implies a mass of unrighteous humanity otherwise unmentioned — here the Semihazah myth is integrated into the viewpoint of Genesis 6. In Jub. 5:2-3, 19, Noah is explicitly a righteous exception to "all flesh," which has corrupted all its ways. Not only did the Watchers introduce "fornication and uncleanness" into the world through their own deeds, but t he bloodshed and violence they perpetrated was taken up by humans, as well, and so the Flood's judgmental destruction was, with the exception of Noah and his family, universal (7:21-25).

Enter now the version of the story recounted in 1Enoch 12-16. Although the rebel Watchers were imprisoned (5:10) and the giants were destroyed (5:9), a mass of "(unclean) demons and wicked spirits (9:27; 10:1-3), identified in 10:5 as the children of the Watchers ("your Watchers, the fathers of these spirits") has been unleashed on the world. As in 1 Enoch 12-16, they universally plague the post-diluvian world. Names become interesting at this point. Jubilees never mentions the names of Semihazah or `Asael or any others in the onomasticon of 1 Enoch 6:6. Instead, it often refers to the head of the evil spirits, calling him "the prince (of) mastema." From a text-critical point of view, it is disputable whether this is actually a proper name (the prince, Mastema) or whether one should translate "the prince of hostility" (cf. 1QS 3:23; 1QM 13:4, 11; CD 16:5). In either case, it is the post-diluvian chieftain of the evil spirits rather than a pre-diluvian rebel Watcher who emerge frequently in Jubilees as an identifiable entity, also occasionally identified with the terms "Beliar" and "Satan."

Concerning the functions of Mastema (hereafter, for shorthand) Jubilees is most interesting for its innovations. His primary function seems to be to lead human beings astray. An almost insignificant note in 1 Enoch becomes the Leitmotif in Jubilees. After the Flood Noah is concerned that demons are seducing his children and their children (7:27-28, to consume blood; 10:1-3, to commit all manner of sin). Later, in 11:5, Mastema will send spirits to encourage idolatry and all sorts of evil and wrong. Again in 12:1 6-20, Abraham's rejection of astrological prognostication is in a prayer that contrasts God's dominion with the dominion of evil spirits over human thoughts.

In these texts we can see a fascinating move in demonological speculation, although there is not time here to trace its history. The chief of the spirit remains of the offspring of the rebel Watchers and his underlings are given the classical functions of the Tempter. Although the idea is not expressed anthropologically, one sees here human sin — in thought or deed, in the religious realm (idolatry or apostasy) and the ethical sphere of human interaction — as a result of the prodding or seduction o f evil spirits. To my knowledge, though the text should be combed, the author does not deal with experiences, but the assertion is made that human sin results from individual demonic activity. This viewpoint becomes explicit and the satanic identity of Mastema is made clear in the story of the Akedah, where the account of Genesis 22 is framed by a Joban prologue and epilogue in heaven (17:15-18:16). Adding to the mixture the traditional component of angelic rival attorneys, the author relates how the angels have praised Abraham's righteousness and Mastema objects. The Semihazah-Michael and `Asael-Raphael opposition — where the former are sinners and the latter, agents of judgment — is replaced by opposition between Mastema and the angel of the presence, in which Abraham is tried and found faithful and patient. The satanic figure, both as accuser and tempter, is identified as the descendant of the angelic rebellion. The impulse to sin is linked to the primordial angelic rebellion.

But Mastema and his entourage show up in other ways. In Ur he sends birds and ravens to eat newly sown seed and create famine (11:11-24); his activity is present in "natural" disaster. The evil spirits cause illness, so that the good angels must instruct Noah about medicines and herbs of the earth. The first part of the idea is consonant with 1 Enoch 12-16, but in the second part, the good angels reveal what Semihazah had revealed in 1 Enoch 7:2; 8:3.

Over against the overwhelming prominence of the seductive and tempting functions of Mastema and his spirits, the major constitutive features of the Semihazah and `Asael myths fade into obscurity in Jubilees. Of the latter we hear the most. Abraham identifies astrological forecasting as demonic in origin. The point is made earlier, in more Enochic language. In 8:1-4, a descendant of Noah discovers a stone inscription containing the Watchers' revelations about heavenly omens, and he copies it down. This explains how these pre-diluvian revelations survived the Flood. "Modern day" guide books to the stars are transcriptions of knowledge of demonic provenance. Apart from this text, however, the function of forbidden primordial revelation appears to have been assumed by ongoing demonic seduction to wrong. The issue of magic is not important. Although the Semihazah myth is constitutive as an explanation for the origin of evil spirits (= 1 Enoch 12-16), the association of demons and unjust rulers is not really an issue in Jubilees. The spirits placed over the nations, which might be connected with unjust and oppressive rulers (along with Jubilees' main emphasis), lead the nations into sin (15:31-34). The sharp Israel-Gentile dichotomy so prevalent in Jubilees is explained on the basis on an angelology and demonology that is related to whole peoples, or individuals among them, rather than to rulers. The closest we come to the old idea is in 48:9-19, where is Exodus is a confrontation between Mastema and the angel of the presence. Mastema, the obstructer of God's purposes, would have delivered Israel to Pharaoh, both at the Red Sea and, before that, by revealing their intention to Pharaoh. But he was blocked, bound, and imprisoned by the Angel of the Presence. The idea is consonant with Jubilees' view that history is the battleground between good and evil spiritual forces.

Jubilees' view of idolatry clearly agrees with one line in the Epistle of Enoch and, mainly, disagrees with the other. Typical of Jubilees, evil spirits can lead one to idolatry, but idols are not the residence of demons; they are dead, deaf, and dumb stuff (11:5-7; 12:3-5; 20:7-9; 22:16-18, but note the slip in v 17b ["they worship evil spirits"]).

In Summary

1) Enoch's Semihazah myth functions as an explanation for the presence of the demonic world, as in 1 Enoch 12-16.

2) Demonic activity is experienced in human sickness, and demonic lore remains in astrological wisdom.

3) For the most part, however, in a major departure from 1 Enoch, or at least a tremendous emphasis on a minor matter, evil spirits have become the seducers and tempters to human sin, and individuality is given to their chieftain rather than to a primordial rebel Watcher. The lives of individuals and the history of Israel's interaction with the nations are a playing out of the battle between good angels and evil spirits. Said another way, the human decision to sin is a function of demonic activity. The presence of evil spirits is well nigh universalized in the area of human activity.

The Book of Tobit

The presence of the angel Raphael and the demon Asmodeus in Tobit are sufficient to justify a treatment of this book in relation to the Seminar's topic, but a few observations will indicate some fascinating parallels between Tobit and 1 Enoch, which ha d led me to discuss the book in this context.

1) The first part of Tobit is set in Upper Galilee, the locus of key episodes in the Enoch cycle (Tob. 1:1-4; 1 Enoch 6:5; 13:4-10, on the latter, see JBL '81).

2) The opposition between Raphael the healing angel and Asmodeus the lecherous demon, and the former's "binding" of the latter, have a counterpart in 1 Enoch 6-11, though the demon's opponent is changed from Michael to Raphael, who is `Asael's opponent in 1 Enoch.

3) Raphael's function as one of the seven angels, who bring the memory of the prayers of the righteous before the glory of the Great One or Holy One, closely parallels Enochic angelology and even phraseology (cf. 3:16; 12, 15 with 1 Enoch 103:1; 10 4:1).

4) The testamentary forecast in Tob. 14:4-7 has striking parallels in 1 Enoch 93:1-10; 91:11-17 (see espec. the longer and more original S/OL text of Tobit.

5) The divine names in the prayer in 13:6-11 have parallels in Enochic texts (9:4; 12:3; 25:3, 7).

Against the background of these parallels, a comparison and contrast of Tobit and Enoch is instructive. As noted above, the detailed characterization and plot line bring us a bit closer to what we might recognize as "the experience" of the angelic and demonic in a more traditional sense of the term. We are further helped by the fact that the protagonist functions as the narrator, and the story is told from his point of view. We learn what he knows or doesn't know about demons and angels, and to some extent we learn what others know and don't know.

Briefly told, Tobit relates the story of two righteous people and their woes and ultimate deliverance. Tobit, the singular righteous man in Israel, is taken into Assyrian captivity. He is persecuted for his pious deeds, but eventually vindicated. Then calamity strikes again, in the form of hot swallow dung which falls on his eyes and blinds him. One things leads to another, and finally he prays for death as deliverance. On the other side of Mesopotamia, a distant relative, Sarah, suffers from the machinations of the demon Asmodeus, who is in love with her. Though he does not consummate this love, as do Semihazah and his friends, he kills off her seven successive husbands, in the bedroom, on the wedding night. Sarah's maids mock her for what they take to be the girl's treachery (reason not given), and Sarah, too, prays for death as a release from false reproach.

The prayers are received in heaven by Raphael, one of the seven angelic intercessors, who, in turn is sent to heal the two hapless Israelites (see 1 Enoch 9-10 for the pattern of intercessor and mission of deliverance). Raphael appears in human guise, pretending to be a long lost relative of Tobit and sets off with Tobias, Tobit's son, supposedly to fetch the family fortune, on deposit elsewhere in Mesopotamia. On the way, when Tobias and Raphael (a.k.a. Azarias) come to the Tigris River, a fish conveniently leaps out of the water, and when it is properly butchered, it provides liver, which when fried on coals drives away demons, and gall bladder, which when squirted on blind eyes restores sight.

As the two approach Ecbatana, Azarias tells Tobias about the lovely Sarah, who is Tobias's predestined wife. The youth knows all about her and her demon and seven dead husbands and wants nothing to do with her. But Azarias assures him that the fish l iver they have been carrying with them will take care of the demon. And so it does. Asmodeus is driven to the upper Nile somewhere, where Raphael binds him. Everyone returns to Nineveh. When Tobias anoints Tobit's eyes and the old man sees, it is time for real revelations. The angelophany, extended over miles and weeks, comes to its climax, as Azarias identifies himself as Raphael and quickly "ascends to him who sent me," while the healed Tobit and Tobias, the husband of the healed Sarah, look on in astonishment.

First, the experience of the demonic. For the author, sudden death, under very odd and repeated circumstances, is interpreted as the result of demonic activity. That God's purposes in procreation and family are being frustrated is much to the point. Tobit's misfortunes do not seem to be associated with the demonic, although it is noteworthy that in Jubilees' story about Abraham, the ravens are Mastema's agents, and the traditional character of that idea is perhaps evident in Jesus' parable, where the seed-eating birds are a symbol for the activity of Satan. So perhaps, in the sub-text, this sickness of Tobit is also induced by the demonic. In the plot, the incident is a result of his pious action of burying a dead man and having to sleep, unclean, in the open.

Secondly, the experience of the angelic. The healer is an angel in human disguise. It is his knowledge, not only of the many circumstances surrounding Tobit's and Sarah's lives and misfortunes, but also of magical cures that facilitates the hearings of Tobit and Sarah.

All this represents the author's understanding of demonic and angelic activity in human lives. But there is a catch, which is of the very nature of the plot and is integrated into the point of view of the characters. None of the characters know who Raphael is, until he reveals who he is. This makes for very funny reading at times, such as when Tobit wishes the two a pleasant journey and the company of an angel. But the author is serious in the midst of his humor. People are in the company of angels when they don't know it. Indeed, it is very much to the point of the story, that the characters really don't understand what is going on, but that when all is said and done, they perceive the hand of God, or the activity of an angel, who is healer, magician, and matchmaker all in one. How this device of ignorance and revelation impinges an the characters' experience of the demonic is not completely clear. If the bird is Satan's agent, Tobit never knows it. Tobias indicates to Raphael that he knows of Sarah's demon (6:13-14). Is this his own conclusion? The father, honest man that he is, admits his daughter's problem, but oddly does not attribute it to a demon (7:10-11), and the maids blame the girl for her plight (2:8-9).

Is there a theological point behind this plotting. In reality, demons hurt and smite and kill, and angels heal. In human perception, sickness and death may or may not be attributable and one never knows through what apparently human agency God's angels are effecting healing?

Two other observations bear on our topic and form an interesting comparison with the earlier texts. 1) Different from 1 Enoch, Raphael the intercessor and healer appears not in the eschaton, but in the lives of humans who need healing from blindness an d bad luck in the family. Both with respect to demon and angel, the viewpoint is closer to Jubilees than to 1 Enoch — even if, in Jubilees, the healing lore was given at first to Noah. 2) The means of healing are curious, to say the least. Perhaps fish gall, especially when well cured for a few days in the Mesopotamian heat, has a medicinal function, but the procedure is peculiar enough to have, probably, a few parallels in magical recipe books. The liver is another matter. (One does not apply medicine to a sick human body; one creates an incredibly foul stench to drive away an invisible spiritual presence. That's magical technique, if ever there was such. So, interestingly, where Enoch rejects magical cures as demonic in origin, and Jubilees attributes the origin of knowledge about the medicinal use of herbs to angels, Tobit's author has his angel cure through magical means. At the same time, there is a curious functional duplication in 8:1-4a and 4b-8 between the magical cure that drives away the demon and Tobias's and Sarah's prayer that the Lord have mercy on them. The magical and the "religious" parallel one another and perhaps hint at two very different approaches to the problem of sickness and cure. Prayer is a constant in Tobit. Does the magical reflect a tantalizing folkloristic tidbit that the author cannot dispense with?

Summary and Conclusions

I have attempted to track the evidence for antique experience of the demonic (and angelic) through three related texts. Here, in summary, are where these texts see the loci of the demonic and angelic.

1) Kings, Rulers, Generals, and other perpetrators of violence are agents of the demonic. These may be seen as veritable incarnations of demonic evil, if one takes relatively literally the generational myth about Semihazah. Alternatively, one may believe that the weapons they use have been fabricated through technology based on knowledge revealed by the primordial angelic rebels. In the more general scheme of Jubilees, any sort of violence and bloodshed is a function of demonic prodding.

The association of kings and rulers with the demonic will play a major role in the non-apocalyptic Jewish texts and in the NT. Stories about the deaths of Antiochus Epiphanes, Ptolemy, Herod, and Agrippa all make use of the myth of Helel ben Sahar, which also stands behind the description of the "man of lawlessness" in 2 Thessalonians. In Revelation, of course, the Roman Empire and its rulers are seen as agents of the Beast and, ultimately, Satan, whose fall is also described with the imagery of Isaiah 14 and its traditional elaboration.

2) Sickness and "possession" can be evidence of demonic activity. Here, with the presumable exception of magical spells, the demonic world operates without human agents — different from the previous category.

3) Magical technique was a point of contact with the demonic, whether or not it was understood as invoking the real presence and activity of demons or simply making use of the residue of demonically generated knowledge. In this particular instance, one might not experience the demonic, but simply claim that others used and experienced it. Nonetheless, 1 Enoch may presume that the righteous were victimized by spells. The story of Tobit is an odd exception in its attribution of magical technique to Raphael.

4) Divination provided entree to (pseudo-) information through methods and skill that originated with the rebel Watchers.

5) Seduction, temptation, or prodding to sin are a major demonic function according to the broadly construed demonology of the Book of Jubilees. Not only are the Gentiles and the grossly wicked subject to this, but even the righteous must guar d against the seductions of Mastema and his army of demons. Individual life and experience and the history of nations are the arena of demonic and angelic activity. For Tobit human sin and righteousness are thoroughly human and in no way functions of the demonic.

The view of Jubilees approximates closely that of the two-ways material in 1QS 3-4 (and in another respect, the Qumran War Scroll), although it is unclear that Jubilees' aetiology of the demonic world is the one presumed for the Serek's Prince of Darkness and his army.

In any case, Jubilees provides a possible background for Paul's anthropologically oriented triangle:

  sin   spirit

6) Idolatry is an important realm of the demonic. The point may be that demonically originated metallurgical technology made possible the fabrication of idols which represent non-entities. According to another point of view, veneration of these cult-objects is worship of demonic entities that stand behind them.

In defining my subject matter in this paper, I have looked for those persons, events, situations, and "things" experienced by these authors in which they perceived the presence or influence of malevolent transcendent power and activity. In a way, I am talking about a world-view or a way of looking at reality, and it can be argued that, in fact, I have smuggled theology into the discussion, because I am describing a theological interpretation of human experience. My point is, however, that it is precisely human experiences which are being interpreted. To take a single example, to feel the conqueror's sword or see one's land devastated and one's crops and livestock looted is an experience of the senses, to say nothing of the emotions. To perceive the conqueror as an agent of the demonic is to make these palpable experiences into experiences of the demonic.

The demonologies that I have attempted to describe involve a delicate interaction between experience and reflection. In various ways, these authors lived in a world that they perceived to be threatening — often profoundly threatening. The threat was in different forms: possible annihilation in war, or at least the extreme misery of oppression; sickness; magical manipulation. A real sense of victimization runs through large segments of these texts. Of course, neither this kind of situation nor reflection on it was new in Israelite religious and intellectual history. Why do the righteous suffer in this way? The answer given here is the positing of a demonic realm that opposes God's promised reward for the righteous. Its existence is traced to primordial angelic revolt.

The second side of these demonological speculations is more anthropologically oriented. The righteous are victims of internal impulses to sin. There is a speculative element here not really present in earlier Israelite religious tradition. One does not simply acknowledge and, by appropriate rituals, deal with the anomalies of one's own sin. One dwells on its status as anomaly and attempts to explain it. The more one moves toward a "sectarian" mentality — or at least a sense of a distinction between the righteous and the sinners, the more necessary it is to posit an explanation for the anomaly.

There is, finally, a theological element to all of this speculation which one must acknowledge, because it is present and constitutive. It is the issue of theodicy. How does the course of history proceed in opposition to divine justice? Why are the righteous victimized? And, to make it more difficult, why do the righteous sin? In both cases, there lurks a real problem for one's understanding of God's function as Creator. Why does there exist in God's world a realm of malevolent spirits, and why is the created humanity of the righteous subject to the impulse to sin? 1 Enoch and Jubilees answer these questions by positing a factor alien to, and chronologically later than creation — an angelic revolt and by recounting the story in mythic form. Gnosticism takes up similar questions and answers them with an understanding and a myth of creation that is radically different. Yet in these Gnostic answers the reader of the apocalyptic texts sees familiar elements and components.


George W. E. Nickelsburg

1976 "Enoch 97-104: A Study of the Greek and Ethiopic Texts," in Michael E. Stone, ed., Armenian and Biblical Studies. Jerusalem: St. James: 90-156.
1977 "Apocalyptic and Myth in 1 Enoch 6-11," JBL 96:383-405.
1981a Jewish Literature Between the Bible and the Mishnah. Philadelphia: Fortress.
1981b "Enoch, Levi, and Peter: Recipients of Revelation in Upper Galilee," JBL 100: 575-600.
1984 "Stories of Biblical and Early Post-Biblical Times," Chapter 2 in Michael E. Stone, ed., Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period. Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum 2.2. Assen/ Philadelphia: van Gorcum/ Fortress: 33-87 (Tobit).
"The Bible Rewritten and Expanded," Chapter 3 in ibid.: 89-156 (Jubilees).
1988 "Tobit," pp. 791-803 in Harper's Bible Commentary, ed. James L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper's (with the Society of Biblical Literature).
2001 1 Enoch: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary. Hermeneia Series. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
For a full bibliography of the writings of George Nickelsburg, see pp. 299-308 in For A Later Generation: the Transformation of Tradition in Israel, Early Judaism and Early Christianity, ed. by Randall A. Argall, Beverly A. Bow, and Rodney A. Werline. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2000.

See also the presentations by Elaine Pagels and David Utz and the ensuing Discussion with Nickelsburg, Pagels, and Utz

For related materials, consult other PSCO presentations and discussions on the topic for the 1987-1988 seminar, "Principalities and Powers: Demons and Angels in the World of Late Antiquity".