Galilee, Where Angels Fell and Jesus Came; and Where the Temple Was Condemned

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by Neil Godfrey

In both 1 Enoch and the Gospel of Mark the location of God’s revelation is in Galilee, and especially upper Galilee in the Tel Dan region extending through Caesarea Philippi to Mount Hermon. It was outside Caesarea Philippi that Jesus was acknowledged as the Christ, and at a nearby mountain where he was transfigured.

In both books, this northern location that has long been associated with sacred sites of Jewish and pagan origin is set in opposition to the earthly and corrupt priesthood and Temple system based at Jerusalem.

It may not be insignificant that in the Hebrew scriptures, Dan (part of this region), is regularly associated with apostasy from the faith centred at the Jerusalem Temple and priesthood.

(I would not normally have thought of this region as strictly “Galilee” but I am using the term as used by George W. E. Nickelsburg in his 1981 JBL 100/4 article, “Enoch, Levi, and Peter: Recipients of Revelation in Upper Galilee”, on which this post is based.)

The Galilean setting of Enoch’s vision and the fallen angels

1 Enoch 13:7-9

7. And I went off and sat down at the waters of Dan, in the land of Dan, to the south of the west of Hermon: I read their petition till I fell asleep. 8. And behold a dream came to me, and visions fell down upon me, and I saw visions of chastisement, and a voice came bidding (me) I to tell it to the sons of heaven, and reprimand them. 9. And when I awaked, I came unto them, and they were all sitting gathered together, weeping in ’Abelsjâîl [Abel-Maîn], which is between Lebanon and Sênêsêr [Senir], with their faces covered.

So Enoch delivered his message of judgment against the fallen angels seven kilometers from Dan, at Abel beth Maacah:

And we know that the rebel angels descended at Mount Hermon, according to Enoch 6:6:

And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon

“Thus the whole of this primordial drama unfolds in a narrowly circumscribed geographical region.” (Nickelsburg, Enoch, Levi, and Peter, JBL 100/4 (1981) 583)

Historically sacred territory

  • Some scholars have seen links with the Ugaritic tale of Aqhat.
  • Archaeological excavations (much from Avraham Biran) have uncovered a high place extending back to the Middle Bronze Age (ca 2000 bce). . . .
  • The stories of Micah in Judges 17-18 indicate cultic activity at Dan
  • Jeroboam I chose this site for his northernmost shrine (I Kings 12:26-31)
  • Amos wrote of the shrine there (8:14)
  • Ahab rebuilt it
  • It was again rebuilt in 8th to 7th centuries, perhaps after the Assyrian conquest
  • It was enlarged in Hellenistic and Roman periods
  • Archaeological remnants include a Greek and Aramaic inscription, “to the God who is in Dan”, and a nearby statue of Aphrodite.
  • At the foot of the south slope of Mount Hermon was the Paneion, a sacred grotto dedicated to the Greek god Pan. Josephus describes it in Antiquities 15.10.3:

    This is a very fine cave in a mountain, under which there is a great cavity in the earth, and the cavern is abrupt, and prodigiously deep, and frill of a still water; over it hangs a vast mountain; and under the caverns arise the springs of the river Jordan. Herod adorned this place, which was already a very remarkable one, still further by the erection of this temple, which he dedicated to Caesar.

  • Polybius (16.18.2) references the name in association with Antiochus III’s victory in 198 bce, thus indicating that the worship of Pan was well established there in the Hellenistic era.
  • As quoted above, Herod the Great erected a temple there in honour of Augustus.
  • Greek inscriptions as late as perhaps the 3rd century ce indicate that the site continued to have religious significance into the early Christian era.

Spring of Banias river, one of the main tributory of the Jordan River. In the background Pan's cave
Spring of Banias (Panias) river, one of the main tributaries of the Jordan River. In the background Pan’s cave, in which the river originated in ancient times until an earthquake blocked it.

Gateway to Heaven

As quoted above (Enoch 6:6), the angels came down to earth, leaving their rightful station in heaven, at Mount Hermon.

We are reminded of Genesis 28 where Jacob slept at Bethel and finds he is at “the gate of heaven” where angels descend and ascend between heaven and earth. Bethel is at the southern end of Israel, with Dan at the northern border, and it is at Bethel we later find a companion shrine to Dan (I Kings 12:26-31; II Kings 10:29).

It is at the waters of Dan that Enoch sees the gates of the heavenly temple. In the Aramaic text of 1 Enoch 13:8 we read:

I raised my eyelids to the gates of the [heavenly temple].

After Enoch announces God’s judgment upon the fallen angels, they commission Enoch to intercede for them, including writing out a petition for them, and “to recite it in the presence of the Lord of Heaven” (13:4). The phrase, “in the presence of”, is a specific cultic term, as we learn from its many uses throughout Exodus and Leviticus.

To carry out this request, Enoch goes to Dan, and it from there that he is taken up into the heavenly temple to come before God. It is evident that the reason he went to Dan was for just this purpose — to find the presence of God in order to deliver the petition of the fallen watchers. It is by the waters of Dan (see previous post on Rivers and Revelation) that Enoch reads himself into a trance and is taken up into heaven. His way is marked by the usual signs of the presence of God: dark clouds, lightning, winds.

If Mount Hermon is the ladder from the heavenly sanctuary (12:4; 15:3) to earth, the waters of Dan stand in polar relationship to the gates of heaven and, through them, to the sanctuary and the throne of God. (Nickelsburg, p. 584)

Polemics against the Jerusalem Temple priesthood

In Enoch 15:2-4 Nickelsburg sees “yet another, more specific type of cultic language, which closely resembles explicit polemics against the priesthood”:

2. And go, say to the Watchers of heaven, who have sent thee to intercede for them: “You should intercede” for men, and not men for you: 3. Wherefore have ye left the high, holy, and eternal heaven, and lain with women, and defiled yourselves with the daughters of men and taken to yourselves wives, and done like the children of earth . . . .  4. And though ye were holy, spiritual, living the eternal life, you have defiled yourselves with the blood of women, and have begotten . . .

Compare Enoch 12:4

‘Enoch, thou scribe of righteousness, go, declare to the Watchers of the heaven who have left the high heaven, the holy eternal place, and have defiled themselves with women, and have done as the children of earth do, and have taken unto themselves wives

The polemic echoes those we read against the priests.

First, note the setting.

God is depicted as dwelling in a heavenly temple (in earlier OT texts such as Ezekiel, God descended to earth to commission his prophets) where he is attended by angels who are sometimes described as if they are priests. Thus Enoch 14:

8. And the vision was shown to me thus: Behold, in the vision clouds invited me and a mist summoned me, and the course of the stars and the lightnings sped and hastened me, and the winds in the vision caused me to fly and lifted me upward, and bore me into heaven. 9. And I went in till I drew nigh to a wall which is built of crystals and surrounded by tongues of fire: and it began to affright me. And I went into the tongues of fire and drew nigh to a large house which was built of crystals: and the walls of the house were like a tesselated floor (made) of crystals, and its groundwork was of crystal. 11. Its ceiling was like the path of the stars and the lightnings, and between them were fiery cherubim, and their heaven was (clear as) water. 12. A flaming fire surrounded the walls, and its portals blazed with fire. 13. And I entered into that house, and it was hot as fire and cold as ice: there were no delights of life therein: fear covered me, and trembling got hold upon me. 14. And as I quaked and trembled, I fell upon my face. 15. And I beheld a vision, And lo! there was a second house, greater than the former, and the entire portal stood open before me, and it was built of flames of fire. 16. And in every respect it so excelled in splendour and magnificence and extent that I cannot describe to you its splendour and its extent. 17. And its floor was of fire, and above it were lightnings and the path of the stars, and its ceiling also was flaming fire. 18. And I looked and saw therein a lofty throne: its appearance was as crystal, and the wheels thereof as the shining sun, and there was the vision of cherubim. 19. And from underneath the throne came streams of flaming fire so that I could not look thereon. 20. And the Great Glory sat thereon, and His raiment shone more brightly than the sun and was whiter than any snow. 21. None of the angels could enter and could behold His face by reason of the magnificence and glory and no flesh could behold Him. 22. The flaming fire was round about Him, and a great fire stood before Him, and none around could draw nigh Him: ten thousand times ten thousand (stood) before Him, yet He needed no counselor. 23. And the most holy ones who were nigh to Him did not leave by night nor depart from Him. 24. And until then I had been prostrate on my face, trembling: and the Lord called me with His own mouth, and said to me: ‘Come hither, Enoch, and hear my word.’ 25. And one of the holy ones came to me and waked me, and He made me rise up and approach the door: and I bowed my face downwards.

In verse 23 above, the word for “were nigh” is a technical word with cultic (priestly) connotations in a similar scene in Ezekiel 44:13, 15, 16; 45:4.

Similarly, the description of the angels serving God “night and day” is a cultic temple image: Josephus in Antiquities 7.14.7 writes

He also ordained that all the tribe of Levi, as well as the priests, should serve God night and day, as Moses had enjoined them.

and in Luke 2:37

and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.

Nickelsburg sees comparisons with other polemics against the priests including those in the Damascus Document (CD5:6-7)

and they also continuously polluted the sanctuary by not separating according to the Torah, and they habitually lay with a woman who sees blood of flowing

and Psalm of Solomon 8:12

They walked on the place of sacrifice of the Lord, (coming) from all kinds of uncleanness; and (coming) with menstrual blood (on them), they defiled the sacrifices as if they were common meat.

and the last chapters of Ezra:

  • Thus like Ezra, Enoch’s title is “Scribe“: Compare Ezra 7:6, 11; Neh 8:4 with Enoch 12:3-4 and 15:1.
  • Compare the language of intercession in Enoch and Ezra:
    • 1 Enoch 13: 4. And they besought me to draw up a petition for them that they might find forgiveness, and to read their petition in the presence of the Lord of heaven. 5. For from thenceforward they could not speak (with Him) nor lift up their eyes to heaven for shame of their sins for which they had been condemned.
    • Ezra 9:6 And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.
  • The stories of Ezra and Enoch are very similar here:
    • Ezra arrives to find many Israelites, but especially priests and Levites, who have married foreign women, and thereby defiled the holy people and the priesthood.
    • Ezra prays on their behalf.
    • The people assemble before him, confessing their guilt and seeking forgiveness.
  • Compare Enoch:
    • The priests of the heavenly sanctuary have defiled themselves by marrying and intercourse with women who have been, as a class, forbidden to them.
    • They ask Enoch, the scribe, to intercede for them
    • The watchers assemble before Enoch to hear the outcome of the petition. They are condemned. No forgiveness.

The Geography Wars: Galilee versus Jerusalem

Now for the extraordinary irony that surely must have some significance for the earliest gospel narrative, that of Mark. Nickelsburg comments:

At several points, 1 Enoch asserts the geographical centrality and ultimate sanctity of Jerusalem (25:4-626:1-289:50; 90:20-36). It is striking, therefore, to say the least that the compilers of this post-biblical document have incorporated into it a vision that grants sacred status to the territory around the ancient and bitterly denounced shrine of the north.

Nickelsburg concludes that this must mean that the tradition found in Enoch must have been long and firmly grounded in this geographic area of Upper Galilee. He also sees the very precise cartographic descriptions of the locations of Dan and Abel Maîn as indicators that the tradition at some point embrace those who had first hand familiarity with this geographical region.

For these two reasons, then, Nickelsburg decides that the this Enochian tradition indeed originated in the Galilean area itself, and must in turn be closely associated with the visionary activity for which the area of Dan-Hermon was famous.

And there is the further support of later Jewish and Christian uses of this tradition, again with the same geographic locale.

But what is one to make of the priest-related language in this tradition in Enoch?

Nickelsburg suggests that what we see here is the well-known apocalyptic typology between primordial and end-time events.  Does the sin of the angels at the beginning of time speak, in fact, of the author’s consternation over what he sees as the defiled priesthood in Jerusalem?

We must make our historical extrapolations tentatively and with care. Nevertheless, myths are not created ex nihilo; they reflect the real world as the mythmakers see it. In the case at hand we note that a myth about the origins of the demonic world is framed in language that recalls and is at home in the indictments against a polluted priesthood (Ps. Sol.; CD).

Thy hypothesis is that circles in Upper Galilee who viewed the Jerusalem priesthood as defiled, and under God’s judgment, were the same from whom originated the apocalyptic myth of the fallen watchers of Enoch.

If the Temple priests in Jerusalem were defiled, then where did these communities find the presence and revelation of God? The suggestion is, of course, around the holy area of Dan. So there appears to be some indication that the traditionally sacred sites of Dan were the centres of divine revelation from God whose heavenly temple — and the gateway between heaven and earth — was nearby.

Jerusalem’s future hope

As we find in certain Old Testament prophets, the present defilement of Jerusalem’s temple and priesthood is not the end of the story. After the judgment comes the purified restoration.

If Jerusalem is impure now, in the last days the tree of life will be transferred to it.

Enoch 25:4-6

4. And as for this fragrant tree no mortal is permitted to touch it till the great judgement, when He shall take vengeance on all and bring (everything) to its consummation for ever. It shall then be given to the righteous and holy.

5. Its fruit shall be for food to the elect: it shall be transplanted to the holy place, to the temple of the Lord, the Eternal King.

6 Then shall they rejoice with joy and be glad,
And into the holy place shall they enter;
And its fragrance shall be in their bones,
And they shall live a long life on earth,
Such as thy fathers lived:
And in their days shall no sorrow or plague
Or torment or calamity touch them.’

But when the present condition of the Temple is described in the Enochian compilation, it is always negative.

Enoch 89:50, 73, 74

50. And that house became great and broad, and it was built for those sheep: (and) a tower lofty and great was built on the house for the Lord of the sheep, and that house was low, but the tower was elevated and lofty, and the Lord of the sheep stood on that tower and they offered a full table before Him.

73. And they began again to build as before, and they reared up that tower, and it was named the high tower; and they began again to place a table before the tower, but all the bread on it was polluted and not pure. 74. And as touching all this the eyes of those sheep were blinded so that they saw not, and (the eyes of) their shepherds likewise; and they delivered them in large numbers to their shepherds for destruction, and they trampled the sheep with their feet and devoured them.

Compare Malachi 1:7. This situation continues right up to the time of the author’s generation when eyes began to be opened (1 Enoch 90:6).

Qumran evidence

Multiple copies (or part copies) of Enoch have been found at Qumran. If, as is widely accepted, this collection represents a community who also had their own differences with the Jerusalem priesthood, we may have our first evidence of a tangible community who were among the heirs of the Enochian tradition.

Testament of Levi and the Gospel accounts of Peter

The above is just one section of Nickelsburg’s discussion. He goes on to examine threads that stitch together the Testament of Levi and Gospel narratives about Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi (in the same region), his being the first to witness the resurrection of Jesus, and his denial of Jesus which was in the context of the household of the high priest.

It may seem a very minor point by comparison with all of this, but one little detail that comes to my attention is the potential significance for the exorcism scene just after the transfiguration of Jesus, presumably on Mount Hermon. This had always seemed something of an anti-climax after a scene that resonates with the drama of Moses himself standing within the presence of God. When Moses returned from the mountain there was an adventure to match the glory in which he had been immersed. But if we see an exorcism by Jesus as a signifier of his power over the demons who fell at this very place, perhaps we can appreciate there was a bit more to the drama than a less informed reading of the text suggests.

The more significant point, I think, is that the Gospel of Mark itself presents Jesus’ climactic revelation, his transfiguration, at this same sacred area; and it is from this moment that he turns to face Jerusalem and its priesthood who is opposed to who he is and what he preaches. Before that final conflict, he himself will pronounce judgement on both the Temple and Jerusalem, and will repeat this before the high priest himself at his trial.

It is hard not to see at least this version of early Christianity itself having its roots in whatever was behind those Upper Galilean communities who preserved the Enochian myths and literature.


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Neil Godfrey

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