Wednesday, 10 June 2009

"...because of the Angels": Did Paul believe the book of Enoch?

Paul wrote:
"Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels."
1 Cor 11:10 - NASB (Emphasis mine)

This post will comprise of a brief look at what Paul may have meant.

The word we translate as here as "angels" literally means messengers in Greek as does is equivalent in Hebrew. In other parts of scripture this word is translated and angels and at other times messengers, depending on the context. However it is unclear what Paul means here.

One interpretation is that Paul means human messengers who would come and check on the congregations and report back to Paul. This seems to be a rather rare view and if one checks other Bible translations they will quickly note that the vast majority translate it as angels.

What I was taught when I was younger were the following:
i) The angels represented the created order and women were to wear head coverings as that’s what nature teaches. In this sense it is carried on in verse 14.
ii) There are angels watching over the churches (Rev 1:20) and therefore one must adhere to what is being taught and not be contentious (1 Cor 11:16).
I must admit that I am most partial to option ii, however it leaves something lacking.

This brings me to an option I have been musing of late. Recently I purchased the collection of books now called I Enoch. This book was deemed not to be canonical and later even banned by the church has heretical.

In Genesis we read:
"Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown."
Gen 6:1-4 - NASB

Basically, as others seem to have done, the author of I Enoch took these verses and ran with them. In the first part he describes the angels who came down, took human women as wives and had children with them, the Nephilim. He describes how the angels were locked in chains waiting for the judgement and how the children were cast into the fire but as they were part angels only their body was destroyed but their spirit remained and they are what we now call demons that are bound to the earth. (For those who have read it I know this is extremely lacking but please stay with me).

We know that I Enoch is known in 1st/2nd century as it’s used in other Biblical texts. Jude 14-15 Quotes it and 2 Peter 2:4 seems to refer to it also. So could it be that Paul knew of it too? Could it be that Paul was worried that because the women did not have a sign of male authority over their heads (i.e. Husbands) that angels may take them? That the whole process could be repeated again?

If your answer is no then I sympathise as I am dubious of this too however I thought I'd throw this into the pot and see what you all have to say, even another interpretation.

Looking forward to your ideas,
Till next time.

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