Titans and Nephilim in the Bible and greek mythology

Theogony and 2 Peter and Jude

In hindsight it is clear that 2 Peter is somehow dependent on the imaginary borrowed from the Theogony. We are not basing this only on a single verbal connection, which drew our attention, but other features seem to match each other.

Similarities between Theogony and 2 Peter and Jude are as follows:

Hesiod’s Theogony 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6
  1. Titans imprisoned in Tartarus
  1. angels imprisoned in Tartarus
  1. Tartar is beneath the earth
  1. Tartar is beneath the earth
  1. Tartar is a gloomy place
  1. Tartar is a gloomy place
  1. Titans are bounded with chains
  1. angels are bounded with chains

The similarities speak for themselves and are more than a coincidence. The only difference is between Titans and angels. It seems that they are simple renditions of themselves.

2 Peter was not the first to fuse the biblical myth of fallen angels with Hesiod’s imaginary. The fusion must have taken place long before 2 Peter was written, which is evidenced by the LXX which uses ‘Tartarus’ to denote the underworld in Job 40:20 and 41:24.[4] 2 Peter thus stays coherent with a way of describing the underworld with the Greek-speaking Christians. The fusion of the underworld with Greek Tartarus is not all, as the Titans were in turn associated with giants or Nephilim from Genesis 6:1-4. For example, the Jewish translators of the LXX (III-I BC) referred in Ezekiel 32:27 to (γίγαντας) giants who went down to hades.

And they shall not lie with the mighty (נֹפְלִים in MT, γιγάντων in LXX) [that are] fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell (אֲשֶׁר in MT, ᾅδου in LXX) with their weapons of war: and they have laid their swords under their heads, but their iniquities shall be upon their bones, though [they were] the terror of the mighty (גִּבֹּורִים in MT , γίγαντας in LXX) in the land of the living. (Ezek. 32:27)

And in Judith 16:7 (II BC), Neither did the sons of the Titans (των Τιτάνων) smite him.

And the word τιτάνων is used by LXX to render םיאִֽפָרְ in 2 Samuel 5:18 and 22. Josephus (37 – c. 100) too alludes to the Titan myth in his commentary on Genesis 6 (Ant. 1.73). Josephus also knows Tartarus as a place of prison for disobedient gods who are ‘chained’ ‘under the earth’ (Ag. Ap. 2.240). Also the second-century CE Christian work known as Sibylline Oracles in which those who have been locked in ‘Hades’, namely, the ‘ancient phantoms, Titans and the Giants and such as the Flood destroyed’ will be led to the final judgment seat of God and Christ (Sib. Or. 2:229-240). In Sibylline Oracles 4:185 we find another Hellenistic Jewish author associating the place of the final punishment of sinners as being under the earth, Tartarus, and Gehenna.

As we can say with full confidence that there is something worth digging into, we may ask why the Greek myth is addressed in 2 Peter. Both 2 Peter and Jude refer to the myth of the fallen angels when they are dealing with false teachers to demonstrate the fate of the ungodly. If they assume it to be pure fictional what do they mean by using this myth? If they assume it to be a legendary description of what actually happened, what was it that happened? I don’t think they present it as a fate that can meet anyone, rather it is an example of God’s judgment and proof of His justice.  Is it possible to find out if the incident which 2 Peter and Jude present us as an example of God’s justice really happened? As I mentioned, the purpose of both of these epistles was to pastor, not to teach. So we can be sure that while 2 Peter could have distant echoes of Hesiod’s Titans, his use of ταρταρόω in no way suggests that Peter believed Tartarus was a ten days and nights anvil-fall below the earth (Theogony U.713ff.).[5] Nevertheless, the sense that lies behind the picture seems to be taken seriously.

Anticipating a bit the course of events, I will address Genesis 6:1-4 as it must have become obvious were am I going. 2 Peter and Jude exercise the myth of the fallen angels which has its most famous version in Genesis 6:1-4. However, it is not the only place where we can find allusions to the myth of fallen angels. More of them will be summoned and studied soon to try to build the coherent picture that is referred to.

In Genesis 6:2, a vague mention concerning the sons of God interacting with earth’s women would leave the question of what exactly was born of the women open if there was not another vague mention in the fourth verse. Genesis 6:4 explains that the offspring of the sons of God and earth’s women were giants (in the NIV translation), in Hebrew MT Nephilim (‘the fallen ones’), the men of renown. In Theogony it is clearly stated that Titans were bound in Tartarus while 2 Peter, Jude 6 and Genesis 6: 2-4 need to be synchronized as they transmit only parts of the bigger picture. Do 2 Peter and Jude have Nephilim in mind when they speak of angels imprisoned in Tartarus? We cannot answer this question without further references to Jewish Hellenistic writings, more specifically to the first century BC 1 Enoch which is significantly illuminating when it comes to the background of 2 Peter’s and Jude’s allusions.

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